Adventures in Illustration: Anime and Manga

Continuing my series on influential illustrators and artists, this time with a focus on anime and manga. I lump them together because, to be honest, I didn’t read much manga as a kid. I only got into it in college, I did watch anime though, mostly horror anime before those were scrubbed from Sci-Fi Channel in the late 90s. Then it was on the internet, until that got scrubbed and the copyright lawyers swept in. The ones I was drawn to had occult symbolism or psychological themes, and that continues ot this day (jeez, I wonder why!), so let’s get into it!

Vampire Hunter D (1985)

Werewolf eating a horse
Just look at this badass werewolf scene!

Legitimately one of the first animes I ever saw, this film is 80s anime goodness. It aired late at night on Sci-Fi channel, and my mom was awesome and into horror enough to record it. We watched it endlessly as kids, and its exaggerated style and unique monsters, along with the detailed backdrops and set designs, still inspire me. Gory, quotable, and all around a great film.

Kazuki Tskahashi: Duel Monsters

Dark Magician Girl with her intended occult imagery

Yes, I’m a Yu-Gi-Oh! fangirl from way back when. Loved the anime, played in tournaments, collected cards, and still play Duel Links. The art style is so stylized and beautiful. I remember people making fun of it, but it’s incredibly iconic. It’s made a big impact on my style.

Fun fact: Takahashi did a ton of research into the occult, and particularly ancient Egyptian religious practices and beliefs. He incorporated these in the manga, all the way down to the hieroglyphs.

 Demon City Shinjuku (1988)

Beautiful backgrounds and fire characterized this anime from the 80s/90s horror anime boom. This was part of Sci-Fi Channel’s now defunct Saturday Anime slot airing kate at night, and it didn’t disappoint. It’s had many others like it come and go — man fights demons in a post-apocalyptic city — but this was a first for me. Very much like Vampire Hunter D but with more extreme gore and violence, this one left it’s mark.

Akira (1988)

You know what’s coming next.

Yes, I know. Everyone has this on their list. But it’s there for good reason. The mounting dread, psychological torment, and surreal transformation with extreme gore (you know what scene I mean) was scarring in a good way. It’s not perfect, but it’s a classic for a reason.

“The Enigma of Amigara Fault,” Junji Ito

Oh boy …

I know I named him earlier, but this is one of his classics. It has all the dread and weirdness you expect of Ito, but it also has amazing depth (pun intended). Having taught this short once, it was revealing how much my students loved it and referenced it for the rest of the semester, despite most of them never reading a comic let alone manga before. It’s a fantastic metaphor for obsession, depression, and the urge to destroy oneself to fill a void.

Did any of these ring true for you? What’s had a big influence on your art style?

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