It doesn't matter if you're an authour, screenwriter or writer per se, your goal in your work is to create something that is appreciated by most and hated upon by the least. More than often, great lenghts will have been traveled (even literally) to come up with a story that breaks box-offices, sets records and gains appraise by the masses. I find this peculiarly interesting, as a story in any medium will often experiment with lots of stuff to sell us into taking our time to watch and enjoy the show. Be it from using a new type of story-telling, confronting ideals and ideas directly or showing off new and innovative ways to capture the awe from the audience: It is there to sell and make money! So, why do we praise "originality" and ignore the "generic" when most of us can't even make out either nor create one (be it original or generic story)? Well, that's because we value the genuine article, the one-of-a-kind art and that special something. Our subjective minds automatically hold something with unique traits more valuable than something created for everyone. This is humanity to its core, its an irrefutable fact. So let's ask ourselves instead: What makes Original? :) Note that what I am about to bring up, you have every right to take it as you please. This may help you if you're struggling in story-writing or coming up with a story worthy of "original". It's really surprisingly simple (on what I'm about to bring up) that it's a complete mystery on why there aren't more "original" anime in the industry. Please, if this does help you, soak every word in with a thirst of knowledge. Your perception on anime is about to change
Generic and Original?
Instead of asking ourselves how we can separate ourselves from "generic", we need to instead know what can make a story original! Using the previous statement that we need to be separate ourselves leads to the story being limited. A story should be open to all areas, whether of not if it will eventually be played out in high-school or something "generic" like that! So, there are plenty of versions of originality but here's list of simple "guide-lines" that can be bent, modified or ignored. It's up to you
The Rules of Originality #1
What's worse than seeing our characters running around doing nothing? That's when characters move around aimlessely and without purpose. In a story, unlike real life, our characters are from the start defined by the final goal that they need to achieve which serves as an incentive and reason for us to root for our character. And there needs to be a reason for there to be a goal. Remember that it can be about anything. I'll take three anime as examples (no spoilers,promise): - Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso - Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood - Sword Art Online Whether or not you yourself consider them as original is up to you. --- Very early on in Shigatsu, we are introduced to Arima Kousei, master-pianist and can't after two years hear the piano after a traumatic event that shook his life forever. He decides that he wants to live out the rest of his life in peace with his friends but monotone and grey world when he suddenly meets a free-spirited violinst, she decides to help him back on track to the world of music so that he can once more enjoy playing the instrument that he was best at. See? Simple as day: Our protagonist can't play the piano and after being "forced" by Kaori (the violinst) to play once more, a goal is set that he HAS to get back playing the piano the way he mastered it before because he wants to and give back flair and joy back into his life. --- After a horrible event that resulted in the loss of Edwards right arm and left leg and the body of Alphonse, the Elric brothers are set and determined to solve the mysteries of Alchemy in order to get back their bodies. Little do they know that in their path to find the answers, a conspiracy theory that spans the entire lands and foundations as they know it is threatening the world. It is up to the brothers to stop the world from falling into dismay while regaining the former bodies. Even here, it is basically spelled out for you that I shouldn't point out their goals and incentive to why they need to do what they do! XD --- Trapped along with 10,000 other players in a game named "Sword Art Online", Kirito has to battle his way up the castle of Aincrad. Consisting of 100 floors and each hosting a floor-boss, our heroes has defeat the final boss on the top floor in order to escape the game and return to real-life. The problem is, if they die in the game, they die in real life. Yes, even in SAO, we can find traces of originality of its premise. Their goal is very specific and easy to understand and their reason is to stay alive and get the heck out of there! It is not going to get easier than this! XD --- Oh, and don't be afraid to make the first goal a sub-goal! This enables you to flesh out the story even more and can be used to properly get our characters on the right path. So, what have we learned with our story? It needs to have a clear and defined goal that our character(s) has to achieve because of some legit reason!
The Rules of Originality #2
Who/What Moves the Plot?
When the first rule has been achieved, we need the story itself to get our characters to follow the story and for us to view it. And I just mentioned the key part! Our character "follows" the story. It can't be that our character goes to a specific place because he knows of it, or that this event happens because of the characters presence. Sure, there could be some instances where the MC suddenly stumbles upon something coincidentally, but that can only happen when something has to be explored, whether it may be the back-story, the plot itself, new characters or new info. The ones who move the story are simply two things. The Antagonist or a certain event. And often, it can be both at the same time. A crucial point to understand here is that our MC has to react to an event happening or the actions of our antagonist. It can't be so that the MC knows where to walk and kill off the antagonist (or at the very least, face him). The MC ATTENDS the event, he's not THE event. And our antagonist's actions cannot be unreasonable. Every action needs to have an intent on negatively affecting our MC. "But hey, VoidX, there are some good and quite original anime that only revolves around events and have no antagonist"...I might hear you say, dear reader. Well, of course! We can erase the antagonist as long as you keep the events coming and affect the protagonist, and that they have something to do with their ultimate goal. Another 3 examples: - Attack on Titan - Shokugeki no Souma - No Game No Life --- Eren vows to get revenge for his mothers death and swears to kill off all the titans. He enters the military school and subsequently learns how to use the 3D-maneuver-gear, the key component on how to kill the titans. No antagonists so far, but an event. --- Souma wants to become a better cook than his father and enters the top elite school of culinary food in order to learn and develop his skills for the day he surpasses his father. Along the way, he needs to prove himself better than his opponents in cooking-battles and learn new tricks everyday. A few antagonists and just certain events. --- Sora & Shiro have a new goal in life, after leaving behind their old boring one. Taking upon themselves the ultimate goal, defeating God, they need to follow the new rules of the world of Disboard in order to do so. By games! A few antagonists and just certain events. --- What have we learned? The Antagonist and/or Events move the plot, not the Protagonist!
The Rules of Originality #3
Speaking of characters, we have to have one to follow. See my "Anime Characters; A Connection to Us and Why?" to get a small introduction on how our characters has to really have for us to fully understand. Now, a character is only defined by his goals, but his importance and impact of the series hinges mostly on how he reacts towards certain events. This is the oppertunity to show us his strength, a tool for him to use and for us to view. The protagonist can be superstrong (One-Punch Man), super intelligent (NGNL), knows how humans work (Death Note) or have magical powers (several, let's take Code Geass), anything! This gives our protagonist the freedom to act and act independently. We can't have a character who needs to hide behind friends who do the battle, just because he's weak. Then he wouldn't have been there in the first place. There's one exception; learning. And even that can fail horribly sometimes if the MC can't act alone while being important to the plot (Mirai Nikki succeeded in doing this). Then, the protagonist has to have a weakness. Something that drags the MC down, making the achievable goal a bit harder to reach. And not just harder, it might come down to it so that the MC needs to overcome this weakness in order to achieve victory. This weakness can be artifically created (say, killed if wrong action occurs) or some sort of psychological or physiological defect with the protagonist. As long as it hinders the protagonist from acheiving the goal, any weakness can be used! Be creative! XD And again, mixing goals, events and weaknesses can of course happen! Preferably, it could very well turn out to be a masterpiece! :D So what have we learned here? Our Main-Characters has to have a Strength to use and a Weakness to overcome!
(Note that these are mainly about action characters or adventure characters. Putting a weakness way too obvious and in no ways of overcoming it nor any desire to...gives off a wrong effect. There are perfect characters who really are perfectly designed and have no weaknesses, such as Sakamoto from Sakamoto desu ga? .)
The Application to all forms of Media
These simple guide-lines can be used for anything. Books, TV-series, a sketch on YouTube, Movies and, yes, Anime. What makes these rules apply especially great to anime is that anime has the oppertunity to give you stories and characters impossible to show and perform with conventional media. Anime has the oppertunity to create the most unimaginable stories just by working on the computer (and it's not that easy). Combine it with a dedication from the production studios and you'll understand why the greatest anime ever created were created for a reason! Hope this has helped you to create compelling and interesting stories that might captivate our minds in the future! And hope this has created a sense of understanding to why great and original anime are great and original! :D (oh, and if this is directly helping you writing something, I wish you the best of luck! :D)
Of course, there's more to this than has been said. I have never made a work of this scale nor something in comparison with stories and story-telling (but I have tried, I'll admit). So, take this in whatever way you want. This is how I've interpreted how originality comes up in the first place and can very well be wrong! XD Now, this Card is a part of my own series where I put up more anime-related posts such as discussing, analyzing and showing you parts of Anime that makes an Anime an Anime! Every topic from the technical aspects, core elements and even entire shows are collected there so make sure you check out and follow "Why anime?" collection for more posts about and around anime! :D Please feel free to comment your thoughts on the topic or suggest one! :D And if you want to leave a direct feedback, you're more than welcome to message me :)
And a like on this post would be very much appreciated :* 'til next time! //VoidX