Saturday, June 8, 2013

Lessons Learned from Bakuman

Recently I've been totally addicted to reading Bakuman by Tsugumi Ohba and Takeshi Obata. I've tried reading shounen manga before, but this is the first one to totally suck me in. I'm sure the fact that it's about mangakas working hard to keep their series published in Shounen Jump is part of the reason why I can't stop reading it.

The cool thing about a story like this is that between all of the dramatic elements and fiction, there is a lot of truth. In it I found principles that every mangaka (and graphic novelist ) should take to heart.

1. Be Interesting
Throughout Bakuman, whenever a manga is being critiqued, they will ask, "Is it interesting? " Is the story and the characters interesting? Can it be more interesting? I love this line of thought because it forces the writer and the artist to make changes to their work until it is interesting, and as a result, the story becomes more dynamic.

2. Do Work Outside of Your Genre

The main characters in this manga went from creating a dark, serious manga, to a gag manga, to a mystery manga, to a hero battle manga. Some of the genres they were good at, but there were others that just weren't their style. Regardless of if they succeed in a genre or not, they learned something from each experience that contributed to their next work.

So break out of the comfort zone of your genre once and awhile. It may be awkward. It may even be a disaster. But it's all about the learning experience, and what is learned can be used to add originally to the stories that you're used to creating.

3. Take Risks

In Bakuman, mangakas are compared to gamblers. Throughout the story, the mangakas take risks with their stories and even challenge the normal procedure of  how their work is published. There are some scary moments but in the end, taking risks helped the characters to grow in their skill and tenacity.

Don't be afraid to jump into the unknown and ride it out! It could be promoting your graphic novel in a unique way or trying a method of publishing that is unusual. Don't be afraid to take the risk.

4. View Your Competition as Friends.

Other artists should not be viewed as enemies. It's okay to shoot for being as talented as a certain artist, or to even be better than them, but at the same time realize that all of us are on the same team. We're all trying to improve our art and create the best reading experience possible. All artists should work to support each other and encourage competition in view of inspiring the creation of better graphic novels.

5. Never Stop Challenging Yourself.

Although the mangakas had rivals, the real competition came from within. Their goal was to improve in writing and drawing and to be better than when they started. They shot for creating a manga that's better than their last. And if they weren't sure if they could do that, they would try anyways because trying is worth it.

Have you ever read Bakuman? If you have, what did you think of it? And if you haven't read it yet, you really, really should. 

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