Since computer programs are now able to generate images from words, there’s no reason why they can’t create characters, and why not a novel, a comic strip, a manga? There’s nothing like it to make artists pale in comparison who are happily overtaken by Artificial Intelligences that have become very efficient. Other creators see no threat in this and welcome it. Here’s why.
The author of a manga which will be released Thursday in Japan admits to having “zero” talent for drawing: his work, the first in the country entirely created by an Artificial Intelligence, raises concerns for employment and copyrights in this lucrative industry. All the futuristic contraptions and creatures in this sci-fi manga titled Cyberpunk : Peach John are the work of the Midjourney program, an artificial intelligence tool that appeared last year that wowed the planet, along with other similar programs such as Stable Diffusion or DALL-E 2.
Rootport — the pseudonym of the author — completed the 100-page manga in just six weeks, where a confirmed artist would normally have taken a year, he estimates. ” It was a fun journey, a bit like playing the lottery “, told AFP the 37-year-old man. Rootport entered keywords like “pink hair,” “Asian boy,” and “jacket,” and the machine spawned images of the story’s hero in about a minute, though his face is quite different from one box to another.
He then assembled the best results on a comic book page to make the book, entirely in color unlike “classic” manga, and which was already causing a lot of talk online before its publication. For the author, image generators using AI have ” paved the way for people without artistic talent provided they have good stories to tell.
Legal controversies ahead
Rootport recounts the satisfaction felt when his textual instructions, like magical “incantations,” begat images. ” But is it as satisfying as when you’ve drawn something yourself? Probably not “, he admits. The Midjourney program, developed in the United States, quickly met with worldwide success with its fantastic creations, sometimes absurd or even frightening but often surprisingly sophisticated, inviting many artists to question their profession.
AIs have also occasionally caused legal controversy, and the start-up behind Stable Diffusion has been sued for “feeding” its AI with copyrighted materials. In Japan, lawmakers have raised concerns about the issue, though experts say copyright infringement is unlikely if AI creations come from simple text commands.
Others fear the technology will harm the employment of young manga artists, and streaming platform Netflix was criticized in January for streaming a Japanese cartoon with AI-generated sets. ” The possibility that mangaka assistants will be replaced “one day by a machine” is not zero Satoshi Kurihara, a professor at Keio University in Tokyo, who published an AI-assisted manga with his team in 2020. Almost all of the drawings in this production in the style of the pioneer of this graphic genre, Osamu Tezuka, were made by humans. But since then, AI has become top quality and will definitely influence the manga industry, he thinks.
For the artist, AI can become a good companion
« I don’t really see AI as a threat. I rather think that she can be an excellent companion “, However, believes Madoka Kobayashi, manga artist for more than 30 years. [L’IA peut] help me visualize what I have in mind, and suggest ideas, which I then try to improve”.
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« I am convinced that humans are always better to imagine scenarios, also very important in manga, she underlines. To the Tokyo Design Academy where she teaches, Madoka Kobayashi invites her students to observe figurines to improve their drawing of details such as muscles or the folds of clothing. ” AI images are great, but I’m more attracted to human drawings, precisely because they are ‘messy’,” says Ginjiro Uchida, an 18-year-old student.
Computer programs find it difficult to draw hands or faces with deliberately exaggerated proportions like a real mangaka, and ” humans have an even greater sense of humor “, does he think.
Three major Japanese publishers interviewed did not wish to express their vision of the future impact of AI on the manga industry. Rootport doubts that 100% AI-powered manga will become mainstream, but “ also don’t think manga made without any AI will dominate forever ».