If you’re wondering:
“I want to be a manga artist, what should I do?”
“Can I become a manga creator, even if I’m not Japanese?”
Well, the answers to your questions are here, because we interviewed Ryo Katagiri, a professional manga creator in Japan and we ask her how to become one!
Click on the image link to watch the interview below:
Or you can read the transcript below:
For someone interested in learning how to draw manga, either as a hobby or at a professional level, how should they get started?
Ryo Katagiri: I’d recommend starting just copying your favorite manga for practice. Try 30 or 50 pages, paper and pencil are fine.
After that, try drawing your own original manga. You can start by drawing just 10 pages. It doesn’t matter if you think it’s not good or it’s wrong, because the best way to practice is to actually draw manga.
Would you recommend learning how to draw using digital or analog tools? Are analog tools still used in the industry?
K: Currently, about 80% of all manga are drawn digitally. However, some [Shonen] Jump artists still draw in analog. So, if you like paper and pen and don’t want to work digitally, I think analog is fine.
How important is going to art school in becoming a professional manga artist?
It seems to me that people who want to get better at drawing go to art school. However, going to art school or manga college does not guarantee that you will become a manga artist. So, I don’t think it’s very important.
As a self-taught artist yourself, is this a path you would recommend?
K: You can become a self-taught manga artist. But if you love drawing and want to get better at it, if you want to learn to draw different styles, or if you want to learn more about art itself, then I would recommend going to an art college
What’s the normal career path for a manga artist, and how long does it take?
K: First, you have to apply for a manga award, then if you win an award, an editor will start to support you. After that, you have to draw a few one-shot manga. Short story manga for a magazine. Then you will have the opportunity for a manga series and to publish a manga book.
Of course, most people give up halfway through. It’ll take at least 3 or 4 years to get a serialization, and some people take five to six years or even longer.
And even then, if the manga series is not popular the series will be canceled immediately and the manga, and possibly your career as well, is over. If that happens, you will have to start preparing for the next manga series all over again.
How can you find work as a manga assistant?
K: Nowadays, you can find jobs on the Internet.
There’s a popular site called Gamma, but it’s all in Japanese.
How important is being able to speak Japanese in order to become a professional manga artist in Japan?
K: Extremely important. You need to be able to speak Japanese to an expert level. Japanese publishers and editors all speak Japanese, and when we have meetings, or when we discuss the story or characters, we always speak in Japanese.
Most people in Japan also don’t speak English, so if your manga is not written in Japanese, Japanese people will not be able to read it. So if you want to become an artist in Japan, Japanese fluency is a must.
What are the steps for a manga to go from the first sketch to a published chapter?
K: The first step is to submit a storyboard called a nee-mu to your editor. If it is rejected, you have to change it again and again and again until it’s approved. If you are lucky and your nemu is accepted, you can start drafting your manga manuscript.
Once the draft is done, the editor will check it. If the editor gives you the OK, you can finish it by inking characters and backgrounds, Beta painting, and doing screen tones.
How much time does the artist spend working on each chapter?
K: For a weekly magazine, I have to complete one story in a week. That’s about 15-20 pages. It takes me two to three days to make a story and four to five days to draw it.
For a monthly magazine, it may take 1 or 2 weeks for the story, and each story is about 30-50 pages. Then inking and backgrounds must be completed in the remaining two to three weeks.
What’s the most difficult part to draw?
K: For me, drawing a body and playing sports. For example, baseball, basketball, karate, and so on. Because I can’t do sports at all, it’s hard to know what is accurate.
I’m also not good at drawing motorcycles and bicycles.
For those who love to draw but aren’t interested in the storytelling side, what career directions would you recommend?
I think collaborating with a story writer is a good idea. Like Bakuman.
Or you could go the way of an illustrator or animator
Would you recommend finding a writer to team up with?
K: Yes, if you want to do that, you should do it while you are young.
What kind of dreams or ambitions do most manga authors have? Would it be to get their work serialized? Or see your manga become an anime (or live-action drama)?
K: I think it’s going to become a popular manga. Then it would be even better if it became an anime or a movie.
Posters will be put up in the streets, and supermarkets will package snacks with your characters on them.
It’s great to get paid a lot of money, but it’s also a dream job to receive fan letters from readers and to be told that your manga is amazing by both children and adults.
In a time where social media is so important in marketing, how important is it for artists to promote themselves on their own channels?
K: I think it’s important to promote yourself on social media because it gives you a chance to be read and seen by many people. But if you don’t want to do that, you don’t have to.
Do you think growing your own following online can help you get published?
K: Yes, I know friends who are getting offers from publishers through Twitter, Instagram, and Pixiv!
What final advice do you have for aspiring manga artists?
K: Just draw a lot of manga! If you can complete about 2000 pages of a manga, I think you can become a professional. Also, if you want to succeed in Japan, definitely study Japanese.
End of transcript.
For PART 2 of the interview, click here: