The Writer’s Guide to Anime: Darker than Black and “Show, Don’t Tell”

One piece of advice that writers are very frequently told is “show, don’t tell.” Inexperienced writers have a tendency to explicitly tell a reader information, which at best makes a read feel dry and at worst can feel condescending. They are instead often encouraged to show that information instead, or convey the information without flat-out stating it. To give an example: “Bob was sad when he read Alice’s letter” is telling. Showing would be more along the lines of “Bob’s hands shook as he read Alice’s letter. Her words became harder and harder to make out as he fought back tears.” The first example just tells you Bob is sad. The second also tells you he’s sad, but it shows it through how he reacts rather than just stating it.

Darker than Black isn’t a masterpiece by any means. However, one thing that’s always impressed me about it is how it handled worldbuilding. In worldbuilding, so many works will fall into the “telling” trap by awkwardly shoehorning in an explanation of how things work so that the audience understands. This is usually done through the use of a newcomer to the world (or someone who’s more removed from it and is consequently inexperienced) who acts as an audience surrogate for a mentor to explain things to. It’s something that I’ve seen in so many fantasy series. Darker than Black, however (at least the first season; I’ll get to S2 later), manages to avoid using those archetypes and manages to drop you into a world in a way that feels completely natural just by showing you how it works rather than telling you. Read More

The Writer’s Guide to Anime: One Piece and Structuring Long-running Stories

One Piece is perhaps the most well-regarded of the “Big Three,” the three most popular and longest-running Sh┼Źnen Jump weekly manga. These three are known largely for their impressive length. At the time of this writing, Naruto has recently ended with 700 chapters, Bleach is in the mid-600’s, and One Piece has just passed the 800-chapter mark. I can’t speak to the quality of Bleach or Naruto, because only One Piece has ever really interested me. Why? Well, upon reflection, I’ve realized that there’s one key reason that One Piece initially drew me in and has continued to hold my attention: no matter how drawn-out and long-winded the plot can get, I never feel like it’s wasting my time because the story is structured in such a way that it always feels like it’s going somewhere. Read More