Recent Reading: Flowers of Evil Volume 9

The Flowers of Evil series from Vertical continues on with the recent release of volume 9. Personally, I was really excited for this volume to get released, I was heavily anticipating where Shuzo Oshimi was going to take the story. If you haven’t checked out this series yet, you have the summer to catch up before volume 10 is released. The series is worth checking out.

Now, after having said that, I am in a tough position to review volume 9, since I believe volume 10 is the final in the series. So of course this volume won’t have a major plot twist, or some other revelation since the impact of the story will be felt in the final volume.

There was a noticeable punch to the story, but in my opinion, it felt a little forced. I say that, because I feel like volume 9 could have skipped part of the beginning and jumped right into the plot point. Instead I feel like it wasted some time by trying to cram extra content in the first couple chapters, instead of fleshing out some more detail or character interaction.

Volume 9 also seemed to have much less dialogue as the other volumes, which means additional artwork with no text over the top, allowing the artwork to really shine. There are several environments and shots that you can really get lost in the line work, something that I don’t think you can do a lot of with current manga, simply due to the use of tones.

As a stand alone volume of manga, Flowers of Evil may not be the best read. However, it does frame up the final volume well. It is a bit unfair to say the volume is boring since it does the job of preparing you for the closing of the story in next volume, which is set up to be one of the more interesting finales in my recent media consumption.

Recent Reading: The Flowers of Evil Volume 6

The Flowers of Evil is starting to pick up steam, we last left off with volume 5 and a pivotal scene in the story (at least in my opinion). Our main cast of characters, Saeki, Nakamura and Kasuga, all collided as a result of the plan Kasuga and Nakamura were scheming, which was foiled by Saeki.

Volume 6 starts off with Kasuga panicking over the foiled plan. The summer festival is approaching quickly and he needs to plan something to unleash on the countryside with Nakamura. Looking back on Kasuga’s personality, you can see a definite growth and change since the first volume of the series. Kasuga even goes as far as getting into arguments with his parents instead of obeying their wishes. A blatant influence from Nakamura and her control of his emotions.

Saeki keeps inserting herself into Kasuga’s life, trying to win him back and be a good influence in his life. If you recall the start of Kasuga and Saeki’s relationship, Kasuga almost worshipped Saeki. At this point, there is nothing Saeki can do to gain more control of Kasuga. After their interaction, it seems as if Saeki starts to realize that she has lost.

Kinoshita even confronts Kasuga with everything. The main plot point of volume six revolves around the events at the end of volume 5. Kasuga starts to feel the school, city and his family start to turn on Nakamura and even start to blame his actions on her influence. Kasuga starts to feel trapped to feel trapped by the whole situation.

As Kasuga toils in his emotions, Nakamura comes to his house to take him away. After a confrontation with Kasuga’s parents, the two leave the house to formulate a new plot for the summer festival. Once again, we see Kasuga and Nakamura alone and we get an idea of how Kasuga and Nakamura work together and how the relationship works. Nakamura has complete control over Kasuga.

Volume 6 closes as Kasuga and Nakamura show up for the summer festival. A plan has been formulated and the two characters are there to make it a reality.

Rage Session 7: Tips for Character Design

I haven’t wrote a “rage session” for a while and I had this topic on my mind for a while now. It started one night on a Facebook discussion with one of my friends who was struggling with some character designing for a character in an animation he was working on. So I thought I would share some thoughts and more on it and also some process behind what I do for character design, such as; choosing hair (color, style, etc), clothing, distinguished marks and more.

One of the main things that potentially gets overlooked when designing characters is functionality. What I mean by that is, does what the character wear, use and even hairstyle match what the character is doing. Let’s look at the below example, Tomb Raider.

0078868740008_500X500If you are not familiar with Tomb Raider (Lara Croft), she usually is out in the wild looking for treasures and solving puzzles. The places she explores range from the jungle to ancient ruins and more. She often gets into danger, hence why she is carrying weapons. Do you see where this is going? Her shorts and tight shirt are to help not only keep her cool in the jungle climates, but they also won’t interfere with her as she is performing all of the jumps and running throughout the world. If her clothes were baggy, long and not tight fitting, they could get in her way if she has climbing or other maneuvers to perform. She has a little pack to carry items in that she finds on her journey. Notice her hair? It’s in a ponytail, otherwise her hair would be in her face as she was running, jumping and tomb-raiding. Her design is practical for the world she will be living and interacting in.

Let’s take a look at a couple more characters.

Rurouni+Kenshin_wallpapers_89These two characters are Kenshin (left with red hair) and ShiShio (Blue and on the right). The characters are set in historic Japan, which is why the two characters are wearing traditional clothing. The main points of these characters are ways of converting their history into their character design. For instance, Kenshin has a scar on his face. In the story, Kenshin was an assassin and killed many people. The scar is a way to show the viewer constantly his past. If you were flipping through channels, and came across this show and saw Kenshin, without knowing any of the story, you would immediately tell he had a rough past.

Shishio on the other hand, you get the same vibe of a troubled past. However, the bandages are a little more mysterious because we don’t know why he is covered in them. This uneasy and mysterious vibe help play into his role of the bad guy. We eventually find out they are covering his burns, but he could have easily been scarred like Kenshin from a blade or he could have some kind of deformation, skin disease or more.

So let’s take one last character, Light from Deathnote.



Light is a high school student that discovers a notebook in which he can use to kill people. However, the majority of the story is based heavily in the real world which means his outfit needs to be the same.

Light is a smart kid, the smartest in his class and a master at planning. To reflect his high IQ, his school uniform needs to portray that it is a higher end school. The tie and jacket give his uniform that extra boost of prestigiousness. His pants appear pressed, he is sporting dress shoes and the shirt is tucked in as well. You could argue that all of this is pretty normal, which it is, the show is based in the real world with some other worldly aspects. But we are overlooking one key area to Light’s character, his hair. His longer hair reflects his darker mischievous side.

When Light is distressed, his hair and tie are used to reflect his inner emotions and become frazzled and unkept. So it is important to see how you can use these supporting design elements to help convey emotions if need be.

If you have your own favorite characters, look at their design and see how it fits and supports their role in the universe and if it is functional as well.



Rage Session #6 Anticipation

Last week we discussed some timing and pacing, which is a pretty expansive and might go into another post as well. However, today we are going to switch gears and go into a topic that kind of supports timing and that is anticipation.

Anticipation is an animation principle that crosses over into the world of story writing as well. If you have taken any writing courses, you may also have heard the term foreshadowing as well. This means that we you lead up to certain events, or you can lead the audience on (tease) and not go through with the actual pay off.

Foreshadowing helps events in your story make sense and seem less random. There are different degrees of foreshadowing. For instance you can have a very subtle hint of foreshadowing, like a character could mention something in an inner monologue or in a conversation. They don’t need to dwell on the topic, but something mentioned even in passing can be enough to plant a seed of a potential plot twist.

These types of foreshadowing can be sprinkled in multiple times if you want the audience to pick up on it, or you could simply use it once or twice. If you use subtle foreshadowing, you can get some pretty large payoffs and unexpected turns. For instance two characters could be talking and one mentions how badly they dislike another character. You have now given the audience a bit of knowledge into the relationship between characters, and by opening that door, you may need to resolve that conflict.

Conversely, you could argue that continual foreshadowing of an event leads up to a large payoff as well. Imagine a show where a boy and girl character hint at a relationship and finally get together after several seasons.

In both instances we are building up an anticipation for a future event. By setting them up in certain ways, we can help control our audiences emotions. When using the subtle foreshadowing, it’s possible to sneak things past the audience leading to more surprising events. Not all events need to be foreshadowed, but I am a believer in using it when possible. If you consistently foreshadow an event it is just a matter of time until that needs to be resolved. Imagine the relationship between Kagome and InuYasha from the series InuYasha. The whole series we can see that there is a spark between the two characters, but we have no idea if Kagome is going to stay in feudal Japan or if she is going to return to her own time.

The longer you play out consistent foreshadowing, the more critical it is to have it pay off. If two characters have a discussion and one mentions something in passing, but we don’t do anything with it as a writer. Such as the above example about a character disliking another, if we choose to do nothing with this then it seems like a harmless sentence. But, if we have two characters continually in an emotional flux and then don’t resolve the issue, your audience is going to feel let down after the payoff.

One of the reasons, in my opinion, that InuYasha is a great example, is because we know something between InuYasha and Kagome has to happen before the show can end. Will they stay together or will Kagome return home? Will she still visit? We are consistently teased, however, the payoff comes in it not being predictable. We know Kagome is going to have to make that decision and some point, and that is why we keep watching. Is she going to stay in her era or remain in feudal Japan. Now if the entire story was in feudal Japan and Kagome was born and raised in that time, the story becomes a little easier to predict. In the actual story, Kagome needs to decide to stay with someone who she has fallen in love with, InuYasha, or she has to return home to her family.

With this struggle set up, we can see Kagome going either way and makes us eager to hear her decision. She stands to lose something no matter which way she chooses.

Anticipation is also something I read about when I was learning about storyboarding and background design for manga. That is something called a set up. Let’s say we have two characters battling to the death for the fate of the universe. They are both engaged in an epic struggle and all of a sudden, one of the characters uses a weapon and defeats the other character. Seems a little anticlimactic right? It seems like a cop out, that we didn’t think things through. However, if we set the stage that the characters were fighting in an room with weapons, or a previous henchman was defeated and lost is weapon etc, we can ease into a resolution through those means.

Imagine a typical slasher movie. Our main female character is running from a crazed killer. As she stumbles and trips trying to get away, she comes across a payphone. Wait, what? Yes, she comes across a payphone. Well, that was convenient… That’s how an audience thinks in scenarios where there isn’t a set up. All we need to do for this to be a more successful piece of the story is to foreshadow the phone. If this was a comic, manga or movie, we can suffice by showing the phone in a shot or background before the character interacts with the object. This way the audience knows that object exists in this environment and it exists before the character interacts with it. In a straight writing style you can set it up through your description of the environment as she runs or that she spots one and makes her way towards it, or she even knows that one exists a few blocks away b/c she walks past it all the time going to school.

By filling in spots like this, you can craft a story that should be freed up from plot holes and have the audience enjoying themselves.

Rage Session #2 Working with Extended Stories

Last week we discussed short form stories and some basics for story outlines. Our point of reference last week was the varying outlines for the scenario of the kid going to the store and losing their money. We discussed potential story routes if the character found their money and routes if they couldn’t, depending on the type of story you wanted to tell. Most importantly we discussed the triangle or acts of a story involving the beginning, climax and end. Many of these principles apply to telling a longer form story, let’s dig in.

When we talk about a long form story, we are essentially talking about all sorts of little stories that, when put together, make up a larger story. With each of these little scenarios, we can use our triangle to determine the start, climax and end of each of these.

So, let’s jump back to last week’s examples, (you can view the post here). Let’s take the base story premise, of the kid going to the store. Now let’s say we want to add a relationship or interaction with another character in the story, let’s go with a bully from school who wants to take the kids money. When you hear of the word “arc” in references to stories, they are referring to a certain triangle outline of the main conflict in the story. For instance a Batman vs Joker arc. While Batman will have obstacles to overcome, until the conflict is resolved with the Joker, it is considered to be in that arc.

One major component to keep in mind when writing a long from story with multiple arcs, is timing. Timing was a major lesson in animation, not only the timing of storytelling but even the timing of a character. In terms of timing, we can offset the story arcs so not everything is happening at once. Check this out.

So we can take our 2 arcs (the trip the store and the bully) and we can start to play with the timing of events to help progress our story. Both of our arcs need an introduction, a beginning. We could start our story with an altercation between both characters at school. Or we could start our story with the kid going to the store, and on the way to the store runs into another character, who turns out to be a bully. We could even introduce the bully later in the story and have our main character run into the bully after the trip to the store or even while at the store. So you can already start to see how many options we can get for even just a two arc story. By adjusting the gaps of the events in the story you can get drastically different stories.

For instance, if we start our story off with the interaction of the kid and bully and then have our kid go to the store (either later in the day or maybe the next day or even later), we then need to plot out our climaxes in each arc. We could have our climax between the bully and kid on the way to the store, at the store or after the store. With this flexibility, it gives you the most range on your story.

We could even decide to overlap the arcs or fit one complete arc within another. If the kid goes to the store and runs into a bully, we could fit the entire bully arc in between the beginning and end of the store arc.

If we added a third arc into the mix we could really start to play with the timing even more. For fun let’s throw in a third arc about the kid having to study for a test in school. Our points can be the introduction of the test, the characters struggle with the material and the conclusion would be taking the test. We know have 9 plot points (3 from each arc) in order to craft our story. So we could shell our store and bully arc within the test arc, or we could complete the test arc and have one or both remaining arcs conclude outside of the test arc.

We could do fit all of the arcs within the test arc for instance if the test is issued on a Monday and given on Friday, that would give us a week to complete the bully and the store arc.  Another route would be if the test was sprung on our character in the morning and to be given later in the day. In the same day we could introduce the start of our bully arc as well.

The arcs will heavily depend on the type of story you want to tell and also your stories beginning and end points and even the theme or idea of your story. I hope this helped you with your story writing, if you have any questions feel free to comment below or contact me.

Rage Session #1- Writing Story Outlines

I recently was having a discussion with a friend that wanted to get into writing, and since I have been too busy to really sit down and watch anything to review and enjoy… I thought I would start a little mini series on some things that I do to help me write, things I gathered from other artists and maybe some resources to help my friend and whoever may check this out and be interested in writing.

First off, the most important thing is to just write. It’s no different than drawing, and I had a professor in college that said we all had to make 10,000 bad drawings before we made one good one. Somedays that feels like the case.

So today I wanted to take some time to start with the basis of each story, and that is an outline, a path, a direction in which your characters go. Of course there are times when breaking the rules is ok and in some cases needed, but that will come with experience and will depend on the type of story you want to tell.

We are going to start with a basic story outline, which consists of 3 parts (such as a 3 act play). Which we will call the beginning, middle and end. However, there are 2 areas, one that lies in between the beginning and middle, which we call the rising action and the resolution, which lies between the middle and end. So our story path looks like…

Beginning>>>>>Rising Action>>>>>Middle (climax)>>>>>>Resolution>>>>>Ending

Every story needs that climax, we need a reason to care about the character or a way to connect with the character on their journey. For instance, if we have a short story about a kid waking up and going to the store, we have a beginning and an end but we have no climax, no meat to the story. The climax in most cases, will be a problem a character or your characters come across. So perhaps in our story on the way to the store, the kid loses their money so they can’t buy what they need. The problem our kid now faces, is the fact they don’t have money to get what they were going to buy.

So lets say that our story begins with an introduction to our character, the kid. We now have a middle point in the story where the kid loses their money on the way to the store. This is where the rising action comes into play. When you hear the word foreshadowing, that usually comes into play here. If you watch scary movies, music is a really good tool for foreshadowing. Foreshadowing is a technique used to prepare the audience for something. For instance, in scary movies they will use tense music to prepare the audience for a scary reveal. On the flip side, there are films that will use music as foreshadowing but it will lead to nothing, or after the reveal of nothing they get you.

The main thing to keep in mind of foreshadowing, is continuity. So lets say in our story we introduce our character getting up in the morning. They are getting dressed and we foreshadow a problem by the kid putting on a pair of shorts that have holes in the pocket. This way when the kid loses the money its not a shock to the audience, the money fell out of his pocket. Another route we could go, is on the way to the way to the store, the kid is flipping his coin in which they are going to buy something with and drops it in the sewer, this is still a route to get from Point A (the kid waking up) to Point B (the climax of the kid realizing they lost their money). And even another route we could go is by foreshadowing the character is forgetful. For instance as the kid is getting dressed, they forget to tie their shoes or forget their coat or something. That way the kid didn’t lose their money, they simply forgot it. But it still gets us from the kid waking up to realizing their money is gone.

So now that we have our character waking up, foreshadowing a way they lost their money and we have reached the climax of the character realizing their money is lost, we need to work towards resolving the issue and ending our story. The resolution will depend on how we actually want the story to end.

If we choose to end our story by the kid getting their money back, or go with the path of the kid not getting their money back, we will have different paths to go which will need to be addressed accordingly. If the character has money at the end of the story, then we could fill in our resolution (the way we resolve the conflict or climax) with an appropriate story. In this case, the kid could back track and find their money if they lost in through the hole in their shorts. In the event the kid forgot the money, they could return home and find it. Money lost in the drain while playing with it? The kid could find someone to reach the money or even someone who gives him money or buys his stuff at the store.

If we choose the alternate path of the kid losing their money, they could backtrack and not find the money that fell through their pocket. If the kid forgot the money, they could return home and not find it, or another family member could have mistaken it as their own. With the storyline of dropping the money in the sewer, the kid could simply not find it or try to recover it and fail, or no one will lend him some money.

There are no right or wrong paths you can create, as long as it makes sense in the overarching story your telling. This is a solid start to outlining short stories, but the same principles will apply to telling long form stories, which I will talk about next week. Feel free to comment below if you have any questions or have anything to add.