Saturday, July 25, 2009

How To Draw Manga Badly

Allow me to put on my burn suit because I just know I'm about to get flamed for this one.

But seriously, guys. The Japanese are really, really good at drawing manga and anime. And there are a lot of them doing it. Let them be.

If you're wondering exactly what I'm on about here, I remember times gone by - days of yore, yesteryear, when carts were pulled by horses, the family sat around the radio to tune into the Goon Show and bookstores had a "how to draw" section.
This section has now been replaced by "how to draw manga".

Now, this would be okay if it were a small portion of the health, but no - it seems instructional books teaching you the basics of drawing have been all but reduced to an afterthought against mountains of shitty books on how to sidestep coming up with your own art style. The worst part is how rarely these books are even of any value - if they were drawn by manga artists, then maybe. But most of them are written by westerners who have NO IDEA how to draw manga in the fucking first place!

Jesus CHRIST. Do you really want to learn how to draw like this? I think you'd be better off teaching yourself, and that DEFINITELY includes people who do not possess a single artistic bone in their body and inherently suck at drawing.
Not only are we being encouraged to copy someone else's style, we are being encouraged to do it BADLY.
Now, I don't know what the situation is like over in Europe or America, but here in AUS it's books like these that fill up two shelves in every single bookstore under the "how to draw" section. Books written by American weeaboos who cannot draw. And they are replacing the books that teach people the basics.

Mmm. Thanks, Scholastic, now you are getting to the kiddies so they can learn how to not draw properly even sooner. I'm sorry, but if you are going to publish a book on how to draw ANYTHING, youshoudl at least have a basic knowledge of how to draw... I dunno, hands? I mean fuck, you are getting PUBLISHED. Aspiring artists are looking to you to LEARN HOW TO DRAW. Take some goddamn responsibility!

Thanks to Newgrounds and the internet in general, I see there are some talented (and many not-so-talented) people floating around who are also trying their balls off to make their animations look like anime. This is the bit where I am going to get flamed.

Why would you? Why would you want to imitate limited animation on purpose?

Granted, there are some beautifully animated Japanese efforts (I'm thinking Akira, which I consider to be one of the greatest animations of all time), but such excellent animation is the exception rather than the rule.

Akira, for the record, had some of the most amazing special effects I have ever seen in a movie from its era, and was just as ahead of its time in many other ways. If there is a work as deserving of introducing the western world to Japanese animation in force, it might as well have been this one.

However, Akira had a very big budget - something not shared by a bulk of other anime.
This industry grew out of a tradition which 1970's Hanna Barbera would relate to - getting the most out of the smallest possible budget, racing against the clock to knock out episodes. Because the shows that came from this work ethic produced a regular following, it became cultural. Anime has pretty much ALWAYS been based off some manga or another in the old days (even today, an autonomously created anime is rare). As such, there is also a tradition of attempting to capture the illustrative qualities of the printed page, which often means skimping on animation, unless the studio has an *insane* amount of time and money on their hands.
Copying the animation style of an anime, to me, is like copying the animation style of Scooby Doo. I don't think that's the way to go if you want to be worth your salt as an animator.

Another problem I see with pushing this philosophy of "you can do it, too!" is that it makes a bunch of young hopefuls think (wrongfully) that there is some kind of industry you can get into if you learn to draw like this.
The Japanese are not racist, but they can be a little elitist when it comes to this kind of thing. They think, if we have great artists biting each other's faces off to get a bottom-wrung job here, we'd rather have great Japanese artists than great American ones. You'd have to be the next Osamu Tezuka to get hired. Because there are actually a couple of Americans who have gotten a job in Japan as a manga artist or whatever, everyone else thinks they can do it. But again, it's the exception rather than the rule.
Alternatively, you could make manga comics for like-minded manga-loving westerners, but seriously...
Few people read comics these days.
Even less read manga.
Even less of them read western manga.
It's a cult thing, obviously. But you can't possibly expect to make any money from a fraction of a fraction of a waning market.
It's okay if you want to do it for a hobby, by all means, go for it. But don't expect to make a living out of it - and I have had to give reality checks to young gun kids who think they can. It makes me feel like a dick for taking the wind out of their sales, and it pisses me off that someone out there put the idea in their fucking heads in the first place.

Likewise, if you want to get a job in animation, most studios actually stipulate "no anime or manga style drawings" as one of their portfolio requirements. In fact, even most universities stipulate that in their entry requirements. The main reason why is because western studios (and I have to admit, this goes for me too) believe that a unique personal style is more desirable than a replication of other people's styles. Now, I am not so jaded that I cannot enjoy anime or manga - but the people who will hire you are. They don't give a fuck about 'any of that manga bullshit' and they will throw your whole portfolio in the bin if you sneak one drawing in there. It doesn't help that these people get literally hundreds of port folios full of manga style drawings a year.

I mean... really, this all wouldn't bother me so much if the books on how to draw this stuff had not *replaced* books on how to draw. If they were there just to supplement them, it would be okay.
I feel so conservative, and therefore, dirty.


  1. Years ago, I was glad when my bookstore's 'how to draw' section expanded. Then I got steadily more and more disgusted when only books like your examples were being added. I reeeeeaally wonder how people like that get published.

    Though, I think more people read manga than comics. Same bookstore's manga section takes up both sides of an aisle, while western comics get two shelves (like, tiers, not the whole things). I don't mind that as much - most western comic books styles are eyebleeding to me. xD I wish more of the manga was good, though.

  2. Also, Akira is awesome. :D Wasn't the same dude/team behind Steamboy or some such movie? I saw it once and its animation was pretty good too, IIRC.

  3. You could probably take half of this rant, switch the words "anime" and "manga" for "anthro" and you'd be good for another article.

  4. what kills me is the "Idiot's Guide to Drawing Manga". I'd almost want to buy the book for novelty value, but I don't think the price is worth even that much.

  5. Ctk-Hullo - That's right, the director went on to make Steamboy. I haven't seen it myself, but it didn't get very good reviews (though I'd rather see it for myself before accepting the judgment). You make a good point with comics vs. manga - but consider this. Those books should be about how to draw in general, not how to draw Marvel style. XD

    Owenza - There are some terrible books out there on the subject. My view on anthro stuff is, you can either draw it, or you just... can't.

    Archfriend - I admit I laughed at the title. It would be the ultimate novelty possession, but I imagine it would exceed thirty dollars in price, rendering it 'a joke for another day'.

  6. D| I used to own that first book (and I think that second book as well) and I have to say it might have set me back a bit when it came to drawing. orz.

    And I remember that there was a proper drawing book that I got from a friend and it had this weird 'how to draw manga girls' as one small chapter and it was horrible ;o;.

    Why do people do this Prof?

  7. Learn how to draw manga is fun. I love it. It's really very interesting.
    How To Draw Manga

  8. ....I tried learning from that book in second grade. lol Now my arts like this:

    It actually did help me with developing the skeleton thumbnails for my people...other than that looking back at that book now, its a piece of shit. lol

  9. Though I have to disagree partly with the whole "They will throw out your profolio if theres manga-like drawing" etc. Its all just based on how you make it. Like someone said in the comments above, manga/anime is a medium. Cartoons goes hand in hand with this.
    Its just on how you develop your medium and create your own style. Lean on manga, but yes, still broaden your mediums and transform your style into something that isnt just manipulated. This book actually is very inspiring and goes to show that you can be somewhat successful but no matter what, extremely talented as a manga artist who is, yes, american.

    As for me, Im still in high school but have been drawing manga practically all my life. Though, I am aware that to be a mangaka as a american is hard-knock work and in most times, you shouldnt even go to school for it. Im minoring in art but majoring in dental. Ive learned while you can love drawing manga, to be a major with artistry, you will become pushed away from it most of the time.