Relevant Aside: Meta-plot

I see I’ve started throwing around technical terms like “Meta-plot.” A plot is some motivation, conundrum, or problem that drives the action of an episode or arc of episodes in a series. For instance, one of the plots in Black Lagoon is the need of the Roanapur community to track down and eliminate the depraved killer children Hansel and Gretel. (How often do you get to write the phrase, “depraved killer children” outside the world of anime?) ANYWAY, that hunt drives the arc of episodes 13 through 15.

The meta-plot drives an entire series. In Black Lagoon the meta-plot is Rock’s transformation from salaryman to gangster.


The name is, uh, Rokuro, baby.

Sometimes a meta-plot allows continuation and sometimes it doesn’t. In Kill la Kill the meta-plot is the fight to free Earth from the threads; when the threads are defeated, the story is over. Neon Genesis has a similar “Save the Earth” meta-plot and ending, except weirder.

On the other hand, the meta-plot of Pokemon is simply, “Gotta catch ‘em all.” Since the number of different pokemon out there for Ash to catch is limited only by the writers’ imaginations, there is no need for Ash to ever catch them all, especially since his aging process seems to have been stunted by his terrible living conditions and lack of parental oversight 🙂

On a related note, Fairy Tale, which seems to have a similar open-ended meta-plot, is ending. It will be interesting to see how they wrap that one up. What will happen to Lucy? Inquiring minds want to know. More seriously, the meta-plot up until now seems to have been, “Let’s get stronger.” Now they need to find something in that to resolve. Could be fun.

When we talk about the seven basic plots, for the record, we’re often really talking about meta-plots. Also for record, again, they are:

Rags to Riches
Overcoming the Monster
The Quest
Voyage and Return
Comedy (Boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy gets girl)
Tragedy (Boy meets girl, boy gets girl, boy loses girl)

Looking back above, Black Lagoon is Rebirth, Kill la Kill and Neon Genesis are Overcoming the Monster, and Pokemon is The Quest. See it?

That doesn’t mean you can’t combine them. A couple shows I’ve watched (or re-watched) recently, Wolf’s Rain and Outlaw Star combine The Quest with Overcoming the Monster, the monster in question being an antagonist standing between the heroes and the goal they’ve been questing for. You could even argue the same about Pokemon, if you seriously considered anyone on Team Rocket to be an actual threat to Ash and Pikachu. But I wouldn’t go there myself. 🙂

So, anyway, that’s what a meta-plot is. Just so ya know. Have fun looking for them in your faves.

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