It helps if you understand the cultural obsession Asia has with food and food stands, but anyone can appreciate this beautiful piece of animation.
I buy very few manga these days, in fact, I can count the number I do buy on one hand without using all the fingers.
But if I had to pick just one manga from that very short list, that manga would be Bakuman.
How do I describe Bakuman to someone who hasn’t read it? Well, I guess the simplest description would be it’s about two Japanese teenagers who want to draw manga (comics).
But, like most things, that simple definition doesn’t even begin to cover what it really is. You see, Bakuman is funny, witty, and charming, but it’s also an in-depth exploration of the creative process, the Japanese manga industry, and even the philosophical underpinnings of what it means to be a manga artist. It manages to critique the industry and the art form itself while at the same time making us fall in love with a sometimes kooky, lovable and weird cast of misfits who inhabit that industry and live in the pressure-cooker environment that it produces.
And, it’s those characters that keep me coming back each time a new volume comes out (I refuse to read it online), because it’s like getting together with old friends with each new release. You become a part of their world, invested in their successes and failures and in them as people.
You also learn from them. Volume 10 just came out this week, and it reminded me of one of the most important things to remember as an artist- failure is good.
Not blind failure, but learning from everything you do even if you fail or if your work doesn’t measure up. The audience will never see the pile of failures that each successful story is built on, but they’re what make an artist’s craft what it is.
It’s so easy to forget that as a writer, and only want to do projects that you think you can do 100% or not do anything at all. But, those risky projects, those experimental projects, and those failures are what will make you that successful artist you want to be.
Bakuman reminded me of this, this week, and helped get me back on the right writing path. So I want to give it thanks.
If you’re curious, some fans did what they call a “visual comic” (a comic with voiceovers, music and sound effects) of the first couple of stories of Bakuman, here’s the first one-
There is also a Bakuman anime, which I’m told is quite good and popular, but I’m enjoying the manga too much to switch over.
Last week over on the KFAT site, my first weekly webfiction story The Inuyama Rebellion posted its final chapter. It’s been a fun run, and I have to say I’ve enjoyed the experiment of writing a weekly piece of fiction in addition to my other writing projects. Of course, I also got a huge kick out of it, since my friend Brushmen was doing great fan art to go with each weekly chapter. (If you haven’t checked them out, then definitely do so.)
Having enjoyed the process, I’ve decided to continue my little experiment, but to get even more…experimental.
For the next nine Mondays (the first one went up already) I will be posting a single flash fiction (1000 words or less) story each week on the KFAT site. These are a little series I call “The Fox Cycle”, and are me doing a little challenge with myself. Each story will be different, and self-contained, but each story will also connect up with all the others to tell a larger story. All of them are historical fiction, take place around the year 1700, and are what you could call an exercise in both character and world building.
What characters and world? Ah, Mes Amis! That would be telling!
I’ve rarely written flash fiction before, so this will be a real challenge in keep my writing tight and using different styles and techniques to bring across a story in the best possible ways. There’s also an additional level to the experiment, but I’ll explain that once the whole story cycle is finished.
As someone into Japanese history, I always wondered something- why didn’t the Japanese make more extensive use of horses during their wars? I knew they made some use of them, but nowhere near as much as people from other countries did.
What I didn’t expect to find was the reason why Horses weren’t used much in Japan by the Samurai the way they were in many other parts of the world. They used them, but only in fairly small numbers, and I’d always wondered why. Well apparently the answer is that Japanese native horses are actually pretty small.
This meant that they had a very limited ability to carry a Japanese Samurai (much less one in full armour) for long distances and thus were apparently only used by commanders and messengers in war. The Japanese apparently didn’t even bother to have actual mounted cavalry units per-se.
Here are pictures of Samurai and horses for comparison-
The last picture (painting, really) shows a clear-ish view of what a saddle of the period looked like too. (And this is likely the style of saddle Masato would be using in the story.)
The experience of the Earthquake and following Tsunami from the point of view of a dashboard camera, you can even hear all the sounds as well. (Although luckily, it doesn’t include any human sounds like the car owner dying, I’m pretty sure the car is empty for most of the video.) What a harrowing experience just watching it, much less living it. You can see why it’s amazing so many people lived!
For those writing Samurai fiction, here’s a treasure trove of detail!
Each school will have different variations of angles, grips and body positions, but here is a fundamental cutting concept that most sword styles share: When delivering a cut, make sure that your wrists are lined up behind the blade handle. It may feel fine in the air, but when you actually cut into something, you’re in for a big surprise when you loose control of your sword.
Apparently someone had decided to do a Live-Action Ranma 1/2 show in Japan, probably out of a mix of nostalgia and lack of ideas. I used to be a big Ranma 1/2 fan once upon a time, until it turned into an endless boring repetition of the same jokes and ideas, but it does have a great cast and fun core premise, so I look forward to seeing what they do with this. The actors look great for their roles, and I will definitely give this a look!
In another part of the forest, a group of Kurokawa samurai in the command of the guard captain of the summer residence came upon their lord. He was sitting on a rock at the side of the road, and when he made no motion to even indicate he knew they were there, the guard captain dismounted and quickly marched over to kneel before him.
“My lord. Thank the heavens you’re safe!”
“No thanks to you, Captain.” The daimyo declared in a cold angry voice, not even looking at the men. “You will atone for your mistake by the morning, I trust?”
Ahh, memories. ^_^ This is very similar how I ended up teaching in Japan the first time. A call, an easy interview, a few goodbye parties, and bang…off on the plane into a whole new world!
The comic itself is pretty good, give it a read if you’re interested in seeing how it goes…And it really does go like this…
The torches which lined the courtyard of the Kurokawa clan’s summer residence had been lit and a small stage had been erected. Upon it the great lord of the Kurokawa sat on a stool in resplendent robes fanning himself casually from the heat of the summer evening. His vassals and lords were gathered around him as though prepared for an audience, or a trial. Nearby, a number of servants stood, gossiping quietly- waiting to see what would happen next. Read More