Subverting Expectations

I’ve been watching a lot of shows recently, particularly anime.  I understand that a lot of people think that anime isn’t that cool or that interesting.  Many people in my own life have no idea what’s so appealing about it especially since it’s cartoons.
However, I don’t care about others opinions about whether it’s good or bad.  My primary interest is the style of story telling that I see in these shows.
I have been watching and reading comics from Japan and Korea since I was a kid.  While you might think that that’s nerdy, I want to talk about how stories have evolved on these platforms.
When I was younger, they were formulaic.  Sailor Moon, Cardcaptor Sakura, Pokemon, Dragon Ball Z, Naruto, and more were what I watched.  I could see the plotlines coming a mile away and they were still fun and at times beautiful.  As I grew up, I turned back to these kinds of shows and comics.  I found more variations and more in each genre.  I would pick up a comic or a show and think I was going to get one thing and then get another.
This was never a negative thing.  I loved it.  I loved being able to look at a show and not know what to expect.  It was exhilarating.  Unfortunately, at that time (when I was in my teens) all of the twists were rather dark.  This meant that I was getting exposed to plot after plot that went dark and disturbing at times.  I liked it then.  I hated it then too.
There were characters that died that I loved and stories that veered so off course that I didn’t know how they were going to get to any sort of ending.  These set me up for expecting the worst.  I would watch a show and count out how many characters I thought were going to die.  This didn’t translate over to many American shows where most main characters stuck around until the show ended or the actor just wanted out.
It didn’t happen in a lot of books either.  Characters stuck around until their deaths could propel the plot forward (which isn’t a trick I would suggest using).
But then I found Homestuck.  The webcomic is all about people dying right and left.  Some characters die twice or three times.  Some characters die more than that because of timeline shenanigans and alternate realities.
Until the end of high school, a lot of the media I was consuming in anime, manga, and Homestuck was about death.  The death of characters.  The death of worlds.  The death of anything that was important to the story.
I went into college watching shows and getting blindsided by these dark turns.  Then something wonderful started happening.  Shows I was watching were starting to back off from that.  Instead of letting everyone die (even in situations where they absolutely should have) characters were living.  I’m seeing this, especially in Assassination Classroom right now.  I know I’m late to the party, but I just hadn’t gotten around to it.
This show is all about death, but it’s an extremely light, humorous, slice-of-life anime.  I texted a friend that I was watching it and that I was worried about the ending.  They texted me back and told me not to worry about it.  All these years of expecting the worst set me up to feel anxious and uneasy at every corner, but the characters get out of shenanigans all the time.  Obviously, there’s still some sadness and unhappiness, it only makes the happy endings that much better.
While grim and dark stories have their place, sometimes we just need everyone to make it out okay.
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