BOK's Flavour - Sweet or Sour? Part 2
By Gregory on April 28th, 2005 · Filed in General Magic · Comments not available just now
Betrayers' Flavour – Sweet or Sour? PART 2
If you joined me a while ago, you would have read my first article in a series of 3 focusing on the flavour of BOK. If you have just joined, welcome. There’s no need to rush back to the article archive; you haven’t missed anything which will ruin this for you. If you want a good read about art, go back of course, but in every PART 2, I will talk about…
Flavour text isn’t the most noticed thing on a Magic card. Apart from an odd two or three articles every few months or so, they don’t get much coverage. Of course, people read it and enjoy it, but you would never get as much focus on it as you would on, for example, card design. This may well be the shortest article of the three, so I thought that to make this read slightly longer, and to clear things up a bit, I’d discuss what I’m looking for in flavour text.
I suppose I want what I tried to find in BOK’s art. I want something different from everything else. This though, seems harder than when you look at art. When you look at a picture, you can easily see what’s on display. With words and letters though, there could be numerous meanings. So, let’s go back to the beginning – I want something different. Well then, what is different? That meaning is, of course, in the eye of the beholder. I will be looking for what hasn’t been done. In Champions we’ve had endless lines about War X and Fight Y. Great! Keep that in Champions! But when I read the same thing again and again and again, it stops making me raise an eyebrow.
Another thing that I think should be explained is my possible lack of explanation. With art, because of how easy it is to see something, you can explain why you like the style, the colour usage etc. With words, how do you explain why one sentence is better than another? How do you give plausible evidence to support that Yomiji’s flavour text is better than Kentaro’s? Do you look for good use of the English language? Or do you look for odd use of well known phrases and sayings?
Instead of trying to let you, the reader, see my point of view, I’m going to try and prove to myself why my point of view is correct. If you want to be along for the ride, read on.
Because of my odd angle at attacking flavour text, I will not organise my thoughts by colour. Instead, I will write what flavour text I think is good together, and we will see what they have in common. So, plain and simply, here is my pick of the best flavour text in BOK:
SPLIT-TAIL MIKO: “I wish there was no use for those with my talents. I wish that I could walk Kamigawa forgotten and unneeded, with no war wounds to heal, and no broken bones to mend.”
HERO'S DEMISE: “What will it say on our graves, Lord Konda? Will it say we led our world to conquer immortal forces or that we were crushed by our own arrogance? At each defeat, I wonder.”
- Sensei Hisoka, letter to Lord Konda
MIRROR GALLERY: Only in mirrors do heroes find their equal.
So, three pieces of flavour text. I know what you’re thinking as I’m probably thinking it too. "Those three pieces of flavour text are all he thinks are good?" Well, there will be some honourable mentions, but right now this is the Hall of Fame. Bear with me, please.
First, I like these pieces of flavour text because of the fact that they are not deeply sunk into the world of Kamigawa. Most pieces of flavour text need multiple references to places to make them believable. I like these pieces because they don’t fill themselves with too much flavour. Some may argue that all the detail of the 99 priests on Yukora, the Prisoner is good. I agree that it is good… for a descriptive narrative piece. But when you try and launch a moral piece, filling it up to the rim with references to obscure mountain ranges and random rivers would ruin the effect.
Now, I know these aren’t too special. Mending Hands is another example of a moral piece, but I think that the two I’ve stated work better. With Split-Tail Miko and Hero's Demise, the flavour text fits the card’s ability and mood. Split-Tail Miko’s text is basically an ironic statement about how she hates to heal, Hero’s Demise is about exactly what it says: the demise of a supposed hero due to the arrogance of his actions. Mending Hands confuses me. Its flavour text is about how healing the outside body still leaves the soul shattered. But the ability on the card is a variant of Healing Salve. Personally, I think that to make the card’s ability match the flavour text a bit more there should be a drawback on the card, something like: "The targeted creature cannot attack during your next turn." whilst making the card more powerful, of course. That way, the card and the flavour text match together with the clause that as she cannot restore hope having more flavour when the healed creature does not go to war for a while.
I also like Mirror Gallery’s entry into the flavour text pool, as I implied when I chose my best pick of flavour text. It is short and to the point, with a catchy feel to it. This is rarely found in BOK’s flavour text. I told you I was looking for the different, and I found it here. I said that over-detailing a piece of flavour text can ruin its potential before, and an example of something that avoided a curse is here. The writer could have gone on about a powerful warrior looking into a mirror and see some one of his same statue, in a long and winding paragraph. But by shortening it, in my mind, it greatened any effect. Plus, by leaving out any references, you don’t need to know too much information to get the most out of the card. Who ever said that one should never generalize?
But that’s not all. As I mentioned earlier on, there are some other pieces of flavour text that also give me something to talk about, whether or not that’s a good thing. First there’s Yomiji, Who Bars the Way. When I first read its flavour text, it reached my Hall of Fame in an earlier draft of this article. I thought it was about a soldier who had died and was rejoicing, saying that he was away from the hell that was the battlefield. I really liked it, as it reminded me of a George Orwell poem written in the WWI trenches on the front line. It was about the fact that the war was worse than hell and linked it with the Garden of Gethsemane. Going back to the card, it turns out I misread it. The ability returned legendary permanents and the flavour text was meant to be from the mouth of a Kenzo the Hardhearted. I hear déjà vu calling at my doorstep. By over detailing the text, I think it lost some effect. When I misread it, I thought the flavour text was an ironic view on the ability of the card, where soldiers who got a second chance didn’t want to accept it. When I re-read it, it didn’t seem to ‘click’ like it originally had as the feeling of a battlefront of hell became one man’s lone experience. Although I actually misread the card’s ability, let alone the flavour text, I think the same rule applies.
Lastly, I’ll talk about one more card before I conclude this discussion - and that lucky card is Gnarled Mass. I quite like this card’s flavour text as, to me, it underlines the set’s (obvious) theme of betrayal. I haven’t read the book yet, but it gives off an impression that when the human soldiers needed reinforcements, instead of new recruitments from the barracks, kami came to betray their comrades. Now, I’ve got no problem with the flavour text as it is, but rather where it is placed. I’m confused as to why a green vanilla 3/3 is a "new breed of kami". Nothing on the card seems new, or screams "TRY ME!" as toys always do. This is the backbone of the story in BOK, and although a vanilla creature probably supplies enough space to house this specific flavour text, I’m sure there is a better position somewhere in BOK.
So, PART 2 reaches the final curtain. Here’s one last message, before I leave you.
Now, one thing which I think happens is the confusion between a card’s flavour and its flavour text. I personally love Bile Urchin’s flavour, but I think its flavour text is actually quite bog standard. I think it’s too long, and takes away from the effect. But back to the topic. Too often when describing flavour text, people slip into describing the flavour of a card, and people can often hate one, but love the other. And one of the reasons I think I brought you such a small hand full of pieces to pick your brain with was because of what I just described. Take my earlier example of Bile Urchin. I knew if I tried to reinforce an opinion saying I liked it, I would delve into talking about the card’s flavour as a whole, which is not what this article is for.
But back to our feature presentation. I’ll hopefully be seeing you next time when I give you my views on what the whole flavour of BOK is like in the final part of the trilogy. I hope you enjoyed reading this one first though, and am very eager to see comments on it. See you next time.
By Gregory on April 28th, 2005 · Filed in General Magic · Comments not available just now
gerg is the Master of the Backwards Name, and has a personal vandetta against capitals after spending too much time studying Latin. Currently his interest in MtG is fading, but he stays in for the flavour aspect of the game, popping out an article or two on teh subject everynow and then.