Are you a fan of Naoki Urasawa? I am! A huge fan. I actually only discovered his work a few years ago, I know, I’m way late to the party. For some reason, I had decided that I didn’t like 20th Century Boys but I finally tried to reread it a few years ago and honestly, maybe I was thinking of something completely different because I loved it. From there I read Monster and well, let’s just say that even if it didn’t live up to its reputation it would still be a stellar manga and I think it does. I also read Mujirushi: The Sign of Dreams which I thoroughly enjoyed and I recently got the first volume of Asadora while I’m trying to find Pluto.
There’s a sort of optimism and faith in humanity that radiates through his writing and honestly, it’s an extremely nice change of pace. And something that particularly appeals to me. I am slowly collecting his entire library and if you ever want to get me something for my birthday, an Urusawa manga would be more than welcome!
However, aside from his works, I really knew nothing about Urasawa. I knew he was a man because some articles referred to him as “He” and I had a general idea of his age based on when his works got published and that was it.
In my experience, I have found that mangaka are a lot more private than other authors. Nowadays, if you want to know anything about someone who has an entertainment-related job, you are one search away from being their best friend, in a parasocial way of course. But with mangaka, often you’re lucky to find out their gender, let alone anything beyond that. At least in my experience.
And that’s probably why I never developed an instinct to look up my favourite magakas unless I have a super-specific question in mind. I will simply see what else they have written on AniList and call it a day.
That’s why even though Urasawa has been a new instant favourite for me. I just never really thought of him outside of his works. In a way, he wasn’t exactly a person in my mind, just a means to manga.
This is where our story goes in a completely different direction. Those who are used to me, will hopefully not mind the jarring transition too much.
Another thing I really enjoy in manga, is reading manga about manga. As in a story about manga artists and creating manga. I often come across the notion of screen tone, buying, cutting and applying it. I have seen so many people do it in manga and it looked like tons of fun to me. So, I decided to look up exactly what applying screen tone looks like in real life. I very imaginatively typed How to apply screen tone in Google.
It really shows that Goggle bought YouTube, you get those video recommendations right up top! Anyways, it seems there are quite a few videos on the subject including this one: 【Dr.テンマ登場】スクリーントーンの使い方をご紹介します … The title was not exactly all that descriptive for me personally, but the thumbnail was an image of screen tone being applied to a partially finished drawing of Dr. Tenma from Monster. At the time I was still reading Monster and this immediately grabbed my attention. I figured most videos would be giving out the same information, and really I just wanted to see it being done, so might as well have a character I like as a model.
The video was exactly what I wanted. It was just a close-up of someone applying screen tone with a voice-over in Japanese explaining the process. English subtitles were also available for those that want to actually understand things and don’t speak Japanese. Silly gooses.
I was a bit disappointed to see that screen tone doesn’t actually glide on all smooth and stuff. There’s a lot of scrapping and scratching involved. It also seems like you have to put some muscle into it. The effect of seeing live was very different from the impression I got from manga even though it’s not like the images showing people applying screen tone were inaccurate or anything. But there was something lost in translation to a still medium. Movement provides more information than we think.
Despite my slight disappointment with the general notion of applying screen tone, I was still really into the video. It was to the point but easy to watch and relax. At no moment did it try to sell me anything, it didn’t have midrolls and at a tight 13 minutes or so, it wasn’t a huge time sink. Plus, whoever was doing it actually started off by drawing Tenma from scratch and then a few other characters and they were a good artist. It really gave me the impression that they knew what they were doing, unlike some more cash-grabby channels.
So I naturally went to the channel page. This is what I saw:
浦沢チャンネル -URASAWA CHANNEL-
I was like – oh, no wonder they were using Dr. Tenma as an example character. This must be some type of Urasawa fan channel. Maybe they also talk about the mangas. I should see what the other videos are about. There weren’t that many. It seems the channel started out in the summer of 2021 and as I speak only 7 videos have been uploaded. The latest one was two days ago.
From the thumbnail and titles, I could see that they were all manga drawing technique videos. About how to create character poses, the not digital tools used by mangaka, what being a mangaka assistant entails, that sort of stuff. Interesting, right? Most of them had a pleasant-looking guy in the thumbnails with long slightly wild curly hair and a beard.
But then I started getting a bit suspicious. I watched the first video: 漫画家・浦沢直樹、YouTube始めます。Hello YouTube from Naoki Urasawa, a Japanese Manga artist and just for safe measure I looked up what Urasawa looks like… That is him, it’s also him in all those thumbnails. I had to accept that this was in fact Urasawa’s own YouTube channel. And from what I can tell, he just decided to make one himself, for fun… and that video has less than 200K views which seems entirely wrong! You should go watch it.
However, if you’re too busy then let me give you my impressions.
I have built up a probably unfair picture in my mind of average Japanese personalities. Not the entertainers but like the everyman. It’s not that different from my general Canadian personality if I’m to be honest but a little more distinguished I guess. Because foreign things always seem more distinguished to me. That Japanese everyman is polite, soft-spoken, to the point and informative. And that is definitely what Urasawa is in these videos.
He’s also supremely chill. I have no idea if it is chemically aided but this guy is so relaxing it’s comforting. You just feel like everything is going to be OK and there’s no pressure whatsoever.
Like I said, mangaka are very private in my experience. And I do believe that for up-and-coming artists, there’s also a certain pressure to maintain a clean public image so that might be another reason they prefer not to overshare. So the idea that I could have direct, unfiltered access to such an epic author seemed too good to be true.
These aren’t scripted interviews, they’re not AMAs. These are little videos where Urasawa talks about whatever he wants to talk about, like an actual YouTuber. And they are precious.
He doesn’t upload too often but he does upload and if you are at all interested in the world of manga artists, these videos are a treasure trove. I have rarely seen anything as informative and authentic.
Oh yeah, let’s talk about authenticity. There is minimum editing. There is some, don’t get me wrong. Especially in that first video! But really aside from the smooth delivery and the occasional voice-overs, there doesn’t seem to be much else going on as far as fancy editing goes. No jump cuts here! The videos all have varying lengths but the longest don’t make it to the half-hour mark and the shortest and between 4 and 6 minutes. There is no advertising that I can see. These are not cash grabs, and they aren’t PR or publicity. He did do a short video to let us know his older works would be available digitally for the first time but that’s as much shilling as there was.
Maybe it’s just me but I find this extremely endearing. Urasawa is in his 60s (he does not look it) and is already an extremely successful and renowned manga artist. He does not need to be on YouTube and he doesn’t really gain much from it either. His channel isn’t owned by a publishing company. He mentions that the YouTube channel was the idea of one of his staff and it seems like they just decided to go for it without much else in mind. Maybe they thought it looked fun and started making videos. And for some reason, that warms my heart. It genuinely makes me happy. And I was flabbergasted this channel existed at all.
So I figured it was high time that I shared it with you guys. I hope someone out there will get the same enjoyment I did from Master Urasawa’s channel!
I quite like this video where he interviews one of his former assistants. If you are curious about the manga industry, I think this will give you a rare glimpse.