For a long time I've been very envious of some of my friends who write contemporary category romance because, from time to time, their stories have been turned into Japanese Mangas (graphic novels for adults.) I've had Japanese language editions of my Harlequins and the Berkley books, but never a manga. But now that's all changed. Finally, I've been manga'd.
The Japanese word Manga means "whimsical pictures" and, in Japan, the comics are read by young and old, and from all walks of life. It's a hugely popular form in Japan, with annual sales in the billions of dollars, and is rapidly growing in popularity in the west. Manga concepts and styles are also having a huge influence on developments in western cartoon, game, toy and graphic design industries.
The modern-day Manga comics date from the 1950's, but they are part of a much longer history of Japanese illustration and are related to a style of woodblock prints developed in Japan in the late 19th century. (see left)
Two of my Harlequin books have been turned into Mangas, An Honorable Thief, and my Christmas novella, The Virtuous Widow. The Honorable Thief manga came out in 2005 but I only discovered it recently and I finally have my copies or both books. I'm thrilled. It takes a little while to get used to the style, the huge-eyed baby-faced heroines and the very young-looking heroes, but I have to say, I love them.
It's a very strange, but exciting feeling to read a comic in another language and recognize the story, the characters, the world, because they all came from you. It's my book, yet not my book.
Here are a few scenes from An Honorable Thief. The illustrations are by Yoko Hanabusa, a well known manga artist. On the right is an early scene where my heroine, disguised as the notorious Chinese burglar, is pursued down a dark alley by my hero, who is unaware (cough!) that she's a girl. There's such movement in the pictures and I love the textures — and hasn't the artist got the costumes wonderfully? (Click on the pictures for an enlargement)
In this scene my heroine, heavily veiled and unrecognizable (cough!) goes riding in Hyde Park where evil men are lurking in the shrubbery. My hero, of course, rides ventre a terre to the rescue. I love the detail of the surrounds and the action scenes that follow are wonderful.
An Honorable Thief is in two volumes, and I first read it on a plane. It was so exciting to keep turning the pages and seeing how Ms. Hanabusa had interpreted my characters and story. I could follow it all perfectly, of course, though I had no idea what they were saying.
At one stage the man sitting beside me said admiringly, "I see you read Japanese." I told him I didn't, but that it was a translation from a book in English, and that I'd written the book. He glanced at the manga and then at me and gave me the kind of nod that means "humor the delusional woman." Luckily, for once in my life I was carrying my business cards and I showed him, and pointed to the English name on the cover, so then he relaxed and was very interested in the whole thing.
I don't know anything about how these books are produced. I don't know if the artist is given the full Japanese translation of the book, or if they've been given a synopsis or even a rough storyboard. I don't know if they decide what scenes are included or not, or whether that's done by some other person or a group of people. I believe many mangas are produced by one main artist and several assistants. I wish I knew more about the process. If anyone knows more, please share your knowledge.
My Christmas Novella, The Virtuous Widow was illustrated by a different artist, Kuroda Kasumi, and looking at the two mangas, there's a 'genre' similarity, but a different style. I suppose 'voice' is as important for manga artists as it is for writers.
Neither book is sexually explicit — there's a few naked breasts in this one, but that's all. However mangas do come in all shades and some are much raunchier. Here's a very romantic morning kiss from The Virtuous Widow.
There's a villain in this novella, a nasty, lecherous squire, and here's the confrontation between him and the hero. I love it to bits! The villain reminds me so much of the villain Terry Thomas played in the Great Race. Those teeth!
So thank you for indulging me, in my Manga rave. I hope you find the idea as exciting as I do. I wish my mangas (and others) could be translated into English. It wouldn't be hard, I'm sure. The Honorable Thief manga is also available in a Thai e-manga. Who knew there were such things? Not I.
And thank you to Harlequin Japan, Yoko Hanabusa, Kuroda Kasumi and Anna Boatman for my very cool mangas.
Now, let's talk: Are you a reader of mangas? Would you read mangas if they were available in English? When you were young, what were your favorite comics? (Mine was The Phantom)
And for those of you who've read these books of mine, what did you think of the images I've shared? Did you recognize the scenes?