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SMAC! Web Magazine

SMAC! MANGA DOJO #13 – “NEVER STEAL CHARACTERS!”

<Characters>

Penmaru

Is a ninja dog who dreams of becoming the greatest manga creator in the animal world. To help achieve his dream, Mocchi gives him a mission… “Learn how to create manga at the Manga Dojo.”

He’s scared of ghosts.

 

“Shihan” Manga Master

The master of the dojo and Penmaru’s tutor in the ways of manga. An experienced editor who has worked in the manga industry for over 30 years.

He’s scared of the sound it makes when somebody scratches a chalkboard.

 

<Previously in Manga Dojo>

Penmaru’s precious Neta-Notebook fell down the toilet!!

Seeing Penmaru driven to despair, Shihan tells him that ideas can be “STOLEN” under ONE condition… the creator makes it better using their own originality.

What could “originality” mean!?

 

 

Ep.13 ”NEVER STEAL CHARACTERS!”

 

Penmaru: Shihan! I totally forgot to ask how to make something ORIGINAL!

 

Shihan: ……

 

Penmaru: Tee hee hee… Could you, kinda……teach me?

 

Shihan: Well, well…… Actually, you raise an interesting point. You’ve certainly developed as a human I see – the old you would have just ran off thoughtlessly, even if you didn’t know!

 

Shihan: It is quite ambiguous to say, add something “ORIGINAL”…… Thus, I shall tell you a way to create “originality” or “uniqueness” in your manga. Consider it as a reference.

 

Penmaru: Yay!!

 

 

Shihan: Now, then…… Osamu Tezuka sensei says, “it’s OK to borrow ideas”. However, according to Hirohiko Araki sensei, there is ONE thing you should NEVER copy or imitate. What do you think that is?

 

Penmaru: NEVER copy or imitate? What could it be…… Is it the art style? Or perhaps, the storyline?

 

Shihan: Actually, if you are a beginner at drawing, it’s a good idea to imitate the art style of the creator you like, since it helps you develop your own drawing skills. As for the story……well, I can’t exactly say that’s the correct answer either since stories won’t become similar anyway provided you “NEVER COPY” this THING. 

 

Shihan: The answer is, “CHARACTERS”!

 

Penmaru: Eeeh!? That’s a bit surprising to me…… I hate to say it, but hasn’t manga already established a basic template of what a protagonist’s character should be like? I feel there are lots of characters who share the same features.

 

Shihan: If that’s how you feel, then all the more reason to NOT copy characters. Why? Because CHARACTERS define the uniqueness of your manga!

 

Penmaru: ???

 

Shihan: “As long as you have a character with strong characteristics, the story creates itself”…… I’ve seen many manga creators over the years, but the most successful ones all mention this advice. I cannot emphasize enough, how CHARACTERS are vital for manga creation.

 

Penmaru: Yeah……?

 

Shihan: Not convinced? Let’s think about it.

 

Shihan: A “story”, ultimately speaking, is “a list of events”. It’s a series of “things that happen to the characters”.

 

Penmaru: Yes…… and “things that characters do”, as well!

 

Shihan: Exactly. On the other hand, there are other “lists of events” out there, such as history books, diaries, and minute books. However, reading such books about somebody you don’t know isn’t much fun, yet reading a manga written about the same person is, right? 

 

Penmaru: You have a point! Among all the different “lists of events”, manga is the most entertaining…… I wonder why?

 

Shihan: I believe the reason is solely “because you feel EMPATHY with the characters”. You understand the character’s motivation and principles, feel sympathetic with them, and follow their life events in their shoes.

 

Penmaru: !!

 

Shihan: According to a certain manga editor, “Fans follow the characters/people, not the story”. The fans don’t want the “WHATS” – the facts and the results of an action, such as “Kenshiro defeats the enemy” or “Ryo solves a problem”. Rather, they want to see the “HOWS” – the process, and the actions of the characters. Like, “HOW will Kenshiro defeat the enemy?” “HOW will Ryo save the day?”

 

Penmaru: Coming to think of it, you’re right! I can easily tell the protagonist will accomplish SOMETHING, or guess WHAT results their actions will bring. But you have to actually read the work to see HOW he does it, and that’s why I’m so excited to turn the pages.

 

Penmaru: ……But what does that have to do with “originality” and “uniqueness”?

 

Shihan: Indeed. Put simply, if the CHARACTER is not unique, they will only take the same path as the originals they’re based upon. In other words, there is “NO SURPRISE”.

 

Penmaru: I see! They would most likely do the same thing as the original character, so the story will likely develop in the exact same way too……right?

 

Shihan: Absolutely. That’s why many creators say, “a unique, charming character is all you need to run a story.”

 

Shihan: For example, imagine three characters, Son Goku, Luffy, and Naruto, all thrown into the ‘Fist of the North Star’ universe. These characters are all cheerful, spirited, “protagonist” kind of guys, but I’m pretty sure that each of them would react in a totally different way compared to Kenshiro, the original protagonist of ‘Fist of the North Star.’ Even if the basic storyline is the same, the “HOWS” are completely different……that is the “originality” and “uniqueness” we seek in manga.

 

Penmaru: I see! I imagine Goku would probably want to become the strongest of them all, and Luffy would go on an adventure, in search of something exciting! As for Naruto…… if he’s annoyed by the other villagers like in his own manga, he’d try to get his own back on them by becoming strong? Oh, and he’d help a lot of people along the way!

 

Shihan: Hahaha, sky’s the limit for your imagination! Anyway, the readers are “surprised” and “entertained” by the reactions unique to the character. Therefore, there’s not much point in changing superficial features, like “basketball player” to “tennis player”, or “womanizer” to “man-eater”. It’s more about the character’s IDENTITY…… their motivation, and principles.

 

Penmaru: Identity……

 

Shihan: I’m not saying, “don’t draw inspiration from ready-made characters”. Again, the important thing is to attempt to “make something better”, or “add new value”. If you are going to reference someone’s ready-made character, you need to work on it as if you’re trying to create an entirely different person.

 

Shihan: A character born as an imitation, can only end as an imitation. In essence, characters are real people that live inside your manga. You must develop them, and love them, as if they are your own children. In that way, your “originality” and “uniqueness” will naturally present itself in your work!

 

Penmaru: Alright!

 

 

Shihan: Now, Penmaru. Have you grasped the kind of mindset every manga creator should have?

 

Penmaru: I think so! If I haven’t, you’ll help me understand anytime though, right? If so, I’m sure everything will be fine!

 

Shihan: I’m grateful to hear that…… but you mustn’t take my words too literally. Essentially, manga creation isn’t a job you can do just by learning from others. You must study on your own too, even STEALING techniques from other creators, if you wish to become a really good manga creator.

 

Shihan: So, if you’ve understood my guidance, you must digest it yourself, and come to your own conclusion. Got it?

 

Penmaru: ?? Got it!!

 

Shihan: (……has this boy really got it…?)……Hm??

 

Penmaru: ? What’s the matter, Shihan?

 

Shihan: Uh…… Penmaru? I can see a notebook over by the bay window. Isn’t that yours?

 

Penmaru: ??? ……AAAAA!! My Neta-Notebook!! Huh!? Was it here all this time!?!? I thought I dropped it down the toilet!! What!?!?

 

Shihan: ……Don’t tell me, you “couldn’t find” your notebook after going to the toilet, so you were convinced you dropped it there……?

 

Penmaru: Hehehe…… you guessed it……

 

Shihan: Penmaru…… Take better care of your belongings!!! STEAL ideas and techniques you may, but DON’T STEAL CHARACTERS, and OTHER’S PRECIOUS TIME!!!

 

Penmaru: Hyaaaa!! I-I’m sorry!!

 

 

“ORIGINALITY COMES FROM CHARACTERS!”

Penmaru has learned yet another valuable lesson – this time about “STEALING” ideas, but not CHARACTERS.

And to the relief of both master and student, Penmaru’s Neta-Notebook was found safe and sound!

All’s well that ends well……?

Penmaru’s MANGA journey continues……

 

Did you enjoy reading this story?

Did you find the hints and tips to improve your manga production?

If YES, please share the article with your fellow creators!

If NO, please let me know how we can improve Penmaru’s journey!

We welcome any and all kinds of opinions and questions, requests and comments, day and night!

Don’t forget to follow me on Twitter for updates 😉


Script: Mayuna Mizutani – Follow me on Twitter and Facebook

Illustration: Roberto F. – Support him on Instagram, Facebook & APOIA.se

Tweet your questions / opinions / reviews at #SMACMangaDojo, and I will answer! 😉

Mayuna Mizutani