For the DS Etrian Odyssey series, is there a way to have the game build your map for you as you progress? Currently I have to draw the features of every tile. This is tedious and boring for a game that seems otherwise fun. Is there away around this or is it really a core mechanic of the game?
There is an auto-map option in the options that you can access from the pause menu and the title screen. When it is activated, it will automatically perform the actions of "painting", which colors the tiles you walk on. As the movement of FOEs is only shown on tiles that you have physically walked on, this can be handy to activate if you feel the need. It will not draw walls and other dungeon features, though, so that falls on you to handle.
Making the player draw the map is a core mechanic and appeal of the series - it is intended to be part of the experience. Different individuals will map it out differently: I put a wall in front of a door, while my brother puts walls around the door as if it were a passage. As part of the game is to make it your own experience, there is increased creativity in leaving the map detail and style entirely up to the player instead of even suggesting how it might be mapped.
There are also some early quests that rely on you drawing the map - so automatically performing the task for you would make such tasks very easy, aye? And don't worry - they are very lenient and care primarily about walls and floor only, namely because different gamers will use the symbols differently. There are also one or two points where you'll be given parts of the map, but these can be altered to fit your own style of mapping.
Some tips to alleviate the process if it starts to get boring. For the most part, it's a matter of reducing the frequency of updating the map.
While Grace's answer is correct for the previous games in the series, the new "Etrian online untold", a reboot of the first game for 3ds, has more advanced automapping and a floor jump feature that allows you to jump to the end of a level once you have mapped most of it (and reached the stairs once). Maybe that version would be more for you.
The game was released today, Oct 1, in the north american E-shop and stores.