When You Wish Upon A Star: Hope and Despair in Puella Magi Madoka Magica #3

Part Three: Or, Silly Sayaka Snapped Her Sick And Shattered Psyche

Stuff Jesus and the cards and the Great Danes, when will this loser actually do what he promised and talk about the flipping show?

The question, I am sure, burns in everyone’s minds, or at the very least determinedly fizzles. And so, dear imaginary readers, I would like very much to reiterate my position: I have absolutely no idea what I am doing.

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I do, however, have a sizable stockpile of ideas, which I can probably spew at random long enough to fool you all, so despair not! We shall get there, even if squeezed on the economy-class coach of the toy train of the dilapidated nursery of life.

All aboard.

Anyway, attentive and diligent readers will recall that in my first essay I proposed a blanket definition of Urobuchi’s worldview as manifested in the shows of his that I have seen, otherwise known as his central Idea:

The world is cruel and unforgiving, and will never allow any form of idealism to succeed. Hence, in order to be a hero and save the world, one must overturn the world system with magic, miracle, or both. Anything else is wishful thinking, and hopelessly selfish.

Today, we are finally going to explore how he plants the seeds of this Idea by personifying it in the form of worst girl.

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Get out the show and go home ya dweeb

(But Troy, you immediately clamor, frothing at the hem of your rented body pillow, how could you be so mean as to dismiss a girl who only wanted teh raburabu in her kokoro, and quite possibly other parts of her?)

A good question. I’ll elaborate later.

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“Alright, but there sure are a lot of IOUs in here.”

Now, first things first: Urobuchi thinks that heroism is, by-and-large, stupid. He may not necessarily put it in those terms, and he’s too competent to simply sneer and be done with it, but it is clear from his shows that he tends to side with the cold pragmatists against the wide-eyed idealists – examples include Saber and Rider’s (ig)noble ends in Fate/Zero, Tsunemori Akane’s slow undeception in Psycho-Pass, and, most relevant to our purposes, Miki Sayaka’s rapid descent into insanity and death.

(The exception is Kamen Rider Gaim, but as that show was written with a target audience made up largely of six-year-olds and the plot swings around the most belligerent set of dancing fruits you’ll ever meet, I would be very concerned if it wasn’t an exception.)

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Don’t forget your five-a-day, kids, or your family gets it!

Like comets, Urobuchi’s idealists always have hard dirty cores hidden in their brilliant shells, some selfish desire or another that underpins their supposedly selfless wish to be heroes. This doesn’t mean that Urobuchi is incapable of lamenting the doomed sacrifices of his deluded deuteragonists – the respectful treatment of Sayaka post-mortem and the exquisite, soaring uplift of Rider’s last charge prove otherwise – but it does mean that he can never let them win. Because if you let an idealist win, you only give credit to the delusion, and in doing so lead even more souls astray.

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Imagine a vast sweating army of man-children in frilly yellow, having their heads bitten off, forever.

Now, what about Sayaka? When I watched the show for the first time, I was immediately struck by the parallels between Sayaka and the protagonist of the original Fate/Stay Night series, Emiya Shirou.

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You know.

Urobuchi is no doubt intimately familiar with the visual novel/anime/manga/movie/animeagain/guesswhatanotherthreemovies, having both written its official prequel and cultivated a close friendship with its head writer, Kinoko Nasu. I propose that Miki Sayaka is his answer to Emiya Shirou, and thus his personal refutation of the entire concept of heroism in the Magical Girl genre.

(For those of you who are unfamiliar with the Fate franchise, which is categorically the worst thing to grace anime fandom in the last ten years, where have you been, and can I buy a ticket?)

I’m only half-joking. I love Fate (and hate it; I think that’s a given for anyone), but Emiya Shirou is, depending on how you look at him and which route you’re on, either an okay-kinda-good point or a disastrous one. I shall now summarise Emiya Shirou in five points for the uninitiated, drawing on the version portrayed in the Unlimited Blade Works anime adaptation.

So You Want To Be The Bone Of Your Sword Of Your Whole Life?

  1. You have to really like saving people.
  2. You have to like saving them so much that it’s actually a pathology that invades on your instinct for self-preservation and capacity for self-worth. (You take to danger like a three-legged puppy to a bright orange ball, repeatedly placing yourself in danger to the detriment of those who care about you.)
  3. You have to embrace this pathology so incredibly hard that when your crush, your schoolmates and yourself from the future all tell you to stop, you refute them not by changing your behaviour, but simply by repeating yourself really long and really loud.
  4. You repeat yourself so long and so loud that you win the game, the big ol’ magical war, and life.
  5. Congrats, you’re a Hero of Justice.

In other words, Shirou’s wish to be a Hero of Justice only comes true because the writer, the universe, and the Gods of Plot conspire to make it so; in any sane world, even a fictional one, his boneheaded and unhealthy fixation would lead to his swift demise.

Urobuchi intimates this in a roundabout way in his prequel to F/SN, Fate/Zero, by having Shirou’s adoptive assassin father, Emiya Kiritsugu, try exactly the same thing – only now, because the Nasuverse is in the cynical hands of the Urobutcher, Kiritsugu ends up a broken man, disillusioned and destroyed, with little more than a childhood fantasy to keep him company at the end of his life. See, Kiritsugu also wished to be a Hero of Justice, but he didn’t know what Urobuchi knows – that the only way to save someone else is to sacrifice another, and thus the man who would save the most must damn his own soul.

In other words, it is inherently selfish to strive for heroism, because he who seeks is inevitably forced to skew the scales of justice, to decide whom and whom not to save. He is placed in the seat of Themis with unbound eyes, and, seeing, is left with no choice but to despair and die.

…Only maybe that wasn’t direct enough, and Urobuchi needs to make the same point again, but this time by lifting the pair out of the Nasuverse and plopping them into the cold, clammy depths of People Make Mortifying Mollusks. The reincarnation of Emiya Kiritsugu is Akemi Homura, the distaff Essentially Kerry; the reincarnation of Emiya Shirou is Miki Sayaka. Owing to my wish to milk my idea-udders for as much as bovinely possible, we will focus today on the latter, and… all together now –

(Leave the former for a future essay, you groan in obedient chorus.)

Yes, very good.

Now. When we are first introduced to Sayaka, we know very little about her save that she is a bit of a tomboy, and that girls can’t love girls. Soon, we learn three things about her.

  1. She is hopelessly in love with Kyousuke-kun, an aspiring violinist who had his dreams crushed by an unfortunate accident that took away the use of his left hand, and wishes to be with him.
  2. She wants to be a Hero of Justice, in more or less the same way that Emiya Shirou does.
  3. She is an idiot.

Why, you ask? Well, for starters, Urobuchi makes it abundantly clear that her second wish is inextricably shackled, and indeed subordinate to, her first one. As her free-with-every-Soul-Gem sign-on-bonus wish, Sayaka wishes for Kyousuke’s hand to be cured, doubtlessly imagining that this will rejuvenate his zest for life, create rainbows in the sky, and also indebt him, whether he knows it or not, to Sayaka herself. It is the failure of this dependence to materialise, rather than any terrifying revelations about the nature of Magical Girlhood, that is the primary cause of her slide into self-loathing and ultimately despair, the living death.

As Anti-Climacus so trenchantly observes:

“But in another sense despair is even more definitely the sickness unto death. Literally speaking, there is not the slightest possibility that anyone will die from this sickness or that it will end in physical death. On the contrary, the torment of despair is precisely this inability to die. Thus it has more in common with the situation of a mortally ill person when he lies struggling with death and yet cannot die. …When death is the greatest danger, we hope for life; but when we learn to know the even greater danger, we hope for death. When the danger is so great that death becomes the hope, then despair is the hopelessness of not even being able to die. It is in this last sense that despair is the sickness unto death, this tormenting contradiction, this sickness of the self, perpetually to be dying, to die and yet not die, to die death.”

Sayaka, having placed her sense of self in the hands of a boy who barely knows that she exists, and having become in her own mind ‘Kyousuke’s beloved,’ is ultimately broken when she realises that she cannot become that self. She flees, temporarily, into the secondary persona of a ‘Hero of Justice,’ pretending that it is more important, but this offers her little respite; her refusal of Homura’s repeated offers to renew her Soul Gem are therefore not so much due to moral scruples as they are to a subconscious desire to die.

(It is uncertain what the scruple actually is with using an artifact obtained from a formerly-human human-eating monster to purify one’s own soul, inasmuch as the monster is already dead, and would have caused more human deaths if it were not dead, and at any rate refusing to save yourself helps no-one. This is why I think Sayaka is an idiot.)

The parallels with Anti-Climacus are further strengthened as we observe Sayaka’s degeneration; desirous of blocking out emotional pain with a cruel form of self-mortification, she dulls her sense of pain and achieves the wild frenzy of a bloodied berserker, laughing wildly as she batters both the unfortunate Witch and her own body to a bloody pulp. Clutched entirely by the sickness unto death, she torments herself to no end, because despite her agony she is a Magical Girl, and cannot die.

And then the change. In the Christian worldview of Anti-Climacus, death is merely a passing into eternity, and thus, regardless of destination, life; Urobuchi creates a one-sided version of this vision, and has his Magical Girls pass not unto judgment, but straight into damnation. For when a Magical Girl becomes a Witch, she loses all sense of self; she cannot hear the voices of those who wish to save her, and she cannot be redeemed. Despite Kyouko’s entreaties and Madoka’s pleas, the Witch Oktavia cannot hear them; only let fall her catherine wheels and move her sword,  marionette-like, deprived of even the power to scream.

Her annihilation is a blessing.

We will meet Sayaka once more, when Madoka remakes the order of all things. Even Urobuchi thinks the current scheme unfair. However, countless other girls certainly suffered the same fate, or at least they did in the old way of the universe, sustained and perpetuated by the Incubators. We shall hence examine the remainder of the so-called Holy Quintet, the rest of the main characters, before arriving at the redemption, in order to see the skill with which Urobuchi wraps them in his thematic net.

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And yes, I made a Rebellion reference. I too, wish to die, but cannot. Who’d write the rest of these essays?

When You Wish Upon A Star: Hope and Despair in Puella Magi Madoka Magica #2

Part Two: Or, What’s With This Whole Despair Deal?

Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, let it be known that I, Troy Tang, have with inexcusable negligence forgotten to answer a simple question: what, pray is despair? Can you buy it on shelves? Does it come with a warranty? And can you get it cheaper on the Internet?

The answers to the last three questions are no, no, and of course you can. The answer to the first question is a bit more complicated. See, according to Urobuchi Gen, despair is a primordial darkness that turns otherwise healthy Magical Girls into monstrous papercraft Witches, and also a source of handy-dandy fission that somehow delays the heat-death of the universe.

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if you feel too happy this will happen so feel sad bois I mean girls I mean

…Yeah, not too rigorous of an answer, if I do say so myself. Personally, I prefer the air my own thoroughly cited and obviously reliable opinions. But for a show focused entirely around a stalker’s relentless attempts to prevent her unrequited crush from going full Raspberry Ripple (because life as a dollop of frilly ice-cream is much less sweet than it seems after about five minutes), Ponderous Movenpick-Munching Maniacs is not actually very clear about what causes said ice-cream to melt. In other words, Urobuchi gives no rigorous or even specific definition of his main metaphysical conceit, despair, despite hanging the premise of his entire magic system on it.

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‘FRANK YOU STILL HAVEN’T TOLD ME WHY WE’RE HERE’ ‘now calm down Larry’ ‘FRANK’

And not only that, but there are more confused frogs on the branch. In the Madokaverse, magic is sourced from your Soul Gem, which is your soul(?) which when tainted by despair(?) will turn you into a Witch who eats(?) humans to sustain herself, sometimes by causing the meatsacks to commit suicide. At some point another Magical Girl will then kill you and take your Soul Gem to purify hers before herself succumbing to the sad jitters and becoming paper. Evil plushies from another galaxy will then use all that despair(?) to retard(?) entropy, in what is simultaneously the cutest and cruelest Ponzi Scheme in all history. Also there’s an afterlife(?) somewhere out there but we’re not too sure how exactly it works and it may not actually exist.

What is a soul? How does a Witch consume said soul by destroying the body? How do you quantify despair? How do you retard entropy? If a Magical Girl becomes a Witch through the blackening of her soul, how is it that in the afterlife she returns to her human form? What even is despair?

 

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Aside from this.

Now, I can’t answer all those questions, because I only twiddle my toes in the toddler pool of philosophical pleasure-reading, and I know that it’s outside the scope of an animated TV show to go into all those digressions. My pedantries have no real answers, least of all from myself. But if there’s one thing I’m good at, it’s stealing shamelessly, and who better to do it from than the OG Sadsack himself?

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‘You cannot see them, but there are a great many wounds crawling beneath my skin, and they will not heal.’

If you don’t already know, dear imaginary reader, this man is Søren Kierkegaard, the great Danish writer, philosopher, theologian, and perpetual Eeyore. He usually gets credit for being the ant that started the avalanche of existentialism (in brief, the idea that there is no innate or knowable meaning to the cosmos, and man must impart his own meaning to the universe), but the fact is that Kierkegaard, being an extremely devout and thoroughly orthodox Lutheran, would be horrified at many of those who trace their philosophical descent from him. A bit like me and Rebellion, actually.

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it never ends

Anyway, ol’ Kierkegaard, being perhaps the saddest sadsack in philosophy, had the introspective insight that comes with moping indoors all day and occasionally going for long walks to mope some more. He kept his joy on the inside, is what I’m saying, and this degree of self-knowledge (as well as a good helping of genius) gave him an unusual degree of psychological acuity for, well, anyone. Distrusting the numerous attempts in his day to codify all human knowledge and rationality under some master system (Hegel being his greatest enemy), Kierkegaard wrote his many works under numerous pseudonyms, letting his multitude of personas expound their philosophies of life as they pleased. One of these personas is called Johannes Climacus, an unbeliever who speaks in the works Johannes ClimacusPhilosophical Fragments,  and Concluding Unscientific Postscript to Philosophical Fragments. As he often did, Kierkegaard wished to transcend his own arguments, and knew that he could only do so from the viewpoint of someone even more Christian than he believed himself to be. His literary identity still hidden, Kierkegaard took on the character of Anti-Climacus (above, not against Climacus, indeed above even Kierkegaard himself) and wrote perhaps the most penetrating treatment of despair up until that point: The Sickness Unto Death, A Christian Psychological Exposition For Upbuilding And Awakening.

The Sickness Unto Death is not only a work of philosophy, but also theology; its latter half is mostly concerned with the nature of sin as a willful act, and how sin can in fact be reduced to despair. The first half, however, is extremely relevant to our slab-cheeked purposes, for in it, Kierkegaard posits a precise definition of despair. Ready? From the subheading to Section A of the treatise:

‘Despair is a Sickness of the Spirit, of the Self, and Accordingly Can Take Three Forms: In Despair Not to Be Conscious of Having a Self (Not Despair in the Strict Sense); in Despair Not to Will to Be Oneself; in Despair to Will to Be Oneself.’

Oh, and it’s unto death, too. If, like me, you lost a few brain cells trying to parse that sentence, don’t worry – Kierkegaard tends to be on the impenetrable side of the literary fence. The key to the definition is Anti-Climacus’s conception of the words spirit and self. Take it away, you dog you –

‘The self is a relation that relates itself to itself or is the relation’s relating itself to itself in the relation; the self is not the relation but is the relation’s relating itself to itself. …In the relation between two, the relation is the third as a negative unity, and the two relate to the relation and in the relation to the relation; thus under the qualification of the psychical the relation between the psychical and the physical is a relation. If, however, the relation relates itself to itself, this relation is the positive third, and this is the self.’

Uh. Relationrelatingitselftoitselfintherelationoftherela-

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So, while I squeegee the last bit of brain back under my scalp, what does Anti-Climacus mean? Well, this is my inadequate and possibly incorrect analogy. Let’s say you have an apple and an orange, representing the physical and the psychical aspects of man, the body and mind. Kierkegaard’s self, which he also calls spirit, is the relation between the apple and orange.

If you’re like me, you imagined a dotted line in the air between the apple and the orange, marked with the label self; in other words, a negative unity, inert. That is exactly what Kierkegaard doesn’t want you to think. Kierkegaard’s self is constantly rediscovering and refreshing itself – in fact, some commentators have said that his self is more a verb than a noun. Imagine a dotted line talking to itself in the mirror, telling – relating – to itself how lovely it looked today or how bad tomorrow was going to be. That’s Kierkegaard’s self; a relation that relates itself to itself, alive and active.

A-C goes on:

‘Such a relation that relates itself to itself, a self, must either have established itself or have been established by another. If the relation that relates itself to itself has been established by another, then the relation is indeed the third, but this relation, the third, is yet again a relation and relates itself to that which established the entire relation. …The misrelation of despair is not a simple misrelation but a misrelation in a relation that relates itself to itself and has been established by another, so that the misrelation in that relation which is for itself also reflects itself infinitely in the relation to the power that established it.’

relationrelationrelation what I mean Anti-Climacus seems to think that the self can only be understood in the context of the power which established it, and any Lutheran worth his salt would agree that that power is God. In other words, the true self is the self given to you and sustained by God. Any other conception of self, any other mode of living, is a false self, a misrelation, a break in the chain.

(As far as I can tell, Urobuchi Gen does not believe in God. We will go into the ramifications of this at a later date. If anyone who actually studied this stuff wants to correct me, please do so post-haste in the comments.)

This explains Anti-Climacus’ account of the three possible types of despair: the first is the not-quite-despair, the hollowness that results from having no consciousness of self, the second is the despair that comes when one wishes he was other than he is, and the third is the despair that comes when one chooses to be himself, but through his own power, not by resting in God.

‘If the despairing person is aware of his despair, as he thinks he is, and does not speak meaninglessly of it as of something that is happening to him (somewhat as one suffering from dizziness speaks in nervous delusion of a weight on his head or of something that has fallen down on him, etc., a weight and a pressure that nevertheless are not something external but a reverse reflection of the internal) and now with all his power seeks to break the despair by himself and by himself alone-he is still in despair and with all his presumed effort only works himself all the deeper into deeper despair.’

One of Kierkegaard’s most influential insights is that to become anything less than one’s true self – in other words, to live as someone you actually aren’t – is despair. Despair occurs not due to external circumstances, but is the internal result of a conflict between one’s true self and the self that one is currently living; a false self. It is the grating of a broken bone. Everyone, whether they know it or not, experiences despair at one point or another, because, as even Anti-Climacus would admit, no Christian can truly know as he is known until the Judgement Day. No-one can find his true self without the help of God, because only God knows the true self.

‘The formula that describes the state of the self when despair is completely rooted out is this: in relating itself to itself and in willing to be itself, the self rests transparently in the power that established it.’

So far so good. Despair can be cured by coming back, purely and guilelessly, to the power that established the self. But what if you transplant all this stuff about despair, as many existentialists have done, into a completely non-Christian milieu? What if you remove the power that establishes self from the picture, and leave people with only the trappings of false assurance and delusion, selfish desires and hidden agendas? What if nothing is transparent? What if no-one can truly be themselves?

Well, for a start, you get the world of Madoka, but that’s for next time. I’ll be referring to The Sickness Unto Death as much as I can in future, but for now, have a pertinent quote:

‘The next is declared despair, to despair over oneself. A young girl despairs of love, that is, she despairs over the loss of her beloved, over his death or his unfaithfulness to her. This is not declared despair; no, she despairs over herself. This self of hers, which she would have been rid of or would have lost in the most blissful manner had it become “his” beloved, this self becomes a torment to her if it has to be a self without “him.” This self, which would have become her treasure (although, in another sense, it would have been just as despairing), has now become to her an abominable void since “he” died, or it has become to her a nauseating reminder that she has been deceived. Just try it, say to such a girl, “You are consuming yourself,” and you will hear her answer, “Oh, but the torment is simply that I cannot do that.” To despair over oneself, in despair to will to be rid of oneself-this is the formula for all despair.’

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I think we all know who I’m thinking of.

When You Wish Upon A Star: Hope And Despair in Puella Magi Madoka Magica #1

Part One – The Butcher Himself

Full disclosure: I have not seen Rebellion. Nor do I wish to see Rebellion, nor do I think I will ever wish to see Rebellion. The reason is because, unlike many other shows of its frilly ilk, Poofy Monster-Murdering Misses actually had a good ending. It was appropriate, bittersweet and hit all the right notes. Making a third movie that actively undoes this good ending is not just hitting the wrong notes; it is taking a fire-axe to the seats, sending the entire audience screaming down the aisles, and then setting the piano alight out of sheer spite.

I might have to watch Rebellion now, just to see if I’m right. But not yet, my dear non-existent audience, because today, we’re talking despair!

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Dramatic chords are markedly less effective on a burning piano.

Or rather, we’re talking about the sadsack behind all that despair. As you no doubt know, Perfectly Mysterious Middle-School Maidens was written by the great killer of characters and assassin of expectations, Urobuchi Gen. (More on him soon.) However, Urobuchi is so good at assassinating expectations, it’s kinda become an expectation for him to do so – and, true to form, he does it so often and in such an idiosyncratic way that one actually learns to predict him.

(But Troy, you cry, how can one predict the Urobutcher? Surely he is too subversive and too good at destroying the genre conventions!)

Let me explain what I mean, imaginary reader who is in no way a figment of my imagination. When I say that Urobuchi is predictable, I mean that he tends to exhibit certain observable patterns. Every prominent writer does that; we audience-types call it their thematic bent or style. A writer without a style cannot speak, and a writer with no themes has nothing to say. In storytelling, themes are truth and style is substance.

So, what does Urobuchi tend towards?

In his fantastic handbook, Character and Viewpoint, SF/F legend Orson Scott Card divides all speculative stories into four categories: Milieu, Idea, Character, and Event. This spectrum is known as the MICE quotient. While every good SF/F story will contain all four of these factors in varying measures, most will focus on one or two to the exclusion of the rest. For example, The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin is primarily a Milieu and Idea story, focusing on the anthropological features of a planet of sexless hermaphrodites, the Gethenians, who only assume sexual characteristics during a brief mating period known as kemmer. On the other hand (presumably the right one), The Forever War by Joe Haldeman is mostly a Character and Event story, focusing on the titular interstellar Vietnam War BUT IN SPACE, and the effects of relativistic time-dilation on its hapless hero, William Mandella.

 

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Not by any means to be confused with William Mandala, who was much too busy admiring his own intricate prettiness to shoot any Taurans.

Urobuchi Gen plays heavily on Milieu and Idea, but not primarily Character. Like every other writer in existence (except perhaps those goshdarn experimentuh literaree types), he uses Event to drive the plot, but his stories tend not to be pure Event stories, like, for example, H.G. Wells’ The War of the Worlds, in which Martians try to kill Tom Cruise and make him sad. There’s not much else to it, I’m afraid.

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‘So, uh, heya. Does any one of you fine humans wanna become a Magical Girl? You’ll be pink and frilly.’

 

Urobuchi is a competent character writer with a good handle on dialogue and motivation, but he tends to subjugate Character to Idea, turning them into blatant mouthpieces for some opposing philosophy or another and having them debate in, of all places, the middle of combat. He writes heavily to types, constantly reusing a well-worn wallet of standard character archetypes with variations, and does so confidently enough not to make it stale – but even so, he is more of a Milieu and Idea writer than a Character or Event writer.

(But Troy, you say, apparitating from the general area of my left armpit, isn’t telling and not showing a bad thing that shows the deficiency of the storyteller?)

To which I respond with a resounding mebbe. But again, more on that later. You can see what I mean about Milieu and Idea being Urobuchi’s focuses, and not Character or Event, simply by thinking about his shows.

The futuristic post-cyberpunk Japan of Psycho-Pass and its Sibyl System is realized well for the first half of the first season, but it suffers from a bland villain and unremarkable side-characters, which means that the quality tapers off as the plot picks up and everyone gets thrown together. The omnipresent Essentially Kerry, a dark and brooding character who is basically Emiya Kiritsugu from Fate/Zero (and hence the embodiment of utilitarian ethics) shows up almost unchanged in more than one show.

 

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Essentially Kerries come in these exciting flavors: Original! Schoolgirl! K9! Ultra-rare 3D Winter Melon! Get yours today!

The Milieu changes with each new setting the creator invents. What, then, is the Idea? Again, there are as many as a man has stories. But I propose that Urobuchi Gen’s central Idea, the tainted spring from which all his other themes flow like dark and bloody rills, is the following:

The world is cruel and unforgiving, and will never allow any form of idealism to succeed. Hence, in order to be a hero and save the world, one must overturn the world system with magic, miracle, or both. Anything else is wishful thinking, and hopelessly selfish.

Hence, hope and despair, the core duality at the heart of Pouting Mouldy Manchild Mistresses; the impossible wish to save the world. We shall see how Urobuchi conveys this point as this series continues, and, eventually, whether or not he manages to succeed.

Who Is This Loser, Anyway?

As happens in love, life, and poorly-defined personal ventures, it tends to be easier to define a thing by what it happens not to be. With that in mind, these are the things this blog is most certainly not about.

a) Politics.

I hail from sunny Singapore, an island where politics are not overly relevant, and my complacent cow-like temperament means that I have very nebulous political opinions to begin with. To that end, expect no talk of politics. This is a blog to celebrate the less transient things in life – good stories, and occasionally bad ones.

b) Literary criticism.

I do not have the slightest smidgen of interest in post-modernism, post-structuralism, deconstructionism, or any form of modern critical theory. I believe in reading attentively, but not too closely, and for enjoyment, not analysis. It is worth noting, however, that the University of Fake Ilium conferred upon me an honorary doctorate in Postmodernstructuredeconstructionism, the unjustly maligned art of knocking down garish buildings. The police don’t seem to appreciate it, but they’re all Neanderthals, anyway. No taste at all.

c) Religion.

I am a Christian in the Reformed tradition with a love for amateur theology, and hence have a pair of wine-colored glasses on my head, which upon close scrutiny turn out to smell suspiciously like grape juice. Like every other person on the planet, my thoughts and opinions are filtered through my worldview, but as much as I love debate, I am aware that arguing has a plethora of downsides, enough to sink the Ark it floated in on. Hence, I will refrain from making explicitly religious posts on this blog. Anyone with a question about my beliefs or the reasons for them – of which there are plenty – is more than welcome to contact me at the email address listed in the About page.

d) My life.

Not only is my life a very unremarkable one, it is also antithetical to the purpose of this blog, which is to chronicle the fine art of fictional storytelling in all its forms. I doubt any reader is interested in what I had for breakfast this morning, and at any rate I seldom remember. Nor do I have any pets, although I have always wanted a cat. The possibility that I am in fact in love with the eternal and immutable Form of Cat, as opposed to any of its instantiations, is quite high.
Now, with the kerfuffle well and truly fluffed, what is this blog about?

a) Stories.

As you might have gathered, I love storytelling, whether in the form of prose fiction, films, comics, or high-quality Chinese Cartoons. I believe that stories give us the strength to live. With that in mind, I will use this blog to chronicle my thoughts on the books I read, the movies I happen to stumble over, the anime upon which I decide to waste my fleeting youth, and the comics I ogle at sporadic intervals, wishing that I could draw better than a hot potato on steroids. These reviews will be the bread and butter on the burnt toast on the grubby plate on the unwashed table of this blog.

Yes, I said burnt toast. Let no man accuse me of fearing death.

b) My stories.

I write (and read, and watch, as does most of the first world in this day and age) primarily in the field of speculative fiction, which is science-fiction and fantasy. I hope to make a living at it someday, which may be a silly and completely risky dream… but then again, what dream isn’t? I’ll use this blog to shill myself shamelessly, promote my published stories (assuming I actually sell anything to a paying market ever again) and maybe even hand out a few freebies or two. I will get a novel done eventually, I promise.

c) Weird nerdy stuff that happens to strike me like lightning from the hand of Nerdy Zeus.

Self-explanatory, unless you do not happen to worship and adore Nerdy Zeus, in which case get out.

And that’s pretty much it. Feel free to comment, but I’d much rather you read my stuff. I’ll try my best to update with major content every two weeks. Thanks so much for stopping by, and see you next post!