I love the idea of Mass Transport events – a whole bunch of people from the “normal world”, suddenly dumped into an unearthly situation and trying to adapt.
Unfortunately when you get a mass of people involved in anything you get politics, and I hate trying to write politics. Hate it. So much.
Which, I think, is one of the reasons Log Horizon makes my bunnies go “Ooo,” to watch it. Mamare Touno already wrote the politics, I don’t have to worry about them – I can just sit back and watch the fur fly. (Author also wrote Maoyuu, which is one reason I’m facepalming at reports of apparent tax evasion, oy, someone with that much economics you’d think would know better…. Ahem.)
So recently I picked up the first West Wind Brigade manga, based on the LH sidestory of the same name. And it’s interesting too – in part because at least in the first volume, it doesn’t go into any political maneuvering. Instead, we get to see the much more practical aspects Soujirou’s guild is dealing with; from “what do we eat” to “wait, the NPC we hired is a real person?” to “…We have to fight monsters face-to-face now. Eep.”
Soujirou’s sparkling at “the world is real!” is incredibly adorable. And, I think, a nice contrast to the usual “how will we get home?” shocked reactions you find in most Mass Transports (and in a lot of the LH characters). But what I find just as adorable – and very likely the key to why the West Wind Brigade hangs together – is Soujirou’s reaction to the fact that a lot of his fellow players are scared to fight for real… and he’s not.
He doesn’t look down on them. He doesn’t tell them to snap out of it.
He apologizes for scaring them. Because this is his dream come true – and he didn’t think that through. That the fighting is real. That the blood is real. And most people have a very hard time dealing with combat.
…I have to admit, I’d squee and pounce him myself. That is a Nice Guy.
And I think that’s what sets West Wind Brigade – and to some extent the main Log Horizon – apart from a lot of other Mass Transport stories. Most of the ones I’ve run across have as part of their underlying theme “you have to adapt to where you are, and you have to be tougher than you ever were as a normal person.”
Soujirou, though, recognizes that people have limits. Yes, they have to adapt. Yes, they’d better get used to the idea of defending themselves in real life. But they don’t have to do it all at once.
So… I’m thinking the trick to writing a really good Mass Transport fic, one that makes allowances for the limits of the human psyche even as it pushes them to adapt, would have to involve some of the factors West Wind has. 1) having a sympathetic character who can face the whole situation head-on, and 2) having some kind of safe place to retreat to, so at least people can sleep at night without worrying about all the scary new monsters eating them.
Anyone have any other thoughts on what might help make that scenario really work?