#ArmchairBEA: Beyond the Book

Today’s topic(s) cover looking beyond novels and the blog – both for books and for the blog.

Issue:

Beyond the traditional form of the novel, what are your favorite alternative forms (graphic novels, audiobooks, webcomics, etc)? Do you have any favorite works within these alternate forms? How do you think the changing format affects the reading experience?

Response:

One of my favorite forms of media is manga – japanese comics. I’ve been reading manga now for nearly two decades, all kinds of genres. More than in my novel reading actually. Fantasy, science fiction, contemporary, romance, slice of life, horror, mystery…my criteria for what interests me is complicated and relies on the presentation first, story second, art third.

My top five six series that I enjoy are these:

  • Chizumi and Fujiomi by Kyoko Hikawa – slice of life romance between a shy, clumsy and sweet girl and a quiet, thoughtful upper classman with a reputation.
  • Red River by Chie Shinohara – Epic saga about a young japanese girl who is thrown into ancient Hittite to be a sacrifice, but who survives to become their goddess-queen.
  • Legend of Basara by Yumi Tamara – post-apocalyptic saga about a girl who becomes her brother to liberate her people and the enemy who learns sacrifice is sometimes necessary to fulfill your dreams.
  • Sailor Moon by Naoko Takeuchi – story about an ordinary girl and her friends battling to save the World all while trying to figure out how to reconcile their past selves with their present circumstances.
  • Clover by CLAMP – interconnected stories about a mysterious people know as “Clovers” who have extraordinary powers and the lives they try to build despite the odds against them.
  • Fullmetal Alchemist by Hiromu Arakawa – two young boys defy the laws of nature to bring back their mother and in the process learn the bitter truth at the heart of their country.

These are series that I continually return to, have read more times then I can count and recommend often. They are not indicative of all my tastes, but they are pretty good indicators of my tastes. If I had to say what connects them, what makes them all series I love, it would have to be the characters.

I spoke about the aesthetic of book covers yesterday and one of the things I said was that it was the story that kept me glued. In manga, because much of the story is conveyed outside of the dialogue, its the characters that keep me hooked. In Clover, the creator group CLAMP uses empty space, disembodied speech bubbles and minimalist language to get their point across for emotional impact.

clover

Can you tell what the feeling is they want to convey? Knowing very little about the series, not even knowing the character’s name, how do you think she feels?

Another medium I enjoy is something called otome games, or visual novel games. Put simply they’re basically Choose Your Own Adventure stories with a higher emphasis on romance. Many feature “good” endings (in which you achieve romance with your chosen person), “neutral” endings (or ordinary life endings where you don’t win anyone’s heart) and “bad” endings (best case bad ending is your chosen partner hates you). Very often these games require as much as, if not sometimes more, reading then your typical novel (some games, if you include all the variables, are 120K words or more).

All with pretty pretty images. Some of my favorites are (and I use this term loosely for a number of reasons):

  • Amnesia: Memories – you wake up after an accident with no idea who you are or who the people are around you. Should you trust the handsome young man who seems so attentive? Why did you have an accident?
  • Hakuouki: Memories of the Shinsengumi – your father is missing, weird people are after you and suddenly you find yourself pretending to be a boy so you can hide out with the Shinsengumi (Japan’s special military police force at the end of the shogunate). With demons chasing you, your father possibly dead and a country poised for civil war, where do your loyalties lie?
  • Norn9 – Living on board a weird space ship at the beckoning of “The World”, you’re gifted with special powers that will help to save the Earth…or possibly lead to its utter destruction.

I’ll warn now, I tend to like the…not so fluffy otome games. For instance in Amnesia: Memories the bad endings usually involve dying kind of horribly. Any historical knowledge about Japan’s late shogun period (1860’s) means you know the ultimate end of the Shinsengumi (and the game is at odds to make it clear history will stand). Norn9..well so far actually its not so bad. I just happened to romance the two bad guys who were in hiding. For me these were a natural extension reading manga or watching anime as the choices you make mean you control the heroine’s outcome.

Application:

It would rock my world if people started discussions with me about manga or otome games. I plan on discussing these more often on the blog, but usually you can find me ranting about otome games on twitter or snarking about the manga I’m reading right now (currently: Arata the Legend aka KADOWAKI CAN’T HAVE NICE THINGS THE JERK) on Goodreads.

Conclusion:

I just love stories. I don’t care the medium. Give me a good story with characters I can love and I will give you my heart. And money. And limited sanity.

lexie

Lexie Words

3 thoughts on “#ArmchairBEA: Beyond the Book

  1. This is a great post as it’s on a topic I know NOTHING about. Otome games sound really interesting. Reminded me that I used to like the Fighting Fantasy books in my youth! I might need to branch out some time and try them!

    Like

  2. I’m going to have to add some of those manga to my TBR. While I really enjoy reading manga, I don’t read nearly enough of it. Mostly because I’m terrible at keeping up with it just like I’m terrible at keeping up with series of novels.

    Liked by 1 person

    • It used to be A LOT easier – but between digital releases and the simultaneous publishing of new chapters, is gotten hard to keep up. Most of the time I’m lucky when I stumble across something before its four books in already 😄

      Like

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