Saturday, December 14, 2019

Blank Canvas volume 3 in which Akiko makes her debut (Manga Review)

A young adult woman in a white t-shirt, holding citrus fruit branches and wearing a bunny hat
Blank Canvas: My so-called artist's journey Volume 3 - 7.5/10

In Blank Canvas volume 3 (Seven Seas), our author and auto-biographer, finally bridges the gap between her schooling in painting and drawing and her work as a mangaka. However, the foreboding foreshadowing of the prior volumes (in which I think something bad eventually happens to her high-school drawing instructor) are mostly missing from this volume. Instead, it concentrates on her life after graduation and first steps towards getting published.

After graduation, Akiko is forced to move back with her parents and leave her boyfriend to finish his studies. While with her parents, she gets a job working in her sensei's art studio where she displays a natural talent for pushing the promising students even further along. The two make a formidable teaching pair, but ultimately it won't pay the bills and her family insists she get a "real" job. But somehow she manages to still go to sensei's studio and also finally submits her first manga one-shot.

I believe the story "concludes" in volume 4, which likely will bring us up to the current time, or thereabouts, with Higashimura-sensei having achieved the fame and recognition as a top-tier manga artist with some of her series seven being turned into anime, and all that.

But it is the lingering foreshadowing, heavier in the first two volumes, and hinted at only in the final pages here, of what happens to her high-school sensei that I am most interested in. This seems to be the emotional core of the story, and I'm honestly dreading what feels like an ominous and sad outcome. However, that isn't the driving force in this volume, perhaps unfortunately, as the volume is more a step-by-step recounting of this time-period without much emotional stake.

I don't have a lot to say otherwise for this volume, because: a) it's autobiographical and I'm not going to judge someone's real life and b) it's overall well written and drawn and follows well from the first two volumes which I also really liked. As a fan of her work, it's wonderful to learn about her past, and there are so many times where her story will resonate with gen-x, gen-y, gen-z/millenials about their own transition from childhood to adulthood.

The art is very much her style, but also has a sketchiness and realism that is subtly different than her main work but fits well with the autobiography genre. She also takes some wonderful liberties in using other famous mangaka's styles to depict certain panels in this volume about the time she is working through her debut with the publisher. It's so cool to see her cop her favorite mangaka's styles and how she fits it in to her own story.

So if you've liked the series so far, or if you want an autobiography that touches on the transition to adult-hood and also the manga industry, this is a great series. The heroine (again, a real person) is both likable and fallible, the perfect combination. The art is lose but emotive. All in all, a pleasant and fun read, but with some heartbreak likely on the horizon. Perhaps a story where we know that the overall outcome is joyous (she becomes a famous mangaka) is best tempered by the reality that life is complex and hard (what will happen to sensei?).

With all this praise, why didn't I give it a higher score? This volume is enjoyable, but relatively low-stakes. There isn't a lot of inter-character interaction other than her times with sensei. The writing feels a little bit straightforward, just checking off the events as they occurred. It's interesting and enjoyable, but it isn't profound and hasn't really brought me into a deep emotional state while reading. So it's good, just not life-changing.

I hesitated to even write that last paragraph because I hate seeming to judge someone's real life. What I am trying to convey is whether this autobiography works as a piece of literature. In that context, it is good, but with room to to grow from a writing craft standpoint (even though the underlying story must stay true to life). Therefore, Blank Canvas volume 3 gets a 7.5/10.


Please legitimately purchase or borrow manga and anime. Never read scanlations or watch fansubs. Those rob the creators of the income they need to survive and reduce the chance of manga and anime being legitimately released in English.

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