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Monday, September 19, 2016

Half as Good as Heaven:

The modern era is very frustrating because there's plenty of promise but very little follow through.

Half the series in my good manga rankings are either still being written and thus not finished, or haven't been translated into English so are effectively not finished for peons like us.  That means we're missing about half the potential greatness manga has produced all-time.

The ratio is even worse for anime, at ~40%, for shows that both have an ending and are being properly adapted all the way to said ending.  If anime consisted solely of finished stories that were animated from beginning to end, the world would be twice as good a place as it is today.

Out of the 33 light novel authors' works worthy of note in Japan, around 13 have been properly translated, for a ratio of again ~40%.

The visual novel ratio is so atrocious it's not even worth talking about.

On the other hand, pretty much every good video game made in Japan is playable in the USA, so maybe these two categories cancel each other out, getting us back to the ever-present 50% ratio we've had so far.

6/20 = 30% of quality American movie franchises are still under construction.  Many other movie franchises should have received sequels but never got any.  So let's call this another 50/50 scenario.

100% of quality American tv franchises are still under construction or shouldn't have ended where they did.  That's a pretty impressive statistic right there.  Perhaps Gilmore Girls Season 8 will provide a satisfactory conclusion to at least one of the ten shows.  But for now, at least, there's nothing we can really point to and say with satisfaction 'job well done.'

If you say the top five tv shows in America, sports seasons that finish and then reset in an eternal cycle, are effectively 'finished programming,' that still only gets you to a 50% ratio of finished works.  The same dogged ratio we've been dealing with concerning all these other artistic mediums.

If we can make the first half of all these shows, it's clearly within human power to make the 2nd half, but somehow that never happens.  Instead we're left with a series of broken promises and disappointments that means we were almost better off never having been exposed to the franchises in the first place.  If every good series that started had a proper ending, I don't care about famine, war, pestilence or death, this terrestrial firmament would be indistinguishable from heaven.  As it is I often wonder if we're already residing in hell.

For one thing, if we just had the ending of every great work of art, there would be a lifetime's worth of quality entertainment available for everyone on Earth.  Instead we're clearly short of the necessary material, which leads to too much downtime before we die.  We just need that extra little kick to get over the hump.  Sort of like that Dickens novel, 'income 20 lbs, expenses 21 lbs, hell.'  'income 20 lbs, expenses 19 lbs, heaven.'  Entertainment that can occupy 30 years, lifetime 80 years, hell.  Entertainment that can occupy 60 years, lifetime 80 years, heaven.  This could be called the most important ratio on Earth.

For another, no mystery novel can be considered good if you pose a tricky riddle.  Unless you can actually provide a satisfactory solution there's no payoff to the setup whatsoever.  We have a lot of entertainment that has become masterful at posing interesting questions with interesting decisions that have to be made, but virtually none of them can actually deliver the answer we've all been waiting for.  I'm looking at you, G.R.R. Martin.  All stories are essentially mystery stories, and the mystery is 'who are we, where did we come from, where are we going?'  All stories are attempting to answer this question from one perspective or another.  If all of them promise to answer this question, getting us super excited about the story, but then disappear and retreat into oblivion at the critical juncture, have we really benefited from their efforts in the least?

Socrates said that an unexamined life isn't worth living.  Stories are humans' avenue towards examining their lives in a thorough and introspective manner.  It really drills down to the core of our most precious perspectives and philosophies on life.  Even Jesus taught all of his teachings through parables.  If stories fail to 'examine' things until the end, we're just as blind as all those folks in Plato's cave.  We haven't progressed even a single step.  We absolutely must have the second half of this ratio if we are to benefit from the 'examined life' Socrates was talking about.  Finish all the good stories on Earth, and we would have all the characters, plots and settings necessary to solve the mysteries of human nature, God's divine purpose, good and evil, every question humanity has ever asked.  Leave them all half-done and all we have is a half-baked world no one can make any sense out of and a sense of dissatisfaction like a meal at a high class restaurant that doesn't even pretend to try to fill you up.  Was this really all life was ever about?  Was this all there was?  People will be muttering at their deathbeds, that if they had just gotten to read the rest of PapaKiki, everything would have gone so much differently in their lives.  The key to everything is just over the horizon.

We're halfway to heaven, which is enlightenment, which is a sense of inner peace.  How can we be at peace when every damn story in the world is in the middle of a cliffhanger?  Maybe they should write a story to try and answer that metaphysical question too. . .

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