The art of the Manga-ka at the Nikkei Museum

Manga by Yukina Takeuchi

Manga by Yukina Takeuchi

For young people fascinated by the styles and techniques of manga and anime, the Nikkei National Museum & Cultural Centre in Burnaby is offering a chance to learn how to do it themselves. On March 15, the museum will host a Spring Break Manga Workshop aimed at introducing young people to the art of drawing manga.

“We just want the kids to have fun, basically, and maybe they’ll take a look at the exhibits too,” says museum programmer Nichola Ogiwara.

Manga – a brief history

Manga bridges Japanese and local culture. | Manga by Yukina Takeuchi

Manga bridges Japanese and local culture. | Manga by Yukina Takeuchi

Manga is an art form that dates back to 19th century Japan. The Japanese artist Hokusai coined the term manga, to refer to doodles in his sketchbook. The term can be translated as “comics,” as well as “whimsical sketches” or “lighthearted pictures.” After World War II, the mangaindustry grew as comics were cheap and easy to find compared to TVs and movies. Manga was often published in children’s magazines and the most popular series were put into graphic novels. Soon manga became so popular it had its own magazines, such as Weekly Shōnen Magazine, originally published in 1959.

Manga came to America in 1987 with the titles Lone Wolf and Cub, Area 88, Mai the Psychic Girl and The Legend of Kamui. Manga was nowhere near as large as it was in Japan, and was sold in specialty comic stores. Then the anime TV series Sailor Moon arrived. The TV show was not a hit, but two years later it was incorporated with other titles into the magazine MixxZine. The magazine only lasted a few years, but the Sailor Moon comics that were put in graphic novels were hits.

Manga in North America grew rapidly, pushed faster by the popularity of anime and Japanese video games. Today most bookstores have a manga section, and manga dominates the graphic novel bestseller list.

Learning the art of drawing manga

Yukina Takeuchi. | Photo by Jake McGrail

Yukina Takeuchi. | Photo by Jake McGrail

The digital artist, Yukina Takeuchi, is the instructor for the Spring Break Workshop. She drew manga and anime in high school and won awards for both her manga and photorealist paintings, artwork that attempts to re-create a photograph as closely as possible.

She loved art, but did not initially think she was talented enough to pursue it as a career. She studied food and nutrition at UBC, but after two years decided she wanted to pursue art. She went to the Vancouver College of Art and Design for 3D animation and got a diploma in 3D Modeling Animation Art and Design. Nobody was hiring when she got her diploma, so she assisted storyboard writers for anime strips, and decided that she preferred 2D to 3D animation.

“With 3D, you have a model you move around by computer. In 2D you draw your character and move them around with a pencil. I like drawing the most, so I like 2D more,” says Takeuchi.

She has done a couple of drawing workshops in the past, including at the Richmond Community Centre. She drew the mascots for Nikkei Matsuri 2013, a summer family festival held at the Nikkei Museum, which is how the museum became aware of her skills.

She notes that preparing for the range of students who will attend the workshop can be a challenge.

“The levels and ages of students is a problem. I tell them to draw something and some finish faster than others, so I have to give them something else to do,” says Takeuchi.

For this workshop, Takeuchi plans on focusing on Hito-Koma, or single panel manga. The work will be done with paper and pencil, and maybe pen for the outline. Participants will learn how to draw pictures in classic 2D manga and anime style.

“I want them to be able to take something home,” says Takeuchi.

Takeuchi hopes to help youth get started on developing their manga skills, something she believes anyone can do with enough effort.

“I got art awards in high school but thought that anyone could win them if they wanted. I still believe that. It’s how much work you put into it,” she says.

Nikkei National Museum & Cultural Centre
March 15, 2–5 p.m.
6688 Southoaks Crescent,
For ages 10 and up
Fee: $10
604-777-7000 ext.109