Do Manga Artists Work Alone?

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Written by Juha

Reading manga might be quick and easy, but creating it takes many hours of hard work and dedication. With so much work to do in order to bring a story to life, do manga artists work alone?

If a manga has one author, how can they manage to draw and write so much? Manga artists, or mangakas, don’t work strictly by themselves. 

Many mangakas have assistants to help do some of the more tedious parts of the creative process of creating a manga comic. The lead manga artist (whose name is on the cover of the book) will lead the process and creative direction of the manga and have the final say on what goes in the manga.

That’s the case for famous artists like Masashi Kishimoto (of Naruto) or Tite Kubo (of Bleach). So what do assistants do, exactly?

Mangakas Have Assistants

A manga might have one name on its cover, but manga artists rarely work alone (and if they did, they’d never be able to finish their work!). 

Typically, mangakas have assistants dedicated to each step in the drawing process. The mangaka might complete the majority of the work, but the assistants will edit, clean, and digitize their work.

For example, many mangakas have assistants dedicated to outlines and layouts. The mangaka will give a generalized sketch of what kind of boxes and layout they want for a page.

The assistant will then draw up these layouts and digitize them to be ready for drawing (or to be laid over existing drawings).

Creating layouts for a manga is a meticulous job. It sets the stage for the story to be drawn and written but takes a lot of time to do.

In addition, a layout that’s haphazardly drawn or is not clean will take away from the effect of the manga. This is where an assistant can step in and take care of this task for the mangaka, so he or she can get back to more important tasks.

Other assistant jobs include handling lighting and shading, which is an important component that can give a manga dimension and interest. You could say that some assistants have it made in the shade!

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Artwork from a manga art book called Akira Club

Creating a Manga Has Many Different Steps

Creating a manga entails more steps than some might think. Even amateur mangas follow the same process as hugely popular ones.

Steps for creating a manga include storyboarding, page planning, layout creation, speech bubbles, dialogue/lettering, outlining, colorization, lighting, shading, special effects, and editing.

For larger or more professional mangas, there are some additional steps in the process. For instance, an assistant might be dedicated to drawing and designing clothes for characters, or another to framing and camera angles.

Mangas, with especially large audiences, might have a director to help lead the process.

Brainstorming

These steps, of course, are for the already established manga. For the inaugural manga in a series, there are even more steps before the story can come to life.

A mangaka must create their protagonist and what world they live in. This often includes drawing characters, determining the personalities, and how they will interact with each other.

The mangaka must create the main plot and what direction it will go in. But a single volume will not (and should not) give the entire story away. 

The mangaka must plan how much of the story will advance in a single volume and on what note it will end.

Taking the Audience Into Consideration

This is one of the more critical steps to producing a manga. The first volume is key in ensuring that the reader wants to continue with the series.

For the mangaka whose head is spinning with ideas for the series, an assistant is often available to help condense these ideas and plan them out.

Because mangas are such labor-intensive works that stretch across multiple volumes, planning is an important part of the process.

Planning The Manga Work

Planning happens on both small and large scale levels. If the layout of a page must be planned, then so must the art within the boxes. Pages must be planned together so that the story flows and can compile one volume. 

Finally, the entire storyline must be planned as a whole across multiple volumes. If that’s confusing, it is to some of the top manga artists too, since they are known to have more than a few staff members dedicated to this process, as well as storyboarding.

Recommended Online Courses for Creating Manga

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You don’t need an executive assistant or private animation studio to start creating your own manga. You can learn the tricks of the trade right from your own home.

For over 30 years, the Manabi Journey company has been teaching people how to create their own manga step by step. Since their courses have been uploaded to Udemy, they’ve amassed over 1,000 new students. 

They provide online courses that are clear, concise, and easy to follow. The industry expertise and experience they share are invaluable. Their courses range from broad overviews on how to construct a manga to more specific topics, like drawing hands.

Even for more experienced artists, their courses are great refreshers and guides to reference on whatever stage you’re on.

Conclusion

Do manga artists work alone? The answer is no! Not only would it be stressful to work alone, but their work would suffer in quality as well. Some leading manga artists first made their debut on the scene as assistants.

Assistants gain valuable experience working under big-name artists, making it a lucrative position. That’s not to say that manga artists have assistants from the very beginning.

Many people handle the entire process themselves, and when their manga takes off, they will hire assistants to keep up with the demand. But most fans don’t worry about whether or not an artist has assistants. They only want to know when the next issue is coming out!

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