Originally published in Italy in 2015, this book is partly an art book, partly a biography. Essentially then, a graphic biography, written and drawn by Igort, an Italian comic book artist.
Igort had long been fascinated by all things Japanese – the country, its customs, its culture, traditions and the way of life. A frequent visitor, he moved to Japan in 1991 and lived there for several years. This book is the story of that portion of his life, his observations and the inspirations he drew from to make a name for himself in the Manga industry. These largely came from his observations of nature in the park near his home, and the serenity he found there.
As detailed by the author who was used to the European way of creating comic books – the Manga method was radically different and steeped in tradition. For example, he had to get used to drawing his pages from right to left to accommodate the Japanese way of reading.
Igort tells of how he was quickly introduced to the Japanese work ethic. He worked for Japan’s biggest publishing house, Kodansha. There, artists are revered to a higher degree than in the Western world and comics are sold daily in their millions. Sequential storytelling is a highly respected art form, and Igort was looking to practice his art at the highest level to the exacting standards that Kodansha and their demanding readers expected. To begin achieving this, he was told to produce a story every day. To Igort, this was unheard of – he had to devise a story, write it AND draw it in a day! Sixteen finished pages in 24 hours. And the same the next day, and the next and so on. Eventually, he earned the right to a four day break – but only after completing 160 pages in two weeks. As a comparison, Igort mentions that most Western artists produce around sixty pages a year.
The book is lavishly illustrated throughout, coloured in watercolour for the most part with the art sometimes switching between his normal more Westernised style, a traditional flatter Japanese style and the Manga style embraced in the comics.
Overall, it’s an insightful book, giving an insider’s view of working in an industry where you are, by definition, an outsider. It’s a fascinating glimpse into the traditions of Manga, and a thoughtful meditation on Japanese culture.
JAPANESE NOTEBOOKS / AUTHOR: IGORT / PUBLISHER: CHRONICLE BOOKS / RELEASE DATE: 9TH MAY