Version 1.1- modified 18th Jun. 2001 * Subject to corrections, changes
and additions *
A huge portion of Shirow fans are most taken with Shirow
Sensei's art or are artists themselves. Therefore, there is plenty of
interest and curiosity to know exactly how Sensei Shirow does his artwork.
Each manga artist has his / her own style and peculiarity, but in my opinion
the way Sensei Shirow produces his artwork is pretty 'normal' except for
certain specialist tools. So I came to the conclusion that its pure talent
and genius. This page is my attempt at providing a general view of the
evolution of Shirow Sensei's art style, how he draws, the tools he uses
and some personal opinions + analysis. Information regarding Shirow Sensei's
artistic techniques are hard to come by. However, there are some texts
and articles in which Sensei Shirow did talk and explain about his how-to-art
techniques. This section will also take a quick look at those publications
and summarise the relevant contents.
Background: To understand Shirow Sensei's choice
of style and tools, one must be aware of the artist's background. Sensei
Shirow Masamune is a graduate of the Osaka University of Arts, Oil Painting
Department. Much of Shirow Sensei's colour pieces during the 80's to early
90's were done in oil paints and arclyrics to reflect that fact. Shirow
Sensei also mentioned that he did teach art at high school sometime early
in his pro-carreer (Shirow-Smith Interview- Manga Mania 8, Feb. 94, various
Profile sections in his mangas) indicating that his basic art foundations
and fundamental skills are solid. As far as manga style art is concerned,
Shirow Sensei admits that he is self-taught- leaning more into Shoujo
style (girl comics) art early in his carreer and do not read much manga
in his young days. However he loves to draw and was even involved in doujinshi
and fanzine groups. The only thing he learned and found applicable from
the University course was 'the ability to keep a steady hand'. (Intron
Depot 1). He is more influenced on the story plots and world settings
(the Cyberpunk and Sci Fi genre, military, fantasy, tradition, mythology,
insects... the list is endless). His choice of works very much takes his
skills to the current direction- an amazing eye for detail, neatness and
precision, and of course Utopian female figures. In the 90's, computers
became an essential tool for the manga artist. Shirow picked up on this
new medium quickly and diligently, producing the most amazing CG pieces
ever non-stop since 1995. Another good thing about Sensei Shirow is that
he isn't afraid to change, to experiment, to try something new. Shirow's
art style is constantly improving, and he sets very high standards for
himself. If he isn't satisfied with a particular piece of work, he readily
admits it and wouldn't expect his fans to like it either.
1983 ~ 2000 - 17 Years of Shirow Manga: The Evolution of Style
Black Magic 83'
All images Copyrights (Appleseed, Dominion, Orion) Shirow Masamune
/ Seishinsha, (Koukaku Kidoutai) Shirow Masamune / Kodansha
Dominion C1 95'
Koukaku 2 97'
Koukaku 2 00'
Sensei Shirow's Art Tools:
A small collection of Shirow Sensei's art tools. Note the Kabura
tip pen, the pair of pliers and that weird looking gadget!
Comickers / Bijutsu Shuppan-Sha 1995
Small Box of Liquitex Arclyrics
Shirow's art tools are quite standard pro-manga
fare. For pencils, he uses a 0.5B tip (Mitsubishi brand) of both
mechanical and conventional type on smooth surface Kent paper. Blue
pencils are used as guides (they do not appear on the final printing).
Of course, a light box or light table is necessary for tracing.
Inking, Shirow sensei uses a Kabura-tip pen (his favourite brand
currently out of production), which is shaped like a turnip and
is good for doing lines of varying thicknesses. He also mentioned
that he makes his own pen holder. This is complimented by technical
drawing pens of 0.1 to 0.5 tip. Also essential for manga drawing
are the use of screentones, rulers and other precision instruments.
Shirow uses various screentone patterns, a common one being those
of the Maxon brand (this is very popular among manga artists in
Japan). To apply them, he uses various pen-knives and cutters, including
certain insect dissecting scalpels (Shirow-Smith Interview, Manga
Mania 8 Feb. 94). Rulers, compasses, and other geometric instruments
make up another portion of the tool set.
For colouring and reproduction, Shirow traditionally
uses his colour Canon Copier (should have been upgraded now I think~)
and colours with arclyrics and oil paints. Application is by art
brushes, and / or air brush. This requires masking and matting (to
make the colours stay). Usually Shirow uses Liquitex brand colouring
materials (another popular brand for Japanese manga artists). With
the dawning of the digital age, the computer has replaced oils as
Shirow's preferred colouring method. Shirow's PC is a Macintosh,
a MAC9600/350 and uses the softwares Photoshop 4.0 & 5.0 to do his
CGs. Also a big help is his handy colour copier and scanner, which
he often uses to scan various type of patterns, sometimes even scanning
in the surface of an orange skin, or a bag filled with green watery
moss (Intron Depot 2). Shirow now aspires to do a full colour digital
manga... and we all strongly hope it will happen! ^_^
...... What? That's all?!? ^_^ Yes, folks. That's about
all the tools Sensei Shirow claims he used to produce all those wonderful
pictures! Apart from a few weird pieces, they are pretty much what every
other artist in the industry would use. Of course Shirow Sensei likes
to experiment, and there's no way of knowing what he played with while
drawing up a manga or an illustration. However, of late Shirow Sensei
has been going almost totally digital, so you can be sure that apart from
the initial sketches and line drawings most of the rest is done by computer
Publications Related to Shirow's Art
1. Comickers 1995: Autumn Sci Fi Special Edition (Bijutsu Shuppan-Sha)
Cover of Comickers Autumn 95' Sci-Fi Special
Shirow Masamune / Bijutsu Shuppan-Sha
Link to Official Comickers Website
| Publisher: Bijutsu
Date: 10th September 1995.
Price: 1000 Yen / Status: Out of Print
Pages: 132 / Shirow 12 pages including Special Gallery Pin-Up.
Magazine is a seasonal publication which gets four issues per
year- Summer, Spring, Autumn and Winter Editions. It is published
by one of the most well-known specialist quality artbook publishers
in the Japanese manga industry- Bijutsu Shuppan Sha (Bijutsu literally
translated as 'beautiful arts'). The publisher publishes high quality
art books and how-to-art books, often featuring heavyweights and
masters in the Japanese manga industry. Comickers is a magazine
aimed at amature or beginner manga artists, where it features a
host of topics each issue- ranging from interviews and how-to-art
sections from various manga masters, overseas manga / comics scene,
to tips for colouring and drawing manga. Its a continuation of an
earlier publication of the same nature by Bijutsu, called Manga
Technickers (MT). Currently running in its 5th year since the first
issue in Summer 95', Comickers continues to be a precious resource
for aspiring artists and a priceless collector's item. And it now
has an online presence too! Check out web
Comickers for news on the latest issue and a host of other interesting
| Shirow Masamune in
Comickers 95' Autumn Sci-Fi Special:
As the feature artist in this issue, Shirow Sensei
has 11 pages of articles plus a one-page 'Comickers Original Gallery'
pin-up. The picture was collected in Intron Depot 2, Illust. 2069
(another mystery solved! ^_^). The Shirow article section starts
with a 7-page feature about Sensei Shirow and his works. This is
a really lengthy article about Shirow's background, his influences,
history of his previous works, what is he up to at the time... tons
of info and also the famous 'digitized' photographs of the Sensei
himself (assuming that's actually him! ^_^). This is followed by
2 pages of how-to-art, where Shirow gives a step by step guide on
how he produces his illustrations, using the Comickers cover as
an example. The guide starts from the rough sketch right down to
the final touch-up processes, with brief annotations beneath each
thumbnail. This also contains a little interview box where Sensei
Shirow speaks about the drawing process and chats with the article
author. The last two pages are titled 'Shirow Masamune's World'
where all his major works to date are given a brief summary and
listed chronologically with all the relevant infos.
Finishing touches at the end before this pretty girl graces
the cover of Comickers! Note: This is just about 1/4 of the full
page as there is no way for me to get a good scan of an entire page.
This is more than good enough for a preview though.
Personally, I consider this Comickers feature as the
most in-depth coverage ever related to Shirow Sensei's art and drawing
techniques. While it is pretty outdated now, this article manages to shed
some light on how Shirow actually does his work. Here's where I confirmed
that Shirow Sensei is amazingly talented, has a great sense of humour,
and deserves my highest respects!
Other interesting features in this issue: Feature
article on GunM's Yukito Kishiro, another brilliant Sci-Fi manga master.
The ever cool and neat manga artist Ms. Yun Kouga takes over the 'Masters
of Color' section. A list of highly recommended Sci Fi manga, including
Hiroyuki Yutatane's Seraphic Feather, Otomo's Akira, Yukinobu Hoshino's
2001 Space Odyssey, The Five Star Stories to name a few. Also bits and
pieces on Astro Boy, probably the most famous in its genre worldwide.
The tips section focuses on drawing running motions, and screentoning
Note: I used to have a translation of the Shirow How-to-Art pages
here previously, but decided to remove it for a few reasons. There are
other sites on the web which decided to do a similiar thing, so there
is no point of the MSHP in continuing it. Might as well do something original
and exclusive. Which brings me to the next point, the article was actually
translated from a Spanish version done by Josema at the Orion
page. My sincerest thanks to Josema for the permission given and for being
such a nice and gracious person! ^_^ Keep up the good work promoting Shirow
2. Comickers 98' October (No.10) Edition (Bijutsu Shuppan-Sha)
Cover of Comickers No.10 98'
Shirow Masamune / Bijutsu Shuppan-Sha
The sample to the right is just a partial scan from a full page.
It is difficult for me to make a good scan for aa whole page but
the panel is more than good enough as a Preview of the article's
| Publisher: Bijutsu
Date: 1st October 1998.
Price: 980 Yen
Status: Out of Print
Pages: 154 / Shirow 8 pages including Special Comickers Gift Post
Shirow made it again on the cover and as the main
feature artist in October 1998's issue of Comickers. This time around,
the article was done in conjunction with the recent release of Intron
Depot 2: Blades, Shirow's second illustration collection. This issue
is more of a 'Gallery' type, featuring Shirow's digital pictures
from ID2 with different variations in colour schemes and backgrounds.
The illustration series featured are the cover illust., no.048,
no.2200 & 2202, no.2207, and no.2209. The article is concluded with
a message from Sensei Shirow and a set of 3 variation postcards
were included as gifts (featuring the cover illust.).
Other interesting features in this issue:
A 5-page Daijiro Morohoshi vs. Yukinobu Hoshino dialogue / chat
session - two of Japan's most renowned Sci Fi manga masters! Free
a booklet mini Comickers 20 questions about markers. Suemi Jun's
original paintings exhibition at the Tokyo Pastel Museum in August
98'. Captivating and talented shoujo style artist Ms. Yuri Narushima.
Lessons on manga panel layout arrangements, how to draw sword slashes,
and some very nifty fan art / CG contributions!
3. Intron Depot 1 & Intron Depot 2: Blades (Seishinsha / Dark
Horse / Studio Proteus)
Probably the most important set of books for those
who are really curious about Sensei Shirow's artwork. The illustration
collection books Intron Depot 1 and
Intron Depot 2: Blades contain vast
amounts of information about Shirow's artistic techniques- explained
by the artist himself in his own words. Better still, its on a picture
by picture basis. In his accompanying commentary in the collections,
Sensei Shirow sometimes elaborate extensively on the creation process
of certain pieces of pictures, especially those that he did something
unusual or special to achieve the desired effect. In ID 1 Shirow
doesn't elaborate much on art techniques as the collection is mostly
based on his manga works (so there is really a lot to talk about
^_^) whereas in ID2:Blades, the information on techniques used are
very detailed, even with a 'Data Block' of media used for each picture.
Details of both books and their CD-Rom versions can be found at
the Intron Depot Page.
4. Super Manga Technique Course (Bijutsu Shuppan-Sha)
The book cover (left) and Shirow's impression of his own
work desk (right)
Shirow Masamune / Bijutsu Shuppan-Sha
| Publisher: Bijutsu Shuppan-Sha.
Date: 30th June 1989.
Price: 1600 Yen
Pages: 160 / Shirow 2 pages.
This is a part manga technique book and part artist
biography. The lessons in the book were written by famous artists
themselves and others talk about their art. The 'My Works' section
in this book features 32 manga artists including Shirow. Here, Shirow
only contributed a 2 page essay about his artworks, at the time
on the verge of releasing Appleseed 4.
5. Shirow - Smith Interview 'Future Tense' - Manga Mania 8, Feb.
94 (Dark Horse)
Cover of Manga Mania 8, Feb 94'
Many pages of manga and a classic interview
| Publisher: Dark Horse International
Date: February 1994 (Volume 1 Number 8)
Price: 1.95 GBP (British Pounds)
Status: Out of Print
Pages: 128 / Shirow article + interview 6 pages
In the early days of Manga Mania (now known as
Manga Max) the president of Studio Proteus, Mr. Toren Smith did
an interview with Shirow Masamune along with Seishinsha's Harumichi
Aoki (Seishinsha president) and Shigehiko Ogasawara (Shirow's long-time
editor and friend). A good 50% of the interview touches on the topic
of Shirow Sensei's artistic techniques and tools. The topics touched
on includes paper type, screentones, pens, erasers, colour copiers,
layouts, to throwing away finished inked pages (Urk!)... The rest
of the interview is mainly about Shirow's current works and plans
for the future. The introductory article prior to the interview
by Mr. Peter J. Evans and Mr Cefn Ridout compliments the interview
wonderfully. Otherwise the rest of the magazine is full of translated
manga episodes including Appleseed, Akira and Godzilla, to name
a few. While nothing like the present day Manga Max, the Shirow
interview itself is a great read.
The interview in its original, unedited form is
also available online via Studio
Proteus Online. Do a search for it.
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