Crunchyroll Expo 2020 – [The Importance of] Worldbuilding in Anime – Notes!

By: Jenna Morgan | @jkmorgan-media

2:00 PM – 2:45 PM (PDT) |  Saturday 5 September 2020 – 4 pm to 4:45 pm central

Panel Description: Have you ever had an anime just whisk you away to another world? Somewhere that not only felt real, but somehow, more than that? Anime has the power to craft a reality beyond what’s possible in our own, but how do they do it? Is it the gorgeous painted landscapes? The rich lore and culture? Let’s explore these incredible worlds together by observing the anime that excel at building them and what makes them tick. Featuring: Robert Schiele | Room: YUZU STAGE

This panel, titled “Worldbuilding in Anime,” is more of a defense for the importance of thinking about and including world building in stories than an examination of world building elements in animes you’ve seen before or will see. 

Why World Building?

Every setting in a show, even if it is supposed to be based in real-life, is technically its own world. What constitutes these worlds aren’t necessarily rules of combat, social rules or the like. They may play apart of it, but real world building is how the lives and how it works within the world. It’s essentially what lies beyond the show/story and what dictates how the story can or cannot work. 

For example, you see a high school gym in your favorite sports anime. Where is the gym on the high school’s directory? What exists does it have and why are they placed there? What is the settings purpose? Is the gym just a random place for the characters to meet? Or is there some extreme rules that dictate their necessity to only practice here every day, making the setting more of an obstacle.

By viewing the setting as it’s own character, one that requires details and will create assumptions/implications of the world and how it works, you can create a statement/commentary about ours and the world of the characters. 

It’s important that you don’t break the realm of disbelief and then lose the audience, because when you make a world with rules, they must be followed or the story becomes more of the focus and loses the power the initial world that drew the audience in initially.

Anime gives the freedom to make up any world that would be too impossible to create in a production studio, which allows so much more in terms of making the most impossible world possible. 

Even a world that doesn’t seem to have rules, has rules (like, Wonderland from Alice in Wonderland). 

Scale of the world doesn’t need to be larger than life to do so either–you can start small like a cave, and get so much out of it. Think about movies like Oculus or The Room. The setting is a limited space, and yet we see a world. 

You want to capture the FEEL of a place, not just what it looks like. You can do this by playing with lighting, color composition and more. 

Time period placement would also help with the arc of the characters and aid in building the world and its rules. If there was a story set in our world’s England during the Victorian period, that gives us a good amount of information to begin imagining what kind of world this would be, what the story would likely be about, and its limits regarding clothing, laws, social expectations, etc. You wouldn’t expect people staring at their cell phones and missing a train to be a problem for the characters of that world. The physics of the world would still be similar to ours, probably, but with a detailed timeline we can draw on. 

Remember that the setting is, itself, a character. One that you can use as a reflection of the plot, major characters, or to set a tone. If the main character wasn’t there, would the world still exist? How? What would happen to it without that character (think, It’s a Wonderful Life)? What is the dynamic between our main character and this world and what difference does it make? Do the characters make the world better? Worse? What brought the world to what it is now and how did time in this world affect everything else? Everyone else? What type of people live there? Are they in categories or careers, both? Who really fits in this world and how does one accomplish that?

There are reasons and nuances for characters’ drive or purpose in the story, as well as their own story. The same applies to the world you are creating in your work.

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