From Rags to Riches, From Pilot to Series

The first chapter of any manga we see rarely anything close to the preliminary draft of the same manga concept. You usually only get one chance to make a first impression so manga artists and their editors tweak, refine, trim their initial ideas that start rather rough around the edges until they are lean, mean, long-term series generating machines. The rougher drafts of existing work are often lost to the sea of time and then mostly only mentioned off handily in interviews. But on occasion we get to see behind the curtain when one-shots are published either to test the waters on a series or as a special treat for an existing series (or to fill some space in a tankobon).

There are three published version of Romance Dawn which eventually we go on to be the series we know as One Piece today. While the overall premise is instantly recognizable you can see the slow evolution of the concepts that would eventually become the finished product that is one of the best-selling comics ever. While Luffy and his pirate adventures are a constant not much else is. Main elements of the world are changed or dropped as the series is refined. Elements like witchcarft are removed and the quest for title of King of the Pirates is added. Almost all the chapters have a Nami like character who is absent in the final first chapter and introduced later on in the series. The progression from the initial idea to the polished work is quite intriguing even when we don’t see all the steps involved.

You can see a similar pattern when looking at the initial one-shot release of manga. Often times a popular one-shot manga will be spun off into a full series if the audience is receptive to the idea. That is often the reason to publish many one-shot manga in the first place. This phenomenon is often a good way to see the formative process of an initial concept to a finished product in an in-between stage. Even stories like Rumiko Takahashi’s Those Self Selfish Aliens or Fire Tripper give interesting insights into the full works that would become Urusei Yatsura and Inuyasha. In this post I will be examining two manga and how they evolve from their initial one-shot premiere to their final initial debut as a full-fledged story.

The first series I’m looking at will be no surprise to anyone who knows me. That manga would be Hayate the Combat Butler. While the product tells the initial setup of Hayate Ayasaki’s adventures in two chapters the initial one-shot squeezes that same story into a single chapter. Already that means certain aspects of the original story have a greater chance to breathe and be expanded upon in their final form. The general premise is the same but even in the first chapter there are slight differences that change the general course of the manga entirely. Had that original one-shot been used the series might be very different today.

First thing to look at is what is the same. On Christmas Eve Hayate’s parents sell him to the yakuza and said mobsters are at Hayate’s house to collect their money. Hayate then decides to try to kidnap a small blond rich girl to random her. In trying to kidnap her he saves her from some sleazy pick up artists. Nagi then develops a crush on her savior. This eventually leads to her actually being kidnapped by the criminals from God’s Rocket Punch and Hayate chasing them on a bike. He then stops the car with a Rider class biking ability only to be hit by said car. All of this gets him the provisionary position of the new Sanzenin family butler.

But the devil is in the details. First of all there is no Santa scene so there is no later Mikado hook. We never even see Hayate’s parents. They are just mentioned to start the plot. We also go straight into the debt without seeing any of Hayate’s plight before being sold off nor just how terrible his parents are before they sold him. The design of the Yakuza are a bit different with some of their characteristics like who has the scar changing in the different versions. Also one of the Yakuza was definitely pretty boyed up.

While the scene where Hayate saves Nagi is generally unchanged. But after saving Nagi from those older guys he immediately confesses to originally planning to kidnap her. Nagi forgives him and then immediately brings Hayate back to the mansion and offers him the job as a butler. There is no misunderstanding about the kidnapping so Nagi does not assume her love is a two-way street. We see that right off the bat Nagi is not just rich but insanely rich. There is no mention of Himegami as Nagi’s first butler. Klaus is largely perfunctory in this introduction while in the final story Klaus is more of a hindrance to Hayate getting the job. Also Maria is a bit more sadistic and openly manipulative than her kinder and subtler portrayal in the revision.

In both stories Hayate insists on trying to get the job of butler with hard work and guts despite not having any previous experience. But in the official version Hayate demonstrates more talents from his odd jobs that prove he has received the training he needed without ever knowing it. In the one-shot Nagi is kidnapped when leaving the mansion after having an argument with Hayate but other than that the rescue is played out essentially the same.

Hayate is also much more openly flirtatious with Maria after he saves Nagi from the kidnappers. He is clearly trying to curry favor with Maria and largely ignores Nagi. In the final draft Hayate always makes Nagi priority one despite having a strong attraction to Maria. In response Nagi is much more aware of Hayate’s feelings for Maria and openly scornful of that fact.

Kenjiro Hata once said the author’s notes page that originally the secret about Hayate’s initial intent with Nagi was supposed to be cleared up very early on in Hayate. This one-shot definitively shows that was the case. There are a dozen of little changes. Since the official manga has much more time to tells its story there is just more content. But the biggest and most important difference is that in the final draft there is the huge emotional time bomb placed in-between Nagi and Hayate and Maria is the only one who knows the truth. That minor change really defines the rest of the manga.

Just as a random side note I would like to mention that the one-shot clearly states the manga is Nagi and Hayate’s love story. I’m just saying.

By the same token while the premise is the same the details between the pitch for Binbougami Ga! and what actually was produced in the end is very similar but has several key differences. While Binbougami Ga!’s one shot and premiere are both one chapter long the first official chapter of Binbougami Ga! is over double the size of the original story that spawned it. Unlike Hayate while the initial premise is the same the overall plot of the Binbougami Ga! one-shot is very different from how it would originally turn out.

The idea at the root of both chapters is the same. Sakura Ichiko is an outrageously lucky girl who has been blessed her whole life. In fact she is so lucky that heaven sends a poverty god to help redistribute the luck she has been unconsciously taking from others. The poverty god Momiji tries to convince Sakura that she should voluntarily give up her good luck to help those around her but that is not happening. So Momiji is forced to resort to more extreme methods. Including Doraemon like poverty god gadgets.

The biggest difference between the two stories is that while Sakura’s butler Suwano appears in both stories he never physically appears in the one-shot but is the key element that the story revolves around in official first chapter. If the one-shot was the actual first episode it is clear that he would have eventually been draw into the conflict between Sakura and Momiji. But in this initial draft the conflict is centered around an unnamed girl and her grandmother. While they invoke the memory of Suwano all in all they are just strangers.

While we see less of Sakura’s terrible personality both takes on the beginning start much the same. But Momiji surprises Sakura much sooner and goes for the throat much quicker as well. When it is clear that conventional attacks won’t against someone so fortunate Momiji drops Sakura in the middle of a bank robbery in hopes that she will start using her luck to help the hostages.

In the end when Sakura sees the little girl and her grandmother in danger at the bank robbers are going to shoot them she eventually springs into action and saves everyone even to the point of putting herself in grave danger. But she does so without letting Momiji remove any of her accumulated luck but instead uses one of the poverty god gadgets.

Also for some reason the whole running gag with Momiji’s inferiority complex about her breasts is hardly touched upon in the one-shot. But I am sure that some people would consider that a major plus in the prototype’s favor. I am also amused that there is a running gag with an escaped giant falcon that did not make it into the full version.

I have to say the finished version of the story work a bit better for me. First of all Suwano works better as the center point of the first story. It makes much more sense that someone billed as selfish as Sakura would only help her beloved father figure as opposed to random strangers. When she helps Suwano the emotional pay off is much greater while also keeping her character slightly more despicable over all.  All the best Urusei Yatsura characters are the one who are horrible but you can’t help rooting for. (Except for Ryuunosuke Fujinami but that just explains why Rindou Ranmaru gets the same free pass.)

Also Momiji comes off as smarter in the final draft because while all her blatant attacks always fail her subtler use of giving Sakura just enough noose to hang herself usually pays off for her in the end. Plus Sakura rarely realizes that it is going on. She does not even get her small sneaky victories in the one-shot.

From what I can tell Sakura might have been able to summon the Seven Lucky Gods instead of her 12 divine Zodiac generals. But that is just pure speculation on my part due to the one-shots’ splash page. Also is it just me or are Sakura’s breasts (hard to believe as it may be) even larger in the one-shot?

Overall the things that interests me the most is the overall formula of how one parlays a one-shot pilot into a full series. Your one shot has to be extremely streamlined. Short but sweet seems to be the rule. You want to sell your premise with the utmost economy. The real deal can take a bit more of its time to let things build and develop. Especially with Hayate it is clear that many more later plot hooks were worked in so they could develop in the full series that were either not placed in the one-shot or not even conceived of. Also the art is usually a bit more cleaned up and detailed in the final run.

On the other hand it is clear that much of the jokes and the story lines are not totally new. Anything that works is brought over to the finished product and often times completely untouched. The two Hayate pictures above are a picture perfect example. There is no reason to reinvent the wheel if you have something that already works. You keep or build upon what was successful and then remove the chaff.

If nothing else this post might get you to think a little more about the next premiere title you see. What drafts did they go through to get to the product that you see? What was cut? What was added? What would you have done differently? What would you have done exactly the same way?

What are you thinking?

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