If you’re a massive fan of anime and manga, then the answer to this question is probably an absolute no-brainer. Of course you should draw in the style that you love. But, if you’re new to creating art and you only watch anime and read manga on a more occasional basis, then this subject becomes a lot more complicated.
Although there are a few elements from manga art in my drawing style, I’ve never really been that interested in drawing “proper” manga art.
When I was a kid, proper anime/manga art seemed slightly too complicated to draw (although the only anime I really watched when I was a kid was “Pokemon”). And, now that I’m older, I’ve already got my own art style anyway.
Still, I thought that I’d look at some of the advantages and disadvantages of learning how to draw in this particular style (although I should point out that the second half of this list is mostly written from a fairly “western” perspective and may or may not be revelant to you, depending on where you live).
Afterwards, I’ll give my thoughts and advice about whether you should learn to draw manga art or not.
1) A Lot Of People Use This Art Style: Let’s face it, anime/manga art is probably one of the most popular art styles out there at the moment. If you don’t believe me, just take a look at the most recent drawings which have been uploaded to DeviantART.
It’s a pretty safe bet that there will almost always be at least one manga-style drawing on the front page. Lots of people make this kind of art.
The advantages of this are that there are a lot more resources available to you if you want to learn how to draw this type of art.
Because the path of learning how to draw manga is a very well-trodden one, there is no shortage of free online drawing guides you can read, instructional Youtube videos you can watch and books you can buy about how to draw manga. If you’re teaching yourself how to draw, this vast abundance of resources can’t be a bad thing.
Not only that, because a lot of people enjoy drawing this type of art and/or both watching anime and reading manga, you have a much larger fanbase available to you when you’ve had a bit more practice and become a bit more confident in your abilities.
But, on the other hand, if lots of people are drawing in this style already, this also means that you will have a lot more competition too. Your manga art will have to be just that little bit better than the rest in order to stand out and grab everyone’s attention.
Likewise, because the path of learning how to draw manga is very well-trodden, it won’t be quite as exciting as finding your own unique art style will be.
Yes, you’ll learn how to draw well and you might even learn more quickly (thanks to all the resources out there), but you’ll only be learning how to draw in an art style which at least hundreds of thousands of other people already use.
You’ll be learning how to draw in a more formal and fixed style (and, yes, I know that there are lots of subtle variations and subtly different styles of manga art) and, if you just want to learn how to draw art to accompany a comic or a story that you’re writing, then this is probably good enough. After all, it’s a relatively quick way to learn how to produce illustrations.
But, if you want to make art that stands out from the crowd and is a unique expression of who you are, then this will be a lot more difficult to do if you are using such a well-known and established style as anime/manga art.
2) It’s in fashion in “the west” (and obviously in Japan too) at the moment: Forty or fifty years ago, manga and anime was a lot less popular in the west.
Classic American comic book art was the one of the most popular illustration styles for comics fifty years ago – at least in Britain and America (of course, France and Belgium also have their own tradition of comics/ bandes dessinées too. I’m not really sure if other European countries have their own unique comics traditions, but I’m guessing that they probably do).
Go back another fifty or sixty years and the most common and popular styles of illustration in Europe and America were very traditional and realistic drawings and etchings.
Even in Japan, anime/manga-style art only really became popular during the 20th Century. Before that, the most popular type of art in Japan was Ukiyo-e art.
What I’m trying to say here is that fashions change.
This is both a good and a bad thing. If you want your work to have a timeless quality to it, then it might be a little bit more difficult (but by no means impossible) to do this with popular modern anime/manga art styles.
If your manga art is good enough, then it will still look good even centuries later – but, if it’s more ordinary and less distinctive, it might survive in a museum as an example of popular art in the early 21st century or it might just be forgotten. Plus, it’ll start to look dated whenever the next artistic fashion comes around.
However, if you’ve taken the time and effort to develop your own art style, then it will stand out and look unique regardless of whether someone is looking at it five years later or five hundred years later. After all, unless you’ve become famous and inspired many other artists, then there will be nothing else quite like your art style. It will be unique.
But, on the plus side, manga art is in fashion at the moment! If you want to make your art look modern and cool, then you can’t go wrong with some well-drawn manga art. If you want your art to stand out as something modern and new, then manga is the way to go. Yes, this art style has been around for at least a few decades, but it’s only really become popular in the west since the 1980s/90s at the earliest and it keeps getting more and more popular. In other words, people love it and there’s a large audience for it.
So, despite my cynicism earlier, there are plenty of good things about using a fashionable and popular art style like manga art.
My advice: There’s nothing wrong with learning how to draw in this style and it all comes down to personal preference really. But, my advice to anyone who is just beginning to learn how to draw is to take a look at a lot of manga art and see what you do and don’t like about it.
Copy the techniques which you like and add them to your drawing style but, at the same time, look elsewhere too. Look at other art styles and see if there’s anything in there that you like enough to want to copy. If you find anything, add it to your art style.
Because everyone has slightly different tastes when it comes to art, this will mean that, with enough research and practice, you’ll eventually come up with your own unique blend of artistic techniques. In other words, you’ll have found your own art style. You’ll have found an art style which is uniquely yours and which stands out from everything else.
Yes, your art probably won’t look completely like manga. But, at the same time, it probably won’t look completely different from it either. But, it will be unique and it will be distinctive. And, most importantly, it will be something that you will find incredibly cool (since, after all, it’s a mixture of every cool technique that you’ve found).
Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂