Friday, January 21, 2011

Identity 6.4 - "Substances Immiscible"

Chapter six, act four on FFN

I want to thank all those who reviewed or gave criticism on the last installment. If you are willing to read possibly spoilery material, I discuss to some detail how the remarks and criticism drove the editing process for this installment.

Weekly commentary below.

I received quite a bit of feedback between reviews and here on the last installment, and that some measure of editing and fixing to try to make more clear what I intended to impart.

I don't go into a whole lot of details about Keema's plan, mostly because I wanted to keep focus on what our party from Nerima had to deal with. What I envisioned was more like there would be several access points to any given level of the mountain, to tunnels that, quite frankly, shouldn't have been used very much because the Phoenix people would generally prefer flight anyway (if you go back to volume 37, you see that Korma and Masala are kind of surprised at the tunnels in the mountain, whether because Ryoga just dug them or something else is hard to say; in retrospect, this is kind of an oops on my part). So, Korma's force on the platform here, itself somewhat a contrivance to give the Sorcerer who breaks through a reasonable chance of escape, is rather small. Keema's forces are divided, you see.

The Sorcerer who broke through, of course, is just one Sorcerer, and some seemed to think he might be special or even might be Wuya (which I wouldn't have done; if it were Wuya, I would've just said it's Wuya--as much as I preferred not to spend time describing grunts in a lot of detail, you can't just say after the fact, "oh, hey, it's Wuya" unless there's a reason people wouldn't recognize her or something). In hindsight, I recognize now that the damage he did could be considered rather exceptional for one man against quite a few potent fighters. In the end here, while he puts up a fight, I tried to back off the idea that he's exceptional. Maybe he's lucky. Maybe he just had a little more determination than most. It's not like any of the survivors know. To them, the damage is the same.

To clarify all of that, I rewrote the whole beginning scene of this installment. Originally, I had Cologne with Akane in the closet, so to speak, probing her mind, but I realized with so much confusion on what was happening, it would be wrong to try to resolve all that with passing statements. I needed to show, so to speak, instead of tell. Even though I didn't want the emphasis to be on resolving that conflict when I'd drawn out the act, it seemed reasonable now to do so. Hence, Mousse gets a nice scene to show off here and exact revenge for Shampoo.

Naturally, Shampoo's not dead or dying, but that's not to say this wound won't sting for a few days. She's a tough customer, and as typical in this series, she'll heal fast. Maybe not fast enough to be 100% by the end of the chapter, but don't be surprised if she's back on her feet in less than a reasonable timeframe for a normal human. After all, Ranma got every bone in his body broken by one of Akane's punches, right? And he's fine now. (Or was it the landing that did the damage?)

In a lot of ways, then, this act is a study in finding little details and trying to fix them up. I think I mentioned before how I neglected that we actually see the room where the eggs are kept in the manga, and when I rediscovered that, I had to go fixing. The result was that, while in the outline the crew spent a good bit of time in the aviary, here it was necessary to pare that down to the ending scene. This made me want to cut it altogether, but I had something happening in a later act that made it far, far too difficult to extricate without complications. That and, well, I really liked the aviary, even if it only gets a few seconds to enter the mind.

I'd had troubles figuring out where this act should be in ordering, too. Act one was initially going to end with Akane's inaction getting Shampoo stabbed as she was in three. Splitting that act into two and sandwiching Ranma's flight escapades worked out, but it left a gap here. I didn't want to follow act three up with more Akane-centric stuff. Going to a largely Cologne installment fixed that nicely. I like Cologne quite a bit, too, and being responsible, being in charge and motivated with the Sorcerer conflict makes her a more natural choice of point of view--a more compelling choice--than Ukyo, certainly, and probably than Shampoo except for when the latter's place in the tribe is questioned, as it was in chapter three.

So, we focus here on Cologne's decision-making and drives, and what we see is that she's very driven based on what affects her personally. She's not really convinced that crossing the Phoenix is a good idea until they cut her off from Surma, her friend. She beats and bashes in the Phoenix girl, Besan, because she's hyped up on how she needs to do right by Ceruse.

That scene was something I had to clean up a bit, too---originally originally, Cologne and company would find Ceruse in the aviary and interrogate her there (this was when much more time was spent there). Next originally, they do similar to in the final installment here, but they threaten her life before the refugees to get space. In the end, I was wrangling with the logic, and I decided that it just disrupted the story too much to threaten the supposed secrecy of Cologne's actions in a way that made it obvious they were crossing the Phoenix. That was the only way, really, Cologne would concoct a plan at all and avoid confronting the forces guarding the eggs: if she thought she could get one without betraying to Keema that they knew what she'd done. When Besan blows the lid on just who is guarding the birds, however, that all goes out the window. That, too, was logical--or at least, the logical progression from logic to emotion, to the need, in Cologne's eyes, to confirm her fears.

But now we see the truth of things, or at least the best glimpse we've had in a while. Was Keema so content to seal off part of the mountain because she knew she had an ace in the hole, a way to destroy the Sorcerers from within? If so, where does Akane come into play? Fortunately, there will be some answers in act five, some even from Keema's own mouth.

The question, then, is whether we trust what Keema has to say.

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