Please login or register.
Login with username, password and session length

The Nihon Review Forum

December 13, 2017, 03:55:49 PM
News: Check us out on Twitter and Facebook!
Pages: [1]   Go Down

Author Topic: How to keep a dark and serious story from being exhausting?  (Read 1949 times)

Offline hyperknees91

  • Sr. Member
  • ****
  • Posts: 706

How to keep a dark and serious story from being exhausting?
« on: November 07, 2014, 09:33:23 AM »
I know I shouldn't just watch something just because its popular but I decided to give in and watched breaking bad a few weeks ago. I watch the first 4 and half seasons before dropping it completely. Now I'm not going to argue whether or not it's a good or bad show, but the problem I had with it was it was too exhausting to watch. Too much drama, too much negativity, too much grim and dark stuff happening to the point where it had no real value anymore. This is actually one of the rare times I've felt like this, but then I remembered sorrow-kuns review of fate/zero in that he seemed to feel the same way about that series. I think if I had watched it all in one big sitting I probably would have felt the same way.

I guess like when a show is too happy go lucky, it can also be too dark. Now I'm not saying we have to sit around and have a bunch of stupid happy go lucky slice of life scenes to help break up the drama and tension, but I think it is important to have more relaxed portions of a show. The problem would be how do you do this without boring or possibly losing the tone of the show/story your going for. Though this is still probably one of the reasons I still consider Monster the best written show I've ever watched, because it somehow acheived that balance.

Then again I guess theres nothing really wrong with a story mostly negative or mostly positive as it will still appeal to the niche fans of either side. 

Offline Shadowmage

  • Mobile Suit RX-0 Unicorn
  • Administrator
  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 1399

Re: How to keep a dark and serious story from being exhausting?
« Reply #1 on: November 07, 2014, 11:22:51 AM »
Well, given how well I respond to stuff like Bokurano, Now and Then Here and There, and Tomnio Gundam shows, I honestly enjoy tragedies, and have not quite had the same problems you've had.  So long as it's not pure horror/gore where tragic things happen only for the sake of it, exorbitantly stressful situations draw out fascinating responses from the characters, which is something I want out of my entertainment.

Now I do understand that there is a point where things get so bleak that you disengage with the narrative altogether.  I see this more as a weakness in the characters and/or story than the tragedies themselves.  If the circumstances surrounding the tragedy remain engaging to a viewer, I honestly think that the title will still remain effective no matter how dark things get.

In my eyes, Monster remained engaging because Temna embodied some of the best aspects of humanity so you could continuously cheer for him, whereas Breaking Bad's Walter White basically was a thug by the end.  In Fate/Zero's case, Kiritsugu is by no means a compelling character; the man is more of an embodiment of a certain idea than an actual person.  I give this a pass because the role he plays in the overall narrative is fascinating and roughly half of F/Z was already written in F/SN, so - in a sense - it had to be this way.

Of course, Shakespeare broke things up by sprinkling comedic scenes even in his darkest plays.

I recommend Mobile Suit, RX-0 and Unicorn from the Unicorn OST.

Offline thanosmat

  • Full Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 241

Re: How to keep a dark and serious story from being exhausting?
« Reply #2 on: November 07, 2014, 11:38:23 AM »
I never had a problem with this. I like my fiction challenging.

In Breaking Bad, Jesse is the human element, despite being the most tragic.

Offline Kavik Ryx

  • Yellow Ranger
  • Ex-Reviewer
  • Full Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 316
    • Einlayzner's Profile - MyAnimeList.net
    • Chat with EInlayzner using Skype
    • Steam Community :: Zyxro

Re: How to keep a dark and serious story from being exhausting?
« Reply #3 on: November 07, 2014, 11:48:00 AM »
There's a saying that goes where there's life there's hope, which is probably why people can sit through movies about genocide, slavery, and the worst aspects of humanity.

At least for me, I would say it is empathy which determines if this applies, whether you are suffering with the characters or feeling miserable because you are watching suffering. Funny that you mention Breaking Bad since I felt that it did keep balance throughout so that it only got excessively dark when need be. Despite the negativity all round, there was still a sense of humanity among the cast, which kept the moral spirals the characters engaging. There was always a character for me who I was able to empathize with, at the end it being Jesse for his struggle being the most relatable. You feel like garbage, but you go along because of the illusion that there is an actual person across the fourth wall.

I do understand though. I have yet to finish Now and There Here and There since the show went beyond simply being dark, and was simply hopeless. Even if Shu serves as a light of positivity, the cast felt as if their humanity sucked out from how grim the world was. Shu almost came off as a caricature for me when juxtaposed with a universe that seemed to be inhabited by the walking dead.

Offline hyperknees91

  • Sr. Member
  • ****
  • Posts: 706

Re: How to keep a dark and serious story from being exhausting?
« Reply #4 on: November 07, 2014, 11:58:55 AM »
Yeah about Jesse I think my biggest beef with him, is that the writers constantly having him make mistakes. Which of course led to more drama and of course more arguing from him and walt. The first few times it was ok, but it got quite tiresome for me after awhile. Though I will agree that Jesse is what made the show tolerable to some degree and the relationship he had with both walt and his family was my favorite part of the show (where in walt's case I felt like they showed too much of his family).

I did like Bokurano and Now and then here and there. Maybe because they were much shorter stories I was able to deal with them better, but then area 88 was also short and it just put me in the worst mood possible (though I suppose that was the goal). Also even though Bokurano could be very grim, maybe even too grim at times, it also had a lot of positive messages to convey.

Perhaps as I've gotten older though maybe I just seek shows with slightly more hope and positivity going around (not to an obnoxious degree though).

Offline KS

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 1491

Re: How to keep a dark and serious story from being exhausting?
« Reply #5 on: November 07, 2014, 12:10:42 PM »
I know I shouldn't just watch something just because its popular but I decided to give in and watched breaking bad a few weeks ago. I watch the first 4 and half seasons before dropping it completely. Now I'm not going to argue whether or not it's a good or bad show, but the problem I had with it was it was too exhausting to watch. Too much drama, too much negativity, too much grim and dark stuff happening to the point where it had no real value anymore. This is actually one of the rare times I've felt like this, but then I remembered sorrow-kuns review of fate/zero in that he seemed to feel the same way about that series. I think if I had watched it all in one big sitting I probably would have felt the same way.

I guess like when a show is too happy go lucky, it can also be too dark. Now I'm not saying we have to sit around and have a bunch of stupid happy go lucky slice of life scenes to help break up the drama and tension, but I think it is important to have more relaxed portions of a show. The problem would be how do you do this without boring or possibly losing the tone of the show/story your going for. Though this is still probably one of the reasons I still consider Monster the best written show I've ever watched, because it somehow acheived that balance.

Then again I guess theres nothing really wrong with a story mostly negative or mostly positive as it will still appeal to the niche fans of either side.

I never had that problem with Breaking Bad personally because I felt it had enough other interesting story lines going on that whenever something dark happened it never really felt like it was pouring it on.  That and it also actually visits it upon it's cast members pretty equally and without any selective tendencies such that it never feels unrealistic or like you want to call for a time out.  That said I'm definitely starting to feel that way about Game of Thrones 4 seasons in and Sons of Anarchy as well in it's final season (two shows I've really liked over the years and had been highlights of American TV both of which I've cooled on pretty fast in 2014) where in SoA's case the shows just gone on one season to long at this point.  The majority of the cast that was colorful and interesting and provided some form of grounding or more meaningful conflict for the remaining cast are already dead and like it's just going through the motions and having the MC Jax just go further and further down this dark revenge oriented path with no goals in mind.  None of the sort of highs and lows of the life of a modern cycle club trying to keep it's crew whole amid turmoil are there anymore, it's just all lows and seeing what's left of the cast slowly get whittled down and brutalized in the worst ways possible.

To me the problem with the former at least is that it feels far too often like it's always piling it on the more altruistic characters in the story and not enough on the people that actually ought to have something bad happen to them once in a while.  I think the whole Oberon fight with The Mountain was the breaking point for me where it's just like this guy raped the guys sister and now he thinks he's getting his revenge and it's just like "he's gonna get up, turn around he's gonna get up....yep he got up and now you're dead too along with your hope of revenge" and it's just like "sigh...how predictable".  You become kind of desensitized to it after a while and like you'd wish the story wouldn't necessarily get a little more positive but at least move on and tackle different issues and ideas.

As far as anime goes, obviously I've started to feel that way about say Gen Urobuchi story concepts too where it's just like can't this guy think of anything else to write about other than what feels like the world conspiring to have constant ironically oriented bad shit happen to people that are just trying to do what feels like the right thing.  Like there's certainly a case to be made where naivete ought to be punished every now and then, but sometimes it feels like all that's happening and that's the only I guess message the guy has got.  As Kavik Ryx argued too maybe if I empathized with characters more it'd matter, but he just writes in such archetypes of the "naive" person that gets ****ed and the stoic stiff philosophical borderline nihilist that does the ****ing that it's just really hard to take much out of watching the inevitable happen.  It shouldn't be such a problem with shorter series like anime ones tend to be so I think just what needs to happen more is balance and making the dark twists have reason beyond just being there for shock value.

Urobuchi isn't the only example of this sort of thing in anime writing of course as people have pointed other examples like Bokurano or Monster (Tezuka could even write some really dark stories too), but he's definitely the most obvious one and while initially I felt he was one of the more interesting writers in anime of the current stock of writers (which really isn't many) I've come to see that he's pretty much just as flawed and lacking in understanding of how to write plausible characters for the setting that have that human touch feeling to them (this is where someone like Tomino excels ahead of him as someone that wrote a lot of stories with dark themes as it never felt like he was engaging solely in pure sadism or a glorification of violence but trying to portray the darker aspects of humanity and what happens when they overcome us) and settings (interesting, but hardly plausible and resonant) as the rest of them, but in a different way.  It's such a difficult tightrope to walk for sure though.
« Last Edit: November 07, 2014, 12:21:00 PM by KS »
Pages: [1]   Go Up