Takako was the Pretear, who would pret (blend) with the Leafe Knights in order to assume their powers and battle Saihi and the Seeds of Destruction. However, Takako was scared of her duty. As Hayate moved into a position of protector, she became more and more reliant on him to guide her through the nightmare -- to the point where she would only blend with Hayate, even if blending with another Knight made more sense in a battle. Realizing she was unhappy, Hayate asked if she wanted to quit being the Pretear. It was the Knights' way of thanking her for what she had already done. However, Takako didn't see it that way -- she had become dependent on them; she was only fighting for their sake; this wasn't a thank you, it was a farewell... She loved Hayate, and finally managed to confess her love to him, but Hayate couldn't return it. He was her protector because she was the Pretear.Takako couldn't handle the rejection. She felt she no longer had anything to live for. As darkness entered her heart, Takako became Saihi. All the Knights fought her, and managed to seal her away in a crystal, but lost three Knights in the process. Hayate blames himself not only for the loss of the three Knights (who were later reborn) but for loosing the Pretear. In the end, the burden for him was too great, and he wanted to quit being a Knight -- but unlike the Pretear, who was chosen by the Knights, a Leafe Knight couldn't quit -- once a Knight, always a Knight. All he can do is sit, and guard over her, and try to come to terms with his past, so that it will never happen again. For both Takako and Hayate, there is no "happily ever after", only an after... Technical details: The idea was inspired by a scene in the manga. Hayate and Takako were traced so that I could easily reconstruct Hayate's missing legs and color the image in a satisfactory manner. The crystals were also traced; the foreground crystals from the Pretear scans, the background crystals recycled from Frozen Magic, and colored appropriately. Numerous lighting effects were added to the interior of Saihi's crystal. Saihi herself was distorted into the various sides of the crystal; each side had slightly different lighting to get the appropriate glassy effect. The background was a trace of a stock photograph of spindly pine trees. There are several layers of trees; each successive layer dimming as it gains distance from the viewer. They're there to provide a stark, dead backdrop that reflects Hayate's dead feelings. The sky is a mixture of gradient-work and brushwork. At first I went for a night scene, and it was a fairly uniform dark greyish purple, but after seeing the ends of a sunset, I decided to infuse more rose and gold hues into the image to give it a richer and more varied feel. The mist was achieved with some brushwork using a set of cloud brushes from brushes.ObsidianDawn.com. Numerous layers of mist were used to achieve that greying effect of objects far in the distance, and to give some depth and separation to the various elements. It also emphasizes the coldness in the image. I played around with the title a lot, trying to find a phrase that matched the setting well. After about a dozen ideas, I settled on "ever after" as a play on "happily ever after", because Pretear is loosely based on a number of classical fairy tales (Cinderella and Snow White to name a few) that classically end in "Happily ever after." One of the reasons why I like Pretear (or at least the manga) is that it shows a darker, more mature side to the story -- sometimes, things don't work out happily ever after. It's how we deal with the consequences that make life worth living. When I began thinking about the challenge and the themes, I had a lot of ideas, but this one worked out the best. I wanted to aim for the despair element without using any grunge or texture to tell the story. I think using grunge or texture is a valid way to tell a dark, despair story, but it's also an easy way, a typical way, and WAR is about doing something different.
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