the Japanese serene in the face of manga created by an AI

the Japanese serene in the face of manga created by an AI

Artificial intelligence can now pour into comics. Some professionals worry about it. Others believe they can cohabit with these new creators.

The author of a manga which will be released Thursday in Japan admits to having “zero” talent for drawing: his work, the first in the country entirely created by an artificial intelligence, raises concerns for employment and Copyright in this lucrative industry. All the futuristic contraptions and creatures in this sci-fi manga titled Cyberpunk: Peach John are the work of the Midjourney program, an AI tool that appeared last year that wowed the planet, with other similar programs like Stable Diffusion or DALL-E 2.

Rootport, the pseudonym of the author of Cyberpunk: Peach John, produced his 100-page manga in just six weeks. A confirmed artist would normally have taken a year to produce the same product, he estimates. “It was a fun journey, a bit like playing the lottery”told AFP the 37-year-old man.

To create his artwork, Rootport entered keywords like “pink hair”, “asian boy” And “jacket”, and the machine gave birth in about a minute to the images of the hero of the story, whose face is however quite different from one box to another. He then assembled the best results on a comic book page to make the book, entirely in color unlike manga “classics”and which is already making a lot of noise online before its publication.


For the author, image generators using AI have “opened the way for people without artistic talent” provided they have good stories to tell. Rootport recounts the satisfaction felt when his textual instructions, such as “incantations” magic, engendered images. “But is it as satisfying as when you’ve drawn something yourself? Probably not”he admits.

The Midjourney program, developed in the United States, quickly met with worldwide success with his fantastic creations, sometimes absurd or even frightening, but often surprisingly sophisticated, inviting many artists to question their profession. AIs have also sometimes caused legal controversy, and the start-up behind Stable Diffusion has been sued for having “fed” its AI with copyrighted material.

At Japan, while elected officials have expressed concern about the issue, experts have estimated that copyright infringement remains unlikely, in the event that AI creations come from simple text commands. Other voices fear, on the other hand, that this technology will harm the employment of young mangakas. Already in the sights of anti-AI, Netflix streaming platform was criticized in January for airing a Japanese cartoon with sets generated using artificial intelligence.

“The possibility that the assistants of the mangakas are replaced» one day by a machine “is not zero”, believes Satoshi Kurihara, professor at Keio University in Tokyo, who in 2020 published an AI-assisted manga with his team. Almost all the drawings of this production in the style of the pioneer of this graphic genre, Osamu Tezuka, had been made by humans. But since then, AI has become “top quality” and will definitely influence the manga industry, he thinks.

The ghost in the manga

I don’t really see AI as a threat. I rather think that she can be an excellent companion“, However, believes Madoka Kobayashi, manga artist for more than 30 years. AI can “help me visualize what I have in mind, and suggest ideas, which I then try to improve”, she adds. “I am convinced that humans are always betterto imagine scenarios, also very important in manga, she emphasizes again.

At the Tokyo Design Academy where she teaches, Madoka Kobayashi invites her students to observe figurines to improve their drawing of details such as muscles or folds in clothing. “AI images are great, but I’m more attracted to human drawings, precisely because they are ‘messy'”, says Ginjiro Uchida, an 18-year-old student. Computer programs find it difficult to draw hands or faces with deliberately exaggerated proportions like a real mangaka, and “humans have an even greater sense of humor“, does he think.

Three major Japanese publishers interviewed did not wish to express their vision of the future impact of AI on the manga industry. Rootport doubts 100% AI-powered manga will become mainstream, but “don’t think either that the manga made without any AI will dominate forever”.

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