Pictured: A Typical Solemn Moment at Ainoshima Junior High School
Since it played such an important role in shaping my new comic Tonoharu, I thought I’d devote a journal entry to the JET Program.
The JET (Japanese Exchange and Teaching) Program was founded twenty years ago by the Japanese Government to:
promote grass roots internationalization at the local level by inviting young overseas graduates to assist in international exchange and foreign language education in local governments, boards of education and elementary, junior and senior high schools throughout Japan… [and] to foster ties between Japanese citizens (mainly youth) and JET participants at the person-to-person level.
Source: JET Program Official Website
Japan is, of course, an island nation, and is ethnically homogenous, with 99% of the population being Japanese. Outside of large cities, Japanese kids don’t have much (if any) contact with foreigners, so it’s easy to understand how English education would seem totally irrelevant to their lives. It’s the job of the JET program participant to serve as a living example that English has actual utility outside of the classroom, thereby (hopefully) inspiring students to devote a little more energy to working on their English skills.
Image from Tonoharu: Part One
Since the raison d’être of this blog is shameless self-promotion, I suppose it’s high time that I introduced the graphic novel I mean to promote.
The name of this “graphic novel” (or “book-length comic book”, or whatever you want to call it) is Tonoharu. It follows the lives of a diverse group of expatriates living in Fukuoka, Japan.
The main character of the story works as an “Assistant Language Teacher” (or ALT) at a rural junior high school. I previously worked as an ALT on the Japanese government-sponsored “JET Program” (“Japanese Exchange and Teaching”), so it goes without saying that a lot of my own experiences shaped this story. But by and large, I think the similarities between my real life and the story are anecdotal. This is the most fictional comic I’ve written in years, and crafting the somewhat complex story has been alternately fun, frustrating, and illuminating.
I’ve been working on this thing for a little over four years now. Out of the planned four parts, I’ve finished the first part and about 8% of the second part, so I’m a little over a quarter of the way through the whole thing. Were I to continue at this breakneck pace, it’d take me another 12 years to finish the whole thing. God, how depressing. Granted, part of the reason it took me so long to get this far is because for the first three years I was working as an ALT full-time. But no matter how you spin it, it takes me a loooong time to finish a comic book. Yet another reason why I feel it’s important to devote myself to comics full-time…
Anyway, here are a few artwork examples. Click on each of them for a bigger view. I’m still deciding on the final color scheme; so what’s shown here is just temporary.
I’ll write more about Tonoharu than you’d ever care to know in future blog entries. Next week’s entry, however, will be devoted to my experience with the JET Program.
As previously mentioned, I am in the midst of a prolonged attempt to see if I can’t eke out a living by drawing comic books.
For most jobs distinguished enough to be called “professions”, one can at least expect to earn a living wage. Not so with cartooning. Many of the very best (non-mainstream) cartoonists have to supplement their income with side-jobs. Others live in abject poverty. Only a very talented and lucky few are able to make a comfortable living at it free and clear.
If you’re reading this on or around the date that it was put up, then I probably know you personally and you’re probably among the dozen or so people who I mentioned this blog to. Of those twelve or so people, about half probably already have a pretty good idea about what I’m up to, so I guess I’m writing these words for the benefit of about six people (who are presumably barely interested in the first place). But I suppose it’s good practice for my newfound intention to blog regularly, so here we go.
So here’s what’s going on in my life recently. For about a year now I’ve been unemployed and have been living off my savings. This state of unemployment has been willful, and is part of a greater plan to determine the economic and logistic feasibly of a career as a cartoonist. For the past twelve months I’ve devoted myself to the production of a lengthy, (yet unfinished) graphic novel, as well as applying for various scholarships and grants to help me in the pursuit of a comics career (more about all this nonsense in blog entries to come). It is my intention to continue this irresponsible lifestyle at least until the end of this year, and possibly longer depending on how things go.