With manga becoming more popular internationally, an increasing number of Japanese universities have been providing courses on the subject, producing graduates who have gone on to work in a broad spectrum of society.

“The number of students finding employment at companies unrelated (to manga) has increased over the past decade thanks to the good performance of such graduates,” says Machiko Satonaka, a cartoonist who has been teaching manga studies at Osaka University of Arts since 2003.

Kyoto Seika University, the first in Japan to begin manga courses, way back in 1973, has produced around 500 graduates of its Story Manga Course since 2000, about 60 of whom have become professional manga artists.

Iku Sakurabe, 23, who graduated from the Cartoon Course at Kyoto Seika in 2012, found a job with a hotel operator in Kobe and has since been assigned to the staff of an affiliated luxury Japanese-style inn, Nakanobo Zui-en, in the Arima Onsen hot spring resort area.

“I didn’t intend to become a professional cartoonist when I enrolled in the course,” Sakurabe said.

She draws cartoons for guests who stay at the inn to celebrate their birthdays, wedding anniversaries, promotions and other happy occasions. She feels that studying manga in college was “worthwhile” when her cartoons create opportunities to converse with guests, she said.

“To draw cartoons, you have to be interested in social issues and see them from various perspectives,” Sakurabe continued. “I sometimes feel that this kind of training helps me communicate with the guests I serve.”

Yu Otsuka, 22, joined Aidem Corp., a job advertisement agency in Tokyo, after graduating this spring from Bunsei University of Art in Tochigi Prefecture, having failed to achieve his goal of turning pro before he turned 21 despite attracting attention from the publishing industry as a manga major.

Aware that Otsuka worked hard to draw manga in his own style, Kenichi Hirata, a supervisor of the young marketing representative, expects him to utilize his “tested energy” for the sake of the company.

People can improve their power of expression, ideas and communication by drawing manga, according to Satonaka.

“Manga artists think of interesting things other people never think of and express them in an easy-to-understand manner,” says cartoonist Takashi Yanase, who is also known as a songwriter, screenwriter and scenic artist.

“The spirit of manga is applicable to any kind of work.”

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