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Manga About Manga: Learning Process Via Plot


Viz Media’s recent press release about the manga series Bakuman got me thinking – there are a bunch of manga series out there about making manga. What a fun concept! I know I always love it, it’s such a neat experience – both the slight irony of it and the educational factor too.

I’ve learned a lot about making comics in general from manga – neat little so-thats-how-they-do-its – and while ideas and inspiration are always a given when reading something, having someone else’s trials, experiences and knowledge laid out for you in the very format they’re in relation to is just a good combination.

So I got to thinking about the different series that are about making manga – so I compiled a list. Have another licensed title to add? By all means let me know in the comments so I can check it out!

Love RecipeLove Recipe (Kirico Higashizato, Digital Manga)
Love Recipe is such a fun manga! And what makes it stand out from even the others on this list is that while one of the leads is a manga artist, the majority of the story follows his try-hard editor who just wants to ensure that the manga actually gets in on time! Not only is there plenty to learn about the process of making the manga, but even more to learn about the inner processes of publishing it – from a comedic, colourful, boys-love-creating tinted view of course. (Review of Vol. 01)

Drifting Life (Yoshihiro Tatsumi, Drawn&Quarterly)
This book is not only one of the most inspiring books I’ve ever read but also one of the most eye-opening. Drifting Life an autobiography that follows one of Japan’s most accomplished manga artists, Yoshihiro Tatsumi, from the early days of his youth up and through his career creating and publishing manga when it was just a budding medium. It’s a fascinating read and the work ethic of those manga-pioneers (including Osamu Tezuka) is amazing beyond belief! Not only that but in an omnibus format coming in at 840 pages, this book will take you some time to get through and you’ll love every moment of it.

Croquis Pop (KwangHyn Seo/JinHo Ko, Yen Press)
Croquis Pop is a twist on the manga (or more specifically, manhwa) making – for not only do they utilize the tools of their trade for creating their stories, but the main character also weilds screentone knifes like swords and an eraser as a real-life undo. The story is a little difficult to follow but the quirks of its execution are definitely not without their charms. Plus it really shows a lot by seeing a newcomer to the assistant-position being put through his paces. (Review of Vol. 01)

Flower of Life (Fumi Yoshinaga, Digital Manga)
Making manga isn’t the central focus of this series but is one of the most endearing. What makes it so charming is the innocence and enthusiasm of two young friends working together to do something they love. They have big dreams and are willing to work hard to achieve them. They go through ups and downs, trials and errors but always come out the stronger and smarter for it. A genuinely touching series in near everyway, the manga element is just one of the many reasons for readers to pick up Flower of Life but it’s certainly a no less memorable one. (Review of Vol. 04)

Comic PartyComic Party (Sekihiko Inui, Tokyopop)
Comic Party is a title I haven’t personally read but it sounds like it could certainly be entertaining. Making manga often proves interesting enough when handled well but focusing on the doujinshi-circles and convention scenes sounds like it opens up a whole new realm of possibilities: “Kazuki Sendo had always loved drawing and painting with his girlfriend, Mizuki Takase. But when classmate Taishi Kuhonbutsu pulls them into a doujinshi convention, Kazuki enters a whole new world. Soon he finds himself passionately drawing manga and cramming to get into conventions. As Kazuki gets acquainted with the doujinshi life style and meets new friends, he starts to drift away from Mizuki and his ‘normal’ way of living. Thus begins the struggle of a talented artist…”

Fall In Love Like A Comic (Chitose Yagami, Viz Media)
I’ve never read this one either but the premise sounds pretty cute: “Rena Sakura is a high school student with a secret: she’s a professional mangaka. And although she’s never been on a date, that doesn’t stop her from drawing steamy shojo scenes for Chami magazine. But when the gorgeous Tomoya Okita finds out her secret, she finds herself asking him out to get some real-life experience in love!” For those who’ve read it, would you recommend it?

Otomen (Aya Kanno, Viz Media)
Otomen follows the amusing highschool life of a young men who hides his feminine habits and while he and his crush/counterpart bring all kinds of fun to the table, their best friend (and biggest fan), Juta, is a whole other element. Unbeknownst to his friends, he’s actually a famous manga-ka publishing the lead’s favourite shoujo manga. Not only does he have his team of many-sisters working as his assistants but he’s modeling the whole story after the budding relationship of the series’ leads! Talk about good inspiration. (Review of Vol. 01)

Comic (Ha SiHyun, Yen Press)
Crunching manhwa deadlines while juggling school, your crush, your friends and your bullies (whom occassionally interact) guarantees there’s plenty of drama in Comic. Despite the title, making manhwa takes sort of a backseat to everything else but when it’s there it’s a neat side element. Several moments throughout will have you thinking “oh yeah, they’re making manhwa – that’s neat!”. You may not learn as much from this one as other books, but that doesn’t make the profession any less intriguing a backdrop. (Review of Vol. 03)

BakumanBakuman (Tsugumi Ohba/Takeshi Obata, Viz Media)
And the upcoming series that started this whole train of thought – Bakuman! I’m really eager to read the first volume of this one: “The story follows average student Moritaka Mashiro, who enjoys drawing for fun, but when his classmate and aspiring writer Akito Takagi discovers his talent, he begs Moritaka to team up with him as a manga-creating duo. But what exactly does it take to make it in the manga-publishing world?” The first volume is due out on August 3rd, 2010.

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Manga-creators also make cameos in a number of different stories, including an artist jailed for his ideas in 20th Century Boys and a manga-ka seeking ‘inspiration’ from their guy friends/editors in several boys’ love anthologies the names of which escape me.

So what about you readers? Any other series out in English that starr or cameo manga-makers at work? And how do you feel about stories written about the very medium that tells them?

About the Author:

Lissa Pattillo is the owner and editor of Kuriousity.ca. Residing in Halifax, Nova Scotia she takes great joy in collecting all manners of manga genres, regretting that there's never enough time in the day to review or share them all. Along with reviews, Lissa is responsible for all the news postings to the website and works full time as a web and graphic designer.

Kuriousity does not condone or support the illegal distribution of manga online.
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15 Responses

  1. Kris says:

    Genshiken? I would think that one would be obvious. :) They spend a lot of time in their club making their own doujinshi comic and selling it at Comiket. And some of the characters are trying to break into the manga business. One of them eventually gets into the eroge video game business too, I think. I don't know that it's exactly educational in terms of "this is how manga is made," though.

    There's two characters in School Rumble who draw manga, but that's probably stretching it a bit.

    • Lissa says:

      I’ve never actually read Genshiken so I didn’t know the club made their own doujinshi in the story. Now I shall definitely have to check it out though – thanks for the heads up ^^ Educational or not, I’ve at least heard it’s very entertaining; now I have the extra push I need to read it myself.

  2. JRBrown says:

    If you’re willing to consider doujinshi, then I’ll throw in the cameos of DJ creation and sale in Genshiken and Fujoshi Rumi, both of which rock. There’s also a little 4-koma number called Doujin Work about a bunch of DJ creators, which I wasn’t much taken by.

    And in general, I like manga about manga. :)

    • Lissa says:

      I just ordered the first volume of Fujoshi Rumi – now I’m even more eager to read it when it finally arrives! Boys’ love doujinshi I can assume?

  3. Marla says:

    I just read my 2 volumes of Tanpenshu, and there is at least one semi-jokey-autobiographical short piece called something like "High School Girl 2000".

  4. Shannon says:

    I think the ultimate manga-on-manga is “Even a Monkey Can Draw Manga,” a mock how-to about how to create your own comic. Aside from being one of the funniest things I’ve read, it also makes some surprisingly sharp insights into the manga stereotypes (i.e. the most important character in a shonen manga isn’t the hero, but the hero’s wimpy friend who the (usually young male) reader can empathize with).

    Hiroaki Samura (of Blade of the Immortal fame) wrote a short story about the life of a manga-ka,”Luncheon of Tears Diary (Vagabound Shōjo Manga-Ka).” Probably not the most-true to life depiction of working in the manga industry, but entertaining nonetheless.

    • Lissa says:

      That sounds like a fun book for sure. Looks like it’s out of print though and the library doesn’t have a copy – darn! You wouldn’t happen to own a copy would you that a curious reader could borrow? ;)

      And the Hiroaki Samura story was the one published in the short-story collection Ohikkoshi, I believe? I’ll need to go back and read it again – I vaguely remember much amusing insanity in that one.

  5. Shannon says:

    I wish! I just remember reading a few chapters of it years ago.

    I found Fall in Love Like a Comic to be rather slight, but maybe I was just in a bad mood.

  6. Marfisa says:

    The heroine of the manhwa "Hissing" (Yen Press, I think) is the teenage daughter of a not-very-successful manhwa artist whose series gets cancelled in volume two or three, leaving him frantically wondering if he'll be able to come up with any new concepts to sell to the publisher so he can support himself and his kids. Meanwhile, the daughter and her male best friend are both aspiring manhwa artists who routinely neglect their schoolwork in favor of pulling all-nighters drawing manhwa. As with "Comic," there are more soap-operatic romantic and family-drama complications and less emphasis on creating comics as the story progresses. The twentysomething heroine of "Forest of Grey City" (also Yen) is an established manhwa artist, but that element of the story sort of trails off in the later volumes of that series, too.

    Older siblings who are professional manga artists are supporting characters in the probably-not-readily-available-in-English-any more manhwa "50 Rules for Teenagers" (in which the manhwa artist big sister dragoons her younger sister and brothers into helping her apply screen tones, etc., in order to make a big deadline) and the BL manga "Clan of the Nakagamis" (DMP), in which one of the uke's older brothers is an artist who often crossdresses (very convincingly), apparently because this somehow makes it easier for him to draw shoujo (girls') manga. And the TokyoPop manhwa "Queens" is about an allegedly too-girly teenage pretty boy who tries to remake himself to suit the more macho preferences of the girl he likes by apprenticing himself to the artist of the manhwa "How to Be a Manly Man"–who turns out to be a rather gruff, tomboyish woman.

    There's also a BL look at the making of a manga artist in "Not Ready! Sensei," by Kazuma Kodaka. This is about an apprentice mangaka who winds up sleeping with the famous male mangaka he's an assistant to whenever he gets drunk. It's a lot less sleazy than it sounds–at least, the parts I was able to read online were–but unfortunately it's not licensed in English. The protagonist of Shiuko Kano's "Kiss All the Boys" (Deux/Aurora), which is also BL, is a hentai mangaka who's already overindulged in the (heterosexual) Playboy lifestyle so frenetically from puberty on that by about age thirty he's bored with women to the point of impotence, but finds new inspiration by turning to guys. And one of the stories in the embarrassingly-titled BL anime "Sensitive Pornograph" (which I believe is also available from Kitty Media in manga format in English) is about an up-and-coming shonen mangaka who's dying to meet the supposedly female artist of his favorite R-rated josei (young adult women's) series. He's somewhat taken aback when "she" turns out to be a pretty young man using a female pen name. But they wind up sleeping together anyway–and then helping each other through a marathon of pencilling and inking the alarming number of pages left to be done by their fast-approaching deadlines.

  7. […] to NETCOMICS’ VP Soyoung Jung about her vision for a new era of manhwa-based film. Also, at Kuriousity, Lissa Pattillo discusses comics about people who make comics, including a couple of manhwa titles […]

  8. Fall in Love Like a Comic is a cute enough story, despite being filled to the brim with cliches, but if you go into it expecting a lot of focus on Rena’s career as a mangaka, you might be a bit disappointed. Mostly it just shows her working overtime to make a deadline or having meetings with her editor, with the occasional opportunity to learn some of the lingo. There is an extra omake manga at the end of the second volume, though, that teaches readers the steps that go into creating a manga that’s fairly amusing. I actually just posted a review on this title last week on my website, if you want to know more. Mostly spoiler free.

  9. Kris says:

    This probably doesn't even fit in but there are a few instances in Sayonara, Zetsubou Sensei with their resident Yaoi Doujin and Sensei's disatrous attempt at creating doujinshi. But it isn't a "making Manga" manga.

  10. […] Pattillo takes a look at manga about making manga at […]

  11. DanielBT says:

    If you’re a fan of Even a Monkey can Draw Manga, you’ll especially like Super Cruel and Terrible Tales of Mangaka. It’s a collection of 6-page short stories about the horrors of the Manga world, all done in the syle of a gag strip. It’s a tribute to a similarly named Manga, Cruel and Terrible Tales of Mangaka. It shouldn’t be that hard to find online.

    You can find a summary of the Manga here:

  12. […] Manga About Manga: Learning Process Via Plot (kuri-ousity.com) […]

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