15 Manga About Making Manga

Drawing From Life

So you want to be a manga artist? Well, there's more to it than just drawing pictures on paper. You've got to come up with a story, spend sleepless nights drawing, please your finicky editor and deal with fickle fans too. Who would know this better than an actual manga artist? In fact, there are several manga about making manga. Check out these humorous, harrowing and insightful peeks behind the scenes (and behind the drawing boards) into the Japanese manga business.

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Bakuman Volume 1 by Tsugumi Ohba and Takeshi Obata, from Shonen Jump Manga / VIZ Media
Bakuman Volume 1. BAKUMAN. © 2008 by Tsugumi Ohba, Takeshi Obata / SHUEISHA Inc.

Author: Tsugumi Ohba
Artist: Takeshi Obata
Publisher: Shonen Jump/​VIZ Media
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From the creators of Death Note comes a series that's not very supernatural but definitely fascinating because it goes behind the scenes of Shonen Jump, one of the most popular shonen manga magazines in the world.

Bakuman shows this world through the eyes of two teenage comics creators, as they try to create the next big shonen manga sensation. Along the way, the boys share some helpful drawing tips, meet many real-life Shonen Jump editors and show some of the not-so-glamorous aspects of the manga business.

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A Drifting Life

A Drifting Life
A Drifting Life. © Yoshihiro Tatsumi

Author/Artist: Yoshihiro Tatsumi
Publisher: Drawn and Quarterly
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In this 800+ page semi-autobiographical mega-opus, Tatsumi gives readers a front-row seat to some of the major turning points in manga history, as it evolved from being disposable entertainment for Japanese kids to the diverse and thought-provoking artform for adults and teens today.

Tatsumi starts his tale from his childhood meeting with manga legend Osamu Tezuka, then continues as he draws gritty pulp stories for the rental manga market, and meets like-minded artists as they draw gekiga or "dramatic pictures" comics for grown-ups. A one-of-a-kind manga memoir that will astound and inspire artists and comics fans alike.

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Disappearance Diary

Disappearance Diary (Shissou Nikki) by Hideo Azuma published by Fanfare / Ponent Mon
Disappearance Diary. © Hideo Azuma

Author/Artist: Hideo Azuma
Publisher: Fanfare - Ponent Mon
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The life of a manga artist isn't easy. Just ask Hideo Azuma — after years of working as a published pro (drawing panty-flashing cuties), the pressure of constant deadlines and hard-to-please editors drove Azuma to "disappear" from his life. At one point, he became a dumpster-diving homeless person. At another time, he worked as a pipe layer for a gas company. And finally, when his alcoholism drove him to near insanity, he checked into rehab.

But these stories aren't total downers. Azuma tells his mostly true tale with a heavy dose of self-deprecating, slice-of-life humor. The result is a story that's funny and oddly uplifting.

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Flower of Life

Flower of Life Volume 1 by Fumi Yoshinaga, published by DMP
Flower of Life Volume 1. © Fumi Yoshinaga / SHINSHOKAN 2004

Author/Artist: Fumi Yoshinaga
Publisher: Digital Manga Publishing
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Like Bakuman, Flower of Life is the story of two teen boys who have dreams of becoming professional comics creators. But instead of a shonen manga-style "heroic quest" tale, Flower of Life is an incredibly wry look inside the manga world that is both wickedly satirical and utterly true.

While the boys' quest to draw manga is interesting, the side-splitting scenes focus on Sumiko, a shy girl who draws a historical romance shojo manga, only to have Majima, the class uber-otaku tell her to re-write it as a modern yaoi manga so it'll really sell. How she speaks up and shuts him down is pure comedy gold.

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Even a Monkey Can Draw Manga

Even a Monkey Can Draw Manga Vol. 1
Even a Monkey Can Draw Manga Vol. 1. © 1990 Koji Aihara, Kentaro Takekuma, SHOGAKUKAN

Author: Koji Aihara
Artist: Kentaro Takekuma
Publisher: Pulp/VIZ Media
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If you've ever been intimidated by the thought of becoming a manga artist, Koji Aihara and Kentaro Takekuma are here to tell you that it's really a lot simpler than it looks. Or if not that, then they're here to skewer every tired manga cliché out there. Shonen and shojo manga, raunchy men's manga, trashy ladies' manga, even mahjong manga gets mercilessly dissected and satirized.

While this quirky not-quite-a-how-to-draw-manga book is out of print and can be a little hard to find, if you're really into manga, you'll find this strange but silly book to be well worth seeking out.

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I'll Give It My All...Tomorrow

I'll Give It My All... Tomorrow by Shunju Aono, from VIZ Signature / VIZ Media
I'll Give It My All... Tomorrow Vol. 1. OREWAMADA HONKIDASHITENAIDAKE © 2007 Shunju AONO / Shogakukan

Author/Artist: Shunju Aono
Publisher: VIZ Signature/VIZ Media
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40-year old Shuzuo Oguro is going through a mid-life crisis. After years of office work, he decides to quit his safe but boring job to pursue his true passion: to become a manga artist. Trouble is, Shuzuo doesn't have a single idea for a story, can't really draw well, and he can't really find the motivation to get started.

On top of that, his father thinks Shuzuo's lost his mind for quitting his job, and his teenage daughter has been working at a somewhat unwholesome afterschool job. Can Shuzuo succeed against all of these odds, or if he can't, can he at least make us laugh along the way?

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Genshiken Volume 1 by Kio Shimoku from Del Rey Manga
Genshiken Volume 1. © 20002 Kio Shimoku / KODANSHA LTD. All rights reserved.

Author/Artist: Kio Shimoku
Publisher: Del Rey Manga
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Contrary to popular belief, all otaku are not alike. Just look at the different flavors of pop culture superfans found in Genshiken. An anime fan, a cosplayer, a gamer, a toy collector, and a manga artist come together in a college club they call "The Society for the Study of Modern Visual Culture" (Gendai Shikaku Bunka Kenkyūkai) or "Genshiken."

Aspiring manga creators will especially enjoy Kio Shimoku's insight into the world of Comiket, the twice-yearly mega-comics event held at Tokyo Big Sight. While it's called Comifest in this story, fans will recognize the crowds, the comics and the mayhem that makes Comiket unique.

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Dramacon Ultimate Edition by Svetlana Chmakova from TokyoPop
Dramacon Ultimate Edition. © 2008 Svetlana Chmakova and TOKYOPOP Inc.

Author/Artist: Svetlana Chmakova
Publisher: TokyoPop
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Christie is an aspiring manga writer who makes her first trip to an anime convention with her boyfriend. But her trip to the con is just the start of an adventure that helps her find new friends, new heartaches and new loves. Her experiences prod her on her first steps toward her dream, to become a published author with a major manga publisher.

Christie meets Bethany, a comics artist who becomes her collaborator, and Lida Zeff, an American comics creator who offers some sage advice and insight into the ups and downs of the manga publishing business. Christie also meets Matt, an enigmatic guy who teaches her some lessons in love.

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Fall in Love Like a Comic

Fall in Love Like a Comic Vol. 1
Fall in Love Like a Comic Vol. 1. MANGA MITAINA KOI SHITAI! © Chitose YAGAMI/Shogakukan Inc.

Author/Artist: Chitose Yagami
Publisher: Shojo Beat/VIZ Media
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Rena Sakura is an 8th grader with an unusual afterschool job: she's a professional manga artist. Her classmates don't know, but that's just fine with Rena because her stories are a little on the sexy side – which is kind of ironic since Rena has never been in a romantic relationship with an actual boy. When her editor tells her that her love stories lack authenticity because she's never been in love, Rena recruits Tomoya, a handsome and popular classmate to act as her "boyfriend," purely for research. But Rena soon learns that falling in love for real is a lot more complicated than falling in love in a comic.

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Doujin Work

Doujin Work Vol. 1
Doujin Work Vol. 1. © Hiroyuki

Author/Artist: Hiroyuki
Publisher: Media Blasters
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When Najimi discovers that her classmate Tsuyuri is a doujin or amateur comics artist, she's merely curious at first. When she finds out that otherwise quiet Tsuyuri has got a significant fan following because she draws sexually explicit rape comics, Najimi's interest is piqued. But when Najimi finds out that Tsuyuri makes a good chunk of dough selling her comics at a comics festival, she gets fired up and wants a piece of the action. Najimi decides that she too wants to create doujinshi — but there's just one thing that's in her way. She can't draw.

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Comic Party

Comic Party Vol. 1
Comic Party Vol. 1. © Leaf, AquaPlus, Sekihiko Inui, MEDIAWORKS

Author/Artist: Sekihiko Inui
Publisher: TokyoPop
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Kazuki Sendō is a comics fan who gets turned on to the world of doujinshi (fan-created comics) when he makes his first trip to Comic Party, a big comic convention. He then resolves to go from being a fan to being a comics creator himself, so Kazuki embarks on a mission to create his own comics to sell at the next Comic Party.

Comic Party was originally a dating sim game that got adapted as a manga series by Sekihiko Inui (the creator of and ), who is himself a doujin artist. It was also adapted as an anime series.

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Kingyo Used Books

Kingyo Used Books Volume 1 by Seimu Yoshizaki, from VIZ Signature / VIZ Media
Kingyo Used Books Volume 1. KINGYOYA KOSHOTEN © 2005 Seimu YOSHIZAKI / Shogakukan

Author/Artist: Seimu Yoshizaki
Publisher: VIZ Signature/VIZ Media
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For some readers, comics are more than just entertainment – they inspire dreams, provide a moment of laughter, and inspire even the disillusioned to believe in the power of love. At Kingyo Used Books, manga, old and new, rare and common fill the shelves. As readers find their way to the shop, they rediscover the stories that touched their hearts in their younger days, and readers of Kingyo Used Books learn more about some of the most beloved and influential manga ever created.

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MBQ Vol. 1
MBQ Vol. 1. © Felipe Smith

Author/Artist: Felipe Smith
Publisher: TokyoPop
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Omario lives in L.A., where he's struggling to realize his vision as a comics creator without starving first. Trouble is, as Omario puts it, "I don't want to draw superheroes, robots or aliens. No ninjas, no super-villains, no magical quests." So what does Omario want to draw? A story that completely makes fun of all of those things, blows wet farts in its face too.

But seeing as his story is so out there, so raunchy and offensive that no publisher would ever pick it up, Omario's gotta figure out some way to pay the rent. Will it mean swallowing his pride and flipping burgers at MBQ, the local fast food joint?

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Otomen Volume 1 by Aya Kanno, a shojo manga series from Shojo Beat Manga / VIZ Media
Otomen Volume 1. © Aya Kanno 2006 / HAKUSENSHA, Inc.

Author/Artist: Aya Kanno
Publisher: Shojo Beat/VIZ Media
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High school student Asuka Masamune is handsome. He's athletic. But he's also got a secret: under his manly facade, Asuka is an "otomen," a guy who loves cooking, sewing and cute things. His other problem? Asuka's in love with Ryo, a pretty girl with a black belt in karate, who's hopeless in the kitchen.

What neither Asuka nor Ryo know is that their off-kilter romance is the inspiration for Love Chick, a popular shojo manga series created by their classmate, Juta Tachibana who works under the pen name Jewel Sachihana. As Juta tries to hide his identity as a "female" comics creator, he also gives readers a peek inside the shojo manga biz.

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20th Century Boys

20th Century Boys Volume 1 by Naoki Urasawa, a seinen manga series from VIZ Signature / VIZ Media
20th Century Boys Volume 1. © 2000 Naoki URASAWA/Studio Nuts; With the cooperation of Takashi NAGASAKI. All rights reserved.

Author/Artist: Naoki Urasawa
Publisher: VIZ Signature/VIZ Media
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While making manga isn't the main thrust of 20th Century Boys, it does play a significant role in some of its plot threads, especially in the aftermath of Bloody New Year's Eve. After the disaster, Friend and his minions pretty much rule Japan. To keep the masses under control, manga is heavily censored and artists who deviate from the norm are jailed.

But there's a revolution brewing underground, and a young manga artist and two desperate cartoonists who may remind readers of Fujio Fujiko (creators of Doraemon) just might play a role in the world's salvation.