Today as I was driving into work, I started thinking about what stories do I like the most. What has captivated my attention to keep watching (in anime and TV series) or reading in comics…
From the masterful story teller, Alan Moore, I learned about framing/book-ends — start with one story, show how it leads into another story, then close it out with the original story; tying the two stories together with reference to similar subject matters, a play on words within the exposition, or visuals leading from the first story to the next (ie. zooming into the eye of an character in the first story, switching in the next frame, then zooming out from a different character in the next story). Alan’s background details not only foreshadow things to come, but added atmosphere, depth. His ability to tell multiple stories, where one story thread feed into the other kept me engage.
Alan’s villains also had dimension. Time was given not only to create depth in his heroes, but the bad guys were more thoughtful, twisted.
Switching to anime and a little bit, TV, there are certain stories that I really love. Most of them tend to be Isekai (異世界, “different world”), but with the overall story, the characters are very likable, you want them to succeed, you become invested in them quickly — then something happens and you as the audience despair. The first few seasons of Game of Thrones was like that — you wanted the Starks to win, but then the father is killed. Or for Rob to be happy in love on the battle field, but then the red wedding. But with GoT, after awhile, it became cliche to kill off a characters you became emotionally attached to.
In anime it’s a little different. There tends to be a villain that seem over-powered at first, that comes into the story punching you in the gut. Or the villains are arrogant, weaselly, no more than high-school bullies, but then they pray on some the weaker, timid, shy. You see it coming like a freight train down the tracks, but can’t stop it… In many cases, it’s a change of atmosphere, the visuals are darker, the music switches and you get that sinking feeling in your stomach, that whatever happens, it’s not going to end well.