The Taiwanese novelette Cheng Huang (城隍~賽米絲物語) — a well-received story with a light-hearted take on the traditional Chinese netherworld — is scheduled to take its first tentative steps in the immense local comic book market, which has been dominated by Japanese manga, with a theme song and a live music video on the way.
The novelette’s publisher announced plans to launch the graphic adaptation of the book on Thursday next week, to coincide with the opening of the 13th Comic Exhibition, an annual six-day Taipei-based expo that has attracted an average of 500,000 visitors year after year.
The book’s illustrator, who also brought the comic books Ye Feng (夜風) and Level X Yung Che (Level X 勇者) to life, is to attend the event and is set to join 45 comic book creators and voice actors, both from Taiwan and overseas, at signing sessions with their fans.
The light novel, released in February, centers around the mythical stories of netherworld deities including Cheng Huang — the city deity who acts as a prosecutor in the underworld’s district court — and the “eight generals” who operate as netherworld police.
Counter to the long-standing “world of the dead” horror stereotype in which ghosts and gruesome gods rule supreme, the world depicted by the novelist — who uses the pen-name Tsang Keui (蒼葵) — is not that different from the world of the living.
Cheng Huang, the book’s leading character, is represented by a petite, child-like female character called Ai Tsao (艾草), who has long dark hair and twinkling black eyes, rather than the customary solemn male figure.
The novel’s unique presentation of the netherworld has resulted in the story selling more than 20,000 copies in a five-month period and becoming the first novel in the country’s history to be adapted into comic form within such a short timespan.
A sequel to the novel, published in May, also swiftly made its way onto the best-seller list with publishers from Thailand and Japan expressing interest in publishing the novel in their own countries under licence.
Several renowned Taiwanese cosplay enthusiasts, including Akatsuki Tsukasa, Neneko, Mao-mao (毛毛) and Manami are also set to take part in a live music video dedicated to the novel in which they are to dress up as various characters from the story.
Meanwhile, Chia, a popular online singer, has been invited to sing the theme song.
With a number of animation theme songs under her belt, including one accompanied by the Taipei Civic Symphonic Band in April, Chia said she was quite nervous about singing for a Chinese-language comic book for the first time.
“By producing a theme song and a music video, more readers could get enchanted by the good music or the intriguing video and then want to know more about the work itself,” Chia said.