Monday, March 18

Hanging at the Edge of the Cliff

Hello all!

The topic at hand came to mind when I had an ironic experience recently. Several days ago I was in a conversation on Goodreads where the question of cliffhangers came up. One participant explained that they really hate cliffhangers because they hate being, per the term, left hanging and waiting for more. Closure was needed, even if it was only closure for a given scene. I remarked that cliffhangers don't really bother me that much. Sure, if I'm really into it I can be heard to say things like "Aww man! No more until next time?" But, to me it's all in good fun and I enjoy the excitement of waiting for the next installment. I've heard though, that some readers are prone to becoming honestly angry with an author who makes use of cliffhangers in certain ways.

Then, I suddenly found myself on the opposite side of the fence. Those of you who know me probably also know that I consider a well-written manga targeted at adult audiences to be just as interesting as a good novel. Typically to find juicy bits like that you need to go to fansub groups for books that will never be licensed to anybody outside of Japan, as opposed to traveling down to your local Barnes and Noble. On the plus side, there are so many great titles out there (if you know how to find them) that it's literally impossible to run out of constant brain-stimulus while waiting for the next chapter of one that's hooked you to be released. On the minus side, the groups that translate these things don't get paid for their work, and translating a manga to a readable quality takes a lot more work than one might think (editing, typesetting, cleaning, translating, et cetera...). You're also at the mercy of whatever groups choose to drop a project, unless another group chooses to pick it up again. It's nothing to complain about since if it weren't for these groups we wouldn't have any manga to enjoy at all, but still.

My point after that large digression is that when reading manga, you have to get used to cliffhangers that might never be continued in some cases, unless you plan to learn more Japanese than I did during my time over there. That, and you must be patient. One title that I have been following as closely as possible for nearly two years now is Shinigami-sama ni Saigo no Onegai wo (Last Wish to the Shinigami), by Mikoto Yamaguchi. It's an intriguing murder-mystery with high paranormal elements, shocking moments, suspense, humor...basically the gamut of emotional responses (something I appreciate in any good story). Most of all, it's extremely well thought out. In all that time the series ended at only eighteen chapters, but I was pleased when another group picked it up and saw it out to the end. Until I read the last chapter and found myself...on the other side of the fence. I won't give anything away, but suffice to say the ending raises just as many questions as the beginning did, and I received no real sense of closure. "What the heck is this?" I thought. I actually found myself becoming a little upset, and I trolled around a few forums just to be certain the 18th actually was the last chapter. To my dismay, the series did indeed end there.

It seemed to me that either the publisher had decided to axe the title and pull the rug out from under the mangaka (author), or the mangaka got lazy/gave up/etc and just left us readers to "figure it out on our own". I'm fine with a mystery story, but in my opinon, any story must have some sense of closure to be considered finished. You can conjecture all day long about whether or not Colonel Mustard was killed in the library with the candlestick, and it's a lot of fun to do that while the story is going on, but how would you feel if you never really found out whodunnit? Right, I felt the same way.

All the same, I've calmed down now and I can't say that I'm still upset about it. The mangaka insists that he dropped enough clues during the story to allow readers to determine the culprit. So, since 18 chapters isn't that long, I will most likely go back and re-read the entire thing to see what I come up with. Was the end-of-series cliffhanger a bad idea? I'm really not sure. I could cry foul, but then, I appear to not be the only one who's going to read it all again (which is rare for me), and if I'm willing to do that, I must have liked it. Also, now people have something to talk about. It's no longer "Oh, so-and-so did it, that was cool, let's move on." It's now, "Who do you think did it? Let's discuss ." I'm sure the story will garner even more readers now that people who have read it can make such comments.

Just like I'm making now. Go figure.

Well, that's my two cents. Would love to hear some opinions on cliffhangers for anybody who took the time to read this entire post! In the meantime, I think I have the list of suspects in this story narrowed down to two possible culprits. It's GOT to be one of them....

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