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SMAC! MANGA DOJO #18 – "How to make a charming character ④ Define the "SPECIAL MOVE" and "WEAK POINT"!

Mayuna Mizutani Mayuna Mizutani 30/07/2018 19 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.” Summer means…… “SUIKA-WARI”!! * A game in Japan, where you split a watermelon with a stick, while blindfolded.   “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. Summer means…… Firework Festivals!!  

Ep. 18: How to make a charming character ④; Define the “SPECIAL MOVE” and “WEAK POINT”!

Penmaru: (Click click…) …… Sigh.   Shihan: What’s wrong today, Penmaru? You’re looking at your computer with such a gloomy face…… Is it some kind of bad news?   Penmaru: Oh, Shihan……   Penmaru: Well, I couldn’t win an award in SMA9, so I decided to give myself some breathing space and have a stab at using SNS! There, I started a new series manga on my own so that I can see how well my work is received…   Shihan: Oh. Well, it’s certainly important to gain experience. How has the response been?   Penmaru: Actually, I got a pretty decent amount of views for the 1st episode but, after that……   Shihan: Oh I see, that’s a pity…   Penmaru: Oh, I have a comment! It says “The character isn’t quite charming.”  ……? How come? I’m following Shihan’s lessons, so……   Shihan: ……Hmm. Penmaru, what is this manga about?   Penmaru: Eh? It’s a story about a police detective, who investigates mysteries……   Shihan: ……And what are his “Special Moves” and “Weak Points“?   Penmaru: “SPECIAL MOVE” and “WEAK POINT”……?   Shihan: Yes. A manga character can’t act without a “SPECIAL MOVE” and “WEAK POINT”, right?   Penmaru: ……I guess, if it’s a battle manga…… but do we need “SPECIAL MOVES” and “WEAK POINTS” in a manga where no battles occur?   Shihan: Of course we do! In fact, without those two factors, a manga cannot capture the reader’s imagination!!   Penmaru: R-Right!   Shihan: So heed this lesson well…… Especially, if you’re planning on creating a series!   Penmaru: Y-Yes!!  


  Penmaru: ……So, how exactly do you come up with “SPECIAL MOVES” and “WEAK POINTS”? Do you start from imagining items and motifs related to the character?    Shihan: ……You seem a little misunderstood here. The “SPECIAL MOVE” and “WEAK POINT” I mention in this lesson is NOT a literal special move, or weak point.  Actions like “Hokuto Shinken” and “Kamehame-ha”, or physical weak points like an Achilles heel or “turning into a giant monkey upon seeing the moon” is not what I’m talking about here.   Penmaru: Eeeeeh!? REALLY!?!?   Shihan: Really. It’s like a jargon – Manga creators and editors call them “SPECIAL MOVES” and “WEAK POINTS”, even though the meaning isn’t as literal.   Penmaru: Oh, how confusing……!   Shihan: I guess I should have explained this earlier. Pardon me!   Penmaru:…… What exactly do you mean by SPECIAL MOVES and WEAK POINTS then……?   Shihan: SPECIAL MOVES and WEAK POINTS are, in other words, “the character’s STRENGTH” and “the character’s FLAW“!   Penmaru: Their STRENGTH and FLAW……?   Shihan: Absolutely! Any person has both good and bad points. Those good and bad points, or STRENGTH and FLAWS, are precisely what give the character their reason to act.   Penmaru: Ohhhh!   Shihan: So, the SPECIAL MOVE…… or the character’s STRENGTH, is the best thing about this character – like positivity, kindness, patience, etc. On the other hand, the WEAK POINT…… or FLAW, is the feature that makes the readers think “he/she would be perfect!! ……if only he/she could fix this!”, or maybe they’re “too kind”, or “a sucker for women/men”.   Penmaru: I see! This is starting to sound like job-hunting!   Shihan: (How old is this boy exactly……?)   Penmaru: ……But, how do these SPECIAL MOVES and WEAK POINTS move the character? Aren’t there a great many characters that appear to have none at all?   Shihan: Hmm. Before I answer that question, it’s probably best I explain the roles of SPECIAL MOVES and WEAK POINTS.   Shihan: Firstly, the SPECIAL MOVE is a very important factor that defines how the character will ACT. For want of a better way of putting it, it’s “what the reader should expect from the character”.   Penmaru: Ugh, that’s pretty blunt……   Shihan: As I may have mentioned before, the readers turn the page in anticipation of seeing the character overcome a problem in a unique way that only THEY can. This, essentially, is the climax where the character shows his/her SPECIAL MOVE.   Shihan: Take Sherlock Holmes’s magnificent investigation for example, Black Jack’s miraculous medical skills, or Kenshiro’s invincible Hokuto Shinken…… The readers turn the page, all for the sake of seeing HOW the character presents their SPECIAL MOVE in the story.   Penmaru: Hmm, that certainly makes a lot of sense……   Shihan: Now, what if these SPECIAL MOVES were not defined well enough? ……The result would be “a character with a vague personality, and a storyline that feels out of place”.    Shihan: What if Kenshiro started using guns to defeat his enemy, since they’re stronger than actual fists? It may be “logical” I suppose, but it just wouldn’t feel natural, would it?   Penmaru: !! You’re right! I don’t want to see a Kenshiro like that……!!   Shihan: Exactly! SPECIAL MOVES, or the unique solutions implemented by the character, is what the readers are wanting to see…… Not showing their SPECIAL MOVE at the end, will only disappoint the reader.   Penmaru: I see! That makes sense!   Penmaru: So, deciding the character’s SPECIAL MOVE, especially that of the protagonist, will decide the “WHO does WHAT and HOW” in a flash!   Shihan: That’s right!   Shihan: Again, the SPECIAL MOVE doesn’t specifically have to be a move, technique, or special talent. Personal features such as “kindness”, “tolerance”, or “unbound cheerfulness”can also be utilized as a SPECIAL MOVE. Try to imagine the best part of your character, or a particular trait that makes them unique, and boom! You’ve got a good, solid SPECIAL MOVE.   Penmaru: OK!     Penmaru: ……Tell me then, Shihan, what role do WEAK POINTS play?   Shihan: The role of the WEAK POINT is to show, “HOW the character is close to them”…… or, the reason why the reader should support/cheer/follow that character.   Penmaru: Support, cheer, and follow……?   Shihan: All characters are like children to their creators. As such, it is only natural a creator will want to want to make their characters an absolute being. The strongest man, the most beautiful woman…… a perfect person with no flaws.   Penmaru: Hehehe…… that’s right.   Shihan: But to tell the truth, a perfect person is usually NOT liked by the readers.   Penmaru: Huh!?!? Really!?!?!? I wonder why……? Do they feel jealous or something??   Shihan: No, not at all. The reason why, is because a perfect person does NOT feel familiar.   Penmaru: !!! That’s a fatal error!!   Shihan: Fatal indeed. A perfect person is usually hard to get along with. Even more so for manga characters, who are merely drawings on paper! After all, you don’t see many people wanting to become friends with Mona Lisa, do you?   Penmaru: Yeah…… she’s too beautiful……   Shihan: In manga, which is supposed to be entertainment, characters are all about “feeling familiar”. Thus, we don’t want to make them too perfect.   Penmaru: Oh……   Shihan: So, we add a bit of “humanity” by adding a WEAK POINT to a perfect character. Then, the readers will feel like the character is a friend, rather than some being from a different dimension.   Shihan: It’s similar to the “GAP” theory I told you about earlier. Wouldn’t you feel closer to the world’s richest millionaire, or the world’s most famous celebrity, if he/she was scared of spiders?   Penmaru: Definitely!   Shihan: Moreover, the WEAK POINT makes it easier for you to create drama!   Penmaru: Drama?   Shihan: Take Indiana Jones for example. He’s smart, he’s handsome, and he’s brave – he’s the best archaeologist in the world! But…… he’s afraid of snakes.    Shihan: Everything is going perfectly, until that moment Indy encounters a snake! ……That’s an obstacle that any audience would anticipate the sight of, and what’s more, his reaction when does is hilarious! The audience can instantly feel Indy’s cute sense of charm.   Penmaru: I-I see!   Shihan: WEAK POINTS are the best “SYMPATHY POINTS”!   Penmaru: WOW!!!   Shihan: ……Naturally, they are some cases where the creator really needs to make a flawless character. However, those are characters with special needs. They most likely play a function in the story where the readers aren’t supposed to sympathize (e.g. the ultimate villain), or in a way their perfectness becomes their biggest weakness. Managing characters like that is always tricky!   Penmaru: I see……     Shihan: …… So, Penmaru, the character’s SPECIAL MOVE and WEAK POINT are the two factors that drive the story towards its entertaining climax, and present the character in a more charming way.   Shihan: I’m guessing you didn’t have a clear vision of these two factors? That’s probably why the readers aren’t sticking with you…   Penmaru: Maybe you’re right!   Penmaru: Alright! I’m gonna work on the characters once again, and re-create the story! Let’s do this!   Shihan: Hm. Good luck!   Shihan: …… By the way, doesn’t this character look a lot like me?   Penmaru: Ah, him! That’s Chief Inumiya. He pesters the protagonist by commenting on every single reasoning he has! I imagined he would look a lot like you, so I used you as reference! Tee hee!!   Shihan: ……   Penmaru: ?? Oh, Shihan, are you angry? Did I do something wrong……?   Shihan: BAKAMOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOON!!!!!!!   Penmaru: Hyaaaaa!?!?   Thus, Penmaru’s series was promptly terminated by the hands of Shihan…… My friends out there, it’s alright to base your character on someone you know, but make sure you make them ENTERTAINING! Failure to do so will only make people unhappy!!   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