Everyone is inspired and influenced by something. That’s a given. It’s why I would argue the insistence of being “original” to be a moot point for a creationist. There’s a difference between using so much of an existing source as your inspiration to influence your work and using that inspiration in order to find your creative calling. That’s something I would like to discuss in a future post, but for now, I just wanted to share the things that inspired me to pursue my creative career. So what exactly inspires me for my own work? And what had inspired me in the past that helped shape how I started working on The Mannamong?
Long story short, I have three answers: western animation (cartoons), eastern animation (most prominently, anime) and video games. All three are pretty broad subjects, but what inspires me the most about them is their storytelling in a nutshell. Or more specifically, HOW they told their stories.
The first two are really two sides of the same coin. Both styles of animation most people are familiar with are easily defined as cartoons and anime. There are those out there that argue how they’re actually the same thing, just a form of animated storytelling from two different methods and different cultures. Others argue that they are different. I sort of agree on both sides, but I lean more towards the latter. And here’s why.
Cartoons are generally conceived in the United States and anime stems from Japan. Not only are their art style and animation approaches different but so are their overall presentation and methods of storytelling. From my experience, cartoons tend to be more comedic and episodic while anime is directed more like a mini-series. Now this doesn’t mean exclusively, both forms can have the other’s direction as well. It really depends on what the subject matter is, the kind of genre, and the target audience.
Growing up, the cartoons I was mostly exposed to throughout the 90’s and 2000’s were from Cartoon Network, Nickolodeon, and the Disney Channel. These showcased Dexter’s Laboratory, Spongebob Squarepants, Rugrats, The Powerpuff Girls, Ed, Edd, n’ Eddy, and Recess, just to name a few. These were shows that tend to focus on comedic skits while blending in to another stylistic approach depending on the type of story that was told. For instance, The Powerpuff Girls (the original, not the 2016 remake) used the main characters’ effectively by having them be superheroes, kicking bad guys to the curb, while reminding us that they were still little girls in kindergarten. Presenting a show that pokes fun at its focus while still delivering some enticing action into its episodes. Every cartoon I saw growing up in America demonstrated this form of storytelling. Using the materials they had and just blending in some comedy for a run-of-the-mill short story with a brief beginning, middle, and conclusion for every episode.
But then there were the cartoons that had episodes with consistency in terms of having a chronological timeline. Events that happened previously are referenced or utilized to expand the fictional universe as if it were an ongoing world. These were shows like Hey Arnold, Kim Possible, and As Told By Ginger. Unlike the aforementioned previously mentioned shows, that combined their subject matter with comedy, these shows were sometimes more dramedy (comedy and drama) because they delivered stories that either had some serious topics or direction that was meant to be taken seriously or were just overall meant to be taken straight with no ounce of comedy throughout. In fact, that’s what made them feel balanced and memorable to me. These shows were interesting because it was clear that the people behind the shows wanted to do more than just a joke of the week kind of show.
This falls in line with my second favorite form of animation, anime. From the way I see it, Japanese animation creators tend to take their ideas to the extreme in a narrative sense. They can be varied in a multitude of different genres for a wider audience, with each to appeal to their specific target demographic. Sure, some american cartoons are purely for adults too, but for the most part they seem to be strictly comedic like The Simpsons, Futurama, South Park, Family Guy, and Archer. Anime generally wants you to take its content seriously at times, even if it’s a comedy. The Japanese have this intriguing delivery with their creative content. They usually will present something in a melancholic or heartwarming gesture that the characters themselves take very seriously. And in turn, it makes the viewer take it straight as well. To me, that makes it feel like the creators want us, the audience, to be immersed with the characters’ worlds and feel their emotions. Which is a direction I see prevalent amongst hundreds of anime.
And as stated in cartoons having stories contained within each episode, most anime will prolong a story into the next episode, often leaving cliffhangers. This alone is one of the medium’s strong suits. Viewers like myself get drawn into the show because it deliberately leaves you wanting more. This is because most anime adapt from an already existing source material; it’s manga counterpart. Some stay truthful to the original content and sometimes it later deviates away from it or adds in its own ideas from the studio producing the anime. This all varies, but the point is, anime use their stories to invent more elaborate stories to try and keep viewers invested. Sometimes it drags the story too long for its own good but I appreciate the approach of longevity and connectivity.
Final Fantasy IV was the first of the series to use deep, thematic storytelling—to which critics praise as one of the starting innovators that influenced dramatic stories into role playing games (RPGs)
Finally, video games were my gateway to escapism. I LOVED playing video games all the time growing up, so much so it may not have been too healthy for me looking back on it. However, in my defense, it provided me entertainment I could immerse myself in when I had no one to play with. I was an only child growing up with a handful of friends so that might’ve been the reason. But nonetheless, video games did fill in a void during my adolescence. And what I found was just another form of storytelling.
In one of my previous blogs, I already mentioned how I tried to learn how to make video games but gave up on it because it didn’t grab me. I mistook my love for video games back then for what really got me invested in them. The stories. I was especially a stickler for the story-driven RPG type of games because they were games I became involved with in the fictional world I was participating in. What I learned is video games present their stories in an interactive style that you can only get from playing them. Some of the most entertaining games with stories either imply or give you absolute freedom in how you play the game and let you see how your actions affect the story as well.
Put them all together and I eventually began to see how these things influenced my ideas over the years and how they continue to inspire me today. It’s actually amazing how other artists can motivate you in ways that make creating so much fun! So to summarize; cartoons were episodic, self-contained and comedic, anime had layered characters, ideas, and emotion, and Video games showed me their immersive fictional worlds….
When I began drawing and writing my ideas for The Mannamong, I learned that I wanted to create a thrilling tale that left you wanting for more and got you emotionally invested in the characters like in anime. A lot of the anime and manga I witnessed inspired my creative muscles with their extravagant ideas as well. But I wanted to keep the stories contained and balanced. Cartoons in the states showed me how to stretch comedic timing and paraphrase key story elements without derailing the pacing for too long like how anime does sometimes. And video games got me excited to imagine ways I should make my content interactive towards my fans. Letting me think of new ways to approach my work both within the context of my stories and through a marketing standpoint.
I could continue more in depth but I think that’s better left explained in individual posts down the road. Please let me know what inspires you!