What’s it like to work as a manga artist’s assistant? How can I become one?

There are many reasons people choose to become manga-ka’s assistants. From wanting to be close to and learn from an artist they admire, to simply wanting to draw manga, but not feeling confident about the “story writing” side of things.

Manga-ka’s assistants aren’t like regular office workers, and have a lot of interesting and unique work to do. And it’s not often that you meet a manga-ka’s assistant, particularly outside of Japan, so the job remains somewhat of a mystery to anime and manga fans abroad. 

Today, I’m going to give you a full rundown of what the job entails, as well as some tips on how you can go about becoming an assistant yourself!

Why does a manga-ka need an assistant in the first place?

Manga is made up of many detailed pictures and panels. The more detailed the work, the more difficult it is for one person to complete before the deadline. In recent years, the quality expected of artists has continued to rise, making it almost impossible to keep a manga series going alone. 

That’s where a manga-ka’s assistant comes in!

What does an assistant’s job entail?

There are some areas that will only ever be handled by the manga-ka themselves. For example, the finer character details like the faces, and the composition of scenes. However, many other areas are taken on by an assistant. For example, an assistant may be charged with adding in backgrounds, tones and effect lines, or even inking whole pages over the rough lines drawn by the manga-ka.

The assistant may ink in the final draft, fill in solid areas of black like the hair, erase the draft lines and add some tones, patterns and effect lines to the scene. Since a lot of manga production has gone digital lately, an assistant may need experience with the digital format too.

Some manga-ka will ask even more of their assistants – sometimes they’ll be asked to come up with plot ideas, help with character and costume design, and sometimes draw the characters’ bodies into scenes. 

And an assistant’s job doesn’t end there! Manga-ka are so busy that sometimes they don’t have time for chores like shopping and cleaning, so they’ll ask their assistants to handle that too.

What are the benefits to becoming a manga-ka’s assistant?

So after hearing all that, you might be wondering what exactly are the upsides to working so hard and getting none of the credit?? 

It’s true, a manga-ka’s assistant really is a tough job, but the experience gained makes it truly worth it for many aspiring artists!

Because assistants spend their days drawing whatever they are told to draw, often in a style that’s different to their own, it’s excellent practice, and really helps them develop their artistic range and abilities. 

An assistant job is also a great stepping stone on the way to becoming a manga-ka yourself! There are many examples of former assistants who have gone on to create great manga themselves.

Hiroshi Shiibashi spent time working as assistant to “Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure” author Araki Hirohiko before creating his own popular manga series “Nurarihyon no Mago”. Wildly popular basket ball manga “Slam Dunk” author Takehiko Inoue developed his skills working for Tsukasa Hojo of “City Hunter”.

Even Eiichiro Oda, worked as an assistant to Nobuhiro Watsuki of “Rurouni Kenshin” and Masaya Tokuhiro of “Jungle King Tar-chan ♡” before gaining international popularity with his own series “ONE PIECE.”

How much does an assistant earn?

Assistants will generally receive their payment in cash, on the day, directly from the manga-ka. Pay will vary depending on skill and experience, from about 8000 yen ($70 USD) per day to 30,000 yen ($265 USD) per day. So on average, an assistant could hope to earn 12,000 yen ($105 USD) per day.

How can I become a manga-ka’s assistant?

The internet has become a very useful tool for connecting manga artists and assistants online. 

One of the most popular of these online matching services is GANMO run by Akamatsu-sensei, the creator of manga “Negima”.

GANMO, an assistant matching service

Another helpful resource is J.A.C.(Japan Assistants Club – a forum that’s famous in the industry. Manga-ka can post here and advertise when they want a new assistant. Just like the matching site, they’ll give detailed information on the job and work environment, so that assistants can apply to the job that’s most suited to them. 

Of course in order to apply for the job, and to carry out the job effectively, assistants will need a certain level of Japanese language ability, so we suggest you start learning some Japanese along with your art studies!

Manga-ka’s assistants need to have just as much passion for the art as the manga-ka themselves! If you think you’ve got what it takes, why not explore this career route yourself??

Here at Anime Art Magazine, and Anime Art Academy, we’re always ready to help!

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