SolarFlare is among the list of manga titles flying off the printed page and into the Twitterverse.

Everyst is a new app and storytelling platform that presents manga in a whole new way. Rather than reading the story in sequence from a book, these plots are presented to you in a weekly flurry of tweets by its main characters such as in the series SolarFlare.

It might seem a little simple at first glance, especially if you’re expecting a fully-fleshed story in the traditional sense, but it’s really a neat concept that takes easy reading to a whole other level.

Do you ever notice whenever reading a sudden barrage of tweets from Donald Trump or Kanye West, you start to build a mental image of what they’re doing right at that moment? That’s the imaginary world where SolarFlare and other Everyst manga plays, both full of potential and breezily immersed in your normal Twitter feed.

Here to tell us more is the CEO of 96 Problems and founder of Everyst Ben Watanabe, along with Everyst Editor-In-Cheif and SolarFlare‘s writer Hengtee Lim, and its co-creator Masi Oka, who you also probably know as the star of shows like Hawaii 5-0 and Heroes and producer of the Netflix Death Note adaptation and upcoming Hollywood Attack on Titan adaptation.

▼ Pictured left to right: Masi Oka, Ben Watanabe, and Hengtee Lim

・Masi, how did you get involved in Everyst and what attracted you to the platform?

Masi: “I was introduced to Everyst by a longtime friend who invested in Everyst and works in the Japanese publishing industry. He thought that it could be a good match for me to get involved in and when I saw Everyst I thought he was right. We’re always looking for ways to bridge the interest of our fans during the hiatus between seasons of TV shows or movies of a franchise. I thought there was great potential there for a platform like Everyst to keep that fan engagement alive.”

・ Can you tell us more about the fan engagement? One of the big questions I had while reading was whether or not I could interact with the characters since it was essentially a story but also existing in the interactive world of social media.

Ben: “Every once in a while a character will reply to a fan if they say something funny or ask the right question. You can see some of this happening on Katya’s page from our other story, Conspiracy Research Club. While the stories aren’t “choose your own adventures” our team and the writers are always looking at how fans are reacting to see where we might take a story next.”

Conspiracy Research Club is one of several other titles currently running both on Twitter and through the Everyst app, ranging from comedy to adventure.

It’s a story that has been around longer and already has a large number of replies per tweet, compared to SolarFlare which has just started and is still mainly in its character development stage.

・ Could you tell us where the idea for SolarFlare originates?

Masi: “We were playing around with a bunch of ideas, from Battle Royale-esque stories to family reunification stories to space operas. We ended up going towards space opera, and wanted to see how a modern space opera might play out in our era of livestreamed startup culture. That’s where @S_F_Nat and the SolarFlare team came in and their “promotional stunt” to help fund their startup’s intergalactic mission.”

・ Speaking of start-ups, is SolarFlare in any way autobiographical of Everyst itself?

Ben: “Haha! I wish, or maybe I don’t, since Natsuko is a little bit of a mess at times and crazy, but maybe Hengtee is trying to tell me something. Probably!”

SolarFlare is the name of a deep space exploration project that uses a ship propelled by bursts of energy from the sun.

The project is headed by Natsuko (@S_F_Nat), a young genius who’s enthusiastic to a fault.

Hengtee: “At its core, SolarFlare can be a story of all startups and teams, and the struggle and uncertainty that we all go through when we’re trying to come together to reach something bigger than ourselves.”

・ What parts of the story is Masi involved with?

Masi: “I was involved in the initial story concept and character creation. We thought a lot about what motivates the characters, how they might grow through their journey, and where they might end up. We came up with multiple end games that just might change, depending on how the audience reacts.”

The rest of the Solar Flare team also have their own Twitter accounts: the edgy researcher Felipe (@S_F_Felip), clumsy programmer Ken (@S_F_Ken), the mechanic with a mean streak Sara (@S_F_Sara), the medic and oldest member Lyle (@S_F_Lyle), and even the ship’s AI, Ainstein (@S_F_Ainstein01).

・ Considering the Twitter-based style of storytelling, is it a problem to refrain from overwriting? Seems like a difficult task to balance the content with the ease of reading SolarFlare currently has going for it.

Hengtee: “Writing for twitter can definitely be tough; the pacing, how many tweets in an hour is okay, how many tweets overall is okay? We’re always trying to refine and make less more. We’ve been trying to get our stories down to just a few perfectly timed tweets and illustrations in a day to inspire the reader’s imagination to fill the gaps as the time passes between events, or while waiting during the countdown of the shuttle launching.
At first glance, SolarFlare and our other stories might be mistaken for “short stories” since they’re delivered in short bites and so easy to read, but we’re working to build really extensive worlds.”

As of this interview, the SolarFlare team had only just achieved lift-off, meaning the adventure is still in its very early stages. However, catching up is easy as each week’s tweets are preserved using Twitter’s Moments feature.

However, as Hengtee points out, writing for Twitter is more about utilizing negative space and story details that aren’t directly presented to the reader.

・Where would you like to see SolarFlare and Everyst go in the future?

Masi: “I’d love to see the SolarFlare universe grow, no pun intended, and further missions and characters added into the character’s world. As for Everyst, I’d love to see their team start working with some of my favorite shows and movies, making side stories and spinoffs to fill the gap between seasons and sequels.”

Oh? Anything specific in the works you can tease us with?

Ben: “We have a few partnerships in development with publishers, international music groups, professional athletes, and YouTubers to get their stories out to the world; but sadly nothing we can say just yet, or Masi might go Hiro Nakamura on us! We’ve been really lucky to have him involved and the doors that his introductions have opened. You’ll surely see announcements coming on our Twitter at the start of next year though!”

・I noticed on the Everyst website you seem to be actively recruiting, and the SoraNews readership might be a good pool for potential contributors. Would you like to tell them how to apply or offer some words of encouragement?

Ben: “We’re always looking to meet new people like us, the square pegs that don’t always fit the round slots! Currently, we’re looking for interns to join our team in a graphic design or community outreach role, illustrators who want to get their story out to the world, and a sales professional to head up our domestic partnerships.
We’re always up for being surprised by someone that doesn’t fit any of the roles I mentioned, and is ready to carve out their own niche in our team. We’d love it if people got in touch with us at our website or Twitter account!”

It’s often been reported that the manga industry is in a state of decline, and to survive it will need to innovate. Online is clearly the medium for this innovation, which companies like Shonen Jump have been trying to cross into.

However, so far, it’s been more of an attempt to cram traditional manga onto an online platform. Platforms like Everyst, on the other hand, are looking for creative ways to to evolve manga to truly fuse with the medium. It’s certainly worth looking into for all you aspiring writers and artists out there as well as fans of manga.

Source: Everyst (iTunes, Google PlayTwitter/@S_F_Nat
Images: ©Everyst