Author Julius Wiedemann is now an editor at publisher Taschen with many books under his belt, but before that he was an art editor for design magazines in Tokyo. His latest tome is 100 Manga Artists , which follows on from the hugely successful Manga Design , and charts the most influential contemporary comic artists in Japan now. Here, he has picked out ten exclusively for It’s Nice That.
One of the curious things about Manga is how its artists’ look at the West and incorporate their own ideas of success and lifestyle but also see the challenges of the daily western cultures. Slum Dunk was Takehiko’s masterpiece and it frames very well how the Japanese see roles played out in western society. Through this particular microcosm it is a great portrait.
Some artists have this amazing way of working not only within different genres of Manga, but also manage to present the surreal and sometimes the scatological, in a surprisingly light way. Shintaro also incorporates the digital world and the way we understand the effects of technology in a subtle and striking fashion.
One of greatest things about the Mangakas, the Manga artists, is that they are all characters themselves. Gengoroh is one of those intriguing figures and descends from a family of Samurai. One has to imagine when an artist’s career with that background touches subjects spanning from bondage, domination and erotic roleplaying to submission and sadomasochism, and having the mantra of being a gay Manga artist. It tells me so much about the richness of this world.
One of the things every westerner detects in Manga is the strong visual language used which also has so many characteristics. That alone could separate graphic novels from Mangas. But Iou and some other artists have managed to merge these two worlds, both in narrative, and in artistic expression.
Nayuka makes a great personal story in the Manga world as she is this incredibly strong woman, who, after a career as a porn star then released these ground-breaking titles about women. She is a real symbol of contemporary Japan, with its diversity that is more profound than most people imagine. Nayuka never gave up her dream and worked hard to be where she is. She is an incredible source of inspiration.
Katsuhiro Otomo will always be remembered for the creation of Akira. It says so much about how every page of Manga is built to move, in abstract terms. However, his images carry so much movement that characters seem to fly off the pages. His work is also a splendour of colour, something not seen in many Japanese comics. In my view he was able to portray the desired modern Japanese man.
Yu Sasuga / Ken Ichi Tachibana
Terra Formars is a title as surreal as fiction can be. It shows the creative courage that all these artists have, and also the creative freedom they allow themselves to have. This duo has been a sensation on Japan, has won awards, and hasn’t stopped working for years. And their master title is going to become a film!
Major events impact the lives of everyone, more or less, one way or another. Kazuto has decided to talk about the nuclear disaster in Fukushima following the Tsunami in 2011. Not only it is important to keep the dialogue in comics form, it is also important to realise how much of this story is part of personal experiences. Kazuto was a worker at Fukushima himself.
I will never forget the first time I arrived at Kyoto Station and there was this shiny sculpture of the Astro Boy. It is unthinkable to imagine artists such as Mariko Mori or Takashi Murakami without the comics from Osamu Tezuka. He has placed them in the collective consciousness of all ages and generations of Japanese people.
Having moved to the USA a few years ago, Mari has taken on biographical subjects and translated them into affordable language, with the story on Steve Jobs as the highlight of her career. It shows most of all the Manga artists are interested in all subjects, and not restricted to a particular point of view. This serves as a great example to artists in the west.
100 Manga Artists is published by Taschen.
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