☆ anime/manga,  ☆ being a mangaka,  ☆ i heart japan

What is a manga(ka)?

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!

(1,578 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.


  • Dreamer

    Heeey Jamie… I love your blog I’ve read just about almost all on how to be a mangaka but I’ve just started on your life storie… and I just have to say I’M MORE THAN PUMPED NOW INTO BECOMING A MANGA KA IN JAPAN… Your story is beautifully written.. its inspiring it actually makes me feel like I’m right there in Japan with you….

    I hope you get your own manga and actually publish one in your name it would actually open a lot of doors for kids out there who also want to be manga artist…. I also want to find myself living in Japan trying make a name for myself just like you… but my story is a little different… I’m a 16 year old boy from South Africa and I really want to be a manga artist but getting to Japan will be another story I love drawing and writing novels and stuff but I’m scared that I may be just chasing an empty dream because I’ve never heard of any black person living in Japan let alone a manga artist so I wanted you to help on how to get into Japan (well when I’m older of course) I thought maybe you had any ideas of companies competitions or people who are willing to take a foreigner (such as myself especially in South Africa to Japan)


    P.S Your awesome Jamie <3

  • Shuji Wakahisa

    I totally agree with you the story should speak for itself, I don’t know if this will make any amount of sense but if it does well here goes: whenever anyone makes a story I feel as if it is the characters who are telling the author/writer/artist what has happened in their world/life and want to share it with the world we live in from theirs. I feel that stories are also a way to share our feelings with others from the time they read the chapter, or watch the story(if it becomes a show) to talk to them. You’re right stories are ment to speak for themselves.

    ^o^ Honestly Jamie I feel as if you are the best person ever to know! You are the best!

    Good luck in life I shall continue to sta- I mean erm watch your journey! Hope to meet you one day!

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