Raging Rant: It’s Time to Stop Whining About Re:Creator’s Sota

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On my last post about Re:Creator’s I argued that while Sota annoyed me as well I believed that handled correctly he could be a good character if not a likable one.  And he stepped up to the plate.  Which is why I’m so fucking mad that other people are still bellyaching about him.  There will be spoilers, you’ve been warned.

In case you haven’t read the post linked above one of the main points I made with regards to Sota is that it’s not his fault Setsuna killed herself even if he blames himself for it.  He doesn’t owe her anything, the world doesn’t owe her anything, he didn’t make that decision for her.  The responsibility for Setsuna’s suicide lies with her.  In the latest episode they dug into the backstory of Setsuna and Sota a little and explained that Sota felt they were drifting apart as Setsuna got more popular and started working with well known people while he wasn’t enjoying the same success.  That is fucking normal.  He committed no sin here, it’s natural for friendships to have their rifts and for people to drift apart – sometimes temporarily, sometimes for good.  What happened next was that she was accused of plagiarism and relentlessly attacked on social media and Sota didn’t stand up for her.

This is where most of the Sota haters say things like “he should of stood up for her.”  This fucking triggered me.  It’s FUCKING NORMAL for people to not jump into defend people from mass harassment because it can in fact escalate the harassment, which is what Sota feared, or it can see the defender get harassed badly as well.  This is not a Sota problem –  this is problem with the internet and mob justice in general.  Remember when that scientist who landed a probe on a comet was harassed to the point where he broke down in tears during a public apology because of the shirt he was wearing?  It’s the same shit here.  Silence is the path of least resistance and it’s the one most people take.  Trust me I’m in the middle of working on a local campaign and the opposition is filled with angry shitheads who bombard every social media post we put out with loads of harassment, they’ve tried to make public all the information about me, the Campaign Manager, they can get their hands on, they have stolen and vandalized signs and harassed businesses who show support for our side of the campaign, sometimes to the point where managers break down in tears.

Nobody wants to deal with that.  I don’t have much of a choice because fighting against these assholes is part of my job description but unless you’re like me or are morally motivated enough to make a stand, most people just do what they can to avoid the harassment until it blows over.  It sucks that Setsuna was confronted by a mob of anonymous assholes online, and that their harassment caused her to commit suicide is an indictment of internet mob justice and harassment campaigns.  But at the same time, it’s still not Sota’s or even the mob’s fault she committed suicide.  I’m not feeling the need to commit suicide from this harassment, and in most high profile cases of online harassment mobs people don’t commit suicide either.  Setsuna was exceptionally weak and that’s her fucking problem.  Make no mistake my fury is directed more so at the harassers than Setsuna, they are shitty people who deserve all the bad things that happen to them because they can totally ruin people’s lives and careers.  However Setsuna is still the one who chose suicide as her response, that was her choice and she owns all the responsibility for it.  Long story short anyone who blames Sota for not standing up to an online mob of harassers is either a cyber-hero who lacks empathy for all non-cyber heroes or has never stood up to such a mob and thus lacks appreciation for bad it can get or just how much of a fucking hassle it can be.

“But wait,” you say,  “he said he felt a satisfaction seeing Setsuna being taken down a peg,” he’s awful.  First off he admits it was an ugly feeling and he is deeply ashamed for feeling it, implying he normally wouldn’t feel this way and it’s not reflective of his normal character.  Which is normal.  People say and feel things we don’t really mean, or rather that we would never seriously embrace in our normal state of being, all the fucking time.  The important thing here is that so far as we know he didn’t act on this feeling, he just felt it. Or do you mean to tell you’ve never felt or said something in anger, hurt, jealousy or what have you that you’d never seriously give the time of day if you weren’t anger, hurt, jealous or what have you?  I call bullshit, it’s human to have feelings which go against our moral code of conduct.  The second thing to remember is that he was in fact jealous at the time, he was hurting in his own way and that’s the catalyst for why he felt the way he did.  Again though that had nothing to do with his actions, he said he didn’t stand up for Setsuna because he was afraid of making things worse, not because his envy was so potent he didn’t lift a finger to spite her.  How he felt in a moment of weakness is irrelevant to how he acted, and as such to call him awful for it is woefully inaccurate.

Also Sota already manned up in the episode before that.  In a battle where characters who could kill him in one second with no effort whatsoever were throwing down, Sota stood his ground and tried to stop the fight.  I do think he should have just told Aliceteria that Altair killed Mamika but even so he did his best to reason with her and bring the fight to a halt and when that didn’t work he refused to budge even when she charged at him, the only reason he didn’t die was because Meteora knocked him away.  That takes fucking balls and anyone who calls him a pansy after that needs to seriously reconsider what the hell they’re saying.  Sure he’s still struggling with his own weaknesses and short comings after standing in front of Aliceteria, but this is ONCE AGAIN fucking normal.  He’s not an unstoppable badass, he’s a kid and one who lost a close friend and blames himself for it at that.  He has plenty of reasons to be fragile and unsure of himself, especially since he’s been caught up in such a crazy turn of events and is surrounded by pros and heroes, people he doesn’t feel he can ever measure up to.  Which is to say that Sota is an impressively nuanced and well-realized character, one of the most complex and devastatingly human characters of the entire season.

While I’m on the subject of character I want to mention that Aliceteria’s character got a massive upgrade in the fight described above.  Previously she just seemed willfully blind to the fact she’s fighting to worse of the two sides in this conflict.  That does hold true but the reason for it is because she has lost all of her bearings.  Imagine for a second you meet God, or something you hold great faith in, and he turns out to be far less impressive than you expected.  That would shake you up a bit.  Now imagine that on top of that you find out there are tons of gods and all of them are making worlds like yours so they can have stories.  This is what happened to Aliceteria, she believes everything she ever knew is a lie and can’t come to terms with her new reality and as a result clings to an ideal, justice, because it’s all she has left.  If it turns out she is fighting on the side of evil she will break, she’s already losing herself as it is.  In other words she’s doing what Sota did with Setsuna, refusing to face something because doing so might break her entirely.  Which is to say she’s also be given a great deal of believability and nuance as a character, improving her place in the story and showcasing that yes, Mother’s Basement was right, this show does in fact have great characters.

Ok rant over.  My fury has been vented.  I recommend this show now more than ever.  See you in the next one.

Understanding Storytelling: Can You Spin Gold from Generic Garbage & Re:Creators

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Before I get into this let me just clarify that I don’t think Re:Creators is generic garbage, that label applies to a specific aspect of the show and not the entire show.  This was inspired by a recent YouTube video from Mother’s Basement, who I rarely watch because I so often disagree with him and his endless schilling is a new style of cringe to me.  The video was making the argument that Re:Creators has the potential to become an anime classic citing it’s status as relatively high profile original anime, excellent meta-commentary on storytelling and how that is woven into the story, and strong character writing.  Of the three claims the last by far the most contentious where the audience is concerned, with many people openly hating the male lead Sota and just being skeptical to the idea these characters are well written.  This is to be expected though because most of the characters look and act like generic ones.  I mean we have two light novel princesses one from a scifi world and the other from a fantasy world, a magical girl, a teenage mecha pilot, an NPC that probably functioned like the player’s index and quest guide based on her position, what looks like a Persona character, the false-ish character Altair and Blitz Talker whom I have no generic equivalent for because he’s had like 5 lines and 1 scene so far.

However that is kind of the point, and Mother’s Basement sort of address it with regards to one of the best characters Magical Slayer Mamika, but I don’t think he put in enough time with the other characters to really get this across.  One of the main conceits of the story as it continues is that while the characters were initially defined by whatever text their author ascribed to them, they either have changed, are changing or have the potential to change.  Mamika is good case study for this.  Mamika comes from a world with no nuance whatsoever, a kid’s show which has obvious villains and no concept of pain or damage.  This is a problem for a few reasons.  Mamika is easy to trick, is herself an incredibly simple and generic character (at first), and has no qualms attacking people because again no concept of pain or death.  She’s also among the outright strongest characters in the show and she demolishes a business park before she’s realized what her power is capable of and that oh shit violence has consequences.  Perhaps because she is the simplest character she is also the one who evolves the most.

After realizing that her opponents were not in fact villains Mamika becomes much more aware of how much more complex our world is than hers and takes significant steps to understand the world, her opponents and her allies.  She spies on and eventually confronts Altair when she finds out Altair is really a villain masking her true intentions.  She secretly meets with Sota to try and get a better understand of both sides in the conflict.  She breaks up the major fight in episode 5 because she recognizes that both sides have good people on them and doesn’t see why they have to fight.  This also represents one of the in-universe shortfalls of her character, Mamika is still colored to a great degree by her character setting.  As Aliceteria puts it, Mamika’s ideas are often naive but Mamika is a good person.  As fast as Mamika is changing she still has a long ways to go before she turns into someone really special. However I agree wholeheartedly with Mother’s Basment’s sentiment that the idea of having a generic character evolve due to exposure to a more complex world is a great one and Mamika’s evolution is an absolute joy to watch.

Now let’s confront the elephant in the room, Sota.  I have seen a lot of hate for Sota and I don’t think it’s entirely undeserved, I too constantly wish he’d fucking grow a pair and just tell his allies what’s up.  I want him to communicate like a human being instead of stumbling through all of his goddamn sentences and doing his damnedest not to the point across.  However, I don’t think he’s badly written, certainly not based on the latest episode, though I do find it retarded he didn’t recognize Altair immediately since a, he made her and b, she’s a pretty distinct character.  His critics are calling him the new Shinji Ikari and to some extent I agree, which is why it almost baffles me that people think he’s a bad character.  Shinji is often mocked for being weak and wimpy but while that is true Shinji’s weaknesses are central not only to his character but to Evangelion as a show.  If Shinji were a badass then Evangelion would suck, the kind of story Evangelion is only works because everyone in it is broken to some extent and they’re still trying to do an important job.  Shinji’s weakness come for reasons we clearly understand, so him learning to overcome those weaknesses or fall to them is important to the story.  How Shinji is punished for his weakness also plays a major role in Evangelion and Evangelion is a classic anime.

What I trying to say is that Sota has the potential to be a great character.  He may be unlikable as shit, as Shinji is to many, but so long as his weakness has weight in the story and he has to own up to it somehow I think Sota will do just fine.  Based on Magane’s (BEST GIRL) observations and Sota’s stupidly roundabout hypothetical he asked Meteora it appears that Sota and Setsuna, the author Altair’s story, co-created her.  But we figured that out by like episode one.  What was more recently revealed was that Sota was the less talented of the two, or that’s how it seems based on how he framed the aforementioned hypothetical, and his frustrations with the gap in talent between the two led to them having a falling out, after which Setsuna committed suicide.  The timeline for this is somewhat unclear but it is clear that Sota knows Setsuna is dead and that is why he’s struggling both as an artist and a person.  He can’t come to terms with the fact that he sort of caused Setsuna to commit suicide and it’s crippling him, especially in the last few episodes as it becomes increasingly apparent that he will have to face what happened and he isn’t ready for that, so he does his best to hide it.

What Sota doesn’t realize though is that Setsuna committing suicide is not his fault.  Even if Setsuna blamed him for her hang ups and committed suicide, the fact is that she’s the one who chose to give into whatever pressures she was feeling and end it all.  He may feel responsible for it, which explains his behavior and his look of horror when Magane makes it clear she knows what’s up, but he’s not.  Knowing this only adds to him though because it makes sense for a teenager, well anyone really but teens especially, to feel as though they caused some to commit suicide and beat themselves up over it even though the responsibility for that decision lies with the suicide.  What Sota’s age prevents him from understanding is that the world doesn’t owe anyone anything, because at this stage in his life it’s expected that he’s owed certain things like an education, shelter, food, etc.  Setsuna may have felt lonely and rejected enough to commit suicide but that’s her problem, and if she had chosen to continue fighting the problem she might have found what she was looking for.  But she didn’t.  Which brings me to my next point.

Altair is a horribly unjustified villain and while the reveal of her motivations made me super mad, after some reflection I think it might turn out for the best.  Altair wants to destroy the world because it rejected Setsuna and Setsuna committed suicide.  It’s also implied Altair may be able to directly feel what Setsuna was feeling before she died.  Altair doesn’t give a fuck about anyone, she’ll destroy all of the worlds in existence just to take vengeance for her creator.  Because while she is inexplicably good at masking her intentions early on, when Mamika confronts her she basically becomes a Sasuke-by-proxy whining about how Mamika could never understand Setsuna’s pain, and Altair hates everything and she goes into a rage.  However as discussed above the world owed Setsuna nothing and Altair seems blind to that fact.  This has some interesting implications.  Altair claims that what she’s doing was her own choice not her character setting but despite her oddly formal style of speech and apparent levelheadedness she is apparently the only character who has not engaged the nuance of the real world at all.  She is acting like a child and while that does bother me because it seem inconsistent with her earlier appearances, the prospect of seeing a Sasuke-type character get the beatdown they deserve is something I’m hype for.

What Mother’s Basement’s video didn’t address, because it appears to have been written following episode 5 is the case of Magane.  Magane is a character who has refused to choose a side and instead thrives on her own.  For example it takes the whole team of good guys to come with the idea to try and give Silesia a new power via her author and artist, Magane on the other hand gets the same idea all on her own and is savvy enough to find her author and try the idea, and when it fails she kills him but says the fact that this experiment failed to change her was interesting in and of itself.  She’s also running around doing a fine job of collecting information without any assistance and she’s more or less cornered Sota because she figured him out.  Magane is a bit overblown and she follows a pretty distinct archetype but she also appears to be the most creatively written character out of the gate and this gives her a huge head start on everyone else.  While the good guys have to muddle their way through the information they have and the bad guys are basically in the dark, Magane navigates the world with ease and despite having only been a around a few episodes she seems to know more about what’s going on than anyone else already.  Also I think she might be a reference to Bakemonogatari because her power comes from lies and wordplay and her “Peace. Yeah!” scene was very reminiscent of how Yotsugi changed her language to a faux American style after dropping the “I said with a posed look” line.

Basically what I wanted to say is that I think Mother’s Basement is onto to something.  Re:Creators is suffering somewhat from being very exposition heavy and how unlikable Sota is, but given time and vision those could be turned into advantages.  The way this show handles character growth is really fucking interesting in part because it’s so meta, a story full of characters from stories coming together in a new world.  It leads to some great stuff like how Meteora goes from an emotionless info-bot like her NPC role to someone who can properly express joy, kindness and warmth after playing the game she’s from and deciding the “creator” really cared about his story because of all the detail and how good the game was.  That’s some cool shit.  And just everything about Magane is fucking gold, seriously for all the moments Sota drags the show down by beating around the bush she lifts it up by cutting through all the bullshit.  I think Re:Creators has been pretty good so far and has the potential to be really good.  I’m looking forward to it and after reading this, hopefully you are as well.  See you in the next one.

PS: Fuck whoever wrote the fucking show synopsis for Re:Creators it sounded like the most pretentious light novel bullshit I’ve ever heard and it caused me to skip the show for weeks until I saw a good AMV and decided to try it.  Seriously I had no idea this was an original anime until yesterday because the synopsis was so bad I thought it had to be a light novel.  It would have been a thousand times better if you just said it was a show about a bunch of anime characters from different mediums and genres coming to together to fight each other.