Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Identity 8.4 - Wounds of a Warrior

I’m a bit late with this, as I’ve been working on several projects at once, and some of my tardiness will be explained in the coming weeks.

But let’s get started here. This installment is all about Shampoo, and her outsider’s mindset is something that presents a unique challenge. I feel that Shampoo has a very absolutist mentality. Things either are, or they aren’t, and there isn’t a lot of room between the two. Ranma is the man she’s bound to, the only one who excites her, and that’s that. Akane is weak and unworthy of him. Ukyō is too unwilling to do what it takes, and Ryōga’s attraction to Akane is something she can’t understand, either. The challenge for Shampoo is that she has these opinions about all these people, and each of them has a kernel of truth, but reality is more nuanced than the way she sees it. To me, her attraction to Ranma is intense and genuine, but it nevertheless lacks depth because Shampoo fundamentally misunderstands what appeals to him.

The scene to start off that flashes back to the Council and aftermath of “The March” is where that first hint really comes to her. Ranma is significantly improved over her thanks to his magic skillset, yet Shampoo doesn’t hesitate to go after him. It is, in her mind, the only choice she has. She is uncompromising, at least as much due to stubbornness as uncertainty, I think. It is a big hit to her pride and sense of self-worth if she has to lose at something.

Here too I touch on the ongoing reflection that Shampoo poses to Cologne. Cologne had been unwilling to compromise herself, after all, and while she’s stepped back at times due to that painful lesson, she’s also lived it all again thanks to the defeat at the Sorcerer village. This is something that will be explored in more detail in “The Wanderer” though.

I hope Ranma and his crackers were amusing; this little bit of melodrama struck me as a moment to work in some levity. There are a couple things going on here, though, that might get overlooked due to limited perspective. Kohl neglected to destroy the box of Hibiki’s souvenirs when the smoke detector went off in Ryōga’s house, so that’s why he has such a reaction to this information, for instance.

On balance (and thanks to a comment from Richard Ryley), I do think I will go back and tweak some of Ryōga’s dialogue to make him seem less pathetic. At minimum, Ryōga should realize that he holds Ranma to a higher standard than even himself out of jealousy, and as such, he does himself and Ranma a disservice. Still, this conversation between Shampoo and Ryōga is important, as Shampoo is trying to build alliances.

Ranma and Akane have a squabble here, also, which I left mostly intact despite some tweaks to the progression of their relationship in the drafts of chapters before and after this one. This, to me, is part of the idea that despite all they’ve realized about one another, old habits and worries don’t die instantly. They have to be continually dealt with. That’s not to say progress can’t be made, but it is, in my mind, a struggle that can be mostly, but not completely, put aside.

The rebel Sorcerers make another appearance, and this is all setting up a much bigger arc for them, but the most important part of this passage is the reintroduction of Marula—you might remember her faintly from “Monsters and Demons” or even before that. I didn’t do much with her there, and I don’t even know if I had this element in mind at the time, but this is what I’ve decided to do with the character: she too is a reflection of Shampoo. She is friendly on the one hand and sympathetic toward Shampoo for her plight, but on the other hand, she subjugates her own wishes in deference to the tribe and even suggests she would accept a slight stain of honor for the greater good. To be honest, I admit I felt a little uncertain if these traits would come off well, if this would give sufficient depth to the character, but I do hope she came across as an effective foil to Shampoo, a reminder of what she’s lost and how that’s shaped her.

This leads into the most difficult scene for me: Shampoo going to Akane’s room. To tell the truth, even to this moment I remain unconvinced that I did enough to make Shampoo’s decision here come off as within her character. Pride definitely is part of her persona, though, so I really hoped that would be enough. Shampoo’s realization of her fears and anxieties is really the moment her walls come down, the moment (I hope) that people can reconnect with her for everything that will happen moving forward.

A big battle is coming up, along with an announcement.

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