Japanese Anime Club Meeting

Cal State Fullerton's Japanese Anime Club gathered for an event in January 2020. (Sandra Leo)


When the weight of reality feels like it’s too much to bear, escaping to another world is an ideal option. With a dash of creativity, students can build their own world complete with characters and a unique atmosphere. 

Cal State Fullerton’s Japanese Anime Club hosted an online original character and worldbuilding workshop on April 23 via Twitch to help students create their own world with new design concepts. 

The club’s event planner, Virginia Nguyen, was the first presenter; she provided attendees with her advice about worldbuilding. 

Nguyen said that fellow creators and artists should start by looking at the worlds that they already know and love to find elements and details that stand out and make these worlds interesting. She also explained that new creators should maintain their suspension of disbelief to make the audience want to learn more about their world.

“It basically means to ignore common sense for the sake of enjoyment,” Nguyen said.

Nguyen told attendees that they can add depth to original characters by asking themselves  what relationship their character has to the world.

“So, what’s the culture like? How does the environment look like? What are the dangers, what happens when you break the rules, etc.,” Nguyen said. “And then, after you ask these questions, do the research.” 

Nguyen also said that students don’t need to be experts, but it will help if they can build a comprehensive understanding of how their world works. However, she said that students shouldn’t lose sight of the fact that characters are the most important part of the story.

Nguyen used her own original characters as examples and described her thought process behind the design of each of her characters, connecting their features to different elements of her world. 

Nguyen said there are two types of worldbuilding: soft and hard. Soft worldbuilding includes worlds that are more vague and leave most of the interpretation up to the audience. Hard worldbuilding involves more elaborate and detailed worlds, and because of that, they are more believable. 

“This is when the creator knows and tells you as much as they can about the world and the characters without bogging it down with exposition,” Nguyen said.

Some examples of hard worldbuilding are “Fullmetal Alchemist,” “My Hero Academia,” and “One Piece.”

The presentation also went over Jule Selbo’s “Eleven-Step Story Arc,” which explained the different elements of the story such as the character’s overall needs and the moment when everything goes well and falls apart. 

The president of the club, Sandra Leo, helped students distinguish between original characters and fan original characters.

“Your original characters, or OC, will exist primarily in an original storyline that you’ve created, whereas a fan original character exists primarily in the storyline that is created by somebody else,” Leo said. 

“My Hero Academia” was used in a hypothetical example to explain what fan original characters are. Leo said that if a creator were to make up a character that resides in that world and interacts with actual characters from that anime, the character would be considered a fan OC. 

Leo said that as long as creators are only inserting their OCs into existing worlds and storylines for fun and their enjoyment, they shouldn’t run into legal issues. It is only when a creator attempts to monetize these actions that they could run into legal trouble.

Leo also distinguished between a fan character and a redesign of a character. Leo said that a good rule of thumb is to keep in mind that if a creator is only tweaking one or two features of a character, like hair color or body type, it is a redesign. However, if a character has some of the story elements incorporated into it, and a unique personality and background, it’s a fan original character.

The presenters also made sure to spend time talking about character diversity. They said that there doesn’t have to be a specific reason to give a character certain features or characteristics unless it is plot-related. However, they said that creators should refrain from stereotyping their characters because it can be harmful to certain groups and perpetuate negative beliefs. 

The club ended the workshop with a Q&A session where presenters answered questions from the stream viewers about OC creation and worldbuilding.

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