Category Archives: Manga

Comparing and Picking Mediums

Somethig I’ve always loved to do is compare the same story told in different mediums.  99% of the time, I will think the book is better than the movie, assuming it came first.  But that doesn’t mean I don’t think adaptation decay can be limited or even avoided.  It most certainly can.  Sometimes, translation into a different medium can even change the story entirely.  And this actually works more often than trying to stick to close to the original, which, if it is good, will usually be much to suited to its original medium to adapt well.  To be clear, I think that is a mark of good crafting, not bad.

I began my story career with the goal of writing commercial prose fiction.  Not screenplays, no epic poems, not webcomics, not cartoon scripts.  But as a consumer of stories, I’m also a big fan of anime and manga, and every now and then I get the desire to create something in one of those mediums.  Usually manga, since I have nowhere near the toys and skillset to produce any sort of decent animation.  Currently, I have a lovely idea for a manga I want to write which could also work quite well in prose.  And as happens every time, I can’t decide if I really wouldn’t write it as a book.  I don’t have the ability to professionally publish a manga (or a comic, don’t get me started; see NOTE).  Whereas I’m pretty well able to get a book ready for publication, I know the submission process, and I know how editorial and publication will go.

(NOTE:  You can’t write manga/manhwa if you’re not Japanese/Korean, live in Japan/Korea, blah blah blah.  A manga is a comic and a comic is a manga, and I’m calling it manga because I read Asian shit, not American shit, neitehr of which I really think are shit; I’m just tired of this dumb argument.)

And why whould it be a problem whether I know how to get a manga/comic published?  Because, while writing began as a hobby, and I do it for fun, I also want to put my work in front of readers and I’d like to be compensated for the time and effort I put into it.  I’m all for free short stories and Creative Commons, but a little recompense here and there would not go amiss, and traditional publishing still gets your work in front of relatively more readers on the average.

So, should I do a manga or a novel?  I’ve had this discussion a million times before, and the novel has always won out.  But this time, I’ve decided it’s going to be a manga or nothing.  For one thing, the character design and world-building process is very different.  Writers use character sheets and pick actors to represent them and some even draw their characters.  But anime/manga character design takes this a step further, and the resulting image is something that consumers see.  There is no editing hair or eye color to better relate to the character, and appearances tend to be more deviant from the human norm–for various and mostly good reasons.  In fact, the necessity of always considering the direct visual aspect in manga makes the entire process different.  You can convey more and less information in various areas due to the conventions of the medium.  While the story evolves novel-like in my head,Im very curious how that will compare to the actual manga I come up with.  What will I have to twist or sacrifice or get to add to fit the medium?

And of course, there’s just the plain fan.  Doing character design is totally awesome, and the same thing for other concept art.  Whether the actual story art will be as exciting I don’t know, since I’ve never written a full manga before.  That said, this manga is going to be less stylized than most Japanese manga, or at least those that have made it to the US.  Since this is not shounen manga, say, but YA literary fantasy.  I plan to post it online for free, probably starting on my DeviantArt account, since I don’t feel like setting up a website for a fun excursion.  How soon it starts going up will depends on how much time I have to work on it, and how quickly the research and world-building goes, but I expect to have some OC character sketches ready pretty quick, and uploaded as soon as I have access to scanner.

Now, I’ve decided this is not going to be a blog for posting my own work.  It’s intended entirely as a discussion blog for various aspects of literature.  But because I plan to pair the first few manga chapters with their prose counterparts to use for comparison, I will throw up another page or two, and occassionally bring attention to them in my posts.  I expect there to be a clear but not necessarily overpowering difference due to the two different media of execution.  Experiment, here I come!

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Posted by on July 14, 2011 in Ideas, Manga


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Societal Expectations and Real World Cultural Baggage in Speculative Fiction

A few days ago, I posted a quote that expressed a rather negative view of our current system of education  (in American and around the world).  First, I’d suggest you watch the anime mentioned in the title of the work from which the quote is excerpted: “Kare Kano”.  This show was also known as Kareshi Kanojo no Jijo in Japanese, and “His and Her Circumstances” in English.  It really gives you an understanding of where the quote is coming from.  Of course, it’s 26 episodes or about 12 hours long.  So, I also hope to elaborate on that in this post and the ones that follow.  You won’t be required to watch the anime to understand the post.  That would be ridiculous.  But I still think it would help.

Now, you might wonder what this has to do with writing science fiction and fantasy–or anything else, for that matter.  The answer is “nothing”.  And “everything”.  It also might have something to do with fact that I’m researching for a near-future SF story dealing with education and society.  Bear with me.

Every society has two important things that make it what it is: expectations and acceptations.  Expectations are pretty obvious, the things one is expected to do to make it in society.  In the modern world, these often include education, occupation, and reproduction.   Acceptations are a little more complicated.  They are culturally wide-spread opinions on what are “acceptable” deviations from the norm.  Being a child film star instead of going to normal school is an acceptation of modern American(US) society.  Becoming a drug dealer is not.

It doesn’t really matter in practical terms what an individual believes, because social pressures are usually strong enough to override individual opinions..  But it most certainly matters in personal terms.  Being forced to conform to a blanket set of expectations can be very damaging to a person.  For instance, in modern America, there is still a great deal of prejudice towards homosexual orientations.  Society expects that a man will pair up with a woman and have children.  When individuals deviate from these expectations, there are consequences, generally negative, in response to those unaccepted actions.

But think about this, there are also ways to positively violate societal expectations.  If someone drops out of college to join a rock band, there would normally be negative reactions, but if they become wealthy or famous or both, suddenly everyone is praising them.  Sort of the old “I’ll show them!” ideal.  But even with numerous examples of this, the negative perception of such behavior still exists, because “normal” people cannot do these things.  You might call these exceptions.  If one drops out of school and becomes a wealthy prostitute or pimp, even that “success” does not justify their deviation.

That’s how it works in the real world.  And on the surface, that’s how it works in fiction.  Especially mainstream, earth-based fiction.  But what about speculative fiction?  All too often, we drag our baggage along with is into stories ostensibly set in other worlds, dimensions, countries, even if the natural expectations and acceptations would normally be different in those settings. 

On the one hand, it could be argued that the whole point of fiction is to explore our own issues.  But I would counter that that doesn’t require us to transport all of our 21st century Earth attitudes into past or future worlds.  You can still address contemporary issues in fictional settings.  All it takes is a little imagination.  And I know the spec fic community—and the writing community in general—has that.

It’s actually a very common discussion topic on web-based spec fic communities whether or not that ham-fisted projection is acceptable in good fiction.  If we look at contemporary foreign literature (and this applies not matter what is “foreign” to you), we can see that these authors can write a story in which we sympathize with character issues that don’t derive exclusively from our own culture.  Look at how popular Japanese cultural exports are in America.  An enormous number of manga, anime, and light novels are translated both officially and unofficially into American English.  Is Japan a radically different culture?  Not in the modern world.  But they do have a different set of cultural expectations, acceptations, and exceptions.

When writing a story, it’s very important to consider what is “normal” within that setting, and what is exceptional or discouraged.  It used to be that people from the lower classes were discouraged from pursuing higher education—or any education at all.  It used to be in our culture that music was a special activity, for a small number of people, and now it’s a part of most curriculums.  And before that, it was a community activity.

These sorts of societal pressure have an enormous impact on us as people, and the same should be true for characters in your story.  Examining and exploring these issues before you begin to write can cut down a great deal on the clichés common to many spec fic stories, such as the plucky princess, the genius peasant,  the scholarly whipping boy, the child seer/mage, and the feisty girl thief.  Assuming they don’t fit in the context of the story, of course.

And, of course, for those characters that do fall outside of the mold, it can create a more deep and realistic sense of tension between them and society.  And it can open up a wide array of themes for the story to explore: gender, age, race, class, etc.


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Quote of the Night

Prospective valedictorians take heed:

“A child’s future should not be defined by how much longer they must work their ass off until they can do what they enjoy—because the answer is ‘forever’.”

~Kare Kano: Reflections on a Compulsory Education


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