I don't know if there are any Attack on Titan fans out there, but if there are, make sure you've watched episode three of season two before reading this post. This post was inspired by that episode and will contain spoilers. :)
For those of you who don't watch the series, a little backstory. Attack on Titan is a horror/adventure anime that centers around a young boy and his friends. They live in a world where millions of mindless giants called Titans walk the earth devouring humans for no apparent reason. Of course, the people do their best to fight back and there's your story.
Okay, now for the scene that inspired this post.
The team of fighters, assigned to find a certain breach in humanity's defenses, are traveling through pitch darkness with only torch light to guide their way. The closer they come to the breach, the more certain they are to run into the Titans. That coupled with the fact that they can't see but a few feet in any one direction, thanks to the lack of moonlight, makes this scene very tense. The darkness was needed to amp up the character's anxiety. (Thereby amping up the viewers as well.)
And then in the distance, they see other points of orange light. The torch light becomes clearer and they come face to face with another group of soldiers, their comrades, who were also searching for the breach. Confusion ensues, because neither group found the breach (which is important to the story but not to this post so we'll skip the details) but eventually both groups realize that they need to find a safe place to stay for the night. One of the group makes a remark about wishing they had the moon so they could find such a place, and wouldn't you know it, the moon comes out and they spot the ruins of a castle to stay in.
(Okay, spoilers over.)
Now, the main focus of this post is that change from pitch darkness to moonlit night, and how it added to the scene as a whole. (Or potentially detracted from it.)
Imagine for a second that the scene had started out in a moonlit world.
In that case, the characters would have had the chance to see any approaching enemies. This would have let them know if they were getting close to the enemies as they moved forward, significantly assuaging their anxiety. This would have lowered the angst of the viewer as well. Lowered angst means less investment.
Especially when you consider the fact that the writers never planned for an enemy to attack the characters at this stage. The next best thing to action in a scene is the anticipation of action.
So, the darkness was a solid move.
But then, having the character's stumble around in the darkness looking for a safe place to stay would have taken too long and potentially taken the edge off the predicament the group was in. The writer's needed to get the characters to the castle, and so changed the scene from pitch darkness to moonlit.
The writers/animators also use the sporadic appearance of the moon to hide a later approach of titans in the same episode, so the moon coming out at this point is actually also part foreshadowing/set up for that to happen. (sorry, I guess I wasn't out of spoilers)
Some might say that the change is pretty coincidental. After all, the moon just happens to come out when they need it. However, I think it still stood up fairly well. For those of you who don't know the show, Attack on Titan is full of character deaths and misfortune. This makes coincidences like this seem more like a the good thing that's long over due.
I think that as long as your characters don't have too many "that was lucky" moments, changes like this only help the story over all.
So don't be afraid to play around with different elements of your scenery. Use them to create the feeling and situations you want to exist. Just make sure they are as believable as possible.
What do you think?
Are coincidences like this helpful to a scene or harmful?
What do you think about changing the way a scene looks or feels mid scene?
I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments. :)