Friday, May 28, 2010

Identity 3.6 - "The Last Right"

"The Last Right" (Chapter Three, Act Six) on

That concludes everything I'd had written prior to starting this ambitious project of an installment a week. I actually have mixed feelings about that entire subject now. Currently, I'm about 1/3-1/2 of the way through chapter four, act five (out of six), and I'd honestly prefer not to post any part of chapter four without having finished it, but that doesn't seem likely right now. As always, I'm going to have to evaluate this as we go and, if necessary, insert break weeks to stay basically on track. I'm hoping, however, that when I do that it's only one week at a time and it's spread out enough to not be too much of a schedule slip, but maintaining a steady pace is very important to me, as part of the way this story is presented to people.

Anyway, as per usual, commentary on "The Last Right" below.

The opening scene of this act is something I'd had in my mind for a long time, and it took a good bit of thought to translate it to something cohesive and proper. I kept a significant distance from the Amazons' storytime by the fire, instead focusing on Shampoo's thoughts on Akane and her interaction with Ukyo. There's something there that demands to be said: Ukyo keeps painting herself as a moral person. Some people might find this grating. Shampoo even calls her out on it, and Shampoo is right to do so, in my mind. Ukyo's "I'm above murdering Akane" act is a complex rationalization. It's an expression of her own fear: that she won't be able to win Ranma without doing that, that she'll have to risk making herself a monster in his eyes. It's as much a fear of how he'll look upon her as it is an actual question of morality. It comes off weak because she knows what she wants and isn't sure she can resist. Or wants to.

But let's talk about Shampoo. Shampoo's someone I still have trouble characterizing from time to time. I've always felt that she'd never ever give up on Ranma, under any circumstances, but I think it makes sense for her to look at others and think they're giving up and wonder if it's really futile, if she should give up. But these are temporary dilemmas at best, and in the end, Shampoo's answer is the same: to keep after him, to do whatever it takes to win him or save him, as she does here.

One of the late changes I made to this act was a tweaking to Cologne's confrontation with the Council. I think her argument is much stronger now, painting Bindi as actively conspiring to condemn Shampoo out of spite. Whether this is the truth of the matter is another story, but it's sufficiently damning to wreck Bindi. Bindi, too, is a ruthless person, one who will do anything to enforce her vision of what's good for the tribe. What makes her annoying, again, is that often times she's right, but she goes too far protecting her agenda here, and Cologne gladly takes advantage.

Their confrontation is the first time Cologne states openly that Ceruse is her granddaughter, Shampoo's aunt on her mother's side. It's been everything short of outright stated over the course of the chapter, and it's a critically important element of Cologne's motivation. All along, Surma and Shampoo have been saying how Cologne is doing this for Ranma not out of loyalty to him but loyalty to Ceruse---this incident now brings back those memories and all too strongly seems like an echoing of those dark times. Ceruse is an important character outside of her influence on Cologne's motives, however. I said in the act one commentary how Cologne's speech at the beginning of the chapter would have many important details. What else do we know about Ceruse? She married a Sorcerer, yes---his name is Yi.

Didn't they have a baby somewhere?

Or did they?

But let me not tease too much. I'm going to back up (can you tell I'm just kind of winging these commentaries?) and talk about the morning meeting at the bonfire, where Cologne narrates for Commander Marula. Marula I named pretty much on the spot, thinking she'd be important for chapter four. My current thinking, however, is that I won't involve her there, but there's a female Amazon part that is very, very important in chapter four. Right now, I'm thinking Marula might become a sort of counterweight to Shampoo, but we'll have to see. It's not very often I introduce an element without intending it to go somewhere, but I liked this possibility enough to let it dangle until I know where and how I want to pick it up.

Finally, let me talk about the last scene. Originally, I meant for the beginning of chapter four, the Amazon rescue attempt, to close this chapter with the cataclysm I talked about, but in the end, this felt like a much more natural break point. It makes the next chapter feel...a little bit rushed, but with the benefit of making this one feel like it ends right. Trying to start a whole new thing right at the end ultimately would've felt far too odd.

The conversation between Ryoga and Akane is meant to do a couple things: reinforce Akane's newfound openness and establish that Ryoga's still quite in love with her. After all, it's for Akane that Ryoga's made this trek, not Ranma. The bit about Akari I planted their to remind, at the very least, that she still exists.

Maybe the sweet pun was a bit too much. I went back and forth on that one.

You might notice at the end that Kohl accidentally lets a subtle hint slip that he knows Ranma and that Ranma's inside the Sorcerers' holding of Jusenkyo. I felt this was really necessary: right now, the Amazons don't really know he's in there. Heck, as I mentioned earlier, I hadn't even intended for him to be there at first (although we're firmly there now). The Amazons really needed something to go on, and from a reader's perspective, it seems natural that someone like Akane would jump that conclusion even when there's not enough evidence (and that Kohl would be downright puzzled to think that Ranma and these people are related).

I should make a note on age. Cologne doesn't actually say when or how far back the Sorcerer War was, but she does say she quit the Council twenty years ago---indeed, this is when the war took place, when Ceruse was lost, and so on. Note that Kohl is not old enough to have fought in this war (or even to remember it). Hence, it's natural he doesn't recognize the Amazons. He's never seen them before. And, for that matter, they're not his concern.

Anyway, soon enough the war against the Sorcerers begins, and it's really quite striking how much of these first three chapters (to me, at least) have been ramp up when the next four are pretty packed with action. As I've said before, I find writing action tough; I prefer writing about plots and machinations and making the battles clear-cut and quick extensions of those plans (at least, I think I do). So we'll see what happens or if I can do it well.

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