Image source: TVアニメ“Re:CREATORS”公式 on Twitter

Do characters move the story or does the story move the characters? It’s a question that can plague an author. But, Re:CREATORS showed us how a character can move a story.

As Sōta Mizushino reveals his connection to the mysterious Military Uniformed Princess, the character Alicetelia February tried to get answers out of her creator. Like, will he save her world? His answer: He couldn’t save her world. Only Alicetelia could do that.

There is a school of writing where writers basically make the world and characters. Then after fully establishing the personality of the different characters, the author throws plot points at the characters and writes how the characters would react. And whatever greater plans for the story the author might have had can and will be changed if it would make the characters act out of character. In this way, it’s the characters that control where the story goes, not the author. And Alicetelia’s creator Gai Takarada is a proponent of this method of writing.

This exact idea came up in the most recent episode of the series. It’s a short conversation between Alicetelia and her creator—one that almost gets lost in the larger machinations of the plot—and really helps us understand that fiction isn’t always about creating the best possible outcome for the characters, but rather writing scenarios around how the characters act.

It comes as a shock to Alicetelia because she believes that only Gai can change the outcome of her world. The mere fact it’s not in Gai’s power and only Alicetelia can change her world is a notion that’s hard to grasp at first. This is because, at first glance, we think it’s the author controlling the actions of the characters, specifically the hero. However, when we break down the conversation between Gai and Alicetelia even further, we get a better understanding of why it’s important for the characters to move the story rather than the story to move the characters.

This comes from one specific line of dialogue by Gai. He tells Alicetelia the hero tries to reach a place others can’t, and that’s why they’re the hero. While it varies from story to story, it’s true. The hero or protagonist is striving for something the other characters aren’t. If we apply this thought process to Alicetelia, she’s going to bring peace to her war torn world any way she can. In other words, she’s trying to reach a place those around her necessarily aren’t. This means any action she takes in her story has to represent that character trait.

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So, when we take the notion of what a hero is and take one step back, we get a better understanding of what Gai means when he says only Alicetelia can save her world. Essentially, all Gai is doing is setting up situations and scenarios in which Alicetelia acts. But, it’s not Gai controlling her actions. Yes, he’s technically writing the story, but Alicetelia still has to act in certain ways or else it breaks the readers’ expectations of her. For example, Alicetelia in the story of Re:creators is always acting to make the world in her story a better place. But, if she were to all of a sudden start caring about the safety of Sōta or the other good-guys above her own world, the viewers would start to experience a disconnect between her personality and actions.

Image source: TVアニメ“Re:CREATORS”公式 on Twitter

The same is true with Gai when it comes to writing Alicetelia’s story. He just can’t go willy-nilly change her personality or character traits to suit the needs of his story. Thus, when he says only she can save her world, he means that he literally can’t make scenarios that would make Alicetelia’s world better if it compromises her as a character. In essence, Alicetelia is moving her story and not Gai.

This short conversation piece between Gai and Alicetelia in Re:creators did a great job of showing us Alicetelia really is the hero of her story. Yes, Gai may create the larger story, but he recognizes that if he were to somehow make things better in Alicetelia’s world without any effort by her, the story would not only be dull but would also create a disconnect between the readers’ or viewers’ expectations of her and her personality. This is something we should all keep in mind as the series progresses because this one conversation is telling us that the larger story isn’t moving the characters, but rather the characters are moving the story.

Re:CREATORS is streaming with English subtitles on Amazon Strike.

Comments (1)
  1. Thank you for helping me understand the context of this dialogue. I didn’t know a school like that existed in Japan. That’s a very nice method of writing the story/characters.

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