Every artist has a story, and Akiko Higashimura tells hers in Blank Canvas: My So Called Artist’s Journey. I’m not familiar with her previous work, but I love reading about fellow artists so that was enough to draw me in.
Present day Akiko recalls her life as a high school student and her dreams of becoming a manga artist. She takes an after-school art class to help her get into college, and her world gets turned upside down. High school Akiko initially hates everything about the experience. Her overly aggressive teacher makes her work nonstop, but she becomes determined to do her best when she realizes how much she’s improving. I love the way she chose to include her present-day thoughts because it keeps the story grounded. High school Akiko was dreaming big, but she was oblivious to how big her ego was. Present-day Akiko is able to laugh at her past mistakes as we see her high school self learn the hard way. This manga can be very funny, yet I still feel hints of sadness throughout the narrative. It’s hard to explain, and maybe this will be fleshed out in later volumes, but I’m getting an “I didn’t know what I had until it was gone” feeling with a hint of regret sprinkled throughout the high school hijinks. I could just be mixing this story with my own experiences, or pulling this out of nowhere, but it’s been giving me a lot to think about. This manga has more depth than I expected, and I’m looking forward to seeing more.
Most of the complexity this story offers comes from the relationship between Akiko and her teacher. I thought I had some crazy teachers in my day, but this man is on a whole new level. The bamboo sword strikes and yelling definitely would have been too intimidating for me to handle, but there are moments where you see a softer side to him. We don’t find out why his teaching is so aggressive in this volume, but you can see that he truly cares about his students. I still have very conflicting feelings about him and his teaching methods. I’m not sure if they cause more harm than good, and I think Akiko is processing her feelings as she goes.
I picked up this manga expecting a simple story about one artist’s journey with a little bit of comedy thrown in. I got that and so much more. I didn’t expect it to stick with me after I finished reading it. It may not resonate as much with others, but it is still worth reading. Volume 1 ends on a cliffhanger, so I can’t wait for volume 2!
High schooler Akiko has big plans to become a popular mangaka before she even graduates, but she needs to get much better at drawing if she ever wants to reach her goal. Looking for an easy fix, she signs up for an art class, thinking all her problems will soon be solved. She’s in for a surprise: her new instructor is a sword-wielding taskmaster who doesn’t care about manga one bit. But maybe this unconventional art teacher is just what she needs to realize her dreams!Add to CartLearn More