Manga and anime are inseparably connected with the cultural living of Japan. The beginnings of the comic art go back to the 8th century. Since WW2 the industry is booming, the selection of stories grows bigger, more and more niches find their place. Soon, there will be nothing that doesn't already exist. Manga for boys, manga for girls, manga for art enthusiasts, for sport fans, even for gourmets. Their artists, called manga artists in Japan, get praised like celebrities. Yet they often live isolated, working behind closed doors on their masterpieces.
A: “In the end, its always about the characters. I think that a good character, who captivates everyone, creates the basis for a great manga. Whether it's a main character or a side character. And then there’s the world in which these characters inhabit. How an author creates this world and if he succeeds in making it unique, essentially determine the quality of their story.”
In a small studio in Tokyo, one such celebrity grants us insight into his work. In 1986, Hirohiko Araki created a series which today is one of the best-selling manga in the world: JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure. So far, 131 volumes have been released in Japan.
C: “Oh my god, it’s really you! What an honor. It’s a pleasure to meet you. My name is 'Cathy Cat'.”
A: “Hello, the pleasure is all mine.”
C: “So this is Sensei's workplace?”
A: “Yes, this is my office. I usually work over here.”
C: “So this is where you work on your stories?”
A: “Yes that's correct, this is the only spot where I work at. Over there are my assistants and a few other things.”
C: “Oh, and these are your drawings.”
A: “Yes, go ahead, take a look at them!”
C: “Wow, I’m thrilled.”
A: “I’m currently working on my newest piece. Of course, I can’t say anything about the contents.”
The story begins with the bitter feud between Jonathan Joestar and Dio Brando. The spiteful Dio managed to get a hold of a mysterious mask, which bestows him with supernatural powers. Araki's manga is brutal, over the top, and above all else entertaining
A: “I wanted to create a Shonen manga, in other words a manga for boys, that's story was themed around horror. The typical Shonen at that time were Dragon Ball, City Hunter and Fist of the North Star. There were lots of different themes to choose from, There were lots of different themes to choose from. So if I wanted to publish a soccer manga, even if I liked it, I wouldn't be able to because it already existed. The publisher would say "no." So I had to choose a theme that wasn’t taken at the time. And since I was a fan of horror movies, I made a horror story. Unfortunately, they then later told me that I can’t write a horror story for a Shonen manga. I ended up doing it anyways.”
Shortly after, JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure gets published in Shonen Jump magazine. One of the major magazines in which Shonen manga series get published weekly. Almost every big manga originated here. For Araki, 20 years old at the time, this is the final confirmation for his talent. Since his youth, he aspired to be a pro, sending in his first manuscript as a student to the publishers.
A: “I was supposed to study for school, so I drew in secret and hid my drawings under my school books. Unlike today, many parents were under the impression that reading too much manga would rot your brain; and if you listened to rock music as well, you’d end up becoming a criminal sooner or later. To my parents, being a manga artist wasn't a real profession. So I kept working in secret, hoping they would accept it once I made it big.”
However, the life of a manga artist isn’t always as glamorous as it appears. Merciless deadlines, massive stress, and extreme work hours; in an industry that requires creativity on the production line. JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure turns into a hit, even beyond the borders of Japan. 120 million copies have been sold until now. The artwork, enduring generations, has even made it into the Louvre. In 2012, the series received an elaborate anime adaptation, making Araki especially popular abroad.
A: “The aura of a good piece of artwork can be felt at first glance. Even if a Japanese person looks at a painting from Europe, they'll still be moved by it. The same applies to Japanese paintings. People from anywhere on Earth can understand it. It's universal. I think this is the beauty of drawing manga.”