Turn your passion into a profession: become a mangaka!

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Do you have imagination and a good pencil stroke? Are you into manga? So make this hobby your new job and become a mangaka! If the profession is particularly prevalent in Japan, there are currently few mangaka in France, so it may be time to take your place in this sector.

Akira Toriyama, Katsuhiro Otomo, Tsugumi Oba, Takeshi Obata, Eiichiro Oda… Do these names mean anything to you? They are really famous authors of Japanese comics (or manga), at the origins of the equally famous Dr Slump, Dragon Ball (Toriyama), Akira (Ōtomo), Death Note (Oba and Obata) and One Piece (Oda) and others. . A mangaka writes and/or illustrates manga. According to mangaka Shuho Sato (illustrator of Umizaru and Say Hello to Black Jack), in 2009, 5,300 mangaka had the privilege of seeing one of their titles published in hardback.

As in many similar professions, mangaka’s earnings are not fixed. Mangaka makes up an average of 5 to 10% of sales; of course, income depends on his reputation. Those lucky enough to be in the top 100 most popular manga receive an average of 70 million yen (nearly 600,000 euros) in royalties, Sato elaborates on his Twitter account. So, in Japan, in order for a manga artist to receive the same monthly salary as an employee, he must sell at least 120,000 copies a year.

Master the “codes” of the manga

Manga has been taking over the West for a few years now, and the profession of mangaka is attracting more and more up-and-coming artists – especially among avid readers of these little comics. However, it should be kept in mind that this profession is very demanding; before making a name for yourself in this sector, you usually need to wear two hats: a screenwriter and an illustrator, which requires a minimum of talent in both disciplines.

But as mentioned in this interview with Louie – a 24-year-old former civil engineer turned mangaka – it is also possible to collaborate with another person who will do the storytelling work if desired. or illustrations. The young mangaka also admits that he partially kept his old job: today, most of his income comes from the production of technical synthesis, which he does as an independent entrepreneur. This strategy allows him to take his first steps as a mangaka more calmly.

One Piece, created by Eiichiro Oda, is the best-selling manga in the world. To date, the total circulation of books in the series is about 516 million copies (including 416 million in Japan). © Shutterstock

What qualities and skills does this unusual job require? The first quality obviously has to be very creative, both editorially and artistically. It also requires patience and accuracy. Of course, you must be able to draw manga whose visual codes are very precise and distinctive. To begin with, the composition of the boards is different (not to mention the fact that the manga is read from the upper right corner to the lower left) and the boxes can even be glued to each other and beveled in shape.

The same scene is sometimes drawn from several angles; the cutting of the scenes also resembles that used in the cinema, and the scale of facial expressions and gaze are numerous. As such, the drawings seem much less “static” (so to speak) than in Western comics. This impression of movement is reinforced by the frequent use of onomatopoeia and “speed strokes,” a technique also found in American comics.

Work that requires perseverance

The characters usually take precedence over the setting (whereas in Europe the latter often perform a narrative function). They are often drawn with large eyes that allow them to express all sorts of emotions, but this is not systematic. In the same story, a character can completely change his appearance to an “oversimplified” version of himself: this technique is used to embody a change in mood or sudden behavior (shame, anger, madness, etc.). These codes are also used in humorous manga: the bodies are very small, the face is extremely caricatured, etc.

Please note that there are currently many books and video tutorials to learn how to draw manga by yourself. As Luis notes in his interview, some Japanese associations and some specialized schools also offer certified training of three to five years (for example, EIMA in Toulouse or the AUTOGRAF school and the European Academy of Manga in Paris).

It should, of course, be borne in mind that, like any other author, it is not easy for a mangaka to declare himself and find a publishing house that will agree to publish it, especially since there are few manga publishers in France. If you’re planning to break into this sector, feel free to take advantage of themed events such as the Japan Expo or the Paris Manga Sci-Fi Show (next meeting on December 3rd and 4th) to make a statement and establish a few relationships. . If you don’t have a lot of luck (and connections), the early years tend to be difficult (hence the interest, like Louie’s, in running other lucrative activities in parallel).

However, the challenge is not impossible: Tony Valente (author of The Shining, from which an anime was adapted in Japan), Remy Guérin (author of City Hall), or even Renaud Lemaire (author of Dreamland) are among those who managed to make a name for himself in France – the first two are published by Ankama Editions, the third – Pika Edition.

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