Southeast Asia’s supernatural beings come to life in animated adaptation of Work-Life Balance

Published on 28 March 2024
By Team Catch
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Legends speak of supernatural beings lurking in the depths of the night, ready to pounce on their next unsuspecting victim. But the pontianaksmanananggals, and ba jiao guis of authors Benjamin Chee and Wayne Rée’s fictional world are far from the ruthless creatures they are made out to be.

In Southeast Asia, ghosts and the supernatural are not just the stuff of nightmares, but an “integral part of our culture”, Rée explained. Part graphic novel, part storytelling, their 2022 book, Work-Life Balance: Malevolent Managers and Folkloric Freelancers, is the duo’s attempt to “humanise” them, added Chee.

Indeed, when the local supernatural beings are displaced from their old jobs and join a multinational company run by foreign demons, they too have to deal with the very human struggle of work-life balance. The book offers a humorous yet thoughtful take on today’s corporate work culture and superiors from hell (literally) through the lens of Asian mythology, something that Chee observed is rarely represented in the media. 

Soon, the beloved characters will make a highly-anticipated comeback as they find themselves trapped in new and humorously depressing situations—this time in an animated TV series for the global screen.

A love letter to storytelling

Midshot of Work-Life Balance authors, Benjamin Chee and Wayne Rée with their work

Don’t miss out the animated TV adaptation of this award winning book!

Awards were the last thing on their minds when the authors embarked on this experimental literary project, so imagine their surprise when they won not one but two awards at the Singapore Book Awards 2023 for Best Literary Work and the highly-coveted Book of the Year. 

The pleasant surprises hardly ended there. Just a day after the awards, they were contacted about a possible animated TV adaptation of their book by Singapore-based animation studio Robot Playground Media, a development they later found out was completely coincidental and unrelated to the twin wins.

Mid shot of Wayne Rée in a comic store

Explore other works by multi-award-winning writer, Wayne Rée, who is also a co creator of multiple podcasts!

“The moment we talked to the showrunner, Ervin, we knew we were in good hands,” Rée said. An office comedy, the animated series will “stay faithful to the spirit of the book”, he added. However, it will not be a straightforward, one-to-one adaptation of the book. Instead, it will further explore its underlying concept, made possible by the fact that the book is intentionally vague about what The Company does. 

“Without giving too much away, it will address specific pain points of specific industries,” Rée revealed.

Mid shot of Benjamin Chee in a comic store

Benjamin Chee is not only a co-creator of Work Life Balance but also a skilled artist specialising in isometric landscapes, pixel art, and comics!

When asked about their hopes for the upcoming animated series, Chee said, “It’s exciting to see the world we created come to life in another medium and see the adaptation’s own take on it.” The pair also simultaneously worked on a text-based interactive game named Internal Damnation, where players can play as an intern at The Company. 

Rée added, “I hope that we can reach an audience that didn’t read the book or play the game, and that it will have an emotional effect on them.”

After all, Work-Life Balance is their love letter to stories and storytelling, across all mediums, and of both monsters and men. 

Keep your eyes peeled for updates on the animated adaptation of Work-Life Balance: Malevolent Managers and Folkloric Freelancers. The book can be found in all major bookstores. 

Interested in reading other comics and graphic novels? Check out Benjamin Chee and Wayne Rée’ first collaborative work together, Mr Memphis

All images belong to Catch

 

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