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Literature / Takotsubo

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Despite his own beliefs, he is in fact a hero.

"My name is Cord Cai. My fiancé got shot for his car, and nobody gave a fuck except me."
Cord Cai

Takotsubo: The story of a superhero is a troper work by Sharysa on HitRECord. The main story is a script, but she's also written three companion pieces in prose: The Bridge-Building stories and Gunsmoke.

Takotsubo is the story of Cord Cai, a young Chinese-American who lives in Oakland, California. After his fiancé Roland Fujii is shot in a botched carjacking by Harry Lamont, Cord shoots Lamont in revenge and then takes on the gangster alter-ego of "the Tin Man," leading East 13. It is a massive Deconstruction of the superhero genre's lack of racial diversity, as well as Cord's specific stereotype of the Asian-American gangster.

Takotsubo provides examples of:

  • Alliterative Name: Cord Cai, as befitting a superhero. Juliana Juarez is also alliterative.
  • Break the Cutie:
    • In Gunsmoke and the script's prologue. Cord and Roland are targeted for a carjacking and Roland gets shot. Cord tries to jump off the Golden Gate Bridge when the police barely do anything, but he eventually shoots Harry Lamont in revenge and starts a gang as the Tin Man.
    • Juliana Juarez is now getting broken, thanks to her parents dying in a drive-by shooting.
  • Capepunk: Cord Cai is obviously a superhero thanks to suffering a tragic loss, being motivated to get justice for it, and becoming a vigilante. But since Cord is Asian, it plays more like a Downer Beginning than a triumphant call to justice. He's Driven to Suicide and desperately fights the paramedics who take him to a psych ward, he feels forced into revenge because the Police Are Useless (as a group, if not individually), and holds no illusions that he'll go to jail if he's caught for murder. Oakland needs a superhero for a VERY good reason.
  • The City Narrows: The setting's in Oakland, California.
  • Dark Is Not Evil: Gangsters are violent and harsh, but they DO follow street-law.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Everyone gets a few jabs, but Cord is especially snarky.
  • Deconstruction:
    • The "Asian gangster" stereotype is a one-shot character at best, and faceless hero-fodder at worst. Here, the "Asian gangster" is a young man with a hard life and knows perfectly well that he's feeding the stereotype, but he feels like it's his only choice.
    • Even a "nice" gang like East 13 needs to follow street-law to survive, and it leads to Juliana's parents getting killed by the Gatewalkers' drive-by. There's also rumors about the Tin Man breaking someone's neck and cursing Harry Lamont's house.
    • Gunsmoke and the script's prologue show how badly the justice system fails minorities—Cord called the police during his carjacking, and they don't show up until Roland is basically dying. Later when he's in the police station, he mentions that he's already been to Roland's funeral — which means nothing's happened with the investigation for at LEAST a few weeks.
    • Years later in the main story, Juliana doesn't even bother going to the police when her parents are casualties of the Gatewalkers' drive-by — she just goes straight to their headquarters to attempt a No-Holds-Barred Beatdown.
  • Decon-Recon Switch: The work is not only humanizing the Asian-gangster stereotype, but pointing out that Cord doesn't even fit it in the first place.
  • Deliberate Values Dissonance: Blake remarks that gangs act "medieval," since Cord refuses to give much information even about a rival gang. Truth in Television — see Rule #1 below.
  • Despair Event Horizon: This is how Cord's Superhero Origin is treated, since it's only the last straw in a LONG string of hardships he's faced as a young LGBT man of color. Gunsmoke shows Cord rocketing past it, while Bridge-Building takes place some time afterward. According to the author, the main script for Takotsubo is going to be Cord's long journey back from it.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: Cord Cai is a traumatized and depressed young man who thinks his only choice for justice is to start a gang. His alias? "The Tin Man."
  • Double Standard: Martel warns Juliana that white people think the South Wind's a demon because of his tribal tattoos.
  • Ethereal White Dress: Roland's spirit shows up in white gauze.
  • Evil Virtues:
    • Gangs will only acknowledge someone's power or their word. Juliana muses that nobody knows why the Tin Man shot Harry Lamont, but they all agree he had a reason for it. They're also fine with outsiders coming in and picking fights, and even people seeking revenge will mostly be driven out instead of hurt or killed.
    • East 13 doesn't take kids. When Rafael Arturo comes to them for help because his sister got stabbed, the Tin Man refuses and takes him to a school instead.
  • Fantastic Racism: Juliana and Martel are twofers of the "minority mage" kind. They both spent years in foster-care, and people frequently state that "nobody wants a kid with powers." Juliana scares off gangsters who don't even know what kind of magic she has, and people called her names when she was a child.
  • Gangsterland: It's set in Oakland, after all. Three fictional gangs have been named—East 13, the Rust Sinners, and the Gatewalkers—and there's probably more to come.
  • Genre Deconstruction: Specifically, of the superhero genre's lack of racial diversity. When the Chinese-American Cord Cai — a gangster who'd be a stereotypical villain in much of American media — goes through the classic Superhero Origin story by losing his fiance Roland Fujii in a botched carjacking, it's played as Cord's Despair Event Horizon after a long list of family hardships, racism, and homophobia, and he shoots the murderer in revenge after the police fuck up on Roland's case. Cord knows perfectly well that he's feeding Asian-American stereotypes, but he thinks he's not good enough for anything else. However, while he views himself as a failure and a stereotype, his gang works with the police to clean up Oakland's street crime and numerous people ask him for help as they would a superhero.
  • Hell Is That Noise: When the Tin Man teleports around the city, the streetlights go out and we hear static before he finally appears.
  • I Will Find You: Juliana's trying to find the South Wind.
  • Light Is Not Good: The bright, colorful superhero aesthetic is worn by gangsters. But it's combined with Dark Is Not Evil on an occupational level, since the protagonists are Neighborhood-Friendly Gangsters.
  • Motifs
    • Hearts. "Takotsubo" is the Japanese term for "broken-heart syndrome," which is obvious since Cord is suicidal after the death of his fiance. The broken-heart on the poster's concept is mentioned as Cord's chest tattoo in Gunsmoke. Lastly, his alias is the Tin Man, who is renowned as The Heart of his companions.
    • Names. Cord repeats "My name is Cord Cai" in the prologue. Juliana and Martel greet the Queen of Names by saying "My name is ___" before giving her food/drink as offerings. When they leave the house, they knock twice and state their names again. The Queen herself is covered with tattooed names in different languages.
  • Mugging the Monster: Harry Lamont clearly didn't know he'd be trying to carjack two former gangsters. Roland laughed in his face, refused to give up his car, and taunted Lamont into shooting him. Months later, the despairing Cord tracked Lamont through his gang connections and shot him in the head.
  • Mythopoeia: Two fictional spirits are the Queen of Names and Lady Fury, who watch over foster-care children. There's probably no mythology that portrays the Four Winds as hot, shirtless young men, either.
  • Neighborhood-Friendly Gangsters: Played With. East 13 is a gang that basically does police work, because the real police force are useless despite individual cops like Henderson trying their best.
  • Old, Dark House: Harry Lamont's house has been sitting abandoned after his murder. People say the Tin Man cursed it with his broken-heart tag, but he tells Juliana that it's only a rumor. Cord and Roland's old house has also been abandoned and tagged by East 13.
  • The One Who Made It Out: Discussed Trope. When Cord's in the psych ward, he asks Thad if he's getting out. Thad mistakes it for just getting released from the hospital, but Cord meant getting out of Oakland, clearly referencing this trope. He then bitterly muses that while the "good" Asians can get out, he shouldn't have bothered trying.
  • Plot-Triggering Death: A two for one deal—Harry Lamont shoots Roland Fujii in a botched carjacking, and later gets executed himself by a grieving Cord.
  • Red String of Fate: In a flashback, Roland proposes to Cord using a red string. When Cord talks about the memory to the nurse Thad in the psych ward, Thad falls in love with him.
  • Rule #1: Officer Henderson explains that they have to let East 13 patrol the Acorn neighborhood instead of police—too much cop presence would mark the gang as either snitches or weaklings.
    Henderson: You rat someone out, it means you're too weak to deal with them or you just can't be trusted. In gangs, you have your power or your word. That's all.
  • Shout-Out Theme Naming: The East 13 gang is themed after The Wizard of Oz. Normal members are the Quadlings, Cord is the Tin Man, Lina is Glinda, and Martin is the Scarecrow. Juliana becomes Elphaba.
  • Stereotype Flip: Cord is an Asian gangster, a common villain role... but this is the story of a superhero.
  • Super Hero Origin: Gunsmoke specifically, but the story as a whole is this.
  • Talking to the Dead: Literally, thanks to the urban-fantasy elements. Roland's spirit still lives in his and Cord's abandoned house, and Cord often visits him.
  • This Is My Story: The Arc Words of the prologue, as seen at the top.
    Cord Cai: My name is Cord Cai. My fiancé got shot for his car, and nobody gave a fuck except me.
  • Twofer Token Minority: Cord and Roland are LGBT Asian-Americans. Thad Kerry is an LGBT black man. Of the fantastic kind, Juliana and Martel are minority mages.
  • Two Lines, No Waiting: Cord Cai is a vigilante gangster sorting out his issues; Juliana just joined his gang, but is also trying to find the South Wind.
  • True Companions: In Gunsmoke, Lina and Martin are his friends, who are implied to have been looking for him since they find him right after he shoots Harry Lamont. All three of them know Cord's going to jail if he's a suspect, so they grab him and run.
  • Urban Fantasy: Cord has a network of alert signals via his broken-heart graffiti tags, Roland comes back as a spirit to keep Cord from jumping off the Golden Gate, and there are Asian-appearing men called the Four Winds (North, South, East, and West) who build the set and act in the play. There are also two female spirits called the Queen of Names and Lady Fury, who watch over foster-care children.