March 25, 2023

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This is the first AI-generated manga ever: “Drawing Hands Still Hard for AI” | Technique

“Cyberpunk: Peach John” looks like one of the many manga released every year in Japan. The story follows the hero of Japanese folklore Momotaro, who was said to have been born from a giant peach and now lives in a dystopian future. The story is undoubtedly not the craziest manga writer has ever come up with. But this comic has a very cool artist: Midjourney’s AI. The manga has been on sale since yesterday.

Anonymous manga writer Rootport finished his latest project, Cyberpunk: Peach John, in just six weeks with the help of artificial intelligence. A similar manga, over 100 pages long and colored, could take more than a year to complete by hand, Rootport estimates.

Rootport used Midjourney’s online image generator for all images, which produces detailed images based on written instructions. Through trial and error, the descriptions have been modified so that Midjourney is able to create visuals that perfectly match the “Cyberpunk” story.

Rootport shows how he created the new manga visuals using Midjourney’s AI software. © AFP

The author sometimes had a hard time with this. Midjourney cannot recreate a live-action character in a different pose or with a different facial expression. As a solution, Rootport chose to give all of its characters very distinct features. For example, one of them has pink hair and the other has dog ears. This way, readers can continue to learn about the characters throughout the story.

In addition, it remains difficult for AI to depict hands. Hands on AI artwork often have too many or too few fingers or look anything but human. So the manga writer had to make an “important compromise” by reducing the scenes with hands. “The hands were difficult to draw and the details tended to melt,” he said.

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A new kind of art or theft?

The emergence of AI art has raised a major issue of creativity and artistic integrity. Is AI art really art? Opinions are divided. Last August, American game designer Jason M. Allen won an art competition with a futuristic image he created using artificial intelligence. The artistic value of his work has been questioned on social media, but he insists that a great deal of work has gone into his entry. “It’s not like you’re just putting words together and winning matches,” he told CNN at the time.

Copies are filled out
Copies of “Cyberpunk: Peach John” are being packed at publisher Shinchosha’s office in Tokyo. © AFP

Rootport also insists that the new manga should be considered a work of art. He pointed to artworks such as Marcel Duchamp’s fountain, an industrial urinal, and Andy Warhol’s Campbell’s Soup Cans to support his point. “If you consider their work, which uses existing industrial products and label designs, to be art, then there is no logical reason to treat AI differently,” he says.

Others see AI-generated artwork as plagiarized art, as many AI image tools rely on existing works to create new images. This has also led to a discussion about the possible copyright of AI artwork.

According to the writer, the preview of the comic, which was previously posted on the Internet, was met positively. Some people on social media are still expressing their disapproval. One Twitter user called the project “an absolute insult to manga and manga artists all over the world”. Another commented, “Publishing manga with AI is weird when you have some of the most talented artists in your country.”

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