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October 19, 2017, 08:26:50 PM
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Author Topic: The difference between making something cryptic and just plain nonsense.  (Read 2269 times)

Offline hyperknees91

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Essentially anime like Lain and Texnolyze. These anime require you to mainly use your imagination to help get the real gist of what's happening in them. However then I think of some of adult swims cartoons (like super jail) which kind of have a strange vibe as well, that I can only really write off as nonsense.

So I guess I wonder how sometimes a writer can give off the vibe that there's something more to his show, but he certainly won't be explaining it to you. As well as when the writer is just basically pulling crazyness out of thin air.

Offline KS

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I absolutely hate this sort of thing with a passion and its turned me off more than a few shows.  This tendency of some creators to just keep you in the dark and just pile seemingly symbolic but also seemingly nonsensical stuff on top of already impenetrable storytelling and testing the limit of my patience to want to analyze it or take it particularly seriously.  Its even worse when it feels like a work is trying to bide its time and sate the audience with hyper sexualized stuff too.  If people ever wondered why I seem so critical of certain shows here like the Ikuhara stuff or that Kyousou Giga one (albeit to a lesser extent with the latter since it did give me something tangible to go on with its middle arc) thats pretty much why.  I feel like honestly if some of these creators like Ikuhara would just give the audience something...like anything that doesn't feel like its buried behind layers of epic pretension (he's IMO the most pretentious director I've ever seen in any medium) and needless obfuscation than it would help tremendously in making me able to see what certain people see in them cause otherwise to me its just bad storytelling plain and simple when you expect the viewer to do pretty much all the work to try to derive any meaning from it when it feels like you're slowly stroking it to your own hyperstylization and weird views on sexuality.

Anyway I don't mean this to sound like a rant purely against Ikuhara, but he's the first thing that really jumped into my head with this topic and I think theres a wide gape between genius and symbolic content and just incomprehensible stylistic nonsense.

Offline Marid King

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The games Dark Souls, Demon Souls, and Bloodborne by Miyazaki of From Software are the prime example of this today. The story goes that he used to read english books, but didn't know all the words, so he had to use his imagination to fill in the gaps. Miyazaki wanted to recreate this experience in his games, so they don't have much of an explicit lore or story; players have to piece things together from item descriptions, monster models, and such.

Cryptic writers make a complete story, but only show you parts of it. You feel like there's more to the show because when done right, the parts that they choose to show you are suggestive of the bigger picture. What's more, if you go digging, all the pieces fit together into one coherent narrative-because that's what they originally were. This kind of storytelling requires extra work on top of writing the story in the first place, but the results are often spectacular.

Nonsense writers simply write an incomplete story, then blur the holes to pretend they're intentional. The writer has created surprise and confusion, instead of mystery. You can't fit all the pieces together, because they were never part of a sensible story to begin with. This kind of storytelling is lazy, easy, and often indicates the writer's dedication to their work has been compromised.

It boils down to this; one is going the extra mile to enhance your experience, the other is pretending to do that while actually being crap. 
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Offline Kavik Ryx

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Cryptic or nonsense is in the head of the viewer, but it rests on some sort of logic, theme, or emotion fitting within the points of vagueness, regardless of what they or if they were intended. Often the best part of a cryptic story is that there is no puzzle that can be put together, so long as it encourages the viewer to draw conclusions which may or may not be congruent with the creator's intent. I'm pretty sure that my interpretation of Lain does not match what was being suggested at since it appeared to me that only Lain's perspective was being altered and the world was unaffected. But the ambiguities were such to encourage consideration of what transpired. Pretty much any Bob Dylan song seems to work on the same logic given how little he likes to discuss what his music means.

 Conversely, having a direct purpose within the ambiguities if one is for naught if nothing perceivably fits. At a certain point trying to put the puzzle together seems like a waste of energy I'm sure many movie buffs would beg to differ, but upon finishing Mulholland Drive, I had no encouragement to figure out what I had just watched. Nothing on the surface was leading me to consider any sort of logos, ethos, or pathos which could string things together, and yet I do have the feeling that David Lynch had some sort of intent, at least given all the commentary people have on Twin Peaks.

Offline TypicalIdiotFan

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It goes both ways, Kavik.  Stanley Kubrik was a great director because he was good at telling a story without having to do a crap ton of exposition.  The symbols, the visuals, and the characters all did the work.  I don't think his stuff is too hard to understand for most people, because I don't think he makes it hard for most people to understand.  And that is the trick.

Lately, you've got stuff that just seems to be thrown together for the randomness of it.  This is what I call the "Tim & Eric" brand of humor.  They DO have method to their madness, the problem is that they make it so goddamned uncertain that you either can't figure it out or don't care by the time you're done.  So you're confused, and hate it, or you're somehow superhuman at interpretation, and love it.  There doesn't seem to be a middle ground.

I've seen this kind of thing cropping up especially in commercials lately.  The Fiat commercials are some of the worst offenders, unless someone can explain to me what the hell those mean.  I get that the purpose of advertising is to stick something into your brain so you don't forget it.  I guess they figure that being interested in the product through the commercial is equal to hating the shit out of it, because in both cases you might talk about it, as I am doing now.  As someone once said, there is no such thing as "bad press".  If people are talking about you, then you're doing something right, even if that something is heinous.  Or in this case, confusing as hell.

So I don't know what to do anymore.  I find as I get older I just don't "get" shit as much.  I haven't laughed at a stand up comedian in about 15 years, because I just don't get what's funny anymore.  Maybe I just don't get what modern symbolism and surrealism is supposed to be.  Maybe the problem isn't the writers or the directors, but me.

But I'm pretty sure it's them.
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Offline Zeitgeist

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So I don't know what to do anymore.  I find as I get older I just don't "get" shit as much.  I haven't laughed at a stand up comedian in about 15 years, because I just don't get what's funny anymore.  Maybe I just don't get what modern symbolism and surrealism is supposed to be.  Maybe the problem isn't the writers or the directors, but me.

But I'm pretty sure it's them.

This is essentially the premise of FX's new series The Comedians.

Offline Reckoner

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This is a topic that hits close to home because many of my favorite anime are in this topic of discussion. Evangelion in particular is my absolute favorite show, yet I would be the first to admit that while much of it is rich and deep, it is also filled with pseudo-intellectual bullshit that doesn't mean anything. For example, when the Angels burst into giant beams of light resembling the Christian cross, this actually does not represent anything. By their own admission, they just simply thought that sort of symbolism looked cool and gave it a distinctive flavor. Sure, but there really is nothing there unless you extrapolate.

Some anime can definitely benefit from being more upfront about its themes. Parasyte is a fantastic example of this to me from last season. An example of unneeded obtuseness would be like Eureka 7 Ao. The reason cryptic storytelling worked great in Evangelion is because the characters were endlessly fascinating and there was a genuinely interesting mystery in the show. It kept the suspense up, and while some of the show's stuff was indeed bulshit, there was plenty about it that begged analysis. Plenty of "cryptic" stories can be analyzed and figured out. Even Eureka 7 Ao could be figured out more or less. The problem is this style of storytelling does not work if you cannot convince the audience to buy into the show or experience. It just leaves them confused or irritable.

Offline KS

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This is a topic that hits close to home because many of my favorite anime are in this topic of discussion. Evangelion in particular is my absolute favorite show, yet I would be the first to admit that while much of it is rich and deep, it is also filled with pseudo-intellectual bullshit that doesn't mean anything. For example, when the Angels burst into giant beams of light resembling the Christian cross, this actually does not represent anything. By their own admission, they just simply thought that sort of symbolism looked cool and gave it a distinctive flavor. Sure, but there really is nothing there unless you extrapolate.

At least it looks cool as a death animation in Super Robot Wars games

Quote
Some anime can definitely benefit from being more upfront about its themes. Parasyte is a fantastic example of this to me from last season. An example of unneeded obtuseness would be like Eureka 7 Ao. The reason cryptic storytelling worked great in Evangelion is because the characters were endlessly fascinating and there was a genuinely interesting mystery in the show. It kept the suspense up, and while some of the show's stuff was indeed bulshit, there was plenty about it that begged analysis. Plenty of "cryptic" stories can be analyzed and figured out. Even Eureka 7 Ao could be figured out more or less. The problem is this style of storytelling does not work if you cannot convince the audience to buy into the show or experience. It just leaves them confused or irritable.

Eureka Seven Ao I don't even think they really knew what they wanted to do with that story other than fill time.  The person that wrote it Sho Aikawa (writer of such gems as Urotsukidoji: Legend of the Overfiend and Violence Jack 1986)  is pretty infamous for his blatant jingoism (If people want to criticize Mahouka Kokou no Rettousei they should look up a little 80's OVA called Angel Cop, specifically the original Japanese version) and love of ultra violence which came up a little bit with that one Japanese colonel but other than that it just insisted on piling up time shift after time shift and had it's characters fail to follow a stable character arc as a result cause every single time they time shifted their circumstances would be totally different and this is a show that already had major problems with it's character development before that point.  By the end I literally had no ****ing clue what was supposed to be going on aside from one particular plot point, but whatever, it's not like Aikawa seemed to care either.  Chaos Dragon (the weird thing with the characters apparently designed by popular VN industry people except maybe not) is his next project in any case so on top of how it's being designed and put together my early suggestion might be to duck and cover upon contact.

Also I should say I like the Kubrick approach to film making but not the Lynch approach.  With Kubrick I feel that there's enough of a grounded narrative and clear sense of purpose even if the style in which it's conveyed is a little unusual, but with Lynch I just get weirdness and surrealism....aside from the pretty bad Dune adaptation from the 80's where it rains on Arrakis at the end, but that in and of itself felt like a **** you to the fans.  I also never really liked Twin Peaks all that much.  That said I find Lynch's music hilarious though I'm not sure if it's intentional or not.  Just look up Crazy Clown Time to see what I mean.


So I don't know what to do anymore.  I find as I get older I just don't "get" shit as much.  I haven't laughed at a stand up comedian in about 15 years, because I just don't get what's funny anymore.  Maybe I just don't get what modern symbolism and surrealism is supposed to be.  Maybe the problem isn't the writers or the directors, but me.

I think I'm slowly starting to understand even though there's no real logic too it.  That's the first thing you have to accept.  There is a process however and it's largely the twitter effect.  Something can just kind of blow up and get popular if it gets enough notoriety (For example right now in Japan people are obsessed with drawing this one character from a Dungeon Harem anime this season because they find this scene where she tries to tie a string under her breasts amusing causing an explosion of fanart and lampooning all because some guy apparently made a particularly clever tweet about it at just the right time) and the right kind of tweets at the right time, but it also means things are popular for less extended periods of time.  That's just kind of how memes work though, one minute everybody is into them, the next that's just the end of it.  I think the two part South Park episode ReHASH tackles and makes fun of the phenomenon extremely well.
« Last Edit: April 17, 2015, 09:29:51 PM by KS »

Offline Delphinox

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So I guess I wonder how sometimes a writer can give off the vibe that there's something more to his show, but he certainly won't be explaining it to you.

It sounds more like you're asking about how a writer instills a “proportionate” return for the viewer. The huge hurdle for anything that actively tries to have more layered meaning is that it’s counting on its viewers to take a more active role in what’s otherwise just a passive viewing – what you might gain in meaning, you have to acknowledge that you might lose an equal or higher amount in accessibility. Focus on your own ideas too much and you risk your work being too impervious; be too conscientious and you risk losing confidence and undermining your viewer’s intelligence. And even if you've struck what you feel is a good compromise, you’re still leaving it up to the audience, which at some point just devolves into reductionist arguments about subjectivity (amusingly enough, as I'm typing this I'm silently venting my frustrations about recent conversations I've had with people about To Pimp a Butterfly and how much I seem to sound like a madman in them).

It’s all a massive balancing act made harder by running the risk of being too caught up in the ideas and forgoing more traditional story structures, and you’re always going to have the odd viewer out regardless of how well you pull it off. To simplify it with numbers, pick ten audience members who have put varying amounts of effort into picking out a work’s hidden meaning on an informal scale of 1-10, and 1 will have just as much of a right to an opinion as 5 and 10 do. As kind of a personal rule of thumb, the “cryptic” works that I think work out the best are the ones where there’s a more obvious difference between not just 1 and 10, but 1 and 5 as well. Reward the more savvy viewers appropriately, but leave enough where people who might not "get it" can still respect the notion that there were ideas that you were going for.

Offline hyperknees91

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Indeed that also plays a role. I'm sure many authors are cautious and end up giving too many plot details away which the audience could have figured out for themselves or at least attempted to. Probably because of the constant calling out of plot holes in modern story-telling these days, which is probably why many authors are prone to info-dumping just so there plot and world makes as much sense as possible.

Dark Souls is a great example. Though being a video game it's also very intuitive to it's medium, in that it has the lore to put the world together, but it's up to the player if he wants to even engage in it or if he just wants to focus on playing the game.
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