Mangaka is the term used to describe a Japanese manga artist. Manga is a form of comic book, or graphic novel, that originates in Japan. It used to be that manga was only known and appreciated by the Japanese culture. It slowly infiltrated the rest of the world, and has since become extremely popular in the United States. There are some American authors who attempt to draw manga, but the term mangaka generally refers to Japanese manga artists.
There are two parts to the word mangaka. The “manga” part of the term refers to the comic aspect, and the “ka” part of the term refers to expertise. This term is only used for people who wholly create their own manga. If an author were to write the story, and hand it off to another artist to be illustrated, this person would be deemed a gensaku-sha, or a comic writer, and should not be considered a mangaka.
There are differences that make American comics and manga easily recognizable from each other. The first, most easily recognizable difference is in the style. Most manga is drawn with large eyes, which have become known as “anime eyes”. These eyes are very expressive, and there is a different style for drawing children, teens and adults. The mouths have more expression, and the character does not generally look “life-like”. Most manga is also drawn in black and white, whereas American comics are generally in color.
The second difference is in the frames. The frames are easily different, having different sizes and often going from top to bottom and right to left, instead of left to right. Words in manga are shown quite a bit differently, as sometimes they are put into dialogue balloons, and other times they are not. Words in manga can appear in the frame, or on the side of the frame, or even halfway outside of the frame. The voice can be either from a character talking, or a narrator talking.
Most mangaka do not do all of the work on their own. Often, the mangaka has at least one assistant to help them to get their story completed. The jobs that the assistant may be responsible for vary, depending on the individual mangaka. Some assistants are responsible for filling in the work after the mangaka has drawn the basics, while others are hired for specific tasks. Generally mangaka have their assistants draw the background of the sketches, which could become extremely tedious and may take a long time. The mangaka, especially a well-known one, needs to focus more on the character and the storyline, so having an assistant is a valuable time saver for the mangaka. It is also a great way for aspiring artists to learn their trade. Many famous mangaka started out as apprentices, or assistants, under well-known mangaka.