I’m going to be starting a new segment that details my influences and inspirations for the Soul Crystals series. First off, I’m going to be talking about how anime has been a giant influence on my work.
If you’re familiar with anime, you will be right at home with many of the recurring elements of the Soul Crystals series. There’s a power/magic system based on characters drawing upon their internal energy. There are angsty teenagers with complicated backstories. There are some intense fight scenes with bright lights flying everywhere. Yeah, it’s pretty anime.
That anime styling of Soul Crystals was purely by design. Ever since I took up writing as a hobby, I knew that I wanted to construct a YA series that was unique. To me, every great YA series has a them. Harry Potter has wizards. Twilight has vampires and werewolves. Eragon has dragons. Percy Jackson has gods and demigods. I remember thinking there wasn’t a series where characters have anime-style powers like in Dragon Ball Z. Sure, Eragon has a complex magic system that relies on a character’s internal energy, but it doesn’t seem quite like what you see in some anime. There are a slew of series like DBZ and Yu Yu Hakusho where the powers aren’t quite magic and aren’t quite sci-fi pseudo-science. It is something to itself. That is what I wanted to nail down in Soul Crystals.
So, let’s get into it. Here are the series that contributed to Soul Crystals the most:
Dragon Ball Z
Here it is: the granddaddy of all anime (if you grew up watching Toonami on American TV). I mentioned this in the intro, but DBZ gave me ideas for the power systems in Soul Crystals. Many anime and fantasy fiction books opt for elemental-style powers (think Avatar: The Last Airbender). There is some of that in DBZ, but most of the time, characters keep their energy in its pure form. They create their own moves with it, and it fits their personalities. It’s the same way in Soul Crystals. Superhuman characters transfer energy from their very beings to the outside. In Soul Crystals, the pure energy (anima) can be respond to the character’s emotion and personality, thus making it look slightly different for everyone.
Want to know my single biggest inspiration for Soul Crystals? It’s this 2011 anime. Unless you’re an avid anime watcher, you’ve probably never heard of it. If you are another anime super-fan, you may only know this show as the one of the more divisive ones out there. It has a lot of detractors and a few, ardent defenders. You’ve probably guessed that I’m in the latter category.
Since you’ve probably never heard of it, here’s a rundown I made myself: Ten years ago, a mysterious virus decimated the population of Japan. The UN tasked a secretive organization called GHQ to oversee the virus outbreak and ensuing unrest. In 2039, GHQ rules Japan with an iron fist, and people continue to die from the virus which causes crystals to grow like cancer on the body. Antisocial teenager Shu Ouma is accidentally drawn into a terrorist organization called Funeral Parlor by a mysterious, emotionless girl named Inori. He chances upon a power called the King’s Power or Void Genome that lets him draw mysterious weapons/tools out of people. From there, Guilty Crown is a haunting tale of betrayal, horrifying flashbacks/hallucinations, and redemption.
So what does that have to do with Soul Crystals? Mysterious organizations? Check. Awkward, shy teenage protagonist? Check. Emotionless girl as a main character? Check. Flashbacks? Check. Severe mental anguish? Check. Weird super crystals? Check.
Yes, Souls Crystals‘ protagonist, Paul Engel, was inspired by Shu Ouma. I was drawn to that character since I found a lot of similarities to that character in myself. Paul is not a carbon copy of Shu, however. Paul’s situation is a bit different. He joins his secretive organization, ARC, based on the fact that it will benefit his family. He also doesn’t have any scenes were he completely shirks his responsibilities due to the pressure like Shu does. That’s even though he really wants to.
Likewise, Alice was inspired by Inori. Just because they don’t say much or show much on the surface doesn’t mean that there isn’t a lot going on with them. You just have to wait to find out a little more about them. I’m hoping that Alice’s cryptic nature gets readers to think more about the story.
Guilty Crown‘s storytelling and tone also influenced those in my story. Like Guilty Crown viewers, Soul Crystals readers won’t get all the information about the story in the beginning. There are many shock reveals woven into the story. As far as tone goes, I love action properties that allow themselves to be dark and serious. I never like turning off my brain to just enjoy an action movie. I think action can lend itself to complexity and real emotion. Characters should seem real. When a tragedy happens, they should feel it like a real person. They shouldn’t get over it in a minute just to drop a one-liner. But, is Soul Crystals completely “grim-dark?” I hope not. There are some funny characters with their own differing types of complexity.
I’m including both Naruto and Naruto Shippuden in this (anime fans will know what that means). What did I get out of Naruto? I really took to heart the team dynamic in early Naruto. Just like Naruto, Sasuke, Sakura, and their leader Kakashi have vastly different personalities, Paul gets put on a team with a lot of different personalities. There Alice who I brought up before. There’s Camilla who seems strangely friendly and normal for someone in her situation. There’s Jason who wants nothing to do with anyone else. And then there’s their teacher Luper who’s a pretty strict and unorthodox taskmaster.
Naruto is also a series where kids have to adjust to the stark realities of their world very quickly. Starting at the age of 12, Naruto and his friends have to deal with themes like genocide, suicide, assassinations, organized crime, world wars, and political instability. That’s just to name a few. My characters are a little older, aged mostly 16-18, but they also have to grow up quickly in similar circumstances.
Naruto had a big influence on some of my characters as well. Jason’s vengeful, goal-driven personality and gruff personality mirrors Sasuke (my personal favorite Naruto character). I will say that Jason’s story takes some different turns than what we see in Sasuke.
One of Naruto’s mentors, Kakashi, helped me to craft the character of Gregory Luper. Originally, I got Luper’s personality from Liam Neeson’s portrayal of Ra’s al Ghul in Batman Begins. In the early drafts, he almost felt like a villain. I then took some inspiration from Kakashi who is also a stern mentor but with an understanding and goofy personality on the side.
In conclusion, Naruto is my favorite anime so it was virtually impossible for me not to be partly inspired by it. I mean… you can’t not like a show that you’ve watched 722 episodes of… plus movies and spin-offs.
My Hero Academia (Boku no Hero Academia)
I watched all of the other series on this list well before I wrote Soul Crystals. So what did I watch while I was writing it? Well, this…
In Soul Crystals, we get to see Paul’s thoughts which means that I was always trying to add dimensions to his character. In My Hero, I was especially taken by the protagonist’s, Izuku Midoriya (aka Deku), studious nature. In a world of superheroes, he is constantly filling notebooks about hero and villain powers and strategies. That inspired me to make Paul a good learner. Over the course of ARC of the Amuli, you’ll see him get smarter and adapt to his powers and opponents.
I’ll also add that there are a medley of different anime that contributed to Soul Crystals as well. I’ve actually forgotten what most of them are at this point. I can say how many times I’ve rewatched something and thought “so that’s where I got that idea!” If you’re an anime fan, you’ll probably get be able to dig in and find those nuggets. Fair warning, this probably won’t be the last time you will see me post about anime.