of comedy and character

I’ve taken classes in English language, English literature, modern literature, classical literature, non-fiction writing, technical writing, poetry, but I’ve never had a class that teaches how to write for visual novels. Imagine that. One would think that’s an important skill nowadays.

As a few people know, I’m writing for Sixten’s project, Heart’s Content. He’s been really good about writing about the drawing process, and it’s hard for me to discuss the story aspect without giving away plot points. I don’t believe in doing anything that would make the end product less enjoyable, so you’re not getting much out of me. But one thing it has made me do is look at stories and narratives from an angle other than ZOMG DELICIOUS THIGH MEAT!

As a quick primer, Heart’s Content started out as a visual novel, but Sixten’s staff members dropped out much like camp consolers at Camp Crystal Lake. So he decided to scale back the project to just being a manga, and I offered to help write for him. The original story was about an international peace academy (much like the bizarro Celestial Being), but I ended up scrapping that to form a meta-manga about a school that trains future potential haremettes. Let’s just say that there will be a class on the typical harem collisions. The lead image for this post features one such haremette, Fia, practicing this moment with the hero, Eric.

Right now, I’m probably getting the “Wait, long skirts… no epic melonpan… no stabby… no emo facial distortion?! How could you do this to us!?” looks. But don’t worry. It’s not a more modest Pani Poni Dash meets Lucky Star in which would be a worst case scenario. I have honestly no idea what it will the final product will be like either, and that leads to my first topic: humor. Comedy to be exact and how ridiculously hard it is. It’s very difficult to make people laugh and laugh consistently, and with a manga, the options are even more limited. I think comedy stems from the following sources:

1. Physical comedy. Muteki Kanban Musume is a prime example of this. Miki beating down Kankuro? Miki beating down Megumi? Miki’s mom beating down Miki? Hilarious.

2. Shared history. Just shoot me. No way there’s a penis on this. None. I won’t accept it. People who have been reading Derailed for the past few years (!!!) would know that it originally came from my autotext for the Otome wa Boku posts. I always seem to whip it out now whenever an epic trap is involved, and, because of Mako-cakes, there’s been a resurgence. See, shared history.

3. Pop culture. Probably the easiest, hence why SNL and Leno and such crack jokes about Britney and Bush. Honestly, how is anything relating to Britney and Bush not funny? It’s too easy. (My own pop culture crack at them. Ha!) But, as such, pop culture for anime is a bit different, and I’m sure everyone knows what I’m referring to when I wrote, “ZOMG DELICIOUS THIGH MEAT!”

4. Unintentional comedy. See this clip. And, yes, I just face palmed because it involves my governor. (Pop culture!)

5. Well-crafted. Difficult, but unlike pop culture, these can stand the test of time. And unlike unintentional comedy, completely intentional. Doesn’t require a significant shared history, and there’s no wrenches tossed at groins. For example, master of my domain.

(And, of course, any readers currently participating in any similar contests, well, stop reading this post. It will become… dangerous.)


Unfortunately, I have discovered that the harem moe genre doesn’t particularly place nice with any of these. Most of those comedic tools are just not available. Let’s take a closer look: Well-crafted? Well… these are what I want, but much like Yoko desiring to a 5 cent pony ride with Kamina, it ain’t gonna happen. Often. Unintentional comedy? I hope not. That’s like the last well one wants to drink from. (But, damn, I should have told Sixten to make Eric look like Steve Perry from Journey.) Pop culture? Uh, yeah… let me work this joke about Obama and McCain. It won’t get stale in, uh, two months or anything. Physical comedy? As much as I enjoy watching people getting kicked, punched, and hit by a wrench in the groin, it’s not exactly the atmosphere I’m aiming for. Shared history? Unless I count the three or four visitors to Derailed, there ain’t much. Blank slate. And that’s both the chance and the problem– it’s a race between how fast the characters can be established against how fast the audience gets bored.

Currently, the most modern model is Minami-ke. Almost all of the humor is driven by the characters: I AM BOSS! Mako-cakes! Hosaka! Haruka is amazing! I mean, a plethora of great characters, and I think that’s the best hope for any harem moe series. Any sustainable comedic aspect of such a series has to be character driven. The characters have to be likable, funny, yet flawed in their own special way. They have to drive the comedy, with the writer just playing around with the radio and GPS unit.

However, Minami-ke isn’t perfect. The manga, for one, is slow and doesn’t really become humorous until all the pigs are in a line. The anime nicely rectifies this problem by being more kinetic. It feels more hectic, and, for whatever reason, works. Also, the anime promotes Haruka from being an A cup to a C cup to the current Iowa class battleships. (That’s also one of my axioms… if you can’t think of anything, fanservice fanservice fanservice.) So using the other comedic devices (and fanservice) to stall for time for the shared history to develop… well… it could happen quickly like Keroro Gunso or happen very slowly like Hidamari Sketch.

A crucial point for any comedy-generating cast is that they need to be well flawed in their own special way. Minami-ke brilliantly does this. So does Fumofffu. As with Haruhi Suzumiya. Not forgetting Magikano, Muteki Kanban Musume, Azumanga Daioh, Ptolemaios, Ebichu, Hare + Guu, and a host of others. For example, the perfect character in Aa! Megami-sama is probably the least comedic whereas the two very flawed sisters are probably the most comedic. Just like how action series need conflicts, comedy needs flaws. But now to develop and create such characters, well, I hope to find out how myself. Maybe next time.

I can see how the difficulty in most harem anime. Most that try to be funny fall flat because they’re more concerned with developing quickie jokes (*cough* They Are My Noble Masters *cough* H2O *cough*) instead of developing characters. I think there’s a distinction. Physical and quickie jokes once in a while is good, but unless one is an epic producer of well-crafted humor, it’s best to try to develop the shared history. After all, well-crafted and developed characters shouldn’t need sight gags or quickie jokes or wrenches to the groin to be funny. All they need is to find a stash of S&M clothing.

Nevertheless, it doesn’t hurt to toss in some occasional fanservice for when the writer gets derail– ZOMG DELICIOUS THIGH MEAT!

29 Responses to “of comedy and character”

  1. I know i’ll be seeing a Kamina class character in this, I just know it, don’t hide it. I got into your blog because I found your articles to be funny, way before I knew what any of these “shared history” terms meant, it was just the way you wrote about things that interested you. I’m sure this manga will turn out entertaining in its own way, hell even the premise made me chuckle a bit.
    Maybe you’ll surprise us by introducing your celestial being a la carte subtlely

  2. Jason have you ever thought writing about the errr… attraction of melonpan and thigh meat?

    i would LOVE to read it.

  3. The amount of thigh meat here can only mean one thing.

    I want KFC tonight.

  4. I’d seriously love to see what you’d come up with Jason. Epically broken characters with a train wreck story? gogogogo!!

  5. Speaking of shared history… Ever thought of writing a post that describes/defines all the sayings you use Jason? It might be beneficial to new readers or those that haven’t seen all the series you reference.

    Looking forward to the manga!

  6. Damn! What’s the source of that Nia pic?

  7. If the school is for haremettes, is Eric Hard Gay, or is he her brother, and just helping Fia with her homework even though he attends a different school? Or is he so rich that an entire school exists just to prepare girls to be his GF? (I hereby place my rights to these ideas in the public domain.)

  8. Celestial Being? Subtle? Ha. Even in the hands of a subtlety master it’ll still come through as subtle as a monkey with a wrench…

    I don’t know where I was going with that one, either. Damn I need sleep…

  9. Heart’s Content has always puzzled me, because I live about twenty minutes down the road from the town (village is more accurate, though). However, despite their webpage profiling the exact lighthouse in the village, the website doesn’t make reference to Newfoundland at all, with the project authority apparently from Seattle.

    I don’t suppose you have insight? I sent this query awhile back to Sixten, but without reply.

  10. However, despite their webpage profiling the exact lighthouse in the village, the website doesn’t make reference to Newfoundland at all, with the project authority apparently from Seattle.

    As you suspect from the lighthouse, the original story was in fact set in Heart’s Content in Newfoundland. The original town map (you can see the lighthouse and the historic telegraph cable station) was based on the actual map of the area and a number of pictures from Baccalieu Tourism.

    The original visual novel team chose the place because of the awesome name Heart’s Content (and the awesome names of the nearby towns, Heart’s Desire and Heart’s Delight), and because Heart’s Content was a symbol of international connectedness that fit with our moe United Nations premise. Once Jason changed the premise (and believe me, its so much better now), we couldn’t have a real world setting anymore, so the lighthouse in the banner is all that’s left.

  11. funny how you added that pic with nia at the lightbox. 2d Animation is really a lot of hard work to do (as Yoko proves).

    Hopefully this gets published or something, sixten’s art makes me melt a little inside every time i see it.

  12. Throwing in thigh meat at the END of the post. Good move.

  13. But one thing it has made me do is look at stories and narratives from an angle other than ZOMG DELICIOUS THIGH MEAT!

    Who are you and what have you done with Jason?!?

  14. Have I really been visiting aomm/derailed for YEARS?

    No wonder i’m unemployed.

  15. Comedic moe harem characters might be difficult to create, but the results are potentially spectacular.

    BTW, I read this post last night, right before going to bed, and because of this I had the most plot-driven dream I had had in years. When it ended, I woke up at 3 a.m. and found myself unable to go back to sleep. I blame your blog :3.

  16. A haremette academy?
    Who are the staff? I can see a retired useless harem lead teaching the girls on how to deal with young men of his ilk. Then you need an old perv as a teaching assistant for the lessons in proper slapping technique.

    After that comes electives in either good or terrible cooking, vulnerable poses, sports, and wearing glasses (whether you need them or not).

  17. Useless harem leads and Nayuki All-Stars girls. Adding in the sickly girl class or an Magical Girl class (Fuko as an instructor for both?) mixed with how to handle the goofy MILF class may be tossed in there. That might be a good place for Yukari (Miyuki’s mom from Lucky Star). OF course then you might find something you don’t see in these Japanese shows, Drivers Ed, taught by the other Yukari…from Azumanga fame.

  18. Sixten, thanks.

  19. Not to be mean, but how about evolving away from stereotypes?
    (not directed at jason, since I’m certain he has the intelligence to steer away from cliches)

    To evolve, a medium must push new boundaries… do the impossible… break with convention & throw tradition to the curb…

    You may say it sounds like you have no chance.
    Hah — “No chance” sounds like “Can’t fail” to me!

  20. Well remember, comedy could come from the teachers and classmates following the stereotypes while the main lead goes against the grain of how things are done. If we are following the style of using former harem members and failed leads, that means we are being taught by those that could not do, thus there is ample room for comedy, including jealous staff seeing someone making the system work where they failed in high school.

  21. You know what this academy is going to need, is a hard-ass drill sargeant out to beat the “nandemo nai” out of everyone.

    ~In formation for line delivery~
    A: ano… Sarge-san?
    Sarge: hai?
    A: iie…nandemo nai.
    Sarge: *smacks the ever-loving crap out of A* What did I tell you twinkle-toes? If you got something to say, then say it! Otherwise, keep your mouth shut and emo-out like every other dumbass in this outfit! Now sound off like you’ve got a pair!
    A: Anata dai-suki.
    Sarge: I can’t heeear you!
    A: Anata Dai-Suki!
    Sarge: That’s more like it! We may make a winner out of you yet. Now fall back into formation.

  22. this is cool. coolSAUCE

  23. and holy fucking shit.. that is delicious thigh meat indeed zz

  24. A school for prospective haremettes. Best. Premise. Ever.

    Of course, I think the best chance for good humor in this lies through a liberal interpretation of Shared History and Pop Culture. Your premise is rife for humor via reference to harem cliches (Shared History) and parody of other harem series (Pop Culture), and the road to Well-Crafted will be found in combining these with a healthy dose of character definition in order to get to the point where you can start turning that back on itself for the internal Shared History. It’ll be a cakewalk for you once you get there, as we all know that is a strong suit for you.

  25. >> If the school is for haremettes, is Eric Hard Gay, or is he her brother, and just helping Fia with her homework even though he attends a different school?

    No, Eric is a mecha pilot, but he’s disillusioned with typical manga stereotypes, so he transferred from the mecha piloting academy to Heart’s Content.

    >> A haremette academy? Who are the staff?

    Originally… me! The original had various anime bloggers as the staff, and I somehow made the faculty list. Once I started rewriting the story, I axed the whole staff. The focus will be on the haremettes, not the staff.

    >> Ever thought of writing a post that describes/defines all the sayings you use Jason?

    Yes, it’s under Meme Rosetta. I haven’t been great at updating it, but it has most of the meme that I use up to the past three or so months.

  26. Damn, I love things like this… stories that are humorously self-aware.

    I can’t wait to read this…

  27. I’d say the perfect thing with any type of good comedy(especially the staying power kind) is to have the straight-man. Abbot isn’t nearly as funny without Costello. What about Bob is a great hilarious movie, but it wouldn’t be nearly as funny without Richard Dreyfus there to be driven insane by all of Bill Murray’s antics.

    Someone “normal” in the story who can’t cope with all the weirdness of the “funny” characters is important. In fact it’s just that lack of a straight man that makes me unable to stand about 90% of Will Ferral movies where it’s all comedy, but there’s never a straight man.

  28. I am actually one of the few people who remember the saying from Otome wa Boku ni Koishiteru. Lets just say that I sometime replay the cute moments of Mizuho Miyanokouji

  29. I’m definitely looking forward to this.

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