How to Improve as a Mangaka

I made this blog hoping to break some of the problems plaguing mangaka today. I look at some of the work on bookshelves today and I feel something missing. Here is some advice.

Watch a lot of movies. Note how the scenes cut into each other.

The author who developed manga to its present form, Tezuka Osamu, watched a lot of Western movies and adapted it into his panel arrangement. Other authors also followed his example. According to  Manga! Manga! The World of Japanese Comics, the medium emulates movies more than novels.

Read a lot of Japanese comics.

Japanese artists have a different way of drawing and viewing comics than their Western counterparts. It also helps to see what you like or don’t like about an author’s work. It can be

  • Story
  • Pacing
  • Art
  • Logic
  • Characterization

Find a topic you would like to know about.

Different manga focus on different topics. They either make up the topic as they go or the authors do research on it. Arakawa Hiromu read a book on the Philosopher’s Stone and probably did more research before making Fullmetal Alchemist. I read of one author, Ashihara Hinako, who watched ballerina videos so she could get the dance poses for her characters in Tenshi no Kisu.  She apparently didn’t like the topic at first, but became more drawn to it after reading books and going to recitals. If you have a topic you like, you will probably enjoy drawing about it, and your readers would probably like to read it too.

Practise life drawing, preferably poses that span from 30 seconds to a minute.

Practising with real models is better than using mannequins because real human movement is limited by the way the muscles overlap each other. Drawing with mannequins might turn your characters into a mass of detached circles. Mannequins also do not consider how the bust and the torso tilt or how weight is distributed in the body. Once you learn how to draw people, you realize that you can apply what you learn towards drawing animals and inanimate objects too.

Practise a lot.

I had a life drawing teacher who remarked how easy it was to forget how to draw without practice. I also have times when I wonder whether staying by my work is worth it. However, I remember that there are too many people vying for the same ambition. I read from a drawing guide for The Simpsons about how creator Matt Groening kept practising even when his more talented friends gave up. I learned from the same book to keep as much of your work as possible. So whenever you feel discouraged, all you have to do is look at your past work to see how much you improved. It might also ignite your interest again.

Help other people with their field-related problems.

You meet a lot of interesting people this way. More importantly, it lets you apply what you learn and makes you notice your own mistakes more. This is especially true if the people you help out make the same mistakes as you. If you have more people of a similar level as you, their skill might motivate you to keep practising.

Take criticism constructively.

Criticism and rejection is very painful, but I learn a lot more from it than compliments. It reminds me that I always need to improve in something.

Hope this article helps someone! If you feel this guide is incomplete, please tell me, although I hope you don’t mind getting advice from someone who is still learning.


About Katrina

I graduated from Sheridan College with a Bachelor's in Animation.
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