The South West of England will continue to see frequent and unpredictable bursts of heavy showers and crisp sunshine every day of this week, so don’t forget your rain repellent umbrellas no matter how deceivingly warm it seems.
Those in North London should be wary of lightning strikes today, since thirteen year old Annabella Hackhop reacted badly to getting drenched in water by a speeding muggle car. The young witch is not being charged for casting the spell, as she claims it was an instinctive magical reaction that she had not intended to happen, and the Ministry’s Accidental Magic Reversal Squad should have the lightning cleared away by this afternoon.
Due to an awful incident involving an elderly wizard and his experimentation in homemade dungbombs, the glorious sunshine in East Riding might not be so welcome after all. The stink is potent for miles and truly foul, not helped by the beautiful weather Yorkshire is due all week. Ahmer Laham is being treated for magical burns after his fifth batch of dungbombs exploded in his garden brazier. The Muggle-Worthy Excuse Committee are telling local muggles that a gas line combusted and hit a sewer system.
If you’ve been brewing any lunar dependant potions this month, don’t forget that tonight is the first day of the full moon.
And a quick traffic notification: no one else is permitted to apparate into Diagon Alley today due to a pile up of witches and wizards arriving at the same time for the touring performance of the French rock band ‘The Basilisk in Your Pasta’. The crush of folk is heavy and too many of the travellers were uncomfortable with apparition, resulting in a lot of vomit.
[A/N: Literally, honestly, tonight is a full moon in the UK.]
I applied to be a writer for Hogwarts is Here a couple of years ago, and my application was successful! But sadly, the acceptance email went to my junk folder, and I discovered it two weeks after they’d sent it, which was apparently deplorable. I never even got a ‘sorry, you replied too slow’. I liked the content I wrote for them, however, so my Quibble-Whatever-Newspaper-Name-HiH-Were-Going-To-Use articles shall have a home on my neglected blog. Hello, 2016.
Meddling in Muggle Theatre
Wizarding theatre has been in decline, according to directors such as Plepbin Eggum, famous for his adaptation of Three Wizards and the Rolling Trolls, for the past fifty years. He stated that the same dusty fables had graced our stages for so long that even fairies would be tired of sweeping up the moral residue for their spells. Whatever that means. He went on about fairy dust for quite some time.
Due to the strict regulations on public displays of magical performance, new plays have struggled to survive outside of big cities; and new writers have sunk beneath the more popular adaptations of classical tales, or Big Name Directors with galleons to spend on marketing. Eggum explains that the reason for this sink or sparkle is that no one is producing anything fresh enough—it’s all a hack of the classics, only some productions have more money.
“Just last week,” he lamented, “I attended a ‘new’ production by some old sop who had basically swapped Urg the Unclean for a melodramatic goblin—a watery replica of Urg’s life as a rebel leader, but without any depth and an endless chain of poor wand duelling choreography.”
This stagnancy looks like it’s about to evanesco, however, as a witch who is superb at charms rewrites muggle plays with magic. Since it’s still a case of using pre-existing material, it might not be the freshness Eggum had in mind, but her work has certainly got magical London excited.
Last night in Undar West End, Celeste Summerbee wowed wizards and witches of all ages with her production of a muggle play called Beauty and the Beast. “It was simple, really,” she told us, “the story was already there—developed and adapted—ready for me to pick the best version. They [muggles] even have their own version on stage—the impressive tricks muggles have devised to make certain actions look like real magic… All I had to do was make the magic really real—make it bigger.”
Summerbee’s grandmother was a muggle, and as a result, she has apparently devoured muggle fairytales all of her life. As Summerbee grew older being on stage felt like her calling in life, but later found that she preferred working in the wings. Being naturally gifted in charms work, then, it’s no wonder that Summerbee eventually thought to combine her talents into one show stopping idea.
Many are concerned that the leading Prince/Beast in Summerbee’s adaptation is played by Thomas Flaxwagon—a registered werewolf by the Ministry of Magic. Some, especially parents, have refused to attend the show on these grounds. When questioned about this controversial casting choice, Summerbee said, “Thomas is simply wonderful, have you seen the play? [We replied that we had] You agree he’s perfect for the part. It’s time we stopped treating lycanthropes like a disease. I like the statement of casting Thomas as the Beast. No one else could be more perfect, in more ways than one.”
The stories aren’t new, these muggle fairytales are as old as Always Kiss A Fwog, but the imagination of muggles proves to be a powerful source of inspiration. Even muggleborn witches and wizards who attended last night’s showing described it as ‘the best version of Beauty and the Beast that they had ever seen,’ and ‘heart stopping’ to see characters they know and love lifted into the air, transformed, and lit up with real magic.
Summerbee intends to adapt Three Princes, Three Dragons and the Old Woman with the Iron Nose next, a Magyar-Hungarian folktale, and possibly with real dragons. She wouldn’t elaborate on how these majestic beasts are the main characters of the plot. “It’s an old story,” she said, grinning, “but you don’t know it. Wait and be surprised.”
We’ll eagerly await, indeed. Tickets for Beauty and the Beast are on sale until the next solstice.
Do you have a business card as a writer or author? Have you thought about it? Business cards are a good idea with lots of uses.
Just a quick tip: First, make sure your card stands out. A signature color, logo, or something that draws attention is good. Also make sure that you use a legible font and include only details you want widely public (for example, I omitted my address and phone number).
Here are ten ways you might not have thought of to use your business cards:
One clever idea, which I will implement when the third Family Secrets novel comes out, is to use the space on one side of the card for thumbnails of three books. It’s almost a perfect fit. Then put your info on the back along with a link to where you prefer people to buy them. It’s an immediate sales tool in…
It happens all the time. I have a good idea or existing project, characters are talking, plot is coming together, and I want to write. I want to close my eyes and let the story pour out.
Instead, I’m doing everything but writing. I’m even tackling tasks I’ve neglected since I wrote my spring-cleaning list.
Resistance feels like a door I need to walk through but can’t seem to budge.
So what gives?
Experienced writers exchange commiserating glances. New writers wonder what’s wrong with them. The good news is that nothing is wrong. It’s a phenomenon known as resistance and it’s pretty common. If you haven’t experienced it yet, chances are you will.
For me, resistance is always present. It’s just part of my writing life. Learning how to overcome, trick, deny, and work around resistance was a vital skill for me to develop. Sometimes we’re just afraid that we can’t…
This post will be looking at how Steamboy (2004), written by Sadayuki Murai and Katsuhiro Otomo, can be said to be a signifier of the genre ‘steampunk’. Steampunk is a niche (though growing) sub-genre of science fiction and fantasy that can almost be summed up as: modern Victorian literature with anachronistic technology. I’ll be referring to Susan Napier’sAnime from Akira to Howl’s Moving Castle: Experiencing Contemporary Japanese Animation (2006) to unpick the cinematic devices that define the ‘feel’ of this steampunk film, and why anime in particular suits the story.
Steamboy has been harshly discredited by critics like Roger Ebert, but I would like to point out the depth of themes within this film that have been dismissed based upon its plot devices. I myself would not say Steamboy is the best film since sliced bread but when we look beneath the surface elements there is a lot to appreciate – at least as a signifier of its genre. This post contains SPOILERS for Steamboy and the endng of the graphic novel Watchmen.
NOTE: Given requests when this was posted on Squidoo, you have full permission to quote my essay in any academic paper, presentation or casual blog that you are writing. Please just reference back to this page and its sources correctly (my name is Willow Wood). I’ve included a bibliography at the very bottom.
Before you read this post…
. Steamboy Trailer
. What do people expect from steampunk? chug, chug, hiss, chug, chug, chug, hiss, chug, chug…
As the name suggests: steam. Steampunk revolves around the Victorian industrial era and ideas like “what if 19th century inventions were ahead of their time”? Frequent quirks of the genre are; murky cities, Victorian politics, various British dialects and phrases no longer used, creative inventions powered by steam and references to real history and/or historical figures. It is a mix of past and present sensibilities to create something that often critiques modern society.
There is nostalgia but the anachronistic technology and warped setting either alleviates viewer alienation or causes it, for steampunk is certainly a genre appreciated more by its followers. For newcomers, it may be hard to discern why science fiction, fantasy and history have been melded into one but it is, nonetheless, a fascinating pastiche that many find hard to ignore. The film The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (Stephen Norrington, 2003), for example, captivated newcomers and horrified critics who are fans of the original comic, like the disgusted Jamie Russell of the BBC Film Reviews, who said, ‘Indeed, it’s so bad, it makes the press feeding frenzy surrounding its troubled shoot […] sound less like schadenfreude-fuelled gossip than all-too-believable reality.’
Regardless of whatever critiques might say about the story, The League of Extraordinary Gentleman is a perfectly good example of the stylistic components that make a steampunk film. San Francisco Chronicle’s critic Mick LaSalle said, ‘It depicts the world of a century ago in a way that comments on the anxieties facing the world today, and it does so, at least for a while, with cleverness and a sense of fun.’
Imagery in Steamboy subconcious influence, apocalypse and anime
art by arcipello
So why is Steamboy a significant example of what steampunk can be? The most obvious answer is that it acknowledges all steampunk tropes and uses them lavishly. Steam, Victorian fashion, inventions and political disputes between America and Britain – these are all utilised in abundance. From the first five minutes of the film the typical setting for a steampunk narrative is established with its most distinctive component: steam-powered inventions.
The industrial era was a time of discovery, religious and scientific battle, and the growth of “low” and “high” culture divide. The first recognisable image on screen is a water droplet. The reflection within this droplet looks like a warped map of the world, when it is in fact mirroring the two men and cave beneath it. There are many pan shots of squeaking locomotives and a throw away line about scientific theory that has no later bearing within the film. There are continuing bursts of steam, lingering shots of unfamiliar but seemingly important devices, a Victorian warehouse, figures dressed in 1980s pilot uniform and everything is shaded slate grey or brown.
Already, the audience knows that this is not a modern, or normal, setting and is layered with heavy-handed foreboding. The peak of the opening sequence is a slow zoom-in on the black, mysterious ‘steamball’ that sits surrounded by broken pipes and shadows. The only sound is of a high-pitched ringing. This elusive and dark introduction is typical of the genre for, despite the liveliness and imagination that arises in steampunk works, it often tackles problematic issues or apocalyptic imagery.
Both of these gloomy attractions are well suited to Steamboy’s medium, anime, for ‘…its [anime’s] often dark tone and content may surprise audiences who like to think of “cartoons” as “childish” or “innocent.”‘ (Napier p.9) As the climax of the story is of the American arms-trade company, O’Hara, attempting to start a war in the middle of London, and ends with a levitating castle crashing through the streets, it is fitting that this bizarre and creative film is an anime. As Susan Napier states:
It may be that animation in general – and perhaps anime in particular – is the ideal artistic vehicle for expressing the hopes and nightmares of our uneasy contemporary world. Even more than live-action cinema, animation is a fusion of technology and art, both suggesting in its content and embodying in its form new interfaces between the two. (page 11)
From this we can see that anime and steampunk (though not limited to each other) go hand-in-hand as the visual-aesthetics of steampunk are a large part of its charm, which include (but not always) spectacular technological doom or political upheaval. Napier later goes on to explain that ‘…perhaps one of the most striking features of anime is its fascination with the theme of apocalypse.’ (Napier p.193)
Steampunk Pokes at Western Society it’s not all steam, cogs and fashion
This film is riddled with contraptions that retain a Victorian feel, such as flying machines made to resemble Leonardo’s wings and mechanical suits of armour – all powered by steam, of course. The ‘villain’ of the film is an obligatory cyborg, complete with mono-goggle mask, and the protagonist is an aspiring inventor. Steamboy may not be worth the ten years it took to create, but it most definitely conforms to nearly all steampunk tropes and style.
Why is Steamboy not worth the ten years it took to create? If we evaluate the film beyond its genre; of which it explores to a dramatic extent; and look at the narrative development, it feels as if certain dilemmas are solved too conveniently by the characters’ cleverness or a deus ex machina intervention. Many BBC, Film4 and fan critics bash the story of Steamboy as poorly developed and, when boiled down, “not like Otomo’s Akira“. In some ways it is easy to agree that the story is not consistently engaging. In places it seems to try too hard to define itself as a steampunk film by having long monologues about scientific achievement and that the world will benefit from the ‘steamball’. As one seemingly offended BBC critic writes: ‘Ray is a cross little moppet whom it’s hard to root for, while dad and grandpa are blowhards whose endless rants about technology are just a load of, well, hot air.’ (2005, Mathew Leyland)
Leyland also believes that this flatness is due to ‘a lack of engaging characters’ and that it is ‘a prolonged orgy of chaos’ (2005, Mathew Leyland). It is true that the characters are not as three-dimensional as, say, in Otomo’s Akira, but their morals and motives are constantly being questioned by a believably baffled protagonist. The message of the film lies within political morals – as is often the case in steampunk narratives – and while the characters’ personalities are marginally developed, they are engaging for their “radical” or “extreme” beliefs. It would be better to acknowledge and understand the genre it is trying to fit into and consider that perhaps the narrative drags on in places because it tries too hard.
Leyland focuses on British cinema and it comes across as ignorant of steampunk as he says in the opening paragraph of his review: ‘…but as long-gestating animated fantasies set in the north of England go, it’s not a patch on the Wallace & Gromit movie.’ Aside from the fact Steamboy is set in an alternate version of England and is written by two Japanese men who have well researched the industrial workplace, the Wallace & Gromit movie is of an entirely different genre.
Political Anime steampunk seeks to challenge you
Expanding further on the medium itself it is relevant to consider “what freedom does anime give to Steamboy’s genre?” Napier puts it well by saying, ‘…the abstract visual medium of animation works brilliantly to “convey the unconveyable.”‘ (p.198) As aforementioned, steampunk often tries to engage its consumer with what they are reading or watching. It likes to deal with politics and can get away with mocking, challenging or reinventing history in order to deal with current day concerns. Again, Napier explains why animation products may be the most liberal medium to explore controversial topics and what these films are trying to do:
…appropriate to the basic ideology of apocalypse, most works [ … ] include such elements as an explicit criticism of the society undergoing apocalypse and an explicit or implicit warning as to why this society should be encountering such a fate. These reasons are almost always related to human transgression, most often the misuse of technology. (Napier p.198)
The medium is still often brushed under the carpet as “cartoons for children”, which is why Japanese anime writers are not always challenged for the critiques they express in their films. They tend to be ignored by a large portion of the Western world and their work dismissed because it “cannot be as engaging as a live-action production”.
Steamboy’s Plot Devices messages you may have missed
The impending apocalyptic threat that unfolds in Steamboy is caused by the tensions between America and Britain – one must have the better weaponry, one must constantly be ahead of the game – and this rivalry is another element of steampunk. While the critique of futile squabbling for power comes from an outside observer (Japan), this is something that many steampunk writers always include. There is an American character or a British character looking on or competing to be better than their surroundings. For a Western society it is possible to say this feud has developed into a perverse pleasure as the bickering between the two cultures is generally portrayed as humorous.
In Steamboy, however, the feuding between the American and British characters is satirical. The representative of the O’Hara arms company leads rich, world-wide figures to the roof of their establishment. From here he waves at the London street below and cries in a jovial voice, ‘These are our newest models, we call them steam-troopers! As you can see, even a few can put a formidable enemy to flight. [ … ] Of course the price is dear but the rewards of victory are beyond any price!’ As he says this, American weaponry annihilates the British police below and anyone else in the way.
This plot point is again repeatedly criticised by un-enthused reviewers. ‘…the film finally comes together with the rise – and sensational fall – of a hissing, clanking, life-endangering steam castle in central London.’ (2005, Leyland) The apparent issue with this is that it is “ridiculous” and “stupid” to attack London from within,as if it makes any more sense that Western culture could develop so entirely on steam without running out of resources or impracticalities.
With steampunk, the conclusions tend to be over the top or thought-provoking; even ambiguous and Steamboy does both of the former. It is set during the build up to World War I and after pondering the philosophy of scientific achievement throughout the film, it brings to light the destruction that has come with technological advancement. Returning to Napier’s theorising on the apocalyptic attraction:
Perhaps the twentieth century itself, with its mammoth social and political upheavals and its incredible rate of technological change, is the chief culprit behind the enormous range of apocalyptic visions that exist in the world today. (p.194)
If you’ve been intrigued by Napier’s quotes throughout this essay you should definitely pick up her book. It’s easy to read and she covers a range of subjects concerning anime. I keep it with me everywhere I move to, just in case.
Overall, It’s A Steampunk Film and it delievered us a lot, even if the narrative could be better
Having considered the elements of steampunk that apply to Otomo and Murai’s film Steamboy, it should now be clearer as to how this film ticks all the boxes of the genre. It succeeds in creating a visual masterpiece, overflowing with creative uses for steam power and warped Victorian settings. It provides questions to ask of our society and does so with a seemingly modern combination of two recently growing “sub-cultures”: anime and steampunk. In the words of Zac Bertschy: ‘It’s like the best of both worlds: thought-provoking, intelligent Japanese-style themes combined with exciting, Western-style action set pieces and pacing’ (2004) Steamboy is an enjoyable, unpredictable film that surprises anime fans, steampunk fans and non-fans alike. If there was one film that could be used as an example of the genre, it should be Steamboy.
Having read this post…
Steamboy, 2004 [film]. Directed by Katsuhiro OTOMO. JAPAN: Toho, Triumph Films, & Paramount Pictures.
This is something budding writers often ask me. “But what is narrative style? Why is it something to be aware of?”
Narrative style is tricky to pin down. Style is tone. Don’t forget that the narrative is essentially someone’s voice. The narrator is a character, not simply words dictating what happens in the story. Even if narration has an archaic, formal tone (such as often seen in classic literature or high fantasy), that is still the voice of a character, the one telling you a story of events as they perceived them to happen – even if omnipresent.
Style is how you structure sentences, how you use or abuse punctuation, how you describe scenery and character-thought-progression. It’s a combination of many writing techniques that you pick and perfect to work for not only your story, but for you as a writer.
I suppose one way to think of it is like poetry (we’re getting a bit hon hon darling now, but bear with me, it’s a metaphor). When you read a poem, you generally expect that poem to have rhythm – to have a way of twisting the structure of words on the page to either be staccato, flowing, or broken. You would expect a poem to scratch the surface of its real meaning – leaving you to infur the rest – or to expose the “character’s” emotional depth. The poem will paint every scene in vibrant colours, or it will be minimalistic and clean.
Writing a story is very much the same. Narrative style is one part you relating events as feels natural, two parts your character shouting into a microphone. Or whispering. I mean. It’s your style. Whatever.
Today we’ve got something new, something exciting, and something a little bit naughty. I confess that I have yet to read L.M. Brown’s work but as soon as I came across the pitch for her new book – she had me by the tail fins. I’m excited to make her new release, Forbidden Waters, my first taste of her work.
But enough from me! I don’t want to babble, I’m honoured to now hand over to L, who can tell you more about her upcoming m/m/m erotica.
Meet Prince Finn
You’d think being born a prince would mean the young heir to the Atlantean throne would have everything he could ever wish for. Well, not if you read romance novels on a regular basis, you wouldn’t. After all, princes have problems too and Finn has more so than others.
As a merman, Finn is at home in the ocean, but even the wonderful world under the surface of the ocean can lose its appeal when you are also its prisoner.
Finn has everything a prince could want, except the freedom to go up to the surface of the ocean and walk on the land. Now, you might think that this isn’t particularly important since he is a merman. He should be just as happy and content under the water, right?
Mermen, at least in my world, can only ever have intercourse in their human forms. Prince Finn, at twenty years old is one of the oldest virgins in Atlantis, if not the actual oldest.
If that wasn’t bad enough, Finn is no different to any other merman or mermaid when it comes to needing the touch of another. Like all of his kind he goes into heat twice a year on the summer and winter solstices and when that time comes the need to go to land can be pretty overwhelming.
Being trapped under the ocean when the heat of a mating fever is upon him is difficult and painful, but despite all that Finn handles his imprisonment pretty well. That is, he does everything he can to find a way to escape the boundaries of the city. This means passing by the dangerous sea dragons as well as escaping the watchful gaze of his parents, the king and queen of Atlantis and his jailers.
Even if he were attracted to mermaids he would have trouble escaping the city to ease his sexual frustration. Being attracted to men, which is strictly forbidden in Atlantis, makes it doubly difficult for him to obtain the freedom he desires.
Despite all this, Prince Finn does not let his imprisonment bother him too much. He is a merman who craves love and will navigate Forbidden Waters to get it.
To save his clan from ever-increasing shark attacks, merman Kyle seeks sanctuary for his people in the sunken city of Atlantis, even though he knows that as a homosexual merman, he will be sacrificing his own chance for love. Love finds him anyway in the form of Prince Finn, the rebellious young heir to the Atlantean throne.
When their relationship is discovered, Kyle is the one to pay the price. Banished from the oceans, he seeks shelter in England and finds a new love with human, Jake Seabrook.
For Jake, Kyle is the chance to move on from the crush he has on his straight best friend. The strange man he found naked on the beach seems to fit into his life with ease. If only Kyle weren’t keeping secrets from him, Jake could see them having a future together.
Things are not what they seem for either of the men and when Kyle discovers the truth about Finn, he knows he must return to Atlantis.
Three men, a tangled relationship, and one chance for happiness—if they can trust enough to take it.
Kyle shook his head and was about to say something else when the sound of someone in pain drifted through his mind. He knew instinctively it was Finn and swam past the queen to the resting chamber. Queen Coral followed at his back. They found Finn curled up in Kyle’s sleeping sponge, his tail curled around him. He clutched his stomach in obvious pain.
Ignoring the queen for the moment, Kyle rushed to Finn and gathered him into his arms.
“I’m here, Finn,” Kyle murmured. “I’ve got you now.”
Finn groaned and wrapped himself round Kyle. “I hate this. The heat of the season gets worse every time. I thought it might help to be here in your home, but it didn’t. It’ll pass by the end of the day. It just hurts not to mate when the desire is so strong.”
“Damn,” Kyle swore under his breath. At twenty years of age, Finn had already gone through nearly ten mating seasons without relief. That was more than Dax and Undine had lived through combined. The pain Kyle suffered from would be nothing compared to what Finn was dealing with right now.
Kyle glared at the queen. “Do you see what your stupid rules are putting your son through?”
“This is not my fault,” the queen argued.
“Don’t fight,” Finn interrupted. “Just hold me Kyle. It’s helping.”
Kyle tightened his grip and kissed Finn on the top of his head. “I’m here now. I won’t leave you.”
Finn settled down a little and began to rub up against Kyle. He could tell what the merman was trying to do, but Finn’s efforts were in vain. Mermen simply couldn’t find release in their half-fish form. No matter how Finn mimicked the movements of the act of mating, they could never actually see it through to completion while under the water. Which meant Finn could never find relief as long as his parents held him prisoner under the waves.
“Kyle, help me,” Finn begged. “Take me to the island. Let me know you the way I need to.”
“I forbid it,” Queen Coral ordered.
Kyle ignored her and sent his next thoughts privately to Finn. “I promise this won’t happen next mating season. Next time I’ll take you with me, even if I have to kidnap you to do it.”
Forbidden Waters is now available at Totally Bound and will soon be availble on Amazon.
L.M. Brown lives in England, in a quaint little village time doesn’t seem to have touched. No, wait a minute—that’s the retirement biography. Right now, she is in England in a medium sized town no one has ever heard of, so she won’t bore you with the details. Keeping her company are numerous sexy men. She just wishes they weren’t all inside her head.
L.M. believes there is nothing hotter or sweeter than two men in love with each other… unless it is three.
L.M. Brown loves hearing from readers so don’t be shy.
FOREWORD: I’m currently moving a lot of my articles from Squidoo over to my blog as Squidoo has declared almost all of my articles as spam. This is one of them. I’ve decided to totally migrate to my blog because I’m sick of fighting my corner on their site.
Create an Authentic Feeling Enviroment
Click for picture source
One of the magical perks to being a writer is the ability to mould our own world; a place so tangible that other people can taste it, smell it, walk and run within it. I’ve always believed this is why books like the Harry Potter series are popular. It’s not just the characters, it’s not just the story – Rowling created a world in such finite detail that people weep with dreams of living there. I know I do.
This is why it’s important to research what we’re writing, and research isn’t as dull as the high-school homework we groaned and avoided. If you’re writing about it, surely you find the surrounding lore, mechanics, culture etc. interesting? If not, why are you writing about it?
This article will not tell you HOW to write a steampunk novel or short story. Plot, characterisation and quality are most important but there are already sources on those. In this lens I’ll share with you the information I have discovered whilst building a steampunk world. The elements of steampunk – the choices in front of you. There are helpful videos, links to linguistics and social behaviour, apps, books, locomotive facts, a list of popular figure heads of the genre and more.
I have done a lot of beta-reading this past year, and in turn, I’ve had people read my own work. Nothing is more essential in the early stages of a manuscript than its beta readers, so if you have a collection of reliable readers, you should do everything in your power to hold onto them. Below I’ve amassed a series of points that I think are important to take into consideration when you ask people to read for you.
)Do not give them a first draft. The first draft is crap. You can write the first draft, edit the hell out of it, and then share it with your readers. And that’s okay. Because, by then, it’s no longer a first draft. But do not give away a draft you haven’t even bothered to edit yourself. That’s a waste of your readers’ time. If you’re desperate for someone to…
Are you a fan of the popular anime series Neon Genesis Evangelion? Do you want to know what the spin-off mangas are like? Then this review is for you!
I’m a fan of the original series and most of its varing manifestations. I while back I was surprised to discover that there are two manga series. They are, for the most part, published fan fiction and not written by Hideaki Anno but that doesn’t mean they are bad.
I’ll be scrutinising use of plot, writing skill and characterisation. The two manga series in question are: The Shinji Ikari Rising Project and Campus Apocalypse
There are no spoilers in these reviews, but they are aimed at people who already know the characters and are aware of the original plot.
The Shinji Ikari Rising Project – Volume #1
This particular spin-off manga, by Osamu Takahashi, drags us into an altered universe with gorgeous artwork featuring our favourite leading characters – primarly, Asuka Langley Soryu.
It takes a while for any serious plot to kick in – chapter 6, to be precise. The lives of Asuka, Shinji, and Rei are completely mundane and revolve around sexual comedy and romantic angst. In a world where Shinji’s mother is still alive and living in a family unit with Gendo Ikari, the story tries to explore how the chosen three teenagers would compete and interact if dating was their only worry.
We’re led through this alternate universe by Asuka who has been friends with Shinji since the age of four. This childhood bond is threatened when the beautiful Rei Ayanami moves to town – capturing Shinji’s interest – and forces Asuka to consider if she wants to be more than Shinji’s friend.
It’s beautifully drawn but plot points concerning the EVA are jarring and feel out of place in an average world where no one even vaguely mentions the Angels. There is no tension or threat of an imminent attack, which makes the EVA project feel slightly superfluous, like an attempt to create danger where there is none.
The first volume is light hearted compared to the original anime series and takes a somewhat heart-warming look at the dynamics between Rei, Asuka, and Shinji. In fact, it acts like a harem in which Rei and Asuka fall over Shinji, and Shinji himself frequently catches glimpses of female underwear; torn between the attractions of two striking young women. So if you’re not a fan of series like Oh! My Goddess this might not be the adaptation for you.
Saying this, Takahashi has done a fantastic job of staying true to the original characters’ personalities and it might be worth giving it a go just to enjoy spending time with Asuka and company. They have been altered to better socialise with each other as there’s an uplifting sense of friendship and love beneath all their pranks and bickering. Even the adults, especially Misato Katsuragi and Gendo, have a cheerful disposition that seems unhampered by dark, NERV secrets.
For those of you hoping for shipping fanservice, Takahashi does a grand job of teasing you with hints at yaoi, yuri, and het pairings all around.
It’s a calm and casual approach to Evangelion. The plot is vague and distracted with summer festivals and beach trips, but the characterisation is gripping and makes it worth reading if you want a closer look at ‘what might have been’ had Shinji and Asuka come from a happier environment. Mechs are not promised!
I personally don’t enjoy this kind of manga, so I won’t be buying the rest of the series. For those of you who do like harem-esc manga, this seems like a good one.
Campus Apocalypse – Volume #1
Compared to The Shinji Ikari Raising Project, Ming Ming’s Campus Apocalypse is an original and thoughtful alternate-reality. Corporation NERV, Shinji’s high school, the Angels and the characters themselves have been shaken up and re-imagined. This one is my favourite of the two.
Mystery arises from the get-go when Shinji spots his classmate running around at night with a Giant Spear (a.k.a. the Lance of Longinus) and an unknown guy. He puts this out of his mind until the next day at school where he attends NERV Foundation, a Catholic high school.
His curiosity is peaked when ‘the unknown guy’ turns out to be a transfer student by the name of Kaworu Nagisa who has a particular interest in Shinji, and a suspicious attitude towards Rei. Little does Shinji know, his curiosity will plunge him into a world of Angels, EVAs, Cores, AT Fields and prophecies – but not as you’d expect.
Compared to the original series, the art style has a more modern, anime feel. Ming has poured his own touch onto the page rather than perfectly mimic Anno’s drawing, which is part of what makes this series stand out.
I wasn’t sure if Ming’s story would be particularly good, as the first “in-class-scene” has a forced tone of humour. It’s more a case of, ‘look, isn’t this FUNNY?‘ than it actually being humorous. I was thrilled to discover that the story takes a compelling turn and has an exciting take on all the tech/techno-babble from the series. The Angels are especially interesting in this adaptation. In fact, it was the appearance of the first ‘Angel’ that hooked my attention.
The mood of storytelling has kept with the original – dreamy, brutal, symbolic (to a sensible degree) – and promises to be an insightful interpretation. The characters are true to themselves, especially Rei, Shinji, and Asuka. Like the Shinji Ikari Raising Project, Shinji’s abandonment issues have been toned down but he is a lot truer to his original characterisation with unforgettable, well implemented mantras such as, “I mustn’t run away. I mustn’t run away. I mustn’t run away!”
For those of you who ship Kaworu and Shinji, there are enough intense stares between the two boys to make fangirls die of giggles.
This is a compelling adaptation with narrative skill and unexpected re-imaginings of the original series. The artwork isn’t quite as mesmerising as Takahashi’s but the plot makes up for it by the book load. I’ll be buying the next volume.