Blending Manga with Fantasy

2012-Feb-21 -> from the 29-days-of-fantasy department Tags:

For those that don't know, Manga is another word for a Japanese comic book. It seemed appropriate to follow up the post on Fantasy and Comic Book Heroes with a post on how Fantasy and Manga are tied together. Popular games such as Final Fantasy have used Manga style in their illustrations for quite a number of years, giving them a distinct Japanese look and feel. My guest poster today, Dan Wright, has brought us an indepth look at how Manga and Fantasy mesh together.

Take it away, Dan!

When I wrote my first novel, Trapped on Draconica, I didn't have plans to included artwork other than the front and back cover. I made this decision after picking up an old Stephen King novel (I believe it was uncut version of The Stand), which had some comic style artwork inside it. I quite liked the idea of how the artwork seemed to enhance the story and make it stand out. Given that I was also reading a lot of comics at the time, it seemed natural to want to try and combine both writing and art to create a new kind of "graphic novel."

After putting adverts looking for an artist on numerous websites, I was contacted by Alexis M Centeno who put an interest across. Alexis's artwork is heavily planted in the Manga/Anime genre and, to be honest, at first I wasn't sure it was going to work with my novel, but her prices were very reasonable so I gave her a chance. When she sent me some character designs, I was really impressed! She was able to bring my characters to life in a way I never thought possible. In fact her art style was PERFECT for my book as she captured the details of the world and characters perfectly. I even found I changed my writing style to fit in with her artwork. You could say her artwork inspired the way I write now.

I guess I shouldn't have been too surprised this worked. If you look at the number of RPG games released over the years (or any game with a strong Fantasy theme) they usually have character designs and stories based around Manga. And even a lot of the best Mangas -- Naruto, Bleach and One Piece have Fantasy elements in them. Even Deviant Art has a lot of great Manga inspired Anime works. It seems that Manga and Fantasy go together like bread and butter.

Here's my opinion as to why both work so well. Fantasy is all about escapism and embracing imagination. It's about monsters, brave warriors, magic, demons and -- of course -- epic battles. It's over the top, downright silly in places, but it's enjoyable and satisfying at the same time. Fantasy helps us cope with the monotony and boredom of reality by escaping into our imaginations. Why else would games like World of Warcraft be such an online sensation? What would you rather do? Fight dragons and orcs, or sit in an office filling paperwork? When it comes to excitement, dragonslaying wins every time in my books!

In many ways, Manga and Anime is a sort of Fantasy in itself. It embraces the over the top nature of fiction. Their characters are highly stylised, the females sometimes very -- ahem -- developed, the monsters are larger than a skyscraper and the battles are usually so epic that they cause massive destruction in their wake. Where else would this sort of over the top action fit in if not Fantasy? If Manga does have one advantage over Fantasy it's that it has a more tongue in cheek element to it. One of my pet peeves is when Fantasy stories take themselves too seriously. I'm not saying that there is anything wrong with that, but as I said before, Fantasy is supposed to be over the top and silly, so why not have some fun? Manga is not afraid to embrace humour as much as drama. And Manga has some of the most obscure humour at times -- some of which would confuse even Monty Python!

That's not to say that there aren't real dramatic moments in Manga, or indeed Fantasy. Full Metal Alchemist contains one of the saddest character deaths I've read in a series. Perhaps Manga realises that humour is needed to release tension and relax us a little -- so that when the drama strikes it has more impact.

I've decided to use some images from Trapped on Draconica to illustrate my point and show you the different sides of Manga. (WARNING: These images contain some spoilers).

First, the humorous side of Manga. Here, we see the heroines' half sister has got drunk and dancing for the people in the tavern. Notice the over the top look of Daniar (the heroine) to the left. The wide eyes and dropped mouth, along with stress marks, are a staple in Manga humour and really help show the shock of a character in a silly way.

Here we see Daniar holding her sister after she is killed. It's a really emotional scene and you can really feel the pain that Daniar is going through. Manga can have great pathos if the scene is done correctly. This isn't done too over the top, but I feel this is a natural reaction to the death of a family member.

Proof that Manga can also be romantic. Kalak (the man) is about to enter a huge battle which he may never return from, so it makes the scene that much more sweeter as this maybe the last chance the two have to show their love.

And lastly, just to show the stylised aspects of Manga, here is a design of the villain of the book. I think this image is pretty cool! It's one of my favourite designs in the book.

With so much in common, it's no wonder that Fantasy and Manga seem to work, especially in comics and video games. But I would love it if more Fantasy authors combined Manga images and I really think there is enough to compliment the story. Humour, drama, action, comedy and, of course, imagination. It may not work for every Fantasy novel, but for those wishing to set their novels in a young adult genre, I think Manga is perfect. And given that Manga and Anime is still popular to this day, why not use its popularity to attract people to your work?

This is great stuff, thanks Dan.

If you want to get ahold of Dan, you can find his website at, or on facebook at, or you can follow him on twitter: @PandragonDan.

Thanks for dropping by! Join me tomorrow when we take a look at the lighter side, with humour in fantasy.

Thanks for reading!

I'm always interested in hearing what you have to say. Contact Me, I'd love to hear from you.

Don't forget to join in on the conversation in the comments section below.

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