[From July Issue 2011]

TANAKA Keiichi

For those who’d love to draw manga, but aren’t very good at it, the software package “Comipo!,” released in December 2010, is a dream come true. More and more books related to this topic are being published. In April, the software won the Excellent New Technology/New Product Award for Small and Medium-sized Businesses for its innovation. It’s the talk of the town.

Web Technology Corp’s TANAKA Keiichi who planned and produced this software, is also a professional cartoonist who’s created five manga series for magazines. These days more and more cartoonists produce their work on computers. But Tanaka is a member of the old school and prefers to draw manga by hand.

The reason why Tanaka created Comipo! was that he saw that images and speech bubbles are the basic components of manga. “What cannot be communicated with words alone can be understood immediately with images and speech bubbles. Until now, only those who had talent for drawing had that option.” So they developed software with built-in images and frames allowing the user the freedom to create the rest.

Comipo! is very simple to use. First you choose a layout and put characters in it. That’s all. Then you make them pose, change their facial expressions and type in the speech bubbles. The main characters are good-looking girls, but you can “transform” them into, say, old women by changing their hair-do and adding wrinkles. Since the characters are 3D models, you have the freedom to change the point of view; it’s fun to feel as if you are choosing a camera angle for a movie shoot.

When this software was released, other cartoonists gave it a chilly reception. They were afraid of the increased competition and they thought cartoonists should create their own characters. Editors at manga publications believe that someday Comipo! manga will be submitted to their magazines. But they worry whether these easy to create images can be called manga.

However, Tanaka feels this type of reaction is similar to when digital music first came on the scene. Some complained that sounds made without real musical instruments couldn’t be considered music. “Hand-drawn manga and those created by Comipo! have completely different merits. Hand-drawn manga will still be around even if Comipo! becomes the norm in the future.”

Because of its capacity to illustrate points visually along with speech bubbles, Comipo! is used for business applications such as presentations and product explanations. To revitalize the local economy, the city of Miyoshi in Hiroshima Prefecture used this software on its yuzu-ponzu (citrus-based sauce) packaging. Based on the philosophy that Comipo! is just a tool. Each work will have a personal touch despite the similarity of images and the copyright of the images created using Comipo! belongs to the creator entirely.

The scenes are limited basically to schools and the characters are mainly good-looking girls, so so far, users are mostly male. The software still has many challenges to meet, such as attracting more female users by offering a wider variety of images. But there are already some user communities who exchange 3D creations or image data. An English version will be launched this summer. How will the tool be utilized by overseas users who are only used to reading manga? New developments are expected.


Text: ICHIMURA Masayo













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