Tag Archives: character development

In which I reminisce past loves


I’ve been in a bit of a fandom kick lately but my holidays are almost done so I thought I’d do one last fan-post before I become distracted by the new academic year. I’ve been mentioning Yu-Gi-Oh! on and off lately (and re-watching it for the matter) so I figured it was about time I did a post on it. What’s my history with the show that teaches kids that any problem can be solved with a card game? To start, I was in a strange age when I first watched it (miraculously catching it from the first episode). I was just hitting puberty and although I was never really a tomboy it appealed to me more than Winx Club (which was the only other cartoon airing at the same time). Looking back I can’t explain what it was that captured my attention. I was watching a re-dubbed version of the 4Kids dub, so it wasn’t like the dialog was riveting or anything. Even then I thought some of the lines over-dramatic and perhaps it was exactly that that I liked. At least the show sounded like it was taking its story and audience seriously. How many kids’ shows today do that? There were stakes -bizarre stakes no doubt, but still- and even us kids understood that the words “Shadow Realm” carried a certain weight to them.

I’m not ashamed to say that this was the show that gave me my first character-crush. Yes, folks! While other eleven and twelve-year-old girls were sighing over Orlando Bloom I was crossing my fingers and hoped that my favourite, standoff-ish character would be in this weekend’s episodes. No, I’m not gonna say any names. I will only say that he wasn’t the main character. Whether it was my flair for the dramatic or my newly-emerging, loving-all-things-fantasy side that spurred me on, I was devastated when they stoppe0d airing the show one season short. Life moved on however and for a few years Yu-Gi-Oh! remained in the back of my mind as the show I used to love back in grades 6 and 7.

In the meantime the internet took off big time and with it Youtube and all those other wonderful places where you can watch your childhood’s obsessions armed with Nostalgia Goggles and lots of Ben&Jerries. I was looking for somewhere to watch Naruto when I stumbled across a website that had the entire 4Kids’d version of Yu-Gi-Oh!, including the elusive season 5. I watched the entire thing in two weeks (I had school) and from there moved to the manga (which was delightfully violent if not poorly scanned at times). To my disappointment I couldn’t find the subbed version of the anime anywhere (I’m still looking in fact) but I made do with what I had. And what I did have was good headphones and an ever-increasing familiarity with fanfiction.net and its curious ways. It didn’t matter that there were only two hundred and something episodes to watch and that I had already screenshot all my favourite scenes in the manga because the available fanfics -even narrowed down to not including the more…disturbing ones- numbered the thousands. -fangirl glee-

I watched and read and shipped and searched for interesting AUs and had a new favourite every other week. Not character, mind you, but ship, which is kind of strange for me. I’m usually pretty solid on who I ship with whom. Of course my OTP was, is and will be Azureshipping but I don’t really rage against other pairings. Except for the really weird ones and Peachshipping. It reminds me FAR TOO MUCH of Kataang…. (Mum, if you are readig this ask me before you google them!)

But surely, you say, something had to change with the passing of years. I wasn’t the plucky twelve-year-old anymore, surely my understanding of the show had change. In a way it had. I was more interested in the subtleties of character development than in the question of which monster would blow which up. And that was in part what led to a slight rearrangement of my list of favourite characters. Sure, Seto Kaiba was still in the top five (shoot! I gave myself away here!) but the number one spot was claimed by somebody else: Yami Bakura. Big shock, I know. And before anyone makes any assumptions, no, it wasn’t his ability to make the freaking Joker look tame by comparison. It was something really small that many people probably missed. In episode 84, Dark Spirit Revealed (part 3), Yami B. is faced with the choice of letting his  host take a hit and possibly win the duel in progress or protect Ryou and watch his plan crumble…again. So far the character has been presented as a Bad-To-The-Bone so this should really be a no-brainer. But it isn’t. While the conundrum is being presented, the animation does a short close up to his eyes. For those who have not spent as much time as I have browsing trope pages and/or analysing books/movies/plays/whatever, a short explanation is in order. To my experience, this short of close-up is usually reserved for when a character is going through an internal clash of morals or other similar conflict. It is a very important clue to character motivations, especially when it is a character whose inner thought process is hardly explored.  It is doubly important when one considers that this short clip was kept despite 4Kids’ habit of removing clips left, right and center…

Where am I going with this treatise? It excited my curiosity at the time. Then I watched Season 5 and a lot of Yami Bakura’s actions made a looooooot more sense. And before anyone goes off at me about the whole “I am Zorc” line, I would like to point out that at the original timeline (not the Memory World arc) Thief King Bakura and Zorc were both sealed inside the Millennium Ring. After three thousand years living in close quarters with the Master of All Evil (in-universe) it would be no surprise that they would feed off each other. And there was certainly enough of the Thief King left to rage against the Pharaoh’s court in episode 202…I believe. Fangirl soapbox moment over. What I’m trying to say is that there was a serious story being told under all the cheesy one-liners. Perhaps it wasn’t delivered quite the way I wanted (Bakura being the only main villain in the show not get a chance for redemption even though he was the one most deserving in my opinion…) but they managed to deliver a high-stakes game in a way that showed they understood what they were writing. There was no easy solution and the tension was rising with every episode until the rather deus ex machina resolution. And even that didn’t bother me. Zorc was a villain that required this sort of ending.

So here is why I still like Yu-Gi-Oh! even after all these years. Nostalgia aside, 90s cheese aside, there was a good story being told. There were likable and sometimes even relate-able character (and how often can you say that in a manga where people have magical artifacts at their disposal?). And, all things considered, it was a rather gentle introduction to the mad, wonderful world that we call anime. Am I glad to have watched it. Definitely.

In which I get technical


Bare with me for this one, my inner Lit student has been acting up lately. (It’s all those school-related advertisements.) I would also like to issue a warning to those of you reading my Twilight of the Spirit World story. This post is about Lia’s character so yes, there will be spoilers. I will try to keep them to a minimum but if you don’t like them you might want to stop when you reach about halfway down the post.

As with most characters I’ve written (at least the central ones) Lia started as pretty much a self-insert. Big shocker, I know. While I was working on her character, before I even started writing Spirit of Fire, she began deviating more and more from, well, me and became her own person so to speak. By the time I had finished the first few  chapters the only things we had in common was our tempers and love for all things fiery (just ask my mother; if I could climb inside the fireplace, you bet I would!). Initially I didn’t mean for her to become instrumental to the plot. She was more of a plot device for pushing Zuko towards the direction I wanted him, which is why her background remained very sketchy in the first chapters. That changed by the time Past of  a Spirit rolled around since I couldn’t really justify her attachment to Zuko without going into her past and actually giving a reason. In retrospect the reason was a little contrived but hey, at least it was less cliche than the “reincarnated lovers” trope, which, for the record, was NEVER an option in my mind.

Nevertheless, Lia remained a mentor-type character through the first two parts of Spirit of Fire, since I still wanted to focus on the human characters (I was still figuring out how to juggle multiple storylines). So what changed in the third part? For one I had taken a break from the story in real life due to  schoolwork. When I returned to it with fresh ideas I realised that if I wanted this to be an alternate version of  the canon show I needed to  devote equal attention to all characters (because let’s face it, Bryke developed all the recurring characters, not just the main group). Besides I had gone over my fear making the story about Lia and was confident I could include her more without disrupting the flow  of the plot. Hence Lia suddenly getting more “screentime” not just in the actual story but also in the background notes I was making at the time. You have no  idea how many versions the dual Fire Spirit subplot had before I wrote it… Inevitably, this led to  more and more of the past being hinted at. I toyed with the idea of exploring it within the canon timeline but couldn’t quite fit it in. So instead of doing a detour, I decided to leave it to hints that would eventually culminated to an original sequel (way before Korra was released).

The relationship  between Lia and Agni was actually the last piece of the mosaic to be added. It went from mortal enemies to enemies due to circumstances to the mentor-turns-evil trope and eventually resulted in their love-hate thing. These two take the “It’s complicated”  to a whole new level, partially because I wasn’t certain if I wanted Lia to become a love interest character in the sequel or leave the potential open. In Agni’s case (mostly because he only appears in the end) I could get away with leaving it open-ended. The I wrote Love Song Requiem and any chance for ambiguity on his part was blown away…


I’ve often noticed that  in stories structured in three parts (see original Star Wars etc.) the first part is usually devoted to the plucky, star-eyed young protagonist going on his/her first quest, the second tends to be the dark, gritty, things-go-to-Hell part and the last is usually the resolution. In Lia’s case it sorta goes like this although (funnily enough) I  didn’t realise it at the time. In Spirit of Fire Lia is the eldest in the gaang both in actual age and apparent age, meaning that she not only acts as mentor to Zuko at first and the entire group later but also that she is held a little apart because she is more experienced than them. It’s usually not very highlighted, which is why when she actually uses her powers to their full extent it is met with shock from the group. Regardless, and because in part of the almost road-trip like story, she is essentially one of the kids. Had this been set in the real world, she’d probably be the cool older sister who’s at university and owns a car.

This  had to change at the sequel. The gaang is all grown up to begin with, with Aang and Toph (who are the youngest) being sixteena and the rest being in the early twenties. Lia is on a more equal ground to them and that is why when more of her past is revealed one way or another, it is not  in the form of private musings. It also meant that I  could have the freedom to move her from a mentor-character to someone who can make mistakes and that is why she perhaps appears younger. Spirit of Fire was in part written from the POV of Zuko and the others and their perception of Lia affected the tone of her scenes. Not anymore in Twilight of the Spirit World.

Lia is in part at war with herself in Twilight of the Spirit World. She is old and experienced enough to be able to compartmentalize her experiences but, due to her passionate nature she cannot “forgive and forget” both her own mistakes and those of others (namely Agni). Moreover, her ability to see visions of the future haunts her. What was a help before is now a hindrance as the recurring vision of the final battle makes her more and more paranoid. One might say that Twilight of the Spirit World is her self-discovery or at least self-healing story. And yes, there is romance involved but not at a central focus. After all I couldn’t leave unresolved feelings of any kind hanging again…


You could say Lia grew up with me… I first came up with her when I was fifteen and now that I am twenty-two I am still developing her, seeing her from different perspectives and learning how to put them to words. It’s a process I go through with every character I invent, which is why I have had stories in the back-burner for years and they will remain there until I am confident in my understanding of their characters and worlds to actually put on paper. It’s a long and arduous experience but let me tell you, I’ve learnt more about myself through them than through anything else. After all, they are reflections of me at different stages and for a person who cannot draw or has the patience to take pictures, this is invaluable.