I got into a discussion today on twitter about manga/mangaka, and it got me to thinking: What is manga? And maybe even moreso, What is a mangaka?
Firstoff, manga. To me, in English, manga is the word assigned to comics that are first published in Japan.
So, a mangaka would therefore be someone who professionally writes/draws those comics, or who has professionally written/drawn those comics. Whether they’re still considered a mangaka when they’re not producing manga anymore is something up to the individual. Some people would disagree with me, but I’d consider Naoko Takeuchi and Yazawa Ai mangaka, even though they haven’t written anything in many years. I wouldn’t consider someone like me, though, who hasn’t gotten published yet but still draws, a mangaka. One day I will be a mangaka– that will be the day when Shueisha calls me up and says, “We are running your story in X issue on X date.” From then on, as long as I intend to keep trying for a series, even if I only get an occasional publication for the first while, I’ll consider myself a mangaka, since I’ve been professionally published and am actively working toward my next publication. If I stop trying to get published, though, I wouldn’t consider myself a mangaka anymore.
For the moment, I’m a mangaka kibousha (mangaka hopeful), or a mangaka no tamago (mangaka egg– thanks Matt Thorne!).
I’m very very proud of it, too, because it’s what I’ve chosen to pursue. I’m not saying that manga are better than comics. I’ve never said that! There are plenty of comics, published outside of Japan, ElfQuest for example, that I’d consider better than 90% of the manga I’ve read. It might be worth noting, and it was something that I didn’t realize until I came to Japan and started reading manga in Japanese, that there is a lot of badly-written, badly-drawn manga out there. I mean, there are hundreds of titles published every month, so it stands to reason that there would be a number of titles that were just mediocre or downright boring, the same for books/comics published anywhere. Somebody, somewhere, thought it was good enough to publish, but most people didn’t agree with them.
And here’s the thing– why does it matter what it is/where it’s published?
As a manga fan, I liked the idea of “mangaka” as a title. It sounds cool. I also like that manga has a lot of opportunity to be turned into anime, which I have loved for years. I also just so happened to live in Japan and it seemed like a great challenge, that if I managed to succeed, might bring about a measure of prestige. Last but probably the most important, I feel like manga is one of the best ways to get a comic out across the world, to be enjoyed by people all over. So that’s why I decided to become a mangaka.
Had I not decided to become a mangaka, I probably would have been a comic artist. Or, a webcomic artist. Both of them are great, and in the end I think I would tell the same stories, no matter the title that I was assigned.
Mangaka, Comic artist (Comicka?), Webcomic artist (Webcomicka?), does it really matter in the end? The title is about where it’s published, but good material and bad exists in all genres. What’s important is the story, not what it’s called. Let the story speak for itself.
That’s just my opinion, of course. I’d love to hear yours too! Please leave it in the comments, and let’s start a discussion!