Reincarnation for 400.
In my quest for ways in which to fill my free time, I’ve spent a lot of time reading… but I’ve also spent a good chunk of time sprinting through large chunks of anime at a time. This is how I ended up following Angel Beats again (stalled after three episodes, then watched four through ten in one go), and it is also how I ended up decided to give UraBoku another go. Conclusion: better than it was… but still not really all that fascinating. Or entertaining, exactly… but I guess homoerotic bishounen tied up with thorny vines is enough to get me to maintain my focus. Or something like that.
In watching UraBoku, though, I found myself thinking of the multitude of anime which utilize the reincarnation trope, and, more specifically, how they do so. Its actually a decently common trope, although I don’t think its one of the ones we think of most readily when considering tropes. But just off the top of my head, its easy to think of multiple examples – Sailor Moon, Please Save My Earth, Mirage of Blaze (which I was expecting UraBoku to be like), Inu-Yasha, Shurato, Kamikaze Kaitou Jeanne, Ayashi no Ceres… the list goes on. And while these are all different shows, they do definitely have one major thing in common as far as reincarnation is concerned (other than angst angst angst!) – we meet up with the people after they’ve been re-born, and we generally don’t get clued into the fact that they are reborn until after the beginning of the show.
Which made me wonder – why is it that we never meet them in the previous life, watch them die, and then see them in the present-day?
The matter of time doesn’t quite hold water here – yes, anime series are often given limited runtimes, but manga doesn’t get the same constraints necessarily (and if time does become a problem, generally it is after the fact and the manga-ka must rush to tie everything together decently). So a manga-ka could start off in the past and then move to the present.
Another obvious reason is the fact that if we, the readers, see what happens in the past life, then it no longer holds an element of surprise for the reincarnated individual to figure it all out. But I don’t think that knowing robs us of an interesting experience; surely watching the character work it all out and their reactions and thoughts about it can work in an entertaining manner. And Yukio Mishima’s Sea of Fertility tetralogy demonstrates that even showing the character figuring out the previous life isn’t at all necessary – the drama can be about the people around them who knew them as they were previously, and know that they are a reincarnated person even if the person themself doesn’t work it out.
But, hey – its just flat-out easier to have us discover the past life simultaneously with the character. I get that.
Even so, I’d be very interested to see a show take the reincarnation trope in this other direction; that is, to start off in the previous life and go from there. I just think it’d be a refreshing change of pace. And that there’d still be plenty of room for all that angst angst angst. But maybe someone can float some suggestions my way of manga or anime that do start with the past…?
Anyway, unrelated, but I just wanted to share a link to some of the funniest Sailor Moon fanart ever. Lots of pictures of Usagi merrily rampaging in cities. I found it while hunting for a picture for this post.