When I think of manga or visual novel maker tools, I generally think of PC’s being the main, proper place to release a tool to allow the general public to create one for themselves. I didn’t expect one to come to console – least of all including a handheld console! Yet, Manga Kakeru absolutely surpassed my expectations for what a tool could do… and you can play it on your PS4 or Vita.
A word of warning in advance, everything is in Japanese. However, its very quick and easy to navigate the menus as the Japanese characters form an almost symbol based menu for you. Where this does cause a problem is when you want to write text for your manga. Japanese text that uses English letters (romanji dare I say) uses huge spacing between letters. This will limit what you can fit comfortably in each scene.
Manga Kakeru eases you in with a playable demo with several playable story themes. It places down two characters and then lets you change their clothes, hair, eyes and so on as you personalise your cast. These are done via parent menus and child menus that form the base of how all changes and instructions work in the game. Everything you’ll be using is within four clicks usually across the whole UI and that makes getting around the tool really quick once you understand it. This quick access layout is one of the keys as to why I enjoyed my time with the tool. You are never far away from what you need.
When you’ve created the cast member, they become a character that you can pull into each scene over and over again. These models are 3D and can be rotated and posed. There are about 100 different poses you can use and then if you want more detail, you can change facial expressions, eye squint and even the wind to make the hair blow. Using the analogue sticks and shoulder buttons on your controller or Vita, you can move and scale the characters to fit into the scene. As its a full 360 degree rotation, you can create all kinds of weird and wonderful scenes and have multiple characters on screen at once.
From there you can add in a background, which was one of the few parts I found a bit limiting. All manga seem to be in the school classroom so I would usually leave mine blank. To combat this, I’d switch up some of the drawing styles. You can make things black and white, coloured or have a variety of artistic drawing styles to change it up. You can also decide to turn off the scene frames too if you want a big pop out moment too. Music can be added to scenes but the track choice was limited and I preferred my manga silent!
Lastly, you can then add in and position your speech bubble, choose the style and add the text vertically or horizontally. Then you add in any extra props, sweat or emotive moments like giant NANI?! moments and move onto your next scene.
This may be a tall order to begin with so to get a story up and running quickly Manga Kakeru has about 170 premade scenes for you to pick from. These will use your characters you’ve created and place them in the scene you’ve chosen. This is great for beginners as there will be a learning curve and inevitable time sink to get up and running on this tool. As its a passive reading experience, you’ll create the strip and then save it as a completed work. You can’t make choices or any ‘jump to page 60’ style things, its a straight up story. Once you’ve finished you can upload it to the games website and have it available for others to read. That does mean you are locked into a very small audience initially to view your work. I recommend, if you want to share the work, to screenshot each frame on your PS4 or Vita and then compile it together elsewhere.
I was remarkably surprised at how quickly I was able to get something tangible up and running with Manga Kakeru. Whilst I’m sure there will be snobs who will not enjoy the relatively plain character and background design, it does allow beginners to get into manga creation. If the story is still good, it will carry some of the standardised drawings on display. As a fun creative tool, this is great for console gamers as there is simply nothing else out there to scratch this itch. Dreams could do this and way more but you’ll need to learn a lot more to get started too. Want a quick and simple intro? Manga Kakeru is well worth a look.
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