Sunday, December 21, 2003

Tivome on comic creators in Japan... 

A while back Tivome had written some good info. about comic creators in Japan in the comments to one of my entries, but in a recent thread, he writes a bit more, providing one of the better summaries that I've seen. First, in response to statements about copyrights:

They DO have full copyright over their manga. The publishers have PUBLISHING rights, much like the rest of the publishing industry, Japan or US.

When you're talking about anime (Dragonball GT is not based on manga, only DB and DBZ's manga based), it's a different story. Anime is created throught a committee consisted of the creator/writer of the manga (the copyright holder), usually the publisher, and various investors (toy companies, private investors or even the animation house itself). If the mangaka is rich and is able to finance cost of anime production by themsevles (like Takahashi Rumiko), then the mangaka has total creative control over the anime, and they can pick the animation house, etc. (ever noticed how Inuyasha anime is almost EXACTLY like the manga?)

In most other cases however there are other investors who takes most of the financial burden, especially if the mangaka is new and without much resources. Each 24 minute episode of anime costs about $1 million yen (about US$100,000) to make fom a quality animation house like Production IG or Gainax, and so a 26 episode series would cost almost 3 million bucks.

For the case for DB GT, I'm not sure about the specific of the case, but I believe what happened was that Toriyama was never much of an anime guy; he's a mangaka through and through. Thus when he signed up to do the anime for the DB series, I believe he gave away too much creative control power, and thus DBZ became the long repetitive bore it is today. Now DBGT is just an way for the the publisher (Kondasha) to sqeeze more money out of the franchise, and Toriyama really opposed the idea, since he thought DBZ is already too long and the Cell and Boo saga was really drawn due to pressure from the publisher and fans. Many of you don't know but Toriyama is a very nice guy and he often give what people ask of him. However, even HE thought DBGT was way out of line, and completely dissasociate himself away from it and has nothing to do with the creative process.

So back to the topic... Yes the mangaka owns the copyright of the manga, but the committee owns the right to the anime, much like the Estates of JRR Tolkein owns the copyrights to the book LOTR, while New Line Cinemas owns the movie adaptation of LOTR.

As for the assisstants, most of the time they're just lowly paid artist paid for by the mangaka and takes no credit. Sometimes they do their work for free especially for a friend (since the friend will do the same for them), and sometimes, like CLAMP, the whole team takes the credit and the ownership. If the work is a collaboration of a writer and an artist, and they both jointly hold the copyright throught some sort of agreement (i.e. Hikaru no Go).

Remeber the majority of current mangakas were fomer assisstants, so though it may seemed unfair to you, but that's because very rarely does anyone in the US system see the upside of the Japanese creator-owned system. Some assistant may work without credit under a famous mangaka for years, but once he's honed his skills and learned all he can from the mangaka, he or she starts with their own series and his boss will almost always help them sell it to a comic anthology. If the series hits big then the assistant will became the credited mangaka, and the process continues.

And YES FOLKS they call it COMICS in Japan too. A lot of anthologies have the word comic in their name, like Comics Dengeki Daioh (one of my favorites). Manga is a very generic term, but the word COMIKUSU is used often for the sake of coolness.

After being questioned on sources:

Source about what? About the working of the industry? That came from years of fandom and several Japanese friends explaining how the manga industry works in Japan. The mangaka's life is public information in Japan since a lot of tanks include side stories about the artists life and their assistants in the back pages. Toriyama used to do this a LOT, and CLAMP has been really open about their lives as well.

If you're talking about the cost of anime per episode, that number came from an issue of NewType USA when they did an interview with Production IG (I believe, one of the top ones). I can double check the exact issue when I get home tonight.

And on the uncredited assistants:

Well, my point is that everyone in Japan really know that these help exist, and although often uncredited, the mangak usually give them props in the tankoubon. For example, the mangaka for Kindaichi often name her assistants by name and tell reader what they do, and how much she appreciates them in the released tanks. (Yes a woman created Kindaich's Case Files). I just want to point to the UPSIDE since most folks in the US seemed to think they're some sort of slave labor. All assisstants do their work willingly in order to learn the techniques and a shot at being the "MAN" themselves one day. It's more like paid Internship for most. Once they have a good, original idea and enough technique to do pro work, they WILL strike out and make their own fame and money. That's the upside of the creator-owned industry: you create and own your own fate. They are not employees of a major firm and they don't punch cards. They don't get "fired" from their creations (although they can easily be canceled). In fact, I would say the Japanese system which values individual achievement and creativity is more akin to American values than what Marvel/DC is doing to our artists over here.

Nice work Tivome!

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