Sunday, July 8, 2012

Sequels: Do Something New, or Give Us What We Know?

Sequels are tricky things. They suffer the expectations/burdens of how good/bad the original was, and that alone can be more weight than many series can stand. But there's one issue in particular that can make sequels good for some and terrible for others: should sequels be like the original, or should they try to innovate and give us a new experience?

Is it only nice the first time?


     So first, let's look at both sides of the issue. There's a valid argument for the side that thinks sequels should do something new. After all, it's a new product. Why shouldn't it be fresh? We've seen what you've already done; show us what different things you can do. This does kind of make sense. I mean, with so many generic shows and games coming out, we hardly need things staying the same. And, heck, if we really wanted to see the same thing again, we'd just watch/play the original again. And indeed, I've done that. Many times. I'm an obsessive rewatcher/replayer, so much of the time it's not really like I need more of something.

Glad to hear it.
     On the other hand, there's also considerable support for the other side. The saying, "If it's not broken, don't fix it" instantly comes to mind. And that's a pretty good point in and of itself. If something was good, why change it? And honestly, why would you want a sequel of something - a "2," another one - if you didn't want more of what the first one had to offer? For the purposes of discussion, I've decided to put myself on the "sequels should be similar" side.

     This might seem a little strange, because I'm not sure I've ever played a sequel I've actually enjoyed more than the original. Disciples 2, Red Steel 2, Jagged Alliance 2, and others don't count because I've never played the originals, so I can't infer anything about the quality. Fallout 2 was much worse than the first (I have my reasons), Donkey Kong Country 2 I didn't like more than the first...you get the idea. The same is true with anime. R2 wasn't as good as the first Code Geass, in my opinion. The same is true of Black Lagoon, Zero no Tsukaima (*shakes head disapprovingly*), and Gundam Seed, to name a few (remember, all my opinions). The only real exception I can think of at the moment (though I'm sure there are more) is Golden Sun 2, but that's just because it did what the first did, but better (as opposed to differently). And yet, I still prefer sequels to be like the originals. Why? Well, the main reason is that I really liked what things already were. "So why make a sequel doing the same thing, why not just watch/play the original again?" This is because doing the exact same thing over and over again gets boring. Let me give you an example. I was a huge fan of Jagged Alliance 2. It fits into one of my favorite game genres, has all kinds of cool guns, and has an awesome character morale system. But recapturing Arulco gets tiring after a while. Not because I'm bored of playing the game, I'm bored of playing those same maps. See, I really want to play more Jagged Alliance 2, but I know exactly how to go about winning on every one of the maps. Keep everything else the same (maybe change the quests and characters) and just give me a new country to free, and I'll be happy. I don't want new things or re-imaginings (I played the demo for Jagged Alliance: Back in Action and hated it), I want what I had before. The same would be true for a Kino no Tabi or Mushishi sequel. I don't want something new, I want the same things that made the originals good.

Inami doesn't want new things, she wants women.
     Basically, it all boils down to "Are sequels there to continue what the original started, or to do something new?" As you may have noticed, all the images in this post are from the anime Working!. I was surprised to learn that a lot of people put down Working!! (the sequel - notice the extra exclamation) for not being different. I thought, "Why would you want something different? Don't you want the same comedy that made the original so funny?" I like what I know. Don't give me something, saying it's gonna be like the original, then have it not be. This is not to say that sequels that depart from the original are going to be intrinsically bad (exceptions always, always exist), but it does mean that I'll probably prefer getting the same thing. It's safe, it's what I know, and it's what I like (or dislike, in which case I'm glad it's the same so I don't have to watch/play the bad one first - you know, what Medaka Box is supposed to be like?).

Crappy cellphone games are bad enough the first time around, after all.
     I think the biggest thing in the "sequels should be the same" argument, though, is this; if you're going to do something new, why not make it entirely new? Sequels exist to continue a brand, and if you change that brand, it's more than likely to cause confusion and disappointment. Once again, I'm not saying that being different is bad in and of itself. It's just, if I want something new, I think I'd look for something else entirely, even if it's similar. Anyway, that's my take on it. Of course, I always hope that sequels will improve (in the way GS2 did over the first one). If there are problems present in the original, sequels are great opportunities to fix them, without changing the core of the show. I mean, honestly it could go either way. Like I said, I just picked a side for the purposes of this post.

What do you think? Are sequels better left largely similar to the original, or should they depart from the already beaten path?

16 comments:

  1. There's more to this than the stark dichotomy. What is better, K-ON or K-ON2? Jubei-chan or J2? Now I posit that Wagnaria, Zetsubou-sensei, and Sunred showed us the dangers of stagnation, but they are far from the only way to make sequels.

    P.S. Get a beta reader. In "should sequels do something new, or should they try to innovate and give us a new experience" both alternatives are the same: do something new.

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    1. Not really sure I proposed a dichotomy in the first place. The fundamental problem is which of the two ways one should make a sequel. Should sequels be a departure from the earlier series, doing something different? Or should they try to keep the same stylistic elements, keeping the sequel's "feel" the same? It's not so much a matter of a show "staying in limbo" (as perhaps Working did), as it is making a significant departure from the original.

      No, that's why I have commenters. ;) But yeah, what I meant was "should sequels *just* do(give) something new (as in, a new story). . ." Either way, though, it's unclear language. So thanks for catching that.

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  2. Sequels are everywhere lately and there is going to be more and more everyday. You really just need to treat it case by case as some sequels are better then others. Take the Atelier or Persona series for example. They build upon the concepts of the predecessor and thus make better games.

    There is bad examples like Last Exile where the story didn't need a sequel and the sequel suffered because it had to reboot the story after it's conclusion.

    Don't even get me started on remakes.

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    1. I think the thing in those cases is that the sequels don't so much change what had been done before, but instead just did it again only better (can't personally testify to this, of course, having not played either of them). So, sort of like Golden Sun 2. Honestly, most sequels tend to do this, which makes my discussion a little muddled. Imagine this; what if Golden Sun 2 (which I assume you've played) was a real-time hack-n-slash RPG instead of a TBS puzzle solving one? That's the kind of "doing something different" I was talking about. Sequels that *don't* significantly change things can still be improved. (I think Fam falls under the category of "didn't stylistically change" and just wasn't as quality a show as the original on its own.)

      Ah yes, remakes. I won't even get you started on remakes. ;)

      Thanks for stopping by, Ace!

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  3. Remakes are awesome when done right. Kanon 2006 was a million times better than the original Toei's Kanon.

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    1. And honestly, I think that's the only time remakes/reboots are "acceptable" - when they can make something better. Take, for instance, the several dozen superhero movie franchise reboots. Most tell the same story as previous renditions, but do they tell it any better? That's up to personal opinion, I suppose, but if they don't improve it, then I'd say no. A remake just made to cash in on a brand has no real business (except the money kind) being made. If they *do* make it better, though, I guess I'd have no problem like you. I haven't seen either Kanon show (though I did start one and dropped it), but it the remake did it considerably better, I'd be fine with that.

      Thanks for the discussion!

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  4. I like my sequels to carry on being the same but they have to sometimes do something different because the first season would have done it so much that I would be bored when the sequel came out.

    That said Nisemonogatari was far inferior to Bakemonogatari because it tried to do something different.

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    1. Yeah, from the comments sections I'm surmising that I wasn't really clear. A sequel that does something *entirely new* - that is, entirely different - means it changes the *nature* of the product. It's much easier to explain with games. A sequel that changes the entire genre or atmosphere of the original would be *different*. This, however, doesn't include minor changes/improvements. Like you said, you want sequels to carry on being the same; that is, they don't fundamentally change. So, a common gag might change, but the effect it has (to lighten the mood, to provide laughs, etc.) would be the same.

      I will remember this if I ever watch Bakamonogatari, though I think I need to see Nise just for the cultural touchstone of the toothbrush scene.

      Thanks for reading and commenting!

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  5. Just to comment about Working!! - the first couple of episodes were different and in a bad way. Different can be a good thing, but not if the changes aren't any good. The show settled down some and started having the same tone as the first season, which is what I wanted, but also focused on some other characters more intensely, which was inviting as well.

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    1. Honestly, I didn't catch that. Then again, I always just sort of let the Working! series take me wherever it wanted.

      That's one of the biggest fears of doing something different; is it gonna make it any better? But I feel like that can be applied to the other side too. A sequel that doesn't really do anything different, but simply fails to do as well what the original did isn't really worth it either.

      You point out pretty much exactly what I've been having trouble explaining. Sequels can improve the original - in this case focusing on interesting characters (or continuing their stories, as in the case of Yamada) - without being a significant departure from the original.

      Thanks for commenting!

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  6. "Red Steel 2"

    Please don't play the first one.

    And I'm kind of torn on sequels. Like Ace said, a lot of things take the basic (plot/mechanic/whatever) and build on it. Honestly, if a sequel gives me 'the first one, but MORE of it!' it kind of bugs me. The Mario Galaxy series is probably the best conflicting sequel I can think of.

    Yeah, the first one was grand and awesome and the second made a lot of changes and was pretty cool except for Yoshi because screw Yoshi, but... It still kind'a fell into the 'Mario Galaxy 1, now with more stuff!' category.

    In my opinion, the best sequels are the ones that are noticeably part of X series, but change things greatly. Persona (at least 4, when looked at as a sequel to 3) is a great example of this. You've got the battle system from 3, but upgraded. You've got the social link mechanic (also upgraded). You've got a /ton/ of elements from the predecessor, but you ALSO get a new setting, narrative, and characters to enjoy.

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    1. "Please don't play the first one."

      That's the plan.

      Hmmm...this reminds me of the Fire Emblem sequel (I'm talking about the officially U.S. released GBA ones, for reference). It added new classes, new content, towers and stuff where you could grind without having to overuse the arenas, more characters (I think), more items...lot's of new stuff. And yet, I didn't like it nearly as much as the first one. There are a lot of reasons for that, but it seems to fall into the same category as your Mario Galaxy problem. At the same time, though, most of the enjoyment I *did* get out of that game came from the elements taken from the original.

      Of course, I say this, but the truth is I'm quite torn, which seems to be the general consensus. I want new things, but I also want the things that made me enjoy the first one.

      I think you're onto the obvious solution. As the first commenter pointed out, these two things are not a dichotomy. I think giving new things *and* giving what made the original good is what people should aim for, though I think it should still be leaning towards the original. I think this becomes a bit more muddled when applied to anime, but the principle remains the same.

      Thanks for commenting!

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  7. Inami wants women? I always suspected.

    The concept of wanting some of the same out of sequels is why I don't mind new releases of Zelda or other Nintendo franchises. People like me go in for that particular style of gameplay we've gotten to like, and while a little change can be interesting, we still want it to deliver that same feeling we experienced the first time around. That's why I'm glad series like Working only come in 12 episode chunks every once in a while, because that's just enough time to want that feeling again and not get completely stale.

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    1. Well, it's hardly a surprise.

      I think that sums up this side of issue quite nicely. And good point about Working. Both seasons left me wanting more, but not so much that I was disappointed by what I had.

      Thanks for reading and commenting!

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  8. I agree with you, in that sequels don't have to be wildly different because if that's what I wanted, I might as well be watching a different anime altogether.

    Anyway, when a series tries to change too much, it most gets a negative reaction from its audience. Like in the case of Darker Than BLACK. The sequel made too big of a change, and most people were upset by this.

    In many cases, like with K-on, Working, Baka to Test, etc. There wouldn't be a point in trying much new and people shouldn't expect it to. In the cases of those series, a sequel isn't even necessary to tie off the story or anything, so they're mostly made just to keep the fans happy and money rolling (let's be honest).

    With some other series, sequels are necessary because of how the story ends (like with Code Geass), much like with the other series, people don't want change, they just want the story to continue as it was.

    The only reason I could think of that a sequel would need to do something new, would be to improve something that was bringing it down before. I guess animation could be a reason, but with that I guess it more falls under the "make a remake" category. Anyway, I feel sequels don't need to try something new and should just stick with what brought people to watch the show in the first place. Without being too repetitive of course!

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  9. Truth be told, I liked Darker than BLACK so much that I rush-watched the last several episodes, then quickly moved on to the sequel. It was like hitting a wall. I think I'm still on episode 8 even though it's been a whole year.

    Yeah. those shows are more like "continuations" than anything else. I kind of wish Working! got another season, because I want it to continue (so I can have new images of Sato!). ;)

    I'm playing Devil Survivor 2, and I can already note a lot of little but very nice improvements. They may not have been enough to warrant a sequel on their own, though. Maybe "remake" would be better for that indeed.

    Thanks for stopping by Lostty!

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