The Impact of Manga: When Promotional Comics Become the Backbone of Lore

This blog has previously touched on the basic definition and function of tie-in comics, which you can read here if you haven’t seen it yet. However, I wanted to share a specific instance where a tie-in comic not only expanded the lore of its universe, but evolved from just advertising the game it was created to promote to becoming the foundation of the lore for the very first area the player travels through in the game.

That’s right – today we’re talking about Genshin Impact.

Genshin Impact is an open-world action RPG created by Chinese game development studio miHoYo that follows the main character, the dimension-hopping Traveler, in their quest to travel the world they most recently landed in, Teyvat, to find the secrets of the world and reunite with their sibling after being sealed away by an unknown god for 500 years for trying to leave. In preparation for the game’s official release in September 2020, miHoYo released a manga by the same name that ran for just over a year on Webtoon from November 2018 – January 2020. For unknown reasons, the manga’s run on Webtoon was cut short and the full English translation of the entire manga was later uploaded to their official site.

And yet, even though the manga’s primary purpose was to tease and later advertise the game, it lays down so much groundwork for the story that the game still adheres to today.

The manga primarily focuses on the worldbuilding and character relations found in the first area of the game, Mondstat. The prologue lays out the city’s founding and early history, depicting the events leading up to the usurpation of the tyrannical nobles of the Lawrence Clan and the founding of the Knights of the Favonius, the city’s current governmental and civil justice system. The rest of the chapters are set just before the events of the game and are dedicated to helping the audience get to know the characters and the shenanigans that ensue when a sickly visitor from out of town starts wreaking havoc.

Much of the worldbuilding introduces the audience to the basics of how Teyvat works. The world is divided into seven nations, each ruled / watched over by a respective patron god called an Archon. Each nation corresponds to one of the seven elements in their magic system: Anemo (wind), Geo (earth), Electro (lightning), Dendro (life/plants), Hydro (water), Pyro (fire), and Cryo (ice). For example, Mondstat’s Archon is Barbatos, god of winds and freedom. If someone receives an artifact called a Vision, that person is given the ability to wield and manipulate one of the seven elements. We’re also introduced to one of the two big bad organizations that the player fights in the game: The Fatui, based in Snezhnaya, the nation of ice, who seek to grow power and control in any way they can in the name of their goddess, the Tsaritsa. One such scheme is the creation of Delusions, artifacts that mimic a Vision but are harmful to long-term users.

The real stars of the show are the backstories of each of the characters. Throughout the manga, we get to know the backstories of the initial roster of playable characters that were released with the game. Some characters, like Jean, the acting Grand Master of the Knights, and Lisa, the Knights’ librarian, are given a basic rundown and then promptly released into the action. Others are given more of a much-needed spotlight due to either lack of exposure in the main game or the sheer volume of backstory that needed to be told. Venti is the resident part-time bard, part-time god that loves a good drink and protects the freedom of Mondstat’s people. Amber is the young upstart of the Knights that wants to prove her worth as an Outrider. The main focus of the manga is establishing the family history and current rocky relationship between Kaeya, the suspicious and flirty Cavalry Captain of the Knights, and Diluc, wealthy owner of the Dawn Winery by day, Darknight hero and resident Batman reference by night. The tragic circumstances surrounding Diluc’s father’s death directly lead to his breakaway from both the Knights and his adopted brother, Kaeya, leading him to forsake his Vision and start a vigilante justice spree against the Fatui.

While there are a few inconsistencies, namely referring to the Fatui plural as Fatuus and referring to Mondstat as just ‘Mond’ to save space on the page (see picture below), the major beats are still respected to this day and have even gained their own references and whole limited-time events dedicated to their introduction into the main game.

Chapter 1, page 20: The Fatui envoy describes their reasoning behind their recruitment push – for the “protection” of ‘Mond’

Most exciting is the recent addition of Sumeru, the nation of knowledge, to the game and three characters that previously only appeared in the manga: Collei, the sickly street urchin that wanders into Mondstat and causes chaos in the manga; Cyno, the General Mahamatra and Lisa’s friend from the Akademyia; and Il Dottore, the second of the Fatui Harbingers (the most powerful members of the Fatui that oversee the organization’s operations).

The manga is revered in the community to this day as the go-to source for both backstory lore and wonderful pictures of the Mondstat crew since the main game does not include many animations of the characters making expressive emotions (see the amazing picture below).

Chapter 1, page 25: Diluc sasses sassily with a smirk.

Since the release of the game, miHoYo has continued the tradition set forth by the manga that most of their promotional material – no matter the medium – is not only an ad. It’s a continuation of the story that adds something to whatever topic the ad focuses on, be it a character teaser or a simple cooking recipe.

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