Future Thoughts [02. Illustration – Why Manga?]

Note: This post has been queued for 4.16 (as of 4.14).

So, we begin.

Continuing with the Future Thoughts series, may I present: Part 02: Illustration! The final part will, of course, be Creative Writing (and will probably be the longest of the three). However, I think this is going to be a fun one, no doubt~

(Also, thanks, Preethi, for the neat questions from your previous comment. I’ll be answering those here as well!)

Now, lets start with the most basic of questions despite the fact that this question is also the headlining title of this entry.

Why manga?

Anime and manga have always been an interest for me. For those that do not know (although I’d be just slightly surprised), manga is the Japanese word for “comic”, and is usually used here in the Western world to refer to Japanese “comics”. Manga has been a part of Japan’s art history for many, many years, although today’s art styles have completely changed in comparison to historical art.

Anime, on the other hand, is the word for “animation”, and is typically used here to refer to a style of animation originating from Japan, similar to cartoons here in the West.

Note: Anime and manga are both in singular and plural form. Please do not say “I’m going to watch a bunch of animes and read a lot of mangas”. Not only is that grammatically incorrect in Japanese (and now English, since these are accepted words in the Merriam-Webster English dictionary), you just sound strange saying it. (Although it doesn’t hurt to poke fun about it every once in a while!)

Simply put, manga = japanese comics, and anime = japanese animation.

I’ve been into manga and anime for just about as long as I can remember (in which I will explain how later in this post). At this point, I’m not sure how much anime I’ve watched. It’s a bit ridiculous, haha. Yet manga and anime have always been a part of how I draw. The manga art style is a style that I appreciate, and I’ve spent so much time drawing in that style on my own that it’s hard to break the habit. While Western cartooning styles have also interested me, I just don’t have enough practice in that field to be able to put out an entire project based around it.

How did I get into manga in the first place?

It’s a bit of a long winded and “all over the place” kind of story, but let me start from the beginning just to give some background. When I was 7, (back in 2001. man) I got my first Game Boy Advance for Christmas. I had previously grown up playing the games Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past for the NES (Nintendo Entertainment System) and Sonic the Hedgehog (the game for the Sega Genesis, not the character itself), among some other games with my younger brother, so it was only natural that by that time, I was nagging my mom to get me something of my own — the ever-fascinating and super fantastic GBA. Two of the games I got for that GBA were Pokémon Yellow, and eventually, Hamtaro: Ham Ham‘s Unite!.

Pokémon is the game that everyone knows about. It’s the game that a large majority of kids (at least those who were born in the 90’s) have grown up with. So why the second game, Hamtaro? It’s a simple little GBC (Game Boy Color) game where you play as the sweet and lovable Hamtaro, and you have to gather all your hamster pals together to help build a Jam room to play and dance in. What does that have to do with anime (and in essence, this project)?

At around the same time that I had received Hamtaro: Ham Ham’s Unite! in 2002 (or was it early 2003?) there was a certain television block that was beginning to air the same television show, Hamtaro, in the United States. This television block was called Toonami, and Toonami, with its famed host TOM2 and the mega spaceship the Absolution, is known as one of the pioneering television blocks that introduced anime to the Western world.

This is where the story ends and our first section begins.

Part 1: Inspirations/Interesting Reads

First Inspiration: Toonami (’02/03 – ’08)

While Toonami began in the mid 90s, I began watching Toonami some time in-between 2002 and 2003 when Hamtaro first started airing. While that was one of my “first ever animated series”, I gradually began to watch other shows that were on during the block around that time, those being: Rurouni Kenshin (a personal favorite), Yu Yu Hakusho (which I recall gradually ignoring due to the sheer confusion I had at the series), .hack//SIGN (another favorite), Zoids, and finally, SD Gundam. Sadly, I missed out on Robotech and Sailor Moon, (both great shows that aired in 1999), but was pleased to be able to watch a multitude of amazing shows in comparison. Toonami was the catalyst (and I do not use that word in a joking manner) that started (and in some ways, also ended – but we’ll get to that later) my interest in anime. I remember I would make it a priority to never miss the famed television block, religiously plopping myself in front of the television every weekend to at least catch Hamtaro (and sometimes Rurouni Kenshin). As I got older, I was able to watch Toonami all the way through to the end of its scheduled block, and sometimes caught episodes of Inuyasha on [adult swim] (which apparently still airs at some obscure, ridiculous hour of the morning – 5 or 6:00 I believe?), as well as Full Metal Alchemist.

As much as I can say I grew up with the GBA, NES, and Sega Genesis, I can also say the exact same for Toonami. In some ways, Toonami was the epitome of greatness in my early childhood, even if it was on for just one day of the week. Toonami sparked my interest in anime, and gradually, into Japanese music and culture as well (beginning with L’Arc en Ciel, who made the theme for Full Metal Alchemist, and whose concert at Madison Square Garden I recently attended – the first time I’ve seen them live in the 8 or so years I’ve been a fan).

Needless to say, Toonami is a huge inspiration to me. Without Toonami, I would’ve never gotten into anime and manga in the way that I have. When Toonami was unexpectedly cancelled in 2008, I was, of course, furious. However, looking back on it, there are reasons to understand why it was cancelled and its staff moved to other areas of Cartoon Network. For one, in 2007, for the 10th Anniversary of Toonami, Cartoon Network decided it would be great to give the block a complete makeover. The disappointing change of TOM2 from a laid back, cool-acting, spaceship pilot robot to one that looked absolutely nothing like the original in comparison, (known as TOM3) with a set of comrades who were also short and just… lame threw a lot of long time Toonami fans off guard, and angered many. (I was one of those slightly angered fans, if that was not already obvious from my clearly displayed bias.) Because of this change, my interest in watching anime began to dwindle. Not only was the face of the Toonami block looking like a mess, Toonami‘s set of shows had completely been changed to compensate for the new, younger audience reaching Cartoon Network. A once amazing scheduling block aimed at 14 year old kids with shows like IGPX and Gundam SEED had suddenly been turned into a block for a younger audience with shows that did not interest its old, faithful viewers. Understandably, views began to drop, and Cartoon Network eventually tossed the block altogether.

Which was, of course, disappointing, knowing how influencial the block and its shows were. Nonetheless, it went out with a surprising bang (both literally and figuratively speaking – here’s the final broadcast speech to prove that), and will always be the number one reason that I will always come back to if I’m asked how I got into anime and manga.


Second Inspiration: Pretty Much Everything Hayao Miyazaki/Studio Ghibli

Toonami once had a month special in 2006 where they played a bunch of animated movies. This month was called “Month of Miyazaki”, and it was a four-week marathon of animated movies directed by the famous anime director, Hayao Miyazaki, and animated by the famed animation studio, Studio Ghibli. Miyazaki is a renown anime director who has directed a multitude of exceptional movies, the most well known (at least here in the US) being Spirited Away, Howl’s Moving Castle (which in fact both were shown in theaters in the US in 2002 and 2005, respectively), and Princess Mononoke. I don’t think I need to go on for pages and pages about how much I love all three of these movies, and how amazing Miyazaki is, but the reason I chose to include Miyazaki in my list of inspirations is because I absolutely love the direction each movie takes in terms of story and character development, and Studio Ghibli’s choice of unique illustration is indeed stunning. While sometimes really cheesy moments in some of his movies occur (see the end of Howl’s Moving Castle as an example – although it was still touching), Miyazaki’s movies have never failed to impress, inspire, and amaze me. Studio Ghibli has always been my favorite animation studio (second to BONES, responsible for, lo and behold, Eureka Seven among other shows, and, of course, Pixar, although that’s not anime). Its art direction, from how its characters are drawn to how the images are toned and colored, have always been astounding, and is one of the many, many reasons why I was so animated (hahaha, realy lame pun there) to draw in the first place!

While Miyazaki hasn’t directed anything since Ponyo, which was released in 2008, he has been working on screenplays, most recently being The Secret World of Arrietty which was just released in the US in February (directed by Hayao’s son, Gorō Miyazaki). I recently watched that movie, and while it wasn’t one of his bests, it still was a sweet movie.
If I were to suggest anything directed by Hayao Miyazaki or animated by Studio Ghibli, I would recommend mostly, well, everything. Especially Howl’s Moving Castle. So go forth! Watch ALL (okay, maybe not all) the Miyazaki movies! They’re great. Honestly.

Other Interesting Reads/Suggestions:

So, I ended up not doing this section in the first Future Thoughts, mainly because I plan to incorporate articles/interesting reads/suggestions in the music logs that I’ll be doing next month. However, I wanted to throw in a suggestion part for this Future Thoughts because I thought it’d be good to take a moment to refer to some of the anime/manga related things that I think are …well… interesting.

Lets start with a fairly typical one, one that most, if not all anime and manga fans are familiar with.

01. Shonen Jump

Shonen Jump is an American “shōnen manga” (meaning boy’s manga) anthology magazine based off the Weekly Shōnen Jump (週刊小年ジャンプ) in Japan. Weekly Shōnen Jump began in Japan in 1968, and it’s American counterpart was first published in 2002. “Shōnen manga”, while not a genre, is more of a very loose category to describe manga that is intentially (or unintentionally) directed to a young male audience.

Why am I talking about Shonen Jump? Well, it’s a good start if you want to get interested in manga (although there’s some manga that I would not suggest reading). Back when Toonami was around and I was still constantly reading manga, I used to read Shonen Jump. A subscription of the magazine was given to me as a birthday present, and although they’re now pretty old issues, I still skim them from time to time~


02. Kuroshitsuji

While on the topic of suggesting manga related things, I wanted to go ahead and suggest a specific, recent manga. Kuroshitsuji (known as Black Butler here) is a 13 volume manga (and a 46 episode anime) about a demonic butler named Sebastian Michelis who is bound, by contract, to serve a twelve year old earl and businessman living in the Victorian era of London known as Ciel Phantomhive. The terms of this contract? Sebastian will assist Ciel as Ciel avenges his parent’s deaths and reprimands all those who have “sullied the Phantomhive name”, and in return, when he has completed his tasks, Sebastian will be allowed to devour his soul.

A sweet, touching story, isn’t it?

The reason why I’m suggesting this manga in particular is because its themes and setting are along the same lines of what I want to express in my manga. The Victorian era is one of my favorite historical eras, mainly because of how aesthetically beautiful it is. While I’m not one who is amazing at detailing backgrounds in art, the ways in which the Victorian era is replicated in the manga is really inspiring, and I’ve always wanted to take that detail into account while attempting to illustrate it on my own.

Also, the story’s pretty great. I really recommend reading AND watching it (although it’s quite action-filled and gruesome at times!)

Sadly, I don’t own any of the main series in print. I began watching the anime before I had read the manga version. I do, however, own an anthology that I purchased in Kinokuniya in San Francisco a couple years ago. It’s entirely in Japanese, so I can only understand a small portion of it… but it’s still fun to look at the illustrations.


Part 2: Plans

As previously stated, a lot of things have been either postponed or changed around. The illustration portion of this project is probably the part I’m most worried about. While I can most likely complete Chapter 1, there is absolutely no chance I’ll be able to complete illustrations up to Chapter 8 before this project’s over, especially with writing and composition to complete. Which absolutely sucks, but there’s really nothing I can do at this point, especially with everything else going on.

That doesn’t mean I’m only finishing Chapter 1 and then stopping altogether. It was always my intention to perfect and complete this project fully, whether it was before or after project presentations. I hope that’s okay.

…Anyway, the goal now is to get Chapter 1 complete, both so that it can be uploaded to the website in time for the project presentations, and also because I think that I’m going to proceed with the video that I planned to make as well. It seemed like a good idea at the time, and I’m still going to go through with it~

That’s all for today. Hopefully I’ve explained everything in this entry well enough. If there’s any questions, please ask them!


1 comment
  1. Leah Hill said:

    Such a fascinating journey. I loved it, especially the explanations of how your interests grew and expanded from books, to cartoons to music to movies!

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