Humans are naturally curious creatures. It’s the reason why the mystery genre appeals to us a whole. It banks on the fact that we crave to to uncover the unknown. Now a series can’t be mysterious for the sake of the mystery itself. It has to give the the unknown factors some context and weight. It has to give the viewer a carrot that they find worth chasing. Otherwise it fails at grabbing their attention or provoking their brains to think more deeply about the information it divulges.
Red Data Girl is an excellent example of mystery done right for the following reasons:
- A set of relatable characters
- A situation that is a mystery to both the protagonists and the viewers
- A route to answers or a solution
- Payoff that presents more questions
Now why is a set of relatable characters important? As viewers we have to be able to identify with those that are trying to solve the mystery. It plays a big part in us becoming emotionally invested in the journey. Izumiko and Miyuki, while caught in an exceptional situation, are high school students that anyone can relate to. We understand their motivations, fears and feelings even though the circumstances they are in are not so familiar to us.
Part of this due to the fact the situation is not so familiar to them either. This is the second reason why a mystery succeeds. If any of the protagonists are omniscient and seem to have the answers before the series actually reveals them, we become divested from the show as a whole. They must have the same questions as us and be willing to seek out the answers to those questions.
Well, as long as they have some clear method in finding those answers. The heroes can’t be in a hopeless situation where they don’t have any method of figuring out the mystery. As long as they have some vehicle to continue their journey, viewers can bank on the fact that progress will be made. It’s an important point that writers need to remember. We as the audience are unable to explore the world and figure out things for ourselves. As long as the leads have a way we have hope and a promise of satisfaction.
But where does mystery truly succeed in a episodic show of this nature? When the answers provoke more questions. They act as a trail of breadcrumbs leading us from one secret to the next till we can puzzle together the bigger picture. In Episode 2 specifically we learn the nature of Izumiko’s power but what is the extent of it and the purpose it exists. These are questions that still linger and draw us to the next episode.