Emotional Investments

We are here to talk about investments. Not the financial kind, but of the emotional sort. Which, come to think of it, you can use to write out really good stories that will pay great dividends in monetary form, BUT, I am no expert on that topic but I DO have a lot to talk about with regard to feelings. And I have a lot of those, and so does your audience. 

So, let’s begin.

When a person says that they’ve invested in someone or something emotionally, what it actually means is that they’ve established a bond with the subject, often attaching a form of memory and sentimental value. And with regard to your book, more often to your characters, having your readers emotionally invested is very important to keep them reading from the beginning to the end. Things like stakes give some agency to the characters, but it is how they act and react to events that could establish some sort of connection between a reader and your characters. For example, readers can relate to the sisterly bond between Katniss and Prim from the Hunger Games when Katniss volunteered as tribute to take her sister’s place. Or you can compare the power-hungry houses from the Song of Ice and Fire to the political scene that we see in our world. 

Or you can empathise with Lovecraft’s characters when they apply tones of racism to rationalise his suspicions towards- Okay, you can ignore that bit. His lore is great but his stories are really uncomfortable to say the least.

Important side note for reference, the date I’m writing this is dated November 26th 2019, which is a week after a certain studio released a certain blockbuster movie with songs that are probably gonna stick in my brain for weeks to come. It was a fun movie, I won’t deny it. It had its funny bits and the scenes where the characters were making ugly crying faces, I ugly-cried with them. But after the credits rolled and I went home, my mind still searched for something.

Something that was missing.

I cried nearing the end of the movie because I was given cues to cry, i.e. the characters crying, emotional music and lyrics, etc. But, were the scenes properly established? Were we given a reason to emotionally invest in those scenes?

Let’s segue into a not-so-new piece of media that I kept praising over and over again in the past. The 2018 video game entitled Gris.

Fair warning to those who haven’t played the game: Spoilers ahead. If you haven’t played it yet, bookmark this video and go play it. It’s only 2 hours long. Shorter than that if you have a guide. But if you’ve played it or if you don’t mind spoilers, let’s continue.

Okay, I may be kinda cheating with my choice to compare a film with a video game. After all, a video game is interactive, hence you put yourself into the game instead of just being a spectator. But, let me clear that up for you. Gris is a game that has no dialogue. It tells its story with its simple yet breathtaking visuals and music. Additionally, unlike many other games, you cannot get a game over in Gris. It won’t let you. So if you think about it, Gris is more like a movie than your usual video game.

Since I’ll be talking about how Gris engages with the audience well with its narrative, I’ll start by breaking down the story.

It tells a tale about a girl named Gris who has a magical dress and a magical voice. The game starts as she wakes up in the palm of a large hand, seemingly of a giant statue. Then she started to sing, but when her voice suddenly disappeared, the hand she was in began to crumble and break beneath her feet. Soon, there was nothing to hold onto anymore, and before long, she too fell down along with the broken pieces of a beautiful yet decayed world.

At rock bottom, Gris first tread along the whitewashed terrain slowly. Then after a short scripted animation where she tripped and forced herself up, she began to trot along the path and hop over small obstructions that are in her way.

Over time, the girl will gain more abilities to help her get from one point to the next. She’ll gain the ability to weigh herself down so she won’t get blown away by strong tempests. She will be able to jump higher and hover for a longer time to keep her from falling straight down. Then she’ll get the ability to swim deep into a shadowy chasm. And lastly, she’ll regain her ability to sing her magical song again. And with that, she’s able to put the world back together.

In order to achieve her mission, she needs to bring the colours back to the broken world. And to restore each color, she has to return to the palm that once held her aloft. 

We get to see the progress of the game from this hand. In the beginning, we’ve established that the hand is somewhere high up in the sky, because it took such a long time for Gris to reach the ground. The next time we see it, it’s in the middle of an ashen desert in pieces. After that we see the hand once again, higher up this time and accompanied by a second hand. In a way, the statue is seemingly growing or recovering to its original state each time we re-encounter it. And how frequent we get to see this statue (which is also somewhat predictable because we will encounter it at the end of each level, and also in some other parts within the game), hence it is not only a motif, but it showed us how significant it is to the main character. And the payoff? 

Well, throughout the game, there are these globes of light called mementoes scattered in different spots. Once you’ve collected them all, you’ll unlock a hidden ending scene, where it revealed the identity of the woman of whom the statue resembles.

It’s Gris’ mom.

The cutscene was really short. A minute and a half worth of animatics that showed the statue mom, appearing more human, spending time with Gris as a child. There was no over-the-top musical spectacle. Just the bond that they share in silence. And we’re immediately convinced that this is a common occurrence between the mother and her daughter, because of how often we see the statue as it watches over her like a protective figure, despite being inanimate for most parts of the game. It shows us how her mother means to Gris and how heartbroken she is when she had to face her passing.

Realistically, we share multiple sets of memories with the ones we love and care for. These memories are usually spread across several events in our lives. But in a film or a video game, with their time constraints, we cannot just squeeze every memory into it and expect the audience to just play along. After all, this is a sentiment held by the character, not the audience. So to allow the audience to feel invested or even empathetic, we must know how to convince them to. Showing a series of memories that are loosely tied to what is taking place in a story would not guarantee a cohesive plot. But showing only one or two at a time might just do the trick. Given it is done correctly.

NaNoWriMo 2019 Prep


So, I skipped Inktober entirely this year. Sorry for that.
Now let’s hope NaNoWriMo 2019 works out better.
Cheesy working title is cheesy, and I love it! 😆

Persona 3 Portable: From MC to FeMC

To many RPG players, it is common to find ourselves in the situation where we have to decide on the identity of our main character. And it would usually start with the question of which gender would you like to play as? To note, this does not reflect the players of how they identify themselves as, because I’ve seen a lot of my male friends that identify as he/him, who would create their online gaming avatars as female.

Not judging. Just stating my observations. I don’t want to delve into that issue because that’s a whole other behemoth of a topic to discuss about, filled with antagonistic comments just waiting beyond the veil. Instead, I want to look into the game itself. And in this post, I would like to discuss about the Persona 3 Portable game, which provided the players with a choice of being either a male or a female protagonist. Additionally, what we can observe from both playthroughs, is that there are significant differences in the dialogue and choices that you can take as a female or male character.

From the get-go, we start with a confused protagonist (either as a male MC or as a female MC, lovingly and neutrally referred to as FeMC) who was thrown into the world of Persona 3 at the stroke of midnight. After witnessing a series of strange incidents, our protagonist actively took part in what was happening by taking up the SEES gun (SEES: Specialized Extracurricular Execution Squad) and entering a battle with the monsters of the Shin Megami Tensei universe: the shadows.

After the first battle with the shadows, we’re introduced to the other characters. Most of them are your housemates at the dorm and you’ll spend a lot of your time with them. Over time, you get to interact with more people and you build more relationships with people outside of your dorm and outside of your school. In terms of the game mechanics, the idea of having a variety of other characters helps the player spend their in-game time and also as a method to expand your selection of Personas, which you can unlock when you get closer with these characters. They are referred to as ‘Social Links’ (which were later renamed as ‘Confidants’ in Persona 5). In terms of these Social Links, we can also see that there is some form of variety as to who are assigned to each link. While there are still some Social Links that are shared between the MC and the FeMC, the changed ones can either be your friends, or they can end up as your lover(s). However, you can choose not to pursue these romantic interests. However, be careful not to lead them on, because if you do and you reject their confession(s), you’ll break your Social Link(s) and therefore you had to start over from scratch.

It is later revealed in the game that the backstory of the protagonist (both male and female) are the same. However, from the interactions that both characters are able to take, we can see that they have more differences than similarities. Therefore, we can see that, unlike many other RPGs with the selection between a female or male version of the same protagonist, these two characters are basically two different people with the same history. This proves that you can’t immediately assume how a person would be like just because they share the same background as someone else.

But these characters aren’t exactly playing their gender roles as we’ve come to know, especially when we’re referring to a lot of mainstream anime and JRPGs, where most of the leading ladies have a rather conservative nature, minus the occasional bursts of energy. But it’s pretty common for them to blush at the suggestion of something indecent.

And then there’s FeMC…

I’m not saying that she’s the only female JRPG character who would say something like that, but it’s pretty rare and I appreciate that they are. Overdoing the gag would take away the originality of a character. Emulating them is okay, but I don’t like my characters being carbon copies of something that has already existed in the archive of fictional characters.

Ephemeral Harbours

There is shelter amidst the squall
Away from the wild seas and tempests blown from the East
A grip strong enough to hold a ship together, that was barely holding herself
How could harbours be as strong as they have?
How do these harbours stand in the days of late?
How would they fare?
Do they carry on with such strength and resilience as they’ve come to be known for?
Or do they tremble in the eye of the storm?

And what glorious storms they must have been
To shake the unshakeable
Thoughts are like winds that carry 
And collected in these sails
May this ship go forth
Be it at another harbour or be it at the open sea
May she find a place of rest and peace

A Garden of Light

It wasn’t the lights that attracted her to the place of pleasure and exhilaration,
but she was beckoned by the calls of her childhood memories.
Back when everything was different and she had the assurance that today would be just another day and tomorrow was something to look forward to.
It was a truth that she had long sought,
one that she had momentarily forgotten.

The longing was growing into desperation as the time went by and she wanted to see the place again.
The stagnation amidst the bright lights and chaos in children screaming for their parents’ attention: they were usually her weakness as she would admit in defeat at the blaring sights and sounds.
That, however, wasn’t true for her now.

She wanted to find it.
She needed it.
She would wallow in the sameness and the noise.
She would feel at peace.
She would find herself again, and her childhood memories would help her ignite her hopes and dreams that were long buried.
A self-inflicting action that she had come to regret, for time was the looking glass she required, only to find it too late.

She had found it shattered and there was no way of fixing it.

Takeaways: The Chef Show

takeaway (noun): a key fact, point, or idea to be remembered, typically one emerging from a discussion or meeting

Throughout the show, we can see that both Jon Favreau and Roy Choi are continuously learning from other cooks about techniques that they’ve learnt and practiced, which is nice rather than having a singular Mr (or Ms) Know-It-All throughout the series.

Jon said something similar in the beignet episode, and it feels assuring that even someone who’s accomplished much in his career would admit that a mistake was done, and then shared the experience with others. No room for ego if we want to grow!

“Chef” is a film released in 2014, directed and starring Jon Favreau, accompanied by stars such as John Leguizamo, Sofia Vergara, Scarlett Johansson, and many more. The spin-off cooking show from the film, “The Chef Show”, premiered on June 7th, 2019 on Netflix and it is honestly the nicest, most inspirational show I’ve watched recently, and it had gotten me out of the rut. There’s just something about it that is so “human” and it warms my heart to watch ambitious people pursuing their dreams. But that didn’t stop there. It reminds people that if you want to make something work, you need to collaborate.

From the get-go, we’re introduced to Jon Favreau and Roy Choi, who are the hosts to the entire show. They visited different places and restaurants, they visited friends at their homes, and they shared their experiences about food, their careers, their struggles, and they could either be the greatest actors to fake sincerity, or they are just honest about it all.

I’d like to think that it’s the latter with these guys.

Cooking shows in the 2010s can get pretty weird. I mean, there are the competitive kind, and there are the talk-show style cooking shows where the audience would applaud the celebrity chefs at every possible opportunity (either when someone is slicing tomatoes in half or bringing out a pre-made cake from the oven). Then there are the more conventional types of cooking shows where one person is just moving about in the kitchen and doing all the narration, like shows by Nigella Lawson and Gordon Ramsey. Travelogue-style cooking/eating shows are still a thing (RIP Anthony Bourdain). And then, when it comes to “real” cooking, they always end up looking like a documentary series or a feature that explains cooking in regard to a different subject, such as a person or an event. Take Sophie Dahl’s “The Marvellous Mrs Beeton”. I loved this one, but unfortunately it was only a one-off show. I guess “The Chef Show” is one of these types of cooking shows, too. But instead of focusing on one person or historical period, it shows the real life and times of the people appearing on the show; People you can still relate to.

Blade Runner 2049 (2017): A Worthy Sequel

Warning: The following entry contains spoilers for the original Blade Runner (1982) and its sequel, Blade Runner 2049 (2017). If you have not watched these films yet and are planning to, I advise you to click away and come back after you’ve done so. However, if you’ve watched both of these films or if spoilers don’t scare you, you plucky reader you, do feel free to stick around.

It was in the middle of Film Theory and Appreciation class. As usual, I was sitting in the front row of our small classroom, eagerly awaiting the film our lecturer Mr Khong was about to play. We were discussing about postmodernism in films, and of course, Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner (1982) was an ideal specimen for us to scrutinise.

It didn’t take long before I realised that I had seen this film before, but growing up in a conservative family, the kids were not allowed to watch films with ‘adult’ themes. So I only remembered fragments of the beginning, namely the establishing shot of the city. I recalled feeling confused by the oversized digital billboards, entranced by the bright neon lights on buildings and umbrellas, and also the craving I get for instant ramen when Rick Deckard was ordering food at the roadside stall. I wasn’t allowed to watch the scenes after that back then, probably because of the violence and nudity that appeared later on. Right now, I’m still unsure of which version we had, so I’m just going to leave it at that. The one that I watched later on as a student in college was the 2007 Final Cut version, if any of you are wondering.

Moving along: I didn’t watch Blade Runner 2049 when it first came out in theatres, mainly because there were a lot of sequels that came out around the time and I have a series of bad memories when it comes to them, generally falling under the umbrella of “Why was this movie even made?” argument. Therefore, I only watched it recently one day when I was having a lunch break by myself and wanted to watch something on Netflix.

The verdict? I thought it was good. Okay, fine. It’s a great sequel! It’s worthy of the title. The characters, the plot, and the twist-ish ending were all done well, in my opinion. I haven’t felt emotionally invested while watching anything in the longest time, because foreshadowing can really be on the nose in some films. As a result of that, whenever I spot a character who’s waving one too many death flags, I just naturally brace myself to not get emotional when they die or when something terrible happens to them. Well, this is a better move than to not give me a pay-off after the foreshadowing, which is a pretty cheap excuse to put in a “twist ending”, or have the writers/director go “Hey, remember this plot device?” right in the audience’s faces.

I have to admit that I was surprised by how strongly I feel about this film. It may have to do with the aforementioned scepticism I have for sequels. Anyway, this film took advantage of an aspect of sequels that not a lot of films did, especially sequels that were not originally part of a series like Harry Potter or Star Wars.

First of all, Blade Runner 2049 saved time in terms of establishing the premise of the cinematic universe, because that was already done in the first film. Yes, it does have some form of exposition, but the most obvious one that we get is the text we see in the opening:

I’m going to segue back to the original Blade Runner film for a bit. The biggest theme of the film is the distinction between human and replicant, which is something that looks very much like a human being, only they were manufactured. So the issue is this: How can something that looks human and thinks like a human being not be human? Rachael, who is a replicant, was revealed to not be aware that she was a replicant in the beginning. She was given memories of a childhood when she had none, and she has shown emotions that were supposed to be naturally human.

Coming back to the sequel, we don’t need to be told about this again. However, we were given a brief refresher of this by Sapper. Amidst the brawl between Sapper and our protagonist K (reference to Kafka’s The Castle? Or am I reading into this too much?), the former remarked on how different the two of them are, despite them both being replicants. Then, he noted that they are different because K has not witnessed a miracle like he had. Sapper’s faith in something unexplainable by logic is, again, very human. And in contrast, the human characters, such as Lt. Joshi and Niander Wallace, were depicted as individuals who lacked empathy by how they treated these non-humans, despite their intended design.

Take Mr. Wallace for instance. For someone who manufactures replicants, he should be aware of how they looked like, despite being visually-impaired. If he wanted these replicants to not appear human and have human-like behaviour, he could have made the changes to make them appear less like a real person. A change in design could explain the lack of empathy shown by the humans to the replicants because, after all, they don’t even look like us. However, that’s not the case. Replicants, even the new ones, looked very much like humans and they expressed human emotions such as fear, anger, and love.

I wish I could say the same for Joi, but despite her appearing genuine in most scenes, the moment after she was ‘decommissioned’, we were shown another massive billboard scene as if to tell us that all the things she said about love and loneliness were most likely choreographed to an algorithm that matched what K wanted. Of course, this wasn’t the first time the audience is shown who, or rather what Joi really was. The film told us this already at the midpoint of the film, and that was before K headed out to Vegas to find Deckard.

Additionally, I would like to point out that this remark on the irony of humanity or non-humanity was not spelt out for the audience. The first film did a more subtle job than the sequel, but this is still good. Because when it was once again time for an exposition, the scene was delivered in a meaningful manner, and truth be told, I felt K’s shock and shame when he realised that he wasn’t so special after all.

Among the many scenes that foreshadow the ending is the Vegas scene when K arrived to find Deckard. Flashing lights from the stage against the darkness of the hall, the sporadic music that blared from the speakers, and also the selection of music in the hall were enough to make us feel uncomfortable and second-guess when the next interval of music is going to play again, and hence reflecting what the duo may be feeling upon this introduction to one another.

Science fiction, much like fantasy, is like a gateway to endless possibilities and themes that could be jarring and/or offensive when they are put in real-life scenarios. Which is why, unfortunately, there are a lot of newer films, books, video games, etc., in the speculative fiction genre that can get rather messy when they want to be inclusive or as the savvy kids call it, edgy and #woke. However, they end up spreading themselves too thin and while some people can appreciate having a lot of themes included within a single film or book, others might find it disorientating. Hence, this is why I find myself enjoying Blade Runner 2049. True, the themes are not as complex as, say Mamoru Oshii’s 1995 film Ghost in the Shell (Sorry, the 2017 live-action remake was fine, but the themes discussed weren’t as critical as Oshii’s first Ghost in the Shell film). However, the Blade Runner’s sequel knows where it’s going from the very beginning, and that already deserves a gold star.

The Write Intention: Part 1 (Glorious Grammar)

How many times have we picked up a book and after a few pages in, our eyes darted straight to a grammatical error that made us gasp! For who is the editor who allowed for such a dreadful thing? Or could it be that the author didn’t bother to even consider hiring a proofreader before publishing something with their name on it? Or, could it be that these mistakes were the sacrifices made in the name of “style”?

…I cried out, while the title of this entry contained a typo for the sake of a pun.

Welcome to The Write Intention! A series of essays where I vent my heart out for things that normally people don’t worry about too much, but I thrive at nitpicking because I’ve been doing this for years and I’m tired of seeing the same shenanigans happening over and over again, so here we go!

There are some topics that I avoid speaking about when it comes to media. Namely the scripted ones, which usually consists of some series of drafts (or at least I hope they do), i.e., whatever that ended up as the final product is expected to have been meticulously and repeatedly checked from top to bottom. So, what exactly is my beef in all this? Several things, actually, which includes consistency and continuity, and especially intention.

Firstly, let’s talk about grammar.

Grammar is not only a set of rules. It is a system and it defines the structure of a language. Every language ever used has its own grammar, and there are different schools of thought that go beyond the limitations of language. Take Noam Chomsky’s Universal Grammar, for example: According to him, every human being is wired to understand how language works, which diverges from the behaviourist view of language, i.e. developed later due to the exposure to whatever language(s) that is/are around them.

However, I will not turn this entry into a linguistics class and will come back to its original objective, i.e., discussing about intent in writing.

I use ‘i.e.’ a lot because I’ve been editing academic papers a lot and have probably been hardwired to write like this ad infinitum, which is also a good anecdote to segue into the topic of ‘style’.

Style, namely writing style, is basically how a writer presents the written word. It can be expository (like how I hackneyed the usage of ‘i.e.’ because of my background and experiences), descriptive, persuasive, and narrative writing. Then there’s writing styles in literature, which can be a mix between some of the above styles along with other things. You can observe through a variety of authors that they wrote their stories to evoke different themes and moods from their work. Take, for instance, Ernest Hemingway, who wrote concisely and objectively. This is most likely due to his experiences in the war and that he was a journalist. So we can see why he opted not to use the flowery adjectives and went straight for the kill.

“Oh Jake,” Brett said, “We could have had such a damned good time together.”
Ahead was a mounted policeman in khaki directing traffic. He raised his baton. The car slowed suddenly, pressing Brett against me.
Yes,” I said. “Isn’t it pretty to think so?” 
― Ernest Hemingway, The Sun Also Rises

There are also experimental writers who don’t exclusively rely on words to exude the intended feel. One of my favourite examples is House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski. As you can see in the picture below, he employed multiple styles of typography to have the readers feel a real sense of space; be it a cluttered congestion of words or a series of nearly empty pages. And although it’s a mess to look at, let alone to read, it’s an effective device in bringing the mysterious and downright horrific 5 and a Half Minute Hallway in the Navidson house to life within the pages of a book.

While the sentences are not grammatically incorrect, the typography here were presented in a very unconventional manner. Perhaps you’ve seen text wrapped around images in magazines and newspaper columns, but not deliberately around empty squares, and definitely not in multiple directions, including mirrored. However, I can give this a pass because that’s what it was intended to be: to make the readers feel uncomfortable, to make us want to scrutinise every inch of this jumbled-up paragraph, and to give a sense of claustrophobia in several parts of the book.

Till next time!

Strunk & White noted in their book that writing style is convey the message of the text, but not to display the writer’s abilities and knowledge. I know it’s kind of a clash between the two, because a writer still needs to show their level of understanding what their characters are like. You can’t write 3 chapters of exposition, highlighting how smart your main character is, only to show her do something that contradicted her nature, i.e., by not being smart or by saying something that is lesser than what is promised. However, I will elaborate more on the topic of character description and consistency in another entry. Till then, happy writing!

Sources

  1. Fromkin, Victoria, et al., (2011). An Introduction to Language (9th ed). Wadsworth Cengage Learning.
  2. Strunk Jr., William & White, E. B. (2005). The Elements of Style Illustrated. Penguin Press.

The Unrelenting Test of Faith

Warning: Spoilers ahead for Angel’s Egg (1985).

Film connoisseurs and enthusiasts usually have a list of filmmakers that they admired, or maybe even a list of filmmakers that they were not fond of. For me, probably not an original number, one of the filmmakers that is up there is Mamoru Oshii, who directed films like Patlabor, Ghost in the Shell, and was a co-planner for Blood: The Last Vampire.

One of his earlier works, notably after he directed the Urusei Yatsura series, was Angel’s Egg (1985). It was a transition from the comedy series to a deep dive into the psyche with heavy elements of religion and themes of faith. Despite its heavy dose of religious references, I will not go into detail in that particular department. If you are interested in such discussions, I recommend you watch these videos by AnimeEveryday and Chris Stuckmann.

Plot Summary

As discussed by many writers about Angel’s Egg, the film is less about plot as even Oshii wasn’t sure what the film was really about, and it’s more about how it makes the audience feel. Set in a surreal gothic world, the film features a young girl who protects a large egg while carrying out the task of collecting and filling round flasks with water, and a male soldier who seemed to have lost an important part of his memories. There were also a group of faceless fishermen who were chasing shadows of fish, which the girl claimed to not be there at all. However, the fishermen continued chasing them down anyway, without any remorse for the destruction they caused as they gave chase to the spectral fish.

After some time, the soldier asked the girl about the contents of the egg, to which she was convinced that a large bird was going to hatch from it. Then one night while the girl was asleep, the soldier took the egg and broke it, revealing that it was empty after all.

Discussion

The world is a dark and decaying place. It’s an endless cycle that reminds us of the inevitable end, how a small shade in a corner soon looms over, making the existing gloomy tone even more grim. And yet, despite all of this, a glow came in the form of the girl, whose faith in the mysterious egg managed to get her by in this unsettling realm.

After the first five or so viewings of this film, I came to the same idea as a lot of other people who have discussed about the film; that the girl is a reflection of innocence and that upon the destruction of the egg that she’s been protecting, she loses her innocence but then have acquired spiritual maturity. As a result for her actions and faith, the singular egg that she was protecting multiplied and she found her place upon the floating orb as a saint or a martyr. And yet, after I watched the film several more times and reading more about how others interpret this film, I think I’ve found something that’s always been there but not as discussed as the other interpretations have. So this is what I want to do now: I wish to discuss the film in terms of the multi-layered nature of faith.

Before I proceed, I would like to note that this film is something that can be interpreted in many ways and as I’ve stated before, even Mamoru Oshii would welcome multiple interpretations that the audience has come up with (see chapters on Angel’s Egg in Stray Dog of Anime and The Cinema of Mamoru Oshii). In an interview previously conducted with Oshii (that was filled with “perhaps” and “maybes”), when asked about the details in the film, he said that he was unsure of what exactly the film is about. But it was clear that he drew inspiration from religion, namely Christianity. It is noted that he has studied religion in the past, which allegedly ended nearing the time when the film began its production.

Let us have a look at the points where I drew this idea from. As we can see halfway in the film, the girl and the soldier took refuge in an ark, where most of the dialogue happened. This was where the soldier came to remember his past and his mission.

Fast-forward to the end of the film: As the camera zooms out from the events that took place, we get to see what the place looks like from a distance. But as time goes on, what ‘land mass’ that we could see seemed to be part of something else: another substantially larger ark that have capsized in the open water.

This concept of ‘an ark within an ark’ suggests that perhaps there isn’t only one ‘micro-ark’ similar to the one where the girl and the soldier rested in, but maybe there were more elsewhere. Additionally, this bigger ‘meta-ark‘ may have contained more than what we’re shown, such as other characters that were perhaps not shown. Unless, if everything that occurred on the capsized ark is the sum of the soldier’s experiences in his journey; from the moment he saw the suspended globe in the sky, to when he hopped off the tank he rode on, when he met the innocent girl, and finally when he came to realise that he had strayed from his mission when he was reminded of what was lost in the first place. If it’s the latter, then perhaps the cycle would continue all over again. He would forget once more, embark on his journey again, remember his mission, destroy his own reflection of innocence in the form of the girl, and repeat. After all, the eggs still exist. In fact, there were more now than when he first began his journey. These perhaps symbolised his doubts that grew from just one object of uncertainty.

Doubt is a common thing that we face, even when we are so sure of something. Any adult can probably tell how difficult it is to keep doubt at bay. Only the innocent are capable of complete trust and/or faith. The ones who outgrown them either let it go or live in a repeated cycle in their attempt(s) to reassure and convince themselves of their beliefs. A schizophrenic panic that occurs more regularly to some than others. Because we all want to believe we’re on the right path. We want to believe we’re the protagonists of our stories, regardless of where our moral compass points us to. Besides, that in itself is a subjective topic to talk about in the first place. So I digress.

Art Style & Setting

This part is a bit off-topic, but I can’t discuss about this film without touching about the brilliant art style.

I’m sure that a lot of RPG fans have come across Yoshitaka Amano’s artwork on the cover of a much beloved saga: Final Fantasy. His signature art style was one of the elements that would – almost – always accompany the cover art of the franchise. Each of his designs for every instalment is unique and specialised to the main theme. For instance, Final Fantasy VII had a meteor accompanying the title that alludes to one of the strongest summonses in the game, Final Fantasy VIII has Rinoa and Squall in an embrace, being one of the rare occasions that an instalment has a clear happy ending with the couple ending up together in the end, FFX had Yuna performing her ceremonial dance to send off spirits to the afterlife, and so on.

What can be noticed immediately with his style is the graceful characters and the “flowiness” they had with them. These designs became one of the factors to why Angel’s Egg took place in a fantasy setting, and in a sort of hybrid between post-apocalyptic and alternate universes. Oshii stated in an interview that he initially had planned the film to take place in a more realistic setting, taking place somewhere in Tokyo as a result from pulling his original ideas from a cancelled Lupin the Third film.

That’s right. Angel’s Egg could have been a Lupin film, but I am sure that it would look mostly different than the one we got in 1985.

Conclusion

I’m aware that this reading of the film is a little more “optimistic” than most of the interpretations that I can find online and in books, including an interview with Oshii regarding the film and a couple of critical essays on the filmmaker and his work. Authorial intent aside, there’s two sides of a coin. And in this day of constant inner-turmoil and tests of faith, we can still make a decision on how to approach a subject: to view a glass as half-full or half-empty?

Personally, I see a clearer purpose in reducing the pessimism by choosing to elaborate on this particular interpretation while still being aware of the multitude of different readings that can be derived from the film. Perhaps Oshii, despite his clear pessimism on the matter, knew this already and there’s a sliver of optimism still embedded in his works, of which we could find if we know where and how to look for it.

Sources

  1. Interview with Mamoru Oshii on Angel’s Egg, Nihon Cine Art. 8 February 2016. Retrieved from http://eigageijutsu.blogspot.com/2016/02/interview-with-mamoru-oshii-on-angels.html
  2. The Angel’s Egg Symbolism, Nihon Cine Art. 8 April 2010. Retrieved from http://eigageijutsu.blogspot.com/2010/04/angels-egg-simbolism.html
  3. Cavallaro, Dani (2006). The Cinema of Mamoru Oshii: Fantasy, Technology and Politics. McFarland & Company.
  4. Ruh, Brian (2004). Stray Dog of Anime: The Films of Mamoru Oshii. Palgrave MacMillan.

Upfront

An ethereal passing
Judgements tainted
A repulsive truce
An accord of blood
That poured on
Unceremoniously

The wild yet caged creature screamed
In a voice far from solitary
Intents cascading into a prismatic spectrum
Colliding and fighting for dominance
A menagerie of sphinxes and sirens
Deathless apparitions of the flesh
They speak
A voiceless language
Erupting like fireworks
Rupturing grey skies
And mired in a heavenless space
Of hellish respite