Former Manga Instructor Nuko-Sama-chan Teaches “How to Survive Reiwa as a Manga Artist
Nuko-Sama-chan is a professional cartoonist who mainly works as a “private artist. In her representative work, “Senmon Gakko JK,” she depicts the unfortunate reality that tends to occur at anime and entertainment colleges, and on Twitter she candidly conveys the realities and darkness of the manga industry based on her own experiences. Nuko-Sama-chan’s latest lament is the successive closure of her friend manga artists.
In this day and age, why do so many aspiring manga artists give up? How can they survive as manga artists for a long time? We asked them about the world of “unknown” cartoonists that the public does not know about.
What do cartoonists who go out of business have in common?
–The other day, a tweet from Nuko-Sama-chan lamenting the closure of her friend’s manga business went viral.
Nuko-Sama-chan: Yes, that’s right. I can say this about more than just my friend, but I think the common thing among people who quit manga artists is that they don’t think about failing, so they don’t prepare for when they do fail.
Most of them are trying to get their works serialized in commercial magazines such as manga magazines, and they exchange stories with their editors on a weekly basis.
It is fine to work hard to get a serialization, but most of them do nothing else but work part-time. They don’t do any doujinshi activities or social networking, so as soon as the serialization of a commercial magazine ends, they are back to being unemployed.
I say this harshly, but nowadays, even if you draw for a famous manga magazine, your name doesn’t sell that well, and it’s not a title that gives you any kind of advantage. The only way to make a living in the industry after the serialization is over is to become an instructor at a vocational school.
Nuko-Sama-chan’s secret to success: “Failure is a prerequisite.
–Many people who aspire to become manga artists are pure, serious, and straightforward.
Nuko-Sama-chan: Maybe that’s why they don’t hedge their risks. ……
I guess I feel especially strongly about this because I myself am a cartoonist whose serialization in a commercial magazine was censored, but the cartoon industry is a very serious world. Even if you spend years becoming a manga artist with a series in a commercial magazine, if you lose popularity, you will soon revert back to being a regular person.
–You haven’t gone back, have you, Nuko-Sama-chan?
Nuko-Sama-chan: In a manner of speaking, yes. I always act with the expectation that I will fail, and I sow the next seed early so that I will be okay even if I fail.
I got a full-time job at a local sports club after college, and in my mid-20s I set my sights on becoming a manga artist, but I didn’t quit my job. While aiming to work for a commercial magazine, I was also involved in doujin activities in parallel, drawing not only original works but also derivative works based on my favorite works.
While I was doing doujin activities, I got acquainted with someone at Yoyogi Animation Gakuin, and I changed jobs there and became an instructor at the Hiroshima School. After that, I moved to the Omiya School in Saitama Prefecture and then to the Tokyo School, where I eventually became the head of the illustration course. However, I was working on several serials for commercial magazines at the time, and it became difficult to manage both, so I became a part-time instructor.
I started Kindle Indie Manga, and this year I started an illustrated diary, which has gained me more followers and PR projects.
Since becoming a manga artist, I have changed what I do and where I work every two years or so, but that’s just because things aren’t going well anymore, so I just shift to the next thing. I am always ready to move on to the next one, so the transition is smooth, and I don’t have any gaps in my activities.
–So you were able to continue working as a cartoonist because you were planting seeds outside of commercial magazines.
Nukosama-chan: I think so. I was conscious of making an impact in various fields. I feel that people who have not done so are increasingly going out of business.
The current coterie magazine market
–Isn’t it difficult to be involved in multiple activities at the same time?
Nukosama-chan: I don’t think it is that difficult, as long as you have the courage to take the first step. A decade ago, it was like “doujin activities = Comiket. However, around the time the Tokyo Olympics were decided to be held, many of the works circulating at Comiket had extreme content for young people, so “extreme sexual descriptions and cruel expressions” were considered a problem and regulations became stricter.
On the other hand, the digital side of the industry became more active, with Amazon Indie Manga, major digital doujin sites such as DLsiteDMM and BOOTH, and subscriber services such as Fantia and pixivFANBOX
I understand the feeling of “I really want to have a series in a commercial magazine!” However, commercial magazines and doujinshi have their own merits and demerits. If you want to make it as a manga artist for a long time in this day and age, I think you should first get a proper job. After that, I would like to see you not limit yourself to commercial magazines alone, but also engage in individual activities that suit you and gain influence in various fields.
–What are your own plans for the future?
Nuko-Sama-chan: I have three plans. The first is to try again for a commercial magazine, because now that I have more followers on Amazon in Japan, I think it will have an impact on my next manga for a commercial magazine. I also think I may be able to get my first reprint, so I would like to try that as well.
Second, I would like to expand overseas. I have a lot of manga that I have drawn so far, and I would like to work with an agent to sell translated versions overseas. We are in the midst of preparations right now, and I think we can start as early as next year.
The third is NFT. There is a lot being said about it, but it is not without potential, and I have a feeling that there will be another wave of boom, so I am keeping an eye on the trends.
I think I am walking down a rare case path, but perhaps this is the time when aspiring manga artists need to broaden their horizons a bit more and think about what they should be doing, rather than just staring at commercial magazines.
Nuko-Sama-chan is a popular manga artist whose picture diary manga distributed on Twitter. She is also a former part-time lecturer at Yoyogi Animation Gakuin, and she also focuses on consulting with aspiring manga artists who send her DMs and other messages.
Interview and text by： Motoko Abekawa
Works as a freelance writer mainly for the Web. She is also involved in the production of books and corporate PR magazines. She does not specialize in any particular field, but covers a wide range of subjects that intrigue her, including history, comedy, health, beauty, travel, gourmet food, and nursing care.