Killing Characters, and Japanese

You can probably guess what happened in section C4: Beatrice is Hit by a Bus. It’s generally frowned upon to off side characters just to motivate your protagonists, especially if that side character is the only woman in your story and that’s the only reason they existed. I’ve heard it called “getting fridged,” after an eponymous event in superhero comics where a woman ended up in a refrigerator. I already toyed with the trope when Faith was obliterated in A3 and re-materialized in A4. It seems like Beatrice is gone for good, though, being “smeared” across an intersection, and all. Luckily Beatrice isn’t my only female character, and dying isn’t the end of the road in Akayama DanJay. Let’s talk about how I’ve tried to set up a meaningful death:

Beatrice is a side character but she weighs heavily on the context of previous scenes. Dan mentions her back in Section A4 and wagers his soul to save hers. Throughout C1, 2, and 3, Faith reminds us of her affection for Beatrice. Faith’s conversation with Dan before Beatrice arrives at the centipede-party establishes just how important Beatrice is to both of them.

The reader even gets to watch Beatrice open up. In B2 she’s almost silent (perhaps because Dan is staring at her) but in B3 we learn about her through her relationship with Faith. By the time she dies the reader knows her fairly well. Since I’ve always kept her at arm’s length from the reader, she maintains the unattainable aura Dan sees in her—but she’s a person. She’s not just a walking corpse waiting to die to make the conflict personal.

Until, of course, the title of C4 forewarns the collapse of the love-triangle built around her. Along the way we learn she’s a nurse at a religious hospital, she’s concerned about Faith’s well-being, and she’s fairly kind to Dan despite being understandably uncomfortable around him. Since we know she’s about to die, hyping her purity and innocence pumps up the dark humor.

It also highlights her as a moral beacon. Beatrice is a symbol for a direct link to something wholesome and pure, a la the Beatific Vision we talked about in the commentary to B2. In order to demonstrate the main themes of Akayama DanJay we need characters who represent a wide variety of moral platforms. In Dan’s vision Beatrice is the epitome of those moral platforms, an ideal to be sought. So when she arrives in the afterlife, what happens to her must be highly relevant to the main themes of the book. Even after death she will influence the narrative—if only symbolically.

Beatrice Portinari, the woman Dante Alighieri obsessed over, died at 24. My Beatrice dies not much older, and has as large an impact after her death.

Anyway, that’s my two cents. By using proper narrative framing I make Beatrice’s death important and meaningful, instead of predictable and in service to a male-dominated story-line.

Now, let’s talk about Japanese. I’m not fluent in Japanese, and I don’t expect the reader to be, but putting foreign words in context lets the reader learn their meaning on the fly. In B4 Professor Akayama is sometimes called Akayama Hakase, so readers can guess Hakase means Professor or something like that. She cries “Mou iya dawa” when her student Bunjiro is hurt, so readers can guess this is a complaint. That’s good enough to understand the story, and knowing the real translation (more like “I can’t take anymore!” or “Not again!”) adds depth which foreshadows an eventual plot-twist.

At the same time, kanji characters (a system of Japanese writing related to the Chinese alphabet) create the opportunity for meaning hidden in pictographs. Professor Akayama spells it out:

She pulled a clipboard and pen from her lab coat. “You were brave to try writing my name in kanji, but you wrote Akayama…” She drew a sun and moon beside a trident. “Bright mountain. My name is Akayama…” She drew a cross on four legs and another trident. “Red mountain. Akai Yama Hakase, not Akarui Yama Hakase. Understand, deshou ka? Still, not a bad try for an American. Just write in English from now on.”

The title of this book is Red-Mountain DanJay. Dan seeks a mountain in the afterlife, a Mountain with its Peak in Heaven. Clearly Akayama is somehow instrumental to the narrative. There are no coincidences in a book. Everything must be connected.

Speaking of, the phrase ‘continuous and unbroken even in the most minute detail’ could be represented using the Japanese phrase 縷縷 (or 縷々 or るる). That’s pronounced RuRu, and the kanji are composed of several parts. One of those parts is the kanji for ‘woman,’ 女. To me, 縷 looks like a winged woman holding a chainsaw over her head. That’s how I memorize kanji. I make stories around them. Akayama DanJay is just a really long one.

On a different note, Lucia could stand for ‘Lucifer.’ There’s a Paradise Lost allegory hiding in my Inferno allegory. Let’s talk about this once we watch more 縷縷の時空加速 (RuRu’s Spatiotemporal Acceleration)!

Next Chapter
Table of Contents

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s