As my bachelor thesis at Westerdals - Høyskolen Kristiania I made the first magazine for the manga/cartoon series "Mathilde og vettene".
*The title can be transelated as "Mathilde and the spirits". In this case the word spirits is referring to mythical creatures from norwegian folklore.
I researched manga as a genre and how it is perceived by the norwegian readers. The goal was to make a manga series with a norwegian twist, to make more people understand the genre. It is my understanding that many Norwegian don't understand the type of fantasy presented in manga and therefore choose not to interact with this type of storytelling. By representing well known creatures and stories from norwegian folklore within the frames of manga, hopefully more people can enjoy it.
How can I, from a non-Japanese perspective, create a manga series for a Norwegian audience?
About the consept
The norwegian audience was split in their perspectives of what manga is and if it is possible for non-Japanese people to make manga. Therefore I decided to not categorise my work as manga in my thesis, but as a cartoon inspired by manga.
My research revealed that the most popular manga genres in Norway are fantasy, romance and horror. Slice of life also had a considerable amount of mentions. Among the residents of Oslo, typical prejudices were that manga is nerdy, unrealistic and childish. By making the audience feel more at home in the cultural references, I think the fantasy world and manga techniques can engage more readers to enjoy the story and concept. Hopefully this approach disproves some of the prejudices of the audience.
I have taken inspiration from typical drawing techniques with big eyes, emotional facial expressions, closeups, black and white, raster and rough lines. Many readers expressed frustrations around characters looking alike with their smooth faces, and that they felt this style was aimed at a younger audience. They preferred artists with more unique drawing techniques, and expressed that the artist's distinctiveness can be as important as the genre.
My drawing technique is a blend of manga and norwegian cartoons, while still being true to my own way of expression. As there are endless variations amongst japanese manga, it would be the same amongst norwegians trying to imitate it.
The norwegian audience explained that the pace of the story was the most unique feature of manga. Not only in the sense that the stories are longer, but how the moment moves from frame to frame. My story therefore has a slower pace than what you normally see in norwegian cartoons, and it is of course impossible to tell it all in one magazine.
The series is presented in norwegian, with left-to-right reading direction. This was a natural choice since the concept was to capture norwegian culture within the frames of manga. In one way this makes it more true to the manga genre, because the original manga would use the japanese cultural standards.
Read the first to chapters of the series below. The pictures are scans from the paperversion. The cartoon is only avaliable in norwegian.
The cartoon is also avaliable as a prototype for smartphones.
This prototype is made for Iphone x