The Arrival of a New Era: AI Manga
Examples of AI-Generated Manga and its Impact on the Industry
Barcelona, Spain — April 4, 2023 — In the constantly evolving world of art, there’s a new player that’s stirring things up: AI Manga, a fresh art genre that merges artificial intelligence with human imagination in the manga industry. We had the privilege of sitting down and chatting with Roger Haus, an accomplished digital creator with over a decade of experience in art direction, an enthusiastic voice for digital and AI artists through his work at Exquisite Workers and in NFT space since 2020.
But before we delve into our discussion of AI Manga, let’s take a moment to reflect on the history of manga prior to the technological revolution.
What is manga?
The word ´manga´, which means “whimsical drawings” in Japanese, refers to a wide range of comic book styles, including shojo (aimed at young girls), shonen (aimed at young boys), josei (aimed at adult women), and seinen (aimed at adult men).
Manga has a rich history in Japan, with some of the earliest examples dating back to the 12th century. However, it wasn’t until the 20th century that manga truly became a cultural phenomenon. The post-World War II era saw the rise of popular manga magazines like Shonen Jump, which featured serialized stories by some of the most famous manga artists of all time, including Akira Toriyama, Rumiko Takahashi, Osamu Tezuka, Hayao Miyazaki etc.
First published in 1952, Tezuka’s Astro Boy series ran for over 20 years and helped to establish the popularity of manga not only in Japan but also around the world. The story is set in a futuristic world where robots coexist with humans and follows the adventures of a robot boy named Atom, who possesses human emotions and the ability to think, feel, and love like a human. Astro Boy not only highlighted new themes and ideas to manga but also introduced new visual techniques. Tezuka’s use of dynamic panel layouts, expressive character designs, and cinematic pacing were all groundbreaking for manga at the time. Additionally, the series tackled social and ethical issues, such as discrimination and the fear of technology, making it a thought-provoking work that appealed to both children and adults.
Miyazaki, who was a longtime admirer of Tezuka’s work, has cited him as a major influence on his own career and approach to storytelling. In fact, Miyazaki worked for Tezuka’s production company, Mushi Productions, early in his career, and it was there that he honed his skills as an animator and director. Miyazaki is known for his iconic animated films, such as Spirited Away and My Neighbor Totoro, which have gained a cult following around the world.
Spirited Away tells the story of a young girl named Chihiro who becomes trapped in a mysterious spirit world, while My Neighbor Totoro follows the adventures of two young sisters who discover friendly forest spirits in rural Japan. Miyazaki’s films are known for their beautiful animation, imaginative storytelling, and attention to detail in depicting Japanese culture and folklore. His work has garnered critical acclaim and a devoted following worldwide.
Manga began to gain popularity outside of Japan in the 1970s and 1980s, when a number of anime adaptations of popular manga series were released in the United States and Europe. Some of the most famous examples include Dragon Ball, Speed Racer,etc. These shows helped to introduce Western audiences to the world of manga and anime, paving the way for the genre’s eventual global success.
One of the key factors in the success of manga is its ability to appeal to a wide range of audiences. There are many different genres of manga, including action, romance, comedy, horror, and more. One of the key features of manga is its distinctive visual style. Manga art is often characterized by its use of:
- big eyes
- exaggerated expressions
- dynamic panel layouts
- intricate world-building and storytelling
Tezuka was heavily influenced by Western comic books, particularly the works of Walt Disney, and he incorporated many elements of Disney’s animation style into his own work. One of the key features of Disney’s animation style is the use of exaggerated facial emotions. Tezuka adopted this technique in his own work, and it soon became a defining feature of manga as a whole. The large, expressive eyes that are so common in manga are meant to convey a wide range of emotions, from joy and excitement to sadness and despair.
Another reason for the exaggerated art style in manga is its focus on action and movement. Manga often features dynamic action scenes, and the exaggerated style helps to convey the sense of speed and motion that is so important in these scenes. The expressive eyes also play a key role in conveying the characters’ emotions during these intense action scenes.
In recent years, manga has continued to gain popularity around the world. It has inspired countless adaptations in other media, including films, TV shows, and video games. With the rise of AI-generated manga, we are seeing a new era of innovation and creativity in this beloved art form.
What is AI Manga then?
AI Manga represents a cultural shift in the world of manga and the art world at large. Manga generated with AI is a groundbreaking new blend of human creativity and artificial intelligence that is sure to inspire and captivate audiences around the world.
The technology behind AI involves the use of neural networks, which are computer systems that are designed to mimic the way that the human brain works. These networks can be trained on large amounts of data, such as images of existing manga artwork, to learn the patterns and styles that are typical of manga. Once the neural network has been trained, it can be used to generate new manga-style images from scratch. This is done by inputting a set of parameters or constraints, such as the desired character design, color palette, and so on. The neural network then generates a new image that meets these constraints, using the patterns and styles that it has learned from the training data.
AI Manga is more than just a technological innovation. It also represents a merging of cultures and styles, as artists from different parts of the world and historical moments come together in the mind of the machine.
“Whether it’s a fusion of traditional Japanese manga with Western sci-fi influences, or a mix of classic and contemporary art styles, AI Manga represents a true melting pot of creative ideas and inspirations,” — Roger Haus.
In a world where artificial intelligence is becoming increasingly sophisticated, AI Manga offers a unique and thought-provoking perspective on our relationship with technology and the role it plays in shaping our cultural and artistic landscape. AI Manga challenges us to rethink our understanding of what it means to be human. By blurring the lines between human and machine, this new art genre forces us to confront questions around identity, consciousness, and the nature of creativity itself.
Roger shares that AI technology has the potential to be a game changer for manga artists, freeing them from the draining and time-consuming tasks that often lead to overworking and poor health. Tools like Midjourney makes the creative process easier for creators and improve the quality of their stories by allowing them to devote more time and energy to the creative aspects of manga.
Where AI Manga actually starts?
“Kokoro no Me” (2018)
Kokoro no Me by Fujitani Youko was one of the first known manga created through a unique collaboration between human and artificial intelligence. The manga was produced using an AI system developed by Hitoshi Matsubara, a professor at Future University Hakodate in Japan, that is capable of generating story ideas and rough sketches.
Kokoro no Me was first serialized in Monthly Morning Two magazine from May 2018 to November 2018. The story follows a high school girl named Aoi, who has the ability to read people’s emotions through their eyes. She is recruited by a private detective agency to help them solve cases by using her unique ability. Unfortunately, Kokoro no Me was only serialized for a short time, and it hasn’t been officially translated or published in English.
What’s particularly interesting about Kokoro no Me is the way in which the AI system was able to generate ideas and sketches that were then used by the human artist to create a compelling story. This collaborative approach could have far-reaching implications for the future of manga and other creative industries, as it opens up new possibilities for using AI in the creative process.
Monthly Morning Two magazine ceased publication due to declining sales and profitability. The last printed magazine was released in Japan on July 22, 2022. It is unfortunate that the magazine was not successful enough to continue publishing, but the collaboration between human and AI in creating Kokoro no Me remains an interesting and innovative achievement in the world of manga. Here is a link to the official website of Kodansha, the publisher of Monthly Morning Two in Japanese: https://www.kodansha.co.jp/
Another example of the use of AI in manga creation is the Paidon book which was released in a weekly Japanese comic magazine called Morning in February 2020. The AI learned the artistic style of Osamu Tezuka by analyzing 65 of his works, including Black Jack and the unfinished Phoenix. The AI then generated character designs and basic storylines, which were completed by professional creators adding dialogue and clothing.
The project was launched by Kioxia Holdings Corp., with the cooperation of Tezuka Productions Co. and Keio University professor Satoshi Kurihara, who specializes in AI and computing. The story introduces a homeless philosopher who, together with a bird robot called Apollo, tries to solve criminal cases in Tokyo in 2030.
Makoto Tezuka, the son of Osamu Tezuka, said he hopes this technology will contribute to spreading the unique culture of Japanese manga to the world and to the training of young manga artists.
“AI Manga” Social Media Filter (2022)
AI-powered filter called AI Manga was released in December 2022. It allowed users to transform themselves into anime-style characters enhancing their digital experiences and offering a fun way for people to express themselves in a new and creative way. The filter was developed by the Japanese tech company WingArc1st and became available on social media.
To use the filter, users simply take a selfie or upload a photo, and the AI technology maps the user’s facial features onto an anime-style character. Users can then customize the character’s hair, clothes, and other details to create their own unique anime persona.
The filter has gained popularity among anime fans and has been used by many social media influencers to create engaging content. However, some people have raised concerns about the potential misuse of the technology, such as using it to create fake profiles or manipulate images for nefarious purposes. Currently AI Manga filter is not available on Instagram but it is still possible to use it on TikTok.
“AI Art is Not Art” by Claire Silver (2022)
In August 2022, the American artist Claire Silver released AI Art is Not Art NFT Collection of 500 AI-Collaborative pieces on Ethereum blockchain. The body of work was aiming to challenge the traditional notions of what constitutes “art.” Using a variety of accessible AI tools, including Artbreeder, Prosepainter, Collage by Studio Morphogen, Midjourney, Diffusion, StabilityAI, and Dalle2, Claire Silver combined multiple art movements into a unique aesthetic. 239 of the pieces feature references to manga art, further blurring the lines between human and machine creativity.
While the new movement of AI-Collaborative art faced criticism for lacking artistic value and skill, Claire Silver has been drawing on art history and blending it with the cutting-edge technology to create unique collaborations with AI since 2021. AI Art is Not Art NFT Collection is thought-provoking and encourages viewers to question their own understanding of art and the role of technology in shaping it.
“Archetypes” by Nate Talbot (2022)
Archetypes is an AI art NFT collection created by a Canadian visual artist Nate Talbot in September 2022. The collection of 557 pieces features an innovative approach to synthesizing the works introduced on Ethereum blockchain. After collecting two artworks, the collector of the digital assets is able to mutate them using burn token ARK.
The collection is a constantly evolving exploration of the intersection between different genres and aesthetics, including manga, where a work’s meaning can change as its form is in a state of flux. Through Archetypes, Nate Talbot seeks to explore how AI art engages with the collective consciousness of all art history, by combining the aesthetics of artists both living and dead. The collection aims to uncover essential and universal symbols that emerge through this unique creative process.
Nate Talbot holds a degree in Philosophy and Fine Arts from the University of Windsor. His work combines various technologies, including VR, 3D scanning, AI, and holograms, to explore his identity, the emergent self, and techno-spirituality. Nate Talbot delves into the relationship between high technology and natural objects, as well as human entanglements with technology, to form his liminal identity as a mixed Ojibwe-black-settler man. Through his art, Nate Talbot invites viewers to contemplate the self as a coinhabited assemblage and the illusionary nature of identity. Additionally, Nate Talbot explores technology’s introspective and integrative spiritual properties.
“Cyberpunk: Peach John” by Rootport (2023)
In March 2023, AI-generated manga Cyberpunk: Peach John authored by Rootport was published by Shinchosha in Japan. The story features the Japanese folklore hero Momotaro living in a dystopian future, with sci-fi-inspired imagery entirely produced by artificial intelligence. Rootport created the storyline and dialogue, and illustrated the work using Midjourney, an online image generator that can produce detailed pictures based on text descriptions. The comic book includes a 10-page how-to guide telling readers how to produce their own AI-generated manga.
While online AI imaging tools like Midjourney have exploded in popularity since becoming publicly available last year, in the moment of creation the application was not able to produce the perfect images for specific scenes. For instance, Midjourney was not able to directly replicate existing characters in new poses or with different facial expressions, so Rootport gave his characters distinctive features that would help readers recognize them. Additionally, AI imaging tools notoriously struggle to accurately render human hands. Despite these challenges, Cyberpunk: Peach John was completed in just six weeks and spans over 100 pages, rendered in full color. According to Rootport, a work of this scale would take over a year to complete by hand. The publishing house behind the work believes it to be the world’s first complete AI-generated manga comic book.
“HAI” NFT Collection by Roger Haus (2023)
In March 2023, Roger Haus released the HAI NFT Collection, which became the first exclusive AI Manga series in a form of digital assets minted on the Ethereum blockchain.
“While there have been instances of AI being used to create manga, I saw the need to define it as a new art style. I introduced the term ‘AI Manga,’ which I hope will pave the way for a new era of art and storytelling that merges human imagination with technological innovation in manga,” — Roger Haus.
The HAI NFT Collection is a striking visual experience resulting in images that are half people and half cyborgs. At the heart of HAI, there is a fusion of manga with different art movements, such as De Stil, Surrealism, Expressionism, Constructivism, Dadaism, Glitch Art, Cyberpunk, Weirdcore, Cubism, Pixel Art and more.
The titles of each piece in the HAI NFT Collection were crafted in collaboration with Japanese artist and comicbook writer Shohei Emura, a member of Exquisite Workers. The titles refer to the concepts that underpin the use of artificial intelligence, such as 突破 — Break Through, 光芒 — Ray of Light, 虚の関係 — Imaginary Relationship, 未来 — Future, 進化 — Evolution, 先駆者 — Pioneer among others.
The “HAI” in the name of the collection is a play on words, as it not only means “yes” or “I understand” in Japanese but also references the “AI” or “artificial intelligence” within the series.
“The Japanese language seems destined to give birth to AI art, and “hai” is the secret ingredient all along. Each piece is my attempt to portrait the soul of AI art,” — Roger Haus.
The HAI NFT collection is comprised of multiple editions released every two weeks across different marketplaces, each containing a unique set of generative art pieces. The first edition released on Foundation NFT Marketplace features 40 pieces created using Midjourney V4, while the second edition includes 80 pieces generated with Midjourney V5. It’s also worth noting that the HAI NFT collection provides a unique opportunity to track the development of generative art technology. As AI continues to progress and evolve, looking back on the collection in the future will allow us to see what was created during this exciting time in the field’s history. The collection is a reflection of the artist’s creative journey and includes a tribute piece dedicated to Claire Silver artist mentioned earlier, known for the use of her pink hair Cryptopunk avatar on social media.
In conclusion, AI has brought a new dimension to manga, allowing for the creation of unique and innovative works that blend the creativity of human authors and the computational power of artificial intelligence. From the early experiments with AI-generated manga characters to the more recent projects that combine different art styles and genres, AI manga represents a new era in the world of comics and graphic novels. While some may argue that AI-generated manga lacks the emotional depth and nuance of human-created works, others see it as an exciting new frontier for artistic expression and storytelling.
With the ongoing development of AI technologies and the increasing popularity of NFTs, it’s likely that we’ll see even more groundbreaking works of AI Manga in the future. As AI technology continues to evolve and impact the creative industries, it’s important to consider the ethical implications and establish guidelines to ensure that both human and artificial creators are treated fairly and equitably.
New manga created by AI and inspired by late ‘Astro Boy’ creator Osamu Tezuka hits bookshelves (https://www.japantimes.co.jp/culture/2020/02/27/entertainment-news/new-osamu-tezuka-inspired-manga-created-ai-published/)
AI-penned manga Paidon to be published this week
Japan’s first AI manga has people asking: Is it machine magic or art menace? (https://www.japantimes.co.jp/life/2023/03/07/digital/japans-first-ai-manga-people-asking-machine-magic-art-menace/)
Machine magic or art menace? Japan’s first AI manga (https://www.hindustantimes.com/lifestyle/art-culture/machine-magic-or-art-menace-japan-s-first-ai-manga-101678109764470.html)
How to Get the AI Manga Filter on TikTok (https://sea.mashable.com/life/22119/how-to-get-the-ai-manga-filter-on-tiktok)
Picture Limitless Creativity at Your Fingertips (https://www.wired.com/story/picture-limitless-creativity-ai-image-generators/)
AI Manga: ¿cómo utilizar el filtro de moda que te convierte en un personaje de anime? (https://larepublica.pe/tecnologia/actualidad/2022/12/10/ai-manga-como-usar-el-filtro-de-moda-que-te-convierte-en-un-personaje-de-anime)
People Have Raised Serious Concerns About The AI Art App That’s All Over Your Instagram Feed (https://edition.cnn.com/style/article/japan-first-ai-generated-manga-art-intl-hnk/index.html)
‘It’s the opposite of art’: why illustrators are furious about AI (https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2023/jan/23/its-the-opposite-of-art-why-illustrators-are-furious-about-ai)
Monthly Morning Two cesará su publicación (https://ramenparados.com/la-revista-monthly-morning-two-cesara-su-publicacion/)
This is Japan’s first AI-generated manga comic. But is it art (https://edition.cnn.com/style/article/japan-first-ai-generated-manga-art-intl-hnk/index.html)
Do you have any questions?
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Would like to try the AI tools and do not know where to start?
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