For REASONS (that I no longer remember), I keep thinking about Eternal Triangles, and it occurs to me that I’ve mentioned the degenerate form of the Eternal Triangle a couple times.
Y’see, the Eternal Triangle is when you have two suitors vying for the hand (so to speak) of a third character, typically two guys chasing the same gal, although it doesn’t have to be. This is a really convenient structure because it has creative tension built right into it. I mean, seriously, right? Who’s gonna win? How will she ever decide? What will the boys do to each other? Etc. Boom. Conflict.
And conflict, as you know, is the essence of drama. I don’t know who said that, but there’s a whole lotta truthin’ goin’ on there.
Now, to make that work, they all have to be connected. In the degenerate form they aren’t.
The typical degenerate form is something you see in a zillion coming-of-age rom coms: Nerdy Girl A falls for Nice Guy B who is chasing after Hot Girl C. See it? There’s no connection between A and C.
Which is not to say that this form doesn’t work as a dramatic device, too. Usually the audience knows that C is wrong for B and that he should be with A, so there’s always two questions: Will B figure it out? And will A bag B?
Okay, sez you, since this is a blog about anime and manga, how about an anime and/or manga example?
Want to guess where I saw one?
So, Amagi Brilliant Park is about, like, an actual amusement park, the gimmick being that the mascot animals are actually extraterrestrials or whatever, and the only time they wear costumes is when they are trying to pass as human. Yeah, it’s cute.
Okay, let’s give them a problem: The park is financially failing, and the financial backers demand they reach 500,000 visitors by the date the lease expires.
The leader of the park is Latifah, who is a real, live cursed princess, and no dummy. She knows that the park is failing and they need new management, so she sends her sidekick (and bodyguard) Isuzu to go fetch the former child star Seiya out of high school to come run the park.
Yup. Because child stars know so much about the amusement park business. Don’t get me started on the GIANT GAPING HOLES in the logic underlying Amagi Brilliant Park. GIANT. GAPING. HOLES. I could talk all day about them if I wasn’t laughing so hard at the writers. I mean, seriously, they thought they could get away with that crap!
ANYWAY, way back a long time ago I pointed out the three of them form a stable sociological trio, Princess-Protector-Protagonist. You can guess which is which, right?
Emotionally, they’re a degenerate Eternal Triangle.
Isuzu, you see, falls for Seiya across the course of the series. From her standpoint he’s the whole package: smart, handsome, and devoted to her princess. As important as Isuzu is to running the park – and she is, she’s not a helpless, clueless anime waifu – she can see how his imagination and understanding of show business can make him their savior.
Hear that little heart of hers going pit-a-pat? That’s the sound of Isuzu falling for Seiya.
Seiya, on his part, barely notices Isuzu is female, except that one time he walks in on her when she’s using his bath. He has eyes for Latifah.
Seiya’s attraction to Latifah is a little on the creepy side since her curse – she’s a cursed princess, remember – is that she has to relive her fourteenth year over and over. So while no one knows how old she really is (well, her uncle Moffle might, but a gentleman does not reveal a lady’s age), physically, emotionally, and intellectually she is fourteen.
Yeah, that’s a tad bit creepy. Recall that the age of consent in Japan is thirteen.
HOWEVER, his attraction to her is legitimate. She is weak physically but strong of will: she’s been holding it all together forever. She is tremendously kind; everyone, not just Seiya, loves her and it’s easy to see why. Oh, yeah and when they first meet she kisses him. She’s putting a spell on him, but, you know, he got kissed.
Seiya is obviously taken with Latifah.
There you go: A (Isuzu) chasing B (Seiya) chasing C (Latifah).
The most interesting of the three of them is Isuzu, of course, because she has to watch the boy she’s fallen for getting together with the princess she loves. Seiya obviously adores Latifah, and why not: she’s pretty, she’s kind, she whips up a mean croquette, and she kissed him … And if nothing else Latifah comes to look up to Seiya as the savior of her people. Were they made for each other or what? And Isuzu has to watch.
Now, if this was an American rom com, eventually Latifah would turn out to be a jerk, or in love with someone else, or not ready, or whatever, and Seiya would fall right into Isuzu’s arms. Boom: story over, romantic subplot resolved.
But in Amagi Brilliant Park the relational triangle is never resolved, which makes it just another way that the ending is not quite satisfying. The narrative ending isn’t satisfying because it relies on a HUGE logical gimmick, and the relationships are never resolved.
Now, at the end the curse on Latifah is broken, meaning that someday she might be old enough for Seiya. But as it stands their relationship is limited to mutual respect, and poor Isuzu is left to have nosebleeds alone in her quarters after hours. (I made that up. She doesn’t have nosebleeds.) In short, while they have a degenerate Eternal Triangle, it’s not resolved.
And you can see it. The ending isn’t quite satisfactory. Yes, they save the park and yes, Latifah’s curse is lifted, but you still have the sense that something’s just not right. And that’s because something ISN’T quite right: what’s going to work out romantically?
Yeah, um … you need to figure that out at the end. Just sayin’.
I always look at comments and feedback, and I’m sure I’m not the first to see what I’ve seen, so have at it. Just keep it clean and keep it on target…no personal attacks, okay? Thanks.