Just as in writing, backgrounds are important for every manga. It anchors the characters and settings in a specific time and space. Without them, readers have only dialogue to follow the story.
Drawing from scratch
Creating a background from scratch may be time consuming, but it is one of the most fulfilling parts of drawing. Once you’re done, you sigh and yell, “I did it!” The best way to create a background from scratch is to take a picture of the locations or buildings you want to use and draw it from that picture.
The reason why I don’t prefer drawing at the location is because many factors change as you’re looking between your drawing and the actual place. The sun and clouds move, shifting the shadows around, and people hover over your shoulder with indignant questions, peeling your gaze from your focal point. A picture will stay whatever you want that picture to be.
Turning out a picture
With a picture of a location, you can also create unique backgrounds. Ai Yazawa turns images into shadows with almost pixelated points.
Notice the background in Ai Yazawa’s Paradise Kiss and NaNa. It’s her trademark. (From Pinterest)
You can also turn pictures Into vectors in Adobe Illustrator or Manga Pro. To vectorize an image in Illustrator, select to “Trace”.
Using stock pictures
If drawing or vectorizing pictures are too much, you can buy Deleter background booklets or get free stock manga backgrounds on DeviantArt or Pinterest.
Deleter and Manga University both have books with backgrounds you can print onto adhesive sheets and apply like screentones or digitally place them in your manga using layers. They’re good for hard-to-find pictures such as Japanese classrooms, common streets, and convenience stores. The books aren’t free. They price anywhere from $2.50 to $12.00 online.
If you want to be a well-rounded artist, my advice is to learn how to do perspective drawings. Even if you plan on becoming a traditional artist (drawing, painting, sculpting), learning perspective will only be a tool.
I used to hate and blame fat people for their heaviness. It’s their faults, I convinced myself. But after facing my own fat issues and reading about weight discrimination in all walks of life, I’ve changed my accusatory hate into something more productive: understanding. It’s been hard considering that I live in Japan, a country where the inaccurate BMI is still gold and sizes run all but large.
In reading a post on Tutus and Tiny Hats, I realized that this problem–making fat people the victims of a weighty situation–is ingrained not just in Japanese fashion. It’s something that even manga readers have to see in black and white: the fat characters in manga and their treatment by their thin counterparts.
Two manga come to mind. The first title is Bara no Tame ni, or For the Rose, an unlicensed title in the shoujo category. Because of its quirky plot–a chubby homeless girl starts living with her half-siblings in her movie star mother’s home–For the Rose won the Shogakukan Manga Award in 1994. For me, this manga proves that a manga starring an overweight woman can be memorable. I read this 10 years ago, and I can still remember how unfair and judgmental everyone was being to Yuri, who only wants to find a home with her siblings. One thing I love about this manga was how the other characters changed around her, defending and protecting her for her, not her size.
The second title is an unlicensed josei title called Cousin with a chubby girl as its main character. After Yuki graduates from high school, she meets Aoi, a carefree guy who decides to befriend her because he’s a fan of her actress cousin. Though Yuki is skeptical at first, thinking he’s a pervert, they become friends. In spite of its lackluster plot, I love Yuki and her realistic struggles with her weight and her place in the world. She faces hassles on her new job and with her new friends, but she keeps moving forward in life. What really surprised me was her family’s personality. When she decides to lose weight, her parents are reluctant at first because they “love her the way she is” (though her father adds, “I like chubbiness”). Her younger sister, on the other hand, gets on her case even more, but just as in Yuki-fashion, she is mostly labeled as an ignorable brat. I never thought of this kind of situation for a fat person. What if your family is resistant to you losing weight? What warms readers hearts about this manga is that Yuki has perseverance–and yes, she stumbles here and there–and the characters around her accept her for who she is, not the size on the tag.
I love these two manga, but as I said before, they’re unlicensed, meaning that they aren’t officially translated into English for the Western audience. I can think of other manga that have fat supporting characters, however, I’m looking at main characters. They come few and far between. This shows how Japanese comic artists stereotype fat people, usually making the defining traits for rotund characters like Choji Akimichi (Naruto), Gluttony (Fullmetal Alchemist), and Terumichi Nishida (Detroit Metal City) the same.
I don’t think fat people can be put into the same Giant Foodie Category just because they’re fat. Every person, whether they’re a size 22 or a size 2, has problems, and those problems lead people to different coping mechanisms. Some may be food addiction while others are alcoholism. Some may be one too many milkshakes, and others may be one too many sexapades. These things are just escapes from a larger issue that needs to be faced. I know for me to even start losing the weight I gained from life abroad and marriage, I had to look at my heart before my plate. If anything was going to change and stick, I had to tackle the problem(s). I’m not at my goal right now, but I am at a better place–and so are the numbers on my scales.
Now if only manga creators could find it in their hearts to make some super interesting fat characters, main or side, without using their fatness as the only defining trait.
Here are some licensed manga that feature fat or fat-thinking main characters:
Accel World by Reki Kawahara and Hiroyuki Aigamo (Yen Press)