Why are we so invested in fictional characters?

Hiyo, everyone! Today, I’m going to talk about something I’ve been thinking about for a while – and, as a result, I’ll be making my first ‘philosophical’ post in quite some time! Why do we care so much about fictional characters?

The obvious initial explanation is that most of us are capable of empathy. Although we probably haven’t been on the sort of wild adventure many fictional characters experience, we’ve all faced our own struggles in life, so we’re able to relate to characters who are going through anything at all similar. But what I want to discuss is something a bit deeper than that. Something that may be common or may just be a quirk of mine. You see, I find myself often more attached to fictional characters than real people.

That’s a surprising outcome, to say the least. After all, you can’t really interact with fictional characters, They’re almost without exception not as thoroughly fleshed out as real people. So I’d like to explore a few reasons our (or, at least, my) interest in them is so strong.

To that end, I’ll list some differences between being attached to real people and to fictional characters.

  • Fictional characters exist to entertain. To do that, their writers find ways to show us as much about important characters as they can. The point of building up a character with a hidden past is to eventually reveal it. That’s not something you can say about the real world. Everyone you interact with in your daily life has their own personal issues to deal with, and they often won’t tell you all the details, if any. As a result, some of them will forever remain enigmas to you. There’s also the fact that, once a series involving a character is complete, they’ll never surprise you again. You don’t have to worry about them having interests you find unpalatable. They can no longer disappoint you when their stories are over. I expect that, to some people, that stability is appealing.
  • The fact that there are so many gaps in our knowledge of characters can actually make them more relatable. That’s because we can project ourselves – or whatever else we want – into those gaps. Many characters are written to face challenges broad enough that a wide variety of people can see connections between themselves and the character facing them. Think Elsa from Disney’s Frozen. There’s a reason the song ‘Let it Go’ was so popular. While I doubt any of us are harboring hidden ice magic, many of us have thoughts, experiences, or feelings that we feel the need to hide from others. By putting her fear behind her, Elsa delivers vicarious catharsis.
  • As humans, we’re curious about a broad range of emotions, but many are not ones we welcome into our own lives. No one wants to experience overwhelming guilt, or the grief of losing a loved one, or the devastation left in the wake of a catastrophic event. By letting characters have those experiences for us, we can explore those scenarios without anyone ‘real’ getting hurt. Tension that would turn to panic in real life instead becomes a source of entertainment when fictional characters are exposed to it. That’s why media like Game of Thrones are so compelling. Instead of worrying about how imperiled characters’ predicaments will unfold, we’re able to look forward to what will happen next.

All of that largely boils down to one truth: People are driven by conflict. Without some conflict, however minute, life quickly becomes boring. That’s why it’s such a central component of stories made to entertain. We yearn for conflict, but we want to experience it in a low-risk way. Stories can give us our fix of it without jeopardizing the relatively harmonious lives many of us wish to lead.

Anyway, that’s my initial take on the matter. If you guys are interested in this topic, I’d totally be willing to think on it further. For now, I’m curious to hear how others feel about it. Do you share my feeling of heightened interest in fictional characters, or have any thoughts of your own on the matter? Are you interested in seeing more posts like this? Please let me know in the comments below. Until next time, I hope you find stories that seize your attention!

The Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky Review

Trails in the Sky FC

Hiyo, everyone! Today, I’m gonna review a delightful RPG called Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky. Before I get into the details, I’d like to mention that, despite what the above image says, the game is no longer only available on the PSP; you can get it on Steam, too. It’s also the beginning of its own story arc, so it’s a great place to jump into the series if you haven’t tried it before!

Our story begins when the protagonist, a little girl named Estelle Bright, welcomes her father, Cassius Bright, home after an extended absence. Cassius was gone on a mission – he is a member of the Bracer’s Guild, an organization that strives to help people with their requests, big or small, as long as they deem them worthy. But, this time, Cassius’ return is different, because he comes back with a mysterious boy around Estelle’s age named Joshua. Joshua’s past is completely unknown to Estelle, but Cassius seems to know something – enough to feel comfortable adopting Joshua as a son.

Years later, Estelle and Joshua are sixteen, and have finally been accepted into the Bracer’s Guild as Junior Bracers. Cassius has to leave on another of his missions, so he gives the easier set of his unfinished tasks to Estelle and Joshua. At first, they start small, but they quickly find themselves involved in matters of increasing importance. Then, it is revealed that the airship Cassius was on went missing. Estelle and Joshua set out to travel the kingdom of Liberl in search of their father and to earn the recommendations needed to become full-fledged Bracers. Unbeknownst to them, they will soon find themselves involved in matters that will shape the future of their country.

I don’t want to spoil the story any more than that! If you’re into jRPGs, I promise, this one is very much worth your while. Battles take place in small fields where the position of your characters matter, reminiscent of a strategy RPG, but aside from movement issues, the combat system felt more traditional to me. The characters are quite customizable thanks to magic-granting artifacts called orbments. Trails in the Sky has a pleasant anime aesthetic, and the music is quite good, often cheery or exciting.

The game shines most with regards to story, worldbuilding, and characters. I found myself always eager to see what was going to happen next, and quite invested in all the characters to join my party. Liberl’s orbment technology gives the world a slight steampunk vibe, though most characters wear clothing more typical of a fantasy RPG. There are plenty of mysteries to be solved and revelations to witness. Then there are the character interactions! I really enjoyed watching their relationships develop. I couldn’t help but feel close to them, especially to Estelle and Joshua!

The only large downside with the game, in my opinion, is that some sidequests and other important items are extremely easy to permanently miss. You’ll often need to go to exactly the right place within a very small timeframe to unlock hidden events. Therefore, if you’re a completionist, Trails in the Sky is best played with a guide.

That said, for the above reasons, I simply love this game, and can’t recommend it enough. Therefore, I rate it 4.9/5. I’m super excited to play the sequels!

Have you guys ever played a Legend of Heroes game? If so, which were you favorites? (Please don’t spoil me!) If not, what RPGs do you love most? I’m eager to hear your opinions in the comments below! I hope you all have a charming week!

My Top 5 Favorite Moments in Code Geass R2

Code Geass R2

Hiyo, everyone! Today I’ll be offering the follow-up post to my previous one concerning my favorite moments in Code Geass R1. As before, I will assume the reader has already watched the anime. If you haven’t, please, watch it first. It’s ultra worthy of your time, and reading all the spoilers ahead of time would make for a much worse experience.

Anyway, time for the list!

5. Happiness

This is another short scene, but one that always struck me as profound. Lelouch, after coming to terms with the fact that he’s going to have to fight Nunnally, returns to Ashford academy to find that his friends have foregone their school trip so they could spend time with him and Rolo. Brought to tears, the Lelouch recalls a discussion he had in the past. Here’s the quote (English dub version):

“A long time ago, Nunnally, Suzaku, and I talked about something. We wondered what happiness would look like if we could give it a physical form. If I’m not mistaken, I think it was Suzaku that said that the shape of happiness might resemble glass. His reasoning made sense. He said that even though you don’t usually notice it, it’s still definitely there. You merely have to change your point of view slightly, and then that glass will sparkle when it reflects the light. I doubt that anything else could argue its own existence more eloquently.”

I’ve held that thought with me ever since I first saw that scene. It’s just so beautiful, and it rings true. When you reflect on the past, even on times you thought were difficult in the present, you’ll sometimes find that hint of nostalgia waiting for you in the memory. Happiness can blossom in even the hardest times. That’s something we should always keep in mind.

4. Rolo’s Death

Another emotional moment! With Lelouch exposed as Zero and revealed to have been manipulating people with Geass, the Black Knights themselves decide to finish him off. But he’s saved by Rolo, even though he’d just finished telling Rolo their relationship as brothers was a lie and that he’d been trying to kill him. Using his Geass – which greatly strains his heart – Rolo escapes with Lelouch aboard the Vincent. Various enemies give chase, and Rolo uses his Geass over and over, freezing the perception of time for others. As Lelouch tries to explain he has no reason to live, Rolo says that even if Lelouch was using him, out of all the people who used him throughout his life, only his time with Lelouch felt genuine. Therefore, he chose to save Lelouch of his own volition. As the scene progresses, the beautiful song “Like a Bird” plays throughout, charging it with extra emotion.

Once the two have escape, as Rolo lays dying of heart failure, he asks for assurance that Lelouch was lying about trying to kill him. Lelouch gives it (even though he really did try to kill Rolo) and, with a sad smile, leaves the locket once meant for Nunnally with Rolo’s corpse, a sign that he does now accept him as a brother.

I’ve always been so moved by this scene. The way Rolo remains loyal to Lelouch despite everything shows that he’s grown as a character, and has finally come to understand what he values most. And Lelouch’s response in the end, once he believes he has lost everything, brought me to tears. After the two of them had such a rocky relationship, it felt quite good to see them each put their own desires aside and, for a moment, accept the strength in even connections not tied by blood.

3. C’s World

It happens in a world outside of space. About 80% through the series, we finally learn of C.C.’s past, and of the terms of Lelouch’s contract. In return for his Geass, C.C. would have Lelouch kill her and take her place as an immortal. She views her time on earth not as living, but as accumulating experience, and claims life has no value unless it is finite. Lelouch, of course, refuses to kill C.C., so she sends him off to see her past and lets Charles do the deed.

Lelouch then sees that C.C. was born long ago, that she was an escaped slave, and that she made a Geass contract with a nun. Her Geass made others love her. But, in time, she learned that infinite love was just a meaningless farce. It prevented anyone aside from the nun from seeing many parts of her personality. One day, C.C. explained that to the nun, and the nun finally revealed her scheme – she had been using C.C. all along. She forced C.C. to kill her and inherit her immortality.

Lelouch returns to the place where Charles and C.C. are on the verge of C.C.’s death and promises her something that she never had. A smile. Impulsively, C.C. pushes Charles away, and she and Lelouch are ejected from C’s world. But, when they get out, Lelouch finds C.C. left something behind – her memories. In an instant, she transforms from an enigmatic witch to a timid servant.

C.C. has always been one of my favorite characters in the series, so it was nice to see her play a major role in an important scene. And everything about her is so relatable! Her desire to be loved having come from a background where no one loved her and her desire to die when life lost all meaning. C.C. is someone who feels both life and love lie in their limits, and there is something to be said about that opinion. Learning so much about C.C. made me like her even more. In this scene, she finally dropped the mask and showed her genuine self.

2. Nunnally’s Smile

Lelouch, along with Suzaku and C.C., faced off against his immortal father and his not-so-dead mother. They rejected the plan to hold the world in a constant state of past. The Thought Elevator is falling, broken by Lelouch’s request to the collective unconsciousness. Charles and Marianne are dissolving. But they haven’t given up. They try to appeal to C.C., to get her to switch back over to their side. She, however, now knows that they only love themselves, and says as much. Marianne says that’s false, and that they love their children. Then Lelouch delivers possibly the most powerful line in the series.

“Do you have any idea what the meaning is behind Nunnally’s beautiful smile?”

Naturally, Charles and Marianne don’t know. Lelouch explains that Nunnally is aware of the many things she can’t do without help due to being blind and crippled, and that she smiles to show her thanks. Charles rejects that idea and lunges at Lelouch – but with a few words, he dispels both of his parents forever.

That one question is all it took for Lelouch to expose his parents’ true motives. They didn’t understand Nunnally, nor did they even try to. C.C. is exactly right about them. They only look at things from an abstract angle, and, in doing so, they miss the people before their very eyes. That one question refutes all of their claims so easily. It was the perfect thing for Lelouch to ask, for it revealed a truth Charles and Marianne themselves were not aware of.

1. Zero Requiem

Was there ever any question?

Lelouch presides over a the public executions of his enemies as the evil emperor of the world. Everyone hates him, but they dare not speak out. But as his parade advances down a street toward its destination, they encounter someone unexpected.

Zero.

But Lelouch was believed to be Zero! How can there be another? Zero charges through Lelouch’s guard with comical ease and prepares to plunge his blade into Lelouch’s chest. That’s when Kallen – and we, the viewers, see the truth. Zero is Suzaku, who is not actually dead after all, and Lelouch arranged for his own assassination. He focused all the world’s hatred on himself then arranged to be eliminated, and that hatred discarded with him. His death would pave the way for the world to move forward.

Suzaku stabs Lelouch. lelouch tells Suzaku he is to sacrifice his own happiness to serve as Zero for the rest of his life, and Suzaku accepts. He pulls the blade from lelouch’s chest, and Lelouche slides down is vehicle and lands right next to Nunnally. She touches his hand – and sees it all.

To quote Lelouch: “Yes, I… destroy the world… and make it… anew.”

The result is bittersweet irony at its finest. The crowd chants “Zero!” as Nunnally wails, stating she had only ever wanted to be with Lelouch. The beautiful song Continued Story plays in the background as her cries grow louder and louder. Lelouch set out to make a better world for Nunnally, but, in the end, that lead to her grief and a bright future for the world.

In the subsequent scenes, we see how the world really is becoming a better place. Some people would argue that this ending is unrealistic, and maybe it is, but either way, it’s beautiful. It completes Lelouch’s and Suzaku’s character arcs in the strongest way possible. I sobbed like a baby! It’s the best ending of anything I’ve watched, read, or played ever. Thanks to this scene, my love for Code Geass is eternal.

Then there’s the debate about whether Lelouch actually died, but I’m not gonna get into that here! xD

Anyway, that’s my list! What were your favorite moments in Code Geass R2? What did you think of my choices? Did I miss anything you felt should have been included? Please let me know in the comments below! I command you, have a wonderful week! =p

Solo: A Star Wars Story Review (spoilers)

Solo

Hiyo again, everyone! I know I’m a bit late to the party, but today I’ll be reviewing Solo: A Star Wars Story. Since it has been so long since the movie released, I’m gonna assume all the diehard fans have seen it already, so, as the title of this post indicates, there will be spoilers everywhere. So watch the film before reading this!

Since I’m assuming you guys have all seen the movie, I won’t bother with a recap – instead, I’ll just talk about the stuff that stuck out to me.

Unlike Star Wars: Episode 8, I found Solo to be a fairly predictable film except near the end. In part, that’s because we already knew the outcomes of many of the events that happened. We knew Han wouldn’t end up with Qi’ra because she never shows up in the original trilogy. We knew Han, Lando, and Chewy would survive throughout the film, since they’re around in the original trilogy, which left us with only Qi’ra, Beckett, Dryden Vos, and minor characters to perhaps have die. We knew Han would survive the Kessel run, and we knew he would eventually end up with the Millennium Falcon. I found all that bounty of knowledge to rob the movie of much tension. So much screen time was devoted to showing us the pre-existing backstory.

Even the things that weren’t already known were, in large part, predictable; for example, that Han and Beckett’s attempt to rob that train would end in failure and with Val dead. The briefly touched-upon relationship between the two just raised her death flag through the roof!

All of that is not to say I didn’t enjoy the predictable parts of the movie, ’cause I did. I felt the actors all did well with their roles, and the action sequences were solid. One of the few things that did surprise me near the middle of the movie was Lando’s feelings for his droid, L3-37. A human-droid relationship would have been quite interesting to explore; it’s a (predictable) shame that L3-37 died.

Throughout the movie, I found Qi’ra to be the most interesting character. I had a feeling she would end up siding with Dryden Vos, but her feelings seemed mixed enough that I felt she might go either way. I also expected her to die, which she very much didn’t. That was the best twist in the movie. She betrayed both Han and Vos, killing Vos and letting Han go. I didn’t expect her to take leadership for herself, setting up a potential sequel.

The sudden appearance of Enfys Nest (the leader of the riders who attacked Han, Beckett and co during the train scene) to show up near the end of the film was also surprising – it felt rather abrupt, and Han’s decision to side with her seemed to come to him too easily. For someone who’s supposed to be a scammer, he sure ended up getting played by others a lot throughout the film.

If you’ve seen Solo already, you already know about the one thing in the movie that absolutely blew my mind. Darth Maul is alive? Initially, I thought it made no sense for him to be alive with the Empire in power, but, apparently, he survived being cut in half at the waist and falling down a very large pit. I did some looking into it; Disney’s animated Star Wars T.V. series gave him an out, and those series remain canon even now. Honestly, the twist was shocking enough to make up for much of the previous predictability. It makes me hope our favorite two-sided lightsaber user will play a more active role in a future Star Wars story film!

(Also, did you notice the total amount of words spoken by Maul in Star Wars movies was like quintupled because of his brief scene with Qi’ra? He’s become chatty!)

Overall, I did quite enjoy the film despite its flaws, so I’ll rate Solo a 4/5. It’s definitely worth watching if you’re a Star Wars fan… although, if you’re reading this, I guess you probably already saw it. xD

What did you guys think of Solo? Do you agree or disagree with any of my opinions? Is there anything I should have discussed but didn’t? Please let me know in the comments below! Until next time, I hope you have a wonderful week!

Review: Edgedancer by Brandon Sanderson

Edgedancer

Hiyo, everyone! Today I’ll be reviewing Edgedancer by Brandon Sanderson, a novella that’s part of the Stormlight Archive series. As usual, I plan not to spoil Edgedancer itself, just discuss the premise; however, I will spoil a single interlude chapter in the preceding novel, Words of RadianceThe reason is because the information in that chapter is necessary to understand the position of Edgedancer‘s protagonist, Lift.

During that chapter, Lift, a quirky thirteen year old girl with special Surgebinder abilities, attempts to rob Azir’s imperial palace. However, the heist goes wrong, and one of Lift’s teammates, Gawx ends up mortally wounded when the group is attacked by another Surgebinder Lift calls Darkness, who is an agent of the law. At great risk to herself, Lift heals Gawx. It just so happens that the imperial viziers present in the palace had been struggling with an issue where their Prime Agasix (emperor) kept getting assassinated, and they were looking for a new one. They take Gawx’s healing as a miracle, name him their new Prime Agasix, and he legally dismisses Lift’s crimes, leaving Darkness with no excuse to execute her. He leaves, but Lift certainly doesn’t forget about him.

Our story begins when Lift flees the imperial palace, paranoid that the privileged treatment she was receiving was in preparation to eat her. (I did warn you she was unusual.) Lift goes with her spren, Wyndle, who is invisible to everyone else and entirely unenthusiastic about leaving the palace behind. She uses her special abilities (which she refers to as ‘awesomeness’) to quickly travel on a grand quest to… um, actually, she’s not sure. She just doesn’t like staying in one place for too long.

Nevertheless, her overpowering hunger (her abilities are fueled by food) draw her to the Yeddaw, a city built into the ground where trenches replace roads. Being Lift, she quickly gets into trouble for stealing things; her primary targets are pancakes. No, I’m not joking. Before too long, she discovers that Darkness is in Yeddaw, too. Well, maybe she was sort of following him. She’s not entirely certain. In any event, she decides to tail him, and the story takes off from there!

I would say the greatest appeal of Edgedancer is Lift herself. It’s rare to be treated to such an eccentric protagonist. She’s generally a lot of fun to read about, and I find myself wanting more characters like her. She has a rather unique perspective on the world, and that leads her to take actions that aren’t always easy to predict. I’m eager to read more about her in the remaining Stormlight novels.

The setting of Yeddaw is also quite distinctive, and invites the reader to imagine a city that’s probably unlike any other they’ve read about. In my opinion, Edgedancer‘s greatest shortcomings are in its plot and the rest of its characters, who feel somewhat generic. It was pretty easy to figure out what was going on early in the novella, and there was an unfortunate lack of especially emotion-provoking moments, unlike in much of Sanderson’s other work. That’s not to say Edgedancer wasn’t intriguing, ’cause it was, but I’d say it was at its best when giving Lift character moments and showing the reader things from her perspective. She had a solid character arc throughout the novella, one that made sense without being overly predictable.

Overall, I did enjoy Edgedancer, but I would say Lift herself was the only part of the story that really stood out. Therefore, I rate Edgedancer 3.8/5. If you’re a fan of Sanderson’s work (especially the Stormlight Archive), it’s absolutely worth checking out.

Have you guys read any of Sanderson’s work? If so, which did you most enjoy? If not, are there any other books or authors you’re particularly fond of? I’m eager to hear about them in the comments below! Until next time, I hope your life is filled with awesomeness!