Over the course of the past few months, I’ve been rereading the Rurouni Kenshin manga series. As always, I love the series, but I came to a complete halt on a single panel at the end of the Kyoto Arc. For those familiar with the series, it’s the moment Kenshin uses the Amakakeru Ryu no Hirameki on Shishio. For those who aren’t familiar, it’s the moment the protagonist uses his final secret sword technique against one of the series’ most enduring villains.
It’s the moment that 17 collected volumes of story are building up to, and in my own opinion, the panel is perfect. It’s a visual and emotional feast.
There are plenty of perfect moments in film and literature. The climax of A Tale of Two Cities. The lobby and subway fight scenes in The Matrix. Moments that make you want to stand up and shout.
I’m willing to endure a lot for one perfect moment.
A while back, I watched Demon Slayer, which was a show I enjoyed from the beginning of its run. It’s gorgeously animated, and I was immediately drawn to the sword styles the demon slayers use.
So I was happily enjoying the show until Episode 19, when I proceeded to lose my mind. It possesses, for me, one of the most perfect moments of storytelling I’ve ever experienced. I’ll keep this post spoiler free. If you’ve seen the show, you know the moment I’m talking about. If you haven’t, I’d encourage you to watch if you’re interested. I’m not even sure I could describe the mix of emotions I felt the day I first saw that episode.
All of this has made me think about how important perfect moments are to stories. It makes me think that the stories we like most are the ones with the moments that stick with us, the ones that linger long after we’re done with them.
And here’s my other thought: artists can’t create perfect moments.
A perfect moment is subjective. It’s very likely the moments of stories I view as perfect aren’t the same as yours. These moments, ultimately, are created by the readers and viewers.
All a writer can do is tell the best story they can, and then let the reader create their own perfect moment.