Needless is innovative and creative, especially in its storytelling. Throughout the manga, there have been countless examples of where character development or story progression have been told or shown in a way that directly generates interest, creates suspense and surprise or is just unanticipated fun and amusement (for example: Kuchinashi). And of all the methods utilized, the most innovative might be how Needless has unveiled its past. Rather than relying solely on flashbacks or lengthy exposition, Needless has decided to show us its past through a variety of diverse means and styles. And rather than reveal everything about the past together, it’s been fragmented into various segments, allowing the manga to answer the immediate concerns while raising other questions to create further intrigue and mystery. And with another new style presented in this chapter, it’s time we recognize a few of the brilliant storytelling techniques employed in Needless.
Throughout Needless, the past has been presented to us through a multitude of ways. We’ve seen simple flashbacks, utilized when characters immediately recognize something from the past, either a Fragment or some spoken lines. There have also been extended flashbacks, used to review larger segments of the past as appropriate to show them arriving at a conclusion (Cruz) or explain a current character’s motivations (Mengroze). Indeed, there have been expositions, too, such as when Disk or Saten explain details of the past that would otherwise been too arbitrary to show or include. And with that, we have three simple, yet effective methods of disclosing the past shown in Needless. None of these examples are original and are rather commonplace throughout storytelling, used across virtually every medium as a means to providing meaning or understanding to the situation. And for most stories in the medium of manga, that’s about as far as it goes. Needless, however, has allowed itself to explore new methods of exposing its past and helping the characters and audience understand the current developments. It’s here where Needless shows its marvelous innovation.
The impressive example that produced the theme of this post is Riru’s ability to create projections in people’s minds. In this current chapter, Chapter 106, Riru used her ability to suddenly detail her past on the unsuspecting Cruz, Eve, and Disk. What’s remarkable about this example is how it is another Fragment that shows the past though this one is far from truthful. The fact that Riru possesses the absolute power of this ability means that she can create the images that she wants in vivid and dangerously accurate detail. In fact, she could create lies about her past or any images she shows people. Instead, what we saw was a brief glimpse into her troubled past and saw her origination as a Needless and the eventual leader of a Blackspot. This technique is innovative because it serves the same purpose as lackluster exposition in the form of dialogue. Instead of that, a block of text spread across various dialogue bubbles, it becomes a visual representation of the story, the reason why this medium, manga, exists. What Riru’s ability does is turn a prolonged and tedious text into pictures with context that show us the history, not tell us the history. That’s the very point of manga, to show us what’s happening through drawing not text. And though the example only lasted a few pages, it serves as an excellent example of the brilliance in how Needless shows us its story. Of course, this alone does not conclude the cleverness and innovation of how Needless discloses its past. There are other examples from previous chapters and prior arcs that deserve recognition.
Easily the most outstanding and distinctive example of uncovering the past was shown during the Eve’s Story arc. Here, the technique was to use a Fragment, Blackout Invoke, which shows selected memories to the bearer of this ability. However, we never saw the original or intended means of using the Fragment when Blade smashed it. What happened as a result of this event is that a few characters and the audience were effectively sent to the past. However, this isn’t just any simple ‘travel-back-in-time’ story as the past was jumbled based on Blade’s memories and Blackout Invoke shattering. Instead, the past was mixed with various elements from different periods in his mind which created an excellent adventure that answered a few questions but asked countless more. It’s here where we get some exploration into the past, shown to us by the characters being present there, but we get much more. The fact that Eve’s Story generated more questions and mysteries than it answered really shows the success of it as a storytelling technique, creating something interesting and stimulating for the reader. What this did was allow the audience to see the past with their own eyes and understand what happened… but only kind of. Again, this was a visual representation of the past, but it also did more being that it was another adventure for the characters present. The fact that this adventure was not an accurate rendition of the past allowed the story to answer only a select few questions for us but leave many more as a result. It is a magnificent use of how to direct the story by navigating us to a few certain points while leaving the rest lightly touched upon and making us thirst for more. So here, in this example, we received another visual segment of the past revealed to us but done through the means of an adventure in the story and modify it to create a lasting intrigue.
Beyond the current and classic examples, there is another prominent example that is worth noting for this theme of how innovative the past of Needless has been. This one is the famous Reverse Rejection Reaction that happened in the Simeon Building when the Byakugous of Arclight and Blade collided. Why this example is notable is that it began to reveal the past rather suddenly as a means of projecting the disturbing histories of the Adam Project to everyone in the room. However, this flashback to the past hardly had any relevance to the current fight and served as a break to show the difference between Arclight and Blade. Rather than being used to explain current questions, it was used to enhance the characters as they were fighting, to differentiate the two and explore the possibilities for Arclight’s current motivations. This is another convincing example because, one, it’s another example of visual storytelling, not text storytelling, and two, because of how sudden and unexpected it was but how productive it turned out to be in the middle of what seemed to be the final fight in the manga.
Of course, by limiting the subject of this post to just innovative storytelling techniques in regards to the past, it leaves out a number of other, equally impressive methods. Undoubtedly, my favorite and the one that stands alone as the most impressive are some of the revelations that have occurred over the entirety of the City arc. The way his character has been developed has been so meticulous, almost surgical in nature, so incredible, a truly remarkable tale and so rewarding, easily the most gratifying aspect of this manga thus far. It’s not just that he’s grown from a young, helpless boy into a courageous and compassionate hero, but that he’s constantly struggled and required to overcome adversity. He’s failed at times, caused his friends trouble, and still possesses a number of weaknesses, yet he still goes on. It’s always worth mentioning how remarkable his story has been. And in conjunction with that, Disk’s detailed explanation really highlighted how deceptive and detailed Needless is. It doesn’t lie but it loves to trick, and that’s another storytelling technique that Needless excels at. Just the way the entire story has been handled is absolutely impressive.
**Warning: spoilers below**
Before I even start on my reactions for this chapter, let me start by saying OMG WHAT IS HAPPENING TO SETSUNA??? Ugh, finally when she and Kuchinashi are back in the manga, this happens? Well, given what we saw with the eyes and blood, my initial reactions were an unhealthy mix of despair and anger, but since then, speculation on the issue might be positive in the long-run. However, we don’t know how this will play out for sure. I certainly hope everything is fine but, damn, that first reaction to those last few pages were heartbreaking (for me).
As for the rest of the chapter, Riru seems to be undefeatable (again) and has a number of abilities left to show off. Seems she isn’t intent on killing anyone yet, as she is looking for the final Stigmatas, but that might change soon. Glad to see the comedy is always present in Needless with Mio and Kuchinashi, that was a hilarious development on their end. And for Arclight and Blade, nothing really significant besides highlighting a few Stigmata including one new Fragment. It’s a long way before their fight ends, so I doubt anything truly remarkable will happen anytime soon. Also worth noting that even though Cruz and Disk were being attacked by Riru, they had enough time at the end to watch Blade fight Arclight. Uh, weren’t they injured and bleeding right before this? How does that happen? Oh well.