Ah, Bonetown Blues. This story was one of the earliest ideas I had for Things Were Better Then. As seen in the below pictures, I had quite a bit set with this story early on:
I had Yamcha pegged for a story almost as soon as I started this collection. It didn't take me long to pair him with "The World Has Turned and Left Me Here", as that song seems to describe Yamcha's depression over losing Bulma quite well. I remember asking Destructivedisk specifically which song he would align Yamcha with, and I think he said "Surf Wax America", which, incidentally, would have been one of my last choices. Also notice how Yamcha's story, unique amongst all TWBT stories, had its color picked from the get-go. It was always going to be blue. I didn't even come up with a list, because no other color went with that song to me. Now, most songs on the Blue Album evoke feelings of the color blue - that's just a consequence of the album's front cover being pure blue. TWHTALMH though evokes a strong deep shade of blue to me that is much more pronounced than the possible blue color connotations with any other song on the album. This color pairs nicely with the story, I think, because Yamcha is "blue" throughout it. And the symbolism with the sky and other blue things was really fun to come up with.
The above picture shows part of my struggle with naming this story. It was a long, grueling process. Sometimes, names just come to me. Sometimes, as was the case here, I probably went through a dozen different names before settling on "Bonetown Blues". Most of the TWBT stories actually got their names pretty quickly, and Bonetown Blues was one of the ones that took me the longest, but I also think it's one of the best names in the entire collection. So I'm fine with it taking me that long to come up with it since it's a pretty cool name overall.
So I didn't have specifics for this story at first. I was slightly inspired by Destructivedisk's story, One, though I wanted to go in a different direction than him. Basically, I wanted to use the same starting point or prompt and then write a different Yamcha story.
Now, one thing that I have yet to mention in much detail is that when I went to create Things Were Better Then in late February, I was contemplating not writing the collection at all. The reason for this was that I had another story I was considering writing at the time - a (tentatively titled) story called Chasing Oblivion (which, as of writing this commentary, I am still uncertain of if I will create). This story would have been an origin story about Yamcha in the same way Spindlerun: The Tale of Yajirobe was an origin story about Yajirobe. I still might do that story, but after talking with Destructivedisk about this dilemma, I decided to do TWBT first. Bonetown Blues is treated as the epilogue of that story somewhat so I could see if I wanted to write Chasing Oblivion. Unfortunately, after completing this story, I was no more clear on if I should write Chasing Oblivion. There are specific references in the plot that mostly make sense if one has read Chasing Oblivion, but they can be discerned easily enough even without having read that yet-to-be-written story.
Because I haven't written Chasing Oblivion yet, I made up a lot of those plot considerations as I was writing Bonetown Blues. However, I took great care to make sure they were complex and cool, in case I ever wanted to do Chasing Oblivion. One bit of trivia that I'll reveal is that the man Yamcha confronts is named Wolfe because he is the creator of the original Wolf Fang Fist. Yeah. It's pretty rad. There's a lot of neat subtle stuff like that in Bonetown Blues.
So onto the writing process. I was extremely eager to write this story. As I've mentioned in previous anthologies, I was more interested in writing Burning Man and Bonetown Blues than I was with Glory. I wanted to write this one even more than the Roshi story. That's why I wrote it a mere three days after completing and publishing Burning Man. Nowhere else in this collection was a story completed so soon after the one that preceded it.
I began writing Bonetown Blues on April 5, 2015 at 3:41 am my time and finished at 6:34 am of the same day. So it took me almost 3 hours to write this story. I did not take a break at any point while writing. I basically wrote nonstop for the full three hours. For the first section, I listened to Blue from the Cowboy Bebop soundtrack on repeat. I love that song and thought it tonally matched Bonetown Blues, so that's why I listened to it. I listened to "The World Has Turned and Left Me Here" on repeat while writing the second section. I'll get into how these songs affected the writing below. Anyways, onto the endnotes!
|Things Were Better Then|
|Written:||April 5, 2015|
|Released:||April 5, 2015|
|Theme song:||The World Has Turned and Left Me Here|
|Things Were Better Then track listing|
This story's theme is The World Has Turned and Left Me Here.
The sun was rising higher and higher into the sky. Yamcha floored it. Come on, Mighty Mouse. Just a little more. Diablo Desert was as quiet as it always had been. Those who lived here did not make themselves known; if one did not know they were there, hiding in the shadows, in the rocks, it would appear the whole place was one giant, solemn graveyard. He looked up as he drove and saw the deep blue of the sky. It was a day of fast-drifting clouds, of burning heat and relentless wind.
The rocky structures had always reminded him of the skeletons of animals - cats and wolves and water buffalo. Yamcha slacked his jaw; that had made him think of Puar. He put his head down and drove on. The sand sprayed up around him as he continued to drive. There was nothing else around, no one else around. It was just Yamcha and his thoughts. And that was what scared him most.
He came upon his home by midday. Stepping out of Mighty Mouse, Yamcha looked up at the stone hideout. At the top of it, the rocks opened up onto a balcony. Standing up there, one could see miles in any direction. I used to stand up there every morning, just looking out over the desert thinking about my future.
The inside of his bandit home was not as robust as its outer shell, for Yamcha found it to be little more than a refuse pile. Chairs and tables were upended, glassware was shattered and ruined, and most of Yamcha’s possessions were either gone or destroyed. He strode through the place silently. It looks like someone has ransacked the place. Well, it’s not like I left much here to take.
There was a stillness in the air; the dust clung to it. Yamcha moved through the room, finding old trinkets and clothes that had been his a lifetime ago. His entire life had once been in this little place. Ruined though it was, he felt pangs of nostalgia hit him. A warmness rippled across his face. I wish I could go back. But there’s nothing to go back to.
Yamcha wandered over to the kitchen, the sound of the screeching wind outside masking his footsteps. The wooden boards that lined the floor were old and rotting, and in a few places, they had caved in. Yamcha nearly fell over as his foot punctured through one, sending splinters flying. But he steadied himself on the edge of the oven and pulled himself back up. I used to like to cook. Back when the whole gang was around, I’d make them dinner every night. A smile flickered across Yamcha’s lips as he remembered. They were terrible people. I was in a bad way. But it’s how I met Puar, how I met Goku. I guess those bandits helped me more than they knew.
A glint of gold caught Yamcha’s eye, and then he saw it - the Azure Dragon Sword. It was mounted on the wall right where he had left it. Why didn’t they take it? That sword’s the most valuable thing in this wretched old place. He walked over to it and brought it down from its mount. Unsheathing it, Yamcha caught a glimpse of his reflection. The scars that covered his face made Yamcha remember back to when Goku had knocked out his tooth all those years back. I thought I’d never get married after that, he thought. Well, I still haven’t. Maybe I was right. She never wanted me.
“Yamcha…?” a voice interjected from behind. It was rough and full of venom. Yamcha spun around to greet it, sword out. There stood a man gaunt and hard of face. His hair was grey-white and his clothes were tattered and old. He wore aviator sunglasses and a leather jacket. His face had a few more scars on it than it had the last time Yamcha had seen it. “Never thought I’d see you again. But I guess, once a bandit, always a bandit,” the man said, sighing. He found a chair, flipped it over, and sat down on it. Then, he took out a flask of liquid. “Want some?” he asked Yamcha. “It’s good whiskey.”
“Suit yourself.” The man took a long swig from his flask and then sat down, leaning in his chair dangerously far back. He scratched his beard and stared at Yamcha. “I bet you’re wondering why I’m here, why old Wolfe has come ridin’ back from the sunset.”
Yamcha’s expression did not change, but he kept the sword out, pointed at the man. “You told me if you ever saw me again, you’d kill me.”
“I did.” The man took another gulp of whiskey. “But the past is the past. It’s all old news. Who cares about that?”
“Why are you here? You can’t kill me. I’m a lot stronger than the last time we fought.”
Wolfe laughed sharply. “I’m not here to kill you, Yamcha. I’m here because this is my home. The band’s gotten back together. Everyone from back in the day who’s still alive and walking is living here; plus we’ve got some new blood too. We’re back to the old ways.”
“Where are they right now?”
“Out. Robbing anyone they can find. They’ll be home by sundown.”
Yamcha gripped the sword tightly. “I’m not a bandit anymore. I’m not like you.”
“But you’re holding my sword all the same,” Wolfe replied coldly.
“You gave it to me. It’s mine.”
Wolfe stood up and moved towards Yamcha. Yamcha tensed up but did not strike at him. The older man patted Yamcha on the shoulder. His wrinkled, dirty face made him look so old, so tired. “Aye, I gave it to you, Yamcha. Back when the future looked bright and there wasn’t nothing to feel bad about,” he stated, whiskey strong on his breath. He took another sip of his drink. “Things were better then…” he murmured wistfully. “How different do you think things would be if you had managed to kill me?”
Yamcha bowed his head and did not respond. In that ruined home, he felt alone, like he was in the deepest part of space. I shouldn’t have come back. This is no longer a part of me.
Wolfe grunted and turned away from Yamcha. “I’m not sorry for what I did to you. But I am sorry for how things turned out. We think we know how everything’s going to go… and, well, life has a funny way of mixing up expectations.”
He moved past Wolfe like a ghost, soundless, deliberate. Yamcha walked right past his old mentor until he came to the rock balcony of his home. Surveying the stretches of desert in all directions, Yamcha stood still and motionless. He wanted to leave, to flee. He couldn’t stand being in the man’s presence for another moment.
“How’s your life turned out, Yamcha? Did you ever get married?”
“I could kill you now if I wanted,” Yamcha said suddenly. There was anger in him, and anger just from seeing Wolfe again. He was dangerously close to doing something stupid, he knew, and he needed to fight that back. That wasn’t who he was. This isn’t a dream. Not anymore.
“Then do it,” Wolfe said. Yamcha faced his old bandit leader and saw him to be standing defiantly, his hands out to either side. “Do it. Do it! Prove you’ve got some fight left in you.”
Yamcha raised the blade and pressed its tip against Wolfe’s collarbone. Yamcha noticed Wolfe was wearing a gold-chained topaz necklace, and it glimmered like an eye staring into Yamcha’s soul. “You think you scare me? You think this matters? My life is meaningless. Why should I want to live?” he laughed humorlessly. “After all these years, I’m back where I started. I haven’t gone anywhere in life. I haven’t lived. So kill me if you wish. Or don’t. But make up your damn mind already.”
Yamcha swallowed. “You don’t know anything about me. I’m not who I once was.”
“No, probably not. But I’m still the bad guy, and you’re still the good guy. Isn’t that true? That’s what you like to pretend. So go on. Do it! Slay the bad guy! Be the hero!”
There’s no black and white, Yamcha thought. He lowered the blade and turned back around. For a fleeting moment, he felt like his younger self again, a feeling of hope for the future beating strong in his heart. This is the most beautiful and saddest sky I’ve ever seen, he realized as he watched the clouds being carried along by the wind. It’s become a deeper shade of blue.
Mighty Mouse bounded across the desert like a free-roaming water buffalo. And then, the wolves came to it, in their necessary desperation. They were so very hungry. The first explosion caused Yamcha to lose control of the wheel, and the second flipped his car. He landed hard in the sand, his ears ringing, dust and smoke in his eyes and mouth.
Their leader was a man with cobalt-dyed hair and a long cigarette in his mouth. All of them held machine guns. As Yamcha sat up, the leader moved forward and put out his hand.
“Give us all ya got and we won’t kill ya. All yer money and dynocaps. Come on, give ‘em here!”
Yamcha coughed the sand out of his throat. “You’re making a mistake… all of you. Walk away and no one will get hurt. Please.”
The bandit leader laughed heartily, spitting and exhaling great puffs of smoke. “Har har har! Ya hear that boys? Guy wants us to walk away! Leave him alone or we’ll get hurt!” The others joined in the laughter. Then, the leader pointed his machine gun at Yamcha again and everyone went quiet. “I wasn’t askin’ ya. Give us yer valuables, or we’ll kill ya. It ain’t goin’ down any other way.”
Yamcha sighed, then reached for something in his overturned car. In a blur, he pulled out his Azure Dragon Sword and stood up. Though they had their guns trained on him, all of the bandits took a step back in surprise. They held their fire.
“I take it you all know what this is.”
“That’s… that’s Wolfe’s sword!” the leader yelled, dumbfounded. “H-how did you get it?!”
“It’s not his sword! It belongs to me, Yamcha!” Yamcha yelled.
He felt the anger coming to him again. They didn’t even know him. They didn’t know what he had done as a young bandit, the feats he had accomplished, the people he had stolen from. They didn’t know that this was his sword, not Wolfe’s. Yamcha had been the most notorious bandit in the entire Diablo Desert all those years back. He looked at all of them. There were a dozen or so, all armed with machine guns, but otherwise pretty ragged. They were skin and bones, their clothes were even dirtier and more worn than Wolfe’s had been. Most of them were no older than Yamcha had been when he had met Goku for the first time. Several of them were significantly younger. Only the leader and one or two others were adults.
Yamcha shook his head and sheathed his sword. “Look, I’m going to teach you all a lesson I should have learned when I was your age. You’re not going to like it, but it’s for the best,” he said, directing his words to the younger bandits. Raising his fists, Yamcha stepped forward. He closed his eyes and took a deep breath. It had been a long time since he’d fought someone. It had been a long time since he’d helped someone. And I haven’t even helped myself.
He flew back to the city, as Mighty Mouse was undrivable. I’ll have to take it in to get repaired. A feeling of icy regret bled through his heart, and he bit his lip to hold it back. It was colder higher up in the air, but Yamcha felt comfort there; he was lost in the deep blue. For a moment, he felt relieved. Life is just a dream that you can never wake up from. It doesn’t matter what we do. Yamcha held his car’s capsule tight in his hand. In your place, an empty space is that all remains. I tried to replace it with other things, better things, but it didn’t work. There’s no waking from this dream.
- This story was named "Bonetown Blues" because the area of Diablo desert where Yamcha was at when he was introduced in Dragon Ball has these weird bone-like rock structures all over the place. The "blues" part ties into this story's theme color and also references the pain Yamcha is in when he returns home.
- The first line of this story was originally "The sun was setting on him." The last change I made to Bonetown Blues before publishing it was to change that sentence to what it is now. Soon after writing that original line, I realized I'd rather have the sun rising than setting, but instead of editing it right then and there, I waited until I had finished writing first, as I didn't want to break my momentum. I wrote the rest of the story as if the sun was rising, not setting.
- I did a moderate amount of research into Yamcha's personal life (focused on his bandit life) before writing this piece. I re-watched him meeting Goku for the first time to get a sense of the scenery and took note of his various possessions as well, such as Mighty Mouse and his sword. Referencing these things in the text, to me, makes it align better with the Dragon Ball universe.
- I had Yamcha used italicized inner thoughts because I did not use this technique in any of the three TWBT stories published before this one. I wanted to mix things up a bit. And besides, italicized thoughts are my favorite. I love limited third person pov with italicized thoughts.
- This story starts with the two words "The sun" which continues the tradition of the first two stories starting with "The sun" (Glory) and "The moon" (Burning Man). This cycle was broken with the next story, Ergo Sum, though. Even so, the images of the sun or the moon are heavily symbolic throughout Things Were Better Then, and it would be unwise to ignore their meanings.
- The idea that Yamcha's old home resembles a graveyard was brought up because that was my gut reaction when I first saw the rocks adorning Yamcha's desert. Additionally, the idea of decay was one I wanted to explore as it related to Yamcha. His life is full of despair, so he turns back to his past, but instead of finding solace, finds only decay and bitterness.
- "It was a day of fast-drifting clouds, of burning heat and relentless wind." - I'm rather fond of that line. This is also one of the descriptions of the sky in this story. Remember, the sky is a recurring symbol in all the TWBT stories. How does this description relate to Yamcha's life or state of being? Coupled with the later description of the sky being so hauntingly blue, understanding the meaning of this symbol is very important for understanding Yamcha's character in this story.
- I reference water buffalo twice in this story. The reason for this is that the character Akira Toriyama based Yamcha on was Sha Wujing from Journey to the West. He was known as the water buffalo in that story. So this is just a little easter egg.
- The thing about Puar is ambiguous. Is Puar dead? What year does this take place? This ambiguity was purposefully done to allow the reader to come to their own conclusions. This could take place decades after the end of Dragon Ball Z, or it could take place before Majin Buu (or anywhere inbetween).
- One thing I liked doing in this story was having Yamcha think about the past, when the future had been so bright. That's one reason why he came back to his old home - when he had been a bandit, he had been relentlessly optimistic about his future. Now that his future has come and scarred him, he wants nothing more than to return to that blissful time of hope.
- The inside of Yamcha's home is a mess because Wolfe and his bandits have been staying there. This is foreshadowing to Wolfe's later appearance.
- The duality of wanting to go back to something and that something being turned into oblivion is a struggle of Yamcha's throughout Bonetown Blues.
- I mention the wind quite a bit in this story. It is a recurring motif.
- Yamcha mentioning how he had liked to cook - but how life had steered him away from that ancient passion is something I think many people can relate to. For me personally, cooking would be a stand in for drawing.
- Yamcha mentions that he cooked for the whole gang. This gang is the bandit crew that Yamcha is with during Chasing Oblivion. Yamcha tantalizingly hints that he met Puar while he was with them, which opens up that story to a lot of possibilities.
- Yamcha saying the bandits actually helped him is him being a bit bitter. Yes, they helped him find Puar and Goku and go on various journeys, but has he ended up better off? At this point in the story, he is unsure, and his depression is steering him into the direction of it not being a good thing.
- The Azure Dragon Sword being in the room is additional foreshadowing to Wofle's presence. If the place had actually been ransacked, the sword would have been taken. This discrepancy alerts the readers that something is up.
- The transition from Yamcha looking at his sword to remembering Goku and Bulma is well-done, I think. Yamcha seeing his reflection is like him looking into the past.
- "She never wanted me" - this statement is stark and sad and cynical. It's also one of the very rare overt mentions of Bulma in the entire story. The thing I wanted to do with this story was to have Yamcha's actions be a result of Bulma rejecting him, but the pain of her would be too much for him to think about her much. So he only has these few fragmented thoughts about Bulma (if I remember correctly, this is the only time Yamcha specifically thinks of "her") to showcase more of how her rejecting him has affected him than showing him sad in relation to her, as is seen in many Yamcha stories (most relevantly, One and Sink to the Bottom). This is one of my favorite parts of the story, and it was fun to do this, because it's an unexpected thing to do.
- The description of Wolfe is very specific to help me remember what he will look like in Chasing Oblivion. But he also has this striking figure in general that is very interesting to read about, because it's almost like a look into the future, a bleak look at what Yamcha might've become, even if he doesn't realize it. This is another instance of me playing with the past/future dynamic in this story.
- I think Wolfe's dialogue is some of the best I've ever written on this site.
- Wolfe leaning back in his chair is a childish mannerism, striking compared to how he looks and how he acts otherwise. This little action gives his character some more complexity in an unexpected way.
- One of my greatest struggles with the conversation between Yamcha and Wolfe was to find a way to have Wolfe's name said organically. It was one of the last edits I did in this story to have Wolfe reveal his own name. Originally, I had Yamcha say it, but it felt too forced, so I changed it.
- The thing I like about the conversation between Yamcha and Wolfe is that we don't need to know their past, because they hint at it well enough and say some pretty interesting things. Even if Chasing Oblivion never gets written, these characters are fully fleshed out; their backstories feel painfully real.
- Wolfe saying he would kill Yamcha if he ever saw him again hints that the two had a power struggle of some kind before splitting off.
- Wolfe saying 'who cares about the past' is a subtle jab at Yamcha's unhealthy focus on the past. Wolfe only cares about the future, so he's acting as Yamcha's foil more so than a villain.
- Wolfe revealing that the Azure Dragon Sword was his - and that he gave it to Yamcha so long ago - really fleshes out their relationship. It's tantalizing. Being a reader for this commentary, I want to know what their backstory is! It sounds exciting. Maybe I'll have to write this thing after all. But, all joking aside, what should be noted is that Chasing Oblivion does not exist. I created all this backstory first and foremost to aid Yamcha's character growth in Bonetown Blues. I think the relationship between him and Wolfe is quite complex and interesting, which is one of my successes with this story, considering I made up most of it on the spot. These things could legitimately be the backbone of Chasing Oblivion.
- Wolfe says the name of this collection ("Things were better then") to show how that title means more to Yamcha than perhaps any other character in this collection (aside from perhaps Beerus, who, incidentally also utters that phrase).
- Perhaps the saddest moment of this story is when Wolfe speculates about how things could have been. The idea of "what could have been" can evoke strong emotions if properly written in a story, and I think I've succeeded in that regard. It reminds me of when Jaime Lannister remembers his last conversation with Rhaegar Targaryen before Rhaegar rode off to his death in A Song of Ice and Fire. What could have been can drive people. And in this case, it is driving Yamcha to ruin.
- Wolfe's comments hint that Yamcha almost killed Wolfe, but Wolfe somehow escaped during their great struggle in the old bandit days.
- Yamcha keeps adamantly saying that he's not a bandit. Yet, he wants to return to a better time (when he was a bandit), and he's returned to his bandit home. I think his actions speak louder than his words. Still, he isn't entirely foolish. I think, even though he wants a return to those old days, he knows that he can't be a bandit again.
- "I’m not sorry for what I did to you. But I am sorry for how things turned out. We think we know how everything’s going to go… and, well, life has a funny way of mixing up expectations." - I very much like this line. I think it sums up Wolfe's personality nicely and also hints at some themes in this story. Life isn't always fair, but that doesn't mean it isn't sad.
- Wolfe asking if Yamcha got married is neat for two reasons: for one, it shows that Wolfe and Yamcha were once close - Yamcha discussed his desire to get married with Wolfe (and this further amplifies how tragic their falling out was); and this also is like a slap in the face. Wolfe is bringing up Bulma - I am bringing up Bulma - in a roundabout way. This comment also alerts Yamcha, starkly, to how his dreams have not come to fruition. He is once again reminded of how little he has accomplished. This is important because he's standing on his balcony as all this happens. He's standing where he once liked to stand and look out over the desert and think about his future. The irony is thick. The tragedy is thicker.
- Yamcha saying he could kill Wolfe is a burst of anger that comes to him after Wolfe inadvertently reminds him of Bulma. This anger may seem out of place, but it is specifically over-the-top because Yamcha is so emotionally fragile as it relates to Bulma.
- The idea of life being a dream is a reference to "Blue" from the Cowboy Bebop soundtrack.
- The topaz necklace is another reference to this story's theme color. It being like an eye staring into Yamcha's soul has some thematic resonance behind it. It would have additional importance in Chasing Oblivion as maybe a poison capsule or something.
- "“You think you scare me? You think this matters? My life is meaningless. Why should I want to live?” he laughed humorlessly. “After all these years, I’m back where I started. I haven’t gone anywhere in life. I haven’t lived. So kill me if you wish. Or don’t. But make up your damn mind already.”" - again, I had a lot of fun writing for Wolfe. I just felt "on" while writing for him. Everything seemed to click. He is once again acting as a foil for Yamcha here. He wants Yamcha to be decisive, something which Yamcha has always struggled to be. The idea that Wolfe doesn't care about his life because he hasn't gotten anywhere is maybe how Yamcha feels too. That he shares this bond with Wolfe should scare Yamcha, but perhaps it is the jolt that he needs gets him out of the funk he's in.
- Wolfe is goading Yamcha to be the hero because Yamcha has always wanted to be a hero. But he's never been one. Yamcha is in a dangerous place - he's grief-ridden and angry and desperate. By all rights he should kill Wolfe; he should try to get a moment of triumph; he should want to feel like a hero. That he doesn't kill Wolfe though shows that Yamcha has grown up. It shows that he truly is a Z Fighter, a noble person. I like to think that the noblest people reveal themselves in times of great hardship, and I wanted Yamcha to show himself as a true hero, since he fails so much in Dragon Ball Z and has an unfair reputation as being worthless. Him not killing Wolfe is a moment of decisiveness (what Wolfe wanted), but it is decisive in the most unexpected way.
- The last paragraph of the first section is heavily influenced by Cowboy Bebop and particularly the song "Blue" from that series. The idea of there being no black and white is brought up time and time again in Things Were Better Then. The influences and inaccuracies of binaries is a huge cross-story theme. But for Yamcha, he replaces black and white with blue. This references the theme color and his state of mind. It's quite poetic. The idea that there is no good or evil, just misery and beauty - for blue can be depression as much as it can be the beauty of that color, as Yamcha notes with the sky. He creates a different binary, one perhaps more realistic and aesthetically pleasing. This binary he creates is the climax of this story and the climax of his character growth throughout Bonetown Blues. Things have multiple meanings all the time, and I wanted to bring attention to this with a simple thing - with the color blue. It is both sad and beautiful, like life itself. Once Yamcha realizes that, I think he knows he may find happiness yet. That may be a naive thought, but when one is emotional, idealism comes easy.
- Calling the new bandits wolves strengthens the water buffalo metaphor and also compares Yamcha to the bandits, which is important for their later encounter.
- The man with the blue-dyed hair again references the theme color. I wanted to bring attention to him as a person as it relates to the themes of this story. And let's be real - dyed blue hair looks pretty fucking cool on just about anyone.
- The leader references "dynocaps" which is me paying homage to Yamcha's original meeting with Goku, which played out similarly to how the second section does. Back in Dragon Ball, capsules were called dynocaps.
- Yamcha not being known by the other bandits is a slap in the face - he was quite famous in his day, after all. By all rights, they should know him. That they don't says something about Wolfe. This is also a jab at Yamcha himself, for he is often seen as a useless, forgettable character.
- The terrible state of the bandits shows that they are going through hard times. That most of them are young starving kids is heartbreaking. I think Yamcha sees this as evidence that the bandit business is declining, perhaps forever. But when he sees how ragged they are, he feels obligation to turn them around, to give them some harsh advice. He tries to give them what had never been given to him. He's trying to save their future, because he knows what it's like to lose his.
- "It had been a long time since he’d fought someone. It had been a long time since he’d helped someone. And I haven’t even helped myself." - these sentences say a lot about Yamcha's turn in this story. He's still depressed, but his nobleness in helping others when he is getting no help for himself cannot be overstated.
- I chose not to show the fight because I thought it would be better if it was implied. We don't need to know how badly he beat them up. It's more the idea that he would try to help them that is important - not the actual knuckles-to-knuckles brawl. I didn't want to get gratuitous or try to have a "badass" moment just because. I wanted everything to flow logically and be as aesthetically close to perfect as was possible. And in my estimation, that required not showing the fight.
- Thinking about getting his car repaired hurts Yamcha emotionally because it reminds him of Bulma. It reminds him of Bulma because Capsule Corp. would obviously be the first place to go to get his car repaired. I had Mighty Mouse get damaged just for that subtle payoff, and I'm quite proud of how it turned out.
- Yamcha's thoughts about life being a dream versus it not being a dream is one of the conflicts in his character. He ends the story thinking life is a dream. This is not a happy declaration. It's more like he understands that nothing he does will matter.
- "In your place, an empty space is that all remains." - this is a reference to a lyric from "The World Has Turned and Left Me Here".
- Despite Yamcha acting noble in this story, and perhaps coming to a realization (and thus growing as a character), Bonetown Blues stil ends on a bleak note because great change does not come easily. Bulma will never love Yamcha, so he's stuck with a problem that has no hope of being resolved, even if he's identified the problem and tried working towards a solution. Not every time a character figures out what's wrong and tries to fix it will they succeed. And that was what I wanted to show in this story. Yamcha's tale is a tragedy. Personally, I find it so sad that it's painful even to think about. I was in a dark place while writing this story. But there are glimmers of hope, spots of nobleness from Yamcha. In the end I think this story is just like the binary Yamcha realizes at the end of the first section - it's all misery and beauty. It's a tale of life.
I am quite happy with how Bonetown Blues turned out. The themes I wanted to convey, the ideas I presented, and the prose I used were all how I wanted them. Reading this story for this commentary, it's clear this story holds up. I think it's the best of the four Things Were Better Then stories that I've so far anthologized not only because of the complex and varied themes, symbols, and motifs presented, but also because of the unique and complex character development and relationships I portrayed in such a small amount of words. The dialogue in this story is superb (some of the best I've ever written, in my opinion), and the conclusion Yamcha comes to for what blue means - the binary of misery and beauty (in effect, life itself), is something I love very much. I don't personally see any weak points in this story - I don't see anywhere for me to improve upon it. So I'll count this story as a success. I found Bonetown Blues very entertaining while reading it over for this commentary, and if I can entertain myself, then I'm happy. :P I'm still not sure I'll write Chasing Oblivion, but if I do, I have this story to serve as a foundation for that, and for that, at least, I am glad. Overall, I'd give Bonetown Blues an S.
<---- Part 46
Part 48 ---->