This is gonna be a weird one. Trying something experimental with this post, so bear with me guys!
These are my collected thoughts and ramblings regarding recent experiences I've had while developing LoveSick Darlings - and watching Neon Genesis Evangelion for the first time in my life. It gets pretty abstract and introspective about the deepest levels of my internal writing process, just warning you! This post is likely not for everyone, but if you're curious I do highly recommend you read on! I think my findings from writing LoveSick Darlings prior to watching Neon Genesis Evangelion are pretty interesting!
MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD FOR ALL OF NEON GENESIS EVANGELION BELOW!!!! (Also: vague non-specifc spoilers for the character arcs of Steph and Maisy in LoveSick Darlings)
YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED!!!
LAST CHANCE TO TURN BACK!!!
So... what am I here to ramble about?
For those who don't know: I have been working on this game, LoveSick Darlings, for the about two years now. It's a passion project that has picked up much more steam than I ever anticipated and even launched and fully funded a succesful Kickstarter in December. I have been blessed enough to have people out there believe in me and my project, and actually fund the assets needed to make this game happen. I am beyond blessed, now able to put this game together. It's been amazing, and progress has been going well so far.
On a completely separate note: I recently finished Neon Genesis Evangelion for the first time in my life. I know, I'm late to the party. It goes without saying, but that show is simply incredible. From a writing perspective, it's seriously perfect. I have many thoughts on it overall, but I'm not gonna share them all. But as I watched it, I had a distinct feeling like: "I KNOW these characters."
I couldn't get rid of this feeling despite having never watched more than 5 seconds of this show before in my life. Don't get me wrong, I had various aspects of the show spoiled to me before I watched it, but it was all out-of-context and didn't ruin anything. But somehow, these characters felt... really familiar. Like, I had written my own versions of them in my own work.
Then it happened. Around halfway through the show, there is a scene where Asuka asks Shinji to kiss her. She asks because she is bored and wants to feel "mature" or more like an adult, and Shinji gets flustered and embarassed at first. But after hesitating... he accepts. The two of them go at it in a truly awkward scene (because all first kisses are awkward), and it ends up with her calling him disgusting and washing her mouth out in the bathroom. It's here that it clicked. I have a scene just like this in LoveSick Darlings! There are multiple instances where Maisy engages in intimacy of some variety with Syd because she is bored and wants to feel mature. She yearns for connection to feel validated, and sometimes sees Syd as her person she can always rely on for validation and comfort. Where everyone else fails, she always has Syd to back her. To make her feel wanted. Syd is also under-prepared and flustered during these scenes.
Maisy's idea of "intimacy" and "maturity"
It was then that I had an unsettling revelation:
My characters Maisy Anderson and Steph Azoulai are eerily similar to Asuka Langley and Rei Ayanami. For this to make sense, you may need to have actually seen Neon Genesis Evangelion. That's my main disclaimer here. Even if you haven't seen it, feel free to read on to see my thoughts anyway (I will speak as plainly as possible so my point is clear even if you haven't seen it!).
Similarities started making themselves apparent as I watched, and even retroactively I can look back and see similarities across all of their characters arcs. Eva characters would act in a way that the LoveSick Darlings cast already were - as if they were following the same script/trajectory for their character. Their very flaws made them sympathizable, in the way that I am to make Maisy and Steph sympathetic with their flaws.
Take the similarities between Rei and Steph, for example.
Steph and Rei are cold individuals who keep people at a distance. They are liked, but only in the sense that they don't get in anyone's way. They are both as friendly as needed to be, but no one knows who they really are. They also become completely different people and come to life around someone they love and respect (Gendo Ikari for Rei, or Tammy for Steph.) The protagonist (Syd/Shinji) tries to connect with them (whether it's attraction or compassion is arguable), but it doesn't go well at first. But, after a glimpse at a troubled life - he can't help but want to be there for them. They perform a kind gesture, and Steph/Rei's hearts slowly start to open up. Despite their own doubts, they let this person (Syd/Shinji) into their lives and start forming a genuine connection with them. Steph fails at taking care of herself, and even lives in a similar "dump" of a home as Rei does. They don't care about the environemnt they are living in, because they are both so introspective and in their own heads that a dirty living space is the least of their worries. They can live anywhere and leave lying rubbish around with no problem.
Not to mention, they both use blue as their motif. Blue is a colour that often is associated with cool and distant people, but I do think it's worth nothing. (Especially because it is a light blue.)
Beyond these superficial similarities though, what really freaked me out is how similar their internal conflict is. I don't want to spoil LoveSick Darlings, but Steph gets pretty existential. She has a crisis about her identity and the nature of her very existence, because the life she has led and the truth of her how coming to existence are at odds with each other. There is a "truth" to her existence that makes her feel like she doesn't belong where she is, or that she has lived a lie. If you've watched Eva, you know that this same crisis is critical to Rei. Where she came from is an important mystery for her, and goes to define her character. Her habit of pushing people away and her conflicting desire for connection is the core of her character. And it's the core of Steph too.
Steph's questioning of her very own existence.
REMINDER! I had never seen Eva before making this game, just wanted to remind you inc ase you all think I am ripping off this amazing anime! I just find these similarities are fascinating to list out. Let me quickly elaborate on Maisy too...
Maisy and Asuka are abrasive and assertive young girls who want everything done on their terms and their alone. They berate and/or drag around the people in their lives to assert dominance. This can be both charming and dangerous, and they are both prone to anger. Authority figures and adults who try to limit them bring out their worst sides. They'll go through with any bad idea as long as it was theirown idea. Their dominance is especially felt with how they treat people in their life who they feel "should be acting differently." They are both in a ridiculous hurry to grow up and be more "mature", with a hyper-obsession with their own breasts. Constantly pointing them out and talking about their size, as if their development is a physical indication of their emotional maturity. They pursue relationships with "mature" and older men (who are hilariously both quite immature in their own unique ways) so that they can feel validated. Both these pursuits end in disaster too (betrayal for Maisy, and heartbreak/rejection for Asuka). These similarities are downright uncanny.
Hell, her primary colour is red. Just like Asuka! Red is a natural fit for loud-mouths like these two, but I do think it's worth noting that I made this decision (along with Steph's colour choice) unconsciously.
Maisy's conflict, like everyone in LoveSick Darlings, is about connection and how we express ourselves via these connections. Maisy is a truly confident person who is a force-of-nature. Those who have played the game now this based off of her behaviour. She leads conversations, makes sure people only talk about things she is included in, takes others down when they don't agree with her, and exercises emotional control by telling people what is right and what is wrong. Asuka desires this same control over her life. She wants evertyhing done her way, so that she can be proud of herself. She acts like she doesn't care what others think because she wants to stand tall and on her own. But this life has made her lonely. She has a perceived dominance and control over her life, and when that control starts to crumble away... her whole facade breaks down, and things get bad. Whether that loss of control is via being defeated by an angel and being saved by someone you hate - or being dumped by your boyfriend who you hyped everyone up to as "a serious relationship", it's this same spiral that defines these two characters. Control is everything to these loud-mouthed girls, and I didn't plan for it to line up like this at all. It's weird.
Maisy's desire for control, and the comfort it brings her.
What is almost the disturbing similarity between the two is their how terrifying their determination and desire for vengeance can be. The way they express themsevles through wrath and desire to inflict pain on others, because they are themselves in pain, is shockingly similar. From the depths of both their individual despairs, they both rise with a vengeance to get what they want. They lash out at the world, and want to tear it down for daring to make them feel as shitty as they do in their moments of sadness. Nothing can or will stop them (except for several spears, in Asuka's case. But for Maisy... what will stop her? I wonder...)
I mean, sure, this a lot of this could be attributed to Maisy and Asuka being "tsunderes" and Steph and Rei being "kuuderes." Syd being indecisive and weak-willed like Shinji is not at all uncommon among young male protagonists. It's a recurring theme in fiction just like these archetypes (FLCL, Gurren Lagann, Attack on Titan). But I think these generlaizations discredit both the Eva characters and my own cast. I think they're all a fair bit more complicated than that, but it's the way that some of their complexities are so bizarrely similar that has made me stop and think. I think it goes a lot deeper than just these labels that we attach to these character types.
As someone who only watched Eva for the first time just now, it seems impossible that my two heroines could follow such a similar journey to Asuka and Rei this whole time. The similarities don't stop at superficial features and labels, but their most inner and personal journeys are unsettlingly similar. My theory is that this HAS to be the work something like a "collective unconscious."
Now, the collective unconscious is a complicated topic to explain, and I am sure that a google search can explain it better than I can, but to put it simply: the collective unconscious is the idea that people who have never met and from other countries/cultures can share unconscious thoughts. There are theories that the collective unconscious can hold deeply ingrained truths within our shared minds as the collective whole known as humanity. More specifically for my own experience now, I refer to the collective unconscious that is consuming and producing creative media (any story, or piece of art basically). These "truths" and thoughts can be expressed as recurring ideas across fiction. The heroes of Greek Mythology and the legends of Japanese Folklore can share uncanny details, characters, and lessons - despite being on opposite sides of the globe when they were made. This is the collective unconscious in action, and I'm sure you're starting to be able to gather what I am getting at. I believe a similar phenomenon is what's happening here. Those who have played Persona 5 (Original or Royal) likely have an understanding of what I am getting at - as the idea of a collective unconscious is explored extremely well in that game.
Eva aired before I was even born, yet the VN I am making has these uncanny similarites and core truths that are present in the characters of Eva as much as they are in LoveSick Darlings. Despite me having never interacted with it until development of LoveSick Darlings was nearly over. I mean... that's crazy, right?
There has to be some core idea about these types of characters, or an essential truth to them that is permeated across fiction. And that I've unknowingly conritbuted to and even drawn from. I belive there is some essential truth to acknowledge by the world that there are people out there like Maisy or Asuka. People who overcompensate for their short comings by acting like they're the best - when deep down all they can worry about is what others think. Or Steph and Rei - detached people who yearn for connection but cannot establish these links because of the feeling that they don't understand who or what they truly are. They cannot and will not love others until they can love themselves. And of course, Syd and Shinji - two young boys in the middle of puberty and constantly paralyzed by indecision and worry.
I think people like these characters exist in the real world, and writers like myself draw a lot of inspiration from these people. Frankly, I know they do. So much of LoveSick Darlings is based off of my own experiences and relationships with others (friends, family, lovers, girlfriends, etc.), and if there is such thing as the collective unconscious that is informing people of who/what they are in reality, I believe that is manifesting in my own writing too.
Many times, I have received the feedback that the cast of LoveSick Darlings feel "real" or "genuine" in some way. And I think this is further proof that there is some core to these characters that everyone can relate too, because they have experienced these characters as people in their own lives (and possibly even feel like the characters Maisy, Asuka, Steph, Rei, Syd, or Shinji themselves). This feedback I have gotten many times I think only adds merit to my theory. Not to mention that the Eva cast is likely so beloved because of how genuine they are.
I believe that these characters and stories in LoveSick Darlings and Eva are repeated across fiction, with their own spins and variations, extracted from our reality and collective unconscious that connect us all. I don't know for sure, but I think it's a good explantion and theory to consider. Because I am consistently amazed at how closely my characters line up with the characters of a show I had never watched until WELL into the development of this game. It's shocking.
Admittedly, this all doesn't fit one-to-one, as Maisy would never wash her mouth out after kissing Syd and call him "disgusting." She has a confidence about her that Asuka doesn't innately have, but their yearning for validation through seeming mature and sexually confident when they aren't necessarily either of those things is eerily similar. Also, Misato's seeking of validation through the desire of others is absolutely trademark Maisy - so really, Maisy and and Asuka aren't perfect replicas at all. And of course, Steph has Tammy who is this rock in her life in a very different way to than Gendo Ikari is to Rei (thank GOD). They are fundamentally different relationships. Again, Steph's dissociation with music practice because of her personal family life falling apart is just like how Shinji gave up on his musical instrument - which is ALSO a cello! I swear to God, it's crazy how certain things transfer across Eva over to LoveSick. But yeah as you can see, even Steph isn't a perfect replica of Rei and the two characters ARE different.
Syd is similar to Shinji in that he worries all the time about what others think, and constantly seeks recognition from people who rarely give it to him (Steph) and often fails to appreciate the good in his life (Jayda). In fact, his desperation to keep everyone happy can destroy him and his friendships (but luckily, unlike Shinji, it won't quite destroy the world). But yes, despite these similarities... Syd has key differences too. His relationship with authority, family, and parental figures is healthy. He has a dark past, but it has nothing to do with abandonment or a part of him being missing, or being used as a tool to futher the plans of other. Syd and Shinji are fundamentally different, despite their similarities. It's just that the similarites that are there are kind of amazing anyway - despite the differences. It makes me wonder if there is some essential truth to the story of these two girls reflected in our world and drawn from the collective unconscious?
Frankly, I don't know. It's a question without a clear answer. But I think there may be some truth to it.
The "Collective Unconscious" given physical form. A "Holy Grail", an artifact of unimaginable power and holds the wishes of the masses with in it... Is this where Maisy, Syd, and Steph came from? Were they once Eva characters before coming to me? It's pretty deep and trippy stuff! (Credit to Persona 5 for the visual!)
I guess the only question left is... is Jayda from LoveSick Darlings the equivalent of Kaworu from Eva? The seemingly perfect being who sweeps Syd / Shinji off his feet and is the only one who treats him genuinely and not just as an object/outlet for their frustrations?
... Nah, it doesn't really line up properly. As amusing as it is to imagine Jayda and Kaworu being equivalents. But, sadly, that part of the collective unconscious didn't quite translate through Jayda (or vice-versa). Frankly, she uses Syd as an outlet more than anyone I'd say. She has Asuka-level self-confidence issues (and that is a feat). I would still say that Jayda is a different beast entirely - likely inspired by some other experience or story out there that I haven't found yet! I wonder if that plays a part in her popularity...?
I should make clear here and now: I am neither claiming that I am anywhere near as skilled as Hideaki Anno (writer/creator of EVA) OR am I saying that I've ripped him or his team off. The characters are all different people with their own complexities and individual depths and our stories are so ridiculously different in their grander schemes it's not even funny. It's just fascinating to me how similar certain aspects (like the ones I've explained) are to these characters I never knew until now.
I just felt like sharing this bizarre experience with you all. I don't really know what to make of it, but I feel like there's some truth to these stories that is core to the world's perception of these types of people. Maybe there's more to this. Maybe there's no such thing as a truly original story or character? Maybe Maisy and Steph are at least partially the result of the collective unconscious manifesting through my own individual creative expression? Maybe there's no such thing as an individual's creative expression?
Or... maybe I am thinking too hard about this all.
In any case, thanks for reading my rant! I hope it was at least a little bit interesting to see my internal thought and creative process, and how it responds to new series I watch as I write LoveSick Darlings. It's all pretty abstract, but maybe it gave you guys an insight to my own psyche as a writer and creative, and how my characters co-exist with the rest of the stories out there that have been told - or are yet to be told.
This was a pretty different post from the usual, but I want to start using itch as this place where I can get really internal about the development of LoveSick Darlings - so that I can look back on this and understand the past "me", but also so you guys can hopefully get to know me better too! You get a close look at how I analyze and understand my own characters and how I believe they fit into the big picture of the collective unconscious. This is as "internal" as you guys can get behind my deeper writing process, I think.
Or, if you hated this let me know and I'll go back to making posts less abstract and referencial to other media! Would you like more of these? Less of these? Let me know, and please be honest!
I'm gonna get back to writing and focusing on the kids of Foster Hills High now!
A lot of tropes are shared across cultures. Some of the ideas you have recorded in LSD have certainly been kicking around for millennia.
A storyteller's creativity is not primarily about pure invention, but rather the (ahem) novel recombination of human experience.
I hope that you continue to give yourself credit for having written credible characters and scenes - regardless of whether they seem like certain others which came before yours. After all, you did arrive at these things independently.
Of course! This post is definitely not meant to be hard on my self or anything. It's introspective, but I don't mind that my characters were unintentionally similar. In fact, it makes me happy because I feel like I'm really tapping into something real and relatable across fiction!
But yeah, I agree that stories are about how authors package the human experiences! And I do truly think LoveSick is a unique package :)
This was an interesting read, thanks for sharing. :D Now I'm even more curious what the full version of the game will throw at us. PS. I think you misspelled Misato there. ;)
On a complete side note, it's really uncanny how coincidences work sometimes, because literally some two days ago I was looking for some drawing references for BS and I stumbled upon a certain Eva fanart that depicted exactly what I was looking for...
Hey, I'm glad it was interesting! Misato is a lovely human being and lady, but her heart belongs to Kaji and Kaji alone!
See, there you go! These coincidences are wild! The collective unconscious is at work again!
Or, Eva is so ingrained into culture that countless pieces of art/media draw directly from it? It's hard to tell where the line is drawn... and whether there even is aline! Still, that is indeed quite the coincidence.