Strength of Heart

subject — Cephiro (Magic Knight Rayearth)
medium — Manga
creation date — 08 July 2015
participated inOld School Challenge
We saw the blue sky, the green trees, and were so sure that when the princess still had peace of mind, it must have been even more beautiful...
  • legend
  • epic quest
  • adventure
  • old school RPGs
  • evolving world
  • maturing hearts
  • willpower
  • utopia
  • question & challenge
  • perspective
  • redefining structures
  • individual happiness

Favourite Pages

Milestones

  • return to shrining and the community
  • first multi-page shrine
  • @font-face
  • styling images via CSS, especially border-radius
  • tooltip styling
  • working closely with a detailed outline
  • crafting a shrine with its own narrative
  • setting the mood and themes on the index page
  • comparison to other similar works (CLAMP, RPGs)
  • integrating personal feelings and changed perceptions
  • recommending related external essays

Making of

  • A lot has already been said in writer's notes.
  • As I had never come across any shrines dedicated to fictional worlds or locations, it was very fun to think about how to group all of the worldbuilding elements – to create something new. What I had been thinking about as a child reading the series were all the fundamental elements of Cephiro in the first half of the series, which is also "the RPG half". I set out to write something like a lexica, as I loved browsing those in my childhood.
  • The younger me didn't fully grasp the significance of the series' second half, but the older me knew that without it, the shrine would be incomplete: not just due to the few missing worldbuilding elements, but due to the series' themes and narrative. I understood that a world isn't just about its elements – it's also defined by its history. And if it's a world that evolves and changes (with evolution and maturing being such an important theme in the series), who is to say I can't give it its own narrative, as I would in a character shrine? And so I crafted the first part as a "profile" of the "character", and the second part as the "development and story" of that character.
  • After coming up with the concepts above and knowing that the shrine would be half lexica, half history book, I decided to be more ambitious: I wanted to make the entire shrine have a book theme to it – visuals, navigations, structure, and so on. Many elements came together for this, and... I didn't know coding and designing could be this much fun. Or that having your content all planned out would shape its presentation this much.
  • There's actually an amazing topic at Amassment about that previous point: Content or Design: Which comes first? Before, I would have said design first: Without a pretty frame to fill my content in, I am not as motivated to write. I want the instant gratification of seeing my texts in a pretty layout. The posts in that topic that said the opposite, however, really resonated with me. And when I thought up this shrine, I was able to come to my own answer: It's neither.

    I think about how I want to structure the shrine first: the things I want to talk about, the narrative that I weave, the elements I want to include, all of which becomes a scattered mess of notes. From there, I think about what kind of layout to make, so that its navigation in particular would accommodate to the content I have in mind. I return to the notes and create an outline with a rough order of the content, which gives me a better idea of the navigation and subnavigation. The reason I have to give the layout some consideration before this step is because I need to keep in mind what I am actually capable of designing and coding, and whether or not the navigation may be tedious to the visitors. Although the outline needs to come before the layout, it cannot be created independent from such considerations. And only when I have all of that mapped out do I actually make the layout.

    The layout, however, is not where it ends: The visual and technical elements that were used in the layout may, in turn, inspire further elements of a shrine – the textures that were chosen, for example. Creating something isn't a process made up of clearly defined parts: The many different parts flow into each other, influence each other, and it is only together that they form a whole. It's a continuous back-and-forth. I'll address this point again in the making of of In Control.
  • Having a strong concept and outline before starting to write made me realize that I didn't want to approach the subject in a purely descriptive way: I wanted to show how one's perception of it changes over the course of the story. I wanted things to be dynamic, and capture all the wonders I had felt when traversing the many areas of Cephiro as a child. And because there are elements of fantasy stories and RPGs both, the journey aspect was even more important to me. The inhabitants of Cephiro and their connections to each other – even though the protagonists mostly encounter them one by one at first – made up so much of my enjoyment and of the world itself; I couldn't possibly leave them out, but I also didn't want to list them all in one page. Instead, I spread them out: as stations in the journey, as important representations of an element of Cephiro's.
  • I know I go on and on about a shrine's structure – it's partly because I am very invested in analyzing storytelling technique and how that alone can shape how effectively a point gets across. But take note of this: How you structure something can be something very personal, something very unique. Two people, for example, may shrine the same thing, but it's not just how they feel about the subject that makes their products something very different – it's the presentation, the structure, the order and grouping of elements. Have courage to experiment and break out of the norm.
  • I compared four different translations to create this shrine, and it was by far the most exhausting aspect about it (due to the subject's RPG nature and technical as well as original terms), as I probably ended up going ten times over each translation. And yet, despite the immense amount of time spent on this alone, it showed me that yes, this is what I want and this is who I am. It's what shaped my perception of languages and shrines from the very beginning, long before I wrote any fansites in English, and I learnt so much more about a subject that I adore – so much that it warranted a page of its own in fact. Be true to yourself (in my case, that means being meticulous) – your efforts won't be in vain, and you'll have something that you can be proud of.

Retrospect

This shrine means so very much to me. It's not just what was said in writer's notes about how Magic Knight Rayearth has been with me since I started making websites, and revisiting the subject I have loved for so long, now equipped with the tools to recreate it in my vision. It's so much more than that: It's the shrine that brought me back to the hobby, this time for real. Prisoner's Dilemma may be my actual first shrine, but Strength of Heart feels much more like it, especially due to the years of hiatus that preceded it and the enormous amount of productivity and creativity that followed.

It's the project that reminded me just how much I still love shrines, despite not having read them for years and being absent from the community for just as long – after barely having learnt the names of the people in it. I... hadn't realized how fiercely the love and admiration I had felt in my teen years still burnt inside me, hidden beneath years of not creating anything much. I signed up for the event, and I just knew – I knew I was staying this time. No more "I don't have time for this", "I am not good enough", "I can't catch up and be a real part of it" – this was what I had wanted for so long, it was time to prove it to myself.

This shrine occupied my every thought in the weeks between two finals sessions, and, even though creating your first multi-page shrine is very intimidating, it made me understand that I didn't have reason to worry about not having something to show. There is so much of myself in this shrine: my personal feelings on the subject and the evolution of those feelings over more than a decade, my personal touches to the design and content both, and the making of a shrine type I hadn't even come across before. No wonder the shrine was finished in a short time: The things I had held in and held back for so long were bursting out, demanding to be born.

Strength of Heart is a milestone in so many different ways, and it shows in all my shrines that would follow: Many elements that flowed into this not only made their way into those shrines – they have become the foundation of my own style, I think.

(The list is as follows: Giving each shrine its individual feel through the selection of fonts, the styling of images that accompany the text; profiting from a careful outline; structuring a shrine becoming my very favourite thing about shrining, and understanding that it is something very personal; giving each shrine its own narrative and focusing on the gradual unveiling and developing of the original story, rather than summarizing things in the actual chronological order of events, as Wikis and old shrines used to do, since their aim is to relay information; not being afraid to introduce the subject, its themes and my own feelings on it from the start, i.e. the index page, and truly making a shrine something very personal.)

It makes me happy and speechless both, because... I had spent so many years being intimidated, doubting whether I was cut out for this. I never would have thought that I could have something called a style one day.

When I came across this manga as a child, it had a great impact on how I viewed things: typical RPG and heroic narratives, for example. It taught me to consider different perspectives, and made me think – really think – about the things around me rather than accepting them unquestioningly. In 2015, it became a prominent part of my life again, re-introducing me to a new world once more and motivating me to become a better version of myself.

Strength of Heart, Magic Knight Rayearth – thank you. I'm so glad it was you.