Wednesday, May 23, 2012

The Journey and the Destination: a matter of balance

Since finishing Brave 10, there's been a question on my mind: "Which is more important, the journey or the destination?" I think at least 90% of the blogosphere that watched the show will agree that the ending of Brave 10 was...less than spectacular. But I still enjoyed the show quite a bit, enough to forgive the terrible end. I firmly believe that the main body of the show (the journey), with its great action and "classic" approach, is more important than the lousy end (the destination). But is that the right view to take?

     First, let's look at the two sides and what makes them important. I'll start with the journey, the body of the show. What makes it important is obvious. It's the essence of the show. If you have a 10 absolutely terrible episodes, it doesn't matter what kind of an awesome 12th or 13th episode you have, because no one will have stuck with the show to watch it. What isn't so obvious is just how important the journey is. It's quality is that of the moment, of the act of watching itself. Especially for more vapid entertainment (which I won't call bad offhand) like Brave 10, it's what makes watching the series worth it. If you are a person who tends to live in the moment, then the journey is most definitely the most important part. But even for those of us who aren't particularly present-minded, the body of a show can still be incredibly important. It has to do with the act of enjoying something. If a journey is really good, we can actively enjoy it, something that I feel is underestimated. The journey shouldn't just be a means to the end. You shouldn't watch a show to finish it; you should watch a show to enjoy it.

I can't imagine anyone who would watch Kino's Journey just to get to the end. The beauty of this show is that it lets you experience Kino's travels, something you can accomplish only by being involved in the moment.
     The destination (the ending) is important for slightly different reasons. The destination is usually what makes the journey important. It's the end of a series, the last episode(s) that either tie everything up or put them into some kind of meaningful context (depending on the show). Perhaps the most important thing they do, however, is determine the viewer's final impression of the show. They make the difference between whether you would recommend a show to someone, or call it a waste of time. The ending is what determines how you feel about a show after you've watched it. A very enjoyable show with a lackluster ending will be remembered as only "good" at best. Similarly, a terrible ending can ruin a show, no matter how good it's body is. I never watched all of No. 6, but from what I gathered, that series had a pretty terrible ending, so most people didn't like it. To choose another, less mystery oriented show, take Hatenkou Yuugi. Pretty terrible cliffhanger ending for that. Now, I personally (at least, when I last watched it) thought that the series was pretty enjoyable, but I didn't really like it overall because it had a lousy ending.

     The big question here, though, is which is more important: the body or the end? If you could only have one of them done well, which should you choose? Journeys can make up for bad destinations, but don't always manage to. Especially if a series is short, the thing people will remember the most is that bad ending, and they'll disregard the enjoyment they got out of the body. The more obvious answer seems to be that a good ending is best. After all, a great ending can make up for a poor journey. To take a book example, let's take a look at Charles Dickens' A Tale of Two Cities. In all honesty, I found the middle section of that book insufferable. It was strikingly boring and devoid of things I actually cared about. You may disagree, but bear with me here. After I finally plowed through and finished the second section, I got on to the third, and I was astounded! The book ended on such a high note, full of action and character changes and story resolution and other things I actually felt interested in. Because of the great ending, I have to say that A Tale of Two Cities is an overall worthwhile book. In the case of this book, then, the ending was more important than the body. It can be the same with anime. An amazing ending can make up for a poor body. But then we run into the problem again of few people sticking around to actually get to the end. It took me two months to finally pick up ToTC again, and only because of a sense of obligation I had. When watching something becomes a chore, what's the point? So we're back to square one: which is more important?

     A large part of the choice, of course, comes down to is a matter of opinion, personal preference, and mood. The importance of both bodies and endings vary from person to person. As for me personally, I believe that the journey is usually more important. Of course, I would vastly prefer both to be good, but following the "have to pick one" scheme, I would choose journey. I don't consider myself to be someone that lives "in the moment," but when I think about the act of watching anime, I enjoy the experience of watching a good story more than I do the remembrance of a good story. Of course, this varies from story to story (obviously certain stories rely more on good endings than others), but for the most part I want to remember the great time I had enjoying a series rather than the time I spent processing them.

Gratuitous Danshi Koukousei screencap. For obvious reasons.
     A balance of a good journey and a good destination is obviously ideal. And to say that no such shows exist is entirely false. But for shows that clearly don't have both good bodies and good endings, knowing which is most important to you can help. So which (operating under the assumption that you can only have one) do you prefer? Do you watch anime for the enjoyable ride, or do you prefer everything being nicely concluded at the end?


  1. I watch many slice-of-life anime that are episodics. Episodics mean most of the time not much plot in the long run but just inside this one episode. Since such shows are definately favs, I can pretty safely say I prefer journeys. BUT when it comes to slice-of-life shows that have a plot no matter how 'thin' it is or non-episodics, then the end surely is of great importance. Infamous example: Haibane Renmei. The ending left me with thousands of questionmarks above my head. I cried a lot during the series, I was on the edge wanting to comprehend, wanting to even find my atheistic beliefs in it, but the end didn't pay me off at all.

    1. Yeah, a lousy resolution to an overarching plot can be a big downer. That's the main thing that got Brave 10, was the terribad ending. Like I said, I considered the journey good enough to make up for it, but...

      Thanks for the response!

  2. Reading through this rare treasure of a blog. Found several posts I plan to comment on. Got to start somewhere. Pardon the length.

    Short answer: the destination is more important. Long answer:

    The conclusion of a story shapes and defines it. Stories with incredible plot twists (which I suppose I shouldn't name in public) cause the viewer to think, "whoa, now I need to watch that again," and they start to look at the story up to that point in a new way.

    I suspect you are familiar with the conclusions of (most, if not all, of) the shows I will name. Nonetheless, I have attempted to avoid including spoilers in a public post.

    No Conclusion: Mushi-shi, Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei

    These stories deserve special mention because they do not *have* destinations. In the translated words of the director of Mushi-shi, that series feels "like a conversation," with no real beginning or end, where you learn new things all the time but never feel like it's time to go home. (I have no words to describe Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei.)

    As bizarre a comparison as it is, the two shows are similar: they are episodic, they lack an overarching plot, and they are about the experience of watching the show, not learning the story being told. If either were to break continuity, it wouldn't change the viewing experience, since the episodes are independent.

    It goes without saying that stories without destinations must have compelling journeys, but I claim that it's impossible for them to have as great an impact on the reader as those with firm conclusions. This diminishes their capacity for greatness, though they can still maximize the potential they have.

    Natural Conclusion: Gunslinger Girl (Il Teatrino), Kurau

    The conclusion is the expected end to the story. The tone doesn't change, and while there may be revelations that explain things, the ending doesn't change how you view the story so far. In this type of story, the journey is of absolute importance, because the destination is consistent with it.

    I don't consider this a contradiction of my claim, but the exception that provides the rule. If the destination is anything other than calmly consistent with the journey, the story falls out of this category, and in every other category, the destination matters more.

    Defining Conclusion: Le Chevalier D'Eon, Noir

    These stories constantly drive toward their conclusions. They introduce, incite, rise, turn, resolve, and conclude, and what's more, they try to do so every episode. So far, that sounds like a Consistent Tone story, but here's the devilish detail: these stories *lean* on the conclusion rather than *lead* to it. The viewer (and, usually, the cast) spends the whole show awaiting the conclusion.

    In my limited observation, with these shows, the viewer often forms their own ideas about the conclusion, judging events by those ideas. Otherwise, the viewer reserves judgment, keeping questions in mind and trusting that they'll be resolved.

    Viewer knowledge is critical, so only stories with a reveal ending (though not necessarily a surprising one) qualify. Death Note is an excellent example: the audience doesn't know how the conflict will end. It has to end--no doubt about that--and the way it ends defines the whole story. Since you described this in your post, I don't think I need to explain.

    This and the Consistent Conclusion are probably the most common types of ending. Either the viewer is presented with a journey that reaches its destination, or they are told of a destination and set forth on a journey. If the journey was terrible, it can be redeemed, though the viewer still won't have enjoyed it. If the journey was wonderful, it can be ruined, though the viewer will still have enjoyed it.

    I suggest that your experience with A Tale of Two Cities illustrates this: you knew things needed to be resolved, but you didn't know how. When you found out how, you were satisfied... but you still didn't like the middle part of the book.

    1. Hi Chris, glad to know you're enjoying the blog! I'm honored by your praise. :) And don't worry about the length, I'm just as guilty as you...

      With the "No Conclusion," I'm afraid I must disagree. With series that aren't really interested in telling *stories* at all, like Sayonara Sensei, certainly they leave a. . .less than significant impact on the viewer. However, my two all time favorite shows, Mushishi and Kino no Tabi, both fall under the No Conclusion category and yet, they have affected me more profoundly and deeply than any other series. I think the deal with series like them is that their "destinations" are a little more abstract than they are actually *plot*-based. The lack of closure in Kino's Journey, for instance, became a kind of closure itself. For one, the series came full circle, but I feel it did something much more important. Kino's Journey didn't end with the show; it didn't end with the OVAs, and I don't think it ends with the light novels, either. Kino's isn't a journey that ends; the fact that it continues on past the end of the series, I feel, is an end in itself. Like I said, it's definitely a more abstract kind of ending, but. . .anyways, bottom line is I actually got *more* out of some No Conclusion series than I did out of any others. Maybe I'm just an exception to the rule, who knows.

      Of course, while I have my own opinions, by no means am I trying to argue with you about yours. I really like the examples you gave, and your way of thinking makes a lot of sense!

      P.S. Sorry for the late reply. I wrote a response, and then a computer failure made me lose all of it (I had put it off because I wanted to edit it).

    2. No apology necessary; I'm flattered you chose to respond.

      Disclaimer: I haven't seen Kino's Journey, so the common ground here has to be Mushishi... but what great common ground!

      Interesting perspective! I claimed that Inconclusive stories have less potential to affect the viewer than conclusive stories. I wasn't absolutely certain of this; I made a strong claim hoping to invite rebuttal, and I welcome your disagreement. I've no desire to condemn a viewpoint or argue opinions--please call me out if I do--and if you can tolerate a little more rambling, I'd like to keep going.

      I came prepared to revise, and I find that I utterly failed to account for a huge difference between Conclusive and Inconclusive stories. Let me suggest this:

      An Inconclusive story must necessarily hold plot of distant importance to characters and setting. The realistic and engaging portrayal of these things are what draw the viewer into the story; thus, rather than something to watch, it is something to experience.

      Watching a story with no plot is impossible. That's a strong statement--let me clarify: watching a *show* with no plot is fine (SZS may qualify), but if there's no plot, you're not watching a *story.*

      Inconclusive stories have plot, but it never resolves. By plot standards, that's weak. They should be unsatisfying, but they're only unsatisfying if you were watching for the plot.

      My experience with Inconclusive slice-of-life, ongoing-journey type shows is limited. Other than Mushishi, I would describe the shows I've seen as more "anime as TV" than "anime as story." The prime example, which I'm still embarrassed I watched, is InuYasha. The meaninglessness of most episodes relative to the plot is why I quit.

      I forgot another example, though, and I'll recommend it now: Gunslinger Girl. (The sequel series, Il Teatrino, I already referenced.) The original series' plot is inconclusive (not too surprising if you know there's a second series/season), but I enjoyed it because it wasn't about the plot. It was about the characters and getting used to hanging out with these people, seeing what they're like.

      So the difference may be this: an Inconclusive story that draws the viewer into the world and allows them to experience the story, or an Inconclusive story that fails to draw the viewer in and becomes a relatively meaningless string of events. Mushishi is the former; InuYasha, the latter.

      Of course, conclusive stories can draw the viewer in and allow them to experience the story in a powerful way, as well--but these, strangely, can leave the viewer less fulfilled than if the viewer didn't feel attached to the story. When such a story concludes, the viewer loses their home in that story. I've felt this way at the end of my favorite stories; the only anime example that springs to mind is PMMM. At its end, I was exultant at the conclusion--but sad that I didn't get to share in the adventure.

      That accompanies the end of any story, conclusive or not, but it's less definite with stories where you know the world and adventure continue. When the story is over, and there's no more story left to tell, it's a significant emotional letdown.

      Summing up, I kind of agree. I still subjectively prefer an epic plot because I'm big on story, and weak plot means weak story, but the experience of watching a show isn't just about story. Watching a show and being involved in it are very different. I failed to consider that. Thanks for pointing it out!

      (I'm reminded of your excellent post discussing the problems with Borderlands' style: the player/character separation of an action game or conclusive story vs. the player involvement of an RPG or ongoing-journey story.)

      Oh, and it makes sense that an Inconclusive story can affect the viewer more. A thick plot can actually distract the viewer from the world, and it increases emotional distance from the show when the plot concludes, which lessens its impact.

    3. First things first. I avoided getting right to responding to these because I wanted to give them my full attention, but regrettably I failed to handle the rigors of life appropriately and found myself swamped. Of course, this is still no good excuse for letting it fall to the wayside, so please allow me to apologize profusely for only replying in such an inexcusably late fashion. I will do my best to make sure this never happens again.

      "If you can tolerate a little more rambling, I'd like to keep going."

      Please do so whenever you get the urge to say something, I'm loving our discussions!

      Fun fact: Inuyasha was the first anime show I ever watched, though to this day I have yet to finish it.

      There's one thing I feel is interesting to bring up to expand on your points it that sometimes thematic elements can take the place of hard plot points. That is to say, a character change or progression of symbolism could also create a sense of progression for a story as a whole. Of course, since these things are usually incited by plot events, this idea loses some of its luster; that said, I still feel that there are certainly cases where the story is driven more by thematic elements than plot ones. Perhaps that might be why some Inconclusive stories don't feel as though they are lacking in story. They may actually have a narrative going on, or perhaps several similar narratives that compliment or build off each other (from episode to episode), without these things ever appearing on a plot summary. Just something to think about.

    4. John, thanks for the concern. I accept your apology; while I was not offended, I find that waving away apologies as unnecessary cheapens the sincerity of the contrite party. When I first commented on your site, I hoped only that you would read the comment and had no real expectation of response. By no means did I expect the level of attention you've shown (to say nothing of your encouragement of my proclivity for long dialogue).

      This is commendable. Far from falling below acceptable standards of behavior, you have surpassed them--and you continue to do so. Thank you once again for taking the time to interact with your readers; it highlights the difference between "a site to visit" and "a person to meet." But that's a comment for a different post, I think.

      For now, let me simply add that there's no reason to stand on ceremony if you have aught to say; this is simply a conversation-over-delay, after all, and quite casual. (While there's nothing wrong with wanting to make the best reply possible, understanding is only sometimes promoted by parties perfecting their proposals' presentations; rather, it is better served by parties actively engaged in mutual analysis and deconstruction, since this exposes flaws and inadequacies far more quickly than private review.)

      I'm not sure I follow your suggestion... It reminds me of something you mentioned in your review of Jing: King of Bandits in Seventh Heaven regarding the creation of Campari as a dynamic character in an episodic series.

      Unless--did you mean that the depth of the viewer's involvement in a series can be amplified by the use of thematic progression or character growth because these are things the viewer can relate to and identify with, while few viewers can identify with the plot-related experiences of a character in an anime (or any story)?

      No? ...I'm still working on comprehension at the moment, but it's proving difficult (perhaps because I'm on the distant side of fatigue). I shall return to remark on this again when I find myself able at least to formulate those questions necessary for proper understanding on my part.

      'Tis no ill reflection on yourself--I'm simply tired at the moment.

      -Chris T

    5. Yeah, it doesn't help that I have no examples for it.

      Here's the idea (I'll try to be clear). Let's say there's this story about a guy taking a walk through the woods. Over the course of the walk, he has numerous epiphanies/realizations and every time he does, he reaches a new conclusion about the meaning of his life (or whatever). What I'm saying is that this progression of character changes could, perhaps, take the place of an explicit *plot*.

      Of course, the problem is, there would really have to be something to cause or be a catalyst to these epiphanies (e.g. bird eats bug, guy decides the corporate crow of his work life is metaphorically eating him, leading him to a nihilistic outlook). Should this happen, this idea of mine loses some if not all of its viability, since these catalysts are, technically speaking, plot points, and thus it is no longer a plot point free approach.

      But, what if we put this into the context of a series as a whole? Suppose each episode was part of his walk, with a plot for each episode where something happens that sparks an inner realization in our walker. The plot of each episode is independent of the others; the bird eating the bug and the ant colony working together to ensure their survival have no connection to each other. In that sense, you could call it an episodic series - those are the main stories of the episodes. The "true" plot, however, would be the dynamism of the guy on the walk. There are certainly a lot of ways to interpret the plot of this, but does that make my idea a little clearer?

      If not, maybe this will help. Take a slice of life series where little of consequence or building upon previous episodes takes place. Suppose that each episode, without ever acknowledging it in the story, has events that are somewhat unfortunate/depressing to one of the characters. Now say that every episode, the paintings in that character's hallway, the contents of their fridge, the imagery/symbolism in the show, whatever, get a little more dreary/dark/foreboding the farther along it goes. Well, that could provide a sense of progression without an overarching plot, couldn't it? After all, it's not actual *events*, actual plot, that is progressing, but merely the "feel" of the series itself (at least, concerning that one character).

      Perhaps this thought of mine is, in fact, nothing more than hair-splitting concerning the proper definition of a plot. Still, it felt like a worthy tangent to our discussion, so I figured why not?

      P.S. Have I ever told you how flattered I feel by your comments? If not, then I'm extremely flattered by your comments. :) Thanks Chris.

  3. ----
    Overturning Conclusion (total): Puella Magi Madoka Magica, Utawarerumono
    Overturning Conclusion (partial): Trigun, Trinity Blood

    This is dangerously similar to Defining Conclusion, but I classify these stories differently. My reason is simple enough: a Defining Conclusion can redeem or ruin a journey, but not change the experience. An Overturning Conclusion retroactively changes the experience.

    PMMM and Utawarerumono, while radically different shows, both feature a conclusion that explains questions raised from the beginning and ties up the plot (what with being a conclusion). What's more, after watching the conclusions, you are now *forced* to perceive the entire show differently.

    For stories like this, it shouldn't be possible for the viewer to guess the ending, since it's designed to cast the journey in a completely new light. (Movies that qualify for this include The Sixth Sense and The Girl Who Leapt Through Time.)

    Why are Trigun and Trinity Blood listed separately? Because the conclusions still fit this category, but they're only partial conclusions--which is not inherently bad. (I won't go into detail in a public post, but if you're familiar, my meaning is probably apparent.)

    My personal experience with these shows is the main reason I felt it necessary to include this superlative version of Defining Conclusion. Hard as I would've found it to believe before going through it, the destinations of some (but not all) of the above stories caused me to dislike the journeys retroactively.

    To use a safe, fictional, generic example: in a children's show where the characters hunt for treasure, they learn that the real treasure was friendship all along. The audience (and, if the show is realistic, the cast) feels let down because the entire story up to that point has been rendered pointless. It wastes the time that was previously invested. A friend of mine once remarked of a novel series that the final book "sucked so hard, it made everything written up to that point suck retroactively."

    (I don't consider Kurau an example of this type of plot, but it functioned that way for me, oddly. I didn't understand what the show was really about until it ended; the focus of the conclusion made it even more obvious than it already had been. I was forced to come to terms with the fact that I hadn't actually been watching a sci-fi action flick, I'd been watching a story about relationships. That allowed me to retroactively enjoy a series I had previously found unsatisfying... due to the long relationship-oriented scenes and relatively minimal sci-fi action.)

    I don't believe there can be a journey so awful the destination can't save it, or so wonderful that the destination can't ruin it (though there's always the option of ignoring that the destination exists and pretending the show never finished).

    I am also presently convinced that there cannot be a journey wonderful enough to redeem the worst ending or terrible enough to wreck the best.

    Wow, I went a little overboard with that comment, even after editing... Sorry. No guilt if you decide to skip it.

    Counter-examples welcome; you are more versed in this than I.


    1. I had the somewhat unique opportunity of viewing PMMM from a rather different lens. I had never seen a Mahou Shoujo series before, and I wasn't really involved at all in anime fandom when it aired (or at least, I wasn't watching it so I avoided any posts on it entirely). I can't say I was *completely* unspoiled, but I had literally no knowledge about any of the plot points. And so, I came in with no real expectations or preconceptions about Mahou Shoujo series, so it wasn't really a shocker for me. I was actually surprised at how I was able to predict plot points (accurately, even!) 1, 2, and even 3 episodes before they happened. Which is not to say anything about the quality of the show, I still enjoyed it quite a bit. I just think it serves as a rather interesting example of how the type of conclusion can change from an Overturning Conclusion to a Defining or even Natural one depending on the viewer's personal perspective.

      Lengthy aside, er, aside, however, I still get what you're trying to say, and I agree. I think another very good example is a Timothy Zahn's book "The Icarus Hunt." It had an absolutely wonderful plot twist, which was not obvious when viewed retroactively, but still made perfect sense. A very nice point you make there.

      (And yes, I have seen both Trigun and Trinity Blood, so I do know what you're talking about. :) I actually haven't seen a number of the other series you mentioned, though, like Kurau or Gunslinger Girl, so thanks for bringing those to my attention!)

      I think the crux of this argument kinda depends on how you define “save” and “ruin.” Does save mean “makes it *good*?” Or does it just stop it from being "bad?" The same thing with ruining, is it *terrible*, or just "no longer good?" Depending on your definition, I can think of plenty of series that operate outside of your "journey can always be ruined, destination can always save a series" idea. Hidan no Aria might be a good example: the first four episodes, a third of the journey, were so horrifically awful I could not bear to watch any more, making the destination a moot point.

      That said, I definitely see where you're coming from, and if you're using different definitions of save and ruin, I would probably agree to a large extent.

      No no, not at all! If anything, I prefer long comments, because they usually add lots to the discussion, something you have definitely done here! I know I said I wouldn't argue your own viewpoints against you, and I think that's probably a fortunate thing for me because you made some really nice points. I hope you enjoy whatever other posts you read, and thanks again for dropping by!

    2. My experience with PMMM was similar; I was completely unspoiled. I knew nothing about it when I started other than "magical girl anime highly recommended by a friend." It's still the only magical girl anime I've seen.

      With PMMM, nearly every major twist forces a re-evaluation of the show so far; thus, I considered it a prime example of Overturning Conclusion. In retrospect, this was flawed reasoning on my part, since only one plot point can be rightly called the conclusion. Only if you saw the conclusion coming (perhaps you did; I did not) could it be reckoned Natural or Definingn. If not, it's necessarily Overturning, since it redefines the viewer's perspective on the rest of the show.

      You're right, of course, that a viewer may well find a show with a "shocking" plot twist to be perfectly predictable. That, sadly, renders my little guide too subjective to be a useful basis for analysis... at least without some talk of creator intent, and that's a different post entirely.

      As you say, definition of terms is in order. I meant to speak in the context of an Overturning Conclusion (but inserted a misleading set of line breaks for some unknowable reason). What I was meant was:

      "I don't believe there can be a journey so awful the destination can't [retroactively make it good], or so wonderful that the destination can't [retroactively make it bad].

      I am also presently convinced that there cannot be a journey wonderful enough to [make the whole show enjoyable despite] the worst ending or terrible enough to [make the whole show unenjoyable] despite the best [ending]."

      (For obvious reasons, a journey can't retroactively affect the destination. This is the main reason I'm inclined to assign it more value, though I had failed to consider--as you pointed out--that the experience a show provides is more than its story.)

      I don't question your decision to flee the horror of Hidan no Aria, but my argument technically proposes that if you *did* watch the ending, the show would retroactively become good... if it had an Overturning Conclusion.

      (Oh, and this only applies to story content. Technical failures can't be redeemed by a good story, only excused by it.)

      RahXephon might be a better example, since I've only seen it once. (My perspective on PMMM has changed with each viewing.) I found RX a boring, befuddling puzzle of mismatched plot points until it concluded and explained itself. I remained somewhat unsatisfied until I watched the movie, which finished the explanation. Then, I found I was fairly sure I (retroactively) had liked it.

      The definitions of save and ruin you're using apply to what I called a Defining, not Overturning, Conclusion. If a great/poor destination makes the story overall good/bad despite a journey of inverse quality, but *doesn't* retroactively alter the viewer's perspective (and enjoyment) of the journey, it's Defining, but not Overturning.

      This is consistent with my suggestion that Defining and Natural Conclusions are probably the most common, so that, at least, should deflect some of the evidence against my pet Overturning Conclusion. =)

      I'd be interested in checking out shows with mismatched quality between journey and destination to compare and contrast with regard to this issue. I don't doubt you, mind--but my experience with anime is comparatively limited. I'm always looking for new stories, especially ones that are interesting for the purposes of analysis and/or discussion.

      Any particular recommendations?

      -Chris T

      P.S. Mostly for the looks on their faces, I describe Kurau: Phantom Memory to my friends as "a non-action sci-fi series that is not about lesbians."

      Fair warning: Gunslinger Girl may be the darkest anime I've ever seen. (SZS takes second place.) If it doesn't crush your soul, I commend its animation and voice acting. I watched it with English dubs, though, so I accept ritual shunning by anime purists as a matter of course.

    3. Yet again, I am shamed by the fact I honestly have nothing to add to your discussion at this point. I'm still not sure I entirely agree, but I can definitely understand your point of view now, so thanks for clarifying.

      One show I feel is worth mentioning is Spice & Wolf. There is a clear destination in that show (as a matter of fact, it's a physical one in the series' world), but *SPOILERS* they don't reach it, at least in the sections that have been animated. As such, you could say it's more episodic, though there's also the possibility of contained narratives (that are longer than one or two episodes) within each season. Either way, however, the fact that they don't reach the physical, in-show destination they had the goal of is a little disappointing. I feel that it's an experience more centered around the journey than anything else, though, and certainly a show worth your time, so I guess I'd recommend Spice & Wolf as far as this discussion goes.

      Also, this may just be my opinion, but I think that Trigun (and it's lesser cousin Gungrave) had more enjoyable journeys than destinations. They were leading up to the destinations, certainly, but I guess I just recommend Trigun more for it's space western, Vash doing stuff in the desert wasteland stories than for it's revelation-filled conclusion.

      And I am now forced to check out Kurau and Gunslinger Girl! If I enjoy them enough I'll spare you the shunning. :)

    4. Your praise is generous; I'm simply partaking in the discussion you began and continued, at your invitation. Thank you, instead, for beginning, inviting, and continuing.

      Agreement is unimportant; understanding is the goal. The cheer of victory betrays a competitive spirit; the search for clarity bespeaks an attentive soul. Always glad to elaborate. =)

      On that note, I concur regarding the conclusion of Trigun. That's what this comment says. Somehow, I spun it into four thousand characters.

      I consider the destination less impressive than the journey not because I thought it was somewhat weak relative to the rest of the show (which I did). Trigun is one of a handful of anime shows that demonstrate mood whiplash like it's their goal in life;* I haven't seen many that feel more easygoing, irresponsible, and carefree than Trigun's western segments,** but when things go dark, they go pitch black (sans Riddick).

      - Vague semiSPOILERS for Trigun -

      Allusions abound, but I don't think they're sufficient to prepare the viewer for the mood of the climax. Sure, Vash has to face his past at some point, but he'll face it Vash-style, right? He won't suddenly turn the show into a hyperdepressing melodrama--he'll continue to grin and spread his message of "love and peace!" Right?


      - Vague semiSPOILERS over -

      I enjoyed Trigun's finale, but unlike the journey, it isn't a special memory. However, without it, countless questions would remain unanswered; much of the significance of Vash's journey depends on the secrets in his past. (Mainly because Vash is designed to force the viewer to want answers. In Mushishi, Ginko's past is optional; everything you really need to know is presented in every episode.)

      That's why I consider it Overturning; the conclusion provides perspective through which to view the journey. If Vash was revealed to be, say, a lame penguin from Mars with a South African accent who fell in love with a green fairy while drunk on the summer solstice and seeks to rescue his adopted nephew from the sand devils of Iberia who hide in bullets and possess ugly gunmen (SPOILERS which he is not END SPOILERS), I, at least, would look on the subtlety and craft of the preceding tale as a work of cinematic excellence. As it is, the show is merely amazingly cool.

      The weakness of the destination in this case, I believe, has little to do with substance and much more to do with style. It ceases to be a wild western space romp and becomes, for a little while, a far more typically dramatic sci-fi story. (Still cool, though.)

      In summary... er, yes, I agree.

      I'll check out Spice & Wolf when I can. Been meaning to find Gungrave for a while; I've heard mostly good things about it.

      -Chris T

      P.S. While you are, of course, under no obligation, if you should choose to post a review*** of Kurau, Gunslinger Girl, and/or Il Teatrino, I will comment on the review(s) with my own thoughts on the review(s) or the material (a counter-review?) if you choose to invite such commentary.

      * Mood whiplash might actually be SZS's goal in life. It may not be the goal of Excel Saga, but Excel Saga accomplishes it on too incredible a scale to be left unmentioned.

      ** The Irresponsible Captain Tylor is the most easygoing and irresponsible show I've seen, and it's more carefree than Trigun. Permit me to make another recommendation, and I shall slide the name of Tylor to you across the metaphorical table.

      *** If you post a review without watching the material, my offer stands. This is not because I suspect you may lie about watching the show,**** but because nonsensical discussion in the absence of knowledge can be fun when intentional (provided participants accept the invention of "facts" for discussion purposes). If you decide to fake it for a lark, I encourage you to fake it with style, lest the lark be a lame duck.

      **** Lie about, i.e., to be untruthful; not lie about, i.e., to be in a relaxed position.