Hello all! I hope this reaches you humbly and a dialogue can begin... Like many anime fans growing up with a creative spark, I too wanted to travel to Japan and make anime much like those on Toonami or Adult Swim and the I grew up... I think anyone who is a fan of anime and manga who go on to become creative writers carry with them some sort of influence from the conventions and troupes of those stories. However, the golden rule is to always "write what you know" even as a fantasy or science fiction writer, always ground it in a setting which you can easily draw from and naturally generate plots and stories from. Most American Otaku have never been to Japan and so they try to write stories that are based in localized, familiar settings implicitly American in setting and culture- but they still retain the influence. I'm considering writing such a story but I'm unsure if they're generally accepted among the readers or avoided under the same criticism as someone submitting a "Fable" story into the "Mythology" section, though the two share qualities at some point you do cross a line. This forum struck me because there's always the question of "Well, why don't you post in the Fantasy category instead?" yet we can clearly see that Fantasy stories are decidedly different than Manga stories. So, is it acceptable to write such a story and submit it as a manga- and if so then that raises a precedence of what a "manga" truly is then. What are your thoughts?8/17/2011 #1
There are those rare manga/anime that don't actually take place in Japan, but specifically somewhere else in the world. Or they leave it vague enough that it can fit in anywhere. So I don't think you have to strictly feel like you need to place your story in Japan for it to feel manga. It won't be out of place. Even many manga that take place in Japan usually are in fictional cities and not real one or at the very least only are inspired by the real world, but maintain fictitious elements. So you do have options. There is also doing research or just keeping the details vague enough that you doesn't have to worry about where it takes place.
If you've read enough manga though you should have enough material to build from as a rough model. It is what I ended up doing. Though I also did some research. While I can't go to Japan right now the next best thing was Google Maps. You can go in through the street view and just look at places like that. It's almost like you're right there. It gave me a really good visual sense of what I was working with. In the end manga is going to be based on some truth. So what you see is not really that far off from reality. You just need to see reality to understand what's right and not.8/17/2011 #2
Take a look at manga/anime like Pandora Hearts, Gosick, and Black Butler... A lot of manga and anime are influenced by European/western culture and take place in those environments. Blood+ is another good one to look at for that. The core value is to keep it interesting, create engaging characters, and keep the story moving. I've noticed that manga and anime focus more on character development than environment/world development, which sets it slightly apart from the fantasy genre. Incorporate story arcs without losing too much cohesion and plot your story events so they aren't too jarring. But probably the best piece of advice I can give you is to do your homework and read the kind of manga you feel best reflects your writing style. It is a monumentally vast field, so you have a lot to choose from.
For points of reference, since you're a fantasy buff, try checking out these few (I know some people on the forums here will agree with me ;))
Tsubasa Resevoir Chronicles (CLAMP)
Gosick (Sakuraba Kazuki, Amano Sakuya)
Black Butler (Yana Toboso)
The Sacred Blacksmith (Miura, Isao (Story), YAMADA Koutarou (Art))
Pandora Hearts (Jun Mochizuki)
And for some of the big hitters in the alternate world/western influenced settings:
Fairy Tail (Hiro Mashima), Soul Eater (Ookubo Atsushi), and One Piece (Eiichiro Oda) are probably your best bets. And if you haven't read One Piece, you haven't read manga. :-p8/17/2011 . Edited 8/17/2011 #3
Thanks so much for the quick responses! Eytha: I get what you mean, I suppose I tend to think back to the starting days where people would try to make original towns and go a bit too far with it like making Japanese sounding character names that just don't exist or sound unintentionally racist. I've tried the google maps approach with a story I was writing based within London actually and that sort of fell through when people from London began flaming me because I didn't really know what I was writing about v__v. Although it was year ago, that risk of sounding obliviously ignorant still haunts me... But I suppose that's because I was trying to put more emphasis selling the setting and background rather than the characters- and anime in essence is a series of character studies and how those character affect their environment as opposed to the other way around which is more of a western sensibility... Artemis: THANK YOU! I've been on an anime hiatus ever since starting college and I've been searching for a new series to jump into and this looks like it's definitely a great lead to translating what I want to write into something that will fit the category well. Thanks again both of you, and anyone else who wants to give their take/pet peeves/advice :D8/18/2011 #4
I get what you mean. Most of the stories I wrote years ago suffered due to some hole in plot and setting. Not too much on the settings since I did my best to be vague about things, but I still wrote about stuff I had no idea in... such as bullets and guns, drinking alcohol, sex, bad names, and poorly written ecchi scenes inspired by harem anime. It was a lesson learned for me: write what you know, and if you have no idea then you should start doing a bit of research.8/19/2011 #5
If by "research" you mean trying your hand at guns, drinking, sex, and ecchi stuff (how does that not compute to sex by the way?), the adult attorney in me wants to say no. I mean really. Go to college and have normal life experiences without screwing yourself with a DUI or underage consumption ticket (man... getting out of THAT one was an adventure, let me tell you)
But my androgynous 13 year old alter ego says go for it. Have fun, go to rock shows, p*** people off, hitch-hike, turn a party into a sex-oriented make-your-own-adventure game (true story)... And I'm pretty sure every good writer needs to be chased by the cops at least once in their lives.
But seriously. Don't do drugs. They're bad.8/19/2011 #6
I did say research. Research and experimenting are two different things. Well, I do drinking once in a while, and I have no interest in drugs. The internet is a great place to find info, even if sometimes it takes a while to find the right info.
Hm, which reminds me, I have a friend in Japan. Never really asked him about the place, since when we get to talk it's often about random stuff.8/19/2011 #7
Ah, Providence, I think anyone who's ever written a manga has put their hand on that stove before. But I think in some cases that's where the troupes of Anime come in to sort of sweep elements of the story that aren't important under the rug in favor of the main point. For instance, do we really need to know the function and operation procedures of a giant robot- or do we just need to understand the stakes of what will happen if the giant robot fails to defeat the antagonist? Certain things like that you can get away with, it's just that when you begin to skirt over elements of Manga that may distinguish it AS a manga as opposed to a Fantasy or Sci-fi category story then is that tolerable? So Artemis, I'll just get this out now. Part Attorney, part Child-like force of nature, completely a mystery in terms of what the hell I identify you as or whether I should be intrigued by or afraid of you. I'm dangerously close to reading your work, is all I'm saying and yes, I have been pursued by the cops before. It's dangerous to ride around on a Saturday night/Sunday morning when you're driving aimlessly with a group of friends through a small town. And Providence, I find youtube is a wellspring of information from either documentaries or "experts" who can at least show as well as tell, and it doesn't have quite as much stigma as wikipedia does. And wow, you have a FRIEND in Japan? You practically have a fact-checker at your disposal, that's awesome!8/19/2011 #8
For me, manga 'genre' tends to comprise of two parts:
- Trope story elements. Yes, Western fiction has stories about psychic powers, giant robots, masked superheroes, sports, and high-school dramas. However, I think a story is more like to be in the manga genre if it starts with something that has been done or overly-done in manga/anime.
- Trope plot devices. I think of anime/manga plot devices as, for examination, a lot of soul-searching and self-examination about what is humanity, what is honour, what is right, etc; a lot of ties to family history or past promises; flawed/doomed teen love with lots of miscommunications, etc.
Western fiction have superhero teams, but rarely do they fit the classic three-, four- or five-squad. (I count Power Rangers, including the recent Western productions, as in the manga genre.) ;Conversely Harry Potter is wildly popular action/adventure set in a high-school, but it lacks a lot of manga tropes: fan service (thankfully), power-up sequences, or the fundraiser/bake sale. It does have 'named attacks' and ample opportunities for abstract backgrounds (motion lines, or power-arcing during battle), but doesn't indulge in them.
Manga, being a visual medium, is often plotted to allow the artist to indulge in these 'money shots'. In contrast, Western visual media tends to show explosions or other SFX shots. The differences may blur, especially as Western visual media gains more Eastern influences, but the frequency and sometimes-obvious railroading of the plot to lead to the above aren't the same.
For exmple, I'm writing a story about teen assassins who spend their downtime in a boarding school setting. They are augmented, and do a lot of introspection. This is obviously GSG-inspired from the setting's plot-device tropes, and the plot devices will show some marked similarities - explorations into their past, some overstylized kills, and a lot of teen angst/loss of innocence.
Additionally, I'm adding a more western plot device of having the lead character (eventually) choosing to try to leave the agency - some manga examples exist, but most of the examples of "hitman wants to retire (alive)" that come to mind are either Western films, or Jon Woo classics. Eastern yes, but not manga. I'm sure, given the plethora of manga, it's been done. I'm just saying that it seems more common than in Western fiction.
Because of my feelings on the meta-genre, I classified the story as Sci.fi/adventure. However, I'd love people to take a look at it from a manga-aware perspective.1/9/2012 . Edited 1/9/2012 #9
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