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Ysionris’ Influence Map

First off, an admission: I cheated. For-Orian’s “Influence Map” meme was largely meant for artists, and while I do make the occasional sketch (something I haven’t done in a very long while), I have largely repurposed this influence map to show my influences on storytelling and writing instead. Hopefully, I won’t be crucified for it.

Now, onto the show.

Ysionris' Influence Map

Frank Herbert’s Dune – No insight into Dune can be complete without its author, Frank Herbert, and no insight into Frank Herbert can be complete without his literary science fiction masterpiece, Dune. A universe that encompasses social progression, feudalism, philosophy, politics, religion, mysticism, and ecology all in one, Dune and its sequels tell the story of how thousands of years of planning and scheming brought about a young heir to a noble family who – in exile – becomes a dark messiah and a revolutionary, and the way he and his descendants forever change the fabric of humanity in relation to the universe. It is a giant amongst works of science fiction, a somber look at the human condition, prescience, and our vulnerability to myth and superstition. And Herbert’s masterful use of the English language – eloquent in its manner yet precise in its execution – strikes a beautiful fragile balance between older writers who see fit to dedicate eight pages describing a single event, and modern writers who feel two pages is sufficient to constitute as a chapter. Herbert is likely to be the author I am inspired by the most, Dune the novel I am inspired by the most, and this is why it gets the first descriptor here and the three-by-three tile up on the influence map, for “he who controls the spice, controls the universe”.

Final Fantasy – I got into video games late. Until I finally got a Playstation in 2000 C.E. (which saw a violent death when my father wrongfully smashed it against the ground in retaliation of a misdeed that I did not do), the most advanced piece of gaming apparatus I owned was a GameBoy, if we do not count a computer that could barely emulate SNES games. I think there’s no better evidence of this than to say that – despite being born in 1989 – the first Final Fantasy game I’ve ever played was Final Fantasy VIII. I’m glad I did, though; although I do not agree with the present direction Square-Enix is headed now, the old games were magnificent achievements in narrative that wove beautiful stories, gifted us memorable characters, and plunged us into fascinating worlds. I also appreciated the highly aesthetic side of the games, a deft Japanese touch that defied what I considered to be hideous, ugly Western art styles (“where the women look like men, the men look like orcs, and the orcs look like Cthulhu”). Final Fantasy was probably the game that permanently addicted me to the fantasy genre as opposed to having it just be a passing interest, and I still dust off old Final Fantasy games to give it yet another spin. For those who are curious, my favorite games in the series are (in order of release) VI, Tactics, VIII, and XII.

Mobile Suit Gundam SEED – Just as I was late getting into video games, I was late getting into anime as well (well, at least if we exclude Studio Ghibli animated films, and Doraemon or Pokemon, which I consider more of a cartoon). Watching Gundam SEED came as a result of discussing music with a friend, and while I recognize the possibility of bias in terms of watching my first actual anime series, SEED remains one of my favorite anime shows, a war story that – despite its colorful designs – is dark in narrative, a cast that – despite being young – is forced into ethical dilemmas they have no business dabbling in, a war that – despite initially being triggered by political autonomy and industrial disputes – degenerates into racism and genocide. Years of growing up on juvenile, episodic, and superficial Western cartoon narratives had left me unprepared for the excellence that was Gundam SEED, and the bar has remained high through the years as I continued to watch anime. More importantly, it was a point in which I discovered the possibility to find more works in which gray-versus-grey takes a prominent stand, the heroes and the villains are all mixed up, and where morality isn’t as simple as black-and-white, something that I had noticed as a child and learned to dislike. But, please, for the love of all that’s holy, please don’t watch Gundam SEED Destiny; that one’s awful.

Metal Gear Solid Series Metal Gear Solid tickled a lot of my tender spots. It appealed, for starters, to my eternal love of hide-and-go-seek. More importantly, however, to the fact that I have wished to be a storyteller for the better part of my life, and Metal Gear Solid – a very narrative-heavy Japanese game inspired quite a bit by Hollywood – forever changed the dynamic between storytelling and gameplay in the video game industry. The series covers a timeframe from the Cold War to the near future, where various American military-trained infiltrators are forced into action against numerically superior enemies – ranging from terrorists to separatists to Soviets to PMCs – armed with a nuclear weapon and the eponymous Metal Gear, a bipedal battle tank capable of independent nuclear strike, as well as the government conspiracies that surround such operations. It influenced a lot in regards to how I write plots: Political elements, complicated conspiracies, elaborate schemes, convoluted plots. And, if nothing else, it enabled me to accept that if a video game could be such a narrative masterpiece, it was totally cool for my generation of writers to follow in those footsteps as well.

Code Geass – Some might describe Code Geass as the first real post-9/11 anime, to the point where many had suspected the show – or at least the first season – was a thinly-veiled shot across the bow at the Bush Administration and its War on Terror. On the surface about a Japanese rebellion against the colonial Britannian Empire that grew out of the British Crown moving across the ocean following a failed American War of Independence and a successful Napoleonic campaign against the British Isles, Code Geass could’ve been mistaken for a nationalistic portrayal of Japan against the powerful forces of the West, but it’s much more and that. It’s about villains to cheer for and heroes to revile; terrorists to support and governments to topple; revolutionaries to celebrate and tyrants to defy. It was a franchise that approached war and politics with the same kind of somberness I have come to expected from anime, but not so grim and dark as Gundam SEED to avoid the comical hijinks expected from its genre. It’s about postmodernism and personal crusades, how individuals shape people and the world around them, and how they shape them back. And while the second season turned into a trainwreck, the first season at least remained a great standard of narrative that I have attempted to adhere to, for both writing and roleplaying.

Halo Expanded Universe – I’m pretty sure that, when it first came out, most people enjoyed Halo. It became the frat party game, the game everyone played over at parties a four-player split-screen multiplayer match in Blood Gulch (last I heard, there are still people playing the Halo demo for the PC for multiplayer matches on the Blood Gulch map. However, it wasn’t just the game I enjoyed; Halo‘s expanded universe was the first I seriously reached into, starting with the Eric Nylund (an author who wrote many books in the expanded universe, and one of the authors that inspires me most after Frank Herbert and Matthew Stover) prequel novel Fall of Reach. For me, it helped set a standard of science fiction world-crafting, helped establish a workable framework for future fiction that I wrote. It was a fabulously rich world full of conspiracies, black ops, revelations, double-crosses, and strange truths beyond the knowledge of man. It was the first time I saw a video game franchise seriously come to life on pen-and-paper that wasn’t some shoddy novelization, and it has influenced the way I’ve written stories ever since.

Studio Ghibli – Most children grew up having Disney movies be their first forays into the world of cinema, animated or otherwise. My parents, however, had me start with Studio Ghibli, the acclaimed creators of fantastic films such as My Neighbor Totoro, Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind, Porco Rosso, Laputa: Castle in the SkyKiki’s Delivery Service, Graveyard of the Fireflies (these were my first six Ghibli films, by the way, although I can no longer in which order I watched them), Princess Mononoke, and Spirited Away. Unlike Disney films, Studio Ghibli is not entirely in the business of happily-ever-afters. It dares to deal with subjects ahead of its time, and cashes in on nostalgia and tragedy as its elements. From a young age, I was introduced to dreams, moral complexity, love, tragedy, loss, and the complexities of human life that I would have never experienced from Disney films alone, all of it animated with a love for perfection and detail. Studio Ghibli is likely the earliest and greatest influence on my storytelling, and although I have moved onto more somber themes and subjects than Ghibli generally portrays, I am still greatly influenced by their masterpieces, of which my favorites are Laputa: Castle in the Sky, Porco Rosso, and Princess Mononoke.

Pierre-Simon Laplace – For those who know me well enough, Pierre-Simon Laplace is a bit of a weird addition. He was neither a writer nor an artist. In fact, for those who know that he was a French physicist and mathematician far ahead of his time, his inclusion seems highly unusual, given that I am fairly atrocious at the natural sciences and mathematics. However, Laplace, often referred to as the “Newton of France” for being a genius beyond his time, was the first contemporary thinker who published papers on causal determinism, which is the philosophy that because everything goes by cause-and-effect and has conditions by which things happen, tracing every effect back to its causes and conditions essentially means things have happened and will happen in the only way they can happen. In fact, the conceptual “Laplace’s demon” – a theoretical entity with the capability of knowing every single scientific principle and the status of every molecule of the universe which then derives the capability to discern the future from this information – was indeed his invention. And although I have learned of determinism – which has influenced by perspective on life and the universe – long before I’ve ever heard of Laplace, I nevertheless consider him an influence, if only so the Western world knows more about determinism by which I can explore such ideas and philosophies.

Yuri – I actually am not sure at what point I became obsessed with yuri, a word that means “lily” in Japanese but is used to refer to a genre with themes of lesbian romance. However, it is now virtually a very open component of myself, to the point where friends joke about this or bait me with pictures on nearly a daily basis. I consider “yuri” – a Japanese concept – to actually be a different thing from “lesbianism” – a Western term – to be different on the level of entertainment. It’s not a universal comparison, but I feel that “yuri” focuses more on the romantic and relationship aspects of a female homosexual couple, whereas “lesbianism” – perhaps due to its heavy Western influences – seems to focus on the sex. If yuri in entertainment is about “squee”, then  lesbianism in entertainment is about “hawt”. And while I certainly don’t mind nocturnal rendezvouses in bed, I personally prefer watching girls bashfully in love as opposed to constantly just making out. And given this highly obvious preference in romance, it’s not entirely surprising to figure out that it also factors into my writing from time-to-time.

GetBackers GetBackers is a story of two young adults, both with supernatural powers, running a retrieval service in Shinjuku, Tokyo, to “get back what was taken”. From a video game stolen by schoolyard bullies to vital components of an atomic bomb, the duo – known as the GetBackers – will retrieve just about anything for the right price, but get into increasingly bizarre and dangerous situations, complicated with the convoluted and difficult pasts of the massive cast. The manga is incredibly upper-shounen: Violence, blood, and boobs adorn the vast majority of the printed pages. At the same time, however, it strives to be intelligent and with plots based in interesting political and scientific facts, even if much of it is taken liberally, which distinguishes it from a lot of other shounen adventure manga which really just amounts to “making ridiculous things up”. Furthermore, its large cast and the ability of the author, Kibayashi Shin, to rope together the personal and tragic pasts of a large number of protagonists drives the story into an area that refuses to be solely personal or climatic. Interestingly, the illustrator of GetBackers, Ayamine Rando, has ended up becoming one of my major inspirations for my art style when it comes to sketching human beings.

Suzumiya Haruhi Franchise – The Suzumiya Haruhi franchise defies genres. The premise is strange enough: An alien, a time traveler, an esper, and an utterly normal but snarky high school boy follow the titular Suzumiya Haruhi, a highly eccentric and energetic schoolgirl, form a school club called the SOS Brigade; its ostensible purpose is to find aliens, time travelers, and have fun with them, but unbeknownst to Haruhi, her very club members are the paranormal entities who she seeks, all of whom recognize that Haruhi obliviously possesses the capability to destroy and rewrite reality to her will, and are invested in ensuring she continues to know nothing about it. The result is a highly masterful and complicated story involving actual scientific and mathematical theories (the author, Tanigawa Nagaru, is a math and science buff) woven into a story about high school students bonding with each others despite clashing personalities and interests along paranormal and personal lines, littered with the kind of silliness you’d expect from an anime set in a Japanese high school, but ultimately framed by the epic-ness and poignant moments of drama and adventure, an ensemble balanced with the elements of fantasy, paranormal, academics, humor, nostalgia, maturity, drama, tragedy, and adventure that has made Suzumiya Haruhi into a household name in Japanese popular media.

Black Cat – A former elite assassin, a former Interpol detective, and a nanotechnology-engineered girl travel a modern fictional world as bounty hunters while they catch criminals, eat food, and get tangled into a conspiracy that threatens to re-establish a new world order. It’s irreverently silly at times, but quite serious when it needs to be, yet it never falls into the full-out angsty, depressing territory that many such manga delves into, which is a nice touch. It has a fairly stock plot – highly accomplished persons having thrown their own life away due to their own personal tragedies working for different ends, some of whom have special powers, some of whom want to take over the world, and some of whom must stop them – but it’s the execution of details, the development of the characters, the fantastical elements they’re willing to deal with in what otherwise seems like a normal world, and the silliness it’s more than willing to indulge in that kept me hooked to the manga. By the way, please don’t watch the anime; it’s pretty horrible.

The World – According to the World Bank, the current world population is 6,973,738,433. They are spread out across 149 million km2 of land, encompassing 206 countries (ignoring some disputes regarding sovereignty and other technicalities). Together, they have a myriad of experiences, from triumphs to failures, pride to humiliation, fortune to tragedies, love to hate. The world may have gotten smaller, but the pool of stories shared has not; if anything, we have only allowed them to propagate, allowed them to be heard around the world. They share these stories, and sometimes, people listen. And perhaps one day, I might be able to tell a story to everyone as well, a story about the collection of many other stories brought together. As Archer of Fate/zero fittingly remarked, “This entire world is my garden until the end of time. Thus, I can guarantee this: You will never tire of it.”

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