Otaku USA Magazine
Tetsuya Chiba Uses Traditional Washi Paper to Preserve Manga

Manga has traditionally been hand-drawn, and there is the issue of protecting the paper from being damaged over time. This is no small feat.

“The illustration has undergone color fading and wearing,” mangaka Tetsuya Chiba remarked about the iconic last scene of his famous manga Ashita no Joe (known as Tomorrow’s Joe in English). “This is in danger of soon being in tatters.”

Chiba has teamed up with several other people to get hand-drawn manga preserved on washi paper. In Japan, there is washi paper going back centuries with clear writing and drawings still on them. A famous example is the “Choju Giga” (translated as Scrolls of Frolicking Animals) from the 1100s, which some people point to as the country’s oldest manga.

Tamotsu Tanaka, head of a lumber store, originally met Chiba while helping him get good pencils and is now involved in this process. Also in on the work are Masaki Sasao, who has a a printing firm, and Akihiro Obata, who is a papermaker.

“It can’t be helped that original illustrations on Kent paper deteriorate as time passes,” Tanaka commented. “We thought we should start with making and preserving their copies first and foremost.”

High definition photos are taken of the manga pages and then put on the washi. While this isn’t the same as preserving the originals, it does preserve fine duplicates and it’s a nod to Japanese history and the important ancient scrolls written on washi paper. However, this is expensive to do, and erasers and washi paper don’t get along.

“Original illustrations of modern manga may remain for prolonged periods in the future like the [old Japanese] painted scrolls,” Chiba announced. “They can someday be regarded as constituting part of our culture. I am looking forward to seeing the outcome of this research.”

Source: Mainichi Shimbun


Danica Davidson is the author of the bestselling Manga Art for Beginners with artist Melanie Westin, plus its sequel, Manga Art for Everyone, and the first-of-its-kind manga chalk book Chalk Art Manga, both illustrated by professional Japanese mangaka Rena Saiya. Check out her other comics and books at www.danicadavidson.com.