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Tech March 7, 2023

Machine magic or art menace? Japan’s first AI manga

The creator of a new science fiction manga that is about to be released in Japan has revealed that they do not possess any drawing skills. They decided to use artificial intelligence to help them create the futuristic and chaotic storyline.

All the futuristic contraptions and creatures in “Cyberpunk: Peach John” were intricately rendered by Midjourney, a viral AI tool that has sent the art world into a spin, along with others such as Stable Diffusion and DALL-E 2.

The newly created manga, which is the first to be entirely drawn by artificial intelligence in Japan, has sparked concerns about the potential impact of technology on jobs and copyright within the country’s thriving comic book industry that is worth billions of dollars.

According to Rootport, the author’s pen name, it only took him six weeks to create the manga that is over 100 pages long. If a skilled artist had drawn it, it would have taken a year to finish.

Rootport, a writer who has previously worked on manga plots, entered combinations of text prompts such as “pink hair,” “Asian boy” and “stadium jacket” to conjure up images of the story’s hero in around a minute.

He then laid out the best frames in comic-book format to produce the book, which has already sparked a buzz online ahead of its March 9 release by Shinchosha, a major publishing house.

Unlike traditional black-and-white manga, his brainchild is fully colored, although the faces of the same character sometimes appear in markedly different forms.

Still, AI image generators have “paved the way for people without artistic talent to make inroads” into the manga industry – provided they have good stories to tell, the author said.

Rootport said he felt a sense of fulfilment when his text instructions, which he describes as magic “spells,” created an image that chimed with what he had imagined. Midjourney was developed in the United States and soared to popularity worldwide after its launch last year.

Like other AI text-to-image generators, its fantastical, absurd and sometimes creepy inventions can be strikingly sophisticated, provoking soul-searching among artists.

Some Japanese lawmakers have raised concerns over artists’ rights, although experts say copyright infringements are unlikely if AI art is made using simple text prompts, with little human creativity.

Other people have warned that the technology could steal jobs from junior manga artists, who painstakingly paint background images for each scene.

Sources: CGTN

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