Thursday, 15 August 2013

Happy Heat-Haze Day!

Even though the appointed time has already passed, please watch out for incoming traffic and heavy falling objects.

For those who don't know, or aren't familiar with Japanese songwriters, Jin (Kagerou Days series) and mothyP (Servant of Evil series) are perhaps two of the most brilliant storytellers using pictures, music and lyrics ever. I mean, ever.

The songs are from three to eight minutes long, so the idea is to convey the most story in the allotted amount of time. If the songwriter isn't an animator or doesn't have access to one, then all they would have is the music and the lyrics. (It's ok for them not to have singers, that's what Vocaloid voice banks are for.)

This is a translation of Kagerou Days or Heat Haze Days, taken from kagamite on her site.

On August 15th, 12:30 in the afternoon.
The weather was incredibly nice.
And amidst the sickening rays of the dazzling sun
I spoke with you, for I had nothing else to do.

"Well, y'know, I kind of hate summer," 
You boldly murmured while petting a cat.
Ah, you pursued that cat as it ran away from you,
And what jumped out was the traffic light that change to a glaring red.

Suddenly, a truck came out of nowhere and struck you as you screamed.
Your scent, now mingled with sprayed blood, choked me.
In the haze of lies, the heat haze laughed, "This is all real."
With that, like a cricket's sound being disturbed, the light blue of summer darkened away.

I woke up upon my bed to the sound of a ticking clock.
What time is it now?
On August 14th, sometime past 12 in the morning,
I recalled the sound of an awfully annoying cricket.

But, y'know, it's a little strange.
Yesterday, in a dream, I saw us walking in this same exact park.
"Why don't we go home now?" The second you stepped off the pathway,
Everyone surrounding us turned their heads up to the sky and opened their mouths.

From the sky, down dropped an iron pole that pierced you through.
The sound of windchimes and your ripping screams filled the spaces between the trees.
In this unnatural scene, the shimmering heat laughed, "This is the real thing."
As my vision blurred away, I glanced at your profile, and thought I saw you smiling.

Countless times have had me black out in the laughing heat like this,
this cycle has repeated for decades. I'd realized that a long time ago.
In this kind of cliched story, there must only be one ending.
Beyond this repeating summer day, it has to exist.

Suddenly, I pushed you aside and jumped into the street, at that moment the truck slammed into me.
Your eyes and my twisted body were like hazy reflections of the blood that sprayed everywhere.
If that heat haze laughed, "Serves you right!" again, 
then this would be what you'd call a normal summer day.
But all of that ended today.

On August 14th, a girl awoke upon her bed.
And she said,

"I failed this time, too..." as she cradled a single cat.


Why did I fall in love with this story?

I don't know about you, but to me, telling such a vivid story in 388 words is amazing. A story like that, written by me would have around twenty chapters, the main character and his sidekicks, and a magical cat. So why did I fall in love with this four-minute long video (instrumental portions with no lyrics included)? As a writer, I tried analyzing the lyrics without the instrumental portions.

In the first stanza alone, we have the time, date, weather, and the characters (the narrator and the person referred to as 'you'). It even tells a bit of the narrator's personality with the phrase 'I spoke to you, for I had nothing to do'.

The next stanza expanded more on the character 'you' (who is a girl) while simultaneously giving foreshadow with the line 'I kind of hate summer'. It follows up with more foreshadow with the last line by having the girl cross a busy street.

The chorus gives in to the audience's expection by having 'you' die in a horrific manner. But it isn't just saying it's a horrific accident, but about scents, sounds and sight of blood spraying across the pavement. We see a hint of supernatural with the strange heat haze. Is it a new character? We are filled with questions.

The plot finally arrives when the narrator wakes up again in the third stanza. We see more of the character's personality as the song transitions to the fourth stanza and the narrator realizes he could try to change the future. Again we see more foreshadowing as the lyrics point out that everyone looked up at the sky.

The stakes in the story goes up as the narrator fails his goals in the chorus. Again, it is not just the visual. Despite the audio component of this story (also known as the instrumental background), the lyrics clearly describe the sound of crickets buzzing, screams and windchimes.

The fifth stanza shows character development, implying that the narrator had never given up his goal despite countless repeats. We fall in love with this character. Who is she to him, to have him try and save her over and over again? The final moment of decision once he realized the last thing he had not yet tried. This is the climax of the story.

The final chorus reveals that he saved the girl at the cost of his life. The whole story had build up to this point. Again, mirroring the first and second chorus, we see vivid details of the accident. We expect the story to be over at this point, but the trick is...

The girl is also stuck in the time loop as well and the significance of that particular piece of information explains a lot about the girl's personality.

Here's a video of the song. Please take note at how the background music and the animation is used to help foreshadow the story or change the mood.

Now that you understand the significance of Heat Haze Day, may you never enter one of these strange circumstances.

Have you ever encountered a style of storytelling that makes you sigh and go, 'I wish I thought about that'? What other creative ways have you encountered storytelling?

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