Can you identify "The Hero's Journey" in Berserk or any other writing tropes? (Kishotenketsu, etc)

Hello, first of all, I apologize for my bad English.

I've been studying some narrative structures and noticed some differences between the Western and Eastern methods of storytelling. Some people, especially in the West, swear that you can fit the "Hero's Journey" into every fantasy story, but I honestly fail to see that as true. I would like to know your opinions regarding that.

Avinish-10.png

An example of the Hero's Journey structure

Berserk is an example where I can't see the Hero's Journey. Who is the Mentor? What is the Elixir? Where do you fit the "Death + Rebirth"? Some of these concepts vary depending on the Arc of the story. I can see Skull Knight as being the mentor a few times, along with Godo, but they don't even appear until later in the Golden Age Arc. I can see the Elixir being Caska's healing, but that will only be a goal until much later in the story. Some could say the Elixir is the healing of the Brand, but that is not even mentioned, much less a goal for Guts and his party. There is no atonement, and most of the time, it feels like Guts is wandering about, trying to find a meaning to his life, chasing revenge on the Apostles and the Godhand, and failing miserably, as much as we do with our struggles in life.

It is different from stories like Star Wars (Episodes IV, V, and VI) and Lord of the Rings, where you can see the outline of the story and identify the Hero's Journey.
Berserk, to me, sounds much more like a Greek Tragedy, very similar to Shakespeare's stories such as Hamlet, Macbeth, or King Lear, which, in my opinion, also don't follow the structures of the Hero's Journey.


I guess that what is off-putting to me is that these writing mentors and gurus swear they can fit the Hero's Journey into everything, but I don't think some stories fit into that structure. They also swear that if your story does not follow that structure, it will be bland, and boring and will fail to captivate the reader's attention.


Could you guys elucidate me?


Also, there is the Kishotenketsu structure that is way more prevalent in the East, where there isn't a main conflict or a villain to the story. It's seen in most Ghibli movies and other media.


All in all, sometimes I think that trying to use these narrative structures (The Hero's Journey, especially) may hinder the creativity and potential of your story instead of helping you.

Do you guys agree?
 
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Aazealh

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Staff member
Some people, especially in the West, swear that you can fit the "Hero's Journey" into every fantasy story, but I honestly fail to see that as true. I would like to know your opinions regarding that.

The idea that there's a common mold from which every story inevitably springs has always seemed stupid to me. There are definitely certain structures and techniques in storytelling that work especially well and are therefore common in many tales. But to say that every story can be reduced to the same basic elements requires extreme simplification, to the point where I don't see any value in it.

This mostly stems from Joseph Campbell's theories, published in The Hero with a Thousand Faces, which I'm surprised never got much pushback. But then again, there's also a difference between classic myths (which influenced each other throughout the centuries) and modern stories, so the way you see this concept presented online nowadays is even more simplified and unnuanced.

I guess that what is off-putting to me is that these writing mentors and gurus swear they can fit the Hero's Journey into everything, but I don't think some stories fit into that structure. They also swear that if your story does not follow that structure, it will be bland, and boring and will fail to captivate the reader's attention.

Beware of those who calls themselves experts only to sell you their services.

Also, there is the Kishotenketsu structure that is way more prevalent in the West, where there isn't a main conflict or a villain to the story.

Kishōtenketsu is such a basic storytelling structure that I don't think it's worth dwelling on it much. It's only a step beyond saying a story should have a beginning, middle, and end. Useful to teach beginners how to write poems or comic strips, but meaningless in the context of longer stories.

All in all, sometimes I think that trying to use these narrative structures (The Hero's Journey, especially) may hinder the creativity and potential of your story instead of helping you.

Believing that a story has to follow a predetermined path will undoubtedly limit your creativity and the value of the work you produce. Knowing how something will unfold before it even begins is the very definition of bland and boring.
 

guuuuuuuuts

Excited for the next chapter!
Could you guys elucidate me?
Let's step away from Hero's Journey for a second...

You could read Understanding Comics from Scott McCloud for some insight into the comic industry, because in that book he visually explains the fundamentals of a comic: things like perspective. Also, he briefly mentions there are differences between Western comics and those from Mangaka like Osama Tezuka. Fundamentals are always present across all art forms: music to writing to sports, comics, etc. However, interpretation varies and challenges from the artists themselves emerge within their work.

Recap from the book:

If a comic is meant to be interpreted in a particular way, and comic panels should include XYZ elements, then how can a Western reader of Osama Tezuka possibly explain what they are actually seeing in panels from the Buddha manga... It isn't merely a black and white, linear answer as you might expect.

For me at least, this is a big part of what keeps art interesting. One fun way to intepret this at a glance is:

Character sits by a river to await a call to adventure, but no one comes and the character is unable or unwilling to go. The end.
^^ This could be the entire story summary for a 500 page slice-of-life comic, which does very well.
 
I always frown whenever I encounter writings such as Joseph Campbell’s Thousand Faces when I browse a bookstore. Aaz already voiced my problems with them above, and they are doubly annoying for me as an aspiring writer. It is such a stifling notion that every story must follow a certain pattern or that all stories essentially boil down to the same elements. God, what a soulless proposition.

Already in that diagram above I can see something that has bothered me for a long time about storytelling critiques: the idea that a character must change or “grow” in order for a story to be meaningful, which is bullshit. Sometimes the very point of a story is that a character doesn’t grow or learn from mistakes, thus leading him or herself into trouble or even tragedy (hence one half of the experience of drama; the Tragedy). Sometimes a story doesn’t require a character to change in order to work. My point is that saddling writers with rules or roads they must follow kills creativity, as others mentioned above.

I believe it was Patrick Rothfuss who said the following (and it has stuck with me ever since) - If there is one rule in storytelling, it is this: do whatever you want, as long as it works.
 

Walter

Administrator
Staff member
I've always felt structures like these indicate a tendency among the choices in storytelling rather than rules. For example, I believe that all the stories we've collectively heard and been inspired by as a species do likely ingrain a pattern in our expectations for what constitutes a story. But writers aren't beholden to such expectations. Stories are as infinite as human imagination.

The widespread desire to categorize every occurrence in stories into labels and then into vaguely defined boxes of "tropes / memes / clichés" is a deeply cynical outlook for storytelling. As if everything we can imagine should fit neatly within borders (and on a wiki page). Anyone who feels governed by those kinds of rules has a completely different outlook from me for what makes stories so powerful. They're inspiring because they represent endless potential, not because they reflect a familiar pattern.
 
Interesting thoughts!
In serial narratives in manga the two traditions (Ki-sho-ten-ketsu and Freytag's plot pyramid) can be combined. Like for Dragon ball series this is very visible. It's fun to compare the beginning of a series, episode (the twists) , how the series stretch or end. This is also fun to think about when studying plot structures in gaming...
But it's very complex in Berserk. Think for example of the episodes where Guts meets Chich and compare it to the bigger pictures. And that's just a side (?) story. It is complicated. one of the reasons why Miura was such a genius storyteller is that he had control over And gave himself freedom within his storytelling which to me as a reader was addictive...

Another intresting thing is how to people accustomed to "The hero's journey plot structure", the introduction phases (ki + sho), where key situation/detail and the developement/repetition are played out, seem too long before the sudden twist happens. This might be the case for the Eclipse. I think about how people outside of Japan (I'm generalizing) reading this story in real time would have reacted to that twist.
I also sometimes think about the difference between these structures and how inductive the beginning in Ki-sho-ten-ketsu is. You start with a detail or situation and not with a concept or theoretical framework (I've heard this structure is common in academic writing in Japan). It is interesting to think of which key features were introduced early on in Berserk, how they would have been played out and what ideas Miura skipped...

One thing I say tho I really hoped we could get a wrapping up/ending/epilogue that Did include a resolution of some kind. What I mean is that I hoped Berserk would have had an ending that wasn't like in say European folklores (emphasizing with the protagonist: hero stabs the bad guy, all the good guys are happy now) nor flat (no conclusion, no solution, no conflict). I hoped the ending of berserk would be a combination of those two, like an event driven conclusion (ketsu) that although perhaps not character driven, benefits our hero... :guts:
 

Aazealh

Administrator
Staff member
In serial narratives in manga the two traditions (Ki-sho-ten-ketsu and Freytag's plot pyramid) can be combined. [...]
Another intresting thing is how to people accustomed to "The hero's journey plot structure", the introduction phases (ki + sho), where key situation/detail and the developement/repetition are played out, seem too long before the sudden twist happens.

I think it's important to keep in mind most of these things were created by readers as tools to help them more easily understand how stories work. Actual authors don't lay out simplistic templates to remind themselves they need to introduce the world and characters, then incite action and various developments.

Like Walter mentioned above, the perceived need to break things down and systematically categorize them is not conducive to creativity, and I would in fact say that it is an indicator of a certain intellectual immaturity. Maybe related to humans' innate instinct to see patterns in everything.

One thing I say tho I really hoped we could get a wrapping up/ending/epilogue that Did include a resolution of some kind. What I mean is that I hoped Berserk would have had an ending that wasn't like in say European folklores (emphasizing with the protagonist: hero stabs the bad guy, all the good guys are happy now) nor flat (no conclusion, no solution, no conflict). I hoped the ending of berserk would be a combination of those two, like an event driven conclusion (ketsu) that although perhaps not character driven, benefits our hero...

Aren't you overcomplicating things here? Basically you just hoped Berserk would have had a good ending. :sweatdrop: I think it's safe to say it would have been character-driven and would have addressed and concluded all remaining major plot points in the series. I feel like that goes without saying!
 

guuuuuuuuts

Excited for the next chapter!
Actual authors don't lay out simplistic templates to remind themselves they need to introduce the world and characters, then incite action and various developments.
Sure, the templates are useful for aspiring writers who lay out a scene or character, but need more world building and context to move things along. Got to get that experience from doing.
 
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