Although most manga artists have a team of assistants backing them up, compared to live-action films, comics allow for a much more direct transmission of the creator’s vision. Movie and TV programming are by nature a collaborative effort, and you can’t really watch a scene go from concept to finished version in real-time.
With manga, though, you can give a talented artist a pen, and within minutes see him or her transform the emptiness of a blank sheet of paper into a character that will inspire and entertain countless fans, like in this video featuring some of Japan’s most popular manga artists and characters.
The first issue of manga anthology Shonen Jump was published in 1968, and one year later the magazine went to a weekly format. It’s been going strong ever since, and while its circulation has dipped since its high-water mark of 6.5 million in 1995, the magazine still regularly sells well over two million copies a week, which is no mean feat for a youth-oriented publication in today’s digital age.
Of course, as an anthology, no one’s buying Shonen Jump because of the title on the front cover, but because of the serials inside. Four of the pillars publisher Shueisha has built the magazine’s success on are supernatural swordfighting saga Bleach, ninja tale Naruto, manga about making manga Bakuman, and pirate epic One Piece.
Collectively, the four series have provided enough material for 226 volumes, with only Bakuman having come to a conclusion. While that’s a ton of back issues to wade through, you can get a taste of their artwork in just about seven minutes with this video showing the artist for each drawing the lead characters of the four hits.
Stariting things off is Tite Kubo, who has perhaps become aware that some fans are tired of Bleach’s protagonist Ichigo hogging the spotlight and so decided to throw in a picture of his laid-back mentor Kisuke Urahara.
Next up is Naruto creator Masahi Kishimoto, the only artist featured in the video who makes a quick pencil sketch before inking his lines.
Takeshi Obata’s Bakuman follows two would-be manga stars, Akito and Moritaka, so naturally both are represented in the clip.
And finally, Eiichiro Oda draws Monkey D. Luffy with the same sort of confidence and aplomb he showed when naming the hero of One Piece.
Seeing the featured artists create such stunning artwork with ease, we can’t help but feel a little inspired by what one can achieve with hard work and practice. On the other hand, we’d be lying if we said we weren’t just a little saddened at how far away we are from anything like the level of talent on display.
▼ This is about as far as we can keep up with them.