Masters of the Art
By Timothy R. Lehmann
Hard back: ISBN: 0060833319 Price: $24.95
Paper back: ISBN: 0060833319 Price: $24.95
A few years ago, if someone had asked for my opinion of manga, I would have said it was not my favorite tropical fruit. But then I got married, and with my wife came two lovely stepdaughters, one of whom was absolutely mad for manga.
Manga, literally translated from the Japanese, means "random sketches," and it can be used in both the singular and the plural, like sheep or fish. Its origins can be traced to chojugiga, or "animal scrolls" from the twelfth century, and manga is, in the most basic terms, a Japanese version of the graphic novel.
If you walk into any sizable new bookstore today, you will find scores of manga series with thousands of titles. Manga represents a staggering forty percent of what is currently published in Japan (excluding newspapers), and the country exports approximately $1.5 billion worth of manga each year. Manga has become one of the fastest growing segments of the American publishing industry as well, with yearly sales in the range of $150 million, a significant percentage of the total juvenile-book market.
Journalist and comics expert Timothy Lehmann has come out with a book that is sure to please manga's quickly growing fan base. Manga: Masters of the Art profiles twelve of the most famous Japanese manga artists currently working. The profiles offer interviews illustrated with color examples of the artists' manga, pictures of their studios, and select bibliographies of their works. We learn how the artists came to their profession, how they sought training, the details of their work routines, how they relate to publishers, their opinions on other published manga, their advice for young artists, and a host of related details.
For example, Erica Sakurazawa, a forty-something, self-educated manga-ka (a manga artist), began reading and drawing manga when she was a child. Her genre is josei (manga for women), and she draws in pencil and her assistants ink her pictures. She shuns computers, the preferred medium for many manga-ka today. She was one of three female artists in the 1980s who pioneered drawing erotic manga for women.
So much visual and written information is packed into this book that it would probably take a veteran manga reader to make coherent sense out of it all. The artwork is dizzyingly varied in quality and subject, but always compelling on some level. To my more traditional eyes, the layout is busy and jarring, but this book was not written for me. It was written for my stepdaughter, whose dreams of writing and illustrating manga when she grows up will acquire another foundation stone when I give her Manga: Masters of the Art for her birthday.