While I had watched anime prior to 1999, no particular series grabbed me so completely as Serial Experiments Lain. It was Christmas vacation, and my friend Grant (from bakacafe) and I were wondering through a Suncoast Motion Picture Company store. Today the chain is all but gone, but at the time, it was the only place in Minnesota where you could get the newest anime.
At this point, we knew only the few shows provided to us by the Sci-Fi channel's Saturday Anime. The original film version of Ghost in the Shell made me a card-carrying Otaku overnight. Outside of that, we were exposed to a variety of anime movies. Most notably, Tenchi Muyo in Love. Neither of us knew about the OVA or Tenchi Universe, so the film came off as completely confusing. Despite that, neither of us could stop watching it.
While Suncoast provided a plethora of choices, the problem was that you were buying in the dark. Anime was no where as popular as it is now, and review sites were scarce. This posed a particular problem for two college-age Otaku with little to no money. Anime was terribly expensive. A single tape was $25 on average, quite a markup over domestically produced films.
We both found ourselves eying two different series -- The Tenchi Muyo OVA, and a curiously short series entitled Serial Experiments Lain. We both agreed that we'd buy half of each series. We spent the night watching them, first Tenchi. Suddenly, everything from the film we watched months and months ago made sense. It was a revelation. Obviously the movie was a continuation from the series. After some number of hours, we watched Lain.
By the end of it, we were stunned. What we had seen before paled in comparison to this. Even the style of the artwork was different. Unlike Tenchi, the characters seemed less stylized and more natural. The cover artwork was in stark contrast to other manga artwork. It was a gritty, cross-hatched window on a world that blended both the geometric style typical of anime, with a dingy, realistic sheen.
While I had been teaching myself to draw anime characters before, after watching lain, I tried to emulate ABe's gritty style. I wasn't successful until several years later, when I drew Novella #20. Even then our styles are markedly different. My style primarily relies on the grain of the paper. ABe's style relies on hatching to create darkened areas and depth. And there's the obvious point he's a far, far better artist than I can ever hope to become. Even today my artwork doesn't approach the level of naturalism in all of ABe's work.
Sometime between then and today, I discovered that there was a Lain art book: An Omnipresence in the Wired. The thought of an entire volume of images from my favorite artist was intoxicating. The problem was, by the time I had heard about it, the price of the books had skyrocketed. A short time after that, they were impossible to find anywhere. It was unfortunate, but I couldn't really afford to buy such a thing as a college student.
So, when I opened the gift bag containing a copy, I couldn't believe it. How did he find such a thing?
As it turns out, this isn't the original edition of the book, but rather a reprint. I hadn't noticed until I read the back of the book where ABe briefly explains what happens. Apparently, there were a number of problems with the production of the first book and it had to be canceled for "various reasons". Thankfully, there were more vocal fans than I in requesting a re-release. Although I've only had my copy in possession for a short time, I finding myself motivated to bring Novella into existence all the more.
Over the last few weeks, I've been trying to rework the story. Novella's character has been the primary target. I haven't been happy with her since the first Draft 3 outline. See seemed to bland and passive to be the locust of the story. I had hoped this would fix itself during the outline development, but it only seemed to get worse and worse. Novella, I hope, will be a more dynamic character in Draft 4, which I'm currently working on.
My original plans for Draft 4 was to work on it until the end of the year and then "quietly" begin to release comics in January of 2007. Work, unfortunately, has put considerable demands on me in the last month and I found myself working at the office, at home, on weekends... I managed to complete a good deal of that work on Tuesday this week, allowing me some time to relax and regain my bearings. Furthermore, I have the next week and a half off (with some exceptions), which will allow me more freetime to work on the story.
The question that remains is if I should start to produce comics starting next month. Originally, I had hoped for a two months to develop the script before going into production. Now it's only weeks from January, and I'm no further than I was in November. I would hate to delay again, since I've already spent a year developing the current outline. I'm uneasy starting now as I have several new ideas I want to introduce. Maybe I'm just nervous.