Last week I spoke on the impact of death in popular media; and when it’s done right, it makes the narrative that much stronger (see the link here for Part 1).
Although I don’t feel like I was 100% successful in translating my exact thoughts to the screen, I felt like my point was taken fairly well from the feedback I received (the curse of never being fully satisfied with your writing I suppose). So this week, instead of continuing to abstract what I can from that topic, I wanted to get a bit more personal and speak on two different stories that hit me hard in quite a few different ways with the deaths that occurred in them respectively.
Mass Effect is an interesting one to discuss. First because it’s a only video game (you should know how I feel about those now). The second being that the game has so many different variations on how the ending can occur based on a couple of different scenarios: a trilogy, the player’s decisions made in the first two games can be uploaded into the third, affecting how the inhabitants of the galaxy already feel about your actions made so far; if your crew mates continue to support your cause; and even your standing amongst those who would be considered your enemies (that list is long if you’re particularly evil). This is an epic science fiction story told over many hours that concludes with this game, spanning countless planets, species, and years (especially factoring the number of extinct races that came before you).
It is possible to make it through the game with the entirety of your crew intact. But it’s EXTREMELY difficult (like make a correct decision in the first game that will pay off in the third game difficult); and I didn’t have that foresight at the time to make that correct choice. I’m speaking of Mordin, your Salarin geneticist, professor, former special ops operative, and slightly deranged crew mate, who dies providing a cure to one of the galaxies biggest biological atrocities on an entire alien race (called the Genophage).
Mordin’s death was interesting because of the evolution of his character over the course of the two games. He is ever more the realist, utilizing his statistics and academic knowledge to prove that the ends justify the means in his actions. One of the biggest being to help engineer a weapon that would effectively sterilize an entire alien population (called the Krogan) from being able to reproduce at a stabilizing rate, slowly killing them.
The game does a great job of presenting information on both sides of the argument of whether or not he did the right thing, leaving it up to you as the character to decide how to interact with him, your dialogue having him see the error of his ways or move forward. In the end, he sees that numbers on a graph don’t equate to lives and sacrifices himself to redeem his past transgressions. For all his bluster, Mordin may be one of the most noble men of all.
The second and final bullet point on my list to talk about is a graphic novel by the name of Solanin by Inio Asano. To put it quite simply, it’s a slice of life romance story about a young couple simply trying to make it together in the city. Two years after graduation, Meiko and Tanada live together in a small apartment, just trying to make it work. Meiko pulls the most weight, working in a corporate office while Tanada is an illustrator, making just enough to lighten some of the financial load they have.
This daily grind wears down on them, something that we can all relate to. That monotony that can have you realizing that something else is missing in your life. For Tanada, that’s making music with his college buddies, realizing that they could’ve had a chance to really make their band work. Taking a risk in finding out just what that ‘missing something’ is in their life, Meiko quits her job and so does Tanada to pursue his music. Their lives, perched on the cliff of unpredictability is terrifying, but they plan on figuring it out together, until an unexpected tragedy kills Tanada, forcing Meiko to identify her own personal strength and reason for living.
I’m not going to lie at all….this graphic novel brought tears to my eyes. Their relationship along with their interaction with their friends felt so authentic. No one had it all together and each day waking up brought with it its own set of trials and tribulations. They aren’t perfect for each other and it’s easy to see the flaws in their relationship. But it’s also a mirror into understanding real love and the strength needed to really put your faith in someone else, even when you’re not sure you’ll get what you expect in return. Tanada’s death comes completely unexpectedly. It’s as much of a surprise to the reader as it is to Meiko. You never really get a chance to fully recover from it. Instead you read on to figure out how everyone will handle losing a big part of their lives; and you cheer for Meiko, who grows so much stronger from this experience. It’s a tale of personal triumph in spite of large difficulty. Something to aspire to.
Like real life, death sometimes isn’t the tragic end of someone’s story. Perhaps it’s the beginning. We usually focus only on the person who died, but neglect to remember those who were personally affected and continue to live on, shouldering the memory of the person they loved (or hated in some cases). Nevertheless, it’s a constant reminder in reality to live your life to the fullest in order to ensure that nothing gets left in the ‘what if’ column of your dream sheet.
Until next time.
*Mass Effect images are custom wallpapers created through http://www.playbuzz.com and Deviant art artist pineappletree respectively. I do not claim credit for them.*