I’ve been thinking a lot about the genre in manga, and not because I care about stereotypes, but because it’s necessary to be precise when publishing my light novel. Instinctively, I would say that Wings of Steel is shonen manga (boy’s manga / young adult). This is my gut feeling and it’s likely the most accurate. It is shonen because it tells the story of a boy growing up and facing hardship, fighting hardship, becoming stronger in his craft, achieving his goals. That’s clearly a shonen theme. At the same time, it’s not your typical shonen about battles and martial arts.
I would compare it to quiet manga like Mushi Shi. This manga is the story of a traditional medicine man who investigates supernatural events in medieval Japan. It is considered more of a seinen topic (young men’s manga) because it has more of a peaceful and introspective nature. This is similar to Wings of Steel, and different from fighting manga. So there’s that and you could say Wings of Steel is seinen.
Now, there are some very gruesome seinen manga. This is not what we’re talking about here. Broadly speaking seinen splits into 3 sub-genres: 1) Introspective and ambient like Mushi Shi; 2) Light romance like Oh My Godess; 3) Finally, the extra-violent grimdark.
People often mix up the introspective and romantic sub-type of seinen with shojo manga (girl’s manga, think Sailor Moon). And it is true they are similar, but romance is not the primary focus of seinen. There is something else that drives the action, romance is like a… add-on bonus to the plot.
This first volume of my debut light-novel tells the story of Zak and his flying machine with 51 manga illustrations.
“Zoé decided it was time to tighten her grip on the engineer. Zak. That little upstart continually challenged her authority. But after all, he was just a mechanical engineer, a commoner, and not of the priestly caste. She decided it was time to educate the little punk…”
Zak is a talented engineer in service of the Mage Altos, but he suffers the oppression of the Inquisition. The Mage himself views engineering as a dangerous craft, inhibiting the development of advanced technology. Not only that but Zak’s talent goes unacknowledged when he meets sisters Susan and Zoé. The two young acolytes think he’s just a crude boy!
The engineering workshop is in the middle of a swamp, no wonder that he lacks social grace. On top of that, a mysterious organization is spying on him from vantage point in the sky; And a powerful Inquisitor of Altos wants him thrown in a dungeon. Zak’s in a pinch, but he’s got wings!
“It is written in the Grimoire of Altos, that love is the cause for every force of attraction. Sun and Sky are locked together in embrace because they are lovers. But in the first age, known as the Age of Madness, love did not exist, and altogether different forces governed the universe. In the beginning, the Great Mages inhabited the Void. They alone had the fortitude to survive in the nothingness; And they were alone. There was no love, only the Void. Great powers commanded they, but also they suffered greatly…”
“…Infinite darkness, and Altos was the only light… he was the lonely light. Shadow-forms devoid of life enshrouded him, black thorns of madness reached out to touch him. It occurred to him that a stellar explosion might brighten up the sky. The future-vision materialized inside his powerful brain. A star goes supernova, a civilization is caught up in the flames, panic and desperation follows, and the exodus of the mortals… yes.. entire nations are boarding the gleaming evacuation spaceships. Survival, or annihilation? Should the creatures survive, they would reach the domain of another mage. There would be a new game. A fun game.”
“But then a black thorn piqued him. What if his creatures blundered into the territory of a Great Mage, one greater than himself? It was a mistake to hesitate. His imagination rapidly generated a painful Space-Time alternative, reinforcing his bleakest fears. The black thorns of the Void pierced him, shredding his soul to bits.”
ONLY THE FOOLS GO OUT IN THE RAIN…
“Keep your toes dry, and you’ll be fine!” the Sister Inquisitor insisted. “Only fools go out in the rain! A lightning zap is risky, but fungal spores are by far the greater risk. Aspire the spores, boy, and you’re finished!”
Lerian smiled, but her lips were tightly compressed, betraying her annoyance. “I have very limited time to deal with novice girls and their accomplice… Tell me now, corrupt disciples, by what means did you travel?…”
Japanese light novels (ranobe or ライトノベ) are designed to be young adult adventures. They are richly illustrated and form the basis for popular anime series. Dragon Magazine often serialized shounen novels in the 90s. Such literature was irreverent and funny, and featured Role-Play Game (RPG) characteristics. Zak & Zoé: Wings of Steel should be considered seinen manga because of the darker setting.
“…And like a plague shame infected the Tree of Life, seeping through its very roots and into the heart of every mortal creature. Creatures that crawl, and walk and fly! All felt the shame of Altos and were ashamed of themselves…”
Coding a book layout in 2019 is like writing a website used to be in the early 2000s. Back in the day, each browser displayed whatever it wishes, CSS was just a wishful hint and everybody hated ie9. Nowadays, and I get the same pain doing a book layout that works consistently on iOS phones, Androids and Kindles.
After some research I discovered Blitz, a nice CSS framework for doing layouts in epub. What I’m trying to achieve with Zak’s Dragonfly is not too complicated. It’s basically a split-screen between the illustration on the left. This is going to be a heavily illustrated book (manga style), and I’m doing a certain trick with the portrait/landscape orientation of the device.
Image size is controlled with the font size. In the past I’ve often been annoyed by Kindle books that have fixed size illustrations and there’s no way to zoom up. So when I was writing the epub I was careful to avoid that kind of thing.
Zak’s Dragonfly tells the story of an engineer who is trying to escape the Inquisitorial control of the Sisters of Altos. This is my first manga novel. The first volume contains 50 manga illustrations.