“I am most definitely not a comic artist.”
rather see an entertaining Youtube video like to read my first post regarding this CIP (in Japanese), please gently click here at your leisure.
For those of you not in the know, finding this CIP became series of trial and terrible, spirit-crippling errors. For a country well-known for its specialty in comics and animation, an affordable, accessible, and personally appealing manga classroom proves to be especially difficult to stumble upon. My first insight: two out of three really isn’t that bad.
Lucky for me, after wading through the train lines to Osaka and the despair of reading and writing far too many e-mails riddled with keigo, I managed to find myself at the Nijo Art School, a small and warm classroom taught at a teacher’s home where students of all ages are pretty much free to pursue their own area of interest, ranging from oil painting to sculpture to comics.
I’m a slow learner, but I did eventually come to some realizations about classroom culture.
First, Japanese workshops and classrooms take their jobs very seriously. At every school I interviewed, the instructors were not only intent on finding out exactly what you want to study and practice (even going so far as to ask you which manga artist you want to draw like!), but they were also concerned with whether or not you aim to take the class in order to prepare for your application to a full-fledged art academy. These classrooms are more than that private tutor you had for the piano back in elementary school. There is no such thing as a casual class you take for fun, just to learn – even the smallest of classrooms is all about getting you to past that test for that art academy, first and foremost. If I’ve learned anything from this experience, it’s that Japanese culture seems to be very focused on the end goal – it is always up, up, and onwards. While that sort of diligence and intensity is impressive, I did at times find it very wearisome to be unable to find a manga class that was not geared towards a final exam, and the atmosphere can initially be very intimidating when you want a more relaxed experience.
Secondly, I discovered a surprising dynamic to the student-teacher relationship. This may be a solely personal experience, but when I encountered problems with my CIP (wherein I was suddenly spending too much time working on realism rather than the comics focus I wanted), my Japanese teacher was very adamant that I had a right to question my art teacher and request that I get back on track. While in America I definitely had a friendly rampart with all of my teachers, I never dreamed of challenging their directions – if Mr. Huggett said that we were going to draw spheres from different angles for three weeks straight, then by golly, I would suck it up and slave over those spheres, quietly muttering under my breath and occasionally grinding the B6 pencil into the paper to express the blackest depths of my discontent. I’d assumed that it’d be the same for the Japanese student-teacher relationship, wherein you do not question your educator’s methods. Yet it seems that if those methods interfere with the straightest line to the end goal, especially if you’re paying ￥17,000 a month to go once a week for only three hours, you have every right to ask to get back to business. Unfortunately I still have reservations about requesting such a thing of my teacher, so I’ve spent a lot of time drawing redundant things rather than learning how to make comics, but it was interesting to find out that I do, indeed, have that communication option, whether or not I have the pluck to use it.
Finally, I’ve learned that everyone gets their time. My teacher always managed to pinpoint the faults in my drawing, and subsequently always managed to explain how I was to fix them, either through gestures, tone, drawing by example, or a combination thereof. He didn’t let me get away with anything, and had no issues with focusing squarely on a single student for twenty minutes, or running over time rather than rushing his critiques. Although Japan has been criticized by Americans for its strict educational system, the fact is that they are far more serious and effective about helping individual students reach their full potential than they are given credit for. Although Japanese culture may be more about the group than the individual, another underlying philosophy is that the stronger an individual is, the stronger the group itself becomes.