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Japan Manga Initiative Highlights Huge Difference With American Comics – Screen Rant

The Tokiwa-so Project for young manga artists in Japan seeks to recreate the creative environment that powered the birth of the modern manga era.
A program in Japan called the Tokiwa-so Project helps aspiring manga artists and authors in the earlier stages of their careers overcome the initial obstacles of success in an aggressively competitive manga industry. Similar to a tech incubator, the Tokiwa-so Project hopes that by eliminating “every day” drudgery, artists and authors can achieve their full potential by focusing on the work of making a good manga. The support offered by the project is something rarely found for up-and-coming artists and authors in the United States, who traditionally have had to figure out own their own how to create, market and publish their work, or navigate the processes of getting noticed by a comic publisher.
The project is named after the famous Tokiwa-so Building in Tokyo’s Toshima District. During the 1950s and 1960s, the building served as the birthplace to the modern manga, being that it was home to a number of manga artists who would later go on to pen some of the most famous and iconic manga in the history of comics. Its one-time resident list included Tezuke Osamu, creator of Astro Boy, Terada Hiroo, author of Sportsman Kintaro, Shotaro Ishinomori, who would go on to pen Kamen Rider, and Doraemon creator Fujiko Fujio. The student dorm-like communal living fostered a creative environment where the artists could encourage, inspire, assist, and challenge each other to be the best that they could be. The building was demolished in the 1980s due to disrepair, but local residents and manga fans who knew of its centrality to the history of manga successfully lobbied the government to rebuild it. In 2015 the building reopened as Tokiwa-so Manga Museum focused on promoting and preserving the history of manga at home and abroad.
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According to the business magazine Weekly Toyo Keizai, the Tokiwa-so Project was established in 2006 by the non-profit organization NewVery to provide a comprehensively supportive environment for young artists and authors just starting out. Its goal is to help them avoid the pitfalls of the manga industry that can derail their desire and perhaps keep the world from discovering the next great mangaka. Since its founding, the project has assisted more than 550 artists and authors, with more than 120 eventually making the transition to a professional mangaka, including I’m a Demon author Osamu Nishi, and Kamentotsu, author of Koguma’s Cake Shop.
The Tokiwa-so Project focuses on recreating the creative environment of the original Tokiwa-so Building for it current participants. To accomplish this, the project offers three broad areas of assistance, namely housing, development, and work support. For housing, the project offers participants “reduced rent” living spaces that provide all the comforts of home such as kitchens, laundry rooms, rest areas, and quiet spaces. For participants hailing from outside of Tokyo, this allows them a reasonably priced, safe, and secure home in the capital of the manga industry, which also happens to be one of the most expensive cities in the world. While the living areas are rather spartan, they fit the needs of most aspiring artists and authors by providing a warm place to sleep, eat and create.
In terms of development, the project offers a wealth of courses, lectures, and educational opportunities for artists and authors who may not otherwise have access to such knowledge and expertise. For instance, the project offers courses in advanced manga design theory that help artists and authors transition from hobby drawings to drawings that satisfy the professional standards of the manga industry.
For work support, the Tokiwa-so Project offers a range of workshops and consultations that are focused on putting participants in the best position to market their work and manage any work that they can get in a decidedly tough manga market. There is a full-blown production studio to help participants create a professional portfolio that can then be sent to publishers. The Tokiwa-so Project is a great opportunity for aspiring manga artists to make their dreams a reality, and something that the American comics industry could benefit from emulating.
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Sources: Weekly Toyo Keiza Online, Tokiwa-so Project,
Marcel Green is a comics news writer for Screen Rant. A lifelong comic fan who originally was a “Marvel Only” collector, he has matured into an “independent” fan of all things comics, manga, cartoon, and anime. Happy to finally be able to put all those hours reading comics over the years to good use.


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