Friday, May 14, 2010

Identity 3.5 - "Occupation"

"Occupation" on

As I noted in the chapter itself, I'm going on vacation all next week (actually leaving Saturday and coming back the following Sunday), so I'll be unable to post the next installment next Friday. Every summer or so we take a vacation, and I like to use the time to take care of outlining future chapters and stuff along those lines, so this should be good. How much time I'll have to do that on a cruise around Alaska, though...well, we shall see.

Commentary below.

Like I said in last week's commentary, I'd originally planned for this act to come right after "The Amazon Charter," but I'm happy with moving it here. The timing for events makes a lot more sense this way, I think.

This installment marks the first in which Kohl is the point-of-view character, and it's really the beginning of his storyline in terms of growth and exploration. I think, as a whole, fandom tends to be more forgiving of villain original characters rather than heroes, if only for the simple reason that heroes tend to drift into Mary Sue territory, where villains are expected to be powerful. But Kohl, even though he was a villain in chapter two, has as much to try to figure out and discover as any of the rest of the cast do. He's not on Ranma's side, but he has his own motives, independent of Sindoor, and he's trying to understand how to achieve them.

Every character has some level of internal conflict. With Shampoo, it's the conflict between what two things she wants: Ranma and a place at home, among her people. With Ukyo, between some spark of morality that tells her she's a good person and her need for Ranma. With Akane, the choice between being strong and independent and relying on Ranma when she can't be, the dissonance between being a model wife (as she sees it) and being herself. Ranma has this last conflict too (except he wants to be a model husband), but he also enjoys, at times, what his girl body can let him do while wanting to be a man. He has great power, the kind of power he's always wanted to be a good martial artist, but he's also increasingly afraid of that power. All these characters have conflicts, and Kohl's no exception. A conflict between loyalty to Sindoor and loyalty to Tilaka, between duty to the tribe and duty as a person. Some of that will develop more over the coming chapters.

There's a lot being foreshadowed or portended here (is that a word?). Kohl's use of vision dust (I might have stolen the name from WoW) to commune with Sindoor will be important in chapter four and for the majority of book two. Ranma's increasing adeptness at Sorcerer magic is also an important plot point.

That's not to say I didn't struggle with some aspects of this chapter. One thing I quickly realized was that bringing Ranma to Jusenkyo begged the question why he wouldn't cure himself. Having Kohl deliberately obstruct that seemed to make sense; I just added the element with the channelers actually screwing with him to make it seem more plausible.

That's right; as a matter of fact, I didn't originally plan for Ranma to be present for any of this act or chapter four, but I thought making him part of these events would make the story more interesting as a whole. It required that I jump some hoops---hoops that I'll elaborate on in commentary for chapter four. It's not bad for an author to jump hoops per se, but it takes a good bit of effort to hide them. In the end, I'm not sure I'll wholly save myself for making this choice. That's part of the challenge of writing, though.

You might remember in "The Nine and the Three" the Guide mentions his phone wouldn't work. Originally, the bit about Ranma, Kohl, and the phone preceded that, obviously, but in reverse it still works pretty well (and seems actually less random). It also explains why the Guide couldn't call back to Nerima and simply say "hey, Ranma's been kidnapped." It's a little weak, but it's not too too bad.

A point on the new geography of Jusenkyo after the battle with Saffron. I always interpreted the Phoenix and Dragon Taps as being the first few chapters of vol. 38, but Ranma cuts the Phoenix Tap, it's pretty clear that from shortly after that forward, the taps are outside (I think, though I'm not certain, it's because Saffron breaks through the mountain wall, exposing the taps). It became convenient for me to refer to this remnant as a crater; Ranma's clearly outside when he brings Akane down into the cursed water.

One thing I intended to be significant was that Ranma refers to Akane as his friend in this chapter when talking to Kohl and that he craftily covers up what really happened to Akane. In fact, he doesn't really want to talk about Akane and how she died at all. I think it's natural for Ranma to consider that whole incident a very sore spot, something that makes him intensely uncomfortable because he'd really rather not think about her dying again. Going back to internal conflict, I don't think he likes how she has so much of an effect on him---at least, not when it makes him so anxious. But anyway, when in other times, Ranma would refer to her as a fiancee, to someone like Kohl, someone he doesn't want to have to explain the whole mess to, the word friend will do. And it's appropriate. I think Ranma really values her as a friend, though neither of them really know it, and it's the dissonance between trying to be friends and trying to be lovers that, I think, has the potential to be a major source of friction.

Let me go back to Kohl for a minute. One thing I was hoping not to do was info-dump too much about the Sorcerers and how they work. While it's fairly clear in this chapter that Kohl and Tilaka did something forbidden and that that caused the last Sieve to fail, I did stop short of saying why that is or why the Sorcerers (or at least, the Sorcerer Guard) live double lives the way they do. And that's okay, because I don't really want that coming out until later.

Anyway, a big point of the chapter was to make the Amazons somehow aware of what's going on inside the Sorcerer's Maze that surrounds Jusenkyo. Now they have enough to suspect and come back to the Amazon village, which will propel the final events of this chapter and setup the next nicely.


Anonymous said...

While I have not read your fic I still want to comment. Why did Ranma even tell anyone about Akane? Ranma is extremely secretive and does not give out information easily, a fact Akane has complained about in the manga. In many fan fics Ranma is pretty open and trusting which is completely different from how he is in the manga. Why tell this person that he has any relationship with her at all? Seems a bit out of character to me. Ranma, at least manga Ranma gives as little info as he can get away with. Take for instance Shampoo and Ukyo. Ranma never told either of them about the other. Shampoo didn't find out about Ukyo until 7 volumes later (and Ukyo didn't find out about Shampoo for the same amount of time).

Muphrid said...

In the chapter, Ranma pointedly does not refer to Akane by name and pointedly does not refer to her as a fiancee for (though I don't spell this out in narrative) exactly the reasons you describe: he doesn't want to attribute any importance to her to the Sorcerers. He surely doesn't want a repeat of what the Phoenix did--they went out to kidnap her, after all.

As for it being out of character, I admit it seems a little of a liberty, but in the chapter, he's maintaining a carefully crafted fiction to cover up the fact that Saffron died (and was reborn). In this case, Ranma is being specific to increase his credibility, because he really can't dodge the question of why he didn't wait for Saffron to move on. He's in a bit of a rhetorical corner, and admitting at least partially what did happen helps him cover up the parts he needs to lie about.