A Day in the Life of a Manga Artist


Ashley Zhao, Writer

Best known for her illustrations in the shoujo manga-turned-anime Wedding Peach in the 1990s, Nao Yazawa is a manga industry professional with a career spanning decades. Her more recent works include Moon & Blood, a teenage story of a vampire and human romance. Currently, she teaches her craft at an English-language school based in Nakano.


A typical day for a manga artist depends on the person and their own pace, as well as the type of magazine they work for‒whether it’s weekly, monthly, shonen (manga for teenage boys), or shoujo (manga for teenage girls). For a weekly magazine, artists work with a very methodological system. Several manga artists work six days a week with one day off, so for example, Monday to Saturday with Sundays off. There may be three days dedicated to story creation, one day for writing it, one day for pencil drawing, and another spent inking it. In Yazawa’s case, she worked for a monthly magazine so she provided her work a month in advance. “Basically, I’d have five to seven days off where I’d just vaguely be thinking of ideas while relaxing,” said Yazawa, “The remaining three weeks are for work. I never had trouble coming up with the basic idea, but sometimes I’d get stuck on the storyboard‒that’s the rough panel work. But if you get stuck on that part, you’ll get a lot of sleepless nights later!” The basic story idea for Yazawa usually takes about a week. In that case, she’d have two weeks for drawing, “which was quite easy‒it was safe.” But sometimes storyboarding took an extra half-week, or sometimes even a week longer, and “then it got very hard.” For each issue, she had to produce 40 to 50 pages, which is “easily done” in two weeks with an assistant.


When asked why she chose the job, Yazawa recalled, “I knew it was a very hard job, even as a child. I didn’t seriously think I could become a manga artist even as I kind of worked towards it.” If the job didn’t work out, she “figured she could work at a publisher and become an editor.” However, she “didn’t study anything about it, though.” At university, she chose to study Chinese history because she “was interested in it, and also because, in a practical sense, history is a kind of human drama, so [she] thought it might be inspiring for stories.” Yazawa had submitted her work to manga competitions before, as competitions are a good way to get published and make your debut‒but “was too much of a coward to visit publishers to get comments on [her] work.” When she did enter a competition, she forgot to include a self-addressed envelope so they could return her work back to her. Yazawa called the publisher and brought some other work with her. The editor there said her work wasn’t good enough yet and gave her some comments, and by her third competition, she won. By then, she “finally thought [she] could become a manga artist.” “Many people doubted I could do it,” said Yazawa, “But at the end of that year, I could debut. I was definitely on the lucky side.”


“If you work hard, sooner or later you can get a debut,” Yazawa commented when asked about advice she had for any aspiring manga artists. Having a “debut means getting a prize at a competition and having that work published. Getting published once is possible if you work hard. Even if you’re very talented you need some luck.” Although you need effort and talent too, “sometimes it’s just the wrong timing or the wrong magazine. It’s the same with being a movie star or an astronaut. Many people work hard, but only a few are lucky enough to make it.”