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SMAC! MANGA DOJO #16 – "How to make a charming character ② Expand the characteristics!"

Mayuna Mizutani Mayuna Mizutani 09/07/2018 18 min read
<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.” His first love was his classmate in first grade.   “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. His first love was his kindergarten teacher.   <Previously in Manga Dojo> Penmaru is a Ninja dog who is studying how to create good manga, under the tutelage of  Manga Master Shihan. Today, he seems to have gone out for a walk…… wait, what about your training, Penmaru!?  

Ep. 16  How to make a charming character. Tip ②: “Expand the characteristics!”

  Shihan: That boy Penmaru, it’s been more than 2 hours since he went outside for a walk…… Is he alright?   Bang!   Penmaru: I’m home…… Sigh……   Shihan: Oh, I was just talking about you. Welcome home. What’s the matter? What’s with that sigh?   Penmaru: Well……     ―An hour ago……―   Penmaru: ♪~♪~   ?????: And then……!   ?????: Oh, really?   Penmaru: (Hm? That voice…… it’s Mii-chan the cat, and Hanako the elephant, from my class last year!?)   Penmaru: (I wonder what they’re doing here? Maybe I should give them a holler?)   Hanako: Say, Mii-chan, do you remember Penmaru, who was in the same class as us?   Penmaru: (!! They’re talking about me!!)   Mii-chan: Um…… who was that, again?   Penmaru: (Gaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaan!!!!)   Hanako: Oh, you don’t remember?   Mii-chan: Sorry~! The name doesn’t ring a bell right now…   Penmaru: (Gagaaaaaaaaan!!!)   Penmaru: …… I think I should go home.     ―Back to present……―   Penmaru: Isn’t that just too cruel!?!?   Shihan: I see…… Well…… I feel your pain……   Penmaru: Oh! If only I could become a more iconic, unique person like the characters in manga!!   Shihan: O-Ok. I don’t know much about becoming unique personally, but at the very least I can give you some more TIPS about creating a charming character. Would that help you?   Penmaru:!!! More TIPS!?!?! Please tell me!! Let me know!!!!!!   Shihan: A-Alright, alright! I will share some TIPS with you, so do something about your bloodshot eyes! They’re freaking me out!!   Penmaru: <●><●>     ―A few minutes later……―   Shihan: ……So, now I shall share with you some TIPS for making a unique, charming character.   Shihan: Today I will share with you some TIPS from Mitsutoshi Shimabukuro sensei, creator of great manga titles such as ‘Toriko’ and ‘Seikimatsu Leader den Takeshi!’  

TIPS 2. EXPAND your character, by using “LIKENESS” and “GAPS”!

  Penmaru: Expand!   Penmaru: Is that the same “expanding” from the “EXPANDING the story” thing you told me about a while ago?   Shihan: Well remembered! Absolutely. This TIP is all about building a character’s personality so that readers will want to know more about that person.   Shihan: Each person has a certain feature, or unique quality, that makes them appealing. In order to create a character that readers would want to meet again, a creator must SHOW the character’s features/uniquenesses, in a way that readers can instantly FEEL their appeal.   Penmaru: Of course, because a character without any unique features wouldn’t pique the interest of the readers……   Shihan: In short, all you need to do, is imagine a single distinctive feature for the character, whatever it is, and add a relative “something” to it, in order to create a charming character.   Penmaru: Hmm…… but, where should I start when imagining such a character?   Penmaru: Moreover, I’m not entirely sure how to dig deeper into the character to start with!   Shihan: Yes. To be honest, the method of building a character varies depending on the creator. However, I do understand that it’s difficult to imagine without having a practical example…… Let’s take a look at how Shimabukuro sensei has worked it out in the past!   Penmaru: OK!   Shihan: First comes the “LIKENESS” method. It’s the method where you come up with a certain feature, and then add additional ones that the character would most likely have…… in other words, features that present their “LIKENESS”.   Penmaru: I see, so you add qualities that are “very much like that person”, or “suit that person”……   Shihan: When Shimabukuro sensei first created Toriko, the protagonist of ‘Toriko’, he first came up with an image of a scene where a person knocks down his enemies using his bare hands, screaming “Fork!!” and “Knife!!”   Penmaru: Eeeh!? A scene!? Not personalities, or a motivation!?   Shihan: Exactly. I understand that may be surprising to you. I believe it is a method that worked precisely because this is a manga where the character’s uniqueness is crucial.   Shihan: Anyway, Shimabukuro sensei started building his imagination upon that scene, starting with thoughts such as “This character would probably have a large body”…… and thus, Toriko was born!   Penmaru: Really? I didn’t know that!   Penmaru: Then, if Toriko was created from the “Likeness” method, the character made using a “gap” would be……?   Shihan: You guessed it! The other method, which uses “GAPS”, was how Shimabukuro-sensei gave birth to Takeshi, the protagonist of ‘Seikimatsu Leader den Takeshi!’. Contrary to the former method, this time we imagine features that a character would most likely NOT have, or that readers wouldn’t expect to see from them.   Shihan: Takeshi’s most iconic feature is definitely his face, which looks more like a middle aged man despite the fact that he is only a boy in elementary school. In fact, his iconic face was the very first feature Shimabukuro sensei came up with when establishing the character.   Penmaru: Really!? That’s a surprise! I thought he started from the setting of “an old-looking elementary school boy”!   Shihan: Nope. Shimabukuro sensei first drew Takeshi’s face by chance, and he really liked it. Then he asked himself; “How old could this person be?”… It would be too obvious and boring to think this man was around 45~50 years old, as he appears, so Shimabukuro sensei decided to add a single setting…… “He is an elementary school boy”, and suddenly everything became more interesting.   Penmaru: I see!   Shihan: In either case, we see that both characters had a certain unique feature which defines them in the first place.    Penmaru: You’re right! Toriko had his unique fighting styles, and Takeshi had a unique appearance.   Shihan: This is what Shimabukuro sensei mentioned in Yusuke Murata sensei’s ‘Hetappi Manga Kenkyujo R’:
“Characters are human. It’s not like there’s a set recipe, so I think you can start from anywhere. Whenever you meet someone in real life, you usually remember a person by the strong impression he/she had, or a certain feature like the face, the figure, the way he/she talks, or his/her ability, even a unique policy……right? I usually build up my characters by expanding the idea and grasping the images from there, but there really are various ways to do it. I guess there isn’t really a “correct” way of doing it.”
  Shihan: Penmaru, I imagine you must have given nicknames, or made fun of a teacher before, based on his/her characteristics?   Penmaru: Yes, I have! Like, there was a really fat teacher who is usually a gentleman, but is really scary when he gets angry. We used to call him “Mr. Heart”! Also, there was a teacher who had a really peculiar voice, and he always said “Call me Yoda”! Oh, and a teacher who loved cookies and always cosplayed as Cookie Monster on Halloween!   Shihan: Character creation shares the exact same spirit as that. People all have their unique features. It could be their appearance, it could be their actions, or their policies…… There’s no such thing as an identical person. All you have to do is present that “uniqueness” in a way the readers would feel entertained, and make the readers want to meet the character again…… I guess, that is pretty much up to your own taste and sensibilities.   Penmaru: My own taste…… I’m not sure I even have good taste!!   Shihan: No need for concern. According to Shimabukuro sensei, “Even a trifling feature that links to the character can become his/her charming point”. You really can’t tell where you’ll find a certain uniqueness. So, just how you must not try to find ideas, it’s a good idea to examine the subject carefully in order to discover the character’s charm.   Shihan: When creating an appealing character, almost all manga creators – including Osamu Tezuka sensei – recommend doing people watching on a daily basis. Meet many people, examine and grasp their traits, and build up a character upon that basis. In this way, your taste in character creation will nurture and grow.   Penmaru: Alright!!   Shihan:……So, Penmaru. How about looking for your own UNIQUE FEATURE, which can become your weapon, and try developing that with “likeness” and “gaps”?    Penmaru: OK! Now I’m confident I can make Mii-chan interested in me!!   Penmaru: Alright! No time to lose! I’m gonna start my self-improving scheme!!   Shihan: Good luck, my boy.   ZOOOOOOOOOOOOOM ……   Shihan: …… By the way, what is he going to do about his manga training today?   And thus, Penmaru learned how to become more charming, through the method of expanding a good manga character. A few days later, he epically fails to charm Mii-chan using the tactics of “likeness” and “gaps”, but THAT is another story……   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 & Tweet your questions / opinions / reviews at #SMACMangaDojo, and I will answer! 😉
Mayuna Mizutani

Mayuna Mizutani