☆ life

Working as an assistant on The Prince of Tennis p17

To see a list of all of the posts in this series, click here. (*^-^*)

Here is where it all started! Most of it, anyways.

Us assistants arrived bright and early at the studio on Monday. ‘Bright and Early’ means noon to a mangaka, so noon it was. We all had huge bundles of photos and receipts.

Assistants also had to pick up supplies for the studio, like toilet paper, ink, and manga paper whenever it was running low. There was a tray of petty cash near the door, so we just needed to exchange our receipts for cash whenever we bought something (this is how we paid for meals when we ordered out, too).

(Can you see it on the right there, just behind the plant?)

I wish that I had a tray of petty cash near my own doors (that wasn’t filled by me!). For the first day, we spent the afternoon drawing those backgrounds.

Sensei selected a photograph that he thought would make a good background at some time, and we blew it up on the photocopier and printed it out backwards. Then, at our desks we turned that paper over and, using our light tables, drew it on the back of the paper.

(Me drawing on my light table. This was taken much later, though!)

I think that I mentioned it before, but this kind of drawing is called a “trace”. Almost all of the backgrounds in Tenipuri are done this way. Some manga obviously it’s not possible, if they are fantasy, etc, but on a manga like this where the backgrounds are based on real places, it’s a lot faster!

This isn’t the same picture that I started with, but this is an example that I did in those early times:

In the beginning, we mostly copied the pictures exactly as they were, with small changes here and there (like adding tennis courts instead of just giant blank fields).

It wasn’t too bad, but it was really tiring, boring work. If a picture was elaborate or our first time drawing it, it would take a long time. 8 or 9 or 10 hours, or more. Imagine how monotonous that can be– drawing the same little picture of a field with trees for 10 hours. (We did get faster over time).

Along the way, we checked with Kaiwa-san, asking him what he thought or if he could teach us how to draw something easily. He was a fountain of information! He had worked on the original Tenipuri for 6 years after all, and before that on Jojo’s Bizarre Adventures!

Once the drawings were done, they went to Sensei for a final check (I got used to rejection after a while! 😛 But I wasn’t the only one by any means). If they were approved, then they were put into a file folder to use sometime.

This was how we filled most of our free time. If we didn’t have a manga page in our hand to work on, we just drew these backgrounds over and over. When it came time for one to be used in the manga, we made a photocopy of it and cut and pasted it (literally) onto the manga page. We would use X-acto knives and our light tables. We would paste the photocopy on over the characters and everything with rubber cement, and cut out and peel off the areas that we didn’t need. At first, I often cut the entire manga page, and had to mend the page down to the bottom! It was hard to get a hold of, lol!

That wasn’t the only thing that was pasted(e) on (yay!). But I’ll get to those when it comes time! For now, we just practiced either drawing the trace backgrounds, or practiced the MOST. BORING. THING. IN. THE. WORLD. Does a trace drawing sound boring? It can’t compare to drawing speed lines for hours.

(These. I hate these.)

And hours.

And hours.

I really sucked at speed lines. I had never used a maru-pen before I came to do this job, and so getting a neat, clean line that didn’t ‘jump’ was…..


(These are lines with ‘jumps’ in them. That white space. They made it into the manga despite our best efforts, because nobody is perfect. But we tried. Oh did we try!)


To make speed lines that converged on one point, we would tape a tack to the paper and use it to brace the ruler we needed for our lines.

(Like this 🙂 )

I really, REALLY hated speed lines! Speed lines were the death of me! They were SO monotonous, and since I could never do them properly, I had to practice and practice and practice them!

It was soooooooooooooooooooo awful. I’d much rather draw random backgrounds! I will never use tiny, detailed speed lines in my manga. NEVER. Yuck. 🙁 🙁 🙁

(Speed liiiiiiiiines)

On the second day of alternating between speed lines and backgrounds, with no actual manga in sight, I started to go crazy, and I snuck up to watch Konomi-sensei draw at his big desk.

He looked up at me, raising his eyebrow.

“I like watching you draw,” I said, and leaned farther over the desk to see what he was working on.

He smiled, but went back to work. I was pretty cheeky, looking back, but something that sensei told me when I quit makes me understand why he let us play around a bit now and then. I’ll tell it to you near the end of my story (whenever that happens!). 😉

He was working on what would become the first title page for Chapter 1. Do you know it? The one with Ryoma in the front and his jacket flying all over, and a bunch of other characters standing around him. It was still all in pencil only.

Eventually, he turned a piece of copy paper around for me. “What do you think?” he asked.

It was a picture of Atobe with his arms crossed.

“It’s awesome,” I said. What else could I say? It was pretty awesome just seeing the real thing! He was my idol, after all..

Sensei went back to pondering, and finally I slunk back to my desk to work on the boring things again. Near evening, sensei finally passed on the giant drawing to Marie (the girl assistant I’d met in the very beginning). I hadn’t know this before, but it turned out that it was Marie’s main job to ink the characters that sensei drew.

In other words, Sensei drew them in pencil, and Marie would trace each drawing in ink. She was really good at it, too! I’ll explain in more detail later, when we come to it.

Marie inked the picture while the rest of us worked on practice and backgrounds. On the third day, she turned it in to Sensei, who suddenly passed it to Kaiwa-san.

What was going on?

Kaiwa-san made small copies of the drawing and passed all of us a stack.

“I need your design skills, guys,” Sensei told all of us. He stood up. “Design me an awesome new uniform, you guys!”

I finally got a better look at the drawing: The picture, which I thought had been finished, was in fact plain. The uniforms were plain, in any case. Plain, boring white, waiting for something awesome to adorn them.

(This picture, without the color! You know it, right?)

Tomorrow: The continuation, and something unbelievable happens!!! Stay tuned for it, and leave me tons of comments, pleeeeeeeeaseeeeeee! Comments are my motivation! *^^*

(1,397 geeks have read this)

Hi! This is Jamie Lynn Lano! I am a Washington State (USA) native who: ☆ Holds a Bachelors of the Arts in Media Arts & Animation from AiPx. ☆ Worked as an assistant mangaka in Japan for Konomi Takeshi on The Prince of Tennis. ☆ Was an essay columnist for Asahi Weekly from 2008-2013. ☆ Was the star of Asahi Pop'n Press on Asahi TV (Japan) from 2009-2013 ☆ Was a write for Metropolis magazine in 2010. ☆ Has kept a blog foreeeeeeeeever! First and Current blogs.

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