Working as an assistant on The Prince of Tennis p1

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

What was it like working as Konomi Takeshi’s assistant?

That is probably the most frequent question that I get asked. So here we go- I’ll spill it all! Or at least, a good chunk of it. *^-^* Sorry there are not too many pictures to start with. My hard drive crashed a year ago, and I only have a few of those old photos left, sadly. Most of them are from my old cell phone..

Waaaay back, at the end of September 2008, I was living with two roommates in a 3-bedroom japanese house. It was crickety and drafty, and so even with the air-conditioning running, it was HOT. I was on summer break from my job teaching english classes at a university in Akihabara, so really, I didn’t have much to do with myself.

(The college that I worked for – Digital Hollywood University)

Because I was a huge Tenipuri fan, and I needed to get in shape, and I had no money to speak of, I had spent my summer days Roleplaying online and/or alone reading or studying Japanese, and my nights riding my bicycle. I didn’t eat much, and I exercised for hours, so I lost a lot of weight.

Despite how boring those days were, I didn’t really know what to do with myself. I still didn’t know a lot about manga production, so although I thought it would be a great career for me, my technical side always stopped myself short. What paper was I supposed to use? What type of pen? What type of ink?! That didn’t seem to stop a lot of other people, but every time I sat down to draw something (which I did a lot, because I love drawing), I stopped before I was finished. I’ve since broken myself about halfway out of that habit, but it’s like struggling against smoking or something. Not easy.

Anyways, around this time, an online friend pointed out a translated article on Anime News Network (the article seems to be gone now, sorry!) saying that Konomi Takeshi was looking for assistants for a “new project.”

“You should apply!!” She prompted me. To be honest, I didn’t really think that I could do it. I mean, I had NO clue about how to make manga. I had no experience in drawing-for-work, and of course not to mention the fact that I had very little experience communicating in Japanese. (Despite living here, I didn’t converse a whole lot in it. This has changed in a major way now, of course :))

Buuuuut… I mean… I was a huge fan of Tenipuri. And the thing about Japan is that a tall, caucasian girl stands out, and gets a lot of attention. It sounds possibly racist(?) to say so, but it’s something that I had already learned about Japan in my first four months. By four years in, I was a pro. I was uncomfortable about standing out, because I’d been painfully shy as a child, but thought, maybe, just maybe, it would work to my advantage this one time.

I figured this: I would do my best, and send in the best application that I could. I doubt that he’d hire me, but at least maybe, if I included a photo of my in my other-ness(ha ha), he would curious enough to want to meet me. Or, if I was really lucky, maybe he would hire me as an office assistant, to make tea for him and the other assistants. I thought that the time that I wanted the job so badly, I’d even do it for free.

So, I broke out my dictionary (There were no ihpones at the time!), and attempted to translate the details of the actual assistant advertisement for myself (it was originally on this page, though it’s not there anymore).

It seemed that he wanted prospective assistants to copy pages 7 and 70 from volume 27, as closely as they could, and mail in the originals to him at Shueisha’s offices.

(Pages 7 and 70, respectively)

Well… it seemed like a daunting task, and I still had no idea of what tools to use (besides that I should use manga paper and screentones). But I had decided to go for it anyways!!

I was so embarrassed by what I imagined as horrible work that I threw away my own copies a few weeks later, so I don’t have them anymore. But those were enough to get me a call three days after I sent in the package with my work, a resume that a friend had translated for me, and a picture of me in a bright purple sweatshirt making a peace sign at the camera. Mr. Watanabe, Konomi-sensei’s editor at Shueisha, outlined the details, most of which probably slid right over my japanese-uncomprehending head. But, the basics were:

Konomi-sensei wanted me to come to his studio in Chiba for an interview!

Konomi-sensei himself would pick me up at the nearest station!

And I had his personal cell-phone number!! Me!!

(Me, a year later… my desk says “JLL” for “Jamie Lynn Lano” on the top)

As I wrote at the time in my old blog: To work on Konomi’s next project…. what a great dream!! I wonder if there is any kind of a real chance here. But one thing I know for sure, I am glad that I gave it a shot, and I am really fired up to draw my own mangas now!! ..wish me luck!!

Little did I know then how much this “little interview” would irrevocably alter my life..

To be continued…

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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.


  • Ingrid

    Hi! I just wanted to know,like if I make a manga how would I get other people to read it? Especially in Japan.I want to someday work in Japan as a mangaka. It’s my dream!

  • Namrata verma

    Hi ! I read your experence but i have to ask something please read it ,it was important for my whole life
    I am a stutend of class 9 and a want to do a job in manga but i cannot effort money and not good in eng and japnece but just like you i also love drawing .
    So,please help me i request you for finding a job in the following condition.

  • Hiyururi

    i wonder if i can draw a manga while staying in my country (drawing using tablet, maybe sent the manga by mail) but my story publish in japan?

    also, do i need to stay in Japan to draw manga?

  • Bryne'

    If I wanted to become a manga artist and story writer would I have to go to Japan? I’m so afraid of tsunamis and I would miss my home.

  • Sam Cabeke

    My name is Sam Cabeke and I’m currently 17 years old. I have been drawing passionately for quite some time now and am going to pursue a career in manga, or at the very least illustration (but in a “manga style” if you will). However, I honestly have no idea even where to begin; I have been studying the Japanese language for the past year and am continuing this education through my last year of high school (and of course, will go further with it after I graduate). I was wondering though if you had any advice on how to get to Japan; what do I do? I don’t know where to go after high school and I really am unsure about going to college, especially considering the expenses. I really just need to get to Japan!
    I’ve never actually drawn a manga either; I create illustrations but have never done anything in a story format so I don’t have any experience with storyboards, screen tones, etc (and I really wouldn’t even know where to begin with that). If you have any advice at all I can’t even tell you how much I would appreciate it; I would really love to show you a few of my illustrations and get your feedback but I’m sure you’re very busy and I don’t want to be a burden. Thank you very much for reading this!
    Sam Cabeke

  • Elissa Kapusinski

    I’m Elissa Kapusinski.
    I am a 17-year-old white American girl who just happens to love manga. I love it more than my life, and I am DETERMINED to get a job in the industry, despite all odds being against me. I have NO skill or experience whatsoever in the business. I can’t even speak one word of Japanese…. (okay, I know daijoubu). And worst of all, I live in America… ugh.
    So, I guess this is a cry for help, wondering if there is ANY possibility at all for me somehow making it into the industry.
    I draw manga characters, but I mostly just copy what other people have already drawn.
    I also am not looking to publish my own manga… I just want to be an assistant like you were or work for someone or some company that does.
    This is kind of a unique situation, and I don’t know if you can help me at all, but you seemed like the best person to go to for something like this.

    Thank you SO SO much for your time,
    Elissa Kapusinski

    • Jamie Lynn Lano

      Hi Elissa, Well, I think that there’s always a chance! You need to get yourself to Japan first, any way that you can, and then start applying! If that’s your dream, then you can definitely make it happen if you work hard enough!

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