Kishotenketsu: Fractal storytelling or Story structure or Both or Neither?

Hi guys.

I recently saw an anime series (just 12 episodes) that did it to me! Really got me in the feels. It’s called Kanata no Astra.

Now for some reason, I’ve been binging and really digging deeper into Hayao Miyazaki’s storytelling tech and have been enamoured by some stuff I’ve found.

A Japanese paradigm called: Kishotenketsu.

Although this isn’t the first time I’ve come across the concept, I can’t help but try to compare and blend it with Dramatica.

For starters, both are 4 Act oriented, but Dramatica seems to accommodate it in my head.
It seems more of a storytelling approach but then again it brings me back to Dramatica.
It’s also fractal in nature.

One thing though, I’ve linked it -in my mind anyway- to the concept of the inequity.
It seems clearer to me to see things as inequities(to varying degrees) instead of outright conflict. The term “inequity” seems more accurate than ever before and it better serves the true purpose of story than the more extreme term: Conflict.

Also, the concept of the story goal being any one of the concerns (in the theory) is starting to make more sense as well.

@bobRaskoph, I saw a former thread with you talking about it and siting an example of one of Miyazaki’s works: My neighbour Totoro.
If you don’t mind, can we dive into this concept and deconstruct it? Everyone is welcome to join (let’s dive deeper into a wider appreciation of story)

I’ll do more research and post what I’m able to find.


For reference, here is the last time we spoke about Kishotenketsu


Thanks Jim. Will check it out.

My current view is that Kishotenketsu is a bit of both.
If you asked me how someone might write something Kishotenketsu-ish / Japanese-ish with the help of Dramatica, I would suggest at least one of these things (the last one I’m really not sure about):

  1. Use the Holistic Problem-Solving Style
  2. Use a bottom-right concern
  3. Use the more elusive Variations (Approach vs Attitude rather than Self-Interest vs Morality; Wisdom vs Enlightenment rather than Skill vs Experience)
  4. Instead of Setup->Revelation->Conflict->Aftermath, go with Setup->Development/Elaboration->Contrast->Elucidation/Aftermath (this is for the Audience, not necessarily the character)
  5. (Instead of Potential->Resistance->Current->Outcome, go with Condition->Flow->Resistance->Adjustment)

Excellent suggestions, @bobRaskoph !

I’ve found that the holistic style works best in applying the style. Although it might not be the MC per se, rather the perspective of the narrator in your story.
I’m talking in terms of how the story is presented, either in prose or film. Your narrator could be more holistic and thus a bit distant from the MC (who may have a Male Mental Sex as seen in Spirited Away).

As for the concerns, I’ll have to dig deeper (thanks for your suggestion).

Also for the variations, I think it can be anything really. Here, I think that one’s storyworld should serve as a canvass that’ll influence the degree to which the variations are explored/illustrated.
The emphasis is to be less heavy handed.

Your 4th and 5th points are really awesome! I’m going to test them and get back to you on them.

Thanks for sharing your findings on the subject.


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I’ll out myself as a) an anime/gaming fan and b) anthropology major who is very interested in how other cultures tell stories, and it’s been a theory of mine that Holistic Mindset stories fit quite well with how Japanese culture in particular prefers to tell stories! Anime/manga and JRPGs all have a very different feel and focus than American/Western storytelling, and it’s fun to explore how and why. I like both. I really found the concept of Kishotenketsu interesting because there is the twist or revelation and then it jumps to aftermath, which can leave a western audience feeling empty or unresolved. That’s what made it feel very Holistic to me, but there’s likely more to it.


This brings up a question that I’ve never got around to asking. Can the story mind have a different perspective than the main character (e.g. story = holistic vs MC=linear)

I can imagine Koshotenketsu might be a little frustrating in ordinary discourse, but as for story-telling, I find it deeper and more engaging than a simpler, almost blunt, straightforward approach. (But then I also really like in medias res and unreliable narrators. I expect to have to work when I consume a story. I want something to chew on before I swallow!)

When I’m recommending a particular anime to a friend I always warn them that they’ve got to get several episodes into it before they really know what the story is about. And if I don’t get the usual explanatory flashback with the character’s background just before the climax, I feel something is missing. :wink:


The Storymind concept is one where the story sits as an analogy to a single human trying to resolve an inequity.

The Main Character Mindset (Problem-solving style) IS the Mindset of the Storymind.

If they were somehow different, the mind would be schizophrenic and the story would exhibit a “split” personality.

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That is an interesting idea. :thinking:

And yet, when struggling through a dilemma, aren’t we all kind of “of two minds” on the subject as we try to work out the better of two options?

Of course, as you say, the holistic/linear appreciation presumably corresponds to our perceptual filters and the means by which we understand reality. If that were at odds with the story reality, it might seem that the story mind was turning inward and examining itself. I imagine such a story would be very surreal.

Still, it makes me wonder if any of Philp K. Dick’s stories might qualify. :wink:

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