Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Dysfunctions Continued

In the prior post, I address 2 elements that separate "oh my gosh, they so need to break up!" dysfunctional relationships from workable dysfunctional relationships in manga and light novels (in a later post on Votaries, I'll address how #3 below works with Agatha Christie).

When the dysfunctional relationship works . . .

1. The narrator is likable, even if supposedly passive.
2. The narrator is self-aware

3. The couple's problems are less soap opera and more everyday reality.

One of the most enjoyable aspects of The Guilty is that it revolves around a publishing firm. The problems are so basic and local, they ground the entire series in reality. Yes, okay, Hodaka is the typical overly rich, overly aloof, overly everything romantic hero (think Darcy taken to the nth degree). But the issues--you owe me another book, the mail service lost the manuscript, I work with more writers than just you, etc.--are entirely commonplace and relatable.

Cold Fever is pure soap opera but has such a fascinating premise that I wanted to enjoy it: Toru suffers amnesia and becomes one type of person; he then loses his amnesia and reverts to the person he was before: memory as personality. Will the relationship survive?

Amnesia stories of this type have no scientific merit (see post on Votaries) although the connection between memory and personality does. Nonetheless, I find them utterly fascinating artistically anyway since they usually revolve around determining the "self"--What makes us us?

And the action of Cold Fever--Toru leaving one type of work for another--is entirely plausible.

Unfortunately, the soap opera revelations (I remember my horrible past now!) are way too charged to leave me feeling comfortable. The same holds true for Sweet Admiration by Yuuki Kosaka. I reached a Tess of the D'Urbervilles' rolling-of-the-eyes state of mind with Sweet Admiration and had to skim the end.

Oddly enough, the excellent series S by Saki Aida, provides various angsty motivations for many of its characters. However, they come across as less Tess and more Hamlet or MacBeth--less "it just keeps getting worse!" and more "tragic flaws to overcome."

The background angst in S also works thematically. The problem with pure soap opera is a mistake made by so many romance writers: that great love can be proved by GREAT, BIG, AWFUL PROBLEMS. Not so. Characters who overcome tragic pasts in order to deal with ordinary life are far more interesting romantically than characters who have to keep climbing that hill in order to prove how noble and worthy of love they are. The first possibility proves that the characters are strong and interesting; the second proves that some people don't know when to walk away.