Brave Story is Japanese novel by Miyuki Miyabe, which was originally serialized in various newspapers from 1999 to 2001 before being published in two volumes. It also became a light novel, which became a manga, which became a movie, which became a video game, which is naturally of a genre that the novel was designed around in the first place. Yes, it's complicated.
Wataru is a fairly ordinary 11-year-old boy living in Japan. He lives with his mother and father in an apartment complex, goes to cram school, tries to impress the new kid in his class, avoids bullies, obsesses over video games coming out, hangs out with his best friend—nothing big or out of the ordinary. He's heard rumors recently about an abandoned construction site and ghosts, but nothing else to report on, right?
Wrong. In the space of just a few days, Wataru's ordinary life is turned over when his parents turn out to have a few dramatic secrets of their own. On top of that, he starts hearing a girl's voice in his head late at night, and three of his classmates get beaten up and then vanish — at the hands of the new kid, using magic.
While visiting the supposedly haunted construction site, Wataru discovers a magical portal to the world of Vision — the place where people's hopes and dreams come to life, and magic is real. Brave Travelers, such as himself, have a chance to meet with the Goddess of Destiny, who will grant those who reach her one wish. Wataru knows exactly what he needs: he needs his family kept safe, and his normal life back. Setting off with only a tiny sword, and the assistance of a jovial lizardman and a cute Cat Girl, he makes his way across the strange world of Vision. But not all is right in Vision. Another Traveler is in Vision, and he looks suspiciously like the new kid. And rumors abound of dark things going on in the sky, of an ancient ritual, and of sacrifice...
Naturally, the Vision parts of this story borrows quite a lot from JRPGs, even a simplified two-option version of the Class and Level System.
Not connected to Cave Story or Brave.
This book and its direct adaptations provide examples of:
- Adaptation Distillation: Many important subplots and story elements regarding the nature of Vision itself are absent in The Film of the Book, largely because such things would only further prolong the already over two-hour children's film. The movie is still an exceptional work, despite these flaws.
- Adaptational Heroism: Mitsuru in the movie. He's still far from being a hero, but definitely a lot more sympathetic than in the novel.
- Adapted Out: Many characters from the novel are left out in the movie.
- Ascended Extra: The dragon—it's a minor character in the book, but the full-on Team Pet in the movie.
- Back from the Dead: Mitsuru and his sister in the movie, with little explanation. A bit of a Plot Hole, considering that either Mitsuru or Wataru was required to die in order to save Vision.
- Bittersweet Ending: Vision will exist forevermore, but Mitsuru's dead, never to fix his screwed-up life, and Wataru will never again get to see—and will probably forget—the friends he gave up his wish to save. Oh, and his mom is still sick, in more ways than one. The movie mitigates some of these factors, including Mitsuru's death.
- Cat Girl: Meena has this appearance in the manga. The movie and book make her and the other kitkin into Beast Folk.
- Children Are Innocent: Zig-zagged. Wataru is a Kid Hero, but being a kid, he can be childishly vindictive, lies to make himself feel better about being outclassed by Mitsuru, and copes with his feelings of anger and betrayal at his father leaving by killing the Vision versions of his father and his father's mistress. Mitsuru does even worse things and doesn't feel half as bad about them as Wataru does. All the same, Wataru proves that he is a kind and compassionate soul deep down, and that he still has hope when many of the older characters have become cynical.
- Class and Level System: Travelers get one of two classes depending on personality. Sorcerer, which uses elemental magic and summon spells and wields a staff - or Brave, which get super-reflexes and a magic sword. In the manga, there are a lot more than that. Cannoneer license, Beast License, Chase License... and so on. There was also one that looks like a maid in the guide's hands.
- Clear My Name: Wataru in Garsala. In the movie it's over the kidnapping of a baby dragon. In the novel, it's because he was framed for murder.
- Clingy Jealous Girl: Wataru's mom, Played for Drama. It's revealed shortly before Wataru leaves for Vision that his father's mistress was the woman he originally planned to marry. Wataru's mom faked a pregnancy and drove her away. Her mental health begins to deteriorate pretty badly when Akira gets back together with the other woman.
- Does This Remind You of Anything?: Vision, being based on the imagination and fantasies of human beings, features plenty of history that mirrors real-world events, including the Holocaust and even Jonestown.
- Door Stopper: The English translation runs about 800+ pages.
- Disneyfication: If you see the film before reading the book you will be surprised to find out that:
- Kaori, a character who doesn't even appear in the movie, is left mute and "broken" after being kidnapped - Wataru himself suspects she was raped.
- Mitsuru doesn't just put the bullies to sleep; the leader is left vegetative like Kaori.
- Wataru's father doesn't leave to have his own life, he leaves for the woman he was originally intending to marry before Wataru's mother faked a pregnancy and miscarriage.
- The reason for Wataru's mother's collapse is ambiguous in the movie but in the novel she tries to gas herself and Wataru while they are sleeping.
- Wataru isn't just accused of stealing, he is caught literally red handed as a serial murderer after waking up covered in blood next door to a grown man with a slit throat.
- Driven to Suicide: Wataru's mother tries to kill herself and Wataru by letting their apartment fill up with gas from the stove after Wataru's father leaves them.
- Earn Your Happy Ending: Especially in the book. To say Wataru goes through hell is putting it mildly. Before he even embarks on his adventure, he's witnessed disconcerting events surrounding his classmate, his father has left his family to be with another woman, and his mother has tried to kill both herself and Wataru. When he finally gets to Vision, things get worse before they get better.
- Exposition Fairy: The voice that Wataru hears in his head which begins trying to draw him to Vision even before Mitsuru intervenes. Subverted. It's evil.
- Fantastic Racism: Exists in Vision between the animal people and humans.
- Freudian Excuse: Mitsuru's a little shit, but just about his entire family is dead, and his wish is to bring his loved ones back to life.
- Genre Savvy: Wataru is a big fan of RPG video games, and he's able to do fairly well in Vision as a result. There's also some hinting that because Wataru loves RPGs, Vision is operating on videogame RPG rules as a result.
- Harmful to Minors: Wataru wakes up to the smell of gas, with his mother passed out. She was trying to kill them both.
- Humans Are Bastards: Seems to be a theme of the story. Even Wataru, who is ostensibly a good kid with good intentions who is never consciously malicious, is implied to be not only cowardly and jealous but subconsciously racist, vindictive, and even bloodthirsty.
- Informed Flaw: We are told that the reason that Fantastic Racism is so prevalent in Vision is because Wataru has hidden racist tendencies. Nothing he ever does backs this up at any time.
- It's All About Me: Mitsuru has absolutely no qualms about harming others if it means his wish can be granted.
- Lighter and Softer: The movie as compared to the book. The movie is, for the most part, a cheerful fantasy romp with some terror splashed in just to keep people on their toes. The book, on the other hand, is nothing short of grim, although it ends well. Ish. The manga is lighter and softer as well (the mangaka even says in the author's notes that it turned out more humorous and fluffy than she'd expected).
- Knight Templar Big Brother: Mitsuru's goal is to reach the Goddess of Fate and use his wish to revive his little sister, and he will do pretty much anything to make this happen, harming others without thinking twice about it and leaving a trail of destruction in his wake.
- Moral Myopia: Mitsuru has absolutely no qualms about harming others if it means his wish can be granted.
- Murder-Suicide: Mitsuru's father killed Mitsuru's mother and sister and then himself. Another character also attempts murder-suicide, but fortunately doesn't succeed at either.
- Off the Rails: It's heavily implied that much of each Traveler's journey is pre-planned out by the Goddess like an RPG - with them following plot threads and befriending people. Mitsuru ignores these plot threads repeatedly, and instead of following them, kills the NPCs that offer them. And boy does he ever pay for it.
- Prolonged Prologue: It takes a little while (around 200 pages) before Wataru manages to reach Vision. However, Brave Story provides a very good example of this trope done right - The Prolonged Prologue manages doesn't tell us how Wataru's life is screwed up, but rather, shows it.
- Redemption Equals Death: Captain Ronmel and Mitsuru become the Halves that restore Vision's barrier. Only really applies to Mitsuru though, since Rommel seems to be a well-respected and generally upstanding guy.
- RPG Elements: Vision has a JRPG layout, but this ends up backfiring on Wataru when he's first doing what can be best described as "character creation". Trying to be Genre Savvy, Wataru answers the Wayfinder's questions with standard answers that an RPG hero would say. Because he wasn't answering how he actually felt, he starts off his adventure with very barebones equipment.
- Spell My Name with an S: Many variations between versions, for example:
- Lord Wayfinder Lau in the novel translation, Master Guru Lau in the English subtitles on the Japanese DVD and just Monk Rau in the UK DVD subtitles.
- Kee Keema in the novel and Japanese DVD but Ki-Kima on the UK DVD
- Waterkin in the novel, Water Tribesmen on the Japanese DVD and "water Gods"(?) on the UK DVD.
- Kutz in the novel translation, Kattsu on the Japanese DVD and Cutts on the UK DVD.
- Meena in the novel and Japanese DVD, Miina on the UK DVD.
- Selfless Wish: Wataru uses his wish to keep Vision safe.
- Small Role, Big Impact: Kaori Daimatsu, in the original novel (in the movie, she's Adapted Out). She only makes a few appearances and doesn't have an active role in the plot at all, but meeting her and learning about her horrific backstory has a strong impact on Wataru that remains present throughout the story, to the point where his perception of the Goddess of Fate is an exact lookalike of Kaori.
- Spared by the Adaptation: Mitsuru and Kutz in the movie. The former is brought Back from the Dead, the latter doesn't die in the first place.
- Star-Crossed Lovers: Kutz and Captain Ronmel were dating at one point, but end up against each other. When Wataru speaks with Ronmel's spirit on his way to becoming the Half, he laments the fact that they couldn't be together.
- Throw the Dog a Bone: In the book, Mitsuru shows up at Wataru's house to wake him up when his mom is trying to kill herself with him. He also instructs him on how to get to Vision.
- Trauma Conga Line: The first part of the book is this for Wataru. Over the course of a few weeks, his father leaves him and his mother for another woman, he begins to self-harm in his sleep due to nightmares, he witnesses his mother confronting the other woman and slowly losing her sanity, and the final blow is him being saved by Mitsuru because his mother was trying to kill him and herself with gas while he slept.
- Victory-Guided Amnesia: It doesn't take effect immediately, but it is certainly implied that Wataru will eventually forget all about Vision and his friends there. This isn't the case in the movie, however.
- Unexplained Recovery: In the movie, Mitsuru and his younger sister show up at the end with no explanation given as to how they were resurrected.
- Your Mind Makes It Real: In a more literal sense. Vision is made from the thoughts of people in the "real" world, and there are slightly different versions of it for every traveler who comes there (well, most of the time), depending on that person's ideals and subconscious.
The video game Brave Story: New Traveler provides examples of:
- Arbitrary Headcount Limit: Only three characters can fight at once.
- Ass Kicking Pose: Some of the unity skills do this; it's mostly done to provide buffs for the characters using them.
- The Big Guy: Sogreth is the physically strongest and most durable party member, but is also slow and weak against magic attacks.
- Boss in Mook Clothing: Under certain conditions, you can force an enemy into a crazed state. Doing so increases their overall power, but grants you more Experience Points for the kill and changes the items they can drop.
- Can't Drop the Hero: Tatsuya cannot be removed from the active party, even if K.O'ed.
- Cat Girl: The Kitkin, including Yuno.
- Cast of Expies: All of the PSP game characters are slightly altered and renamed versions of the book's characters. To make things more confusing, you meet the book's characters as guest party members in the game, and they all have exactly the same moves as their counterparts.
- Combination Attack: The Unity skills, which can be learned in battles by using certain combinations of party members.
- Delicate and Sickly: Miki, Tatsuya's friend back in the real world suddenly entered comatose, triggering the plot.
- Does This Remind You of Anything?: A Bird Brawl is essentially a legal (and adorable) version of cock fighting.
- Evolving Weapon: The Traveler's Sword evolves each time Tatsuya finds a new gem.
- Giant Enemy Crab: Boogaboo Crab, the first boss of the game. A Palette Swap version of him appears as a Bonus Boss called "Giant Enemy Crab".
- Guest-Star Party Member: Several characters, including Kee Keema, Wataru and Mitsuru. Even though they don't remain in the party for long, it's still possible for the hero to learn at least one team-up skill with almost every one of them.
- Ice Palace: The Goddess's country is an (almost) uninhabited city of ice. It wasn't always that way.
- Lizard Folk: The Waterkin, including Sogreth and Kee Keema. The novel offhandedly mentions that Waterkin can also look like Shark Men but never introduces any proper.
- Mini-Game: Goalfinch catching and the birdbrawl.
- Money Spider: Averted...slightly. Rather than getting money directly from enemies, you have to take the items they were carrying and sell them to shopkeepers. Later on in the game, you can pick up a bounty for the amount of monsters you kill, which can go up to ridiculously high amounts. Now if only we could figure out why those monsters were carrying precious gems...
- Now, Where Was I Going Again?: You can press the R-button in a field or dungeon to get a hint from one of your party members.
- Palette Swap: Many enemies have size/color differences for the same race. In general, larger enemies have more HP and attack. The Crazed versions can also be seen as extensions of this.
- Regenerating Mana: You recover mana points (BP in this game) by attacking enemies.
- Sequential Boss:
- The near-identical triplet waterkin and kitkin bandits in Chapter 5.
- In Chapter 9, the boss battle against Volgh and Rei is followed by Rei in his One-Winged Angel form.
- Shout-Out: A sidequest involves defeating a Giant Enemy Crab. After beating it and returning to HQ, the following conversation occurs:Trone: Well? What happened with the Giant Enemy Crab?
Meladee: We stabbed its wea— It's, it's dead, Trone.
- The Smart Guy: Ropple, a Child Prodigy and the party's Black Mage.
- Stab the Sky: The main character does this whenever he receives a gem.
- Stripperiffic: Yuno's◊ adventurer's gear.
- Whip It Good: Kutz' main weapon is a whip.
- You ALL Look Familiar: Played straight for minor characters, but it's pulled off in a rather humorous fashion in Chapter 5. The Sequential Boss mentioned above look like recolored evil versions Yuno and Sogreth.