Friday, June 14, 2013

First Ones - Chapter Six notes

In some sense, it’s been a long time coming, having a chapter focused on Asuka. That it’s taken this long to get to her for more than a few moments is, I must admit, a weakness of the form of storytelling I’ve been using through this story, and it’s the same reason that I’ve been unable to get back to Shinji for a few chapters, ever since leaving him at the end of chapter three with Nozomi. But this is the way the story is structured, and it is, in a lot of ways, too late to try to scramble things up and mix them together. I actually started writing the Identity rewrite in the same vein as First Ones, but I realized quickly the limitations of staying in one person’s perspective for a whole chapter (and doing that consistently). When there are a lot of moving pieces to a story, it’s hard to keep them all chronologically ordered that way.

But for this story, it can work because most chapters do not necessarily follow closely one to the next and to the next. Each chapter has separation in time and place, and I can pick the character who best tells that story. Conversely, I can pick the best time to tell each character’s story.

So it’s well overdue to get some time really focused on Asuka. In the series, Asuka was this blustery, mercurial girl, but she was always at the forefront of the action, whatever it might be. That was the place she always wanted to be: the center of attention. This chapter is about her adjusting to being out of that spotlight, to ceding that position to Shinji while still finding value in her life. You can see it in how she interacts with the SDF service members. She knows they want Shinji’s attention, not hers, and it would be disrespectful to try to force herself upon them.

Now while I’ve bemoaned that Asuka hasn’t had focus until this point, there were moments where you could see something about her character before now. Chapter one is a good example. Those Asuka scenes definitely emphasize there’s some level of dysfunction in her relationship with Shinji and hint that she’s devalued him somewhat, that throwing herself into her work makes her feel important.

Similarly, there have been some hints about Asuka’s opinion of Rei and her suspicions about the relationship between Rei and Shinji. Asuka still considers Rei more of a ghastly thing than a person, partly out of fear, partly out of jealousy over the relationship Rei and Shinji share. This opinion colors Asuka’s judgments of Rei throughout the chapter, and while she accurately guesses Rei’s hangup at the end, she still characterizes Rei in a decidedly sinister manner: as someone who fancies herself a god with almighty power and capacity to judge. Nothing could be further from the truth for Rei. It’s only when Asuka sees Rei through the lens of being a person instead that she gets to the right result.

On the topic of Rei, I really struggled to make sure that her point of view was logical and reasonable. It’s hard to identify with someone who’s supposed to be on your side yet is obstructing you from using the very tools you need to survive. But this is absolutely Rei’s position, in my mind: it’s the careful balancing act between acting in her position as Lilith—the Seed of Life on Earth, the caretaker of mankind—and as Ayanami Rei, a person with personal connections to Shinji and, by extension, the rest of the cast. This is something I hope to explore better in Rei’s chapter.

You might also notice that Misato goes along with Rei, despite personal misgivings, as part of the lesson she learned in chapter five: to trust more in her fellow man (or in Rei, in this case), rather than going rogue and doing it all herself.

Something that was on my mind through the whole battle scenes was the characterization of secondary characters. I tried to portray Ishikawa as a rather quirky SDF sergeant, not a typical hard-nosed, gruff kind of guy. It’s been some time since we saw the Horaki family, so I tried to give each of them a note or two to reestablish their personalities.

The Hachibuse Mountain Base is, as I mentioned, based on Stargate Command, including the two sets of elevators/stairs. I did, however, play with where the civilian quarters would be for convenience (or rather, for their inconvenience).

The relationship between Asuka and Shinji may not be what was expected. I tried very hard to focus more on Asuka’s character development than to focus on any budding romance (especially since these two are already established in-story as being together). The focus is more on the support they give each other, the foundations on which a healthy relationship can be built, given time.

On the whole, I’m very pleased with this chapter. It was fun to write Asuka in a new and unusual situation—with her being helpless for long stretches and having to deal with what that meant for her. I think she comes out much better for it, much more content that she can do something worthwhile with her life.

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