When I began watching Rurouni Kenshin I felt a prequel showing the creation and life of the “Manslayer”, its central character (a retired, remorseful assassin who has laid down arms but cannot escape the past he created) would be superfluous; it seemed as a series to be showing a very “Ryosuke Takahashi” tale of someone with a past they were unprepared to share being reminded of it and trying to deal with it in ways which did not get in the way of their new life – even if they had to give up on that second chance for the greater good (Chirico Cuvie in Armored Trooper VOTOMS being the obvious parallel here but this is a theme that even turns up, in more optimistic terms, in Guy in King of Braves Gaogaigar – prepared to take up the mantle of hero which he believes has irreversibly dehumanised him unto death). Nevertheless, I was strongly recommended Tsuioku-hen, the prequel OVA, as one of the best pieces of animation the recommender had seen and I was richly rewarded by how in its first episode it set up something that far exceeded the usual sort of supersoldier backstory or “dark past seeking redemption” tale.
Previous Chapter: “I Hear You Listen To Your Rock and Roll”
With this chapter the remainder of the main cast are introduced; the remainder of the writing is about how they face what they have got into, and who they meet on the way.
Previous Chapter: “Thinking”
Writing this chapter, I recall, was a lot of fun. I wanted to really try and get throughout this story how it feels to do something you love with people you like.
This army has been one of the most fun wargaming projects I have worked on; I have taken the time to personalise and create custom scenic bases for every miniature, bought third-party conversion parts to add to the kits to ensure none are completely stock constructions and come up with a backstory for every unit. I have tied the backstory into my other armies for the game where possible, thus the Three-Ones and the Salamandine Incident turn up…
It is also only eight models, a truly elite force!
At the start of episode 4 of Eccentric Family 2, there is a straightforward summation of one of its morals; “the transformation… is strongly connected to the idea of freedom.” Tanuki lose their powers in captivity. In its own way this becomes a sort of freedom, a kind of mythic superiority over humans; tanuki play at changing roles even when unable to change shape to make a game of being zoo animals. The idea of zoos in an urban fantasy world is not one that I believe much media in the genre considers; fantastical creatures existing within a modern urban society must contend with modern attitudes of animals in captivity, and ultimately a talking animal is something ordinarily non-sapient granted humanlike sapience.
Previous Chapter: A Few Drinks
Chapter 3 of this story is less laid back, and introduces a bit more about the sort-of familial life the characters lead. Something I wanted to get across was that in this idyllic future world the nature of a family might have changed a little, but people still remain human – and that utopias can still have conflicts on a personal level.
Atom The Beginning is a curious series; unlike the precedent it would appear to follow of socially-conscious updates of traditionally simplistic hero series like Gatchaman Crowds (which like it or not explored the obsolescence of superheroes and indeed government in an internet of things-based society) or Yatterman Night (which was an able if occasionally awkward exploration of the nature of villainy in a simple black-and-white morality superhero narrative) it has yet to properly dig into any of the moral issues it would appear to focus on. The precedent is there for something rich. Astro Boy was a universe that within its child-friendly framework played on ideas of the morality of android technology and machine sentience. But Atom the Beginning is set in that era in a time before the events that led to the creation of, arguably, one of the first super robots.
Previous Chapter: Something to Do
One of the constant things I found a challenge when writing Garden of Eden was writing about how it feels to listen to music; be it songs you love and know every note of, or the experience of a new album for the first time, trying to describe music in a way that gets across how you feel when you listen was something that would be central to this story of young people and their band. I hope I succeeded in some way.
What is Garden of Eden?
I have had Garden of Eden, a short young-adult science-fiction novel, sitting on my hard drive since 2014, untouched. It was the first National Novel Writing Month piece I completed.
I have decided to serialise it on this blog, posting a chapter a week to give me an incentive to revisit it and edit it with fresh eyes.
I wrote it partly as an experiment – could an interesting story be written about what is ultimately a utopian world? It was in this part inspired by the animated science-fiction series Aria, but equally by the aesthetics and countercultural, extreme-sports trappings of Eureka Seven. I was not interested in writing another war story, or a massive-scale tale of humanity’s fate, but instead a story about people – very flawed people trying to do the best they could. It seems presumptuous to cite Steinbeck in a discussion of a young-adult story about futuristic motor-racing but there is something, I think, of a desire to emulate Cannery Row in this, too.
Garden of Eden is set in the far future, in a world where society is able to live a relaxed, peaceful life. I wanted to write about families, and friendships, and the weight of expectation that people might face. At the same time, I wanted to write something comfortable and relatable despite its high-tech, alien setting. I hope I succeeded.
The Glover House, Nagasaki. Image is Public Domain
The returning native as a disruptive presence in a traditional society is the focus of Eccentric Family 2; it brings with it ideas of modernisation and a hermetic society being opened up to foreign influence. Tenmaya, the man who beat the devil, no longer fears demons because he has a gun. Modern technology exists within the setting; it is set in a contemporary Japan. However, Yasaburo complains the use of guns in a supernatural battle of wits is unfair; modern weaponry does not sit nicely within a romanticised – if that is the right word – mythic world. I am reminded in a way of The Wind in the Willows, which takes a not-specifically-folkloric but definitely idyllic world of talking animals and has Toad go mad for novelties such as cars, completely upsetting the pastoral idyll and serving, arguably, as a simple morality-play about the importance of humility and good sense.