I've tried doing different things using MMD, but never really tried doing a manga style presentation before. Actually, I've never done any mangas and to be honest I don't really know much about mangas. I've tried to read a few online, but for the most part, I have been rather disappointed with what I've seen. Maybe some things are lost when they are translated from the original Japanese but somehow they seemed to be a bit lacking when compared with the comics I grew up with.
Still it was a worth a try doing. I've been messing with the 4-panel gag format for about a year now and also, I've done a few stories which are really only a dialog sequence backed by a single illustration. It was time, I felt to do something more ambitious. Honestly though, having never done a manga style presentation before, I really did not know what I was letting myself into nor did I have a clue as to how much work was really involved.
Also, unlike my 4-panel gag strips, I had only a rough idea for the basic story. I knew in a fuzzy sort of way the 'plot' but I had no plans on how to flesh it out nor fill in the details. So I did actually end up writing the story as I went along. Seriously, this is not the best way to do something like this. It did cost me more work in the end as I had to redo entire sections. Overall doing this project really was a new experience for me and I've learnt a lot from doing this. But I think I did manage to pull off a 'good' piece of work at the end. There are still some rough edges but overall, I'm really happy with the results.
However, there were certain goals that I did want to achieve with the finished results and these criteria were all satisfied. Specifically, these were:
(1) The story line had to be 'solid'. It had to have a 'logic' as far as that was possible.
(2) It had to be an 'EPIC'. It had to be out of the norm - an extraordinary affair - an adventure story.
(3) The characters needed to have depth and be both likeable as well as credible.
(4) It had to be 'funny' but exciting at the same time. Like a lot of my work, humor is a big factor.
(5) The artwork had to be top notch. They had to 'do the job' and where possible, they had to have a 'wow' factor.
(6) It needed to 'go places' and do things that would not normally be expected to be possible using MMD.
(7) The reader would, by the end of the story, be 'satisfied'. Preferably 'awe-struck', but as a minimum it needs to have been able to find it a 'fun' experience to read.
This whole project all started with the model by Higuhigu shown above. The model is based on a computer game character called 'Dizzy' who is basically some sort of mutant / bio-weapon. Higuhigu provides two versions of that character. A younger form and the character's normal more developed mature form. I threw all of these ideas out and renamed her 'Ditzy-chan' and created a completely new framework for the character as this was too great a chance to pass up. The model was reworked, and to be honest, quite drastically, but not so much as to change her original appearance. And this is fine. As originally downloaded, the model is based on the game character but isn't a faithful replica and this made it possible for me to take some liberties with it.
The basic storyline is very simple, which was why it was possible for me to 'make it up' as I went along. The premise was to take two young girls, Ditzy-chan and Miku Hatsune, give them a single unique ability and throw them into an epic crisis situation which by all logic should have been too much for them to handle. But good stories are about 'good and simple folks' overcoming great obstacles - this is one of the building blocks for a lot of heroic epic type tales. Also the manga style presentation was perfect for this. The panels contain some truly epic imagery, but at the same time, there are some personal vignettes which really helps the characters to grow and helps the reader see some real depth in these characters.
MMD was a prefect medium for this also, how much so I myself really didn't realize until I really got into doing it. The program is capable of producing some really outstanding pieces of imagery. Honestly, some panels took over an hour to set up and get perfectly right; but it was well worth the effort in my opinion. As presented, all the images are shown as they were originally rendered in MMD with no tweaking in Photoshop. I did add some visual sound effects to a few images and a single panel did need a little touch up work as I used a background flat instead of a sky dome to fill the background - but that was all the 'Photoshopping' I did to the images.
There are ton of excellent MME effects available these days and MMD's own lighting engine isn't that paltry when handled correctly. I definitely did 'experiment' and it does show up in some sequences. Some things do work better than others and the Ditzy-chan model was a real pain to shade for some reason. But towards the end I more or less 'got it right'. And I did also try certain things with the individual panel designs themselves, such as having multiple dialogs going on. Some of it works well, others probably not so much. Still, like I said, this is the first time I've done something like this so I still need to learn what works and what doesn't. But overall, I've left all but a few panels in 'as is'. I also took out entire sections and replaced them with new sections if that made sense to do so. This is one of the nice things about doing this sort of thing in Photoshop. You can really change things in rather drastic ways with not too much effort.
This project also gave me a chance to use a lot of models that I don't normally get to use, especially scenery models. Without these models, this project simply would not have been possible and I really owe a huge debt to the modelers who made these models available to the community. Plus I also got to use some of these models in ways that no one else has ever thought of doing which is really nice. I even managed to use some of my own models as well which was really nice for me personally.
But I didn't plan on or expect to have to build a model specially for this project and actually never intended to. However, it did become an imperative towards the end and so I ended up designing and building that really neat hover car that Ditzy-chan is shown driving above. One of the nice things about being able to build your own 'stuff' is that you can make them work exactly the way you want - and so I did.
To round this project off I made a short video which initially was intended just to demo the model shown above (which I've made available for download in my gallery since it's a lot of fun to use). But I reworked the video in the end just to show in animated form just a very short segment of the story (which I actually edited out of the final version of the manga) - but the short clip does a really nice job of capturing the relationship between the two main heroines, Ditzy-chan and Miku. So give it a watch if you like. But on a personal note, I just really wanted to 'see' those two travel together in an animated sequence as I just knew in my heart of hearts that it would be something worth seeing.
Thanks for reading this. Please feel free to comment and I will appreciate any feedback you feel like posting as I'm rather interested in how you feel about this project. Other than that, I really hope you enjoy this manga presentation of: "The Chronicles of the Dragon Princess".
Note: I have a nasty tendencies to start series and never finishing them. Well, when I did this project, I deliberately did not release it in parts because of the reason outlined above. This time I forced myself to finish the entire series before releasing any of it. So this series, at least, is complete.
THE CHRONICLES OF THE DRAGON PRINCESS
Part 1: The Kami's Daughter (fav.me/d77ese9)
Part 2: Ditzy-Chan's True Power and the Maiden of Song (fav.me/d77esfm)
Part 3: Ghosts from the Past (fav.me/d77epzj)
Part 4: An appointment with Destiny (fav.me/d77epyq)
Part 5: Divergent Paths (fav.me/d77epxq)
Part 6: Okinawa Bound (fav.me/d77epwi)
Part 7: Entwined Fates (fav.me/d77epvn)
Part 8: Hell Bound Bakas (fav.me/d77epuh)
Part 9: The Gathering Storm (fav.me/d77eptn)
Part 10: Home-coming (fav.me/d77epsp)
VSDF-01 D/L: bowlroll.net/up/dl32950