Anime Storyboards: Pumpkin Scissors
Welcome to Anime Storyboards. Much like B-Movie Inspirations, the intent of this column is to seek out ideas for RPG sessions and campaigns in other media. Anime shows have a particular advantage in this regard as the characters in them frequently have an RPG party vibe to them.
For the inaugural column, I’ve selected a show which employs a popular naming technique wherein two English words are chosen seemingly at random and slapped together with no regard for coherence. So what could a show with a name like Pumpkin Scissors possibly be about? If you were to take some guesses, post-war recovery probably wouldn’t be among them. Yet that happens to be the show’s focus.
The setting in question is an alternate Earth which resembles a mishmash of post-WWI Britain and Germany. Three years previous to the beginning of the series, a war between the Royal Empire and the Republic of Frost came to an end. (Though never explicitly stated, it’s implied to have ended in a stalemate.) As the war had seen the introduction of tanks as well as flame weapons and chemical warfare, the devastation had been extensive. In the Royal Empire, the State Section III War Relief Unit was established to aid in the recovery. Unfortunately, the brass largely regarded the idea as a bad joke. Furthermore, many among the citizenry they were supposed to be aiding saw them as little more than a propagangda tool of the government. As a result, they were chronically underfunded and understaffed and got little respect. Nevertheless the State Section III War Relief Unit, known more informally by the unit name Pumpkin Scissors, did what they could to get the nation past the post-war doldrums, often trodding on some very influential toes in the process.
War recovery is a subject which is not frequently employed in fiction and is all but unknown in anime. So it could be said that Pumpkin Scissors is breaking new ground. And for the most part it does a good job of it. A wide variety of situations regarding post-war recovery are touched upon and spun into engaging stories. The bulk of these are resolved within one episode, but a few occur over two or three episodes, and there are a couple of recurring background elements that pop up on occasion. Unfortunately, the series loses steam about two-thirds of the way through, with Episode Eighteen in particular being some rather tedious filler. Furthermore, the climax is padded out over four episodes when it could have been resolved in no more than two. But in spite of these late hiccups, the actual conclusion was overall satisfactory while leaving an opening for a second season (which was ultimately not pursued).
War frequently serves as a backdrop in an RPG campaign, and can sometimes be the driving force behind one. But all wars come to an end, and not necessarily a Final End. For a change of pace, a campaign based on recovery from a war has possibilities. Among those touched on in Pumpkin Scissors:
- There’s Always Room for Deserters: There are times when a soldier has had it with a life on the war front, but his term isn’t done yet (and may not be for some time). In such circumstances, desertion can be seen as an attractive possibility. The only problem is what to do afterwards. Most end up turning to a life of crime. One of the more popular forms is banditry, as looting isolated towns and waylaying lone travellers is a relatively low-risk method of enriching oneself. For those who prefer an urban environment, deserters can easily become enforcers for a street gang or an organized crime syndicate. Deserters tend to be tougher nuts to crack than your garden variety criminals, due both to their military training and the possibility that they helped themselves to some hardware before leaving.
- Inventory (Out of) Control: Like any large organization, the military can experience the loss of supplies and equipment due to employee skullduggery. The main difference is that such losses tend to be more alarming than some swiped paperclips. Weapons, ammunition, and combat vehicles, along with their ancillary components, are some of the things which can go missing and end up in the wrong hands. Those wrong hands can include criminals, terrorists, insurgents, and random nutjobs looking for trouble. The sort of people willing to participate can be a deserter who helped himself before leaving his unit, a greedy quartermaster looking to sock away a little extra cash, or an unscrupulous contractor selling some off the books.
- The Civilians Are Restless: The end of a war can be an economically awkward time. A combination of wartime industries scaling back and the mustering out of soldiers no longer required in the military can potentially trigger a recession. If the country is forced to pay reparations, a full-blown depression can result. Naturally this can inspire resentment and ill will towards the goverment especially if they behave apathetically towards the citizenry’s plight. Left unattended, such a situation can spiral out of control and devolve into anarchy.
- Let Loose the Dogs of War (Again): For some people, there’s no such thing as peace, just breathers between wars. Their reasons for instigating a new one can vary. Someone from the winning side may feel that they were shortchanged by the terms in the signed treaty. The victory may also have encouraged thoughts about conquering other neighboring countries. Someone from the losing side could be bitter over lost territory and onerous reparations and may seek to even the score. An unscrupulous war contractor could see stirring up hostilities as a way for business to pick up. Finally, any number of top secret government projects could regard a new war as an opportunity for field testing.