Posted by: AceRailgun | July 28, 2013

Real world history vs fictional lore

Mushi Shi 1

This is a topic I’ve been thinking about for a while and I only just considered it could be post material. There is so much I can go into about this subject and it’s not even limited to anime and manga it applies to all media. So obvious most of us don’t aren’t very interested in real world history, there is some great moments but throughout your childhood it’s forced on you in schools and looses it’s appeal in a lot of way. Fictional history or should I say lore about a fictional world is honestly something I crave especially when dealing with anime I love and it’s something I seek out unlike real history.


For example when the world of Full Metal Alchemist explains the story of Ed and Al’s father and the fallen nation. That little arc in the story had me on the edge of my seat while I absorbed all the lore about the now ruined nations. Another perfect example is Avatar Korra and the upcoming new season which is about the history of the avatar and the spirit world which has strong ties to the past. In that story I am always waiting for the plot to look into the past not explore the future and that is simply because so many interesting things happened in the past to shape the fictional world that I want to know.


So why do I not desire this about real world history and the simple answer I have for myself is that I actually do and don’t realize it. I already know all there is to know about my own culture and the origins of my culture as well as many other dominant societies around the world. However these histories aren’t filled with characters like fiction is and there is nothing to keep me coming back to history once I know all the events. I crave for the history to be given to me in an interesting way which is very rare for real world entertainment and why I don’t go reading Wikipedia pages as it’s a dry experience (I lied, I actually do this sometimes.) But young students don’t and that’s why there needs to be an outlet for history to be entertaining. I know I learnt a lot about history as a child through video games like Age of Empires or Civilization (Not accurate history) I learn basic concepts which I could further explore and research on my own at my own pace.


Does anyone find parts of fiction that explain the history of the world to be highly entertaining from a story point of view? I know I sure do.

On a side note I believe that a lot of real world history is at least partially fictional so the fact that it’s real or not isn’t playing a major role here.


  1. I love it when the explanation of the setting is just part of the puzzle, and answers the more pertinent questions with some tact and subtlety, while raising new ones that don’t ruin the experience. When you overdo it, it’s just like technobabble and risks making everything seem silly. When you “underdo” it, it’s mystery overload and risks leaving the audience confused. Of course, all of that only applies for shows that try to build their setting into their mystery or plot.

    For example, I’d say Last Exile only improved as they explained the bizarre and incredulous world, because it helped explain what was going on, but kept the mystique of it alive. Whether it entirely worked or not in the end, it still improved the show and made it believable that such a strange power dynamic and set of vehicles existed.

    • Agreed, if it’s overdone or done with techno babble then it loses all meaning but if it’s done in a way which answers or gives questions then It’s usually good.

      It’s not always a bad thing when the world isn’t explained and you are left wondering about details, what’s bad is when important plot related questions are left unanswered especially if they are concerning the world itself.

      • I’m not 100% convinced of that, actually. Having everything about the plot explained can feel just as bad as it not being explained. I think the key is in answering what NEEDS to be explained. It’s just as easy to pull a Darker than Black as it is to pull an Utawarerumono.

        I mean, I liked the Indexverse more before they started to flesh out their world. When it was just about a gang of kids struggling with powers that were beyond their maturity level, I really enjoyed it. When all that silly “secret wars and experiments” stuff started to really take shape, it kind of lost me.. a bit too cheesy to take seriously, and a bit too serious to just enjoy as cheese. That’s just me, though.

  2. Go read some Umberto Eco books.

  3. I think history has a number of interesting characters. It’s all in finding the right biographies to read. Earl Warren and Henry Clay are two of my personal favorites, but there are thousands of great life stories spread out through history.

    In fantasy, though, world-building through historical recollection can be kind of awesome. Legend of the Galactic Heroes did that in the one documentary episode about how humans left earth, and that was downright fascinating. It can only really happen in fantasy or sci-fi, though, as otherwise you’re just recapping real-world history and in many cases telling the audience what they already know.

    • I wouldn’t say it’s always science fiction that can tell fictional history best but it certainly makes it easy. Gargantia is a good recent example of that but there is still things like Full Metal Alchemist that can tell good history based on ancient civilizations.

      I’m not sure but it’s rare to get good lore with a story based on something that isn’t post apocalyptic in some way but it certainly isn’t impossible.

  4. Can’t really remember too many off the top of my head, but I really enjoyed finding out about the world history in Shinsekai Yori.

    • Yep that’s a good example too. That strange mix of the post apocalypse and the supernatural makes for good world material.

  5. I enjoy history, and like you, I believe real world history has some fiction to it. Since it’s hard to get our facts straight from a time where most people are no longer living. And the further we look into history, the more obscure it becomes. But I definitely find it more entertaining whenever aspects of history play within fictional stories and settings. But no matter how made up a fictional world may seem, I think real history always plays an important role in one way or another. As a source or a base, for example. Some of my favorites include: Code Geass, Madoka Magica, Samurai Champloo, Casshern Sins, Shinsekai yori, Ghost in the Shell….Good post!

    • All great examples. Although I like history in anime used in the context of say Samurai Champloo (Taking a theme and old setting) It’s sort of a pet peeve of mine when you anime recycles real world people and creates fictional versions of them. Poor Oda Nobunaga has been reused to death and the Fate series pinches far too many characters from history for me to be able to fully enjoy it. That said it’s still okay in moderation as long as it’s not making them into main characters.

      A cameo from a famous person is okay once and can even be a good thing (Leonardo in Assassin’s Creed 2 for example) but when it’s overdone (American guys in Assassin’s creed 3) it’s disgusting.Sorry I couldn’t think of anime examples for that but i know there is some.

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