Commentary

More on the mood of a story

Today I was just randomly flashing back to the plot of BBR and I suddenly realized something.

I‘ve talked about the mish-mash of moods that I got lost in. My mainly concern is that it steadily started out as a violent creepy psychedelic Yume Nikki-vibe thing, but later gained more and more reality-grounded lighthearted elements that didn’t fit together.

(Tbh I find it interesting that early!BBR was more of the MGM’s land of Oz – the one that took place in Dorothy’s head, revolved around her persona and had a dreamlike feel to it; while late!BBR was more faithful to the books where Oz was a real place and had quite an impressive lore with multiple stories about its different characters. But I digress)

I really didn’t like the ending I’ve planned, since it felt way too cruel and/or unsatisfying to wrap up a story like that. Early!BRR? Oh hell yeah, that’d be the best way to end it. Current!BBR with heartwarming scenes, uplifting morals and meaningful character development? Just let them enjoy their life, jesus fuck.

So then I thought, really, if I wanted to keep that ending, how come it feels so unbalanced with the beginning?

The problem is that somewhere in-between those two versions I actually tried to pull off Madoka (seeing how it was one of the biggest earliest inspirations) in the switch-and-bait kinda way.

Like, Madoka’s schtick was that it pretended to be the usual innocent saccharine mahou shoujo, until BAM! corpses drama suffering. So my excuse for the drastic tone fluctuations in BBR was that same switch-and-bait thing.

But the funniest thing is that Madoka doesn’t really pull that much of a twist out of its ass. Remember what the very first scene was?

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It was her dream about the final events. Dark, gritty, unsettling.

First scenes are very important for establishing the mood. If a story starts with a joke, the audience prepares for a comedy. If it starts with a sunlit room and relaxing music, we expect some heartfelt story about friendship, romance or the like. If it starts in a dark forest and is accompanied with some chilly music, you’d better get ready for a thriller or horror.

Madoka may have fairly lighthearted first episodes, but the mood has already been established. They can show you that cute optimistic opening as much as they can, but deep down you remember the first scene and know that some shit is gonna go down eventually. And even then, the lighthearted episodes don’t take much of the story. The most unholy events in BBR didn’t even start until the last part of it.

(Btw, I’ve noticed that some movies cop out by starting with “I am X, and this is the story of how I robbed the bank / met the aliens / saved the world / etc”. Which is a bit cheap, but still works if your actual first scenes can’t establish the mood properly. It’s just a slightly disguised way of saying “hey audience, this movie is Y and it’s about Z” in the first five minutes)

(Madoka’s first scene is technically also a cop out, since it basically uses a fragment of another scene as a prophetic dream. But eh, here it has some logic behind it, so w/e)

The first scene of BBR doesn’t really do anything in particular. Its biggest achievement is lighting Dolly’s room with red, but even that’s undermined by Dolly just being a cute little Disney blorb that turns everything into a saturday morning cartoon. It’s not really enough to pave the way for the ending, which, ironically, is supposed to echo the beginning the same way Madoka’s does.

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I sorta subconsciously tried to fix that with Dolly’s creepy nonchalant reaction to Pepper’s grotesque death. But it probably only made things worse, since it paints the situation in the slightly comedic light and waves the horrible implications off, which perfectly goes with the early grim indifferent BBR, but not with the current version that dealed with some actual human emotions.

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I mean, it’s not the worst execution I could’ve done, but an opening scene akin to one from Madoka would’ve helped a lot, if I actually stopped for a second and considered it. All it needed is some page, a panel, a line of dialog that showed true pain and despair before Dolly could get up and cheerfully prance around.

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