And we’re back with more Lessons from Anime!
I know I talked about Durarara last week, but honestly, I really have to talk about it again because I love this show. It honestly reshaped some of perspective on storytelling and showed me a different way to handle serious dilemmas, philosophical discussions and fantastical elements.
The fantastical elements are the focus of this particular lesson.
One of the pitfalls of any fantasy book, show or movie is the dreaded info dump. Its very easy to fall into because, hey, world building is hard and when you’re trying to bring the reader into a complex world, you just want to spout all of the information from the beginning. Its dfficult sometimes to trust your reader to follow you, or to know how much to give them at the front. I always struggle with this in my fantasy because I have a tendency to give myself over complicated worlds to work with. Thanks me.
And then there’s Durarara. This show sports all sorts of fantastical things. A headless Irish fairy that rides a shadowy bike instead of a horse.
A man who’s body has no physical limits, allowing him to pick up and throw things like vending machines and light posts.
A sword that loves humans and can control everything it cuts.
And that’s just the beginning of the strange residence of the city of Ikebukoro. Most stories would try to contextualize all of these strange beings and explain why they exist in this story. And while the characters themselves are given a fair ammount of backstory, the show never really tries to explain the fantastical elements. They’re just there. Because it said so.
And you know what, there’s something kind of wonderful about that sort of storytelling. While other books sit you down for a history lesson, Durarara grabs you by the hand and asks you to roll with the punches. The explanation doesn’t matter, it’s the story and how the characters bounce off each other that the audience cares about. Don’t get caught up in the details. Enjoy yourself and have fun!
Now I’m not saying that Durarara has no world building. It explores all of its fantasy elements from a psychological perspective. And all of its elements and characters, once introduced, remain consistent throughout the run of the show. Once or twice it forgets to adequately explain something or a strange character falls by the wayside, but for a sixty episodes show sporting a cast of thousands, it does a good job with what it has.
And I think we, as fantasy writers, can learn a lot from Durarara. So next time you’re about to info dump, remember to trust your audience to follow you. Be sparing with your information, grab them by the hand and yank them right in. They’ll be able to keep up. They’re smart. And the world ultimately isn’t the most important. It’s the story within it that matters.