Friday, July 16, 2010

Identity 4.6 - "To Fight the Demons that Haunt Us"

"To Fight..." blah blah on FFN

As usual, commentary below.

No, the title isn't long enough. Heh. Actually, it's really the best I could come up with from when I realized that this act direly needed to exist on its own. This is what I get for planning two (three?) wham moments in a single act. It just makes everything a mess.

But it was really important to me, on the whole, that Ranma's final dealing with Henna stand on its own. It stands oddly, in the middle of this act rather than at the end, but his reaction to it is important, too. What is it that drives Ranma here? What is it that allows him to conjure magics he's never even tried to use before?

It's that Akane in his mind, the one who's staring at him with no love or warmth about her, just coldness. It's notably not how she was behaving at the time, but in the end, I have to imagine it--if Akane being angry doesn't disturb Ranma, her lack of anger would. It does, often enough. When Akane gives Ranma up to Nabiki, Ranma prods her through and through, but it's only when her anger gives way to something else that he stops. Whether you read hurt into her expression and concern into his, well, I leave that to the reader. At any rate, I submit that Akane being angry doesn't bother Ranma. It's something he's used to dealing with, at least. We can theorize that it's because Akane's default reaction to something unpleasant is anger, and it's only when it really bothers her that she shows something more genuine, but again, that's not the point I'm trying to prove, only to demonstrate why I think her anger wouldn't bother Ranma, at least not as much as a more subtle response. The bottom line, though, is that we can already see, as before, how an emotional response is the basis for powerful magic in this world.

Going along those lines, you might notice that Henna says the magic should be weaker (with Ranma in that girl body). I admit, I didn't have Ranma's magic be so weak as to be noticeable when female. Does this, conversely, require it to be that much stronger when male? Perhaps. Again, the basis for this distinction rises from the Musk Dynasty storyline, but for convenience, it may be that I have to blame some of it on the particular nature of the Sorcerers' curse as well (which is something Ranma would be exempt from). It's admittedly a little sloppy on my part.

It's in this act that I feel the character Henna really comes into her own. I do admit that the level of detail she shares with Ranma is, on one level, gratuitous. Sure, it can be justified. We can say, for example, that she wants Ranma to understand her, even to agree with what she's doing and vindicate her actions. Any way you put it, though, she's just nuts. She's mad. She's mad in a way that becomes all the more pertinent when we're confronted to how similar she is to Ranma, at least outwardly.

I do want to talk about the idea of Ranma counting. It's a thing I shamelessly borrowed from myself, from Nicholas Torrence. Make no mistake, Ranma doesn't regret killing Henna, but each death on his hands takes a toll on his emotional stability, the same emotions that are giving him power. And I think it's a profound moment when he accepts responsibility for the male Amazon's death. It shows just how much he needs his abilities, his strength. Even when without them, he still holds himself to a standard as if he had them. It's not about honor, but just what his pride (Ranma's very specific, particular definition of pride, forged with a dose of pragmatism) demands. On the broader subject, though, it's stuff like Ranma counting or Shampoo being preoccupied with her choker that I really enjoy writing. In these moments, you see something strange and peculiar about their thinking.

One thing I've learned over the course of writing this story is that you have to be willing to write the things you're afraid to write. I said before Ranma wasn't meant to even be at Jusenkyo for this chapter, but including him has made it all the better. Originally, I didn't even mean for him to meet with Cologne, and the barrier of Marula's language skills (at once rather hilarious and cruel as a measure of fate goes, that she doesn't understand him but all the important Sorcerers do) would prevent critical knowledge of the Sorcerers' plans from getting out. (You're probably guessing that means Ranma won't be escaping the Sorcerers by the end of the chapter. You'd be right. Ironically, that point actually undermines the point of the paragraph.) In the end, however, I let Ranma get to Cologne; I wrote him into this chapter, and as a result, the chapter is better for it. I find, usually when you say that a minor thing breaks the story so much that you can't do it, that's your sense of logic telling you you should, for exactly that reason. If Marula's lack of Japanese skills had really prevented information from getting through, it would've been little more than a cop out--after all, I chose whether she knows Japanese, and for that little detail to make such a difference without foreshadowing, without a preestablished reason made explicit, it would be bad writing. Here, it just adds a little relief and humor. And that's fine.

When I thought this would be part of the act to come after it, I included the scene at the beginning with Kohl and Akane sort of as a reminder that they were there. Of the storylines in this chapter, I have to say Akane's was and is the least developed. She was never in a lot of position to do anything about her captivity, and the point of her being there is largely, to be blunt, to make an impression on Kohl. Here we see her tenacity, and it's tenacity she'll show again and again. As a joke, I like to think I make characters seem awesome not by winning but by losing in the most drawn out fashion, by taking a ton of punishment. Like with her confrontation with Kohl in act 3, Akane's battle here is short and she really has to limp away from it, but you can't fault her for trying.

Anyway, now the stage is all set, and the last battle for Jusenkyo can finally run its course. Hope to see everybody next week.

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