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“Why yes, I love the smell of freshly printed manga in the morning.”
While buying the latest English volumes of Blue Exorcist and Attack on Titan recently, some thoughts resurfaced on why I still prefer print manga. With JManga biting the dust, people are wondering about the future of manga digitally. To tell you the truth, print is still the primary focus for the manga market overall and a preference that I still love for reasons I’m about to get into below.
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To all you folks who want to draw manga, I found an interesting post on a MangaHelpers sub-forum on Weekly Shonen Jump about how new manga should try to appeal to readers. There’s one snippet I would like to highlight and it’s this:
“I guess the main question a mangaka needs to ask themselves in order to write a successful manga is ‘Why?’. Why should we care about your manga? Why should we bother to read it beyond the first chapter? And with such a selective magazine (Weekly Shonen Jump), the mangaka better have that question answered before chapter 1 gets published. I think that’s what separates the exceptional mangaka, like (Yuusei) Matsui and (Eiichiro) Oda, from the mediocre. I guess it’s also what defines the expression ‘doing your homework’.”
Which leads to another lesson regarding the importance of asking “why”: never stop learning. There’s always something deeper beneath the surface.
You can read the rest of the post as it is pretty in-depth. Makes you think about when the next worldwide smash hit manga will come.
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Originally, this was supposed to be an article about self-awareness and how it could be the key to help saving the manga industry. And then out of the blue, the big digital manga initiative that was considered to be a “savior of manga”, JManga goes kaput. So what now and does Japan even care?
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If you’ve been checking my Facebook Fan Page and Twitter account, I posted up a couple of links to a 2-part survey that focused on manga readership in Japan and presented as “Manga habits of the Japanese” (Part I and Part II). Both provided some very enlightening details about the state of manga in Japan. While I wasn’t surprised by most of the responses, what intrigued me the most were the responses to questions about electronic manga found in Part II.
These are the three questions I am referring to:
However, there’s still some interest in an e-manga magazine subscription based on the following question.
What does this tell us? That Japanese manga publishers have conditioned folks of all ages over there that print manga is the norm? Now imagine if all the paper and ink factories all break down or get destroyed. Will that change folks’ minds over there, I wonder? Then again, e-books have only just started getting popular in Japan. Finally, if they actually bother to read the survey, does this please Japanese manga publishers to a certain degree regarding print? Some folks would argue that they are sticking too hard to an old-fashioned model. I seriously hope this doesn’t tell Japanese manga publishers to abandon any digital initiatives in Japan. Exorbitant print runs of One Piece aren’t going to last forever.
Although print is still dominant, at least there is some demand for electronic manga and Japanese publishers should use the e-manga portion of the survey for better understanding of those that wouldn’t mind getting electronic subscriptions. It’s an untapped market waiting to explode. A big concern that bothers me is how the low birth-rate of Japan will play a role in all of this. Mostly because technologically-savvy folks tend to be people in their teens to early 30s’ and no one’s getting any younger. Can we say that the future of online manga publishing just got even more interesting?
Though you gotta admit that the feeling of having an actual printed manga volume and magazine in your hands is a great one….
So, my fellow manga readers, is this good news or bad news?
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As a manga fan from North America, I’ve been getting a kick out of reading Deb Aoki’s posts on “Making a Living in Manga”. The third part, entitled “The Skills to Pay the Bills: The Manga Training Gap”, had an interesting quote from someone who worked in the Japanese manga industry about the lack of writing ability in American manga creators. And it goes like this:
“One problem I’ve noticed among American ‘manga’ creators is that they tend to put artwork above interesting characters/storytelling. What I always loved about manga was the storytelling. The most successful creators tell great/interesting stories, even if they can’t draw well (look at Rumiko Takahashi). Some good artists (Tanemura Arina) are popular at first, but become obscure when they fail to produce stories with good storytelling. Almost nobody talks about her manga anymore and instead she has artbooks.”
- Jamie Lynn Lano (@jamieism), Expatriate American comics creator, now living in Japan, former assistant on the Tennis no Oujisama (Prince of Tennis) manga
For those aspiring manga artists that get criticized for an inability to tell a good story and are agitated over it, do you want to know why telling stories is about as powerful as (or even more powerful than) putting out pretty pictures? Here are some pretty good reasons as to why:
- Stories shared through others creates meaningful connections and helps bridge gaps with people.
- Stories provide ideas on how to make sense of things in life.
- Stories provide structure that certain folks may not get or experience. Everyone wants a sense of structure in their lives.
- People tend to interpret stories as real experiences that have a great deal of meaning in their lives.
- Stories help to unlock people’s imaginations. Imagination -> inspiration -> creativity. A win for everyone.
If you still don’t believe that storytelling is very important, I’ll give you two extremely notable examples of popular manga that don’t have the “greatest art”(according to certain fans): One Piece and Gintama. While the artwork may turn off some fans, both series contain some of the most memorable and well-thought-out characters you will ever see in manga. Each series has a number of wacky and emotional moments that get people talking and caring. Just read both series thoroughly and try to understand how subtlely has gotten them the huge followings they have in Japan.
Here’s another example that will get you going “WHAT!? Really!?”. Japanese mega pop-star, Kyary Pamyu Pamyu, decided to collaborate with Jigoku no Misawa, the mangaka of “Kakko-Kawaii Sengen!!” for a manga in JUMP SQUARE. For those who know about Kakko-Kawaii Sengen!!, the artwork is quite strange and looks unappealing to many. However, the comedic aspects of the manga along with the wacky art have managed to hit it off with a variety of people in Japan. Case in point: this April Fool’s 2012 joke video Shueisha and Aniplex did by having Blue Exorcist drawn in the style of Kakko-Kawaii Sengen!!
So, what do we need to teach prospective manga artists trying to make it big about storytelling? Perhaps the key thing to teach is empathy, because it seems that some manga artists don’t have any. This is mostly to their false sense of self-entitlement (which parents/peers/media need to stop encouraging). A lack of empathy can also mean that they are not experiencing things outside of their own circle. In this day and age, empathy is a huge key in how to create a story and making it work with an audience. There’s also the added benefit of making artists’ own lives more enriching.
Another important thing that needs to be stressed is that artists should be taught on how to speak to others publicly. They also need to listen to how others speak and present themselves. By understanding how people communicate with each other, artists can draw some ideas on how to present their narrative.
My final point is this: we’re all storytellers. We need to be able to tell and shape stories to survive. Everything we say and do can be made into a story to affect the people around us. A conversation is also a story. Think about that thought. Hell, I’m trying to tell a story right now.
For those who can write well, but believe their art is crappy, here’s a quote I hope will keep your spirits up.
“Writing is THE most important part of the whole. If your art is so-so, but your writing shines, you’re golden. Reversed, give up.”
- Jon Krupp (@WEKM)
A picture may be worth a thousand words, but it never tells the whole story.
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What you see above is one of the biggest mistakes you will ever see in manga publishing. This photo is from the latest chapter of Yuru Yuri, published under Comic Yurihime. The girl reading the blank magazine above is commenting the fact that the girls in the magazine look cute. As you can see, the magazine is COMPLETELY blank. Ichijinsa, the publisher of Comic Yurihime, recently put a picture of what the magazine was supposed to contain.
Brian Ashcraft of Kotaku made a joke about the photo, saying how it’s more interesting that a girl finds a blank magazine cute. I suppose the manga can run with a new theme based on Steven Pinker’s “The Blank Slate” and show how demented the girl really is.
This huge printing error could unintentionally lead to Photobombs or memes, but I highly doubt it. I do wonder about the copyeditor(s) who overlooked the mistake. How in the world did he/she/they miss something like this?
Alas, as Bakuman has portrayed, it really is rough working in the manga publishing industry.
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Pop Quiz: What will happen when two of these iconic characters are eventually gone from the spotlight?
Wow, VIZ Media. They’ve been getting a lot of attention lately, huh? After reading Zach Logan’s editorial “The War On Manga”, I decided to browse the many comments on the entry. One excerpt from a comment stood out to me, especially given with how sales in the U.S. manga industry haven’t been looking so grand for quite some time. This is the excerpt:
Viz is now jointly owned by Shueisha, so the real strings are being pulled straight from the top. Naruto and Bleach will be ending within 2 years tops. What is their business plan when 2 of the Big 3 are no longer propping up house?
Given the fact that Naruto and BLEACH are ranked as the top 2 manga properties in the U.S. at the moment, are both appearing to finish up in the future, and have EXTREMELY huge fan communities, is Shueisha really doing anything to make sure that there will be a new holy trinity alongside One Piece? Yes, scanlations are a big issue, but another key issue is how to get a new generation of fans (and potential buyers) in the West to be interested in reading manga going forward, given that Shonen Jump material is still the starting point for a majority of new fans.
Once Naruto and BLEACH are done, what can VIZ turn to as their main titles (besides One Piece) for promoting Shonen Jump Alpha when it really takes off? The other Shonen Jump Alpha titles they have (Bakuman, Toriko, and Nura: Rise of the Yokai Clan) look to be hitting it off with fans, but are they as special as those two titles? Do these titles really relate to teenagers and young adults as well as Naruto and BLEACH have? The closest popular title that can take a spot in the trinity is Hunter x Hunter, but the title is published irregularly and that just won’t do when it comes to generating sales.
As of right now, it feels like Shueisha will just keep on riding One Piece’s popularity going forward since it’s become a cultural symbol in Japan. That doesn’t seem to help VIZ at all, as One Piece isn’t super-popular in North America when compared to Japan. Perhaps a Shonen Jump Advanced online magazine featuring Blue Exorcist, Rosario + Vampire, and D.Gray Man could be in the makings.
I’m sure there has to be some aspiring artists who will rise and be inspired by the likes of Eiichiro Oda, Masashi Kishimoto, and Tite Kubo, like how Akira Toriyama was an inspiration to them. Though as Bakuman has hinted with the low birth rate these days in Japan (which decreases the chances of a super-popular mainstream manga), the hopes of that happening are dim.
Manga in the U.S. isn’t going to die immediately if Naruto and BLEACH end. However, it feels that there has to be some simple Shonen Jump battle manga (no disrespect to One Piece) that appeals to teenagers/young adults to get the ball rolling and spark interest in the wide world of manga itself. While some fans may find them boring, the success of extremely popular titles (i.e. “typical Shonen Jump” titles) helps to give non-popular titles a chance to breathe life. Back when I was a teen, Dragon Ball Z, one of the most popular Jump series of all-time, was the reason why I got into manga. I started buying many manga volumes and developed a taste for other series that have better stories as I got older. The U.S. manga industry NEEDS popular, teen-friendly Shonen Jump titles to sell, no matter how cliche or overrated they may be, in order to stay afloat since Shonen Jump is still the top manga imprint in America. For now, Blue Exorcist appears to be a good successor to Naruto/BLEACH for VIZ, even though it’s a JUMP Square title.
Then again, I wonder if Japanese publishers truly care about the West at all when it comes to promoting manga internationally. Here’s a tweet for thought.
Such is the life of one being involved with manga in the U.S. or west of Asia, is it not?
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A couple of years ago, I had a conversation with an old friend about what our favorite manga series were. After a great deal of discussion, she realized that I loved manga to a huge degree and said that I should be a mangaka. When I told her I couldn’t draw, she said “Write your own manga!”
Question: how many of you have been told to take on the profession of those that fuel your passion? As in “You love manga so much! Why don’t you be a mangaka?”
I don’t know about you, but I just don’t like the idea that certain people assume that that if you want to work in a certain industry, you have to take on the top job (which usually involves something creative) in the industry. If you don’t do that, you are considered a failure. Why is it that such thinking occurs?
I asked geek career counselor, Steven Savage, about this dilemma and he told me there are two things that create what he calls, the “must-do” job myth.
1) The fact that the larger culture assumes that you have to take the obvious job for your career path.
2) An assumption that people into geeky things think alike.
I want to say that all mangaka do need help in getting their works recognized. Where would they be without assistants, sponsors, editors, marketers, etc.? I wonder if people are saying that you have to be at the pinnacle because it’s not a “typical daily job”. Do they believe that the daily grind is not as fun as when you’re the one creating the content?
(Our lovable heroes of Bakuman needed help along the way to get to where they were at.)
Also, geeks are people just like everyone else. Hell, I think everyone is a geek in some way, shape, or form. Stereotypical myths are formed because a large amount of people want to believe they are true. Given that the world can be crazy at times, people want to make sense out of it and won’t accept anything that is different.
It’s hard to make something work without a variety of intertwined parts. There’s too much focus on individualism and not the group effort. Even mangaka have appreciated the help of their editors and assistants.
For those that want to be in the manga industry without being a mangaka, take the time to educate yourself about the various job departments involved in the process of publishing manga and figure out how you can contribute.
Mixing your passion with the right education leads to a state of welcomed power where you can truly shape and embrace your destiny the way you want to envision it.