How busy is a manga-ka’s schedule? A day in the life of NARUTO author Masashi Kishimoto!

Becoming a popular manga-ka in Shounen Jump or Shounen Magazine is a dream for many young illustrators.

But aspiring manga-ka should know that writing and drafting up 20 whole pages of manga every week is no small feat! Popular manga-ka will work up to 10 hours a day or more to keep up with their demanding schedules! Authors with children will need to use the time between work to take care of their kids and household chores, and cut down on their precious sleep time even more. As they’re self-employed, the pressure is on to manage and balance their own work/life schedules.

Let’s take a look at what a popular manga-ka’s schedule is like, complete with an example of perhaps one of the most famous and popular manga illustrators of his generation – NARUTO author Masashi Kishimoto!

For a manga-ka, creating storyboards and drawing linework for the upcoming chapter will take up most of their schedule. Along with this main work, they must also always be thinking of the upcoming story, and ideas for new characters and plot twists that they can submit to the publisher. For this reason, many popular artists working for weekly publications are in a constant state of overwork, feeling very pressed for time!

Storyboard Creation

After establishing the plot and writing a summary of the chapter, the rough storyboard work can begin. Japanese manga artists will start off with a rough sketch called a “neh-mu,” which translates as storyboard in English. Dividing each page up into cells, and deciding on what scenes will go into each cell, drawing in rough sketches of character and speech bubble placement. 

This draft is not just for personal use, it is meant to show their editor what kind of chapter the next one will be. So once it is complete, they send it in to their editor for checks and advice.

Drawing the Linework

After getting the all-clear from their editor, they can start on the next draft of their linework. At this point, they’ll finalise what lines are to go in each speech bubble. 

Once the draft is finished, the final draft can begin. This is known as “inking”, as the final draft will be drawn in pen, in the case of analogue work. Depending on the content, artists will use all different pen tips to create different effects in their work. Some artists will even use marker pens or special brushes to give a unique finish to their work.

The manga-ka will draw the main cast of characters themselves, but things like backgrounds will often be delegated to their assistants, so that the manga-ka can keep up with their demanding schedule.  

Shading and Toning

Once the pen work is finished, they can move on to “beta nuri”, or “filling with colour”. This is where the artist (or most often their assistant) will fill in the block shading in black.

Since the assistant usually takes care of this, the artist will need to make it clear which areas need to be filled. For other shading, analogue artists will use a film known as “screen tone”, which can be placed over the paper and transferred on to the corresponding areas. This is also possible in digital work, using built-in screen tone tools. Both in analogue and digital versions, there are endless patterns and shades available, including sheets with pre-drawn backgrounds, and sheets with patterns for clothing. 

Now, let’s take a look at Kishimoto-sensei’s schedule, to get a better idea of what a famous manga-ka’s week looks like!

NARUTO creator Masashi Kishimoto’s Weekly schedule

Mon – Kishimoto starts on the rough draft, based on the storyboard draft he drew the weekend before
Tues – He finishes the draft, and starts on the inking in the evening
Weds – Today is submission day, so he must finish the inking, shading and toning in time to submit it to his editor
Thurs – No time to rest today! He has a meeting with his editor about next week’s story
Fri – Building on what was discussed at yesterday’s meeting, he starts planning the plot and storyboard
Sat –  Today he gets started on the storyboard – he needs to get it done today if he wants a day off tomorrow!
Sun – Finally, he can rest up, watch some movies and catch up on the household chores

Kishimoto-sensei’s Daily Schedule

Kishimoto has been working in the industry for 15 years, and the period he has been quoted as finding toughest out of all of that time is his debut period, when he started out with his weekly publication. He says that creating one whole chapter every week was a “hellish cycle” that his body just couldn’t get used to.

In the words of Kishimoto himself:

I was obviously really pleased to be starting out with my comic, but it was seriously tough in terms of stamina. Every week, after submitting my work, I’d come down with a fever, and throw up anything I ate. I really did wonder “can I keep this up?”.

My body got more and more tired, and at one point I ended up in the hospital with an unexpected fever. I’m not sure what part of my vitals the doctor was looking at, but I just remember them looking at a chart and saying “friend, your cells are dying. You’ve just got to take a break.” (wry laugh)

I did continue my publication, and little by little, my body got used to the schedule. At the same time, my work started gaining a readership, and getting some really positive feedback, which was great for my motivation.

Another famous manga-ka once said:

“You think you’re starting out on a 100m sprint, so you go at it with all you’ve got… then you realise it’s not sprint after all; it’s a marathon.”

Life as a manga-ka is certainly a tough one – always pushing for better results, against the clock. It can be a huge mental and physical burden, particularly at the start. But with hard work and success comes a dedicated readership, and the smiles and enjoyment of your fans is a reward that makes it all worthwhile! 

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