Manga and Photocopiers: A Brief History

imgThe Mandana Tsushin (Manga Bookshelf Transmissions) blog has an article regarding the advent of the Xerox machine (photocopier) and its effect on manga, primarily relating to one of its early adopters, Leiji Matsumoto.

About photocopying

In 1977, Leiji Matsumoto was a busy man; he was working on "Galaxy Express 999", "Space Pirate Captain Harlock", "Planet Robot Dangard Ace", "Dai Junjo-kun"...the world was awash in Matsumoto mania.

In Matsumoto's works of that era, there would be instances where he would draw a spaceship once, and then photocopy it and re-use the same drawing more than 20 times. Resizing, copying, cutting, pasting, editing...the methodology of drawing manga grew closer to what we do on our computer monitors in this modern digital age. The photocopier changed the way manga was drawn.

The photocopiers we refer to here are the plain paper copiers we currently use. Plain paper copiers were preceded by diazo-printing reprography (blueprints), which is still in use for certain items such as architectural drawings due to their low cost and high levels of detail.

The first modern-day photocopier was developed in the United States by Xerox towards the tail end of the 1950's. In the manga and anime fields, Disney's 1961 release of "101 Dalmatians" was the first to use Xeroxes to transfer images from film to cels. This was probably done to save time tracing the numerous dogs that showed up in the film, but as an added side effect the use of Xeroxes meant that pencil lines could be recreated on cels, and a sense of speed and texture could be expressed on screen, albeit at the expense of rough-looking pictures.

In Japan, Toei's 1969 film "Tiger Mask" is famous for its use of rough, Xerox-produced lines. However, Xeroxes had high operational costs and were time-consuming, and consequently were not very popular among Japanese animators, who often opted to use tracing machines instead. Tracing machines transferred images from film to cels by sandwiching a sheet of carbon paper between the two, but could not recreate line widths as well as Xeroxes. Tracings from earlier times were, obviously, done by hand (and nowadays, digitally).

In Japan, Fuji-Xerox began selling photocopiers in 1962. Domestic models did not go on sale until the 1970's.

Briefly flipping through some of Leiji Matsumoto's works, "Otoko Oidon (I'm a Man)" (1971-1973, Weekly Shonen Magazine) did not use photocopying techniques, but they started showing up in "Wadachi" (1973-1974, Weekly Shonen Magazine). Initially, they were used for mob scenes, and later on for recollection scenes. A few years after that, photocopying had become so ubiquitous in his work that things like spaceships were almost always photocopied, which was somewhat understandable considering how time-consuming mecha are to draw. Perhaps he implemented anime methodology into manga.

Around this time, photocopiers became widely available to the public as well, and people began copying other peoples' notes, creating photocopied doujinshi etc. Other uses for photocopiers in manga included making intentionally blurry copies for an eerie effect, something people like Jiro Tsunoda probably used for horror manga. Towards the end of its serialization run, "NiJitte Monogatari (The Tale of Two Swords)" (Satomi Kamie/Kazuo Koike) began using the same character's face over and over again on virtually every page (the mouths and eyebrows were slightly altered on each page), which was a rather questionable methodology with decidedly bizarre-looking results.

Nowadays, photocopiers are often used on color pages; however, chances are that these will also be digitized and completed on computer monitors eventually.

Translated by Neuroretardant