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Goin’ Japanesque!

5 Popular Foreign Mangaka Artists, Active in the Manga Industry of Japan

Japanese manga and anime evolved in their own way within the country but nowadays they are widely distributed to the world and have gained many fans.

Yet there are only few foreigners that have joined the manga industry in Japan.

This time I would like to bring these rare foreign mangaka to your attention.


1. Hagin Yi

He is a movie director who came from Korea to Japan but he also wrote many stories for manga, staging them in ancient China when many heroes and warlords battled for hegemony.

His best known work is “Souten Kouro (aka Beyond the Heavens)”. This story casts Cao Cao as the main character, who usually appears as a villain or enemy in “Romance of the Three Kingdoms”, known as one of the three best stories written in China.

The Romance of the Three Kingdoms is a historical novel that depicts history of three states Wei, Wu, and Shu, fiercely battled to establish a new dynasty to rule China.

Hagin Yi’s version depicts the hero Cao Cao as a modern, rational character and the story is written in a whole new perspective. This manga gained great popularity and it was adapted for anime, too.

For the Souten Kouro Hagin Yi was in charge of developing the story.

But when his work was still unfinished in 1998, he passed away at the age of 52 due to liver cancer.

The story was later completed by Gonta King, who had been responsible for the drawings of the Souten Kouro.


2. Shindo L

Shindo L is a manga artist originally from New York, the United States.

The artist has mixed origin, a Japanese father and American mother to be exact.

Shindo’s manga is intended for adult audience of 18 years or older, predominantly consists of sexual contents.

While living in the States, the mangaka-to-be received strong impression from Japanese adult manga.

After learning independently how to draw manga, Shindo L moved to Japan.

Debuted as a mangaka for adult audience, the artist became popular and won many fans.


3. Åsa Ekström

She is an illustrator originally from Sweden.

Her most popular work is “Hokuojoshi Osa ga Mitsuketa Nihon no Fushigi” (Mysteries of Japan Discovered by Osa, a Scandinavian female), and this work was originally published in her personal blog as essays written by manga.

This manga depicts Japanese culture, custom, and common practices from a foreigner’s point of view and it called quite a buzz in Japan.

One reason for her popularity may be found in her cute feminine drawings, which appear to be drawn by a Japanese writer and you cannot tell at a glance.

In addition she intrigued Japanese people’s curiosity as a female foreign mangaka, and she herself made many appearances in TV rather than her work.

Currently she is living in Japan and working as a manga artist.


4. Boichi

Boichi is a mangaka who first debuted in the manga industry of Korea and later stepped into the Japanese manga industry.

He was first active in youth magazines with the ages of intended readers set at a higher range.

Currently he is working on the artwork of “Dr. Stone” in Shonen Jump, the pinnacle manga magazine for boys in Japan.

He has exceptional techniques that produce highly elaborate drawings, and such an artist is rare even among Japanese manga artists.

He is perhaps the most mainstream mangaka among those I am introducing this time.


5. Tony Valente

The last one to introduce is not working in Japan but working abroad, writing manga in Japanese style.

His works are published in Japan too, and I feel as if Japanese manga were produced overseas and imported to Japan. I think manga writers like him may contribute to creation of a new international manga industry in the days ahead.

He publishes bande dessinée, a unique type of cartoons in France, and his activities are based in France.

Bande dessinée is characterized with its highly individualistic and artistic drawings.


Leveraging such qualities, he has published “Radiant”, a story of a boy wizard’s adventures in another world, not only in France but also in Japan.

His caricatured characters are of typical Japanese manga, but his style includes elaborate backgrounds and vivid sense of color, which is very attractive and hard to find among Japanese writers.


Japanese manga industry today is still largely closed within the country.

Communication with publishers needs to be done in Japanese, there are Japanese formats for story progression and fine climate and culture of Japan need to be understood, thus a high hurdle remains for foreign people to participate in the manga industry of Japan.

However I started noticing works done by foreign manga writers every now and then in places like web comic sites operated by commercial publishers.

I feel such network is going to expand and spread gradually worldwide.

Dear foreign manga artists and aspiring mangaka-to-be, please bring your new, innovative manga worlds to Japan. We are cheering you on from Japan!

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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