I recently applied the final touches to a particularly difficult chapter in one of my many projects.
And on stepping back to review my own work, I couldn’t help but feel proud of what seemed to me to be a particularly well-paced and well-written hundred pages. However, this feeling faded nearly instantly when, hours later, I had watched the final episodes of Persona 4.
The one memorable fact about this show is just how intriguing and suspenseful it got, to the point that I blew through nearly three hours of my late night just so I could see what happened at the end. This is a rather contradictory statement when you consider the fact that I couldn’t rate this series higher than a 4 out of 10 stars.
The reason behind this dismal review lies in the show’s pacing and progression; sure the show hooked me, so much so that I lost precious hours of sleep just to conclude it, but only in the last couple of episodes. Nearly half of the 24 episodes was a desert of entertainment, failing dismally to capture my attention with what started out as a fairly impressive and unique concept, but quickly descended into a convoluted, repetitive and dull story.
Pacing has become a rather painful thorn in the side of so many shows that I have had the unfortunate privilege of coming across, the best example being the previously stated Chaos Head, which I can now recommend only for the brilliant twist revealed at the very end – or so says a friend of mine (Spoiler: the main character is an illusion). I still can’t bring myself to watch it.
It doesn’t matter how brilliantly written a story is if you cannot get the viewer to stay with it throughout its run. Most shows tend to keep the best foot back at the start, story and anime-wise, with the promise of better things to come in the future, believing that all anime fans out their will have the patience to wade through all the crap that comes before.
I have a pile of anime back home that I dropped after the first two or so episodes and ‘will never’ pick up again because of the beginning. The first episodes (and chapters) create an impression in the minds of the viewer and inspires expectations of what to expect as the story marches on.
In the end, many of these modern series are written for the most patient viewers that have a will to force their way through the failures that initiate a series, so as to experience the rewards of a fulfilling story that follow.
I struggled with this problem in my works, after realizing that no matter how brilliant my recent chapters were, it wouldn’t matter if the viewer couldn’t make it through the less than stellar material that came before, in the earlier experimentation stages of my writing.
My message is, do not judge an anime or manga by how it starts off – as I often and still do; in most cases you risk missing out on more satisfying plots and stories that might only develop over time.
And watch Persona 4 (and if you can’t get your hands on it, contact me).