A call for manga assistants has gone out, courtesy of the latest issue of Ultra Jump. Manga-ka such as Tenjo Tenge's Oh Great!, Bastard's Kazuya Hagiwara, Seraphic Feather's Hiroyuki Utatane and DOGS' Shiro Miwa, among others, are all looking for qualified up-and-coming artists to help them out in the coming year. They're looking for people skilled in a number of artistic disciplines, from background assists to inking to screentoning to computer graphics. Unforunately for many foriegn hopefuls, living in Japan is a must!
The subject of assistants is an interesting one in Japan these days and something I've discussed with many manga-ka over the past week. The general feeling seems to be that it's harder and harder to find good assistants these days. In the past, having been an assistant to a working professional manga-ka was almost a requirement for getting your own seires and gaining respect as an artist in Japan. However, these days, with the growing world of dojinshi (self-published mags), it's no longer neccessary. Many editors at the major comic mags now look directly to the dojinshi world for new artists and series. They can usually find young talents who are hungry and willing to work for less money and less ownership, but still more than they would make as assistants. This has lead to much bitching by the established pros, who are having more trouble getting good help and who are worried it's setting a bad precedent for lower rates that may one day come back and bite them. They also feel these "kids" are getting their big breaks too early without having gone through the proper paces in the manga world, leading to big egos, bad attitudes, and an overall lack of respect.
The word "dojin-kusai" is one I heard bandied about on more than one occasion last week. Meaning "stinks of dojinshi", the term is used to describe certain manga mags that now employ a plethora of ex-dojinshi artists. It's also used to describe newly professional artists who were hired by publishers without any prior manga experience.
One manga-ka I know even referred to this new practice as "outsourcing", using the English term, citing the publishers are stealing work away from the "real" manga artists by venturing out into the dojinshi world.
Yet you don't hear these "real" manga-ka complain though when they themselves release their own dojinshi, using their fame to make tens of thousands of dollars off their fans over a weekend! :)