Bakuman 6 – My Story Is Just Way Too Deep, Man
No such thing as “too deep” as long as the story around those themes holds up and supports those themes. Audiences can of course be dumb (but what audience member isn’t dumb at some point?), but they can also be quite accepting of stories with complex themes if the story and/or characters are good enough. Monster is fairly popular not just because it asks difficult questions and deals with a cadre of complex themes of morality, but also because it tells a good thriller-type story and has lots of memorable, well-written characters. You can enjoy it on multiple levels: If you just want the story, you’ve got that, but if you also want to put more thought into everything, the story gives you plenty to play around with.
Same with Black Lagoon, Kaiji, Berserk or whatever else. The story gives you plenty of meat, and their ideas are dessert for the mind. Those are the types of stories I respect most — ones with lots of interesting ideas, but that aren’t also so full of themselves that they are above being interesting, thrilling stories on a visceral level along with an intellectual level.
So there you go, Takagi. Tell solid stories, and the depth will follow from there.
The best advice the editor gives to Mashiro and Takagi is for Takagi to play to the medium’s strengths when he writes. He should think about why manga is the medium for this particular story; if he isn’t going to take advantage of the medium, then why even bother making the story using manga? It’s spot on advice. A story should emphasize the strengths of its medium and downplay the weaknesses. (I do wonder if Tsugumi Ohba ever heard that Death Note would be better as a novel, though, haha.) Manga has unique strengths compared to movies or novels or whatever else. Use ‘em, don’t ignore them.
To bring out an example from another medium, I watched an Italian thriller flick this morning, Blood and Black Lace. The story is simple: Someone is going around killing a group of models for unknown reasons. (And the killer kind of looks like Rorschach from Watchmen.) There’s a bit more than that, but that is the basic premise. What makes the movie really memorable is how much it takes advantage of its medium — for instance, there are lots of interesting camera angles that also add to the mood and story, like when certain characters appear in shots via reflections in mirrors. It’s cool to look at and also adds to the paranoia by implying that the killer could be anywhere at any time. The director, Mario Bava, also makes great use of basic colors (clothing, lights, whatever) set against dark backgrounds to make the colors pop and become more visually distinctive and intense.
Those are just basic examples of how to take advantage of one’s medium. What’s more boring than an anime where every shot is straight on and characters just take a huge exposition dump for 20 minutes? Be interesting and exciting! People are taking the story in with their eyes, so give them something interesting to look at! Grab their attention and never let it go!
(Side note: There is of course such a thing as trying too hard in a visual medium. See every Bee Train anime ever. I’m actually not a huge Bee Train critic, but so much of what that studio does is Film School 101, haha.)
I’m sure we got just an abridged version of Takagi’s story, but I did lol at how quickly the Real Earthlings gave in to the Clones. Wow, you keep them captive for that long, but it takes just one small uprising for the Clones to completely own you? Earth sucks.