Many people who come to Tokyo know of Nakano Broadway, a shopping arcade filled with stores selling manga, game and anime related goods on the north side of Nakano station. As tempting as it was to leave the station and head there for a full day of browsing, I spent a week heading south toward Manga School Nakano instead.
Along a narrow street that follows the tracks toward the west is a former elementary school whose classrooms are now used for language lessons and offices and which houses Manga School Nakano. Between attending promotional events for Koyama Press books, I found some time to study at this small school and it became the highlight of my Japan trip.
My instructor was mangaka Nao Yazawa, best known for her manga series and anime Wedding Peach. She is the only person teaching a manga drawing course in Japan, in english, to foreign students in private and online lessons. Her enthusiasm about the possibilities of cultural exchange through drawing manga has sent her to the US, Canada and Europe to give workshops and lectures.
Although she also works digitally, her forte is instruction in the traditional tools of manga: pencils, nib pens and ink, rulers, screentone and pre-ruled manga paper. Even mangaka concede that digital methods are faster and more convenient but for me, it's also enjoyable to have hands covered in graphite, surrounded by eraser crumbs and scraps of flowery screentone.
Though I didn't meet my goal of producing finished pages, I did learn a lot from Nao Sensei, that unless your drawings communicate clearly, no one will ever know how brilliant and funny your characters are! And that some thoughtful composition and page layout can guide the reader from panel to panel, moving them smoothly through your story. Nao Sensei listened patiently while I bombarded her with random questions about drawing points and tips about materials until my time ran out.
A wonderful experience for manga enthusiasts of all ages and abilities!