Spoiler Warning: This post contains spoilers for Re:Creators.
What makes stories matter? They’re not real. Nothing in them ever happened. They’re just ideas that someone thought sounded good, and yet we place so much importance in them. This very question is one of the central themes of Re:Creators. Upon entering the “real” world Alicetaria and many of the other Creations wonder about this in a far more personal way. Their entire lives were stories, and understanding this makes them question whether their lives mattered.
Re:Creators first touches on this question in episode 4. After discovering that her creator was dead, Meteora plays AVALKEN of Reminiscence, the game she’s from, to try and learn about him and find value in her world. Her conclusion? The game was fun. She recognized that a lot of thought and effort were put into it, that it wasn’t just a product. It’s a simple thing, but Meteora takes comfort in the knowledge that her game was made by someone who cared.
I’ve long believed that passion shows in any story. You can tell when creators care about their work, when they value it as more than just a product. Even if the result is flawed, passion towards a work still adds value to it. On the other hand, it’s much harder to find any significance in a story that was only created out of greed. Meteora finds her meaning in the fact that her creator cared about AVALKEN, that he was sincere about it. She takes comfort in the knowledge that other people will continue to play AVALKEN and find joy in her world. That’s what she needs to find value in her story, as well as what makes her commit to protected the world that she’s in now.
Meteora isn’t the only one who struggles with this dilemma. Alicetaria comes from a dark fantasy series where a lot of good people die and she isn’t always able to save the day. Upon discovering that her world was just a story created for entertainment, she understandably grows resentful towards both her creator and the people who treated her suffering as entertainment. She doesn’t find any meaning in meeting her creator, who she viewed as a weak coward, so what gives her story significance?
Episode 10 finally gave a firm answer to this from an unlikely source: Sota, the main character who barely has anything to do with the Creations.
A lot of people have criticized Sota for being an audience-insert character with little connection to the plot, and it’s true, he does represent audiences. That would be a negative in most situations, but he serves a crucial thematic purpose in Re:Creators. Most of the cast in Re:Creators falls into two categories: creators and Creations. This is an obvious choice for a show about our relationship with fiction, but those two categories leave out one important piece in the process of creating stories. That piece is the audience.
Sota’s speech to Alicetaria in episode 10 perfectly encapsulates what gives stories their value: the audience. Sota tells Alicetaria that her story wasn’t just voyeuristic entertainment. It was something people cared about. Things like the village being destroyed when Alicetaria couldn’t make it in time was more than entertainment to the people watching. To them, it was an actual tragedy. Alicetaria was more than a fictional character; she was someone people could look up to, an icon of hope. Watching heroes like her fight for good can inspire us in a real way. As the audience, stories can inspire emotions, make us consider new views, and even motivate us in our regular lives. Even if it’s fictional, Alicetaria’s story does have value in the way it influences audiences and gets people to care. Fiction can drive us and have a tangible influence in our real lives. Alicetaria’s story was what inspired Sota to protect Meteora because it’s what Alicetaria would have done in his situation. Her story was more than just a story to him, it was a source of hope and inspiration to do good.
This idea is further emphasized when Matsubara tries to give Selesia a new power by writing a new chapter in her story. Even though he’s her creator, just having the story doesn’t grant her any special powers until people discover it. As soon as he posts the idea online and people get excited about it, Selesia gets the power he wrote for her. Without an audience, a story has no power. With an audience, a story has the power to reshape the world.
Stories aren’t just stories. A well told story can have a profound impact us as the audience. Even if the events are fictional, the emotions they can draw out of us are real and do matter. Even if Sota wasn’t able to get through to Alicetaria, his words perfectly encompass what gives stories their value. It’s not just the creator or the Creation, it’s us, the audience. Our reactions and experiences with stories are what makes them matter, what make them more than just stories.