Friday, June 25, 2010

Identity 4.3 - "Black and Red"

"Black and Red" on

I've had a little bit of a slow start on chapter five, but I think things are running on more cylinders now. Everything before this was, in part, gearing up for this battle at Jusenkyo. Now, I've got to switch gears and go back into buildup mode for the next...big thing. So that's different.

As usual, commentary below.

This is actually one of the first things I'd wanted to write since I came up with the idea of the story. It's these moments that serve, in my mind, to shape a story, and the hard work of outlining and writing is filling in the gaps between what you know you want to happen, to give them the importance and significant they deserve. I've always wanted Kohl and Akane to meet, as it benefits both characters, allowing them to grow. Kohl because he's yet to come to terms with being born a girl; Akane because Kohl, unlike Ranma, can act more as a neutral foil.

I've made much in the last two acts about the theme of weakness, and it's no less important here. With Kohl, we have a much more potent example: he's much better with magic as a girl than he is in his preferred, cursed male body. Originally, I meant this to mirror the Musk Dynasty arc in the manga, where Herb was noticeably less powerful when cursed compared to when he was in his natural body. That rule, then, extends to all the villagers and is ultimately why the Sorcerers must use their natural bodies to fight, why Tilaka must use it to be the Sieve. But, if anything, I've danced around that issue because I've played a little loose with that rule, if only with Ranma as opposed to anyone else. Though this can still have a reasonable explanation, it's still something I'm hesitant to address until I have it really figured.

But to Kohl, that he can't use magic as well in his male body is simply fact, and it cuts into his pride. Make no mistake, Kohl is a very prideful person. Though he won't say it, he has a very strong dislike of Ranma because Ranma beat him--everything else stems from that. Pride is what makes Kohl think he can take the chimera that attacks him when he can't.

At the same time, Kohl is curious. He's not Sindoor's unswerving servant. Though he is loyal to his people, he's not necessarily loyal to Sindoor without hesitation. In the back of his mind, he knows that Sindoor's up to something with her secretive nature. In a lot of ways, Sindoor's the real bad guy, even at this point. Kohl is merely the "Dragon" to her, and to describe him as evil would be a grave misunderstanding. I'm not a fan of good and evil as a driving force of a work. As I've said before and will say again, I believe most people see what they do as good or necessary, and so their motives should have an element of persuasiveness. That's not to say everyone can be right; they're not. But I do think we should be able to understand even an archvillain's motives, though more often than not we reject them for other reasons. They're flawed. They lack faith in humanity. So on and so forth.

It's for these reasons that Kohl doesn't outright attack Akane as his enemy. For one, he recognizes he can do so only at considerable risk to himself. And for that moment, an alliance of convenience is sensible to make sure they survive the night. Is Akane too trusting? Probably. But that's also part of her nature. At the least, I see it as something consistent with her (usually) good disposition toward people. She's not a naturally suspicious person once someone shows themselves worthy of her trust. That's why Kohl's betrayal evokes a particularly angry reaction.

It's the difference between devotion to duty and respect for even an enemy. Make no mistake: Kohl respects Akane. He outright says as much. Someone who can fight without magic impresses him; indeed, he wishes he could do the same. He wants to be a man all the time, but he's forced to be a woman. And his last lines of the act are his acknowledgment of that. It's how magic and their curses make him and his people different from outsiders.

Like the squirrel cursed to look like Akane scene from last act, I also always wanted to have black piglets running around in plain view for Akane to see. It's not something she's going to get to act on for quite a while, but it's going to simmer in her mind and color her outlook. The last thing Akane wants it to be made a fool of in that way. It's going to hurt her deeply just to think P-chan's a person who's been masquerading for her, let alone to know who that is. She'll blame Ryoga for hiding from her. She'll blame Ranma for not spelling it out. And then, when she's alone and already subjected both of them to her displeasure, only then will she think she was a fool herself. How can she trust anybody after such a thing?

Don't get me wrong; Akane's a strong person. She defeats the chimera because she's gritty. She's determined. And she's not a bad martial artist--yes, even on a bum leg. If anything, these trials only strengthen her resolve to find Ranma. And find him she will, but there's a long way to go before that.

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