I showed my work to five editors this weekend for reviews, and more or less failed. 35 pages, one month, and $250 spent on supplies... all of those things for nothing. I got told a lot of different things, but the one thing I mostly got praise for was my art. Apparently I have finally gotten rid of my handicapping American style, but at the cost of art consistency. I was so busy trying to draw what I thought would sell by mimicking artists I like and techniques I like that I started to mix styles, mostly when doing deformed gag drawings. Though one guy said I was really good and didn't seem to notice that problem, most people thought the balance was off in my work. A woman I had seen before said I had really improved art-wise, but that my layouts needed to be simpler. Everyone said I crammed too much dialogue into 35 pages... basically, I need to simplify.
Now, none of these editors were for the specific genre I wanted-- and the woman I saw gave me some advice I found kind of going against what you normally hear ("I think you should make the girl character the main character because she's really cute" "Yeah but this is for boys" "Girls can be main characters in stories for boys"), some that was kind of ridiculous ("You should consider taking out this whole scene where they meet this character" "But that scene introduces one of the main characters" "Yeah, but it just didn't seem necessary") and finally advice that contradicted advice I got last time ("These lines are too thin" "Uh... you told me to make them thinner last time I saw you" "Oh yeah. I guess they looked better thicker after all.") and so on. It was really frustrating to hear, and very discouraging to think that what I thought was going to be my best work would be turned down so unanimously.
I know a lot of people watch me because they want to be mangaka in Japan someday. Let me just be frank with you-- not gonna happen. Not any time soon at least. I am continuing to try to prove myself wrong, and maybe someday I'll get it right, but even though I've improved in so many areas I'm still at square one. The only overwhelmingly positive response I got to my work was when people asked me how long it took me to draw this comic, and I said "one month" to which I got the Japanese equivalent of "da-aaaamn" because apparently that's super fast. But what so many people like me don't realize is that manga is broken up into many many many different categories, and editors want you to bring them work that appeals specifically to their magazine. One guy kind of liked my work, but said even though he thought I was good he said I absolutely didn't fit the mold for his magazine (he was really nice and gave me some numbers to call about assistant work for artists that WOULD suit my style).
Why is it hard for foreigners to understand the concept that there are genres inside of genres with manga? Because it is all marketed to basically the same people overseas. In America, I knew people who were into Fruits Basket, Chobits, Naruto, and Cowboy Bebop. That's normal, right? Not really. In Japan the people who would read Naruto are not the same people who would read Fruits Basket-- Naruto is aimed at boys ages 8-15. Fruits Basket is for girls of that age range. Chobits is for teenage boys, while Cowboy Bebop was for the adult otaku crowd. People who read Jump (One Piece, Naruto, DBZ, etc) do not watch Haruhi, Lucky Star, or Durarara. In fact, they don't know what those shows are. The divide is HUGE here, and I was laughed at by the place who publishes "moe-kei" cutesy loli stuff because I said I was a big fan of Ranma 1/2. Ranma 1/2 was a manga for boys 8-17 and mainstream, and nothing like what their magazine showed. Yes, it is unusual to like multiple kinds of manga, and it is bad for manga artists because multiple styles will show up in their manga. But foreigners don't get this because it's all grouped together-- remember Mixxine? It published Magic Knight Rayearth, Parasyte, Sailor Moon, and Bakuretsu Hunter all together. I loved it. That shit wouldn't fly in Japan-- though MKR and Sailor Moon were published together in Japan as manga for young girls (like, 7-12), Parasyte is a young adult manga (seinen, for maybe 16-25+) and Bakuretsu Hunter was a manga more for middle school-aged anime geek boys. I read and loved all four of those titles, not realizing the mishmash magazine was doing something unheard of in Japan. Animerica Extra? That published Utena and Fushigi Yuugi together, which were aimed at the same young girl audience, but it also published Video Girl Ai, which was a boy's manga, and a steampunk detective series for young male geeks (or maybe that was mainstream, but I think it wasn't). Loved that magazine, but again the mixing genres thing is unheard of.
I have seen sooo many artists on DA say "Wee I'm going to be in Jump someday!", and I honestly have no idea why Jump is so popular with foreigners, but when I look at their gallery and see them drawing Vocaloid fan art or girly manga stories with flowers and bubbles all over the background, or giant girly eyes, I'm like "What are you thinking? That's not even remotely close to what Jump publishes." My boyfriend loves Jump. I buy a copy and he reads it before I set it down. Does he know what a Vocaloid is? Of course not-- I had to explain it to him when he saw commercials advertising the Hatsune Miku live show. Does every anime fan overseas know who Miku is? Pretty much.
You really have to know your audience. It is my main hang-up right now-- I got advice from five editors from four different kinds of magazines, and I was told I'd have better luck at either really young manga magazines (CoroCoro, who does Pokemon) or the younger side of boy's manga. I had success there last year, maybe I need to consider going back. I'm going to make adjustments using the suggestions I thought made sense (because I did receive some advice that I can agree with-- consistency in the art, panel layouts, and wordiness being my problem areas) and go to mainstream boy's magazines one more time. If that ends in failure again, I'm really screwed.
for his help when I was running low on time.
As for commissions... I'm giving myself this week to kind of recollect my thoughts and take a break, and maybe to try this amazing Plan B I came up with regarding my failed manga, and then starting next week I'm going to get right back to doing what you guys paid for. The following people have paid for commissions-- if you have any changes to what you want, please email me.
Yeah, I'm not giving up with manga just yet. But really, I know most people have given up on me-- I'm fairly certain my parents don't expect me to be a mangaka anymore. My boyfriend just wants to make sure I'll have my half of the rent in time. I've even given up on myself to a degree, but I'm so stubborn I'm going to keep trying even though I expect to be doing office work for another year or so.
What really gets me is... why was my art from two years ago somehow better than it is now? two years ago I couldn't keep from spilling the ink on my nib. My Japanese wasn't as good. My art was way way more cartoony and "American". Yet, I had an editor and was chosen to represent my art school at graduation, as well as winning awards at our competitions. How is it that even though I've technically improved, I'm somehow getting worse? Especially in story telling!
Okay... for all three of you that actually read all of that, that was nice of you. I'm pretty bummed and really REALLY regretting leaving my editor last year... even if he was a putz.