In a previous post I discussed how Japanese RPGs of the 1990s helped mold my interest in fantasy stories, so I figured here would be a good place to explore the role of manga and anime in the evolution of my fantasy writing. Readers of Duality will likely see the influences, particularly in the epic one-on-one duels mixing martial arts with mystical powers, a hallmark of battle manga. I thought it fitting to look at how some of my favorites series helped refine The Animus Saga.
Dragon Ball Z
Like many Americans, I was introduced to Akira Toriyama’s epic manga Dragon Ball through the second anime adaptation, Dragon Ball Z. This was my introduction to the world of battle manga/anime, and given its influence over other series, it was the appropriate place to start. Full of extended fights between iconic characters like Goku, Vegeta, Frieza, and Majin Buu, it was from this series that I learned the importance of striking characters. Toriyama’s heroes are memorable not only because of their unique character designs but their often complex personalities. Piccolo, the spawn of a being comprised of pure evil, redeems himself through self-sacrifice yet continues to struggle with his sense of identity as both an alien and a split personality. Vegeta, the proud prince of the Saiyan race, is consistently surpassed by a “low-class” warrior while slowly succumbing to emotional attachments he later sees as an obstacle to higher power. The lesson: if you want people to care about your characters, make them stand out from the legions of other characters populating similar stories. Otherwise, they’ll be forgotten as soon as the last page is turned. Of course, DBZ was also the series that solved my dilemma of creating a fantasy series that didn’t involve all the characters hacking each other up with bladed weaponry, and so the martial arts action of The Animus Saga was born.
The greatest lesson I learned from Naruto was to ensure my supporting characters were just as interesting as the heroes and villains they surround. I always try to think some way to work any significant character’s background, whether it’s an entire chapter or a few paragraphs, into the story. To me, all of Naruto’s characters are interesting, and delving into their pasts and motivations is every bit as interesting as the battles they engage in.
This series taught me two important things: 1) An epic fantasy story can have a love story woven into its core and 2) cute animal characters should serve a purpose other than just being cute. Readers of Duality remember that it features the beginnings—or foreshadowing—of several relationships, a twisting path to romance that stretches into The Age of Imago and beyond. They will also remember Saigo, the adorable lokivi whose own talent for element manipulation rivals that of his master. I created Saigo after thinking about the character Kilala from InuYasha, a cute little two-tailed cat who, when facing danger, would transform into a giant, saber-toothed killing machine. I figured if I was going to include a companion creature for Cyrus, it had better pull its own weight.
These are of course only the most prominent of the influences on my current work, and as I continue with The Animus Saga, it will be interesting to see what else works its way into my creative process.
And for all my author readers, be sure to check out Kristen Lamb’s We Are Not Alone: The Writer’s Guide to Social Media. I’ve been following her on Twitter for a while now and she definitely knows what she’s talking about.