Posted by: AceRailgun | July 14, 2012

Secrets, mysteries and explanations

Quickly think of the first anime you can that revolves around secrets or the unexplained and remember that for the comments because I’m curious. So I was thinking about this a lot and I’ve noticed a disturbing trend and that is that when the greatest mystery is given an explanation it totally ruins it. I’m sure you can think of at least one situation this has happened to you. For me it was When the Seagull Cry but i’ll go into that later on.


Put simply the power of a mystery is that the reader/viewer can interrupt them however they please and draw conclusions based on speculation or fabricate portions of the story to fufil the desire for answers. Fan-fiction or adding characters is one way this is achieved and I know you just rolled your eyes after reading that but that’s what fan fiction is. It’s more often then not a piece of writting which expands a preexisting fictional universe to meet the writers desires. Now I’m going to be bold and say I’ve never written fan fiction but that doesn’t mean I don’t think up more “story” in my head. More often then not I end up replacing the bland male protagonist with myself which is something I’m suppose to do anyway.


But the real kicker is that some stories are designed in such a way that if you aren’t trying to come up with answers for questions you’re doing it wrong. For example if you weren’t constantly trying to figure out what was behind the wall in Haibane Renmei then you weren’t in the right mindset for that anime. You can argue with me on that but I’d say that just about the time when the wall becomes old news it gets bought up again and again until it’s all you can think about.


The opposite end of the spectrum to Haibane Renmei is When the Seagulls Cry. It set up some amazing mysteries early on but instead of letting us play with potential solutions in our head it gave us a forced explaination which took away from the charm of the earlier episodes.


The real question is do you like everything being explained to you or do you prefer to work it out yourself?


  1. The eventual explanation is nice and, in my opinion, usually necessary, but being able to work out solutions myself is part of the overall fun of the best stories. It’s part of why I like long running shonen, because there’s so much to draw from that the possibilities are even greater than a 12 or 24 episode show.

    Ah yes, I remember When The Seagulls Cry. Only saw the first third or so before stopping cold, but that was partly because the setup for the mysteries didn’t make much sense. If I can’t follow the start, then the eventual solution has no ground to stand on.

    • The eventual solution was answered with one word. “Magic”

      I guess that is part of the appeal of longer stories appose to the 12 episode ones. The fact that there is so much room for expansion on the story and characters is a key aspect which allows us to come up with the rest of the story ourselves which can only be a good thing.

  2. Higurashi no Naku Koro Ni was one of the master of this kind of mystery series.
    I loved trying to speculate if the events were a real curse or simply human actions and the final resolution was extremely satisfying.

    Umineko was going to be the same good until the final arc that left…everyone a bit disillusioned. >_<

    • I almost forgot about Higarashi. It is the master of secrets and constantly had me questioning everything as well. What I liked about that most was that some of the “correct” information it gave us was later proven to be false which added to that good kind of confusion which worked wonders in the grand scheme of things.

  3. Speculation is always fun, particularly when everything for it is all in the background, like looking through things in the background and piecing together the alternate history or just what happens to a character once they drop out of the series. However as far as speculation goes I believe that if the show does give us an answer it should be consistent with what had been presented to build up to that answer, an example otherwise that comes to mind would probably have to be the villain’s connection to the protag in the second season of Nurarihyon. It almost came out of nowhere.

    Other than that there’s also the case where nothing is really worked out in the end as well, take Darker than Black for example, after two seasons the mysteries regarding the characters have been solved but the world that the series takes place in is still every bit as mysterious as it started. There’s a certain appeal to it in that.

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