Wow, I love this thread. Always wanted one like this. First let me say Negima is god when it comes to story-telling!!! Not just fangasming here, it's relevant because it's a series that plays around with story-telling devices alot making constant references to them by breaking the fourth wall so it's especially fun for someone who keeps story structure in mind when reading a series. Constant reading of manga+the higher minds that can be found in this forum have been shaping my mind to have an appreciation for better story-telling. As such and without trying to sound sanctimonious (because I sound like that enough already by now), I'll try to answer these questions to the full of my ability. (forgive any Negima references here and there, I'm still on my high).
What are the requirements for a manga to be considered good, regardless genre?
I think the most important thing is execution really. You can have the dumbest sounding premise imaginable but it could work if you execute it properly by giving a nice spin to it, giving interesting thematics, giving great characterisation etc. Of course a house is only as good as the quality of its bricks and not just how it's put together, execution alone can go so far but I really see it as a more crucial factor. Of course if both are great, than that just makes things better:)
What is your standard to rate a manga?
How entertaining it is. Sounds a bit vague right? To expand, I try to rate it based on all the things I enjoy. Art is one but as long as it's decent not that big a factor compared to story. Depending on the genre I look for charactersation, character interactions (especially important for romances), quality of fights (if it has them), plot including foreshadowingm interesting twists, symbolism. I don't really actively look for them but they come to me all at once and I pick them apart in my brain (or attempt to). Execution of important moments are key however and are what uselly define my top series.
Which genre is your favorite?
Shonen. Yes it's cheap pulp but it is delicious cheap pulp. I mostly love fantasy series with extremely creative worlds and fights.
The difference between high-culture manga and low-culture manga?
I don't really believe in high culture and low culture. I judge my manga by the same standard. I just treat classics like Nausicaa as insanely good rather than something from a different dimension of quality.
When is a cliché needed and how should it be handled?
Nothing wrong with cliches so long as the execution is good. To take shonen as an example, power-ups, the hero saving the day at the last minute, the hero giving the unbeatable enemy a serious beat-down. These can be great and highly exciting and satisfying if executed properly by building up to the moment and giving an interesting spin on things. Of course too much can bog the quality down but in light doses here and there, they can be great.
How important is a theme in the plot?
Thematics are like the driving force of the series so they're quite crucial to the story. It's important to, regardless what they are, not betray them unless you're a highly skilled author trying to make a point and executed very very carefully.
How should the balance between characters be organized?
Side-characters. Love them. It's much more fun when they do stuff rather than the main character. Whenever the main character does something, you take it for granted. Whenever a side-character does something, it's always a surprise and depending on the extremity of what they do is a sign of the creativity of the author and the love he has for his/her series.
How many characters in a main team would be considered too many?
Thing is with main leads, the more you have, the harder it is to balance so unelss you're extremely skilled in characterization, you'll end up treating your characters unfairly. With that said Negima has 30+ main characters… (and they're all treated awesomely:))
Between seinen and shounen, which genre has more potential to reach the climax, to be considered greatest of all time?
Again, I don't differentiate. And I don't really believe in absolutism in literature either. There are rules to follow and story-strucutre to take note of but there is a degree of subjectivity in the thing where people get more kicks out of one thing than an another. For example, I'm not too into romances unless they're handled quite well. To finalize my point, series like One Piece or Negima will probably always be my favorite and that's what greatest of all time means to me. I just don't hold things to such a standard.
Can a story happening in a fantasy world be deeper than any story happening in real world?
Yes definitely. In fact, it allows for more diversity in the moral themes that can be broached upon.
When would narrator become out of place and over-descriptive?
Depends on the series really. There are some series that you wouldn't mind about it as much as others and I'm not just talking difference between genre. Use of a narrator in series like One Piece where thematics are expanded upon or Toriko where complex science is explained is quite entertaining and seems fitting for that series but you wouldn't imagine its use in another series.
Are all fan-service cheap?
I don't really care about fan-service. It's just a staple to roll your eyes about. It can be quite funny if you're used to and good at handling it like in Negima which is the undisputed king of fan-service.
And not just manga. Manhua, manhwa, comic, graphic novel, novel, movie, etc. All types of story-telling can be used as reference here.
Oh shit, I shouldn't have read the test little by little. I could have expanded my points better:(
A teacher once said to me that when writing a piece, there are tons of taboos and cliches that tend to ruin the piece if used improperly. However, she also said that these shouldn't be completely avoided. An author has to "earn" the right to use a cliche.
ONE PIECE SPOILERS AHOY:
! If Oda were to just kill Ace off in Luffy's arms, it would be a horrible, horrible cliche. However, Oda spent over 100 chapters building up to that moment. After the intense battles Luffy went through to reach that point, Ace's death had meaning to it. It was no longer a random ploy to garner shock value. It meant something to the story. It thematically showed that Luffy's goal to save Ace was futile. It gave Luffy a segue to get stronger. Oda "earned" the right to kill Ace.
Wow…great post!!! Completely captures my feeling on use of cliches. Awesome, Kitsune;)