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Goin’ Japanesque!

4 Realistic Manga about the Making of Manga

There are many Japanese manga featuring a manga artist protagonist, the persona symbolically reflecting the author him- or herself. While commonly themed on a manga artist, the plots and themes of those manga are very diverse. Here we’ve picked up some especially unique titles among them.


Bakuman: Boys’ Dream

バクマン Written by Tsugumi Ohba, Illustrated by Takeshi Obata

Moritaka Mashiro and Akito Takagi together make a debut as a single manga artist by the name of “Muto Ashirogi.” They go through all kinds of dramatic relationships with their rivals each with his or her own unique personality. The manga is mainly themed on such rivalry between the manga artists over who wins the largest popularity on a popular manga magazine.

This manga has been made in to a live-action film and set a standard for subsequent manga titles depicting drama of manga artists. As it was published on a magazine geared toward teenagers or younger generations (as it is called “shonen (boys’) manga”), the development of the story itself is not always realistic. But that comes as a result of more emphasis placed on good tempo and dramatic effects, which makes this manga interesting in its own right. While many other “behind-the-scenes” type of manga have a more documentary touch, this title characteristically stands out as a good entertainment.


Ashi-san: Girls’ Dream

アシさん Written by Taamo

A girl named Mutsumi Namikawa shares with her boyfriend a dream of becoming a manga artist and makes a living as one of the assistants to a manga artist. When her boyfriend first makes a debut as a pro, either out of envy or jealousy, her relationship with him starts to get more and more awkward. The manga is a great comedy where, in all such anxieties in life, the girl struggles to become a pro herself going through dramatic experiences involving her fun friends including wannabe manga artists who like cosplay and a popular manga artist of “boys’ love” or “yaoi” genre (manga themed on homosexuality).


While the protagonist of Bakuman tries to become a pro artist of shonen (boys’) manga, Ashi-san depicts the story of a girl who aspires to find her career in the genre of girls’ manga. Unlike Bakuman, the protagonist of Ashi-san is an ordinary manga fan who is sort of mediocre in her preference in manga genre and skill of manga making. The story is not only focused on the scenes around the commercial manga industry, but various other things such as topics related to private fanzines (dojinshi) and, of course as an indispensable factor for girls’ manga, romance. The manga throws light on the protagonist’s struggles for becoming a pro manga artist sometimes comically and at other times with a more realistic and sober touch.


Yugai Toshi (Poison City): Freedom of Expression at Stake

有害都市 Written by Tetsuya Tsutsui


This manga is set in near-future Japan where the city of Tokyo is soon to host the Olympic games and has introduced a legal regulation on “inappropriate expressions.” Mikio Hibino, the protagonist, is a manga artist whose work has been decided to be serialized on a magazine for the first time. But the expressions and stories of his manga will be buffeted by the legal regulations on “inappropriate” materials and so his life.


In reality, there has been a case, for example, where the title of an anime series called “Majokko,” which means a “witch girl,” was changed to “Maho Shojo (wizard/magic girl)” because the connotation of the word “witch” became the subject of concern. Any cultural content cannot be completely free from such a question of to what extent the freedom of expression should be allowed. The manga reminds us of the excess regulations we still experience about the freedom of expression today. The manga is relatively short but has deep and serious implications.


Henshu-Ou: Manga Artist as a Profession

編集王 Written by Seiki Tsuchida

The protangonist Kanpachi Momoi is an ex-pro boxer, who adored the world of Ashita no Joe (Champion Joe), the famous iconic boxing manga. Retiring after an injury, he gets a job through one of his friends and starts to work as a part-time editor of a manga magazine. When he finds out the dark side of the industry, he decides to concentrate his effort on delivering manga to readers for the sake of dream and hope instead of mere profit chasing. But it is destined to be a thorny path where troubles and anguishes await him. This is a social realistic manga that depicts the dream and reality of the manga industry.


The manga focuses on editors, the behind-the-scenes supporters of the manga industry. It has gained a lot of attention for its elaborate description of the reality of the industry and controversial messages about various issues hunting the industry such as “re-sales price maintenance system,” which is always fiercely debated for the duality of its negative impact on market competition and positive impact in terms of the protection of publishing culture and industry. The manga casts a question as to the antinomy between the inevitably profit-oriented nature of the business and the expectation of the readers for it to deliver them dream and hope.


The Japanese manga industry is now accepting artists from outside Japan. In the near future, we can expect to see many more attractive works to be created by manga artists of various national and cultural backgrounds and entertain us.

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Berial the Demon

About the author

It has been over 40 years of reading manga in the deep world of manga. Japan’s manga has an endlessly wide variety of genres. I will be recommending special manga for you to read from such infinite amount of works.

View all articles by Berial the Demon