Hello there dear members of Manga-United,
The time has finally come to announce the winner of MU Challenge 4!
The challenge was about creating a manga in Slice of Life genre, with the theme being ”Taking Care of a Child”. The task definitely wasn't simple, considering that the participants were to make most of the 10 pages that were allotted. There were a great deal of enthusiastic people to take on the challenge regardless. Unfortunately, the timing of the final deadlines with school exams and other responsibilities made many forfeit. There were over 20 participants at the beginning, but only 3 of them made it to the goal.
The judging took more time than was appropriate. We are sorry for the delay, but it was for the greater good. Our long and deep debates made it sure that the prizes are distributed fairly according to the merits of the entries and completely devoid of personal opinions or irrelevant matters.
So, let's get started. It's advisable for the participants to read all critiques because they complement each other.
Encouraging Teamwork award: 200 dA points by Nsio
A Flowerfield Meant for You </i>[Click here to see the entry]
Here at Manga-United the bonds between the artist and writer are held in high regard. Although we had trimmed down the prizes due to lack of entries, it's only fair to commend the sole artist+writer pairing for making it to the goal.
Technically speaking, the writing is acceptable. The script is clear and offers enough information for the artist to make the manga. Also the art is fine. However, the story itself is a little confusing. For example, Minori's attitude keeps fluctuating, making it difficult to understand what kind of character she actually is, Sayu doesn't seem to have any memory of Minori yelling at her, like one would expect from a child, and the third character is kind of forgotten before he is introduced. It took several readings to get what was actually going on. Also, although the art itself is fine, the entry is lacking in visual story-telling (which is elaborated on next paragraph). Coupled with confusing story, the reading experience is rather heavy as it won't make it easy for the reader to read and understand. The story fails to establish deep connection to its characters.
The visual story-telling suffers from excessive usage of effects, unjustified and heavy use of diagonal panels and absence of contrast. The effects, although looking nice, fill the pages so that they don't ”breathe”, making the reading experience suffocating. Using diagonal panels is a valid story-telling trick, but utilizing diagonals when there isn't dynamic action or any reason to startle the reader cripple the readability of the panel layouts as they throw the reader off balance unnecessarily and break the cohesion of the panel layouts. The lack of contrasts of gray doesn't force the eyes in motion; there aren't clear focus points or hierarchy in panels. Basically, the pages and the layout don't flow in such a way that would have made the readers eyes glide forward naturally. Due to this, the reader is confused and struggling to move from page to page, making it hard to get in to the story and connect to the characters.
However, the ending, in which the characters are standing at distance and the view is embraced with trees and a flower field, is very lovely. Along the text ”A Flowerfield Meant For You”, the atmosphere on the last page is very touching. The composition allows the eye to roam around the flowerfield, and the feeling is refreshing. This is what visual story-telling can do when it's utilized right. The story and the ending don't seem to connect though; it's like the story doesn't give any reason for such ending. However, if the entry could have achieved such strong emotional connection seen in the last page right from the beginning till the end, there would have been no question about the winner.
The Best Script award: 200 dA points by Nsio
Balan's Method </i>[Click here to see the entry]
Script wise, there are no qualms. bundleofstring's script is the most solid, thought-out, clear and easy to read of all entries. The handling of the paragraphs makes the script visually easy to follow. The narration is short, yet informative enough and the sound effects are also included. The story is a well-thought entity, with clear beginning, middle point, solution and ending. It's also positive that the story has deeper meaning in it, which can also give new insight for the readers.
The reasons for Balan's Method not quite making it to the top are quite similar to The Flowerfield Meant for You. Although the story is good, it suffers from the lack of visual story-telling. The backgrounds are competing with the characters too much. The panel layouts are static and the few diagonal panels aren't benefiting the story telling. On the contrary, the diagonals eat a lot of valuable space from the characters. Similar to the The Flowerfield Meant for You, the eyes of the reader don't quite glide across the pages in such a way that it would make the reader get into the flow of the story.
The pitfall of the entry is its alienated characters and independent nature of the story. In slice of life type of manga, it' very important to make the readers connected to the characters and also give hints of larger context they are living in. However, in Balan's Method we get to follow a random family, and we don't really learn much about the characters in the story. The story just ends with a solution, with no hint about what could happen next. The independent nature of the story suggest that there isn't nothing else worth telling about this family. While as a single story, it's definitely good, if not even the best of all the entries, the reader can't connect to the characters in such way that he/she would want to see more about them. This issue is also present in A Flowerfield Meant for You.
If Balan's Method could have established connections to the characters and also given hints of more, it could have made it to the top, despite its issues in visual story telling. Maybe this could have been done with giving more hints about Balan's tendency to help people, like he mentions about selling lemonade. That could make the readers want to learn more about ”Balan's methods” of solving everyday problems of the neighborhood.
-1 month Premium Memberships by Nsio
-OC(s) drawn by Nsio
-Tone chibis of OC main character or pairing by YKajitaka
The Best Visual Story Telling: 200 dA points by Nsio
A Maid Raising a Little Girl</i>[Click here to see the entry]
A Maid Raising a Little Girl is an excellent example how visual story-telling can make a difference in the relatively less interesting premises slice of life stories have in comparison to action or fantasy genres, for instance. Although the art itself is rough, the individual drawings form a flowing and dynamic entity, which allows the reader to hop right into the story.
Varjostaja also introduces quite interesting characters. Although one can argue whether the characters are great or not, the reason they are interesting is that Varjostaja tells a little about their past and their habits, making it that much easier for the readers to connect to them. Irina's grumpy nature and violent past offers great contrast to her job, and she doesn't hesitate to tell that to the readers either. Elsa's mischievous actions are just like that of a child. What kind of prank will she come up next?. Very little is actually told about Dr. Nightend, as it seems like the narrator/protagonist, Irina, doesn't quite know what he is doing in his laboratory either. All these facts make the character very intriguing, and the story offers a great premise for more stories about the lives of the three characters. Although the story has very little point in it plot wise, it literally feels like it's ”slice” of the characters' lives.
Varjostaja's entry excels at visual story-telling with its pages and panel layouts. There isn't such a moment where the reader would be confused where to go next. The diagonal panels are subtle and augment the storytelling, most of the time. The empty space around and between the panels is fair, but it never feels like there was shortage of space. This allows the pages to breathe and makes the reading experience feel much lighter. The only thing that's eating the power from the pages is the lack of variety with close ups and general views, which are utilized more on the other two entries.
Overall, A Maid Raising a Little Girl has a true slice of life feeling to it. It has a mundane story with nice assortment of interesting characters, hope for more adventures and great visual means to bring it to the readers attention.
And that's it. The prizes will be handed out soon after the announcement. Congratulations everyone!
will be announcing the next challenge soon. Stay tuned and make sure to check it out!