Extra: Can I… trust you?

As I mentioned before the haze of Easter week descended upon my house, some of the best stories are ones in which the audience is told very little about what is actually occurring. In other words, no exposition, please. And in that vain, let’s talk about one of my favorite versions of this: the unreliable narrator and/or main characters.

I mentioned in my last extra that in The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya none of the characters in the show actually know what’s really going on. All they can do is simply speculate. This is especially true of the main character and narrator, Kyon (interestingly, despite him being the top guy, we still don’t know his actual name, nor the name of his younger sister or much of anything about his parents). But that doesn’t include all the uncertainties of the show. Although it’s always in the background, it isn’t until the show’s second season that we get hit upside the head with the simple fact that the theories we’re being fed might actually only be ways to manipulate other characters. In other words, Itsuki might not really believe half the stuff he says about Haruhi. Yuki may or may not really be on observation-only mode. Not only are these characters in the dark about the truth as a whole, but what truth they might actually know they may be twisting for the sake of keeping what little control they can on the situation they are in. This is especially true of Mikuru Asahina and her “future” organization’s dubious methods and motives.

In the deceitfully soft looking Princess Tutu, we have a unreliable story teller/puppet-master in Drosselmeyer. At first he seems like he has the whole story on strings, pulling it as he wishes. But bits and pieces of the heroine’s rebellion start popping up and eventually we find that, not only is Drosselmeyer not in absolute control of the story, but what little he does seem to control is connected to how much the other people in the town believe him in control (or are unaware of anything wrong in the first place). In other words, if the characters all hadn’t been so sure he (also the idea of fate itself, something the Dross-man seems to try embodying) had the power to control them, he might never have been able to do so in the first place. They believed he had power and that, more than anything, gave him power. Once characters such as Duck and Fakir realize this, they take their fate, and the story itself, into their own hands, pulling all that smart and creepy narration by Drosselmeyer earlier in the show into question.

For a far more recent, though perhaps a less obvious example, Eccentric Family is often narrated by a youkai. And while they often share a great deal in common with the humans they live alongside day-to-day in Kyoto, a few subtle but important differences occur in the story as a result. Mainly in what information is left out of the tale. For example, we learn early on that the main character’s father was killed via, well, being eaten in a hot pot. It’s spoken of so lightly, as if it’s a common enough occurrence, like dying in a car crash or even simply passing away in one’s sleep. And this is because it is common to them. What is also common is the wreaking of human lives, it seems. When a bit of info on Benten, who is completely human, is revealed, the fact that she was kidnapped by a tengu (a type of youkai) is glazed over. Her family, past, now warped view on the world after being held by a non-human entity that just wanted her for her looks – never mentioned. Simply put, these facts not only aren’t important to the youkai whose eyes we look through in the show, but they don’t seem to be of any concern to youkai period. It makes one wonder how much other info is left to die simply due to the fact that our “narrator” doesn’t find it worth discussing, despite the fact that it clearly goes a long way towards explaining the “why” behind the actions of strange characters such as Benten.

All of these examples, though they seem to leave info out of a series, actually make the show far more interesting to watch. Questioning a show is far more enjoyable than it sounds on the surface. After all, we humans seem built for asking questions and seeking answers. If all the answers are handed to us on page one, what is to hold our attention till chapter twelve?



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