Pretty much everyone who reads manga has at some point fantasized about making it. The backbreaking difficulties of the process sometimes ward people away. Still, the appeal of a contest where some of the greatest manga writers of all time review your work is very tempting for ambitious manga creators.
For the 100th Tezuka Manga Contest, victory means publication in Weekly Shonen Jump and praise from both Tezuka Productions and manga writers like Akira Toriyama (Dragon Ball, Dr. Slump), Kazue Kato (Blue Exorcist), Kohei Horikoshi (My Hero Academia), Takehiko Inoue (Slam Dunk) and Eiichiro Oda (One Piece). All of these manga-ka give prospective contestants advice. While Oda’s advice is notably harsh, it’s also incredibly useful and practical.
Many of the judges give softer advice. Toriyama’s advice, for example, is purely inspirational. “With manga, one person can create an entertainment that is like a movie or a TV show, if they really want to. Dear manga lovers around the world, why not take this opportunity to create something where many people can become passionate about your works? I am waiting for you!”
Kato looks forward to looking at international manga outside of Japan, while both Horikoshi and Inoue emphasize the importance of well-written characters with strong motivation and conflicts preventing them from reaching their goals.
Oda’s advice, however, is a noticeably practical, but also more critical, response. “If the story you want to draw is similar to something that is already popular, find something else to draw. I prefer to read a manga that is bad but something only you can draw, more than something good but similar to another artist’s work!! Just try!!”
Oda is the only person on the panel who says “Don’t do this,” which might come across as overly critical or negative to an outside reader. Creators obviously draw from sources of inspiration. Oda himself drew inspiration from Toriyama’s Dragon Ball, after all. However, One Piece is distinctive from Dragon Ball. Likewise, he and Masashi Kishimoto used one another as sources of inspiration for their work, with Kishimoto distinctly avoiding what Oda did with One Piece in order to make Naruto stand out more. Oda originally wanted to call Sanji “Naruto,” but changed it to avoid conflict with Naruto. Oda understands that making work distinct is more important than making it necessarily “good,” because unique works stand out.
Consider the majority of mecha anime. While many draw from one another for inspiration, the ones that stand out most are the ones that broke the mold. Innovative series like Mazinger Z, Mobile Suit Gundam and Neon Genesis Evangelion are far better remembered than even quality follow-ups and imitators like Getter Robo, Armored Fleet Dairugger XV and Rahxephon.
Weekly Shonen Jump cancels manga if they don’t stand out immediately, so Oda knows what he’s talking about. If you’re making a manga, make it original, even your work isn’t technically great. A beautifully written rip-off of Dragon Ball will never leave Dragon Ball‘s shadow.
Eiichiro Oda has some good advice for new creators. While the One Piece's creator advice might be brutal, it's both honest and useful.