Category Archives: Archetypes and Genre

Showing, Not Telling in Princess Principal

Princess Principal floating

I’ll admit it, I started watching Princess Principal because it just looked fun. Young women kicking ass as spies in a steampunk fantasy version of turn-of-the-century London, set to a jazzy soundtrack and wrapped up in science-magic? Yes, please. I’ve been pleasantly surprised to discover that this show that I picked up solely for its geeky Cool Factor is… actually really damned good, delivering consistently sharp writing, interesting and layered characters, and some wonderfully efficient and intriguing magical worldbuilding that makes fantastic use of that old writing adage “show, don’t tell” that paints a vivid picture of its fantasy world from its very first scene.

Because it did such a good job laying the groundwork and piquing this viewer’s interest, let’s look just at the show’s first episode, and the small but important details the premiere gives us (and how) that let us build a picture of the world… without leaning too heavily on narration, pausing or cutting into the action to explain what’s going on, or having an audience point-of-view character that others teach things to.

Head to Lady Geek Girl and Friends for the full post!

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“Heroes” vs “Heroines”: A Tale of Linguistics and Juicy Academic Gossip

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Let me tell you some spicy goss I’ve dug up in my research.

If you’ve been with this blog for a while, you might remember my abridged guide to The Hero’s Journey, Joseph Campbell’s mythological theory of the Universal Narrative that is repeated as a pattern throughout the literature and folklore of the ancient world and deeply informs our current pop culture. You may also remember me tilting my head a little and pondering here and there that hey, this book kind of works on the assumption that the titular Hero is a dude most of the time. I am, it turns out, not the only reader who picked up on this. In 1981, scholar and therapist Maureen Murdock asked Campbell if there was a feminine equivalent to the decidedly masculine-tinted Hero’s Journey, and Campbell replied that…

“Women don’t need to make the Journey. In the whole of mythological tradition woman is there. All she has to do is realize that she’s the place people are trying to get to.”

Murdock, I can only imagine, kind of went:

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…and in 1990 published her own book called The Heroine’s Journey. Continue reading

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Flying Witch and Magical Realism

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Flying Witch did for witches what Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid did for dragons: just had them be kinda there, going about their daily business instead of getting wrapped up in some sort of epic fantasy plot. Makoto, the protagonist of Flying Witch, is a young witch completing her training, but is she rollicking along on some sort of Harry Potter-ish adventure attending a haunted magic school and defeating evil incarnate? No, she’s just doing the gardening. Occasionally she unearths a howling mandrake and disturbs her friends and neighbors, but otherwise she lives a relatively conflict-free existence, sitting where she does in the place where the “supernatural” and “slice-of-life” genres meet. Which is, it turns out, pretty near the dreamy land of magical realism.

Head to Lady Geek Girl for the full post!

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Swan Maidens, Dragon Maids, and Screwing with Gendered Expectations

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Gather round, gang! Like I did a few posts ago with The Cauldron of Story, it’s time to take some literary theory I’ve come across in my research and apply it to modern media—in this case, Barbara Fass Leavy’s weighty and extensive discussion of folklore about supernatural marriages, and an overtly cute anime about a dragon who is also a maid.

[Hey, if you’re viewing this in the WordPress reader, please jump to the actual blog page and check out my sweet new banner by Jess Rose! And take a gander at her other stuff too–she’s just opened commissions, winky face]

Continue reading

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Filed under And I Think That's Neat, Archetypes and Genre

The Problem with the Dark Magical Girl Genre

Sad Homura

Magical Girl Raising Project finished airing a few months ago, drawing its Battle Royale-esque death game to a close with most of its young, frill-clad, magical girl cast dead. It’s the expected outcome of anything that comes with that formula, but it’s an incredibly grim way to describe a magical girl show—shows that are, traditionally, at their hearts all about girls banding together to support each other and saving the world with the power of love and friendship. Murder and despair are normally nowhere near the magical girl archetype, but that’s changing in some recent and disturbing developments.

Read the full post on Anime Feminist!

Author’s notes: WOOHOO! This piece has been in development for a long time owing to both AniFem still growing and getting onto its feet as a website, and owing to the amount of tireless and passionate editing and re-outlining it was put through in collaboration with Caitlin and AniFem’s editor in cheif, the stellar Amelia Cook. The result is the beautiful analytical 3,000+ word beastie you see before you, which I have to say I’m immensely proud of.

In the Patreon link to this post, AniFem says “We’ve linked to Alex’s work on The Afictionado before, and this definitely won’t be her last piece for Anime Feminist!” which a) fills me with all sorts of warm and fuzzy feelings of a “senpai noticed me” variety, and b) has me excited to get on board and contribute to this website more as it grows. Watch this space!

Never laid eyes on AniFem before? Here are some of my favourite pieces:

“Your Name”: Body-swaps beyond ecchi punchlines by Hannah Collins, a review and picking-apart of the blockbuster Your Name.

Straight Guys!!! on ICE by Amelia Cook, a look into Yuri!!! on ICE’s references to actual queer skaters and queer culture, and (in the wake of episode 7) lamenting  the fact that homophobic fans were bending over backwards to deny the “gayness” of Yuri and Victor’s relationship, and lamenting that LGBTQ+ fans had to bend over backwards in turn to try and justify their stance.

Force Him, Not Me! Rape culture in shoujo romance by Amelia Cook. Well, the title really says it all–an in-depth analysis of Kiss Him, Not Me! and the incredibly skeevy “romance” tropes it has been playing into of late, and what that means for the genre.

She and Her Cat and her story by Dee, a heartstring-tugging review of She and Her Cat.

Why aren’t problematic translations fixed? by Amelia Cook (if you couldn’t tell by now, she’s both editor in chief and a writing juggernaut), in which I drag my hands down my face and ask why the hell the supposedly progressive American industry would bend sideways to take implied gay out of Dragon Maid (and other such examples).

And the one that started it all, How fan service can attract or repel an audience, and how to tell the difference by Lauren Orsini. Interesting and on-point thoughts.

Also, their podcast about Utena was super fun, even if I myself haven’t watched the show yet. Looking forward to seeing what else Chatty AF covers in future!

 

 

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Filed under Archetypes and Genre, Things We Need to Stop Doing

The Art of Being Self-Aware

Let’s say you’re writing a horror story set in what’s meant to be the real world—that’s a world where horror stories exist, right? So it stands to reason that your characters might have seen some of these horror movies or shows. As a storyteller you have to make the choice whether to have your characters say, upon walking into an abandoned abattoir full of meat hooks, “Hey, this is the kind of place where people usually get horribly murdered in horror stories!” And once you’ve done that, you need to make the choice to either fulfil the expectation that a knowing audience will have, or not to fulfil it, thus demonstrating the story’s awareness of the genre it exists in and playing with the tropes you, your characters, and the audience know are going to come up. It’s a multi-layered delightful mess, and is sometimes done better than others.

My personal take on this trope-wise trope is that if you’re going to glance knowingly at your audience through the fourth wall, you may as well attempt to play with their expectations. True, it can just be a self-congratulatory wink from author to audience, but it can change the kind of story you’re telling and make it fun and fresh. If your horror story protagonist knows a lot about the horror genre, they probably wouldn’t walk into an abandoned abattoir in the first place. And, in the realm of anime romance, as are the two examples I’m looking at today, awareness of the formulae that romances usually follow can actually twist and break them and lead you down a much more engaging story. Or not. Let’s discuss: Continue reading

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Everything is Connected and Everything is Fanfiction: The Cauldron of Story Theory

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Canon has been slow roasted at 225 and carved for juicy bits

Now-famous tags on an AO3 work

Once upon a time in his essay On Fairy Tales, fantasy’s grandpa J.R.R. Tolkien laid out the idea of the Cauldron of Story. The Cauldron of Story (or the less epic name Tolkien also gives it, the Pot of Soup) is the idea that the collective imagination is bubbling away in a hypothetical pot full of every major story that’s ever been told. If something captures people enough—be it a particular character, a historical event, a tale or an archetype–it is added to the Pot to be stirred around, taking on the flavours already in the Pot and adding its own new taste as well. When you ladle out a new bowl of soup to tell a new story, you’re scooping up elements, ingredients and flavours of things long-since added to the big Cauldron—whether you intend to or not. Continue reading

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