Saturday, June 25, 2011

Mini-quests: types of series

When I was posting about Bleach the other day I got to thinking about the type of series it is, and that made me realize that series can be classified into two basic types. I love to classify and sort things, so of course I decided to sort my series and write a post about one of the two types.

The two main types of series are these: 1) the whole series has a single main plot line, or single quest to be accomplished and the story line moves from point A to point B over the course of series without any, or very many, side plots except occasional flashbacks to supply character background. 2) the series itself is a sequence of small arcs, episodes, or "mini-quests", with or without a larger over-arching story or plot line. It's the second type of series that Bleach falls into and the type I'm going to post about today. Along the way I'll give brief synopsis of a few series and their characters.

There are a lot of series besides Bleach that fall into the multiple mini-quest type of series. A good example is Rurouni Kenshin. Rurouni Kenshin does not really have a major over-arching plot. It follows it's main characters, Kenshin, Kaoru, Yahiko and Sano, through their everyday lives in early Meiji era Japan. Along the way they get embroiled in various events which become "mini-quests" and thus story arcs, in the series. For example, the Shishio Makoto arc is a mini-quest, as is the arc about the Christians and Amakusa Shougo, the other Hiten Mitsurugi user. Mini-quests may be an episode long, or they may end up being 310 episodes long, like the Aizen arc in Bleach.

Another everyday life series that contains many mini-quests is Kyou Kara Maou, although 'everyday life' in Kyou Kara Maou is a little different from your usual 'everyday life'. Kyou Kara Maou follows the life of a teenager named Yuri who is sucked into an alternate universe where he is apparently the demon-king (Maou). The main characters of the series include his companions and officers of the Demon kingdom of which he is now king, including Conrad, Gunther, Wolfram, Gwendal and Murata Ken. This series is long and filled with mini-quests that Yuri accomplishes as king of his country of demons. Examples of mini-quests from this series include the episodes spent retrieving the demon sword and the demon flute, and a long arc retrieving Conrad after he 'dies'.

Occasionally the series mini-quests are cases to be solved and the series main plot device is around a business of some sort. Ghost Hunt is this type of series. In Ghost Hunt the story is about a genius-level teenager, Naru, who runs a business which exorcises ghosts and spirits and solves cases involving the occult. The cast of characters beside Naru includes a trusted retainer type, Rin, and a teenage girl helper, Mai, who happens to be easily influenced by and able to sense spirits. Other cast members who help with the business include a monk, a priestess, a christian priest and an onmyouji. Mini-quests in this series are the cases they solve, including a case involving a haunted old school building, and a church where children periodically disappear.

Another case-based series is Get Backers. In this series two friends, Ginji and Ban, (G & B, Get Backers) set up a business to find lost items and to recover items and return them to their owners. Along the way Ginji and Ban draw in many friends and acquaintances to help them with their mini-quests. One of the big mini-quests in this series is the recovery of the component parts for a nuclear weapon from a lawless no-man's land known as Mugenjo. Another quest is to recover the arms of the statue of Venus de Milo. This series is not only full of mini-quests, it manages a very large cast of characters without killing off any of them, which is an amazing and almost unheard of feat in the world of anime.

Gintama is another series that fits into the mini-quest category. There is definitely no main plot or over-arching quests to Gintama. It follows the antics of Gintoki, Kagura and Shinpachi as they move through their daily lives. It can be considered case-based because Gintoki-tachi have a business as general handy-men. This business and the interactions between Gintoki-tachi and the Shinsengumi provide many of the mini-quests in the series. Examples of the more major mini-quests in this series would be the arc where Hijikata becomes an otaku, and the arc where Gintokai and Katsura face off against their former comrade, Takasugi. Gintama also has a lot of one and two-episode mini-quests, so the series is very full of them.

One of my favorite series, Cowboy Bebop, also falls into the case-based series type. The various bounty hunts the members of the Bebop, Jet, Spike, Faye and Ed, take on make up the mini-quests in this series. Cowboy Bebop does end up having sort of a deeper over-arching plot, but you don't realize it until later in the series. And it is made up of mini-quests because essentially every episode is a new bounty hunt. One of the things I like about the series though is that the bounty hunts aren't the important aspect of the series. The deeper plot is really the story line with the mini-quest hunts being the window dressing rather than the centerpiece of the series.

Some mini-quest-type series do have obvious over-arching major plots, and still encompass a lot of mini-quests on the way to getting there. Inuyasha falls into this type of series. The characters, Inuyasha, Kagome, Miroku, Sango and Shippo have major quests to fulfill, which are to reclaim and purify a powerful item called the Shikon no Tama, and to destroy the bad guy, Naraku. However along the way they deal with many smaller quests, because the Shikon has been shattered and even pieces of it cause men and demons to be powerful. They must confront all these entities and gather the shattered fragments.

D.Gray-man can also be fit into this category. The main over-arching quest of the Exorcists, Allen, Lenalee, Kanda and Lavi and their colleagues, is to stop the Millennium Earl and his minions, but along the way they deal with many, many mini-quests. In the course of the larger quest, Allen-tachi must deal with demon after demon after demon, as well as some of the Earls' more powerful minions known as the Noah. These dealings make up the mini-quests. One of the longer mini-quests in the series is the search for Allen's master/teacher. Another is the quest for Allen to regain his powers after he is 'killed'.

So those are some of the series that can be classified as episodic,or made up of multiple story arcs, which may be very short or very long. In most of these cases the story arcs or mini-quests are the reason for existence, or basis of the series, rather than embellishment of the main plot. And like most of my classifications, not all the series mentioned fall neatly into this type of series. Most of them fit it fairly well though.

Maybe next time I'll post about the series that fit into the other main class of anime series.

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