Since Urobuchi Gen seems to be if not the best but at least consistently competent writer in anime right now I have a question. What about his voice and storytelling makes his work distinct and stand out, enough so that you already know at first glance whether a show is written by him or not?
(Last question today, btw! Thanks for sending in so many fascinating ones, everybody!)
I’m more interested in Urobuchi’s subtextual story ideas than his textual language/writing style (the language barrier doesn’t help, there’s only so much I can tell about his style when I don’t speak Japanese,) but his dialogue is extremely distinctive. It’s not “realistic” per se. People don’t literally talk like real people, but that’s true of most distinctive scripts. (and Boochi makes people talk more like real people than most other *anime* do at least.) However, it’s consistent. Boochi makes sure all his characters use different speaking styles, language use, and are interested in talking about different things. Most of his characters symbolize an idea, but unlike, say, Christopher Nolan who also writes “characters as ideas” rather than people, Boochi keeps them human. He gets characters to talk about what ideals or concepts they symbolize by jamming them up next to someone who is completely opposite to them. (Sayaka v. Kyoko in Madoka, Kiritsugu v. Saber in F/Z, Akane v. Kogami in Psycho-Pass.) The way I just put it makes it sound dumb and obvious though, and it never is. Hell, Kiritsugu and Saber only speak to each other *three times*, and in all three cases, they don’t talk about their philosophies. They both express their ideals to Irisviel, who acts as a conduit and therapist to both of them (but it’s a tragedy, so ultimately she can’t communicate each’s beliefs to the other.) So it’s never just people standing around talking about philosophies. I *hate* that. Boochi doesn’t do that, he finds ways to lace it into the action of the story and force those conversations, kinda like how musical numbers need to come out of emotional necessity in a musical, and the perfect placement of them is what makes the show good. Outside of this, his characters just act like people, with heavily relatable emotions and actions, but it’s those glimpses into “THIS PERSON REPRESENTS THIS PHILOSOPHY” that make all of those emotions and actions carry weight.
Anyway, that’s all textual. That’s *how* he talks. *What* he talks about is what I really find fascinating. Boochi loves to juxtapose the absolute *pit* of emotionless cruelty against naive optimism, and find truth in both things. He’s so sympathetic to and deeply understanding of “evil” and where it comes from that it’s scary. He doesn’t write bad guys who are just bad and you shouldn’t like them. He forces you to really understand why the bad guys think what they do, and he goes out of his way to almost make their ideals sound logical…appealing…you can see why they almost succeed. He writes impeccable Lucifers, basically. (Kyubey in Madoka, Gilgamesh in Fate/Zero, Makishima in Psycho-Pass.) But the amazing thing to me is that he equally understands the purest and most optimistic hope and goodness in humanity…and that’s the side he chooses, every time! He goes out of his way to show how evil and heartless the universe around us is, how much sense it makes to succumb to and embrace it, and then at the last second, convincingly makes a case for hope over despair (Madoka), mercy over justice (Fate/Zero), and order over anarcy (Psycho-Pass.) To embrace both perspectives so wholeheartedly and portray the triumph of good over evil in a way that always rings true, and turns bittersweet or even barely sweet endings into real heartwarmers…well, it’s cray-cray. I mostly admire Boochi for how intimately he understands a massive variety of human hearts, and how he refuses to really judge any of them, just to understand.
Boochi and I appear to love a lot of the same ideas and I want to steal his powers is what I’m saying.