You know one of the things I love about manga? Being able to follow an author’s evolution through different works and see what their preferences are like.
Before you begin: Yes, I know the title of this post can be considered ironic since it’s focussing on manga and not live-action stuff…but come on, I can’t pass up a pun like that…
I’m writing this post after reading Heart Gear (and Blue Flag, but I haven’t read Cross Manage) and thinking about why I like welcoming new works by authors I’m already familiar with…well, sometimes that happens with novels and other works, but I’ve realised it happens with manga a fair bit.
I feel like the evolution of a mangaka’s artstyle (those that are responsible for their art, anyway) is more obvious than other kinds of creative evolution. This is because a lot of the non-manga work I can think of – most notably comics – normally has a style that needs to be adhered to, even when having two different artists on the same work and so evolution is only obvious when comparing a much older instalment with a newer one. Meanwhile, for text-only work like blog posts or novels, it’s a lot harder to discern where a creator has gotten better until you actually read the words…as obvious as that sounds.
Certainly, when I delve into my folder of old fanfics and other fiction writing (yes, I still have some of my old content which has since been removed from the internet), I can tell where I evolved based on roughly where I remember the work occurring in my life in real time (or just the timestamps on the files), but other people don’t have such knowledge – it’s basically that, but on a wider geographic scale and with visuals.
In a sense, the art evolving gradually is like watching a person evolve and mature just through the work you get ahold of, even though the mangaka in question can sometimes be a lot older than the reader simply because their works’ popularity means that they had/have to spend part of their life working on it. Long-running shonen is normally the victim for this, since you look at the start and the end chapters and “vastly different” will end up being an understatement.
In Heart Gear‘s case, Black Torch was such a short runner that the author hasn’t really demonstrated much evolution yet, but since the latter has a lot of robots while the former doesn’t, there’s a lot more fine line work being done despite the mangaka’s predilection for using heavy brush work. Other huge cases of this that come to mind pretty often when thinking about this topic are KHR – the characters look outright cartoonish at first but become more bishonen over time – and Yuu Watase’s work, mostly in Arata Kangatari and the original Fushigi Yuugi, where the characters get more angular between the latter and the former.
So, I named a few examples, but what’s the most notable evolution of a mangaka’s artstyle that you’ve come across, whether it be between different works or a long-running single work?