My goal is to create an animated story where the main character is going against their society because their and the society’s ideals are not aligning. Basically a theme of ‘not following the herd, not conforming,’ trying to find a way to live life happy and comfortable. The story should send a clear message; the audience should know what is happening, relate and understand the struggles of the character.
My animation takes place in a spiritual realm/purgatory, a space where souls go to after their physical body dies. There are two types of souls, the white souls and the red soul. The white soul belongs to individuals who lived a happy life and did not suffer. The red soul belongs to individuals who suffered and contains a large amount of regret and hatred. They cannot pass on and often time, they turn into monsters that attack the soul guides.
Subsequently, two roles are born to deal with white and red souls. The soul guide would lead the white souls to next life, while the guardian protects the soul guide and the soul community from these wrathful souls.
The story follows a guardian named Reno who has completely different standards than his peers. He is kind hearted and does not believe in violence, even violence against the wrathful souls. Meanwhile, his peers are against wrathful souls, they go as far as hunt any wrathful souls they see in sight. Reno believes that if the red souls are not directly hurting the soul community, they should not be eradicated. Unfortunately, having a kind heart meant Reno is the lowest of all in the soul community. He has no power and is constantly being picked on by his peers.
Everything changed when Reno met a wrathful soul that did not attack him. It was the first time he met a wrathful soul that did not attack him and he was fascinated. But his peers saw the soul and wanted to kill it. Reno then mustered his courage and defended the soul. It is the first time he stood up for his ideals. Reno left the community as his peers chased after his trail.
My main struggles are trying to develop a story line that follows the theme and trying to show it through animation in a way that is easy to read. I often found myself caught up with the details and would later on realize that those details are not necessary in showing the story. I began to work under this philosophy of ‘removing all contents under it changes the meaning,’ essentially stripping the story line to its bare minimums.
For example in the early development of Reno , I would include the scene of the gate to reincarnation, Reno slowly herding white souls, Reno climbing out of the caves, slowly walking to the soul…etc. Those scenes are just fluffs to the story. I can remove them and nothing changes. With those scenes included, the story can be 2 minutes long, and the audience would still not know what they are looking at.
I also began to realize the weight of each cut. I once spent a whole day animating Reno walking to a white soul and twirling around with it in excitement. But that scene doesn’t tell the audience anything except for Reno’s enthusiasm (it ended up being irrelevant). It is not as important as Reno’s first meeting with the red soul and not as important as the scene in which the fellow society members are chasing him. Without those scenes, the story simply collapses. But if I remove the walking scene, nothing changes. I would rather spend my time animating the important scenes. And if I have spare time after I finish those, maybe I would add the fluffs.
I also struggled a lot with my own setting. It is silly, but I simply don’t know if all souls are created equal and if a soul who committed genocides should be forgiven. It’s not my power to say these people deserve another chance because such figures certainly didn’t give their victims another chance. It is these topics that I find might offend people so I avoid going too deep. Plus, delving deeper does not entirely help me develop the important parts of the story.
My inspirations are How To Train Your Dragon, Wall-e, Spaceboy, RWBY, Bleach, Patapon, Little Nightmares, Hollow Knight. How to Train Your Dragon and Wall-e inspired the main core of the story. In How to Train Your Dragon, there is the same element that this thing is bad, so kill it. Trying to approach it other than killing it, is out of the picture. But the protagonist, Hiccup goes against the tide and finds a way he thinks is less harmful and brings good into his society. I found the idea of going against the stream, an extremely inspiring and self-empowering action. Similarly, Wall-e is a story about self-empowerment and Wall-e never backed down no matter what is in his way. He has dedication to helping Eve and saving earth.
Spaceboy (a webtoon comic) also has the same self-empowerment aspect that I love. It is a romance story regarding the main character going against the powerful/influential mafia-like organization.
For the art style, I was influenced by a video game called Patapon and a little bit by another video game called Little Nightmares. Patapon features one-eyed characters also and they go on an adventure facing fearsome monsters! I also love the adventurous aspect a story can have, hence this animated series called RWBY also inspired my story. I believe I also might have been subconsciously influenced by RWBY’s setting. As they have similar settings in which there are harmful entities and the main characters are guardians. Little Nightmares inspired the way I drew my soul guides. Lastly, I was introduced to a video game by the name of Hollow Knight when I was already creating
Reno. I found that there are many similar setting elements between Hollow Knight and Reno. They both featured guardians who are defending against a harmful mindless enemy. The art style of Hollow Knight is also every cute and I see Hollow Knight as the outcome that I would like Reno to be. It has a solid story line that slowly unwraps.
1. Tsz Ching Liu, Reno, (video still), 2020
2. Tsz Ching Liu, Reno, (video still), 2020
3., Tsz Ching Liu, Reno, (video still), 2020
4., Tsz Ching Liu, Reno, (video still), 2020
5. Tsz Ching Liu, Reno, (video link) , TRT: 3:07, 2020, (This is an animated story in progress. Project began on September, 2019)