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Felipe Smith – Advices for Becoming a Mangaka in Japan

When I met Felipe Smith some weeks ago, he instantly became one of the persons I most admire among those I’ve met in Japan.

Let me explain myself. I’ve been asked lots of time about how to become a manga artist and work in Japan for the big Japanese publishers by many manga-style Western artists. I always told them that it was a nearly impossible task.

One thing is to publish a single manga, a short story or even a full volume (which could be possible), the other is to publish weekly, bi-weekly or monthly, during a long period of time.

See, Japanese manga publishers are really difficult to approach to. They have they own way of working and, first of all, they hardly master any language other than Japanese. So, this would be the first big obstacle: you need to understand, read, write and speak the language. And this is no easy task.

But let’s imagine you know the language. Then you’d need to compete against thousands of Japanese artists who also want to become professional mangaka. And you’d need to beat them. Needless to say, this is not an easy task.


Then, there is the working visa barrier. It’s not easy to get a visa for working in Japan. And then you need to move to Japan and adapt to their way of life in a land where, at first, you virtually don’t know anybody.

And even when you’ve overcome all the obstacles, you have to get used to work really long hours for long periods of time (years!) and be ready to become a virtual slave of your work.

And this is no guarantee that you’ll become rich and famous! Once you’ve done all this, then you need to create a fanbase. You need the readers to pick your books from the store in order to get enough money to pay for your expenses. Easy task? Ask that to the thousands of Japanese mangaka who barely make a living out of their work.

However, Felipe proved that this could be done.

He did not only learn the language, he also convinced a main Japanese publisher as Kôdansha that he would be able to move and work in Japan, to work long hours and get a series –Peepo Choo– going on for a year and a half.

He is really worth admiring, isn’t he?

Now let’s see what advices he has for those who want to follow his steps:

(By the way, if you understand Spanish, also see him in the Spanish version as he says some other interesting stuff. Felipe is from the US, but his father is Jamaican and his mother Argentinian, and he spent years in Argentina, so he speaks native-level Spanish).

(Also on Vimeo)

11 comments to Felipe Smith – Advices for Becoming a Mangaka in Japan

  • KrebMarkt

    For Kodansha, it isn’t the first time they serialized a non Japanese comics artist. Back in the mid-90′s Kodansha serialized “l’autoroute du soleil” (太陽高速) from the French Baru (Hervé Barulea) in the Weekly Morning.

  • Yuki Ikariya

    It’s amazing to read.
    I admire Felipe Smith too!!

  • [...] own time at Kodansha’s Monthly Afternoon, and seems to confirm Peepo Choo artist Felipe Smith’s own account of creating manga for sister Kodansha publication Morning Two. I’m also curious as to whether [...]

  • adriana

    jajaja y yo siempre estoy quejandome de que se tardan un buen para sacar un capitulo y mas en los animes, ya con esto sere mas compresible

  • RODRIGO

    hola me podrias decir cual es el twitter o facebook de felipe smith gracias

  • Eduardo

    felipe podrias darme tu mail tengo 16 años y quisiera saber mas sobre lo de ser mangaka por que quiero ir a japon y quiero ir a los 18 y que me hables mas sobre lo que impica el serlo y las dificultades mi msm es yoshivicente@hotmail.com
    eh estado buscando como por 3 meses sobre el serr mangaka y no eh encontrado casi nada eh visto videos pero ninguno sirve por que no explica nada pero tu video si que me ayudo a saber mas sobre esto y a entender que no es tan facil el serlo estoy estudiando electronica soy de ecuador y aaaah cuando pueds dame tu mail o como te puedo encontrar en Facebook
    en facebook buscame con este mail (yoshi-109@hotmail.com)

  • Gilbert

    I want too be a mangaka so bad but I need to find people that know how to get me in. i don’t care how much work it is. its my life purpose!

  • Akira

    i really want to be a manga artist (its been my dream for 3 years now ) and ive been studying japanese though im not really good at it yet. but i would like to know if theres a specific contest or i dunno , how do you get to the job i guess to sum it up . i know you can apply to be an assistant or win a contest but how exactly do you start ?

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  • See, Japanese manga publishers are really difficult to approach to. They have they own way of working and, first of all, they hardly master any language other than Japanese. So, this would be the first big obstacle: you need to understand, read, write and speak the language. And this is no easy task.

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