Learning Japanese with comics -SUMIMASEN!

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Sumimasen -the word that works for everything. I'm sure there are uses I left out, and will most likely put in future strips. Sumimasen is one of my favorite Japanese words, and I marvel at how effortlessly people use it in various situations.

I forgot that creating a comic about living in another country gives plenty of opportunities to teach language and how it relates to the culture. As I grow as a cartoonist, I hope these examples of "international cartooning" improve over time.

The Urban Dictionary defines sumimasen as:

Japanese word meaning, "I am sorry".
Sometimes used together with doumo. "Doumo sumimasen" also means I'm sorry.

Often in conversation "doumo sumimasen" or "sumimasen" are used in place of "Thank you". Perhaps Japanese feeling is, I'm sorry bothering you, but thank you very much to be so considerate.

1. Sumimasen I broke your dish.
2. When a gentle person gives away a seat on a crowded train to an aged person, the person who received the favor may say, "sumimasen" or "doumo sumimasen".

Thanks for your support and don't forget to like and share the comic with the world!

Khalid

What to see at Tokyo Disney Sea?

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Goodness knows, Disney does not need my endorsement or free advertising, but I had to let you know how enjoyable it was at Tokyo DisneySea theme park in Japan.

Even in a typhoon.  That’s right. A typhoon was ripping its way up the western side of Japan at the time, and we were so afraid of getting weather bashed-out of all the fun. 

Fortunately, the weather cooperated, somewhat.  We did get hit with strong winds and some rain, but generally, it was bearable.  You want to know the best part?

Bad weather means fewer people at the park!  So, there were shorter lines and less wait time for rides. 

I have a feeling that DisneySea is not as famous as Tokyo Disneyland, so there are fewer visitors.  It’s one park where as soon as I entered, I felt transported to another world!

The gorgeous architecture in the harbor grabs you as you first walk in and is influenced by the Mediterranean, with a bit of fantasy flair!  Every area feels like another adventure and even when it’s busy, feels relaxed and comfortable.

I will admit that the rides are not as fantastic compared to Disneyland, but they are enjoyable and imagination filled.  The more intense ones are in the Lost River Delta area where you can explore with Indiana Jones or take a roller coaster ride through Raging Spirits.   

 Raging Spirits ride!

Raging Spirits ride!

One of my favorites was the FINDING NEMO ride at Port Discovery.  It made you feel like you were in a small submarine going on adventures with Nemo and Dory through the ocean.  If you get seasick though, this is NOT the ride for you. Plenty of rocking and gliding up and down!

In the American Waterfront area that looks like New York City in the 1920’s, you have the famous Tower of Terror ride, which we didn’t get on because we’ve been on it in America and the Turtle Talk experience where you can talk with an animated version of Crush the green sea turtle from Finding Nemo.  This one was surprisingly fun, and even though it was in Japanese, relatively easy to understand.

I love the Toy Story movies but the ride, Toy Story Mania!, even in bad weather, was the one ride that was packed all day long with insane wait times, so we had to skip it.  If you had a chance to make it in, let me know what you thought!

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The Mysterious Island area looked the coolest, and we had fun riding 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea.  We will need to go back to the Arabian Coast and ride Jasmine’s flying carpets -even though it’s basically the Dumbo ride. 

Because the weather was rough due to the typhoon, it was an excellent relief to head over to Mermaid Lagoon where they have an entire indoor play area with rides, food and a playground.

 In front of the Mermaid Lagoon

In front of the Mermaid Lagoon

Our absolute favorite show was in the Mermaid Lagoon Theater where a performer, dressed as Ariel, is suspended from the ceiling on wires and swings around over the audience below like she's swimming and sings well-known songs from the Little Mermaid film. 

My eight-year-old daughter loves mermaids and almost didn’t see it.  We waited forty-five minutes to get in and as soon as we sat down, with amazing seats, by the way, she says, “I need to go to the bathroom!”  Really? We were just standing all that time, and you didn’t think about going then?

She couldn’t hold it so my wife, who watched this show here before, was kind enough to take her out to the restroom but of course, the theater needed to close the show so they couldn’t get back in.

They thought it would be best for me to at least stay and watch it since we waited all that time and I’ve never seen it.  I must admit, it was pretty fantastic and felt like a small Cirque Du Soleil show!

When it was over, I was so ecstatic about the experience, my daughter was more than ready to stand in line again.  She loved the performance, and I was glad to see it a second time! Make sure to look for the Mermaid Lagoon Theater, it’s pretty hidden in that indoor play area, and see the show when you go.

All in all, it was a fantastic trip to Tokyo DisneySea even in such a massive storm.  We never got extreme rain, but some pretty strong winds hit us a few times. In the evening, we stayed to watch the Fantasmic Mickey Mouse light show that was pretty fun.  They had to modify it a bit due to the weather but still worth watching.

For a new Disney parks experience, I strongly recommend taking your family there next time you’re in the Tokyo area.  Ta-ta for now. See ya' real soon!

Khalid

 

How To Get Specific and Bring Your Work ALIVE!

Let’s just say you want your art, writing or comics to feel more genuine and appealing to your audience. 

I’m finding that making sure to add in specific aspects of the culture or area where the characters are living but adding problems we all recognize, makes your work feel ultra-specific but relatable at the same time. 

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For this Little Fried Chicken and Sushi comic, I needed to show Tanuki using his magic and the theme for the week’s strips was Origami paper folding.  That in and of itself pertains to Japanese culture, but I wanted to see if I could add more.

I jumped over to Google and looked up the most popular things to make with Origami.  Cranes, shuriken, boats and paper cranes came up. A boat! They could be riding on a large origami boat that Tanuki made.  But where?

It could be going down the river in their town of Shimamoto but the background is rural so would not look like any recognizable place in Japan. 

Choosing the Yodo river that runs through Osaka city would give more choices of buildings and bridges to draw that readers who have been to the city would know.

Drawing the Umeda Sky Building behind them was a fun addition.  The curving white bridge to the left of them- I have no idea what it’s named- is a well-known sight in Osaka as well. 

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Coming up with the joke is the challenge.  I asked myself, “What’s the problem in this situation?” 

That was an easy answer for this strip.  The boat is made out of paper!

Perhaps, Tanuki’s magic is surrounding the paper boat and allowing them to stay afloat but the fact is the situation is odd.  Come to think of it, so is a ‘paper’ boat!

You know, if this were real life, someone would have pointed that out.  J is usually the character who thinks about important issues or solves problems creatively.  So, it felt natural that he should be the one delivering the punchline.

When you’re writing or drawing, keep asking yourself how you can make it specific and general at the same time. 

Give people something they know and something new they’ve never experienced before.  Make them curious and then surprise them!


 

Hotaru: How fireflies create magic in Japan

Fireflies are a beautiful part of June in rural areas of Osaka. Tanuki adds a little magic to the experience in this comic!  Would you soar with real fireflies?

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I remember it was magical going down to the river when I was living outside of Osaka city in Shimamoto, to see the fireflies in the evenings of mid June.  All the kids out trying to catch them or count how many they can spot first.

Go out and make some magical memories with your friends and family this summer!  Time really ‘flies’ by fast.

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If you grew up in the south, you must have called fireflies ‘Lightnin’ Bugs’ at some point!  Even if you were in other parts of the U.S., I bet you did. 

My wife was raised in the city and never saw them before visiting my little suburban town of Shimamoto, back when I lived in Japan.  I’ll never forget how excited she was to see them for the first time.

I loved seeing fireflies growing up in Atlanta, Georgia.  It was so magical to go out on a summer evening and look for them by the creek.  

Other kids were talented at catching them and pulling the fireflies apart to add to necklaces.  That was a little too cruel, and gross, for me. I did enjoy capturing them in jars though to watch them light up together. 

It’s a blessing to have an opportunity to share summer memories with you through writing and comics.  Hope yours is the best yet!

On Breaking Your Own Rules: Black Panther comic strips

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When I first started drawing Little Fried Chicken and Sushi comic strips my main goal was to make them timeless by not adding any current events or obvious pop-culture references.

After watching the Black Panther movie, I changed that goal. Breaking my rules looked scary. I couldn’t stop thinking about if I draw strips based on a popular movie, it will date the strip when I eventually collect them into books.

I had to do it!

Black Panther was spectacular in so many ways film wise and as a part of not only black culture but American culture as a whole. There was no way I wasn’t going to make strips about the film!

Of course, it also made about a bajillion dollars at the box office. Not bad for a movie about powerful African characters. There was definitely an audience for this.

First, I thought about how I felt right after seeing it.

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The feeling of creating the boy characters J, Ryan and Karl as T’Challa, Klaue and Killmonger in the above strip was enormously fulfilling. This was my first time creating strips that directly related to real movie characters. I couldn’t believe how much fun I was having!

It took some research and a great deal of drawing details, but I did my final of three Black Panther strips on the women. Mom as Queen Ramonda and little Kasha as Princess Shuri.

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Tanuki’s magic ended up being a great way to experiment with cosplay on the main characters and try my hand at adding in current events.

My mind is more relaxed with the idea now and it’s already churning away thinking of possible gags to add in more pop-culture references in future strips.

Yes. This means the strip changes into something more timely rather than timeless, but I’m pretty sure it will be enjoyable to make and hopefully fun to read.

All the best,

Khalid

Tanuki's New Design!

New Little Fried Chicken and Sushi comic strips relaunched on Monday, March 26 here and on GoComics. There was one change to the strip.  Did you notice?

That's right, Tanuki's character design got an upgrade!  He's cuter and has actual hands that will make it easier to create gags where he needs to hold objects.   Take a look at this model sheet I put together with pictures of actual Tanukis for comparison.

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What do you think about his new design?  Let me know in the comments.  

3 Creativity Hacks Inspired By Japanese Wood Carvings

What do monkeys; a cat and an elephant have in common?  Believe it or not, inspiration for expanding your creativity!

Actually, the animals I’m talking about are ornately carved on structures made over 400 years ago at Toshogu Shrine in the city of Nikko, Japan.  The famous shrine and world heritage site is just north of Tokyo, and was built as the final resting place of ruler Tokugawa Ieyasu.  He founded the Tokugawa Shogunate, the final military dynasty in Japan that lasted from 1603-1867.

Even though Japan has been a part of my life for thirteen years I can’t recall hearing about this place until this summer.  My family and I visited Nikko for several days and were quite impressed with the history and colorful beauty of the area.

Not only was it lovely, there were several takeaways I discovered about the creative process just from pondering these wood carved animals at Toshogu Shrine. 

 Nemuri-Neko, the sleeping cat, guarding Tokugawa Ieyasu's resting place.

Nemuri-Neko, the sleeping cat, guarding Tokugawa Ieyasu's resting place.

 

1.    The Sleeping Cat shows us how we can receive inspiration while at rest

Nemuri-Neko, carved by Hidari Jingoro, is of a sleeping cat surrounded by flowers.  It was placed at the entrance of Tokugawa Ieyasu’s grave to ward off mice and has become a famous recognizable symbol to Japanese people.  What fascinates me is that the cat is sleeping and, similar to a real feline, still seems alert!

I’m reminded of how cats take frequent naps but are still aware of their surroundings and can wake quickly when approached.  Just like when we’re trying to get creative inspiration for our projects, thinking hard doesn’t usually get results.  It’s when we’re sleeping, taking a walk or even using the restroom that the great idea pops into our heads!  If you jump right away and make a mental note or write it down, you can catch it like a little mouse.

Learn to fill your mind with images and information from research related to the project you need a great idea for.  Then take a break so that it can all gel in your brain.  When you let go by doing something different and turn your mind away, the answers will come!

 The artist carved the elephant on the right without ever seeing a real one.

The artist carved the elephant on the right without ever seeing a real one.

2.    The Elephant shows that if you commit to taking risks you can create something no one has ever seen before

On top of a building that was used as a warehouse called “Kamijinko” is a carving of an elephant.  The artist never actually saw one in real life and I think it turned out looking pretty accurate.  I assume he was going off of written descriptions of what elephants look like.

There must have been quite a bit of pressure because this was to be done to honor the emperor.  Since there are no elephants in Japan and no cameras at that time, he had to use his imagination to create his own interpretation.  Yes, we could say that no one else had seen real elephants back then either so he could have created whatever crazy animal he wanted, but it looks like he took it seriously.

The artist couldn’t see any references for what he needed to create but still took a risk and made it happen.  I’m sure he sketched plenty of ideas early on (and probably hated all of them) but found something good eventually through continually doing the work.

When you’re coming up with a new idea or design, use what you know and have the courage to put down ideas even if they look or sound awful.  Getting started is the key.  Learning through continually working on and through your ideas by facing fears, taking small risks and trying styles you’ve never taken on before will create something amazing.    

 The three monkeys reminding you to hear no evil, speak no evil and see no evil.

The three monkeys reminding you to hear no evil, speak no evil and see no evil.

3.    The Three Monkeys want you to train your brain and avoid evil

On the sacred horse stable or Shinkyusha are 8 carved boards along the top that depict the life of a monkey and caricature human life.  One of the most famous boards illustrates the famous Buddhist teaching -if we hear no evil, speak no evil and see no evil; we can live a good life.

It’s something we have to train ourselves to do.  I’m sure all of us have times when we get in deep trouble for speaking evil my mistake!  As we grow in life, we learn when to speak up and when to stay quiet.  You can also train yourself to be more creative as long as you understand that it will take time.  It will take less time if you have a purpose.

Just like the monkeys in the carving you can make a point to avoid evil but pay attention to all the inspiration that you hear, say and see in the world.

Read more and make a point to remember one detail that you feel is important.  Look at the work of artists you admire or despise and study what makes their work special.  Learn a new skill.  Spend time with people you think of as creative and talk with them about what inspires you.  Question everything!  The answers will create new inventions, characters and stories.  

The bottom line is to make a point to take inspiration breaks while you work, commit to consistently taking risks and exercising your creative mind with more than just your art, music or writing.  Keep these ideas in your head each day and watch your creative power expand in ways you never thought possible!

Of course, you should also take a trip to Nikko, Japan.  It’s pretty amazing!  

    

KUBO and the Two Strings Fan Art Process

 My Kubo fan art using pen, markers and colored pencils.

My Kubo fan art using pen, markers and colored pencils.

A young Japanese boy named Kubo, with his magical shamisen and a monkey companion embark on a journey to find his father’s samurai armor and defeat a vengeful spirit from the past.  Kubo and the Two Strings is the latest stop-motion animated film from Laika studios and is a gorgeous work of art!  Beautifully animated and surprisingly emotional, I was completely taken in by this film.  So much so, that I created fan art. 

 My first sketches of Kubo's head.  One looks like a girl and another looks too old.  I had to keep trying!    

My first sketches of Kubo's head.  One looks like a girl and another looks too old.  I had to keep trying!    

 

After sketching several heads of Kubo for practice, I felt confident enough to try a full body pose.  Using blue pencil first, I sketched out his pose, changed his feet a few times and settled on the final look.  I used Pigma Micron pens, 03 and 05 sizes, to ink over my pencil.  It was fun to use a combination of colored pencils and Copic markers for color. 

 The inked version before adding color.  I really wanted the color black added throughout the drawing to add weight and balance.

The inked version before adding color.  I really wanted the color black added throughout the drawing to add weight and balance.

 

Kubo plays his shamisen and makes origami paper fold on its own into animals and characters that move.  My goal was to capture that first moment when he begins to play and the magic happens. 

 

If you haven’t seen Kubo and the Two Strings I strongly encourage you to see it!  I wasn’t sure if it was going to be interesting but I enjoy stop-motion animation so I took a chance.  Within the first few minutes, I knew this movie was a masterpiece! 

 

My only gripe was that they used white actors to play the main characters.  This is supposed to be ancient Japan.  I know Hollywood feels that it needs famous names to draw crowds but it’s sad when you have someone as well known as George Takei playing a background character with two lines. 

 

As an actor of Japanese descent, he really should have been given a bigger role.  If they plan on distributing it in Japan, I would love to hear what it sounds like with actual Japanese actors doing voice-overs.       

 

Even with that in mind, Kubo and the Two Strings is such a great film and the artistry of a story told with animation done by hand is too captivating to miss.  Make sure you go see it and tell me what you think!  

Gudetama gets cooked! In a real restaurant?

Surely you’ve heard of Gudetama the egg character from Sanrio, the same company that brought you Hello Kitty.  He whines about not wanting to do anything and his purpose in life is to lie around and wait to be eaten.  He’s all over the internet and television in Japan, with over 650K followers on Twitter and animated shorts on the TBS channel. 

 

I love this guy and think he's pretty hilarious!  You can imagine my surprise when I was out with my wife shopping in Osaka and came across a restaurant named Cafe Costa Mesa in Namba Parks that was serving special dishes with eggs that look like Gudetama.  I’ll admit, we didn’t have time to eat there but I had to take a few pictures for you. 

 Cafe Costa Mesa serving breakfast, desserts and even salad with Gudetama.  Looks like they have merchandise as you walk in. 

Cafe Costa Mesa serving breakfast, desserts and even salad with Gudetama.  Looks like they have merchandise as you walk in. 

 Which one would you try? 

Which one would you try? 

Gudetama is Sanrio’s most unmotivated character and has absolutely no energy to move.  The first part of his name, Gude pronounced (goo-deh) is a Japanese onomatopoeia for describing something or someone with no strength.  Tama comes from the word tamago, which means egg. 

 

Even though he looks like just one character, he actually represents every egg in existence since the age of dinosaurs!  Sometimes you even see two of them lying around making sure to do nothing. 

 

You can buy merchandise with Gudetama on it like chopsticks, keychains, pens and iPhone cases.  Now, you can go to a restaurant and eat him!  After all, the saying on his Twitter account page is, “I’m only going to be eaten in the end.”  Thanks Cafe Costa Mesa for giving us the opportunity!