Saucer Eyes and Black Ink: The Germangaka Are Coming!

Alexandra Völker/EMAThey’re young, talented and self-assured. Women manga artists from Germany are succeeding: Their publishers note rising circulations, the fan community is growing. A stroll through the German manga scene reveals how diverse this genre is.

Since her earliest youth, Anike Hage has been a Germangaka, as German women manga artists are affectionately called by their fans. Hage, born in 1985 in Wolfenbüttel, has been working as a professional comic artist since winning second place in a talent contest. In 2007, she was awarded the Sondermann Prize at the Frankfurt Book Fair for her girls’ soccer story Gothic Sports, and in 2011 an additional Sondermann followed for her adaptation of the young people’s classic Die Wolke (i.e. the cloud) by Gudrun Pausewang.

The story of the fifteen-year old Janna, who experiences a nuclear disaster, is a good example of the way in which German women artists have liberated themselves from the traditional genre and have developed their own contents and form. Anika Hage’s characters do not have huge eyes or pronounced snub noses and live in typical German surroundings. In the series Gothic Sports, the girls not only wear extravagant soccer jerseys, they are also courageous, bold and steadfast.

“Anybody who wants to make a living with mangas must be a bit crazy”

The number of mangaka who can make a living with their drawings is small. “Mangas are labour-intensive, and the pay is low in proportion,” says Inga Steinmetz. The illustrator, born in 1983 in Berlin, started with dojinshis – mangas published by herself in her own publishing house - and at first published cartoons in the Berlin city magazine tip. “Anybody who wants to make a living with mangas has to be a bit crazy,” she says, “but I find it very fulfilling.”

Steinmetz prepared herself thoroughly for her adaptation of the novel series Freche Mädchen (i.e. brash girls) by author Bianka Minte-König: “I read seven books from the series and made notes when details about the girls’ appearance were mentioned,“ she says, after all, the characters should be consistent with the original text. Her delicate ink drawings and balanced panels are very harmonious and empathically describe the girls’ life-world with their complexes, wishes and longings. Because Steinmetz enjoys drawing fashionable clothing and beautiful hairstyles, she is currently working on a series of her own: Alpha Girl will be released in spring 2012, and takes place in the 18th century. “It’s to be fun and playful, so there are lots of dresses, ruffles and sexy, half-opened shirts,“ she announces.

Alexandra Völker pinpoints the world of fashion in her manga Catwalk: the shy Blanche is discovered as a model in the metropolis Xela City. But her dream profession turns out to be a tough job with many negative aspects. Völker, born in 1986, likes things flamboyant: her figures wear extravagant clothes and in-your-face hairstyles. Strong contours and pronounced shadings lend her drawings an artificial atmosphere that fits in well with this glitzy world. In her manga fairy-tale Dark Magic, Völker tells the story of a rather strange witch with no talent for magic. With witty dialogs, off-beat images and bizarre figures, she creates a unique world that cannot be subsumed under any genre.

“Gay guys” – mangas by and for girls

Anna Hollmann, born in 1983, devotes herself to a distinctively Japanese genre: the manga series Stupid Story belongs to the “gay guys” (shonen-ai) genre, and is aimed at a female readership who seek to understand and feel themselves in the world of erotic relationships with the aid of male figures. “I like cool guys best,” says Hollmann, who began to draw in Japanese comic style when she was only 13. Her long-limbed, androgyne characters are perfectly suited to the romantic narrative of Stupid Story. The outsider Yanik arrives at a new school where he encounters the heart-throb Alan. At a party, Yanik disguises himself as a girl and is kissed by Alan. Of course, various confusions and perplexities, advances and arguments are required before the two become aware of their feelings

The trilogie Lilientod (i.e. the death of lilies) by artist Martina Peters and author Anne Delseit is also indebted to the shonen-ai genre. The authors base their story about the nobleman Arin – who, after a series of murders at his castle, exposes the perpetrator Amaryll and promptly begins a romantic relationship with him – on a combination of mystery novel, history and romance. “We developed the story for the most part in theInternet,” explains Peters. Sketches and ideas for the script were exchanged by email, as were corrections. Peters, who also posts her drawings in the Web under the nickname Soen, is currently working on the boylove story Ten, which is to appear in 2012.

Fantasy, magic and science fiction

Natalie Wormsbecher specialises in fantasy. “I’m content and the manga has served its purpose if female readers hearts beat faster,” says this mangaka, who was born in 1986. Her series Life Trees Guardian deals with two girls and a wolf who set off in search of a magical Tree of Life from another world. “I draw simply and without a lot of details,” as Wormsbecher describes her style. “I want to captivate the reader with a high reading tempo. For this, one’s eyes have to be able to glide over the page without getting held up by a lot of extra stuff.” Völker breaks up the panel structure with explosive action scenes – a successful contrast to the playfully childlike characters, which – by the way - she colours in a totally old-fashioned way with coloured pencils for the front cover.

Anne Pätzke, born 1982 in Frankfurt an der Oder, also breaks with tradition. For the children’s books about the little rabbit Kulla, she paints the motifs in acrylic colours on canvas. The dreamlike narratives, which are particularly well-received by young girls, tell about friendship, magic and childhood dreams.

But Pätzke also creates fantastic worlds on her computer: for the sci-fi game Space Mission, she developed a galaxy with darkly glowing planets and blinking space stations. And Pätzke has also stood before the camera for tutorials for young mangaka who wish to improve their drawing and painting techniques with the portable Nintendo game console. Her recommendation to up-and-coming talent: “Read a lot and write, too, then put the whole thing aside for a good long while, because then you’ll see where there’s room for improvement.”

Rieke C. Harmsen
is an art historian and editor of the Evangelischer Pressedienst (Protestant press service, epd) in Munich

Copyright: Goethe-Institut e. V., Internet-Redaktion
November 2011

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