As the end of college was drawing near for Jamie Lano, she decided to spend a year living in the country that created the anime and manga that she loved.
What attracted you to manga?
I guess that I’ve always been interested in comics and animation as an art form. But what really struck me about manga in specific was the amount of creative control that one person had over a story. Unlike animation or even American comics, the majority of the control over the plot remains with the manga artist or author, and not with a team. In American comics, it’s common to see a series change authors and artists frequently—sometimes every single issue. But in manga, while it takes a team of artists to create it, everything is based around one artist’s vision.
Tell us about your career as a manga artist.
I am currently working for Takeshi Konomi, who is the artist and author of the huge hit series "Prince of Tennis." This came about last year, when friends told me that he was recruiting for artists on the JUMP Square website for a new project. I had admired him for a long time, and I decided to give it a shot. I was “hired” on a trial basis. Along with one, and eventually two other new assistants (and two returning), we worked on small promotional items, and spent most of our studio time practicing drawing, inking and screentone techniques. We also spent time going out to photograph locations that would be used in the upcoming sequel.
How about your own projects?
I am aiming for my own debut sometime in the future. I have learned so much working in this studio over the last half a year, and with Konomi-sensei’s support, I feel as if I will be able to do it. I am working on my own manga, which I will submit to the publishers. If it doesn’t take, then I will try again, and again and again until I’m able to achieve the first step of this dream!
What have been the challenges of living in Japan?
At first, the challenge for me was fitting into this new world. Basically, having spent most of my time in the English-speaking bubble that exists in Tokyo, I had to re-learn how to communicate and relate to people. All of my time spent with Japanese friends over the years had never prepared me for what it would be like being away from my home for a week at a time with no access to a computer or the people that I usually talked to, completely enveloped in a language that I only half-understood. But with everyone’s help and patience, I’ve been able to find my feet. All in all, although the marathon ten-day sessions where we draw for 15 hours a day sometimes get to me, I’ve found that the benefits outweigh the hardships.
Any words of advice for would-be manga-ka overseas?
Don’t give up! No matter what happens, keep your dream in hand and take any opportunities that are presented to you. Walk through any open doors, and don’t let a chance slip by if you can help it!
What else are you doing?
The one-year anniversary of my column over at Asahi Weekly is coming up. I’m also working on a new TV show with JCTV, Asahi Pop’n’Press.
What’s your favorite spot in Japan?
This might sound really strange, but my favorite spot is this little shrine to kappa (water demons) over on the east side of Tokyo. I’ve never been able to catch it when its doors are open, but I’ve always longed to. Aside from that, I love to go hiking out on Mt Takao. Sometimes I really miss nature.
What do you see as the future of the manga industry?
I think that as long as people want to read good manga, other people will continue making it. I hope to be one of them!
This story originally appeared in Metropolis magazine (www.metropolis.co.jp)© Japan Today