Shonen Jump’s editorial department carried out a Jump author survey, featuring prominent writers from the magazine, including authors Eiichiro Oda, Tatsuki Fujimoto, Kohei Horikoshi, Gege Akutami, Koyoharu Gotouge, Tite Kubo and others.
One of the questions in the survey asked these authors how they went about creating a readable manga. All the authors had their own way of approaching this problem and we have compiled all their answers for you in this post.
The following snippets are taken from The Shonen Jump Guide to Making Manga.
While Oda and Fujimoto kept the answer short and simple, Gotouge, Horikoshi, Akutami, Yusei Matsui and others decided to be a bit more detailed in their answers. We Never Learn author Taishi Tsutsui and Witch Watch author Kenta Shinohara, by far, gave the longest answers.
Q. What’s your approach to creating a manga that is readable?
Eiichiro Oda, author of One Piece
Tatsuki Fujimoto, author of Fire Punch, Chainsaw Man
Keep the text and explanations to a minimum.
Kohei Horikoshi, author of My Hero Academia
As a medium, manga is read by moving from one word balloon to next, so I’m careful about their placement. Lately, I’ve been on a kick with closeups.
Gege Akutami, author of Jujutsu Kaisen
I let my art blast right past the safety and trim lines in order to guide the readers eye. That said I tend to sacrifice readability for what I find interesting, so don’t treat me like I’m some sort of role model.
Koyoharu Gotouge, author of Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba
Even if the world you’re building is complex, don’t try to explain it all right off the bat. Most readers will be overwhelmed if you inundate them with waves of unfamiliar terminology and tricky concepts. So keep it nice and simple – especially at the start – and appeal to the senses instead.
Demizu Posuka, artist of The Promised Neverland
Show people what you want to show them!
Emphasize those key elements visually and blur out or even omit the stuff that’s just supposed to pass by without much notice. For every single panel, page, chapter and volume, decide what elements you need to show most. That makes a manga readable.
Kaiu Shirai, writer of The Promised Neverland
I identify what I want to communicate and transform that into a story organized in the best way possible for my message to come across.
I create storyboards that will be memorable even when skimmed. They need to have an engaging amount of variety, which comes from the rhythm, volume and placement of dialogue; which bits of information are provided; page layout; page turning motivation and use of story beats.
Tite Kubo, author of Bleach
Stick to vertical and horizontal panels. My editor when I was starting out said, “You have too many diagonally oriented panels,” which really stuck with me.
Taishi Tsutsui, author of We Never Learn
Give every character a distinct silhouette, so even in a long shot, it’s obvious who’s who.
Keep page layout simple. Panels should remain within all proper borders.
Follow the 180-degree rule of filmmaking (eg. a character on the right, shouldn’t suddenly be shown on the left).
Make sure each word balloon has a tail pointed towards the speaker. When the speaker is off panel, add a little chibi drawing of the speaker’s face (so its still crystal clear).
Don’t allow the panel borders, word balloons, or other compositional elements to cut off parts of characters’ head or faces.
Try not to have more than four lines of text per word balloon. Five at the absolute most.
Kenta Shinohara, author of Sket Dance, Astra Lost in Space, Witch Watch
Art, layout, word balloons. Drawings should be done carefully and deliberately. Use thick and thin lines where appropriate. Always be aware of the black/white balance. Good use of halftones keep your art from being painfully bright.
Be sure to zoom the camera out for some panels (an annoying task, but it makes your manga more readable as a story when readers have a sense of characters’ relative positions and distance).
Give every word balloon a tail so its crystal clear who’s talking. In panels with multiple characters and multiple word balloons, arrange all these components in a way that’s easy to follow. When placing word balloons, always be aware that time is flowing from right to left and top to bottom. Only worry about techniques like leading the reader’s eye once you’ve covered the above points and still have the leeway to arrange things further.
Shun Saeki, artist of Food Wars! Shokugeki no Soma
As an artist, I’d say “panel placements that make flow clear” and “good black and white balance.” Most importantly, avoid art where its unclear what’s being portrayed.
Yusei Matsui, author of Assassination Classroom, The Elusive Samurai
Page down the text as much as possible. Bare-bones visual composition, out of what needs to be shown. Avoid series-specific lingo and terminology. Always make it very clear, at any given moment whether the reader should be focusing on the art or the story. Readability is the central pillar of making a manga succeed, so I try not to get careless about the fact.
Kentaro Yabuki, author of Ayakashi Triangle, artist of To Love Ru series
Cut the fat and feature the minimum number of panels necessary. Use all the tricks to guide the reader’s eye.
On the story side, you want every double- page spread to have one panel that’s clearly the focal point (which is a separate matter from your overall climaxes).
Creating that tempo makes readers eager to keep turning the page.
Ryuhei Tamura, author of Beelzebub, Hard-boiled Cop and Dolphin
Bigger word balloons, less dialogue, five or fewer panels per page. That’s ideal. I can’t always stick to those rules.
The Shonen Jump Guide To Making Manga is target towards artists, both new and veterans, to help them sharpen their skills. In addition to the interviews with the authors mentioned above, the book also contains sections, which talk about creating a new manga, and about what to do when an author gets stuck.
A section by Tadahiro Miura, the author of Yuuna and the Haunted Springs, in which he gives tips on Digital Artistry is also included in the book.
Viz Media released the book on Oct 18, 2022. A preview can be read here.
The book is described as follows:
From Dragon Ball to Demon Slayer, from One Piece to My Hero Academia and beyond, Weekly Shonen Jump has published some of the finest manga to grace the earth. Now, the creators and editors behind several of the most popular manga in Shonen Jump sit down to discuss how to craft exciting stories, how to use your tools to the best of your abilities, and more. Whether you’re getting started on your artistic path or a veteran looking for new tips, The Shonen Jump Guide to Making Manga is the perfect book to sharpen your skills.
Featuring commentary and advice from Eiichiro Oda (One Piece), Tite Kubo (Bleach), Shun Saeki (Food Wars), Kaiu Shirai & Posuka Demizu (The Promised Neverland), Yusei Matsui (Assassination Classroom), Kohei Horikoshi (My Hero Academia), and more!
© 2021 by Weekly Shonen Jump/SHUEISHA Inc.