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Mangaka (漫画家) is the Japanese word for manga artist. Outside Japan, manga usually refers to a Japanese comic book, and mangaka refers to the author of the manga, who is usually Japanese. As of 2006, about 3000 professional mangaka were working in Japan.[obsolete source]
Most mangaka study at an art college or manga school, or take on an apprenticeship with another artist before entering the industry as a primary creator. More rarely a mangaka breaks into the industry directly, without previously being an assistant. For example, Naoko Takeuchi, author of Sailor Moon, won a contest sponsored by Kodansha, and manga pioneer Osamu Tezuka was first published while studying an unrelated degree, without working as an assistant.
A mangaka will rise to prominence through recognition of their ability when they spark the interest of institutions, individuals or a demographic of manga consumers. For example, there are contests which prospective mangaka may enter, sponsored by manga editors and publishers. This can also be accomplished through producing a one-shot. While sometimes a stand alone manga, with enough positive reception it can be serialized in a weekly, monthly, or quarterly format. They are also recognized for the number of manga they run at one time.
The word can be broken down into two parts: manga (漫画) and ka (家).
The -ka (家) suffix implies a degree of expertise and traditional authorship. For example, this term would not be applied to a writer creating a story which is then handed over to a manga artist for drawing. The Japanese term for such a writer of comics is gensakusha (原作者).
In a 2010 message from, at the time Japan Cartoonists Association chairman, Takashi Yanase it says: "[w]hile Japan is often said to be world's cartoon kingdom, not a few people will surely be wondering what exactly the Japanese mean by the term 'cartoon'. Unfortunately, there is no hard-and-fast definition that can be offered, since the members of this association lay claim to an extensive variety of works."
While Japan does have a thriving independent comic market for amateur and semi-professional artists, creating manga professionally is rarely a solo effort. Mangaka must work with an assortment of others to get their work completed, published, and into the hands of readers.
Most professionally published mangaka work with an editor, who is considered the boss of the mangaka and supervises series production. The editor gives advice on the layout and art of the manga, vets the story direction and pace, ensures that deadlines are met, and generally makes sure that the manga stays up to company standards. An example of this is Akira Toriyama and his former editor Kazuhiko Torishima. The editor may also function as a brand manager and publicist for a series. When a manga is the basis for a media franchise, the editor may also supervise the designs for licensed merchandise, anime adaptations, and similar products, though this duty may also fall to the mangaka or an agent.
A mangaka may both write and illustrate a series of their own creation, or may work in collaboration with an author. The mangaka typically has a strong influence on dialog even when paired with a writer, as any conversation must fit within the physical constraints imposed by the art. Takeshi Obata of Death Note, Tetsuo Hara of Fist of the North Star, Ryoichi Ikegami of Sanctuary, Aki Shirou and Hajime Kamoshida of Sakura-sō no Pet na Kanojo are all successful manga artists who have worked with writers through the majority of their careers.
Most mangaka have assistants who help them complete their work in a clean and timely manner. The duties of assistants vary widely, as the term incorporates all people working for a mangaka's art studio, but is most commonly used to refer to secondary artists. The number of assistant artists also varies widely between mangaka, but is typically at least three. Other mangaka instead form collaborative groups known as "circles" but do not use additional assistants, such as the creative team CLAMP. A few mangaka have no assistants at all, and prefer to do everything themselves, but this is considered exceptional.
Assistants are commonly used for inking, lettering, and shading, though the predominance of black and white art in manga means that unlike in the western comic industry, a studio rarely employs a colorist. Some mangaka only do the sketchwork for their art, and have their numerous assistants fill in all of the details, but it is more common for assistants to deal with background and cameo art, leaving the mangaka to focus on drawing and inking the characters. Assistants may also be employed to perform specialized artistic tasks. Go Nagai, for instance, at one time employed a specialist to draw helicopters and other military vehicles, Kaoru Mori employed a historical consultant for Emma, and series that incorporates photorealistic architecture, animals, computer-rendered imagery, or other technically demanding effects may employ or contract separate artists trained in those techniques. Assistants almost never help the mangaka with the plot of their manga, beyond being a sounding board for ideas. A mangaka's assistants might be listed in the credits for a manga tankōbon, and short interviews with or illustrations by assistant artists are a common form of bonus material in these collections, but they typically do not receive individual credits.
Most mangaka started out as assistants, such as Miwa Ueda to Naoko Takeuchi, Leiji Matsumoto to Osamu Tezuka, Kaoru Shintani to Leiji Matsumoto, and Eiichiro Oda, Hiroyuki Takei and Mikio Itō to Nobuhiro Watsuki, who was himself an assistant to Takeshi Obata. It is also possible for an assistant to have an entire career as such without becoming an independent mangaka. Assistants, particularly specialists, may work with several different mangaka at the same time, and many assistants also self-publish works of their own in the dōjinshi scene.
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