Akiko Hayashi has soaring but strangely specific dreams: to make a successful manga debut while still in school, have her favorite actor star in its adaptation, and end up marrying him. However, she is far from having the motivation or skills to realize these hopes. When a friend introduces her to an unorthodox, backstreet art class taught by the strong-armed Kenzou Hidaka, called simply as "Sensei," Akiko decides to enroll, expecting an easy ride and an automatic improvement in her art skills. To her chagrin, what she gets is something else entirely—a tough, demanding, and uncompromising teacher with absolutely no interest in manga.
But when Akiko takes up Sensei's challenge of an intense schedule, she comes to recognize how much he cares about his students and forms a close bond with him. With Sensei's guidance, Akiko learns what is necessary to become a successful mangaka as well as what it means to be an adult.
If you have read or watched Bakuman., you might have learned a thing or two about manga. But while the series is quite insightful as far as the actual creating process from character design to storyboard to inking is concerned, it doesn't feel all that more realistic than other Shōnen Jump titles. After all, Ashirogi Muto make their big breakthrough while still in freaking high school. Granted, Bakuman. doesn't shy away from the truth that luck is a critical determinant on the way to publication. But in the end, it's a story fueled by the love of shōnen manga, and as such comes with a
lot of that ferocious competitive drive, the inspiring rivalries, the showdowns.
Kakukaku Shikajika shares Bakuman.'s premise in that it's about the making of a mangaka. Taking the autobiographic approach, however, it tells a real story of detours, dead ends, and what makes someone slacken or persevere at different points in time. This is not to say that nothing was exaggerated for effect's sake. I'm sure a few things were, but the point remains that Kakukaku Shikajika is not so much an inspirational story as it a truthful account of one woman's life as an artist. There is some unpleasantness. It is neither glossed over nor is it over-dramatized. But while events are presented in a matter-of-factly fashion looking back from a more comfortable place, there is still a very tangible sense of embarrassment – shame even – as one reflects the choices of a younger self. The strength of Kakukaku Shikajika lies in its subtle emotionality, that tinge of regret running through the story that reaches a new intensity toward the end.
Higashimura Akiko is best known for Kuragehime which received both an anime as well as more recently, a live action adaptation. For Kakukaku Shikajika, she uses her real name Hayashi Akiko to retrace her drawing career beginning with her high school days and ending with the present, fitting some non-linear snippets in here and there. With one year left until graduation, Akiko has it all planned out. The goal is to attend the painting department of a prestigious arts college in Tokyo, make her debut as a shōjo mangaka somewhere along the way, use the earnings to pay off her tuition debt, and, upon college graduation, get married to famous actor Toyokawa Etsushi. What could go wrong, right? Phases of overconfidence, hitting creative blocks, poking fun at the ridiculousness of art school, doubts whether it is "worth it", your own as well as that of those around you, the stigma attached to drawing comics – there is a lot in here that the aspiring artists out there should be able to relate to.
But Kakukaku Shikajika also excels at depicting more universal struggles. The pivotal point of the story is the mentee-mentor relationship that forms between the author and Hidaka Kenzō, an eccentric old man who offers art classes in a tiny studio in a small town by the sea. Hard to get to if one does not have a car, Akiko is convinced by a friend that this is the place for her to be if she is serious about getting into arts college. Hidaka-sensei promptly informs an entitled Akiko that her sketches suck. He's the kind of man who will chew everyone out regardless of who they are, make them draw the same thing over and over and over until they get it just right, while hitting them with a bamboo sword. Nevertheless, he shows extraordinary acts of kindness from time to time, like when he carries an Akiko feigning sickness to the bus station. It is in retrospect that the author recognizes good motives also behind his strictness, and from resenting what he made her do goes to realizing that not only could he have been a more sympathetic teacher but she, too, could have been a better student. That willingness to think yourself into someone else's skin and ability to admit your own shortfalls is one of the most important aspects of maturity and in this regard, this is also a classic coming-of-age tale.
Given Kakukaku Shikajika has been fully translated, the number of people who marked it as completed came as a surprise to me. I'm writing this in hopes of being able to spark someone's interest in the manga, as it's one of the most worthwhile ones out there.
Kakukaku Shikajika (spoiler free review)
Wow, this story is exactly what manga is about, literally and in meaning.
I've always loved how close the relationship between author and viewer is, which is what ultimately made me adore manga so much... Is this my first time reading an autobiography? Maybe, my memory sucks. But wow, to be able to live this woman's life as days went by, with her present perspective on her past, her knowledge... It's truly magical; not much else to add (jk, ofc there's more).
What she put at the end of her last volume is especially original and I felt it was
a necessity... Such a well done work of art, really.
It is the perfect length, art is kept simple and has a signification (/reason) being that way, characters are obviously real and extremely fun to follow... I mean, reading an autobiography is something very 'curious' to do (I'd be willing to use the term perverted here, even though it's nothing sexual - maybe it's more of a French term); it feels like spying into somebody's private / personal life, but on top of all of that, to be given permission to do it... Her time lapses and the timing she shifts gives the manga this very disorganized-cute 'oh I HAVE to mention THIS; oh and this too!!' type of feeling that just makes us bond more with the author.
Anyways, in case it wasn't clear enough, it felt great, and I can't not favorite this 'chef-d'oeuvre' by the clumsy, lazy, but straightforward and honest Akiko Hayashi. 10/10
Consider Shirobako, a story that wraps the poignant insecurities of young adult career pursuit with a silly, heartwarming, and optimistic exterior. Now douse the narration with the mature reflections of an older adult looking back at their silly past, and sprinkle in evocative moments of warm nostalgia and sentimental regret.
Kakukaku Shikajika is the autobiography of now 40 year old mangaka Akiko Higashimura, and the title meaning "blah blah blah" is derived from the author's intentions of telling her life story in a natural, informal structure, lending itself to frequent tangents and moments of personal reflection. It's a story about a clueless high school girl
blindly following through with her passion in the arts. An unmotivated arts college student finding herself incapable of doing anything productive. A self-centered young adult wrestling with an incredibly hectic life as she tries to realize her childhood dreams of becoming a successful mangaka. It's a harsh review on her numerous moments of immaturity, and a piece of subtle appreciation for all the family, friends, and peers who have supported her along the way. Most importantly, it's an absolutely incredible and moving homage to the hero of her life: the stubborn, intimidating, rash, insensitive, but most genuine and pure person she's ever known, Hidaka-sensei.
Throughout the manga, we get to see so many reflections of what makes her character a fully realized person. We are exposed to the perspectives of a student, a teacher, a miserable office worker, a mangaka, a daughter, a girl in love, a mother, and so much more. Higashimura herself is very interesting and relatable, and the characters in her life provide invaluable bits and pieces that make up the variety of her life experiences, but even more than just writing an autobiography, she passes down the insights and sentiments of her experiences down to her readers, whether in light jest or as great pieces of life advice. Work hard and work often. Keep a broad perspective. Appreciate those around you. Be ready, as life happens whether you want it to or not. Have fun going to an arts college with no clear goal and ending up very unemployed and completely unproductive for society (:D). And for all the young people out there, youth is wasted on the young most of the time, but please don't waste it. You might be wallowing in self-pity and claiming that you're being overwhelmed; you're not, and your older self will definitely laugh in bitter derision!
But worry not, this is not a boring lecture; the author never really forces her views on the readers. The persuasion factor comes more from relating to the faults of the stumbling character on paper and being hit right where it hurts the most. Aren't we all self-centered, excuse-making, and unappreciative brats who run away from our troubles in some point of our lives? That's what makes this work great; it resonates with my current college student self, and the down-to-earth moments really bring out all these emotions within me as I read through the struggles of someone so different, yet oh so similar to me.
Kakukaku Shikajika is an entertaining work that makes you laugh, cringe, and feel the feels all at once. It does detail the process of manga creation to some extent, but the real appeal of the work lies in immersing yourself in this beautiful life story. Please give this one a chance.
For anyone familiar with the premise of this manga, my reading of it may seem odd. It’s an autobiographical piece for Akiko Higashimura, and mangaka of which I’ve read none of her works. However the premise of an autobiographical manga sold me enough, so here I am. From 2011 to 2015, Kakukaku Shikajika. Let’s rock.
PLOT: I’m used to talking about set ups and what not, but not used to discussing real stories. We follow highschooler Akiko Hayashi as she ends up studying at a new art class so she can follow her dreams of being a mangaka, however that’s only half of it. The story
isn’t a straight following of her life, but a reflection. It’s told from the point of the contemporary Akiko Higashimura, reflecting on her life and choices of the time. However this new art class isn’t what you’d expect, as we’re introduced to the yelling, bamboo-sword wielding sensei with no softness or hesitation. How this terrifying man would forever change Akiko and inspire her to be the person she is today. I don’t know if my words do it justice, but I found myself immediately pulled into it. Maybe I just jive with Higashimura’s humor, but the silliness of the situation quickly put a smile on my face, and the underlying heart got to me. The tale of Kakukaku Shikajika is one that spans across many years, following Akiko’s battle to become the mangaka she dreamed of, and Sensei supporting her every step of the way. It feels very real because it is real, and the modern Akiko’s commentary every step of the way keeps it from ever feeling dry. As much as I found myself laughing and smiling, I also found myself going through many other emotions as the tale unfolded, and by the end I found myself heavily crying. While seeming frivolous at first, by the end you can truly understand why the story needed to be told.
10/10, it never wasted any time and carried a lot of weight, it’s funny when it wants to be and powerful when it needs to be.
CHARACTERS: Let’s start with Akiko herself. It’s her story of growing up, going from the self-important, dreamy-eyed high school girl who was going to conquer the manga world to the quirky mangaka of today. I found her quite endearing, helped along by the ability of her modern self to critique and poke fun at the her of the past. This allowed us to get in her headspace and make her an incredibly relatable character. Frankly for me to never get annoyed at someone who makes as many stupid mistakes as real people do is quite the amazing feat. The other major character is Sensei, despite being introduced as this assaholic, loud mouthed, terrifying man we quickly grow to understand his straightforwardness and eagerness. He acts the way he does because he gives it his all and believes honestly in others to do the same. He’s kind of an idiot but he wears his heart on his sleeve in an endearing way. His ability to believe in someone 100% without doubt is something I find to be uncommon in real life people, and something I can love and respect. He’s very rough but has an incredible amount of heart, and that’s something I love. There are many other characters who show up throughout the story but the real focus is on the prior two and their relationship. The characters all being real people allows you to take some inside looks at some famous people, especially the other mangaka Akiko meets along her journey.
10/10, I fell in love with the main two, and the supporting cast was full of interesting faces, some of which are names I’ve heard before.
ART: The art throughout the series has this rough sketchiness to it. While I wouldn’t call it particularly amazing or any level of refined, it’s very expressive. Nothing ever looks terrible, but rarely do things look great. However things do look distinct and there’s a good amount of detail where detail is due. A lot of the settings have pretty distinct designs and the characters all look unique in very realistic ways. A lot of anime gets accused of same-face, and that couldn’t be farther from the truth here. The art is also great at expressing emotion, which in this kind of story is well appreciated. At the end of the day it isn’t great, but it’s very alive.
7/10, rough but charming.
FINAL SCORE: 9/10
This was quite the read from start to finish. It’s a very personal tale, and one with an overflowing amount of heart. Akiko Higashimura has a great personality, and that shows with every piece of this manga straight from her heart. I’m now interested in more of her stuff. Whether you’ve read her or not, I’d definitely recommend giving this series a shot, it’s a frankly beautiful piece.