So I was finally getting to the end of Aeka’s route in Yume Miru Kusuri. The above scene happened after Kyoka tries to get her boyfriend to rape her, resulting in a hostage situation , which , sooner or later, led to this scene where they both strangle her at the same time. While I was really, really, happy indeed – truly happy – to see her eyes turn white and see her lose control of her bodily functions, I was sad to find out that she did not die at all. I was confused – how could she have survived? If I was Kouhei I would stab her eyeballs with that knife, or toss her body across the fence and claim she committed suicide, or something along those lines. . .
..and then something else confused me – why do I care so much about a pair of fictional characters?
Of course, it’s not like they could have done any of the above. After all, they’re nothing more than 2D characters voiced by others and programmed to do particular actions and say particular things at pre-programmed times without any deviation. It’s not like they could have stabbed her in the stomach just because I wanted them to.
Similarly, it applies over all media. We feel sympathy when one of our favourite characters dies in a soap drama, or for ‘victims’ of compulsive gambling, as posed by actors in anti-gambling commercials. We even , like aforementioned, wish for the characters we support to do what we want, instead of what had just happened. Person A might want Actor A to break up with Actor B, since Actor B is cheating on Actor A, yet she doesn’t know this, and et cetera.
Yet , being sane and rational human beings (for the most part), we are compelled to relate, and perhaps, even place ourselves into the ‘shoes’ of the character itself. But we know that these characters do not exist. So , paradoxically, we feel and treat them as real characters – and yet, acknowledge that they do not exist. How do you explain this?
Peter Cave, associate professor at the Open University , UK and Chair of the Humanist Philosophers of Great Britain, writes in his book, “Can a Robot be Human? 33 Perplexing Philosophy Puzzles”:
“….perhaps the emotions are not directed at the characters at all. It has been suggested that fiction leads the audience to have the fear, the pity, the joy -and so on- at real people (not the fictions) who have the relevant characteristics.”
Simply enough, we relate because we link what happens to the fictional characters to what happens in real life. I know it sounds clear and obvious, but there’s more to it than that. He goes on to further elaborate that “the very thought of things can generate emotions, without the need for full belief or disbelief [is] perhaps, [enough] for handling this puzzle.” What this suggests is that the thought of a particular character in Situation X is enough to make us feel emotions for the character, never mind whether we believe the character exists or not. We can’t feel emotions for a thought, we feel emotions for the characters involved in that thought itself.
For instance, Romeo & Juliet , Cinderella, and various other stories – we feel emotions for the characters. We feel the pain in Romeo and Juliet’s tragedy, and we feel happy to see Cinderella triumph over her wicked family.
We suspend our belief as we watch the show, and soon, we start to relate and truly enjoy the show. It’s impossible to enjoy a show if you’re too realistic, and this is probably why. We watch the show, we suspend our belief, let our thoughts flow along with the show, eventually taking the character’s plights, ups and downs to be akin to ours, and soon ,we relate.
So next time , you know why you want to reach out and hug that protagonist of your choice, simply because it’s been a hard time for him or her, and why you would like so very, very much to see Antoinette choked to death by Aeka.
tl;dr Yume Miru Kusuri might be the best H-game ever.
Cave, Peter. Can A Robot be Human? 33 Perplexing Philosophy Puzzles. 1st ed. Oneworld Oxford, Print.
Vermecule, Blakey. Why Do We Care About Literary Characters?. 1st ed. Print.