In an attempt to educate viewers about manga and preserve the intricate craftsmanship and process of Japanese artists on video for future generations, he invites a manga artist to have their workplace filmed for a couple of days, so as to display them in the process of crafting chapters for their current serializations. The cameras are fixed and specifically placed so as to be as unobtrusive as possible, letting the artists work comfortably. After the footage has been shot, Urasawa meets with the artist and they discuss the footage, talking about the artist's workplace and workflow, the difficulties involved in the mangaka lifestyle, their reasons for drawing manga in the first place, and their perspective on the current industry and their own work.
It initially began as a one-off special, featuring Urasawa himself working on his current title Billy Bat, and then following up with Kaiji Kawaguchi (Zipang) and Kazumi Yamashita (The Life of Genius Professor Yanagizawa). It was then spun off into a full series, with the first season featuring Akiko Higashimura (Princess Jellyfish), Kazuhiro Fujita (Ushio and Tora, Karakuri Circus), Inio Asano (Goodnight Punpun), and Takao Saito (Golgo 13).
Tropes featured in Manben:
- Art Evolution: Frequently discussed, as you might expect. In the Takao Saito episode, Urasawa even shows a few of his old drawings he made when he was a kid.
- Characterization Marches On: Discussed in Takao Saito's episode. He states that he initially showed Golgo making much more lively expressions, but eventually settled on him keeping the same completely stoic face he is more widely known for.
- The Ken Burns Effect: Happens frequently since the series deals with still images regularly, although most of the time there IS something moving.
- Fantasy-Forbidding Father: Moto Hagio states that her parents forbid her from drawing manga as they thought it was her goofing off and thought she should have been focusing on her education. Several decades later they realized they were wrong and apologized to her.
- Scenery Porn: In Daisuke Igarashi's episode he talks about this in some detail, stating that communicating the beauty of the nature to readers is the main impetus behind his work. Igarashi draws almost all of his manga himself including and especially the backgrounds (a rarity among mangaka), and he states that if he HAD to delegate something to assistants, it'd probably be the characters, as the scenery in his work is everything to him.
- Uncanny Valley: Mentioned in the Kengo Hanazawa episode, in the context of the realism that Hanazawa pursues in his manga to portray the horrifying creatures from I Am a Hero in a convincing and believable way.
- You Have GOT to Be Kidding Me!: Urusawa's reaction when he sees that Fujita Kazuhiro doesn't bother adding details to his rough sketches and just inks over his outlines. By contrast, Urusawa himself gets the lineart down before inking and, as the narration points out, you have a definite idea of what the final art will look like with Urusawa's pencils.