Miraculously (and, yes, I used that word intentionally given the last episode), this show somehow manages to balance depressing subject matter and silliness. This episode takes us away from heavy psychological issues to more light-hearted body-swapping hilarity. Yes, it seems that two of my favourite Animes have an episode for body-switching (Cardcaptor Sakura being the other one). We begin the insanity with a motive: Nanami has asked her henchwomen to substitute the curry being used in Anthy and Utena's Home Economics class with a special one that will burn their mouths off. Instead, it explodes and causes the two women (Anthy and Utena) to switch bodies.
While the two are recovering, Miki blames himself because he'd asked Anthy to make him a very spicy curry. Confusion and laughs ensue when the characters are faced with an assertive, athletic Anthy and a submissive Utena. Nanami's henchwomen even make some money selling photos of the two in reverse roles.
Touga commands his sister to fix the problem so she and her posse go to India for more of the spice. Utena learns that Anthy and Saoinji have apparently been meeting once every two weeks in a fitness shed to 'explore their love for each other' which, she is relieved to discover, only involves exchanging entries in a diary. 'Utena' and 'Anthy' discuss how Utena shouldn't be privy to what's in the diary. Anthy reiterates that, if Utena doesn't want her to do something, she can tell her to stop. Utena is frustrated, finally determining that she will write an entry in the diary.
At first she is touched by Saoini's apparently sincere feelings toward Anthy, but this turns to spite when she reads the hurtful things he's written about Utena. After numerous disastrous run-ins with elephants, Nanami returns with the spice . However, it is then destroyed by another rouge elephant.
Anthy makes everyone curry to cheer them up and Nanami's crew discover the unused spice in the Home Ec. room. Therefore, it was Anthy's cooking that caused the body-switching, not the special spice. Saoinji shows up unhappy about the latest diary entry, insisting Anthy's feelings have not changed - it's only because of Utena's malevolent influence. Anthy feeds him and Cho-Cho some curry and we get a fantastic ending scene with Cho-Cho practicing kendo and Saonji in a tree eating a banana.
Although largely a silly filler episode, we do get to see Anthy and Utena reflecting on how the bodies they inhabit affect their characters. Anthy says that she likes to see herself being more athletic whereas Utena is uncomfortable with her body being seen in a different light (AKA, more feminine).
Images courtesy of http://ohtori.nu/
Authors love words – how can they help it? Words give life to scenes, emotion, and people. Create drama and worlds through their combination, tapping into the enormous potential of human experience and imagination. There are as many writing styles as there are people and each of us approaches the process with our own strategy. For me, writing mixes the logic of my desire for organisation and my desire for letting a narrative flow naturally. This means that I have outlines and vague ideas of where the story goes, but that anything I establish is flexible. I consider outlines to be more of a 'to-do' or 'nice-to-have' list, than rigid guidelines.
In my life, lists are a crucial part of how I maintain order. I have yet to transition to fully digital planners so a physical notebook is still my go-to for shopping lists and agendas. This is the same with my writing. Sometimes a scene will begin the creative process. A character will encounter something and I write it out. That scene might get linked to other existing scenes, or inspire further creations which stem from it. Generally, I write a few chapters before truly beginning to outline what's occurred and what I foresee. Planning for me usually involves certain key events that take place, not so much a trajectory of character growth, although that works its way in as well.
Often times, I find that the way a character develops ties into the overarching idea of the story I'm crafting. I don't initially imagine an end-goal for the character as a state of mind: more as a culmination of all the events coming to a head. That culmination is what my characters ultimately have to find meaning in. The more I consider this, the more it seems like my personal style is one that favours a 'based on life' approach. People in real life must roll with whatever happens to them, a lot of which they have no control over. The decisions made during such circumstances shape our natures as we witness the consequences .
Writing is a strange beast. It combines the desire for control with empathy for people. I love all of my characters, yet I am not always nice to them. It's a strange state – an awareness that strife fosters growth and a wider understanding of the world, while encouraging sympathy in united experience. We've all faced hardship – will continue to face it – and stories enable us to explore the hardships of others. Sharing stories is about this learning, free of the danger/pain that comes from directly experiencing the challenge. Even fiction set in fantastical realms is tied to human experience and can, therefore, offer profound insight into our daily lives. How to tell hat story is up to the author, and clearly organising the thoughts that go into is crucial to effective storytelling.
Lists and their purpose are, perhaps not surprisingly, on my mind due to the approach of the holidays. How do you utilise them in your own life? If you write, how do you plan out a story and its characters? Do you, or is yours a process of pure spontaneity? Whatever your method or preferences, I want to wish you all a warm and happy December!
This episode is dedicated to the orange-haired woman. Juri beats all of her kendo competitors and is admired for her beauty. Despite the appreciation, she is cynical and unhappy. During an encounter where she and Utena get some time to become acquainted with each other, Juri admits that she doesn't believe in miracles. This lack of faith came about because of a friend's betrayal (this friend used to always tout their power so Juri has intrinsically connected the two).
Her aspiration for the Rose Bride is so that she can obtain the power to disprove miracles once and for all. Through carefully constructed storytelling, the audience is led to believe that the betrayal stems from her friend stealing the man Juri loved. Yet,by the end, the audience knows that she was actually in love with her female friend. The friend admits in a letter that she was willing to trample Juri's feelings in favour of her own happiness. I believe Juri considers truly selfless relationships to be impossible. Because of her 'friend's' actions, she can no longer believe that people genuinely care for one another void of selfish intent.
Utena's belief in her prince's selfless ideals spur Juri into challenging her, hoping to force Utena into seeing that the world is a dark place void of love. Since she's a superior fighter, Juri easily bests Utena, disarming her and stepping forward to cut the rose from our heroine's chest. Utena's sword, which Juri launched into the air when disarming Utena, falls, point down, and slices through Juri's rose, inches from her head. Stunned and unwilling to believe that she could have been bested by a miracle, Juri leaves defeated but still embittered.
I recall Juri's being the first character's story that really resonated with me, partly because of her love for a female friend, but also the callous way she was brushed aside by said 'friend'. Where Miki's story was one of nostalgia and trying to retain it, Juri's is of losing faith in the goodness of others, a far darker and more troubling state that everyone encounters on the road to adulthood. How we cope with the selfishness of others, and the cruelty within the world, is personal and unique. Unfortunately, for some, like Juri, it turns them into hardened, angry individuals.
Images courtesy of http://ohtori.nu/
When life gives you lemons, make lemonade – this is a saying that speaks to perseverance and overcoming the hurtles of life. There's much wisdom in such a phrase, but sometimes attitude isn't enough. Sometimes life's weight can only be lessened by a supportive companion or therapeutic emotional release. I am fortunate to have a disposition that gravitates toward optimism. People fascinate and interest me, the world a glorious panorama of possibility and wonder. Yet there are days, hours and even moments when that glow of life dims. When only the darkness seems to pervade and hope feels like a distant dream.
There is always trouble in the world, but of late there seems to be an increasing number of influences spelling disaster for our species and planet. One of the most concerning is the threat of global climate change. It's ominous presence is so vast and formidable that many people simply do not wish to acknowledge it. Others would suffer economic loss if the necessary actions to prevent it were undertaken so fight, with all the resources at their dispose, to disprove its legitimacy. As the weather around me shifts I can't help feeling disappointed and frustrated with the continued debate. Everything needs to be done to prevent this shift in our planet's environment – yet instead we see stories of people anticipating the economic benefits of longer growing seasons.
The other issue of primary concern to me is nuclear catastrophe. The fact that these weapons of mass destruction still exist is a testament to human arrogance and stupidity. Eliminating these mechanisms, which guarantee the end of biological life on this planet for centuries, should require no conversation. The risk for accidental use is too great to let even a single one remain – yet they persist because of pride and fear. Global politics are not simple matters to navigate, but everyone should be able to agree that mutual destruction is a result no one desires. It hung over the heads of those from my parent's generation as a real threat – where everyday could have been their last. Although it is not as widely discussed today, the threat is no less present.
I highlight these two concerns as the largest for me, but there are many others. As a species and as individuals, we should always be striving to improve ourselves. Perhaps the most important way to do so is to embody the world you want to live in. And speak out. Vocalising your beliefs and communicating your opinions and fears in a constructive manner is the only way change will ever occur. As a Canadian, I understand the desire to avoid conflict and go with the status quo. Yet no change comes from that.
Letting yourself become depressed by such large, multifaceted issues does not help to fix them, but nor should you ignore their weight. Take the time to acknowledge and feel the legitimacy of such issues, then work to address them. And enjoy life. Whatever happens tomorrow, you still have today to smile, change the world and watch a sunset. The quest to stay positive is an ever increasing incline, but climbing it makes you stronger.
Nanami is walking home from school when she realises she is being followed. She runs, trips and is nearly run over. Thankfully, she escapes uninjured, but in the car's headlights manages to see that someone was indeed following her. The next day Nanami explains to her brother that she thinks someone is trying to kill her. He brushes off her words as nonsense.
A baseball accident following this discussion leads Nanami to suspect that Utena might be behind the attempts on her life (which include flowerpots dropping from high buildings). While confronting Utena about her situation, they overhear Touga in the greenhouse with Anthy discussing killing something and Nanami assumes it's her. Heartbroken that her brother wants her dead, Nanami runs off in tears, leaving Miki and Utena to discover that the two in the greenhouse were actually talking about killing pests that were infesting the roses.
A distraught Nanami is caught unawares by a run-away horse and is saved by a boy. Miki and Utena learn that Nanami has made the fellow her boyfriend and personal bodyguard, despite the fact that he is half her age. Utena is disgusted that Nanami is using the boy's dedication to her in such a way. Miki explains that her actions, although not justified, can be understood since she has always seen her brother as the pinnacle of manhood and his apparent desire to kill her has shaken her perceptions.
Saoinji, in a rare moment of insight, also contributes that being abused by your loved one is preferable to being separated from them. Although he is twisted, Saoinji apparently does actually like Anthy which is the first positive sign for his character that we've seen.
Meanwhile three guys in her grade confront Nanami about why she's dating an elementary school boy when they've been trying to win her hand. She commands her 'boyfriend', Mitsuru, to beat them up which he does, but only barely. Utena and Miki come upon him and learn that, since he witnessed Touga saving Nanami when they were children, he's aspired to be a chivalric big brother ever since. Mitsuru reveals he's been putting Nanami in danger to accomplish this. Since she was eavesdropping, Nanami is furious at the discovery, but this drama is put from their minds when a run-away boxing kangaroo appears. Yes, this episode is weird
Although Mitsuru is willing to die to protect her, Nananmi carries him off stating that she needs guys like him to work for her so she doesn't want him to die. Touga saves the day and the three walk away as a very odd family dynamic.
I can't say I have much to say about this episode except that it illustrates how people's perceptions shape the world. Nanami believes that someone is trying to kill her so she reads meaning into the conversations of others, Mitsuru wants to be a hero so creates dangerous situations to become one and Saoinji believes himself in love with Anthy.
Images courtesy of http://ohtori.nu/
Our lives are made up of rituals. Most people enjoy an element of the predictable, be it a cup of morning coffee or the annual weekend trip to the beach. Since writing is an activity that must be regularly practiced, authors often have certain habits, environments or even foods they use to get into the creative zone.
I would like to give credit for this blog topic to Accalia Leigh who recently wrote an assignment (run by the NANOWRIMO organisation) on this matter. Of late, I have been writing almost constantly around my work schedule. This is because leogrl19 and I are dedicated to completing the collaboration we're working on (and garner a lot of enjoyment from the process). I mention this because it differs from my usual writing process in several ways, although common elements still exist. The rituals outlined in this post will be fairly general.
My preference (when not participating in a collaboration) is to hand write. I treasure the opportunity to get away from computer screens as well as the flexibility that comes with being able to take a book and pen with me anywhere I go. I've always found the writing experience different in the two mediums, opting for the more manual activity and valuing the opportunity to edit when translating it from book to electronic document.
The morning or early afternoon are when I feel most inclined to write. I'm naturally a morning person and enjoy the peace of sitting with a warm cup of tea, book on my lap, listening to the world wake up. Fun fact: That is what I'm doing while writing this. :) My preferred place to write is a natural, relaxed setting, but the past few years have found me seated on the wing-back chair in my living room, a cat nearby, blanket thrown over me and some relaxing music playing. Having the time and peaceful atmosphere so that I can let my mind wander when thoughts elude me, are also integral parts of my ritual.
I don't generally eat while I'm writing since that endangers my materials, but I always have a beverage present – water or tea. Since writing is stationary, I usually require a blanket as well to feel cozy. Generally, I write between 15 and 30 minutes at a time, taking breaks to perform more menial tasks, then coming back to write for another stretch. At the end of each session, I review what's been written, sometimes reading it aloud to gain an additional dimension.
This read-through also consists of some editing with my own code. For example: If a word needs to be added, I write the word below or above the line and include a v or ^ to show where it needs to be inserted. Words to be removed are scratched out and their replacements indicated nearby. When whole sections need to be added, I write them in the nearest blank space then indicate either through arrows or reference (like, 'add to page 14') where the section should go.
What rituals do you have for your own creative process? Do you have any habits others might find unique? Unusual? All forms of artistic expression are intensely personal. Part of what makes each piece of art special is the process by which it was created, so take the time to consider and celebrate yours. Cheers!
Juri, an orange-haired woman on the Student Council, notices how Miki's confidence is higher during their fencing practices but tells him that his sword is not for battle, implying that his nature is not one suited to violence. It becomes obvious that Miki is attracted to Anthy's innocence, comparing her to the figure in the garden of his memories.
We learn that the song he's always playing, 'The Sunlit Garden', is a song he and his sister co-wrote when they were young. They were always playing together and considered young prodigies. Miki convinces his sister to attend a big concert with him where they will showcase their talents, promising to be there with her. The night of the concert he has to stay home with the measles and their parents make his sister go alone. She runs off the stage and never plays the piano again. Miki still carries the guilt of causing her to abandon music and is trying to regain the feeling of contentment and love he shared with his sister in that garden.
Utena supports a relationship between Miki and Anthy and cannot understand Anthy's insistence that, since she is Utena's bride, she cannot be with him. Miki proposes dissolution of the Student Council so that Anthy is free to make her own choices. Touga states that it's his youth talking and that the world doesn't work that way - that sometimes things have to be smashed (AKA people conquered) for true freedom.
After this meeting, Miki encounters his sister leaving the music room where she has been making out with Touga. The relationship between these siblings is now very cold, although they both profess to still care about each other. It's obvious that Touga is using Miki's sister to upset him. He tells the boy that if you don't 'protect what you love people will take them away from you', convincing Miki that the only way to ensure Anthy's happiness is to make her his bride. Although Miki sees this as helping Anthy, there's no doubt that his ultimate motive is a selfish one to retain the feeling of 'his shining thing'.
He encounters Anthy playing the piano and she emphasizes that she will only play the piano if Utena lets her. Here is another glimpse that perhaps Anthy is part of the manipulation of duelists. This is the final prod that inspires Miki to challenge Utena. Initially confident in his purpose, Miki manages to hold his own against Utena, drawing in for the final blow. Anthy's cry of support for Utena breaks his sense of purpose which causes him to lose. Despite the loss, he is determined to remain in the competition to preserve his 'shining thing'. The episode ends with Miki's sister talking to one of her friends, admitting that she never played the piano well, it was simply her brother's exceptional talent that lead others to believe so.
Herein is our first look into the psychological underpinnings of a member of the Student Council and why they compete for the Rose Bride. Although each member speaks of 'bringing the world revolution', it is becoming clear that the goal each seeks is entirely personal. It is also apparent that they are being led astray since the goals each strike for are achievable only by themselves, not by outside forces. This depth is what kept me watching the show and I recall now that there is much more intensity to come.
Images courtesy of http://ohtori.nu/
I'm learning a lot while writing my collaboration with leogrl19. One of the most fascinating elements is the tension between a character's choices and my own as an author. Even describing this experience is a challenge in itself. When you write a story solo, the time you spend is your own and you are working exclusively with yourself. As I've previously mentioned, this simplifies the process since I (in conjunction with the characters I create) determine how the story unfolds.
Writing a collaboration is like interacting in real life. You never know for sure how the other author's character is going to react or what move they're going to make. This uncertainty prevents in-depth planning and makes the narrative feel alive, something uncontrollable. A thrilling and frightening experience.
I would like to clarify before proceeding that, since my collaboration is in the genre of fanfiction where plot is predetermined and the characters exist as bases from which I can build, these reflections will not match those of authors creating a unique story together. Although I am sure there are similar challenges, authors in such partnerships would need extensive planning sessions to iron out the intricacies of plot and interactions. Given how much easier my job is since I'm working from established details, I give those authors a loud and enthusiastic round of applause!
Now we shall return to the experience of collaborating. As a result of the dynamic reality which comes from more realistic interaction, I have encountered several instances where I want to change the instinctual reaction of my character. Since my collaboration with leogrl19 is as much a character study as a plot-driven story, the characters are the story's focus. Therefore, altering their natural reactions defeats the purpose of the exercise.
This all sounds very technical, but it's an extremely emotional process as well. When the character I am writing suddenly demands I have them do something I cannot predict the results of I am deeply affected. The occurrence brought to light how much I like control, even on the most basic level of character decisions. Ultimately, I let the character make their choice and deal with the consequences. I get very emotionally involved with my characters so letting them do this is a bit terrifying, yet also freeing.
The experience has made me less afraid of consequences in a story. It's helping me separate my place as a writer from that of the characters living the narrative. This separation can be fluid and challenging to delineate, so the fact that this collaboration has enabled me to identify it in myself is powerful. I was also naive to how deeply affected by my characters I am, something that feels silly to admit, but is the truth.
Writing with another person is a very intimate process. Writing originates from experience and most of us draw from what is familiar. While no character is ever really the author, there are elements of an author in each person they create. This is why some authors describe characters as their children. They are, in a sense, born from an author and incorporate aspects of their parent, not all of which are positive.
Have any of you ever participated in a collaboration? If so, what has it taught you about being an author? If you haven't, would you like to – why or why not? Perhaps you've experienced some of what I'm describing without writing alongside another author. If so, what are your thoughts? Until next time!
Enter the piano-playing softy Miki. Up till this point he's been the boy with the stop watch in the Student Council. A freshman to the school he is considered a genius in academics and expert pianist.
Despite his talents, the boy is searching for 'his shining thing' which I interpret as something to give meaning to his life. Since this is part one of his story you only get hints of what he believes this shining thing to be, recalling a girl and him playing the piano in a sunlit garden. Something about the beauty and peace of those moments haunts him, spurring him to search for a reenactment of that feeling.
By far the most likable male figure to date, Miki appears to have a crush on Anthy which Utena sees nothing wrong with encouraging. At first she is wary of Miki, afraid that he will challenge her to a duel since he is part of the Student Council. When he states that he has no interest in fighting her, Utena heaves a sigh of relief and gratefully accepts his assistance with her math homework. The three begin studying together and when Nanami discovers their meetings she asks to be invited, secretly hoping to further embarrass Anthy.
Hilarity ensues in which we learn just how many animal friends Anthy has while Nanami is simultaneously thwarted and stunned, unable to fathom how this girl's oddities can be accepted. Quote: "That girl keeps a snail in her Pencil Box!!" "I'm disillusioned!" lol
Although I think the pure happiness being enjoyed by Miki, Anthy and Utena can't last forever (Miki's increasing association with Anthy as his 'shining thing' will no doubt lead to tension) it was a nice light episode.
Images courtesy of http://ohtori.nu/
Regular readers will recall me mentioning leogrl19 in last month's post. She's one of the authors I met through my Horizon Zero Dawn (HZD) fanficiton 'Looking into the Sun'. After I'd finished the story she proposed a combined project where each of us wrote from the perspective of a character in the HZD universe. Nervous yet intrigued, I agreed to participate.
I've had a lot of friends and acquaintances who are writers over the years but have never engaged in a true collaboration with any of them. Edited their work, yes. Contributed to silly role-play exchanges? Definitely. Constructing a story using two different styles and minds – never.
Those who take the time to read leogrl19's work will immediately see that her style is not conventional. Her storytelling structure is more akin to poetry, using a combination of punctuation, font and words to form the narrative. It can be challenging to understand at first but after a while you move beyond the technical hurtles and begin seeing the raw feeling in the tapestry.
Her unique style intermixed with mine forces readers to slow down their reading. While it's generally easy to pinpoint which character perspective is active thanks to the differing styles, meshing them into one cohesive narrative requires readers to actively engage with the story.
Writing a collaboration with any author presents challenges. Even setting aside style, plot progression, character development and pacing are all topics that must be handled in crafting a shared piece. In many ways the collaboration I'm writing with leogrl19 is made easier because it's a fanfiction inspired by a video game. We're following existing an plot so the only aspects we need to focus on are characterisation and pacing.
How two authors navigate a collaboration will depend on the authors involved. Although leogrl19 and I are publicly posting the story so others can read it, the work is ultimately for our enjoyment. This means we don't need to spend so much time on formatting. If we were intending to market the narrative we'd have to dedicate a lot more time to ensuring seamless flow for maximum legibility.
Engaging in the experience has offered me insight into my writing style, preferences and even interpersonal dynamics. While I'm one hundred percent enjoying the adventure, I've also discovered a renewed appreciation for solitary authorship. Getting to craft a story that's completely my own is not always pleasant. I often struggle with stubborn characters, meandering words and unfocused plots but I also get to make all the final decisions.
Collaborating is a worthwhile experiment for any author. I've also personally found the experience incredibly rewarding. If you're interested in checking out my shared project, it can be found at Archive of Our Own: 'Before I Wake (Mountains to Climb)'.
Here is where I post updates and thoughts about my writing (as well as sources of inspiration). Views expressed are strictly my own.