Friday, June 11, 2010

Identity 4.1 - "The Sorcerer Priest"

Chapter Four, Act One on FFN

First, the writing progress update: I've finished the sixth act of chapter four by cutting it in half and planning to do the rest in act seven, a change that I'm not happy about (I wanted this act to be longer...) but is likely for the best structurally, especially in terms of tempo. I'd hoped to have all of "Monsters and Demons" finished before posting this act, but that'll have to wait for act two.

I also put in some time and finished chapter two of "Before and After," so I imagine that'll be up by the end of the weekend.

As I mentioned at the end of the chapter, I decided to post the commentaries to each act in the chapter body itself for those who are interested. They will continue to be posted here, too, however, so that's below.

In the past, I’ve tried to keep the chapters free of remarks, but of late I’ve thought maybe it would be a good idea to share some of my thoughts with you, the reader, rather than just say, “Hey, everybody, go look at my blog!” I’ll still archive my comments there, so if folks want, they can read all the commentaries in order without having to jump back and forth.

When I had the original outline for “Monsters and Demons,” I hadn’t planned on Ranma being present on the mountain (I’ve mentioned this before, in the commentary for “Occupation”). It was logical, yes, but it also took some of the tension out of the chapter, I thought. The series is Ranma 1/2 after all. In a story that doesn’t explicitly focus on some other character, you’d be right to expect Ranma will play a significant part. It was, in some respects, bad enough that he didn’t appear at all in “Journey to Jusenkyō” until act five. The nature of the plot demands some split time, but perhaps not to that extent.

So I made the instinctive decision to include Ranma in “Occupation” (which wouldn’t have existed without that choice, and indeed the chapter is better for it), and I’ve been reworking “Monsters and Demons” to accommodate that ever since. Of course, it wouldn’t do justice to just shoehorn him into the chapter. He really needed his own plotline, and “The Sorcerer Priest” is the beginning of that. It dovetails nicely with one of the issues I’d been struggling with since chapter two: why Sindoor would send Kohl/Wuya to Jusenkyō, aside from the idea of separating him from Tilaka. Henna is part of that.

Originally, I wanted Henna to be a man, but I thought, to better contrast against Kohl, she should be a woman instead. I’ve kept some of the workings of the Sorcerers and their curses deliberately nebulous, but the reinforcement should be particularly clear: Tilaka thinks himself a girl, even though we see him as a boy, and Kohl thinks himself a man, even though to fight as the captain, he must use his girl’s body.

All throughout this act, there’s a big focus on Ranma, on the contrast of strength versus weakness, of just reasons for killing against the emotions that drive you to do it. And that, to me, is a big source of Ranma’s intellectual dissonance. He had every reason to kill Saffron. That doesn’t change that he still killed him because he wanted to, because of fear or rage or whatever you want to call it. It’s about control, and as power increases, one has to wonder, “Am I in control?” Is Ranma in control with three or four girls all desiring him? Probably not. I think in some ways Ranma’s a control freak, at least to the extent that he avoids situations where he lacks that.

It’s never clearly stated in canon what mixing cursed waters will do. This whole chapter is, in some ways, my own interpretation of what might happen and, indeed, a possible theory as to why Ranma wouldn’t just cure himself right away at Jusenkyō once he was cursed. Can you imagine if even a trace of Drowned Girl water stuck with him as he dived into the Drowned Man spring to cure himself? Yeah, you might think so much water of one should overwhelm the other, but it’s squicky enough to not want to risk, I’d imagine. It’s not something I plan to explicitly state in the story, but goodness knows if I were in the same position, changing gender is bad enough. Trying to fix it and ending up with parts of both … well, that’s not what I’d call a better situation.

Anyway, thanks for reading “The Sorcerer Priest.” As always, I welcome any remarks or comments via review. For commentary on chapters prior to this one, you’re welcome to check out my blog at westofarcturus [dot] blogspot [dot] com (or click the link in my author profile). And if you’re not inclined to do either of those, then I hope you enjoyed this installment and that you’ll be back next week for “The Flood.”

Until next time,
2010 June 11


Anonymous said...

I have not read your story, came to this blog via a different means, but want to make a comment on this post.

That doesn’t change that he still killed him because he wanted to, because of fear or rage or whatever you want to call it.

In the manga, Ranma killed Saffron not because he wanted to or really for any emotional reason. He killed Saffron because he ran out of options. While Ranma's emotions had something to do with it, it was much more so a logic based decision, he tried every option he had available to him and then when left without options he killed Saffron. Ranma had to get Akane to the water, Saffron wouldn't let him. Ranma tried to sneak past him while he was talking, he tried to take out Saffron using non-harmful means (knock him out), when all those means failed he went for a maiming blow rather than a killing blow (took out wing instead of say his head), finally Ranma had no choice but to kill Saffron or let Akane die. Ranma did not let fear, anger, or emotions over ride his decisions in that battle. It was simply a progression of amount of force used, as the less violent means failed he progressed to using more force and more lethality.

I do agree that Ranma likes having control though. To the point that he is extremely manipulative and will use many means to get people to do what he wants. Ranma has a lot more control in his various relationships than most people credit him having. He has manipulated every person interested in him at one point or another for one reason or another. The thing is Ranma doesn't really know what he wants yet, is not ready for marriage (and knows that even outright stating that in the beginning of volume 37 ), and at least at that stage in his life wants to maintain the status quo.

Muphrid said...

Well, I would still maintain that Ranma did let the battle affect him emotionally. I don't mean to suggest that it clouded his judgment, but I think his motives, while rational and logical, are also profoundly emotional, too. As his duel against Saffron escalates to more momentous levels, Ranma reacts with increasing levels of resentment, anger, and anxiety. At first, yes, he cares only for an efficient means to disable Saffron and doesn't care if Saffron finishes his transformation once Akane's saved, but some time after Akane throws herself into the line of fire to save Ranma, Saffron's actions cross the line. Where Ranma before was indifferent to Saffron, by the time he uses Hiryu Shoten Ha, he cares about payback, too. When he freezes half of Saffron's body with Gekkaja, he makes his intent brutally clear: in his eyes, Saffron's an arrogant prick who's endangering Akane's life, and for that he must die. It's an expression of righteous vengeance, I think--not that it's unjustified, either.

Even in a stressful situation, Ranma can be remarkably cool, but I really feel this dual between him and Saffron illustrates how Akane (her wellbeing, in this particular case) can have a dramatic effect on him. And for someone like Ranma, who feels ill at ease when he's not in control, it's something that at the least can make him muddled. I contend it can even cause him to avoid exploring that relationship, but that's more extrapolation and opinion, not something I could conclusively prove.

I think Ranma's inability to deal with his own feelings are a big reason why he prefers the status quo: that way, he doesn't have to deal with those feelings at all. Ranma knows, intellectually, how to get a girl--he does this well enough in the battle suit arc, but as soon as he thinks to himself, "Wow, Akane's really being cute here," all that intent and manipulation just goes out the window. And in some ways, that's okay, because if he weren't affected by his own emotions, he'd be a heartless, manipulative bastard.