Saturday, September 29, 2018

Five Star Stories - A Japanese Manga Running since 1986... for Kanji Study


The Five Star Stories is a manga that has been running for decades. We have the first 10 volumes,  each some 177 pages.  All in Japanese of course.

I bought the first 4 volumes many years ago when living in Japan,  with the intent of reading them "some time".  My daughter read all those, then bought the next 6 volumes in the last 10 years or so, then read them too.



The way things go with working in Japan, and I was there for 15 years,  meant that I never got around to being fluent enough in written Japanese to read them ( It just wasn't something the company I worked for needed me to do).  These don't have the furigana (phonetic hiragana) along side the Kanji to help young readers as many Shonen (boys) manga do. 

So it has come the time to actually study enough new Kanji to be able to read them.  Current computer based dictionaries and just the front end Japanese processor in Windows makes looking up and entering the printed Japanese  much easier than when I first started learning Japanese.

I also have all the tools for comic development.... so doing some as translated pages is something I'm playing with.   As the current fashion is to retain the left to right reading format when translating Japanese manga, I don't need to swap all the images horizontally.  It does mean in my translations I've added arrows for panel order, starting at top right of each page, and numbers on the speech balloons for reading order within the panel..



I have done my own cartoons, such as Heavy Metal Garage and the comics Terraform.  Been using Photoshop, CorelDraw and recently Clip Studio Paint. Fonts are from Blambot. For the experiments here, I've used CorelDraw to make the balloon plus text overlay.


For me, Japanese has been a thing I've been committed to for a very long time.  But it is just now that written Japanese is something I can devote the effort to.

I do know a few Kanji, and don't have a problem with hiragana or katakana. It is really encouraging to be able to type a balloon from the manga  directly into the editor.  I am working from the printed page, so I am first converting that into a text file.

I then hit a Kanji or two I don't know and have to look them up via radicals. Radical are the bits of characters it is made up from, and the stroke count. I do know how to count strokes, and probably the order a kanji should be drawn, even if I don't know it.

Sometimes getting the right Kanji is fast.... but other times I currently pick the wrong radical to start from, and it isn't in the character list with the stoke count it has.  But this is why I'm doing this exercise, so I get faster at it, and know more so I don't have to look them up.  I keep another file with the kanja, hiragana and meaning, to use in revision.  My "script" file looks like:


It is then I type in what it could be in English.   I put "Aaa, that is probably MORTAHEAD fighting",  but the Japanese is closer to " Aaaa, most likely, the sound of  MORTAHEAD fighting".
The "sound" seemed irrelevant as the question was what is that noise in the previous balloon.

The more I revise, the less the spaces breaking up words is needed and I streamline how I am doing this.

This text script of the manga, and the Kanji study file is my actual goal.  The comic in English above is just "a bit of fun, because I can"  and isn't for distribution , as that violates copyright.

Yes I do know Google Translate. It is just monumentally bad with Japanese! Turning most sentences into meaningless junk. 

Now I have read that there is an English version of Five Star Stores now, but that doesn't help me in my language studies. I can always ask my wife or kids if I get really stuck, but haven't done that yet.

Five Star Stories itself is in the Japanese tradition of the huge powered suits similar to Gundam. But there are twists to that.  The machines are one off bespoke Knights, rather than the mass produced tanks of Gundam.

There are also many colourful characters and settings. Just two being:



Their names are actually Ladios Sopp  and Chrome Ballanche, but I haven't updated the above graphic.

The thing about the manga is that the vocabulary isn't exactly the kind of thing you use at the Japanese post office or bank.  But either is the dialogue in Star Trek, Babylon 5 or Dark Matter.
That is one of the attractions and things that makes it interesting to use for study.



Saturday, September 1, 2018

DREAM - Not A Pop Song

Our Dream track kind of sounds like a pop/rock song. About the most pop thing I have done.  It is however far removed from the structure of a standard pop song.  Billions of people are writing those, and so I don't need too and play around with structure a lot in all recent works

I think that it sounds like a pop song is kind of from the expectation of the instrument arrangement and sounds.  The pop vocal treatment probably helps too.



It does have some words in it, but they aren't organized as verses or anything like pop lyrics.  They are just another instrument sound.

It does have a musical chorus, but that is organized more around a heavy rock riff structure.  All of my tracks are based around Riffs. The synth equivalent is a sequenced pattern. And like Tangerine Dream, I try to have such a pattern running throughout a track. It is something I like. Does anyone notice? No idea!

The actual tracks:



The Dream VERSE/CHORUS is basically 3 parallel repeating Riffs, that are slightly changed in prominence to give the effect of a Verse Chorus structure. 

There is no Guitar solo. The 2 synth lead line melodies are the closest it gets to solos.

So the Not a pop song track.








Saturday, July 28, 2018

The Continuing Saga of our Studio Amp Electrolytics



We previously covered building a great sounding Studio Amplifier from very affordable modules from eBay. We also covered the poor quality of the Electrolytic capacitors from China, despite what brand they may have on them.

Opening up the Amplifier again today shows that all of the Chinese supplied capacitors are failing, and the single good nichinon I replaced the worst one with last time is fine.

So we are ordering more nichinon  10,000uF 50V capacitors and will replaced the bulging ones when they come in from RS-Components.


Friday, July 20, 2018

Digital Manga and Comixology

Have known about Comixology comic app and store for a long time, but only installed and used it for the first time last week.  Have been a Kindle fan for novels many years now, but not being a hard core Comic fan meant it hadn't been relevant.

I needed it to check out Andy Clift's self published Captain Cosmic , and to get the 2017 Valerian Shougouzo inc . The show runner for Dark Matter recommended the Silver Age styled Captain Cosmic and had gotten Andy to do some comic Dark Matter illustrations for a possible Dark Matter comic book to follow on from the 3 TV seasons.  I now know Comixology does have stuff for me.

When I was in Japan in May 2018, it seems that half the young people riding on the train were reading Manga on their phones. Don't know what App or site they were using, but it seems to be everywhere. Saw the same manga on a phone in Sydney on the train last week.  The typical very small page size of a black and white manga translates to a small phone screen without much trouble. The text is not too small to see relative to the page size.   An American comic is more trouble with the larger page, and a European Album (like Valerian) is not actually readable on a phone. 

Maybe the manga format works better as it is also more about what the characters are feeling rather than what they are doing? Maybe.

I used Comixology on a 10" Samsung Tab3.  I prefer to use it in landscape mode and have the page expended to fit that width, so I can read the text.  Perfect Viewer for my own CBR files works ok that way too. 

But Comixology has an extra mode, where instead of showing the whole page, it will pan and zoom each panel to be full screen when you tap the screen to go to the next panel.


This makes reading much easier for me.  But I wonder how that impacts people that are really into traditional comics, where the panel relationships and relative sizes are significant?   All panels may as well be all the same size if this is they way they are being read, which would seem to impact the culture of the comic book. Except, it does animate the zooming of your eye on the page, so you don't loose the panels layout.  Interesting.

Both Captain Cosmic , and  Valerian Shougouzo inc  are complete standalone stories.  I have to say that Valerian is more to my taste and carries on what I think comics do very well.

Depending on what the art in a book is, having the paper version can be far better. But when space is a problem, the digital approach is a winner, very portable, and saves travelling to a store with limited lines anyway.

My own 3 Terraform Stories can be read for free online here.








Saturday, June 23, 2018

A Movie Poster...



... in this case it is a Movie Poster for a Comic Series, our Terraform.

But how about this?



Or maybe this?



Always thought Poster and Album art was very cool.  But in the world of Streaming, that has had a great impact on these art forms.

A vinyl album was a large package where photos and art were to be seen and in all subsequent media the photos and art have gotten small and smaller.  There is much less to look at and probably isn't the influence on how you felt about an artist any more. You may follow their Twitter feed instead.

Well we are on twitter too: @megacurve