I remember dropping an anime due to poor exposition (Yes To Aru Majutsu no Index, that would be you). I think about how different anime handle this feat: Xam’d reveals its world and context carefully and with mystery in a very satisfying way; RideBack feels like there are two separate anime so far – the exciting mecha racing one, and the utterly boring political one.
In this post I break down an episode of Martian Successor Nadesico, a show I’ve been told that I was foolish for not watching. I find this episode as a very remarkable showcase of exposition powers. WARNING: This post is about awesome exposition, the expositional writing in this post IS NOT. Bullet points and image dumps ahead!I say it’s a showcase because there are OVER 9000 things going on in this episode and never did I feel overwhelmed by the information. Exposition is fiction-writing mode for conveying information. Having an omnipresent narrator is one way to do it, dialogue is another. It’s not just there is one way that is better over another, it’s just that there are ways to execute these techniques very well. Here’s where the story is so far (from the perspective of the lead female character):
The Nadesico continues her journey to Mars. The new pilots didn’t let us down, as they were complete fools, just like everyone else on this ship. And some people on board are getting all excited on their own.Do these people have any idea what they’re doing here?
In 20 or so minutes, the episode is able to communicate the following:
- Characters question of purpose in life.
- –Shounen lead/ace pilot angst (Wryyy must I fight?!) His desire to be a cook represents his pacificsm; he has a near religious experience in the presence of the master chef and the Nadesico’s spice rack.
- –Captain of the ship examining her usefulness
- A meditation on how technology has replaced human core functions of ship operation, resulting in boredom.
- An analysis of the relevance/role of the Captain of the ship from WW2 to present. The decisions of the captain of the ship cannot elicit a reversal in the strategic flow of the battle anymore since combat has been fully worked into overall war strategy. The main duty of a captain then, is to be a figurehead for the warship who can comfortably absorb the frustrations and stresses that the combatants must contend with. The motivational aspect trumps the need for tactical mastery and explains the increase of handsome male and femaile captains of the ships. This is put to the test when the captain is faced with a mutiny: involving the contractual enforcement agains public displays of affection – rationalized by the complications of romantic relations both socially and economically.
- A meta-analysis of the characterization (visual and personality) of starship captains from the 60s to the 90s (bishounen and bishoujo characters begin to dominate, so as to ‘motivate’ young viewers; is very much tied into the previous bullet point).
- Consequences of wartime casualties. (Lots of funerals for lots of people)
- Through showing the change of the work shift, a ‘realistic’ portrayal of corporate existence is provided.
- Cultural diversity as a theme:
- -In religions, specifically funeral rites
- –Nergal Heavy Industries funeral benefits: since the bodies were lost in space, the actual funeral ceremonies are given more significance, going beyond the benefits of the armed services, fulfilling the last wishes of the deceased while in war time. They respect the religion and ideology of the individual.
- -In cuisine, specifically ‘last meals’ and funeral receptions
- –The Master Chef’s back story shows a deeply compassionate desire to fulfill last wishes re food and to provide a death with dignity.
- Meditation as a means to shed worldly desires (Zen).
- Harem hi-jinks
- A mutiny! Some of the crew aren’t happy that fraternization among the crew is limited to ‘holding hands’.
- Peter Pan reflections: I don’t want to grow up, I don’t trust the contracts grownups sign.
- AAAAND, the start of the battle.
Show timeframe: 2 weeks
- The lead male’s internal conflict regarding piloting mecha to fight and cooking for others is given depth. Cooking is not just jingoistic pacifism, but a calling he seeks to heed to provide human dignity in war time.
- The Captain’s feeling of uselessness is set up quite nicely. I anticipate her to try of force herself to become more than just a figurehead – leading to possibly exorbitant consequences for the ship.
- Nergal Heavy Industries’ integrity as a ‘corporation with a soul’ can be tested.
- Related somewhat to the previous bullet, the mutiny sets up the love conflicts not only for the leads, but for many possible characters.
So many things happened. So may balls juggling in the air and yet this episode delivered brilliantly. For me it is a feat enough that all these details, world views, contexts, and plot points are delivered in such a short time. However, the episode itself is funny! The humor is maintained throughout, in between laugh-out-loud moments. I think of the first episode of Xam’d, and the second episode of Kannagi as comparable examples though neither had this much information to present. Further examples escape me.
- What do you think are sterling examples of exposition? What episodes from what anime?
- What are examples of poor exposition? What episodes from what anime?
Do tell me why, because this is really interesting for me right now.