fiction

A Mother’s Gift: More on Made in Abyss and post-apocalyptic fiction

Any story that follows the monomyth, or Hero’s Journey — as named and made popular by Joseph Campbell and his The Hero with a Thousand Faces — involves a return.

The return is one of the more important parts of a standard hero narrative, since it’s at that point where the hero must not only eschew the place (physical or metaphorical) of where they received enlightenment, but is tasked with gifting that knowledge to the unenlightened. Arguably, bestowing that wisdom upon everyday people in their everyday world is the very thing that makes them heroic.

For example, in the post-apocalyptic short story By the Waters of Babylonwhich I’ve referenced before in relation to Made in Abyss — John returns to his father and tribe with important knowledge of the civilization that preceded their own. Although his father cautions him of dumping too much information on the uniformed, the realization that what he thought were gods were actually mere humans who destroyed their own world is what inspires him to say that they must rebuild. His realization and return likely spark a period of growth and industry.

Made in Abyss‘ second episode is also the start of Riko’s journey as the hero of the main narrative, but it also has some fascinating commentary on the return itself, through the structure of the Abyss.

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Indulging our lowbrow influences — Little Witch Academia

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When I was younger, I consumed books. Every Saturday morning was spent pouring through another story after breakfast until I was kicked outside by my parents to do yardwork. When I fell ill — this happened fairly regularly — books would pile up underneath my pillow. I slept flat, without a pillow or on my arm, because the pillow concealed books from my parents. After they checked in on me before going to bed themselves, I would turn my nightlight on, curl up, and continue reading.

To this day, I don’t sleep on a pillow. To this day, my parents still believe that I was afraid of the dark until I was well into high school.

In fifth grade, I was inspired to play the piano after seeing the Boston Symphony Orchestra play Modest Mussorgsky’s “Pictures at an Exhibition.” A renowned, and generally well-liked work, there’s no shame in saying that “Pictures at an Exhibition” was an inspiration. It makes for a cute anecdote— one where an elusive sense of so-called good taste is implied.

There’s far more shame in saying that you were inspired to become a writer from Ann M Martin’s Baby-Sitter’s Club series, RL Stine’s Goosebumps series, or Michael Stackpole’s Rogue Squadron — the latter of which skirts fanfiction territory, inviting even more derision. Inspiration is something that’s deeply personal, regardless if your impetus for picking up writing comes from Stephenie Meyer’s twilight or Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World.

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A Breadcrumb Trail in Flip Flappers — the Witch

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When faced with the danger of becoming lost in a snowy, Pure Illusion forest, Cocona takes a page out of Hansel and Gretel, placing small snacks to mark her path in the snow. Papika trails behind, eating the snacks one-by-one to Cocona’s dismay.

Snacks are all that Flip Flappers gives us — and Cocona — for the first nine episodes. Only in Episode 10 do the pieces scattered throughout the series begin to come together. Even after Episodes 11 and 12, which are much heavier in exposition than anything that precedes them, the series still deals primarily in small, now additive pieces that collect and accumulate like the Pure Illusion snow.

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Swimming in Love and Capitalism: Kyoko Okazaki’s “Pink”

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“‘Love isn’t that tepid and lukewarm thing people like to talk about, I don’t think. It’s a tough, severe, scary and cruel monster. So is ‘capitalism.’ But being scared of them, like a kid who can’t swim is scared of a swimming pool, is lame. If you just fearlessly dive in, strangely enough you can swim all right!”

-Kyoko Okazki, in the afterword of Pink

With this thought in mind, Yumi, our protagonist of Kyoko Okazaki’s Pink, has never had trouble diving in. She doesn’t just swim “all right,” but navigates the tricky Tokyo currents with impeccable form and style.

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Kyousogiga and What We Find There

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“Still she haunts me, phantomwise,
Alice moving under skies
Never seen by waking eyes.”

-Lewis Carroll, from “Through the Looking Glass and What Alice Found There”

If you find yourself unable to process information, does it haunt you?

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