This Week in Anime
How Meta Does Re:Creators Get?

by Michelle Liu and Steve Jones,

Re:CREATORS is a story about fictional characters meeting the people who created them, but just how far does its metafictional rabbit hole go? This week in anime, Micchy and Steve follow Sota and Altair's tale all the way to the end to discover what it has to say about fandom and the creative process.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed by the participants in this chatlog are not the views of Anime News Network. Spoiler Warning for discussion of the series ahead.

You can read our weekly coverage of Re:CREATORS here!

Steve
Hey Micchy! I just finished watching Re:Creators and I gotta say, I think it took the whole "death of the author" thing a bit too literally.

Micchy
Steve.

:D

But honestly, I can't believe Re:Creators turned out to be both the Atonement and the Marvel Cinematic Universe of anime. Definitely not what I expected!

Yeah, it's pretty weird! Half of it is a battle royale between a dozen different anime archetypes, and the other half is a series of extremely meta conversations about the nature of art and creation. Naturally, I liked the meta talky bits the most, so let's dive into that!

So for me, the most interesting example of storytelling-as-communication in the show was Altair. Since she's more or less grimdark Hatsune Miku OC, her powers are basically unlimited.

she is A Lot

Her entire character exists not in an established canon, but in the minds of a collective fanbase. Yet despite being so crowd-constructed, she's still devoted to her original creator. It's an interesting view of how storytelling can be cobbled together this way today.

It's a cool concept for a character, and it gets at the heart of one of the show's main ideas, which is the intertwined relationship between stories, storytellers, and their audience. And how the barriers between these groups are becoming increasingly blurred in the internet age.

What role does the author play when the fandom quietly decides on one headcanon or another?

It's a truly symbiotic relationship, since the author relies on the fandom to consume and propagate the story, while the fandom relies on the author to provide them with the story in the first place. You'd think the author would have the AUTHORity in this exchange, but Re:Creators presents it as much more give-and-take. The Creators are constantly worried about audience approval, and ultimately they can't even do anything if the audience doesn't accept it.

It's not enough for them to rewrite the settei (backstory/character description) willy-nilly; the authors depend on their audience approving any development as a logical progression of the story for it to work on Creations. The internet naysayers yelling about how so-and-so's new book reads like a fanfic have the power now!

This has always been true to some extent, but a story like Re:Creators could only exist as a direct result of how the internet has changed how people consume and react to media. I mean one of the plot points is that Twitter saves a character's life.


Now that's Relatable Content in the year 2017, I applaud greatly.

It's hard to imagine Twitter doing anything good, mind you, but it's nice to dream!

On the other side of things, there's how the Creators interact with their works themselves. Some are protective of their creations, some find inspiration in their characters, and some write for the love of writing. And true to life, of course, some are just horny.

of course

But I do think one of the most interesting things about the show is how antagonistic most of the relationships between the Creators and their Creations were. It makes sense, since most stories, especially popular ones, put their characters through varying degrees of hardship in order to further the story and engage the audience.

Well, it's not easy to get along with the guy who wrote your friends' deaths into your universe's history.

Right! But how far is too far? Is it even possible to go too far?

People latch onto those kinds of stories because they're relatable and inspiring.

But I think also, making your characters suffer past a certain degree makes the integrity of the story suffer.

Also true! It's about maintaining tension in a narrative without getting excessively self-indulgent. That's the Creators' struggle.

Like how Selesia laments that her world never had coffee or stories of its own, because those didn't fit into the plot Matsubara was trying to develop. It resulted in a world that wasn't as fully realized, but Matsubara realizes this shortcoming in the end and promises to write those details in. That kind of worldbuilding can be just as important as the overarching plot. The more that characters act and feel like real people, the more the audience can relate to them.

On the other hand, Suruga is one of my favorites in the show, and she's COMPLETELY unapologetic about the bullshit she makes Blitz go through.

Suruga is The Best. She's the Creator who writes just for the hell of it, and maybe that makes her cruel to her Creations, but she sure does write interesting stuff! Still manages to bring Blitz's daughter back in a crossover story though, bless her heart (maybe).

BIG maybe

But for her, stories are very much a symbolic thing; she's not one to get excessively invested in making her characters happy over sending them on a satisfying emotional journey, which is a totally valid way to approach storytelling.

Her ruthlessness also stems directly from her own struggles to write. She tells Blitz how much she cried and despaired and failed before she was able to come up with his character and story. Writing, drawing, making art, all of it is also its own kind of suffering.

Her struggles are very much paralleled in the kinds of stories she chooses to tell, as it turns out. Life really sucks sometimes! And she's not one to gloss over that in her writing. Blitz is really a part of her reflected on the page, I guess. The pain, the struggle, all of that is real.

Yeah, despite my awful death of the author joke, Re:Creators is about anything but. The authors and their characters are all inextricably connected in this story, even the ones that die.

RIP Magane's Creator, hope it was worth it!

And Altair, the villain, is a personification of the despair of her creator failing, of the audience turning against her and not accepting her story. Ironically, it's the audience accepting Altair as a fan character, divorced from her original creator, that gives her the power to destroy the world in the first place. So despite her intentions, Altair nevertheless becomes a vehicle for Setsuna's legacy.

Which brings us to the final confrontation between Altair and Sota's version of Setsuna. Setsuna's distilled anger vs. Setsuna's everything else, who would win? Answer: yes


I had plenty of ups and downs with Re:Creators along the way, but honestly, that final confrontation is one of my favorite conclusions to any story ever.

I suppose it's a bit underhanded to essentially deliver Sota's voice through Setsuna's likeness; on the other hand, this is his attempt to faithfully recreate her as she was in life.

It's super fucked up when you think about, but it's also beautiful and life-affirming.

After all, that's what creating is about: making something that resonates with people

And it also shows how art can be one of the most powerful ways that we honor the dead.

Sota's Setsuna speaks to Altair, who speaks to a wider audience, it's all connected. Giving our loved ones a second chance the only way we can, by honoring their memory.

Art is really the only way we have to cheat death, creating beautiful things that will outlive us and reach generations of people we will never meet.

We leave our mark on the world, proof that we existed and have something to offer future generations. Even if we try to separate the author from their work, their mark is still there; art can be, among other things, an expression of self. Or many selves, as it happens.

Or selfcest!

She's just Very Good Friends with herself, promise. Though that really is the perfect conclusion to this show: Setsuna's personified anger learning to love herself, warts and all.

Re:Creators is ultimately a celebration of all kinds of storytelling, both the high art and the low trash.

Never underestimate horny visual novels' power to reach someone, I guess, even if it is mostly through thirst.

It's interesting that the two Creations who are most like Creators themselves are the ones who end up living with us in our world: Meteora and Magane

I'd be 100% down for a Meteora spinoff where all she does is wear cute writercore hipster outfits, for the record.

Absolutely same.

She represents a complete love of stories and storytelling. They're the closest thing to magic we have in our world, so naturally, when her magic disappears, she becomes a writer. She believes stories help both their creators and their audience better themselves, and that stories have the power to save the world. Quite literally, in this case.

It's really quite poetic and heartwarming when she and Sota offer each other mutual encouragement to keep creating, keep trying to reach other people through the stories they tell. Stories are human, after all.

I love that Meteora basically ended up being the main heroine. Although, because i'm extremely predictable, my favorite character is Magane.

meanwhile I'm here nodding at Marine like same

EXTREMELY SAME

Marine did good

Bless Marine, perfect blend of artistic ambition and self-indulgent thirst.

But I love Magane because she also loves stories! By which I mean she loves lying, but storytelling is really the ultimate form of lying.

After all, she's the one who gives Sota's Setsuna that final push to come into reality. Honestly the perfect role for her to play in this story.

If Meteora is all about stories as an art form that can accomplish anything, Magane is all about stories as pure entertainment. The audience must be engaged and surprised, and anything that gets in the way of that is anathema. Fun is her number one priority. And yeah, I love that Sota needs both her and Meteora's help in order to save the day in the end.

Both Meteora's and Magane's approaches are important! Pop culture combines them in ways that make people rally around stories that are both fun and moving.

Neither perspective on art is more correct than the other. Stories can be both staggering works of genius and page-turning fluff. Both are equally valid and important!

Ultimately, I think that's Re:Creators thesis: art can be both ambitious and entertaining, and the fun comes from striking that balance. It's no accident that all the Creations introduced are characters from the nerdiest, most lowbrow fiction. But they speak to people, and that's why they're popular.

Anime Will Save The World (or destroy it)

Tired: when is somebody going to save anime
Wired: actually, anime has definitely saved people

I think we all have works of art, high and low, that have spoken to us and helped us in times of need, and the grand finale of Re:Creators is a celebration of that.

So really what I'm saying, as always, is that Trash is Good Actually.

Is it a little self serving for an anime to celebrate anime? Sure, but like you said, Trash is Good. Now for a twelve-page discussion of Heybot! You see, it all begins with a screw--

[The remainder of this discussion has been jettisoned to protect the readers of Anime News Network. Please have a nice day.]


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