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Animation or Illustration in Japan?

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I am currently a second year student at a film school in America learning to be an animator and comic book illustrator. I'm not entirely sure what my avenue for my career after school will be but I do know I am 100% dedicated to some form of hand drawn animation, though more less digitally drawn, not on paper.

My dream is to do something like Miyazaki and create my own animation studio or something like that. Though I realize, that goal will require doing other things first to work my way up which I'm willing to do, and hopefully enjoy doing it. Now I honestly felt I could change American animation and create not necessarily Anime, but meaningful stories involving action-adventure or drama with a more complex style of animation similar to Ghibly but in my own style and so on, I won't bore you with the technical details.

To be honest, I used to want to become a Manga-ka in Japan when I was 14 but now, I dunno about that because I'm not sure that's MY journey as an artist and I don't wanna just do what this guy does, I want to find my own path. Otherwise, I could hypothetically end up working in Japan in animation or comics but the thing is, I have no interest in working in the so called poor conditions with bad pay I have heard about, but am not sure is the case at EVERY studio in japan either. But I thought, perhaps I may start my own company in Japan some day, or may'be there is someone, a small company or something in Japan who does things better.

What I'm asking is, is there any hope for a Gaijin animator/illustrator/concept artist in Japan that would involve good working conditions like I would have in America. Please understand, I do not know if this is an avenue for me, I felt I would someday live in Japan but I don't know because my most important goal is to be a great artist. I have never even visited the country so tbh, this is all very abstract right now, but it's something I think about alot because Japan is really apart of me yet I feel lately that living there may not be an option for my career goals. Perhaps I can live there a while to become a better animator then come back to USA to build a company or something, or may'be another country. I dunno.

Thoughts?
 

Mike Cash

骨も命も皆此の土地に埋めよう
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Have you read the many threads we have accumulated over the years from people asking the same or similar questions? Without meaning to sound like a d*ck, the answers are also the same or similar.

I wish I had a nickel for every gaijin who is planning to come to Japan and revolutionize the cartoon and comic book industry.

While you're scrutinizing past threads from people who would "do anything" to bring their plan to fruition, if you stumble across even one of them who ever actually did anything at all please let me know.
 

nahadef

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Well, I draw comics, not as a job, but in Japan, and am familiar with some working here professionally.

Short answer: unless you have an amazing, developed, personal style, and a beast-like work ethic, it's going to be tough. From what I understand, animation and comics are usually pretty tough in the States, with comic artists usually living at the poverty line (Being a cartoonist by the numbers…and the numbers are ugly — The Beat and animators often having unstable conditions with loads of overtime.

But, people do this stuff because they love it, not because they plan to get rich.

Real advice for you? Save up a bundle of cash and get yourself to Comitia/Kaigai Manga fest, held in November (海外マンガフェスタ | Kaigai Manga Festa Comitia is monthly or bi-monthly, and held all over the country, and is an event where hundreds of independent manga artists show off their work... it'll let you see the level and range of work, plus you can gauge what it's like trying to make a wage. The Kaigai part is the international comics festival, and shares the hall with Comitia, but that one is annually. Many foreigners living in Japan appear there, as well as people coming in from abroad (you could table yourself if you had something to sell). Different animation schools also had booths when I was there.

The real issue will be language ability. If your work is in English, you will not get it carried. My publisher prints English and Japanese work, and can't get any of his English language stuff distributed. As for running a studio, your staff need to understand you.

Regardless of whether you'll live forever in Japan or not, I'd recommend trying to live here a few years. Living abroad in itself opens you up to new styles and new ways of thinking, so even if you end up going back to the States, you'll be a better person for it.

Three foreign artists living in Japan that I'm acquaintances with on instagram:
dirtyrobot
Muleleredux
Graememcnee
And two foreign publishers:
Blackhookpress
Biguglyrobot

All of these people have money coming in from art gigs (much more than me I'm sure), but probably are holding down day jobs.

Hope that's helpful information!
 
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Have you read the many threads we have accumulated over the years from people asking the same or similar questions? Without meaning to sound like a d*ck, the answers are also the same or similar.

I wish I had a nickel for every gaijin who is planning to come to Japan and revolutionize the cartoon and comic book industry.

While you're scrutinizing past threads from people who would "do anything" to bring their plan to fruition, if you stumble across even one of them who ever actually did anything at all please let me know.
Wow really? That's pretty sad. Tbh, I feel like I could do it but it's a question of whether or not it's worth it. But I feel bad for Japanese artist. I mean yes, you animate and draw because it's your passion but there is no excuse for overworking people to the point of vomitting or things like that I've heard about. That's a sociological work environment problem that somebody needs to address. But I guess, Japan has to change by their own people not by a Gaijin, cuz that might seem a bit pompous and inconsiderate.

Also, I think America may be more in need of a great revolutionary animation company. I want to revolutionize 2D animation in the states, probably a better more practical goal than being in Japan trying to work against a system.

Short answer: unless you have an amazing, developed, personal style, and a beast-like work ethic, it's going to be tough. From what I understand, animation and comics are usually pretty tough in the States, with comic artists usually living at the poverty line (Being a cartoonist by the numbers…and the numbers are ugly — The Beat and animators often having unstable conditions with loads of overtime.

But, people do this stuff because they love it, not because they plan to get rich.
Absolutely in that passion for art comes first and I personally am willing to work long hours to make great art and such. It's more so though that overworking like I've heard in japan is just plain terrible, and that's not a cultural bias, that's an objective fact. Work should never cause people to be sick or end up in the hospital, especially art and I feel bad for the Japanese animators with the passion they have to put up with it for the art form.

I know I probably sound naive, but I really am gonna change the american animation industry, it's the whole point I'm in animation. Because 2D needs an update here, it needs to be pushed somewhere new. :)
 

nahadef

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I know I probably sound naive, but I really am gonna change the American animation industry, it's the whole point I'm in animation. Because 2D needs an update here, it needs to be pushed somewhere new. :) Also, I feel like Japan needs to utilize digital hand drawing technology so that they can work more efficiently I think.
You're naive to the extent that a lot more people think they'll make a difference than actually do. But that attitude is important to keep motivation up, and not turn into a stoner playing PlayStation in off hours. Aim to be important, and accept what results come. If in the end you merely become highly competent and in demand as an employee, consider it a win.

Personally, I don't think 2D will ever really come back, just due to economics, but if your movies only appear in Spike and Mike Animation festivals, I'd still call it a win. The reward is in the effect on the right viewer, not in the rent money.
 
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The real issue will be language ability.
Agreed, and that goes for any non-teaching job.

Try to find a 30-min video from Begin Japanology or Japanology Plus (an NHK program by 2 names, hosted by Peter Barakan), where he had a special series of episodes on Japanophiles. A German woman recounted her tale of studying to be a manga artist here.

BTW, I teach at university, and a lot of my students have shown incredible drawing ability that I'd say should get their foot in the door of any manga outfit. No training, either. Just quality. So, even the layperson can do well here, but look at what the market itself holds, too. I suspect it's not very lucrative, nor does it have that many openings.
 

musicisgood

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Remember "ONE THING" it's all about the "story line". My daughter is a manga artist and lives in the States. At one time she was doing YouTube videos on drawings. Too busy these days with her management job at a fast food restuarant . And she grew up here in Japan.
 
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Could you share with us some samples of your art, if you don't mind?
Sure. Here's two characters in my graphic novel series I'm working on. Girl = Finny, Dog guy = Kijn

And this character:

And a Fox Sketch: Excuse the sucky Iphone quality.


Remember "ONE THING" it's all about the "story line". My daughter is a manga artist and lives in the States. At one time she was doing YouTube videos on drawings. Too busy these days with her management job at a fast food restuarant . And she grew up here in Japan.
YES! Absolutely, the story comes first, if it sucks then great art will not help much. I'm also a writer and spend alot of my time writing scripts for my comic series and animation projects.

Personally, I don't think 2D will ever really come back, just due to economics, but if your movies only appear in Spike and Mike Animation festivals, I'd still call it a win. The reward is in the effect on the right viewer, not in the rent money.
I hear that alot but honestly, 3D being the only thing is a fad in my opinion. I mean it's what 20 years? Who knows what things will be in 10 years media-wise especially since in my university, the majority of serious ones wanna do 2D animation.
3D and 2D are completely separate art forms in that both should co exist. Making only 3D animation is the equivalent of only drawing in Ink but never painting. It's just silly from an art point of view. Personally, I blame part of this on the fact that 3D seems new but now, in 2017 such newness has worn off alot and with better and better digital drawing methods, even tradigital hand drawn animation is way easier to do without losing quality. That's my view anyway. :)
 
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nahadef

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I don't think 2D animation will cease to exist, but, you know, economics. The people paying for this stuff want bang for their buck. If you can make great looking 2D for cheap, then power to you.
 
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There's already software available that takes a hybrid approach to animation: the body is a 3D model, but the head (which receives the most attention from viewers after all) is composed from a set of hand-drawn 2D images that behave as though they were 3D. In effect, the 2D head can be animated just as conveniently as the 3D body without sacrificing its original drawing style.


Sure. Here's two characters in my graphic novel series I'm working on. Girl = Finny, Dog guy = Kijn
Is it me, or does she actually have two left hands?
 
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There's already software available that takes a hybrid approach to animation: the body is a 3D model, but the head (which receives the most attention from viewers after all) is composed from a set of hand-drawn 2D images that behave as though they were 3D. In effect, the 2D head can be animated just as conveniently as the 3D body without sacrificing its original drawing style.



Is it me, or does she actually have two left hands?
That's A mistake, I accidentally drew her with two left hands lol. I personally do not want to mess with 2D 3D combo much as it's as much about the process as the aesthetic. 3D animation is just really technical to be honest which is one reason I'm not interested much in it. I would rather just be drawing all the time yet I love making 2D animation. I know sometimes 3D is very very useful such as working with backgrounds and things but for characters, I would personally stick to drawing only.
 
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