My Jakarta: Gita Amelia, manga teacher
Mark Vincent Sindhunata
Reading comics, or manga as the Japanese call them, all day may not be a very productive hobby. But if you also draw them, then it’s an entirely different story.
Gita Armelia, known as Ishe, works six hours a day, six days a week teaching manga storytelling and drawing techniques to kids in West Jakarta.
The 24-year-old helps kids put their imaginations down on paper. It’s a mission she relishes. Self-taught from the age of 7, she is proud to have stuck with her passion long enough to earn the title of ‘mangaka,’ or teacher.
How does one become a professional manga artist?
Drawing manga is like a talent show. You don’t have to have certificates to prove you are qualified and are better than others. You just need to show it with your hands and amaze people around you. For example, I never had any formal manga drawing courses, but I am still trusted to be a manga teacher. I learned it just by browsing the Internet and downloading tutorials, and by sharing experiences with my fellow mangaka friends.
Manga has many styles. How do you cater to each student’s tastes?
As a teacher, you of course have to master all the basic and generic styles. Here in my school, I teach them to draw all the styles commonly used by today’s manga. But since every student has their own style, I am the one eventually following and adjusting. Most students here like to draw shounen [manga aimed at teenage boys] and shoujo [for teenage girls]. Kids often read them, since they’re the most popular genre nowadays.
Do you ever make your own manga?
Of course, it’s the dream of all mangakas to make their own manga. I have made many mangas since high school. Everyone has their own style, and mine was shoujo. But, unlike most shoujo mangakas, who are females, I dislike love dramas and romantic stories. Fantasy and adventures with friendship are my favorite genre, thanks to my brothers who introduced me to ‘Saint Saiya’ when I was a 7-year-old.
What happened next?
I started scribbling mangas when I was 7 or 8 years old. I made fan art of my favorite characters. I shared this hobby with my brothers, also manga lovers. This has also affected my social life, since many friends asked me to draw manga for them with their own story lines.
Finally, after I graduated from high school, I heard that there was a job vacancy for a manga teacher. Although I don’t have any formal education drawing mangas, I decided to apply. Now here I am, making a living with my hobby.
How are your students doing?
Seeing kids here getting excited, laughing and smiling with their pencils and paper, reminds me of my childhood. You can create your own world and use your wildest imagination, which is good for kids. You might be surprised to find that students here refuse to go home. I think one-and-a-half hours each week isn’t enough for them [laughs].
The happiest moment for me as a manga teacher was when my students made a manga drawing of my face. That was really sweet.
How do the kids’ parents view the manga course?
I think that parents now really understand and are genuinely concerned about their children’s hobbies or talents, like sports and art. They often accompany their children here and wait for them until the class is over.
Honestly, I am jealous of my students. Unlike them, my parents didn’t like me becoming a mangaka at first. They wanted me to succeed in the standard, formal education and have a proper desk job. Thanks to my job now, I can show them I can make a living from my hobby, and now they support me.
What is your favorite manga? Can you draw it?
If you ask me to pick one, I proudly say it’s ‘One Piece.’ Eichiro Oda is one of the most talented mangaka in history. Not only the art, but also the story. ‘One Piece’ had influenced me as a mangaka.
I prefer adventure, fighting, comedy and friendship stories to dramas or romances, just like ‘One Piece.’
Unfortunately, I still can’t draw ‘One Piece’ perfectly. I can draw Luffy [the main character], but still not as good as Oda’s work.
Ishe was talking to Mark Vincent Sindhunata.