Manga expert’s book talks about character development in Hatsune Miku era

Translated by The Asahi Shimbun from the website of Anime Anime Japan Ltd.

Images of Hatsune Miku, the big-eyed girl with long, blue pigtails who exists only in a singing software application, are seen everywhere in bookstores, PC shops and on the Web.

Now, unexpectedly, the virtual girl is popping up on the cover of a book by seasoned manga writer Kazuo Koike.

Koike is the creator of “Lone Wolf and Cub,” which won a prestigious Eisner Award for the Best U.S. Edition of Foreign Material in 2001, and “Crying Freeman.”

Released May 25, “Koike Kazuo no Character Shin-ron” (Kazuo Koike’s new theory on characters) features a large illustration of Hatsune Miku on its front and back covers.

Koike came up with the “character theory,” which says that in manga, the characters are often more important than the stories.

Putting the cute illustrations of Hatsune Miku on the cover was not just a promotional ploy, however. Koike discusses the virtual character’s development in relation to his character theory and the new media. The book also touches on characters from the “Toho Project” game and manga series and “Moshidora.”

Koike looks at today’s new technologies and software applications such as Hatsune Miku’s Vocaloid voice synthesizing programs, the ComiPo! 3D comic drawing application, as well as the spread of social networking websites such as Twitter and Facebook.

He also mentions new forms of media and services including user-generated content and “freemium.”

Koike did not set out to write a book about these topics, but his research led him there.

His main interest has been manga character development and creating their background stories. The Hatsune Miku phenomenon surprised him, Koike says, and he wondered why Hatsune Miku is so wildly popular even though she has neither story nor character development supporting her popularity.

Koike analyzes Hatsune Miku and Reimu Hakurei, a character from the “Toho Project” game series, and looks at their advent a new character development technique.

The book dissects the way characters lie at the center of stories, inspiring their audience no matter what changes occur in the times, environments and media. In addition, a simple fact is revealed: There is always a methodology for character development.

The book is intended as a practical textbook for budding creators to learn character development in this era of user-generated content. But it can also be enjoyed by general readers eager to understand Koike’s character theory.

Priced at 1,200 yen ($15), including tax, the 223-page book is published by Koikeshoin Corp. and includes a DVD.

Copyright The Asahi Shimbun Company.