Manga Answerman - Is It Common For Mangaka To Have A Lot Of Uncredited Assistants?

by Deb Aoki,

We're now into August, and anime and comics convention season is in full-swing. I'm still digging through the transcripts from the various interviews and panels from SDCC and AX, but in the meantime, let's try to address this question:

is the manga model of one artist with team of uncredited assistants common to this very day? and if so - what is the general opinion of the readers about it?

Well, for one thing, the assistants aren't uncredited. While they're not mentioned by name in the weekly installments of a manga, if you look in the back of most collected volumes of manga, there is often a thank you section that names all the assistants, often with self-portraits drawn by the assistants. Assistants are also frequently mentioned in the extra “day in the life” comics at the end of some manga volumes – You'll see examples of this in Princess Jellyfish by Akiko Higashimura. Also, Jamie Lynn Lano explains it from the point of view of an assistant in her blog/diary of her stint drawing for Takeshi Konomi, the creator of The Prince of Tennis.

In some cases, they may seem “uncredited” because they may opt to refer themselves by pen-names or nick-names, and that's pretty much the assistants' decision regarding how they want to be credited.

There are numerous examples of assistants going on to publish related works -- for example, Boruto is drawn by Mikio Ikemoto, one of Masashi Kishimoto's former assistants while he was working on Naruto. Manga creators also sometimes help promote their assistant's solo works, such as Kōhei Horikoshi's shout-outs for Yoko Akiyama, an assistant who works on My Hero Academia who has also launched her own manga series, Saguri-chan Tankentai(Saguri-chan Expedition Party).

Not every manga creator uses assistants, and it can vary from a friend coming by to help once in a while to a squad of full-time studio employees. But I'd say it's a fairly common practice in Japan, especially if it's a weekly series. It can be especially taxing for a single creator to pump out 20+ pages in a few days, so assistants are a necessity.

I'm not sure what you mean by ‘what's the general opinion of readers’ of assistants' – but I think that it's well known and accepted by fans that drawing manga is time-consuming, and drawing at the pace of a weekly or monthly comic magazine would not be possible without the help of the assistants. In the end, if assistants help manga creators to meet their deadlines and keep new chapters of manga coming out, then that's generally a good thing. The added benefit of offering on-the-job training and possible professional introductions that might lead to publication of their own works is also a net positive for assistants, in addition to getting paid for drawing and perfecting their craft.

It's a bit of a shame that this type of apprenticeship isn't widely available for up-and-coming comics creators in N. America, but I know of two notable examples that show that this can also work here. Gale Galligan worked as an assistant to Raina Telgemeier (Smile, Ghosts) and is now the artist on the Baby Sitters Club graphic novels published by Scholastic. Jason Fischer is also a credited assistant on Bryan Lee O'Malley's graphic novel Seconds, and he created a mini-comic about his experiences working on this project. So who knows?

In the meantime, let's raise a glass to the hard-working, ink-stained manga assistants of the world - without them, none of it would be possible!


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Deb Aoki was the founding editor for About.com Manga, and now writes about manga for Anime News Network and Publishers Weekly. She is also a comics creator/illustrator, and has been a life-long reader of manga (even before it was readily available in English). You can follow her on Twitter at @debaoki.


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