Warning: This might make no sense whatsoever. I’m still trying to work out the concept in my head. But, they don’t call ’em Random’s Half-Baked Theories for nothin’…
If there’s one thing I can’t stand about an anime — or any fiction, I suppose — it’s Vagueness. It’s an irritating and cheap way to instill a sense of ‘mystery’ in the viewer without actually providing a Mystery.
Presenting the viewer with a Mystery is easy. Something strange is happening / has happened, and it’s up to Our Heroes to figure out what’s going down / has gone down. Investigation proceeds, clues are found, dead ends hit, secrets revealed, and in the end we have a working knowledge of what happened. The audience never knows anything more than what the characters know; the characters never know anything more than what the audience knows (unless some of them are lying, which is just part of the mystery). We feel aligned to the investigators and can reasonably follow the chain of logic that leads them where they’re going.
EXAMPLES: Outlaw Star (Strange things have gone down but Gene Starwind is trying to piece it together as he goes), Patlabor 1 and 2 (Gohto investigating situations as they develop and after they’ve been set in motion), Serial Experiments Lain (We never know more than what Lain knows, even if what she knows is surreal as hell).
On the other hand, you have Vagueness. In this situation, something strange is happening / has happened… but the characters, notably the protagonists, KNOW the score. They have the facts needed to have it all make sense. But they’re not telling YOU, the audience — not for at least, oh, another twenty episodes or so. Until then they simply find ways to avoid discussing it clearly, or keep it a quiet secret of the past which will be dealt with actively in a confusing manner but never really explained until later, no matter how contrived the delay might be.
EXAMPLES: .Hack sign (Lots of meaningless conversations in strange places with strange powers without actual explanation, despite some characters investigating), Noir (“You are a part of that same thing?” “Yes” “I see.” End scene. We could’ve skipped 12+ episodes of mystery if they had just spoken frankly!), Boogiepop Phantom (More or less; everybody seems to know more than we know and the only way to make sense of it all is to get through all the episodes, and even then there’s missing information since it’s based on a book series they’re expecting we read already).
This is NOT to say that Vagueness has no place in things. Cowboy Bebop and Trigun both did great jobs with the vague, mysterious, unspoken character backstory. The trick is that both also gave us a heaping helping of concrete day-to-day story alongside the vagueness; we could latch onto the practical demands of the current plot instead of fumbling through a hazy cloud of half-information. That way when time came to dive into that cloud, we have some solid ground to stand on as well.
At least to me, as a viewer and a creator, it’s important not to use cheap tricks to keep your reader/viewer in the dark. Two characters in the know talking in vague terms, or cutting a scene right after a line like “Here’s what he told me…” is a cheap dodge. If you want the reader/viewer to follow along, to feel like a part of the story, don’t alienate them like this. Let them bond with a particular viewpoint, let them have the same tools that the viewpoint has, and they won’t feel like the author is deliberately pushing them up a river without a paddle just for laughs.
…but answering honestly, I got:
Makes sense, since they’re my two favorite characters. Go! Fighting schoolgirl! Into the action!