Amy Caecus. This article is going to contain massive spoilers, so if you’re a fan of the show and you haven’t watched, then I suggest turning away. I’m going to talk about how Amy has evolved from the original book to the animated series. It’s been an interesting evolution and it’s something I’m extremely proud of.
Amy and her role in the first book was pretty vapid. Just to get it out of the way, she dies to create the inciting incident for Adam Novus. In prose, Amy was a spoiled rich daughter to Foreign Affairs diplomat, Harold Caecus. She says some awkward stuff to Adam, taking advantage of his innocence and naivety in theory, but not so much on paper, then disappears for a chapter or two, comes back during the Alliance entrance exam, says some dumb insincere stuff then dies.
It’s supposed to take this massive toll on Adam’s emotional state, constantly affecting and influencing his judgement throughout the book. While to the character, Amy meant something and her death was tragic to him, for the readers, it was just an example of “who was that? She’s dead now? Oh, okay.”
She was never developed and was ultimately viewed as a “throw away” character. I didn’t want to waste too much time on her, mainly because I hated the awkward opening. I wanted to get right to the action, to the meat and fun of the story. I ignored a key character of the series, possibly the most important character in the world I had created. Sure, a lot of the events would have happened with or without her, but Adam Novus would have been a tremendously different person.
Without Amy, he there would have been no personal issues with the Irregular after it interrupted the Alliance exam. He never would have struggled with rage and confusion after losing someone. He would have most likely become a simple dog of the military, following orders as they were given, finding some weird pride in being a Frame pilot. While the plot and story advanced away from her, at the core of Adam’s drive had always been regret and guilt over Amy’s death.
So here’s this extremely vital character, and she gets a few lines and a quick one off appearance just to die. Makes perfect sense.
Going into this visual adaptation, Amy Caecus was a priority for me. The time between the first series attempt and the reboot, I had done some audio dramas based on novel excerpts. One of them was the Alliance Entrance Exam. It was the first time I had to give a voice to Amy. I didn’t expect much of it, and just asked my friend, Kira Buckland at the time if she’d take the role. Kira had played Serenity Credo in the original series attempt. I say “original series”, but it’s really just a story that took place after the third book, so it was years after the current rebooted one. Once Kira took the role and gave vocal life to Amy for the first time, I became inspired to do justice to this character. I think it might also be because Kira is such a great actresses, actually, that’s entirely why. There’s something about hearing your characters come to life, given mannerisms that you didn’t think of, usually subtle ones that come from the actor, that’s simply inspiring. It makes you want to do more with them. So at that point I had an idea for an animated movie.
I still wasn’t entirely sure what I wanted to do. 2011/2012 was a weird transition year for me. I was pretty down on things, no real focus. That’s also when I met my friend Karley, a professional animator who helped me adjust my style and just gave me a much better understanding of animation. So the idea was to make this movie, “Midnight Twilight”. A story set between the events of the first novel and the second one. I wrote a new script, one that I really liked. In it, I wrote a new scene for Amy. one that would showcase Adam’s guilt over what happened and sort of a way for him to try and find closure by accepting who Amy was. At this point in time, I wasn’t going to reboot the animated series from the beginning and I had no plan on expanding on Amy’s character. This was merely the first step taken towards that.
The scene came out pretty well, even though the movie idea was put on hold after talking to Chris Niosi (Kirbopher) when I met him at a get together set up by Brittany Lauda. He really did put some perspective into me when it came to animation and appealing to the internet for funding. That was when the idea of rebooting the series and starting from the beginning happened.
So yeah, Kira and Chris sort of are the reasons why the current web series happened in a way.
Here is the scene that was created for Midnight Twilight. This was when I was experimenting with a new style that eventually evolved into what my current one is.
That scene was the launching point that made me really want to expand on Amy’s character more. It was a good way to start, since it was the first real scene that treated Amy like an actual character, rather than a plot device for the protagonist.
All this led to the new animated series that launched in the summer of 2013. It was different for me, I wasn’t used to the style change/art direction, and definitely not animating again. Having no formal animation training, everything I do is self taught and learning by doing. There were things I wanted to do, or at least debated doing for the first episode. I debated doing more mech scenes to showcase the fights, or even doing the cliche “start in the present with action, bigger draw, then flashback to the origin boring stuff”. Knowing the limits of my capabilities, I chose to be dull. Focus on character interactions and dialogue….a lot of dialogue. In hindsight, not the best decision, but it was still good practice. It was also the first moment where I realized that I didn’t properly convert from prose to script writing. I had a lot of stuff going on in 2013, depressed about some hard times, hard times financially draining my energy, so this was a good form of escapism on my part. But even with that, it wasn’t the best writing. It was awkward and rough at the start, but by episode 3’s script I started to feel better.
Fact: Episodes 1-12 were written within 3 weeks of January of 2013. So the notion that my writing improved over time from episode to episode is false. My writing improved as I was forcing myself out of a writing slump from 2012. Each episode was written to force me to try something new in animation, all with the intention of getting to a good enough level to properly showcase the Alliance Entrance Exam, the inciting incident of the story.
So while the first 3 episodes have pacing issues, it was a sacrifice that needed to happen. It allowed me to improve my animation to get to a point where I could do what I wanted to do.
In slowing down the pacing for the first 3 episodes, it also allowed me to emphasize Amy much more. Sometimes even more so than Adam. By doing this, it allowed me to connect better with the character, give her some much needed depth all in the span of time before her death. I couldn’t drag it out too long, but it couldn’t be too fast either. Act 1 was never part of the main plot. It was always meant to be a base of normalcy for Adam Novus that lead to the drastic change in his life. It was by no means easy to balance, and in some aspects I failed. Episode 1 as an introductory episode was pretty bland. Too much dialogue, character names were rarely established. Scenes that I wanted for foreshadowing made no sense out of context, especially when there was going to be 3-4 months time between episode releases. But I’m happy with the scene between Adam and Amy. I was able to show Adam’s awkwardness towards her, and hint at Amy’s manipulative nature. Their conversation was pretty solid. Adam confesses his dreams, and Amy opening up about her mother. That scene alone gave Amy more development than the entire original book. By no means was the conversation complete character growth from shallow one note to complex character, but it was a start.
It was in the following episode, “Measuring Up” that I was really able to start planting the seeds for Amy’s complexity. Wasn’t a great episode, rather mediocre, but the times when Amy was on screen, I felt it was good. She goes from showing support for Adam when he was doubting his own abilities in comparison to his brother. Standing firm in her belief that he could do more and that he should take stock in himself, to being by herself, allowing the audience to see a glimpse at the real her.
In the book, I never truly discussed her mother. But in the animated series, I was able to do that. The scene itself is short, but allowing the audience to see Amy in a vulnerable light as a grieving daughter worked out well. Of course I wouldn’t realize the effectiveness until later episodes were released.
Amy, in 2 episodes already was starting to develop layers I never gave her in prose form. A one note character that was only in the book to be manipulative and uncaring, now has shown subtle hints of that nature in addition to being conflicted and in pain. A lot of people have noticed that Amy was often the focus of Act 1 and it’s true. I knew she was going to die in Episode 6 and I’d rather use the first few episodes to place more importance on her than to have her sit back seat and die without making any sort of connection to the audience. Whatever that connection would turn out to be, I had no idea.
Another thing I didn’t touch on in the book was her relationship with her father. I remedied this in Episode 3 “Diverging Paths”. A mix of exposition and dialogue, the opening scene to the episode allowed Amy and her father to talk about her mother, her new “tool” in the form of Adam, and their bitter nature towards the nation of people that took their “Pamela” away. Giving the audience a direct window into her personality with her father furthered her “bitch” persona, as a contrast between how she acts around Adam and how she views him behind closed doors, proved to be a smart choice.
Later in the episode, Adam and Amy have their first kiss. Depending on what you noticed from her being on screen leading up to this point, you either saw it from one of two perspectives.
- She’s manipulating and using Adam’s own naivety for her benefit.
- Wow what a forced and rushed romance.
This is also something else I corrected from the book. In the book, Amy is really important to Adam, but I never “show” it. It’s just said “she’s important, okay, now she’s dead and he’s hurting”. Here, Amy catches him by surprise, with Adam commenting how it felt “rushed”. Once again, the sweet side of Amy is show here as she continues to comfort him with trust.
Which leads to one of my favorite characters being introduced, Karin Dolor. Karin, is a new character that I created specifically for the series. She will have her own write up as her development is probably the best out of the newest additions to the series. Karin is the Alliance Operator assigned to Adam for the upcoming exam. She also sees through Amy’s smitten, traumatized daughter persona.
Easily my favorite scene from Episode 3. Karin calling Amy out on her actions, and Amy brushing it off and admitting to taking advantage of Adam’s emotions. The tension between these characters was fantastic and both actress, Kira (Amy) and Amanda Lee (Karin) pulled it off so well.
It’s at this point where Amy disappears from upcoming episodes. Like the book, she is kidnapped with her father and wouldn’t show up until the end of the exam, (Episode 5 “The Howls of Despair).
There was one last thing I needed to do for Amy’s development. While I felt that she had already grown far superior than her prose counterpart, I still felt the audience saw more of her manipulative nature than the broken woman she actually is.
Minisode 3 “Suffering Soul” This was originally written in Episode 6’s script. It was going to be a full flashback sequence for Amy to have when she comes to the realization that she was going to die. It was kind of cliche, and I liked the writing so much that I turned that scene into a full minisode.
Something I never did in the book, put her history on display. From her mother’s funeral as a confused and naive child, to learning the truth behind her death years later. Being able to showcase her complete breakdown and immediate reliance on anger was the best thing I could have done for her character’s growth. Another thing that Kira just performed amazingly well. In this minisode split into 3 parts, child Amy who is confused, teen Amy who goes from innocent to broken to bitter anger and then something new, Amy interacting with Sharon Amare as part of the Intern program.
In the book, one of the greatest flaws was never properly connecting all of the Interns together. Amy, while part of the program, never really was shown interacting with them. I changed that in the episodes, but still, I wanted to give her more meaning. Sharon Amare, was the female lead in the original series attempt. She’s also the main female character in the book series. She hasn’t seen much action in Act 1, but I’ll be writing something on how she’s been improved as well. The last thing I felt Amy needed was a foil character. A character that while similar was radically different at the same time. In the minisode, Sharon and Amy interact a bit more indepth than they ever did up til that time. Sharon explains the program, and notices Amy’s obliviousness towards certain things, namely the guys finding her attractive. At this point, Amy is angry and wants revenge on those that killed her mother, but still has no idea how to go about it. It’s also the first time Amy is introduced/notices Adam Novus.
Below is the updated scene from the minisode that features Sharon and Amy. I redid it entirely because Sharon was updated with a new voice actress, Amber Lee Connors and for a scene that was rather important, I felt it needed an upgrade.
Sharon is first introduced to Amy’s ambitions, as well as gaining a suspicion that Amy isn’t quite what she seems. It was the final piece I needed to put into play for Amy to finally transition to a character of complexity.
From this point, the series, while different for everyone else, was the same for Amy. She wouldn’t show up again until the end of the exam, like the book. The dialogue was improved, but for the most part she says the same thing. That she’s sorry for everything she’s done, asking Adam what his goal really is, but this time, it felt sincere. It felt sincere because now Amy was a real character. She had a voice, a backstory and a conflicting reaction from fans.
The happiest and most fulfilling thing I’ve seen since launching the series, was fan reaction to Amy. Some would shout “it’s canon!” when Adam and Amy kissed, others were calling out Amy’s bullshit by episode 3. Then when her minisode came out, some were more lenient, they felt bad for her and understood where she was coming from but still didn’t condone her actions. That’s what I wanted. Amy can be viewed in so many different ways, I can’t tell anyone what the right way is, that’s the beauty of it all. Making a character than the audience can relate or react to in their own way.
Amy Caecus is probably the biggest improvement from the book to the animation. I learned about her character and her plight far more when I expanded on it for the animation. Going back to the book, I’ll be able to incorporate everything I’ve learned and bring it back home from where it all came from.
I often wonder if I would have gone this far for this character if I had just gotten an actress of a lesser quality than Kira to play her. I think the biggest lesson I’ve learned from going from prose to animation is just how much actors/actresses/friends can inspire you to do better. When you work and are surrounded by people of a high quality, you’re going to want to do better.