The Cartoons, Anime and Games That Influenced The Mannamong

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 actually gave me ideas for The Mannamong growing up, I’ve made a list that details certain aspects of these 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 rather the catalysts that gave me the light bulb dings in my head growing up.

This is probably the only Disney movie that left an impact on me through an aesthetic level that really ties the whole movie 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. It’s history and culture is deeply rooted within Lilo and her family; so much so it’s an essential theme to the story the movie was representing. 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 own comic. I shamefully admit, the leading lady of The Mannamong, Kali, took heavy inspiration from Lilo so I won’t deny their striking similarities. 

I would like to share more about how and why I decided to go with an Indigenous American idea but 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.

The world itself is full of fun adventures just waiting to happen with each new game!

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 a true 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 own 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 time 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 in 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. Coincidence…?

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. But I switched her back to a child and instead thought to have her possibly grow 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 have some charm to the world building they both try to execute and will give you an idea of the kind of story I was initially aiming for.

Something similar to Jake Long and Juniper Lee, Cardcaptor Sakura, also featured a young protagonist being involved with magical activity that clashes with her every day life. Only it’s style and direction is much different. I discovered this series online right when I was wrapping up middle school. At first, I thought this was going to be more akin to Magic Knight Rayearth since I learned it was made by the same creators. Specifically, with the protagonist being whisked away to a fantasy world. But it’s focus stood firm within Sakura Kinomoto’s average hometown, Tomoeda.

I initially wasn’t too invested by the anime but it kept drawing me to continue watching for some reason. Unlike the previous aforementioned shows, 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. In fact, I think that’s what essentially 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 just be as soothing and adorable as this series could be.

This was probably my 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. So much detail is put into each location with a story to tell of its own. It really captures the history of 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, but IX in particular feels more concise and memorable to me. Which may have to do with Nobuo Uematsu’s amazing 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 true 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 took 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. At least, for my little brain to comprehend at the time. Legaia is a dark game, surprisingly, despite it’s 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 about. 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 have yet been unable to deliver adversaries and a world I could get this hooked in to. And more importantly, deliver 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 really want to save because of the conflict. And it’s definitely 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 really wanted to incorporate into The Mannamong.

A twisted, elaborate version of Oogie Boogie’s Tower from The Nightmare Before Christmas

The strangest combination of Final Fantasy and Disney characters that create this video game series actually 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 in order to build expectations of the sequels. And while this may frustrate some, I appreciate the efforts in expanding something with new things to discover when you’ve completed one game. It’s a brilliant marketing strategy really. But a gambling one, considering if the odds of positive sales seem to be low. 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 the original Disney movie it’s based on or from it’s own story. There’s a lot of abstract shaping to the environment and its props. Especially the props. The Keyblades are the biggest example of how flashy and creative the artists can be with their ideas. It captivates me seeing so much shape and color to the design of a cartoony weapon. I really 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 features a lot of Disney IP. I can safely say it could definitely be one of the series strong suits that gives it it’s identity, and how I would love to follow something similarly with The Mannamong.

Like many young Americans in the late 90’s, I was exposed to a more thorough shoenen (action oriented) anime first and foremost through Dragonball Z. And through the show I discovered its origins Dragonball and learned more about the adventurous comedic tone the series initially had before it shifted towards the heavy fist-fighting genre. For all the years discovering more about the series through the anime and the manga, it captivated me mostly through its art more than anything else.

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 immediately the art came from him. It’s just quite appealing and something everyone around the world knows him for. And quite fitting for the comic demographic. It reminds me a lot of american and european comics more than 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 amazing how distinguishable and simple 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 greatly 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.

Silva- a shaman whose tribe plays a significant role in the story

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 seen in fiction. When I discovered Shaman King, there were Native Americans represented within the comics as well, so I took a look as to how they were executed. The aspect of shamanism as a whole fascinated 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, it felt kind of cool to me. I can’t say whether or not these nationalities or ethnicities were 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 in order 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 are only the spark.

What Inspires My Writing and Art

What Inspires My Writing and Art

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.

Cartoons


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.

Anime


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.

Video Games


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.

Conclusion


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!

The Art of Storytelling

The Art of Storytelling

What is the art of storytelling?

It’s not drawing and its not writing. It’s the journey of life.

I have come to accept and learn that when it comes to the things we invest our time into watching or listening through entertainment is that it can be insightful or wasteful. So the next question I need to ask is which path will I, as the author of my stories, follow?

What is it about stories that fascinate us to being with? The answer to that is the simple introduction. Whether it’s “In the beginning” or “Once upon a time” or “A thousand years ago” we’ve all start from somewhere and move toward the future. With each step we take we leave a history behind. That history is the story.

But why do we care more about other people stories, even if they’re fictitious? My understanding is to learn from them. Others would say escapism and I can agree with that. But if we are to develop and mature as people we seek counsel through other’s lives because we instinctively block out our own. Is it because we create stories that we hope to write our own happy ending, even for a fleeting moment? I believe it’s something deeper than that.

It’s to expand, it’s to explore, it’s to find answers to problems relatable to our own or to simply avoid those same problems. That’s why it should be my obligation as a storyteller to help viewers of my work look deeper into the contents of these characters and their stories. Not through lecturing or preaching, but to leave unanswered questions to life. Questions we should all take time to think long and hard about.

Entertainment is a word that defines pleasure. Stories are defined by so much more than pleasure, like displeasure. If we are to conform to what and how the media defines us, our culture and our characters with insignificant fluff then we’re wasting our time. There are three things I can guarantee about stories: Anyone can write a story, it’s hard to write a good story and it’s too easy to write a bad story.
So I ask again. What is the art of storytelling?

It is the expression of sharing our lives to others. Stories are essentially the journey of life.