I think writers all have one reason they want to write.
For some, it’s the act of telling stories about people they want to meet. Others, it’s the compulsion to craft whole worlds and fill them with complex people making bad choices. Or, if you’re a Hollywood writer from the Golden Age of cinema, you’re doing it to pay for drugs and to pay off your mistress because it’s Hollywood in the Golden Age of cinema and everything is awful for everyone.
But let’s back up from the drugs and scandal and talk about my reason for writing. Why do I write?
I have one, but I’ll do my best to illustrate it with a similar example involving a small, but fierce, red panda named Retsuko.
Now, if you haven’t watched all 3 seasons, currently streaming on Netflux *insert Netflix dun-duunn sound*, then beware of major spoilers for the entire series. If you’ve seen it, or if you’re a monster and don’t care about spoilers, then by all means let’s talk about this together.
Retsuko is a typical 20-something woman, living and working in modern Japan. If you’ve seen the trailer above, or the Featured Image I used, then you know deep down she possesses a rabid, metal spirit she unleashes when she sings karaoke. This is a secret she keeps from the start of the series but, occasionally, when tensions run high and the world is just too cruel, Retsuko releases it on those who need to be stomped into the ground by the fury of her indignation.
First up? Her male, chauvinist boss Ton, who spent all first season harassing her, calling her out for thinking of leaving, and piling up work for hours on end. At a staff happy hour, Retsuko obliterates him in a rap battle.
Second to feel the full-power of Rage Spirit-Form Retsuko is her ex-boyfriend from season 2, billionaire tech-genius, Tadano, who refuses to marry her on the basis that if they love each other it shouldn’t matter. All of this is done, of course, without considering Retsuko’s feelings.
Guess who it DOES matter to?
But the third, and perhaps the most important, is her co-worker/secret admirer, Haida.
Haida’s story is interesting, as we see him admire and pine for Retsuko from afar for the first two seasons. There’s a brief moment when we think they might end up together, as he’s given a chance to ask her out at the end of Season 1, but we find out in the Christmas Special Retusko declined his offer.
Not much happens to Haida in Season 2, outside of trying to reforge their friendship as non-romantic, as she chases after other men. In short, he’s the hopeless dude that’s all out of luck and the Luck Bank has decided to forgo his mortgage and take his Luck House, kicking him in the shins on the way down.
So what can Haida do? If he’s going to connect with the girl of his dreams we know, as the observing audience, that he’ll have to confront the full mightof Retsuko’s Rage Spirit, this all-consuming force which cuts down bosses and tech giants. How can he survive?
And that’s the brilliant simplicity of Retsuko’s story. The groundwork is laid early on, telling the audience every time we see the Rage Spirit it is an omnipotent presence that knows no mercy, no shame, only pure, unfiltered righteousness. A true-spirited person would be the only one to stand up to it.
Enter, the hyena.
Season 3, in my opinion, is the best of the three. To really take in everything they’re doing, though, requires previous season’s viewing. Retsuko joins up with an underground pop girl group to pay off some debts after a car accident. While she enjoys the fame at first, the dark side of internet popularity quickly rears its ugly head, traumatizing Retsuko and potentially ruining her life.
So, after months of being ignored, Haida decides it’s his time to intervene. Retsuko’s other friends and family have tried pulling her out of this never-ending, but rightfully deserved funk, with little success. This seems like the end…
Haida takes her to her favorite karaoke spot, turns on a heavy metal song, and unleashes his own inner thoughts about how Retusko needs to reclaim her life. All of these cues (the karaoke bar, the music, the mood) were established in previous seasons, again a blaring signal to the audience something important is about to happen.
Reetusko, too hurt by the season’s beatings, once again unleashes her Rage Spirit. It tells Haida to back off. It asks him who the hell he thinks he is. It screams to the universe Retusko didn’t ask for any of the hurt or pain or fear which now grips her life. As an audience, we know what this can do to those who bore witness to the unfiltered fury of this red panda’s emotions.
But something strange happens.
And then, finally, for the first time in the series history, someone breaks through the rage and reaches Retsuko.
It took 3 seasons, multiple heartbreaks on both sides, and a near death experience, but someone finally, truthfully, gets through to the real Retsuko, the REAL Retsuko, a hurt soul who only wishes for someone to understand and sympathize with them in a cruel, spiteful world..
And within this hides the reason I want to write stories. This moment, this single frame I put up above, took 3 seasons, 30 episodes, and almost 3 years worth of story to reach. When I think of a story idea, something that really holds in my mind, it’s usually because I have a single image in my head I want to reach. A moment, capturing a piece of humanity or action or emotion, that hit me hard enough I want to try and pass that feeling on to others.
I’m not going to spoil anything further about Haida and Retsuko, but I will say the journey to reach this moment is well worth checking out the show if you haven’t.
This, in its purest form, is why I love storytelling.
And why I will continue to write.
Thanks for reading,