Anime storytelling: How are good stories told in titles?

Meaning and emotional effect

Usually in the first episodes, it is important to convey meaning and context to grab and maintain the viewer’s attention. What’s at stake? Why should I be interested in the lives of these characters?

At the same time, an emotional connection with the viewer is established. Despite the fact that modern society values ​​consistency and consistency, we often think that good stories can always be measured using objective criteria, but feelings cannot be excluded from this formula. It is the emotional response that provokes the viewer’s interest and connects him with the main character. For this reason, by the third episode, people often know whether they like the anime or not, since by this time the anime either found a response in their hearts, or it needs to be dropped.

This response comes from conflict and lovable characters to root for. Heroes should not be emotional amoebas, but show feelings, or vice versa, not go into grotesque images, if only this is unreasonable. In addition, the anime world should be interesting in itself and able to exist without the main character. As a result, in the end, the viewer is left with a desire to know what will happen next.

The best example is Promised Neverland, which by the end of the first episode catches up suspense, demonstrates conflict and emotionally ties to heroes who are in danger in a world much more brutal than meets the eye. As opposed to this, there is Haibane Renmei, where there are makings for an interesting conflict, but on the other hand, it is not clear who cares about it and why the heroes should be attractive.

The logic and sequence of the story

Many anime contain things that go beyond ordinary reality. But magic, advanced technology, or other things impossible in the real world must work in accordance with some system of rules that are always consistently followed in the universe of the series. Even such things should not be taken out of thin air, but justified. If someone’s strength or abilities differ too much from episode to episode or from story arc to story arc, then the magic of thoughtfulness is lost. People like a logical sequence. In a good manga or anime, there are certain facts about how the world is shown to the audience, and these facts should remain that way throughout the story.

Far-fetched things, taken out of thin air, suggest that the authors of the anime do not think over the details, so they have to go for tricks in order to get out of the trap of their own unworked story.

Probably one of the most thoughtful TV shows I know is A Certain Magical Index. The authors of the anime set the setting for a world filled with magic and science. They try to explain the action of the heroes’ abilities from a scientific point of view, when this or that action, magical ability is based on the laws of physics, no matter how paradoxical it may sound. For example, Misaka is able to control electricity, and at the same time, as the laws of physics tell us, she can generate a magnetic field around herself, which expands the spectrum of her abilities from being able to walk on an iron wall to throwing metal objects. This adds that very logical depth, thanks to which the effectiveness of the battle depends on the knowledge of the hero.

In turn, ordinary magic that defies explanation is still based in the anime world on our mythology, religion or worldview.

In turn, not the best example [при всей моей безоговорочной любви] – Jolo’s. While Hirohiko Araki is fine with most of the good storytelling in anime, he is one of those authors who often introduce elements from thin air into their story. From the stretching fingers of Star Platinum and the rapier shot of Silver Chariot, to the story of Josuke going back in time and saving himself, or the fact that Kishiba Rohan once had to show people manga in order to use Havens Dor.

The uniqueness of the work

In addition to balancing the need for coherence with the need for emotional resonance, writers also face the challenge of wanting to be unique, but also creating something familiar enough to sell.

Most anime series have recognizable features and use a variety of storytelling tropes associated with their genre. We know that shounen will most likely be a story about a boy and becoming a hero, forming friendships. We know that the fairy girl genre will exploit glitz, magic, ruthless optimism, and the moe genre will show cute girls doing cute things.

But the most successful anime can play and use imagery associated with their genre and use them in new and unique ways. That doesn’t always mean taking the genre and doing its depressing deconstruction, like Puella Magi Madoka Magica, When the Cicadas Cry, or Neon Genesis Evangelion, but these shows really stand out because they deconstruct the corresponding genres of fairy girls, harem and fur.

This works primarily because it deceives the audience’s expectations based on what they know and assume. People like to consume old familiar story elements and archetypes wrapped in a new wrapper. However, each anime and new fiction in general must also be unique. You need to really stand out from the crowd.

Such, for example, is Devilman Crybaby. It is worth saying that the original anime at one time tore up templates, but taking into account the fact that it came out several decades ago, we will focus on something new. So, the story of a kind hero who, for the good of people, wants to fight demons, eventually turns into a nightmare, where there is no happy ending, and the elements we are used to [как «спасение в последний момент»] crashing against harsh reality.

On the other hand, Naruto, for all its status, is not the best example in terms of the original characters. So, Naruto himself is the illegitimate son of Ash and Goku in mental abilities, Sakura is the hero’s usual love interest, which is also constantly in the shonen. These and other examples do not mean that this anime is bad, but from the point of view of archetypes, “Naruto” follows the path beaten by the shonen.

Development of the plot in each episode

Fillers are evil. I never understood the argument that fillers expand ENT. The original author did not intend anything like this in his work, did he?

But this also applies to just stories that do not develop the main plot in any way. An episode can be interesting and meaningful, but if it still doesn’t do something that advances the storyline, it might still seem like a waste of the viewer’s time. However, we know that major conflicts with major villains will not be resolved until the finale, and therefore it is normal that most of the “regular” episodes are actually technically fillers.

The main problem is that sometimes anime makes you expect something that it doesn’t.

The best example of how to properly develop the plot is Attack on Titan. There is not a single episode in this anime that does not develop the main plot or is not important. Every step is an integral part of Eren’s transformation into a Titan Slayer. Each episode also reveals important new information about the Titans, making the series an exciting one.

A bad example is InuYasha. Again, I do not want to belittle all the advantages of the series, but many episodes run without any major changes. All characters find themselves in less engaging side stories or silly romantic moments that are already part of the global storyline. The problem is that in such cases, by the next episode, the couple in question completely forgot that they were ready to confess their feelings for each other in the previous episode. This is a little annoying.


When an anime at the very beginning asks the viewer a huge bunch of questions, as expected, he should get all the answers at the end. Since intrigue and innuendo is a way to grab attention, we know there will be until the very end, but we, as an audience, want the answer to be revealed eventually.

Of the best examples is, of course, Death note, which answered all the questions and showed a completely coherent story. Perhaps it would be worthwhile to show us a little more stories from the world of the gods of death, but this is already nit-picking.

In turn, take any anime that ended earlier than the original source to understand how many questions remained unanswered. These are Hellsing, Shaman king and Bleach and many similar titles.

To summarize all of the above, you may notice that many animes are good in one area, but can fail in another, and this is quite normal. Think of the points described here, not as criticism, but rather as a way to notice things in TV shows that you have not seen before, and as an excuse to revise or analyze your favorite titles.

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