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THE CARTOONS, ANIME, AND GAMES THAT INFLUENCED THE MANNAMONG

So as I mentioned in the previous post, there were a lot of things that made my childhood and gave me a plethora of entertainment that inspired my love for storytelling. And for those who are curious as to which stuff gave me ideas for The Mannamong growing up, I’ve made a list that details certain aspects of these anime, cartoon shows, movies, and games that brought me to where I am today. Take note, however, that not everything mentioned here actually made it to the final product, but they were instead the catalysts that gave me the light bulb dings in my head growing up.

Lilo and Stitch is probably the only Disney movie that left an impact on me through an aesthetic level that ties the whole film together very naturally. Everything that Disney is notably known for has to do with fairy tales. If not that, then it’s either Pixar or Lilo and Stitch. What captivated me was the fact the setting took place in Hawaii, and Lilo herself was a true native of the islands. The history and culture deeply rooted within Lilo and her family is the essential theme to the story. And it’s executed tactfully, respectfully and naturally. I wish more works of fiction tackled this approach honestly. So I figured, why not try it myself? I was pretty interested in Native American culture, so I decided to approach it with my comic. I shamefully admit, the leading lady of The Mannamong, Kali, took inspiration from Lilo so I won’t deny their striking similarities.
I want to share more about how and why I decided to go with an Indigenous American idea. Still, I just wanted to conclude how Lilo and Stitch opened my eyes to the possibilities of telling a story with a protagonist’s background being a theme to the narrative.
Every child will most likely encounter something remotely related to this franchise, and I was personally lucky to be born within the time it debuted throughout the world. The biggest compliment I can ever give is to the imagination and to how it incorporates these ideas into a tightly constructed fictional universe that kids love to explore. The games and anime’s general focus is the adventure. To travel without grown-ups telling you what to do and encounter creatures to capture, tame, and befriend while battling against the opposition; this is what an actual child’s fantasy world should be. And it’s something I told myself a long time ago to keep in mind when questioning the series success and how I could use a similar approach for my work.

I put these two together under the same discussion because they’re quite similar, and both share the same reasoning in how they influenced me.
These two shows aired around the same period right when I was initially inspired to create The Mannamong. I was in middle school at the time, and the protagonists in both shows were roughly my age at the same grade level. Both shows were about the main hero interacting with the magical world that parallels with their suburban environment as the chosen ones responsible for maintaining balance. Funny enough, both shows featured a Chinese protagonist with magical powers too.

Anyway, these two were the biggest inspiration that molded The Mannamong’s setting and genre towards a fantasy and slice-of-life mixture. I originally had my protagonist, Kali, set to the age of a preteen, too, at this stage like Jake Long and Juniper Lee. I decided to switch her to a child instead and possibly have grown older as the story progressed. Nonetheless, if you haven’t heard or seen these shows, I suggest taking a quick look at them. If anything, they both execute the same world-building charm, kind of like I am aiming for with my stories.

I initially wasn’t too invested in anime, but it kept drawing me to continue watching for some reason. Unlike the previous shows mentioned above, Cardcaptor Sakura’s pacing and presentation left me with a more calming feeling after watching them. Something I would like to discuss further in a future post, Cardcaptor Sakura, felt more like a cruise than an exciting adventure, which I didn’t mind really. I think that’s what mostly drew me to continue watching it. Now it’s one of my favorite shojo anime. Cardcaptor Sakura gave me a relaxing and charming atmosphere that expanded my creative muscles to think more about delivering stories that could be as soothing and adorable as this series could be.

Final Fantasy IX is probably the very first video game that tackled a deep narrative and exposed me to the innovations of story-driven games with an expansive fictional universe. I would later discover the other installments of the Final Fantasy series, but this one, in particular, holds a special place in my heart for both nostalgic and multilayered purposes. Amongst all the Final Fantasy games, this one to me is the most stylized game in terms of its art direction. The main characters themselves vary in different races and come in unique shapes and sizes. Paint a black silhouette among them all, and I guarantee you someone familiar with the series will immediately recognize them.

And the settings… Oh my goodness, the settings are breathtaking. It is placing so much detail into each location with a story to tell of its own. It captures the history of the said set piece with its rustic medieval design. Just looking at the concept art alone astonishes me how much time went into penciling every stroke to these sketches. I could go on and on how much the story touched me and how it blends masterfully with its characters and their personal stories, but I just wanted to emphasize the art and its level of creativity.

Final Fantasy games all have their invigorating stories and elaborate fantasy settings. Still, IX, in particular, feels more concise and memorable to me, which may have to do with Nobuo Uematsu’s fantastic music to accompany it as I played the game. Call it biased if you may, but I had a lot of fun playing this game. Exploring the entire world, meeting its charming characters, and getting lost in its lore was, without a doubt, what drove me in wanting to create something as massively enchanting as this.

Not a very well known video game, especially by today’s standards, but let me tell you, this game was addicting during my younger years. Before Final Fantasy IX, this was my actual introduction to JRPGs. And thankfully, I was blessed to have been gifted with this little gem by my parents. I remember first playing it excessively as a demo in stores. My mom must’ve taken note of my playing because I don’t ever remember telling her about the game, but I knew it was super fun to play. And it still is to this day because of its unique gameplay.

Legend of Legaia’s story was the second aspect that grew my love for this game. It’s full of suspense, peril, mystery, and despair in such a simplified way. Legaia is a dark game, surprisingly, despite its E for everyone rating. It takes place in a catastrophic world where monsters roam free under the maddening influence of a toxic mist that plagues the world. Everyone has been struggling to survive by barricading themselves from the mist, reaching them by either forming walls, powerful fans, or hiding underground. The people are paranoid and deathly afraid of the monsters and the mist lurking around. And they have every reason to be. These monsters can attach themselves to humans and turn them into mindless monsters themselves if surrounded by mist. Making the mist invested ghost towns, you encounter the equivalent of visiting something from a horror movie. And fighting these things in the game is pretty tough, even by JRPG standards. The only way to stop them is for the heroes to revive these mystical trees called Genesis Trees, which have the mysterious power to repel the mist.

In short, Legend of Legaia gave me a world which I could genuinely want to save because of the destructive environment and all the bloodthirsty monsters I had to fight through. Most RPGs to this day are not have yet been unable to deliver adversaries and an addicting world to play. And more importantly, provide the roller coaster of horrifying, tragic, hopeful, and loving emotions I gained going through the entire game. All the characters had some levity of charm and lives I would want to save because of the conflict. And it’s one of the games that had a lasting impact on me in how to write something with so much suspense, world-building, and history that I wanted to incorporate into The Mannamong.
The strangest combination of Final Fantasy and Disney characters that create this video game series left a fascinating impression on me when I first played it in 2002. The crossover delivered a charming adventure of originally made characters traversing through many settings from animated Disney movies in a story of their own, discovering new locations, solving a thrilling mystery, and meeting new friends. The story itself is something I would probably discuss in a future post because it’s too big for me to cover, but it’s enough for me to say that the developers knew how to leave things hanging to build expectations of the sequels. And while this may frustrate some, I appreciate the efforts in expanding something with new ideas to discover when you’ve completed one game. It’s a brilliant marketing strategy. But a gambling one, considering the odds of low positive sales. But this series doesn’t seem to have any low sales in the future from the way I see it. The second biggest appeal these games had for me was the art direction — specifically, the settings. Kingdom Hearts is design-heavy with its symbols and connection to the story it’s telling, whether it’s from an original Disney movie or its own story. There’s a lot of abstract shaping to the environment and its props. Especially the accessories. The Keyblades are the most prominent example of how flashy and creative artists can be with their ideas. It captivates me seeing so much shape and color to the design of a cartoony weapon. I like it when things are simplified into forms like this, even if it’s only for the background because it makes me feel like a kid again, which should make sense since the games feature a lot of Disney IP. I can safely say it could be one of the series strong suits that give it it’s identity, and how I would love to follow something similarly with The Mannamong.
Like many young Americans in the late ’90s, I have experienced a more thorough shonen (action-oriented) anime first and foremost through Dragonball Z. And through the show, I discovered its origins Dragonball and learned more about the bold comedic tone the series initially had before it shifted towards the heavy fist-fighting genre. This series, through the years, captivated me for its art style more than any other anime and manga. Akira Toriyama, Dragonball’s creator, has a very distinctive art style he can call his own. I’ve had plenty of fun just admiring it. I still do. His design can range from goofy to stylistic, and it’s easy to tell the art style came from him. It’s just quite appealing, giving him recognition around the world for this artistic style. And quite fitting for the comic demographic. It reminds me of a lot of American and European comics more than the actual manga, which to me, gives it a universal attraction I feel most can sink their teeth into it upon a first glance. His villains are especially memorable by design. It’s impressive how distinguishable and simplistic they can be by the shape, the color, and the abstract alien features. Overall, Dragonball Z’s cutting edge story full of suspense and action left me and many fans excited to continue watching if not just for the silly comedy thrown in by Toriyama’s cartoony humor in the relaxing parts. But it was always the art that grew my fascination and inspired me to one day follow suit to what I can draw. The Mannamong and my art probably wouldn’t look the way it was if something like Dragonball weren’t around to encourage me to find my visual style.
As mentioned in Lilo and Stitch, Lilo’s Hawaiian heritage inspired me to venture into Native American culture to see if I can explore my creative ideas to create a story I would like to tell that I don’t often see in fiction. When I discovered Shaman King, there were Native Americans represented within the comics as well, so I took a look at its execution. Shamanism, as a whole, fascinates me in how the creator played with his ideas through other forms of cultures around the world. There are characters from different nations that gave the series a more worldly feeling through their designs and ghostly powers, and it felt kind of cool to me. I can’t say whether or not these nationalities or ethnicities are respectfully represented, but I saw nothing of extreme offense for the most part. And as I steered my comic towards the supernatural, I looked at Shaman King during my high school years as a source of inspiration to see where I may take my ideas through the spiritual approach.
So with all said and done, what were the shows, movies, and games you grew up with that inspired your creativity? I feel it’s important to share other creative works to understand where our calling leads us in the entertainment field. These were the things that gave me ideas for The Mannamong, but the inspiration themselves is only the spark.
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Michael Adam Lengyel
Michael Adam Lengyel

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