Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Merely the Premise: The Trouble with Manga Short Stories, Part II

Despite my initial doubts, I eventually determined that it is possible to "tell" merely-a-premise short manga stories effectively. Generally, I would argue that stories of this type be sent back to the drawing board (literally!). There are lots of "eh" manga volumes out there filled with "eh" stories that give the reader little more than an idea: oh, here's a rogue with a heart of gold.

True, there are plenty of "eh" volume-length narratives out there too. The difference: it is much easier to convey something (anything) with a longer piece than with a shorter one. This is why writing a strong five-paragraph essay is harder than a whatever 15-page paper. A short essay has to convey its point clearly, succinctly, and concisely. A 15-page paper can ramble away with the surety that some worthwhile nugget is buried somewhere inside it.

A good short story can't ramble--all the parts have to work seamlessly together. Likewise, a good manga short story comes down to a seamless interaction between text and imagery.  A good manga short story with no arc, only a premise, relies almost entirely on its art.

Possibly one of the funniest examples of a manga short story with little more going for it than a premise is the initial short story of Man's Best Friend by Kazusa Takashima. The protagonist discovers that his dog turns into a sexy human male when excited. There is no real arc (although it isn't hard to add one; my continuation of the story is that the dog-human dies in dog years but is reincarnated as a veterinary student). However, the problems--take the dog-human for a walk; keep the dog-human from annoying the neighbors--are cute and funny enough to satisfy the premise. Most importantly, they are hilariously well-drawn.

To be continued . . .