Could AI replace manga artist assistants? AI startup founder shows “16-page manga completed without drawing,” sparking discussion about loss of human jobs 

Japanese AI startup founder Takahiro Anno introduced his almost fully automated comic generation process on Japanese television on September 21. The idea has caused discussion about manga artist’s assistants/apprentices potentially being replaced by AI and other effects the use of generative AI technology may have on Japan’s comic industry. 

Appearing on Japanese web television, Takahiro Anno presents his idea as a way for even people who don’t have experience drawing or the skills needed to create a comic (like himself) to create “professional-looking manga” using generative AI. The first step of his process is the only fully human-operated one, and consists of creating a storyboard of the desired manga page. The storyboard shown by Anno includes speech bubbles and very rough depictions of characters and their movements and facial expressions.  

From here on, the process is taken over by AI – the next step, character creation, consists of giving the AI keywords based on which the character’s appearance is defined. Anno instructs the AI to create his character using words such as “1girl, dynamic pose, smile, bob hair” etc., based on which the AI generates several options to select from. Portions of the image that get botched by the AI (most often hands and fingertips) can be erased and replaced with the AI once again offering options for possible corrections. This is followed by “inking” and finalizing the art, also handled automatically. 

Anno explains that using this method, he created 16 full pages of his manga over the course of a week, adding that difficulties he encountered were mostly rooted in getting the AI to correctly understand the storyboard and not misinterpret things. He seems optimistic that, by improving the level of control over the AI and extent of possible fine adjustments, AI generated manga can reach an even higher level. 

The notion of “anyone being able to create manga using AI technology” has unsurprisingly caused some comments from the public such as “will this cause the assistants of manga artists to lose their jobs and ruin the tradition of apprenticeship?” or “will this cause manga artists themselves to go out of work as publishers switch to AI?” And, although manga artists pairing up AI with their existing skills to create shortcuts in their tight schedules does seem like a (positive) possibility, the idea of complete non-artists being able to create manga given the right technology seems a bit naïve, as it boils comic-making down to “putting ideas on paper,” ignoring skills such as composition, character design, visual storytelling and so much more. 

The topic is also inevitably followed by the question of machine learning and how to source materials the manga-making AI will learn from without infringing on the rights of others, as is the case with AI illustrations as well. 

While Anno’s manga definitely reaches a certain level of completion, it can hardly be called “professional-looking,” as inconsistencies pop up the longer one searches for them. At the level things are at currently, rather than artists going out of work, a more likely negative consequence could be the market getting “flooded” with slightly off-looking AI generated manga, which could once again lead to online communities pleading for AI work to be segregated from human-made art (Related article).


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