Manga, Manga March, Manga Monday, Mangaka and Indie Comic Interviews

Manga March special guests: NN4B’S Alex Kolesar and J.W. Kovell

(While there are technically only minors spoilers below, per se, there is also a teensy bit of cursing.  I’m leaving it in for now, but may censor in the future.  You’ve been warned.)

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This week on AnimeBinge, we chatted with the two minds behind long-running webcomic No Need for Bushido.  Alex Kolesar and J. W. Kovell started the strip as an intermittent daily page back in 2002, with three-panel strips, but eventually moved to a more graphic/panel look similar to manga and comic books.  We’re ecstatic to have them here.

Featuring a small main cast of Yorikro Wataro, Ina Senshin, Cho Teko, Kenta “Ken” Daisuke along with an ever-expanding universe of side-characters and plots, Alex and J. W. have been bringing No Need for Bushido (NN4B) to their readers for almost a decade.   They came to talk pop culture, the history of their webcomic, anachronism stew vs strict historical timelines, and Kenshin.

Without further ado:

**jingle**

AB – Hello, hello

AB: So to match voices with names, who is who?

Alex: Uh, I’m Alex

Joe: And I’m Joe

AB: And I’m V. with AnimeBinge

Alex: Hi, V.

AB: HI!  So, um, thank you so much for joining me, and I’ve been a fan of the webcomic since what feels like forever.  It’s actually been kind of fun to prepare for the interview because I went back and I read some of my favorite storylines for it.  So forgive me while I geek out a little bit.

Alex: I’m glad to hear that the trawl through the old pages turned out to be an enjoyable one.

AB: Oh, always! Personally, anytime I get to revisit anything, it’s just fun… It’s not a trawl at all, it’s a joy.  So, what I usually do is say – “In the beginning…”  So… How did No Need for Bushido come about?

Alex: Well, It’s a weird and not very exciting story where in high school I drew a thesis project and I chose to do a comic about feudal japan, and it wasn’t very good and it was really quite embarrassing.

AB: But…

Alex: Because I was super into anime at the time, so it was – 

Joe: Let’s clarify, when you say “at the time”…

Alex:  I don’t think I am super into anime now – I’m super into animation.  I don’t watch a lot of anime anymore. 

AB: Mh-hm?

Alex: Because… because it’s awful.  98% of anime is terrible. 

Joe: But the good stuff is still amazing.

Alex: But the good stuff is still good, yeah, absolutely.

AB: Right

Alex: So, so I did the project and that’s where I created Yori, Ken and Cho – Oh, I’m sorry:  Yori, Ina and Cho were all in that comic.  And Cho was Japanese in it.  Anyway, for whatever reason I was attached to those characters.  I’m not sure why, I think it was just that they were characters that I created. And then I went into college.  So, I moved to Columbus to go to Columbus College of Art and Design.  I met Joe my freshman year, so that’s where we met, and at the time I had started reading webcomics, and webcomics were super new. It was 2001. Webcomics probably started [to gain popularity] in 1998.

Alex:  And they were usually done by programmers, who would actually create a website and stick a comic on it, and they were, generally like, stick figures or really amateur drawings and- And I was like- “I’m going to art school!  I’m an artist! I can do this!”  And so I was like, in the Second Wave – I forget who it was that said there were waves of webcomics. The first wave was programmers, and the second wave was amateur artists who realized they couldn’t quite make it into professional comics but realized that they could draw better than the programmers, so they started to make webcomics.  And then all of the “real artists” came in and were like, “Wait a second, Webcomics are a thing?” and then they all came in and just made the incredible happen.  

Alex: So I think I was on the second wave and I think I just progressively got better as an artist.  I don’t know, I don’t keep up in quality in terms of some new stuff.  But I try.  I try to be a good artist.  Anyway.  The way it started was, 2001, freshman year of college I was reading… I forget what the webcomic was but I was a big fan of it.  I’m obviously not a big fan of it anymore because I’ve forgotten what it was called, but it was about a girl who was a god and she goes into- All of her family are gods of their own universe, and she’s given a universe to be in charge of but she kind of falls into it and she’s fucking around, and it’s like a fantasy world, and there’s all these people having these Medieval Fantasy type quests. She walks in, this little girl, does a couple god-like things, and is like: “Hi, I’m god.” And everyone’s like, “Wait, you’re our god?”  So there’s a lot of metahumor of, “Why, God, Why.” and she’s like, “I dunno.”

Alex: Anyway, I really liked that comic and was like – “I’m gonna do a webcomic too”, I took my comic idea that I had done in high school for my thesis, completely revamped it, and I was actually was going to make it a parody of Rurouni Kenshin

AB: I was curious about that, because it had shades of Rurouni in it.

Alex: Oh yeah, Rurouni Kenshin?  I fell in love with it in the last two years of high school.  It… It was my everything?

AB: It was so fresh, then, too.  It was fresh coming over, and then it was on videocassette.

Alex:  I think it ended… I think it ended in ‘97 or something. I think it went from ’95 – ’97, the anime?  So it was just recently over and we had just gotten fansubs of it. So I had just recently watched it one or two years after it had come out.  And was in love with it, so I didn’t really have any ideas of my own, I just had my sloppy story about – Oh, my god, let me tell you about this high school story really briefly. 

AB: Okay.

Alex: It was basically Ina accepting – She ran away from home, just like at the way No Need for Bushido starts, and then she meets Cho, who convinces her that she needs to give in to the greater good because she has the power to stop a conflict, and she needs to just go get married even though she doesn’t want to.  It was a mixed moral message, looking back.

[In a way, I guess they were – AB]

AB: Right, Well, all high school stories have those shades of: “This is how stories go, so I’ll build a story this way,” and then as you grow in the rest of the world, you build more complex stories.  But that’s shades of “What could have been”, too.

Alex:  I think it was only fifteen pages long, it was not a big thing.

Alex:  So then she meets Yorikiro, who’s like… “Oh no, now my family’s going to go to war.”  And then she appears, and she’s like, “I’ll marry you.”  And he’s like… “I hope that we can find peace together, and… and avoid conflict.”  It was cornball.  Anyway, I took that basic premise when I started No Need for Bushido, and I was very early in on it when I met Joe in college, I had only drawn the first couple of strips… the first three strips, which are all compiled into page one now.  So I was at the page where she falls out of a window, climbing out of it, [on a rope of] bedsheets.  And I turn to my new friend Joe and I say, “Joe, I need a funny thing for a character to say while falling out of a window.”

Joe:  And I totally failed to give him any funny answer whatsoever.

AB: (laughs)

Joe: But apparently, I did at some point, provide some level humor because I started to help out little bits here and there, it’s not really exactly clear at what point I could even be considered a co-writer of the comic.

AB: It all feels kinda fuzzy for you.

Joe: Yeah

Alex: I don’t think Joe fully – I mean, I basically explained the plot, but it didn’t have much of one?  I think Joe guided me – like, he watched Kenshin –

Joe: Well, it wasn’t that forceful.

Alex:  Well now, we threw our – You and I, we were just out of high school, we were freshmen in college. You had some interest in anime, you hadn’t seen a lot. I had seen a bit more than you, so I… I just started throwing anime at you.

AB: That’s always how it happens.

Alex:  I think because we had just watched Kenshin together, so when I said, “I wanna make this parody of Rurouni Kenshin”.  Like, Yori was… I mean, have you seen Kenshin? How familiar are you with it?

AB: I’m familiar enough with it… I saw it kind of like when you guys did, shortly after high school, I did watch it about two years ago when I re-watched it.

Alex:  Okay, I didn’t know if you had seen the new movies or whatever.

AB: I haven’t yet.  It’s on my list.

Alex:  I’ve got movies two and three on Blu Ray, I’ve seen the first one, I’ve watched it twice, but I have not seen the sequels even though I got them for Christmas.  (It just came out, it literally just came out over Christmas.)

Alex:  Anyway, Kenshin essentially had two personalities, his “Hitokiri Manslayer” personality and his laudable, affable personality.

AB: Right

Alex: So Yori was going to have that, too.  Kenshin’s hitokiri personality was called the Battousai, and at the time I thought it was funny if it was going to be a play on words, and Yori was the Bath Housai?  Like as in bath house, which makes no sense.  It was just supposed to be funny that he was named after a bath house.

Joe: (in the background) Well, then he was going to attacks based on those –

Alex:  Oh, yeah, he was going to have plenty of attacks like… “Reverse Swirl Toilet Attack!” and it was… it was bad. It was not funny.

AB: It was not what you ended up doing.

Alex:  No, I think fairly early on I realized that… that was stupid. (chuckles) So I… We started a very vague outline.  I had all these ideas of what I wanted.  Like, my cool samurai anime to have in it, a group of bad guys following the main cast, and they had to fight them one at a time, classic anime tropes, lots of fighting… and so – honestly, we didn’t have a huge plan.  When No Need for Bushido started, there was very little actual direction.  Just the vague idea that Yori would eventually have to face his father, and that there would be a group of bad guys he would have to go through to get there.  So the complexity of No Need for Bushido was not planned.  The complexity of the comic is the resulting entirely from writing on the seat of your pants and trying to cover up your mistakes.  And resulting in more complex plots.

AB:  And that leads to the question of… The entrance of Matrix?

Alex: Yes.  Matrix is… She’s one of the byproducts of… High School Geekery?

AB: Yes!

entrance_of_matrix

Alex: One of my favorite movies is obviously The Matrix.  Like, who doesn’t love that movie?

AB:  And who doesn’t love when it came out, too?  [NN4B] kind of fell right in with that, so it makes a lot of sense.

Alex:  The Matrix came out in 1997, right? And so this was right around… shortly after the sequels came out, I think.  Man, I didn’t like those, but whatever.

AB: (chuckles) But anyway –

Alex:  I just liked people in trenchcoats and sunglasses, and it was really cool, and it was the cool thing to do.  And I had a bunch of comic ideas at the time, and I was like, I want one character that could just like… pwn them.  A meta character.

AB: Ahhhh….

Alex:  Who just comes into the comics, and that’s what Matrix was.

Joe:  I think there was… a lot of discussion about how to try to make her actually make sense within the comic.  And there are ideas that have been thrown out, and an actual idea that was the truth which is only into that, here and there.  Essentially Matrix was there because there was just a need to have the character in for the cool factor at the expense of any actual logic.

AB: At the time.

Joe: Yeah, so as time has caught up – When I was first introduced to Matrix as a character, I wasn’t really sure how to take her myself.  I’ve since grown a little more into the character in how she fits with the main cast, particularly recently.

Alex: I think at this point we can say that we like the character, although if we were starting from scratch, we would not include her.

AB:  That’s fair.

Alex:  But since she is there, she is part of the plot, and she does have a conclusion arc that ties in with everything.  She is an integral part of the story at this point, and we could not do it without her at this point.  But starting out, she was kind of just thrown in there with vague ideas of where she is or what she would do.

AB: That’s one of the things that’s an important part of growing characters:  Being able to grow them into a tapestry. And that’s more or less what’s happened so far in No Need For Bushido. I mean… there’s a lot of growth within the characters. (pause) I think my favorite part is Ejiro’s story right now.

Joe: He’s a bit of a surprise, actually.

AB: Tell me more.

eijiro

Joe: It’s really easy to write a bratty character, but after a while you want to do a bit more than that.  So his character grew more than I anticipated at least, and has room to continue.

Alex:  I’m not sure – I don’t remember what our full plan was with Ejiro when we initially introduced him.  We wanted him to be red herring for the audience, like – Maybe Yori isn’t he one that Ina is supposed to marry, maybe it was this guy, and everyone was just assuming that it was Yori.  So I knew that was part of it; that he was going to be a red herring. I don’t think we exactly thought about how his character was going to effect the rest of the plot.  And now he’s a huge part of it.

AB: He is.

Alex:  The way we have him and his story arc is – I don’t know – It’s one of the biggest character arcs in the series. (Not to give anything away…)  Our plan for him as a character is more sweeping than any other character.  Maybe.  Possibly.

Joe: Well, he goes through a lot of change in comparison to many of the other characters.  You don’t see Yori being an entirely different person than he is, or Cho, or Ina.  They’re all extensions of the personality that we see when we’re first introduced to them.  Ejiro has more room to vary from his initial introduction.

Alex: And as our friend Pascalle from Wilde Life would say, she loves grumpy teens.

AB: Who doesn’t love grumpy teens.

Alex: Their parents.             

AB:  Oh, I was going to ask: [Yukizane Masamune]  The general who plays shoji to end wars?  I was wondering who inspired him.

yukizane

Alex: Well, there’s an obvious assumption that people make that he is based on Iroh of…

Joe: Avatar: The Last Airbender

AB: I didn’t want to assume, but I did want to ask.

Alex: He actually predates Iroh.

AB:  He does, doesn’t he?

Joe: He was entered the comic about a year or so before Avatar initially premiered.

AB:  That’s why I wanted to ask.  I knew they came out close to the same time, but I couldn’t pin down exactly when it was because I couldn’t find the date on it.

[Fact break: Turns out it was 2005 that Avatar premiered, and NN4B introduced Yukizane easily 2-3 years before that. Yukizane’s intro on page 41 would have been around 2001/2002.]

Alex: Yeah, now it is true that when we saw Avatar: The Last Airbender there were elements that we really liked, but I think the biggest influence on the comic was not the character influence, but actually just facial expressions.  I think the comic got a little more expressive around that time.

Joe:  And the main reason Yukizane is Yukizane, really has more to do with our readers more than anything else.  When we introduced him, he was a little bit more of a throwaway joke.  Not entirely but…

Alex: He was, kinda, because he was just gonna be the goofball that was put in charge.

Joe:  He wasn’t going to really do anything, but we had a few different scenes with him where people started to see hints of him being interestingly different.  And we got feedback from readership saying that they were actually pretty excited about his character, and we were like… “Oh no, we gotta do something with this character to live up to these higher expectations.”  So that’s when we started having scenes with him outsmarting people left and right because that’s what the readers were expecting, not just his whole backstory about avoiding the battle, but actually seeing him do it.

AB: And do it well.

Joe: Yeah, so that’s the main influence of Yukizane: Readership Enthusiasm

AB:  So I do normally ask things like – what did influence the comic over time?  You mentioned Kenshin first, is there anything else, did you look into feudal Japan as you grew the webcomic to make it be more powerful, things like that.

Alex:  I’d say one of the big influences is Shogun, the James Clavell novel and the miniseries based on the book.

AB: Yeah.

Alex:  At this point it’s been a heavy influence, especially with the introduction of the Portuguese characters and the Hindu priest.  Firearms start to become a thing.  And It’s about a Portuguese… wait, he’s not Portuguese, he’s English?

Joe:  Yes, he’s English, but he was with a Portuguese group, and it’s currently under…

Alex: It’s about an English man – based on a guy – an actual historical figure [William Adams] who ended up in Japan, and became a samurai, and was one of the few Europeans to reach that class. It’s a really good book.

AB: It IS a really good book.

Alex: You’ve heard of it?

AB: Yeah, I borrowed it from a friend when they were reading it, and I got to read about the first half of it before I had to give it back.

Joe: Ricardo [Bartello] is based on not the main character, but he is most closely related to the John Rhys-Davies character.

Alex:  The miniseries was made in the late 70’s, one of the characters was a Portuguese trader, and Ricardo was very heavily based on him.  In the miniseries, he was played by John Rhys-Davies, the actor who played Saul in the Indiana Jones movies, and a million other things, and Gimli, of course, in the Lord of the Rings series.  So [Ricardo] is heavily based on that character. Also the costuming of those characters is based on the costuming for the miniseries.  So we did pull from that.

Joe: And not to directly, but to move on to another reference, unless you have more about Shogun…

Alex: No

Joe:  The original set-up of the village of  [Lord Murasaki] was Seven Samurai which is hinted at by –

Alex & Joe: Several Samurai

Alex: We were trying really hard to get the samurai count to be exactly seven, in that arc, but it didn’t quite work out.  Depending on how you count them, the bandits count as two samurai and theoretically Maru had a few samurai with him that never manifested, so it became “Several Samurai”.  (pause) What other influences…

AB:  From the Kabuki arc?

Alex: I don’t know what influence that was from.  I think it was a trope-y thing?  That was just our trope-y idea of “How about we just have them…”– because every sitcom, every TV show has a sequence where they have to throw out a play when people who are just not ready to do it, (laughs) and so they do a bad job, and the audience loves it for some stupid reason.  That was it.  That was entirely the main plot.

Alex:  And that’s when we developed Ken’s sense of… Because Ken was already super-dramatic when we introduced him.

AB: Right

Joe:  I think it was supposed to be The Princess Bride.  Inigo Montoya.

Alex:  Oh, yeah, The Princess Bride is a reference.  But we wanted to fill out his character some more.

AB:  Ah-ha – that sounds about right.

Joe: Well, if you noticed, Nataku has nine fingers while Inigio Montoya was after a man with eleven fingers.  That was actually one of the reasons for him losing a finger.

nataku_finger_strike

AB: Interesting…

Joe: There was a time early in the comic – super early-on – looking for a Wataro with nine fingers.  As if he didn’t know what Nataku looked like.  Clearly, he does, so that would have been kind of silly.  That idea got scrapped pretty quickly.

Alex: Pretty quickly, yeah.  The interesting thing about Ken is that he was kind of a last-minute addition.  He wasn’t going to be a part of the comic at all, and then I was like… “Man, everything’s got giant swords in it, Kenshin’s got a giant sword, all of these video games have giant swords…”

AB: “We need somebody to carry a giant sword!”

Alex: “Why don’t we have someone carry a sword that’s bigger than everyone else’s sword.” And he always had it, and he never lost it, and he was just a character with a giant sword.  And part of it was, it always bugged me in Rurouni Kenshinthat Sinosuke has a giant sword for two episodes and then loses it forever.  Except for in the manga, but in the anime he loses it forever. 

Alex:  “And so, what if Ken is like Sinosuke, but he never lost his sword.”  So that’s kinda where Ken came from.   And so when Sinosuke is introduced, he’s kind of an angry drunk – but he’s got a good heart.  But I was like, “What if we have an angry drunk and he’s just an asshole, and he’s just always an asshole.” So we kind of went with that, and he’s just a jerk all the time.

AB:  But Ken’s a jerk you can trust 80% of the time.

Alex: 80% of the time.

ken_backmeupbetter

AB: As long as you’re on his side.

Alex:  Yeah, As long as your interests align with his, everything is fine.  Although at this point we’ve decided his character is actually going to evolve – and is evolving, obviously he’s evolved so he’s not quite as big of a jerk as he used to be. And I guess you can’t avoid that.   But my initial intent with Ken was that he would never evolve, and that he was just going to be a jerk the whole story, but that’s just not conducive to good storytelling – even if it is amusing.

Joe:  I want to point out that even though this was written on the seat of our pants, there are ideas that go back way to the very beginning that held true, and that would be things like… Ken’s love interests.  There is an old desktop background that Alex drew, way at the beginning, to give away to readers that featured… (but we didn’t want to give away) the whole Daisuke background, but we did think of it way back then.

Joe:  So there are lots of ideas that have held true.  The exact “how we connect the dots” is very fuzzy, but many of the dots are very bright and clear.

AB:  And that falls under: Having had so long to tell that story, too.  Where you can go back, revisit them, and say, “Yes, this still needs to be here.”

Alex:  Good times, except that we’ve murdered so many babies at this point.

AB: Well….

Alex:  There have been a lot of ideas that have gotten scrapped. And continue to get scrapped. Stuff that I’ve been excited about for nearly a DECADE and now we’re like, “No, we can’t do that anymore.  It’ doesn’t work, it doesn’t fit.”

AB: “We can’t do this alternate universe anymore.”  Maybe if you reboot it sometime as a second storyline, just like Neon Genesis.  They had a whole schoolgirl arc, in manga.

Joe:  We can spoil a non-idea that won’t happen.

Alex: We could tell you one of my fever ideas –

AB: So let’s call it… “What Could Have Happened.”

Alex:  All right, here is one of my favorite ideas that isn’t going to happen anymore.  They were going to go off and train with Matrix.  There was going to be a time skip that’s not happening anymore.  They were going to go off and train, and to conclude the training they were going to go to a hot spring, and they were going to have some funny antics.  And I say “we” but Joe NEVER liked this idea.

AB: No obligatory hot spring?! Man!

Alex: I know, right? You gotta have a –

Joe:  I am such a prude.

Alex:  And they were all going to be scantily clad, and Ina was – and Matrix would be flirting with Yori and pissing off Ina. You know how she does it just to piss her off.  And we were going to have antics with the divide with the two sides, you know – The women’s and the men’s bath.

Alex: And then the funny thing is that Wu and Tang, having been unable to find Cho, would have had to get jobs in Japan to sustain themselves, and they would have gotten jobs at this particular hot springs. So they would have discovered Cho is at the Hot Springs – and they would have gotten into this big fight IN the hot spring.  So everyone would be like… fighting, and wearing towels and stuff, and all of the water would have been kicking up.

Alex: Actually, You know, I think that’s why we have Wu and Tang fighting in the rice paddy right now, so we can have the water lots of water flying around right now, because I’ve been wanting to do that for a long time.

Joe: So just think of it like it’s a really, really low rent hot spring.

Alex: So that’s an idea I really wanted to do, but it’s not happening, unfortunately.

AB: I can appreciate that.  I kinda want it as a single-panel wallpaper now, though.  That would be pretty amazing.

Alex: Chilling out in the hot springs.

Joe: Some things were cut just because of our transition from being a parody story to a separate series story.  So there was a point when the characters were going to, I guess, Kyoto? A tournament that would have had –

Alex: Oh, Yeah – This is an idea that I… for several years, was really intending to do this.  Like, all through high school I wanted to have a scene where they go to a tournament, and we have a bunch of cameos from movies and video games.  We’d have Soul Calibur characters and Mortal Combat characters, and a lot of fighting game characters show up, and they have to fight ‘em.

Joe: Cho vs Raiden

Alex: Yeah, Cho vs Raiden.

AB: That’s a Robot Chicken episode waiting to happen…

Alex: Exactly.

Joe: So yeah, some ideas get cut because it doesn’t fit with the story, some ideas get cut because it doesn’t fit the feel of the comic.

Alex: Here’s one thing though, the first strip of the comic says that there’s going to be a ton of seppuku, and obviously there hasn’t been any.  The joke was that we were going to have a seppuku squad, they were going to charge the enemy, pull out their swords, and stab themselves and all die. So there WAS going to be a ton of Seppuku…

Joe: (breaks in) “But it would have been done tastefully”

Alex: Oh yeah, so tastefully. (snorts) But at some point we realized that was an AWFUL idea, so we didn’t do it.  But it still says that there’s going to be a ton of seppuku in the comic, although there clearly is not.

AB: Right

Joe:  It depends on someone’s… point of view.

Alex: The point of view of “is this thing in the comic, or is it not”?

Joe: I don’t know, I just consider some of the character’s actions can be pretty suicidal in the comic.

AB: That is fair…

Joe: Anyway, yeah.

AB: So, one of my favorite things about No Need for Bushido is the sound effect pops, where instead of a door saying “Crrrreak”, it will say “Open’d!” And from what I understand, Alex, that evolved from you?

Alex: That frequently evolved from me because I would be finishing the comic around… 1:00 am? To put up.  And around that time I’m like, “Oh yeah, I need to put in sound effects,” and things get kind of loopy because it’s late at night.  So… putting in a standard sound effect just feels… boring to me. I guess.  It just seems boring! Putting in a word for a sound effect, I guess, also comes from manga. In manga, the sound effects are words, sometimes, that say something – and it’s so visual – in manga when there’s a sound effect, it’s font that matters.  The font shows the sound more than the actual sound effect.

AB: Right, Ranma ½ was really good at doing that. 

ranma_half_kbonkranma_half

Alex: Exactly, so that was what it was – it doesn’t even matter what it says, it’s really the font that matters.

Joe: It doesn’t even matter if the sound is happening.

Alex: Right, Exactly.  It’s an emphasis, the font is just an emphasis.  Whenever I put in a sound effect, the font is usually in a way that’s moving with the action or radiating from the action.  And what it actually says.  I usually put words because the word is longer than the sound effect, and therefore if it was longer I could use it to emphasize the sound effect more.

AB: Because you know the sound in your head just a little bit.  And the reader just fills it in.

Alex: Let’s say a character is going to peak around a corner, and I want to show how ridiculous it is, I’ll put the sound effect: “Peek!” or something to emphasize how silly it is that they’re peeking.  I don’t know, it’s not even a process I think about very hard.

sfx_nn4b

Joe: And a good chunk of the story can take itself too seriously, so we have horses that will say “Neigh” and “Ditto”, because if we took the story too seriously, I think that we would have been failing at actually making an actual super serious story.

Alex:  The problem is that when I started No Need for Bushido, I didn’t know Jack about Feudal Japan.  I watched Rurouni Kenshin, which takes place in the Meiji Era, which is like 200 years later –  300 years later. And then I read Shogun some time after I started the comic, which was the correct time period, pretty much.  So I was realizing at about that point that, “Wow, I got a lot of stuff wrong,” So I was watching documentaries, and reading up on Feudal Japan and now I know SO  much more about it.

AB: And I was curious about when that started to evolve, because I did see a change from “Anachronism Stew” to something a bit more uniform in some of the later chapters

Alex:  I think that was just a natural progress of learning the subject matter more, and not relying on obvious anachronisms to fill in holes of knowledge with things that I didn’t know about. 

AB: (Chuckles)

Alex: For example, I wanted Cho to be distracted by food, and we didn’t know what Japanese food is like, so we had a hot dog vendor go by.  What did we know? We were just some dumb high school kids, we’d never been to Japan, we had just watched a bunch of anime. “What kind of food do they have in Japan?” “Ehhhhh….” “Why don’t you just use Google?” It was 2001, Google wasn’t that big of a term at the time.

AB: Google wasn’t that strong YET.  You would have used Yahoo!  Which wouldn’t have necessarily have been better, but hey!

Alex: We could have looked it up, but we were lazy.  And we were like, “Hey we’re just making a joke, we won’t have to worry about it.”

AB: Right.

Alex: So that was our philosophy then, and our philosophy now is that it’s so easy to look stuff up that we might as well get the right answer.

Joe: That’s not to say that we’ll never use an anachronism, just that we’ll use it a little more carefully.

AB: That’s something that I’ll definitely continue to keep a look-out for.  I did want to ask: since you have been looking up feudal Japan – is there a resource that you might suggest that readers go to, or anime watchers go to for a little more for Japanese culture in feudal Japan, etc.

Alex:  I always just say, go to the internet, you know?  And I still think Shogun is a great book.  I still think Shogun is one of the best, easily accessible, historical fiction, feudal Japanese novels.

Joe: I think it was written to be informative about this culture that was so different

Alex: Except for maybe the Ninja part.  I’m pretty sure that was fictionalized. It’s like… everyone likes ninjas.

Joe:  But it’s like, if they didn’t have it in the book, everyone would have been like “Hey, where are the ninjas? You did this wrong!”

AB: Like, “Where are all the Ninjas at? There should be Ninjas here!”

Alex: Wolf and Cub.  That’s a good one.  Granted, that’s Tokugawa era, but still, there is a lot of really cool historical stuff in Wolf and Cub.

Joe: The key thing to remember, because it’s just so easy for us to forget, people always think of history like Feudal Japan, or Ancient Egypt, or any other history as one fixed point in time that was “exactly like this”.  But that culture lasted a long time and evolved a lot, so as long as you just remember that Egypt wasn’t always building pyramids, and having pharaohs “like this”; and Japan didn’t always have Shoguns and Emperors “like this”.  History is always more complex.

Alex: And we… we messed up so much stuff. Like, Kabuki theater didn’t exist until 1600, it didn’t arrive until after the Tokugawa regime had taken over. Easu Tokugawa took over, and his successors had a strict ban on moving up or down in class.  There was a caste system, and whatever you were, you were that forever. So that’s when stuff like Kabuki started to happen.  Because the people that were in the arts were in the arts forever, and the Samurai didn’t have any wars to fight, so they said things like, “Well, what are we going to do,” “We’ll study the arts.” “Well, we need arts to study…”

AB: And so they created theatre.

Alex: They created theatre.  I mean, there WAS theatre, there was “Noh” theatre before that, which is more ritualistic, and Kabuki theatre was more… sensationalist.

AB: And a little bit more bawdy.

Alex: Yeah.  All men!  Women can’t just… perform in theatre.

AB: I saw a clip of Noh, it’s very… quiet.  It’s a very… peaceful…. Theater art.  And when you compare it to something like the really powerful look and actions of Kabuki, they’re very different.

Joe: Oh, yeah.  And both are very different than the look and feel of what No Need for Bushido depicted it as.

Alex: No Need for Bushido did it like a High School play

AB: I’m pretty sure you’re forgiven for it at this point.  Almost every high school anime has a school play episode these days.  It fits right in with the genre.

Alex: Oh, sure.

AB: Let’s say someone’s read through the entire archives, where would you send them to go next, while waiting for the next page.

Alex: First I would suggest: Go read Kenshin. Because it’s my favorite.  And go read Wilde Life, because that comic’s amazing.

Joe:  I do like the idea of throwing Shogun in there

Alex: Yeah. Read Shogun.

Joe: Read the alt scripts.

AB: OH RIGHT! I forgot. Those are pretty amazing.

Joe: They were a desperate attempt to provide filler at a point of time in the comic where we were a lot less regular with our updates.

AB: And after they read that, they can read Partially Clips, for other places where alt-scripts are used.

Joe: Yes.

AB:  Thank you both, again, so much for talking with me.

 You can follow Alex on his Twitter account and Tumblr (which he keeps stocked with animation from his day job as well), and Joe on his Twitter.  If you’re starting No Need For Bushido for the first time, you can attack the archives, or start with the handy-dandy “how did we get here” guide.  If you want to watch Rurouni Kenshin, the rights are currently with Crunchyroll and the manga volumes were published most recently by Viz media. 

Thanks for joining us for Manga March, Sensei Sunday is next week!  See you then!

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One thought on “Manga March special guests: NN4B’S Alex Kolesar and J.W. Kovell

  1. juasayshi says:

    Okay, next Kickstarter, those are your stretch goals! “What Could Have Happened.”
    1: Chilling out in the hot springs wallpaper
    2: Cho vs Raiden in Kyoto
    3: (for like, $20,000) the whole multi-page fantasy sequence: training with Matrix, chilling, then the big fight IN the hot spring, fighting, and wearing towels and stuff

    Liked by 1 person

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