Sato’s Road to Manga #47

It’s been a long time since the last installment, so I imagine some of you have forgotten a bit about what’s happened. I’m very sorry to have kept you waiting for so long.


Lately, I’ve been busy working on a new creation, and I’ve been thinking of nothing but drawing, regardless of whether I’m asleep or awake. I’ve also been writing about nothing but drawing on my blog. Drawing in color has filled my mind with new methods and approaches to drawing, so I’ve even been drawing in my dreams.


I finally discovered a new style, and then, when I felt overjoyed about being able to work that into a new method, I woke up, realized it was a dream, then got depressed. That’s been happening about every day recently. Sometimes it’s fun to mull over something and struggle through it, and in a way I think that’s how a mangaka needs to be. But it also tends to make me stuck, so I’ve ended up making you wait for longer than I should have.


I’m going to try to keep a better balance from here on out. Now then, here we go.




With Umizaru finished, I left the town I had lived in for two years.


I paid my staff two months’ worth of salary, got married, then moved my home and studio to different places. This was the first time I had ever separated my home from my studio. My wife W-san had lived at home for her entire life, and said she wanted to try living in Kichijoji. After looking at different places, we got the feeling that Kichijoji was a disorderly place with a lot of market districts, so we moved to the 4th floor of a small apartment in the next town over. I rented space for my studio on the 1st floor as well.


I had another serialization lined up, but for the time being, I was technically unemployed. I kept paying my staff even though we had no work to do, and I was now renting two rooms, so I was worried for my future. I really wanted to thank my wife for following me despite that, and vowed to make her happy.


We had planned not to get married, but my parents just wouldn’t shut up about it, so we had a small wedding with our families only. My parents, who had been against me becoming a mangaka, then had gone around the neighborhood boasting about me after I had become one, celebrated our wedding by giving us a million yen as a present.


I kept on working as a mangaka because I enjoyed it. Even if I became poor, I didn’t want to accept economic help from anyone just so that I could go on drawing manga. My parents had asked for it, so I shelled out the 300,000 yen to put on a small wedding for them. Then they gave me a million yen in return. It really hurt my pride. That 300,000 was all I could muster at the time.


“We’re going to live on our own now,” I said, and gave them the money back.


“Are you going to trample over your parents’ wishes?!” My parents pressed back, then stuffed the envelope into my pocket.


To my parents, the way they appeared to the public was far more important than the wedding.


After Umizaru ended, F-san put on a celebratory banquet. I had closed myself off from him, so we hadn’t eaten together in quite a while. He reserved the second floor of a blowfish restaurant in Shnjuku, then invited the young editors there so that it wouldn’t just be the two of us (and therefore it wouldn’t be awkward). He went so overblown with the preparations that it all seemed really forced.


Expensive-looking platters came out one after another, and the editors who came took turns drowning me in compliments. They all talked about how unfortunate it was that the series had to end, and when the waiter came back to ask for drink orders, they shouted: “Bring out the most expensive alcohol in the store!”


K-san, the original creator and data collector, was not invited. The editor-in-chief and vice editor were also not present. I made sure to put on a smile so as not to ruin the atmosphere, but in the back of my mind, I was just hoping that I could go home as quickly as possible. Then, once F-san got a bit tipsy, he began to talk to me.


“So, what should we do about your next series? You just finished drawing one, so you may not be able to think up another idea immediately, but let’s make sure we start thinking about the next thing, OK?”


I guess this means the time for smiling is over, I thought. F-san went on.


“Umizaru was a really serious piece, so I bet it was hard to draw. Let’s go for a really bright and cheerful one next time. For example, sports. How about baseball?”


As he spoke, he took out some newspaper clipping that he had prepared. The story detailed a weak high school baseball team that had somehow made it to the national championship.


“You’re pretty good at drawing comedy stuff, right? Like, a sports manga that makes people laugh and cry.”


I took some time to think before I replied.


“I’ve already set up my next series.”


The editors instantly froze.


“With who…?”


“No… I shouldn’t say.”


“What’s the big deal? Go on.”




“C’mon, we’ve come all this way together. What are you holding back for? Say it.”


“It’s… with Take Shobo.”


“Huh? Oh, them? That’s fine. You can keep that going until your next big series. I know how those things go.”


“No… I’ve also been contacted by Morning.”


“… What are you going to draw?”


“I’m sorry, but I can’t talk about that here.”


“Why not?”


“We’re still in the process of hashing it out.”


“Fine. You don’t have to tell us, but since you owe us a lot…”




“No, I know that artists are all technically freelance, but… Come on. You were a no-name newbie, and you were able to draw Umizaru with us… And it worked out really well, didn’t it?”


“No, it didn’t…”






The silence continued. The air around us had gotten so heavy that no one could say anything.


Worried, the waiter came upstairs. “Oh my… So even you people quiet down sometimes!” he said, trying to make a joke. But the oppressive atmosphere forced him to make a quick exit.


Ever since that moment, the editors at the magazine that serialized Umizaru have called me a ‘traitor,’ and have continued to talk about me behind my back. So much, in fact, that I eventually started to hear about it.


Soon after, I started drawing the storyboards for my serialization with Take Shobo. They instantly got approval, and pre-serialization schedule was quickly decided upon. I felt like the editors there were adamant about keeping a tight grip on me, since I was an artist who had done a serialization in a weekly magazine.


This serialization was a mah jong manga about a negotiator working in the underground. I read books, went out to collect data, and focused on writing the story. I was keeping a pretty good pace.


I also continued going to meetings with the two editors from Morning. In the end, we decided to write a manga about a doctor. Umizaru was a rescue manga, so they requested that I write some manga about “life.” I offered up some ideas about stories that I wanted to do, but they all got shot down.


At the time, Umizaru wasn’t really selling that much, so to them, I probably seemed like a minor author who had the potential to sell more, if properly cooked by a major publisher like them.


F-san, not the editor, but the mangaka who had been my first mentor, was one of those ‘not so major’ mangaka who had been drawing a manga in a mah jong magazine when I had worked for him. The manga itself was really entertaining, so I had thought that he would become a major mangaka in no time. In truth, he did get scouted by a major magazine, and started drawing a gambling magazine. F-san was a gambling mangaka. Perhaps that made me a “life mangaka,” then.


“In the end, they always want you to draw the same sort of thing,” I thought, and decided to just go with it. Otherwise, it didn’t seem like they’d be willing to work with me. Instead of dragging on these meetings any further, I was more interested in making some money to pay my staff members, and had confidence that being pigeonholed into a “medical manga” wouldn’t be enough to completely kill my originality.


What I ended up stuffing into that manga would prove just how good an artist I really was. “Medicine” is a pretty broad field, and just about anything goes. And so, I decided to stuff the frustrations toward my profession and its unreasonable nature into this manga.


What does it mean to be a mangaka?


What does manga exist for?


Why do I draw manga?


“What does it mean to be a doctor?”


That’s the story I decided to write.


To Be Continued

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Sato’s Road to Manga #46

Are there only corrupt people in the manga industry?


If that’s true, then is it a mangaka’s duty to let these corrupt people abuse him or her?


At one time, I had thought about quitting manga, but for some reason I couldn’t fully bring myself to give up. I’d done nothing but draw manga so far, so even if I quit, I had no idea what else I’d do, and I knew that even if I got to the point of wanting to die, I wouldn’t have the guts to do it.


When Umizaru ended, the waves started getting rough around me again. After meeting with the editors from Kodansha’s Morning magazine, I got a call from a man named S-san who worked at Takeshobo. He was one of the supervising editors of F-san, the first mangaka I worked under. I had known him for 6-7 years, since I started working for F-san, but he had never so much as glanced at me. Naturally, I was happy to get the call, so I decided to meet with him.


We met at an okonomiyaki restaurant in front of the station.


We ordered some beers and made a toast to our reunion. The editors’ office S-san worked for published a mah jong manga magazine, and he wanted me to draw a mah jong manga for them.


He praised my work. “You’re the artist I want to work with the most, more than any other person in the industry,” he said, then went on to explain just how amazing and charming Umizaru was, in a tone so exaggerated that it embarrassed me.


“I’ve never wanted to draw a mah jong manga,” I replied.


“There are a lot of artists who draw manga without knowing the rules to mah jong,” he countered. “The editors will take care of that, so don’t you worry. ‘Mah jong’ is the key word here, so as long as you touch upon that, you actually might experience more freedom than you even get in a normal magazine. The good thing about mah jong manga is that anything goes.”


He spoke passionately, with his teeth set on edge, trying again and again to convince me. I was nothing but an art staffer when we first met, yet he was very polite and treated me with respect. I had just come from deciding that there were nothing but corrupt people in the industry, but he made me realize that good people do exist as well.


He asked me how much I got for manuscript fees, so I answered him honestly.


“That’s too cheap,” he said, and offered me a higher fee right then and there. “Shogakukan (the magazine I had previously worked with) doesn’t value its artists enough. There’s no future in editors who simply sit on their butts and use up artists like tools.”


The way he suddenly started badmouthing the magazine left me scratching my head, but it seemed like he had his reasons. Apparently, there were a lot of publishers and editors in the industry who wanted my contact information. Those people had to go through Shogakukan’s offices first, but Shogakukan kept themselves closely guarded, and didn’t give anyone any information.


“They keep too tight of a guard.”


Finally, some people came around to S-san’s office, asking if anyone knew my contact info. S-san replied with “I know him, but I can’t just give his information out to anyone. Next time I’ll see him, though, I’ll ask him if it’s OK, so please wait until then.”


It was basically the same thing that the Kodansha editors had told me the other day. At this point in my career, I was completely used to other people treating like a newbie, or like a child, so it was hard to really believe that there were a bunch of editors out there who wanted to hire me. I thought the only reason the Morning editors had contacted me was because T-san, one of my previous employers, had done some work behind the scenes.


S-san went on. “Of course, we’d like you to draw manga for us, but artists aren’t company employees, nor are they entertainers who belong to talent agencies. Hiding jobs from people and stealing opportunities isn’t what a publisher should be doing. When other companies contact us about artists, we answer them, after getting the artists’ permission first.” (Incidentally, after I met with S-san, I started getting a ton of phone calls from other companies.)


I was surprised by how greatly the values of publishers differed. Perhaps the entire industry was already aware of how badly Shogakukan treated its artists.


Well then, what should I do?


Seemed like I’d still be able to work even after Umizaru ended. If I decided to draw a manga for Morning, I knew they wouldn’t give me a serialization immediately, because they were such a big company. I decided the more realistic option was to work at Takeshobo for a bit, do some good work for a monthly magazine, and foster my art staff members.


If I could go on working as a mangaka, then I wouldn’t need to fire them. A mangaka who gathers and fires his art staff based on the conditions of his own career won’t last long. To me, employing staff members as long as you can and working them into every facet of your career is how an employer should be. The only time I would ever close my studio is if I went out of business.


In the end, I decided that if a mangaka’s job is to be abused by corrupt people, then I’d just have to get dirty as well and let them abuse me. Although, S-san from Takeshobo wasn’t corrupt at all.


There were still a few months left until Umizaru finished its run, and over the course of that time I met with S-san and the two Morning editors over and over. The Morning editors wanted to have a meeting concerning a possible serialization, while at Takeshobo, it had already been decided that I’d have a serialization. It seemed that S-san really did admire my work. I hadn’t even drawn any storyboards, but they had already decided everything. It was more than a bit of a surprise.


I had stayed up all night playing mah jong when I was a student, so I knew the rules. And so, without telling them how I had considered quitting my career as a mangaka, I told my staff members that Umizaru would be ending, and that we’d be working on a new mah jong manga for Takeshobo.


Kodansha’s Morning magazine sold way more copies than the magazine that had featured Umizaru, so my meetings with them didn’t go so easily.


“How about drawing for us?” they asked, but still seemed to be looking down on me. The general feeling of the atmosphere seemed to be “If you can draw us a good storyboard, then we’ll put it in,” and I wasn’t sure what I could put my faith in.


Whenever we met, we were always probing each other to find our our true intentions.


“How about a story like this?” I’d say, offering an idea, but they had no interest in what I wanted to draw. Instead, the question on their minds seemed to be “What should we make him draw,” and that came out quite clearly in the way they looked at me.


In the end, it left me feeling distant from them. All I need to do is understand that this is the way these people work, then accept that and draw some manga for them, I thought. Apparently, I still had some desire to draw a manga in a major magazine.


Until Umizaru ended, I focused only on drawing manga, then took a two month break for preparations before I dove into my next piece. I actually had a lot of things I wanted to draw, if it was possible for me to go on being a mangaka. For years, I had come up with all these ideas, but I wasn’t able to do anything with them. It felt like my suppressed emotions were about to explode.


I’m not saying Umizaru was something I didn’t want to draw. I drew it with all my might, and nothing will ever change that. There was a lot I wasn’t able to do, though.


W-san often lent me an ear in times like these. She got angry with me at the editors’ unreasonable behavior, listened to my ideas about my next piece, and told me her thoughts. She had worked with me since chapter 1 of Umizaru, and even when the editors were treating me horribly, I told her: “I’m still happy that I’m drawing manga, because it let me meet you.”


I trusted her more than anyone else, in all facets of my life.


“Once Umizaru ends, I’m thinking of giving everyone two months off. Of course, you’ll still get fully paid, but I’m sure that weekly schedule has tired everyone out. I’m going to take a whole month off myself. Then I’ll spend the next month drawing the storyboards for my next piece. So, how about getting married in the month we have off?”


And so, we decided to get married.


To Be Continued

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Sato’s Road to Manga #45

It was official now – Umizaru was going to end.


After confining myself to my studio for a bit, I went to visit the apartment of my old editor, the first F-san. After I had told him I wanted to make this arc of Umizaru the last, he agreed, and it had been decided right there that the series would officially come to an end.


After talking for a bit, he brought up something else. “Who do you want to be your supervising editor for the ending? I won’t force you to meet with that guy (the 2nd F-san) again, but a new editor who doesn’t know anything would just cause you problems, right? Do you want me to be your editor again?”


Editors aren’t something that can easily be switched out for another. When one editor left, it meant that another had to come in to replace him, which all had to be orchestrated inside the editors’ office beforehand. The fact that F-san asked me if I wanted him to be my editor again meant that the editors’ office had already considered this as a possibility, and were prepared to deal with it. The fact that we had been able to agree on Umizaru ending without talking to the editor-in-chief directly was also proof of that. Both sides realized that it was about time for the series to end, and that’s why were able to come to an agreement.


This was how far I had to go to get them to listen to the opinion of a newbie mangaka. My emotions had already frozen cold. Even though I still felt a lot of frustration, I didn’t let it bubble up to the surface. On that day, I didn’t want him to see the expression on my face, so even though we were inside, I was wearing a knit cap down so low that it covered up my glasses. I also intended to answer F-san’s question as stoically as possible. Possessing the eyes of a dead man was something I prided myself in.


“F-san, I believe that you’re someone who can listen to me seriously without trying to evade things. Please let me draw the ending to Umizaru. In order to do it, I need your help. I’m very sorry for all the trouble I’ve caused you up until now. Please lend me your strength…”


Suddenly, I stopped speaking. No more words would come out. I thought I would be able to stay emotionless, but all of a sudden, I had started crying.


I pulled down my cap even further so that it not only hid my glasses, but my entire nose as well, as snot dribbled out of my nose while I continued to cry. Taking a step back, I bet I looked really embarrassing. Or funny, maybe? This was the only time I’ve ever cried in the presence of an editor.


F-san just said one word: “Sorry.”


Who’s he apologizing to? Not to me, that’d be completely missing the point. Apologize to the manga. Apologize to the readers! And destroy the entire editors’ office while you’re at it!


I decided that once I finished drawing Umizaru, I’d stop drawing manga.


Drawing the ending would let me carry out my responsibility toward the readers. I had lived a stupid, wretched life. At least this way I could die in peace.


And so, I started charging toward the final chapter. Lots of things had ceased to mean anything to me, and now I just felt bad for the art staff who had worked on the manga with me. I got together all the money I had slowly saved up, and decided to pay it to them as severance. It was all I could think of. In the end, I didn’t have what it took to be a proper employer. I felt sorry just for being born.


That was about the time I got a call from Morning, a seinen manga magazine that was published by Kodansha.


First I got a call from T-san, one of the artists who I had worked under. “My editor said he’s interested in you, but are you interested in meeting with him? If you are, then I’ll give you his number.”


I felt like I didn’t really care, but I said “Yes, please,” and shortly after, I got a call from their editors’ office.


Later, two editors came to meet me. One was a company-employed editor, while the other belonged to an editing production company, but was currently working for Morning’s editing department. We sat across from each other in a family restaurant near my studio, and since they had gotten there first, they took the seats of honor, while I sat in the lowest seat. It’s a small detail, but so far in every meeting I had ever attended, the author had always been given the highest seat, so it seemed a bit strange to me.


S-san, the company-employed editor, had a big wart between his eyebrows, and was wearing a T-shirt with Antonio Enoki’s motto printed on it: “Don’t hesitate, just go, and you will understand.” (Incidentally, this quote comes from a poem called “Roads” written by Kiyozawa Tetsuo, later known as Akegarasu Tetsuo, but for some reason everyone thinks the quote originated from Ikkyu. Sorry, I know this is pointless trivia.)


T-san, the editor from the production company, was tall, slim and without muscle, yet his stomach protruded outwards, and looked to be a textbook example of the effects of intemperance on the body.


Editors coming as a pair was something new to me. And when I told them that, they said: “Whenever there’s only one supervising editor, the talks have a tendency to become secretive, and opinions tend to become biased, so we believe more than one editor should supervise projects in order to keep them fair.”


Huh. Guess even common practice differs from company to company.


S-san went on. “At Shogakukan, you only had one editor, right? I find that autors usually can’t handle all the enclosure and trouble that brings. Besides, they say if an editor makes a mistake, and he doesn’t report it to the guys upstairs, then it becomes the author’s mistake.”


“Yes, that’s certainly true,” I replied.


“Well, how exactly do you feel about Shogakukan? Do you have any complaints?” S-san asked. “Please tell us your honest opinion.”


I wasn’t exactly comfortable with the idea of spilling all the complains toward my magazine to some people I had met for the very first time, so I kept quiet.


Soon, S-san started speaking again. “We tried to obtain your contact information through various methods, but it seems that no one has it. Usually, we can find at least one person who can get us in touch with an author, but Shogakukan has a very tight guard up. We think of authors as freelancers, and not property of companies, so we don’t really think their style. It seems a bit… pompous, wouldn’t you agree? They think they own the authors. I bet that’s why their authors don’t trust them!”


I was surprised that he was telling me this all of a sudden. I had never told anyone about the problems I had with the editors’ office, so I started to suspect that maybe they had learned something. Either that, or they simply viewed Shogakukan as a rival.


“C’mon, let’s be honest here,” S-san said. “That magazine’s bad news, right? Ever since the editor-in-chief changed, they’ve been floundering. Authors have been escaping left and right, like rats running from a sinking ship. We’re kind of like hyenas, so when we see an editors’ office start to sink like that, we try to snatch up authors as quickly as possible. All we need to do is dangle a few hooks, and authors chomp down on them one after another.”


Most likely after realizing how rude S-san sounded, T-san cut in. “S-san, you can’t use the words ‘rats’ and ‘hooks’ when you talk about authors. I’m sorry about that – he isn’t the most eloquent person. But as far as the situation goes, we’ve heard from various sources that Young Sunday (the magazine Umizaru was serialized in) is in a bad way. We don’t work at their offices, so we don’t know the details, and there is no way for us to, but there are certain things we can feel, since we’re in the same line of work. For example, let’s say there’s an apple in front of you. Obviously, I see that apple and think it’s ‘red,’ but Sato-san, perhaps you think it’s ‘green.’ At that point, we would have to discuss just what it means for something to be ‘red.’ What does ‘red’ mean? Maybe it’s not actually an apple at all. In order to properly discuss something, there’s a certain amount of prerequisite information that must be made clear. For example… what has led you to come in front of us now, Sato-san? Can you share that information with us?”


It appeared that T-san thought of himself as a “polite, smart person,” but I didn’t quite understand what he was trying to tell me through his abstract examples. On the other hand, I wasn’t sure if S-san was merely trying to draw appeal from the fact that he was straightforward and exciting, if sometimes a little harsh, or if he simply was just a rude person.


“Hey, T. Enough already,” S-san said. ”We’re not out there trying to scoop out every author we can. We feel that Sato-san is capable of meeting our readers’ needs, and that’s why we’re here. So, I’ll just give to you straight. How about coming and drawing for us?”


It was so sudden, that I had trouble coming up with an answer.


“I know, you probably can’t answer such a sudden question,” S-san added, then let out a hearty laugh.


Grinning, T-san jumped in. “Oh, he’s always like this. For example…”


We split up shortly after, with the promise to meet again in a month. I didn’t quite understand either of them, but they had certainly made an impact on me.


When I got back to my studio, I got a phone call from the editor who was currently supervising F-san, the first mangaka I had worked under. ”I have a job to talk to you about, can you come and meet with me?”


Just after I had finished drawing Umizaru, and was thinking about quitting my career as a mangaka, all of a sudden, I found that I had gotten really popular.


To Be Continued

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Sato’s Road to Manga #44

That night, 40 voice messages were left on my answering machine.


After slamming my fists on the table the restaurant and walking out on my editor, I went back to my studio/home. 30 minutes later, my doorbell rang. I ignored it, and then my telephone rang.


“I won’t tell the chief about this. So please, just answer the phone, sensei. Please!”


Streaming out from the answering machine was the voice of the second generation F-san. I just couldn’t pick up the receiver. “Talking with you is just a waste of time. Just hurry up and bring the chief here already,” I had said. So why, then, did he reply with “I won’t tell the chief about this?” I couldn’t believe how he could possibly act like he was doing me a favor here.


After that, every 30 minutes, my doorbell rang again and again. My phone also continued ringingly endlessly.


“I know you’re in there. Do you know what’s going to happen if you keep doing this?” he asked in a low voice, during one call. And then, just when I thought he was about to threaten me, he went… “Sensei! Please! I still haven’t told anyone about this! Please just answer the phone!”


“Hey, Sato… cut it out already, or I’ll really bring the chief here.”


“I’ll wait just one more hour! I bear no responsibility for what happens afterwards!”


“Today, I’ll wait just one day for you… so just answer the phone.”


“Sorry about earlier. I’ll forgive you this time, just please, answer the phone.”


Apparently, the new F-san was walking around outside my apartment, hoping he could catch me, and calling me over and over again. Now I couldn’t take a single step outside. My refrigerator was empty, and I was starting to get hungry, but my editor was standing right outside my door. Even after it got dark, I didn’t turn on the lights, and since I had nothing else to do, I decided to go to sleep, and curled up on my futon.


As I did this, a vague thought passed through my head. “Guess I’ll just have to give up manga now.”


Right after telling my editor that I wanted this arc of Umizaru to be the last, he had switched himself out for a new one, who absolutely refused to take any part in a discussion concerning the end of the manga, and no matter how many times I called the editor’s office and asked them to let me speak with the chief, they wouldn’t let me.


What was I supposed to do?


If I had pushed my way into the editors’ office and gone on a rampage in the reception area, screaming “Let me see the chief,” would they have let me? If I had committed some crime and got on the news, would they have let me end my serialization? I had only ever spoken with the chief once, right after the old chief left, when I introduced myself to him. After I finished speaking, all he had said to me was: “Your art’s too black. Can you make it a little whiter?”


Unfortunately, Umizaru was a very popular series. And as long as a series was still making them money, they were going to try and make it drag on as long as they could. I knew that was how they did things. I liked Umizaru. The characters in that manga felt like they really existed. To me, they were no different than living people – they lived inside of me. And the only one who could let their story come to an end when they asked for one was me. It was a way for me to show my love to them and the manga. The circumstances of the magazine had nothing to do with me. I knew how the editor’s office was cutting off “fatty” manga one after another, in the name of the new editing policies. I also knew what the editors’ office said to those authors.


“This is the joint opinion of the entire editors’ office. How many people do you think are involved in this magazine? How many mouths do you think it feeds? You can’t expect us to listen to the selfish requests of a single person.”


Please cancel my series, just like you did theirs. I know this magazine won’t last for another decade anyway. I don’t want to draw manga as someone’s dog.


Releasing a work to the world is the same thing as killing someone. Someone who reads your work may be influenced, and may even go off and commit a murder. That’s how horrifying a thing drawing manga is. How could you do something like that while being ordered around by someone else?


As the dozens of calls continued, I got a call from W-san, the woman I was dating. When I heard her voice flow through the answering machine, I picked up the receiver.


“I think I’m going to stop drawing manga,” I told her. She didn’t object.


I had no idea what I was going to do after I quit. I’ll have to move into a smaller room, I thought. And once I leave my studio, I wonder how much severance I’ll have to pay my staff members?


I thought back to when we had started going out. The day I asked her on our first date, she said something to me while we were riding the train toward our destination.


“I also got asked out by __ yesterday.”


When I heard that, I felt said, but I mustered up all my courage and gave her a reply.


“Can I like you too?”


If I stopped drawing manga, would she start to hate me?


Soon, it became late, and the doorbell chimes began to dwindle.


If the next chapter of Umizaru doesn’t appear in the magazine next week, what will the readers think?


The next day, I received a call from my old editor, the first generation F-san. After hearing his voice on my answering machine, I picked up the phone.


Several hours later, the old F-san appeared at my apartment and sat down at the table across from me. And then, I repeated something I had said many times before.


“Please let this be the last arc of Umizaru.”


F-san replied quietly. “Alright. We’ll let you end it here.”


That was the moment in which Umizaru’s end was finalized.


To Be Continued

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Sato’s Road to Manga #43

One day, a page I had drawn appeared in the magazine upside-down.


It was a spread double-page bird’s-eye-view of Hakata Bay. But in the magazine, it depicted the landscape in the opposite way you would see it on the map, and there were no text indicators, so readers who hadn’t looked in a map in a while might have gotten confused.


Ever since the second F-san became my new editor, his low-level mistakes and misunderstandings continued in rapid succession, but even I was shocked by what he had managed to do this time. I immediately contacted him, told him that the manuscript had been published upside-down, and asked him to fix it. It was just such a basic, unthinkable mistake.


I was shocked by how he responded.


“In this situation, does it really matter whether it’s upside-down or not?”


For a moment, I didn’t quite understand what he was trying to say, and just replied with: “Huh?”


“There are no words, so it doesn’t really matter, does it?”


“Of COURSE it matters. It’s upside-down. Please fix it. The magazine’s already been released, so I know you can’t fix that, but please fix it so that it appears right-side up in the volume.”


“Sato-san, it’s already appeared in the magazine like this, so I think that if we change it now, it’ll confuse the people who read the chapter in the magazine. And that isn’t good, is it? I think you’re being too selfish here.”


“What are you talking about? You’re the one who made the mistake here. North and south are upside-down. It’s like publishing a map of Japan upside-down. There’s no possible way that this could be OK, no matter how you look at it.”


“No, I’m just saying that it’s not good to confuse the readers. Sato-san, don’t you understand what I’m saying? This is a really important thing, you know. Sheesh…”


He even made sure to throw in a few calm sighs as he spoke. In short, he didn’t want to let his superiors know that he had made an irreconcilable mistake, so he was trying to twist it around on me, insisting that no one would realize that Hakata Bay was upside-down. In order to make it all the way to the magazine like that, it had to have passed through proofreading, which means that none of the editors must have caught it. Although these sorts of things kept happening over and over again, I was still shocked by how he wouldn’t even acknowledge his mistake, let alone apologize, and just kept trying to pass it off as insignificant.


Because of this sort of behavior, it became extremely difficult to talk to F-san about ending the serialization. Hardly any time had passed since he became my new editor, but I still had to break into the topic somehow.


“The previous F-san told me that I should talk about this with you, so that’s what I’m going to do. I want this arc to be the final arc of Umizaru.”


After approaching him as directly as I could, F-san pretended not to hear me. Ignoring things that were problematic to him was something he had tried numerous times before. I changed my approach.


“F-san, I’m sitting here in a coffee-shop with you, trying to talk to you. Can’t you tell that I just said something to you?”


As he continued to ignore me, I continued to speak.


“Before you came along, I had been talking with the old F-san about ending Umizaru. You became my new editor in the middle of that discussion, but it hasn’t ended. I believe that Umizaru has reached its endpoint. If I just decide to end the series without contacting the editors’ office, it may cause problems for them, so I want to discuss the matter beforehand. Please let this arc be the final arc. I think I can finish it in about two volumes.”


He ignored that as well, so I said one more thing.


“F-san, I’m speaking to you alone in a coffee shop. Can you hear me?”


Then, he finally opened his mouth.


“I can’t. I can’t hear a single thing you’re saying.”


Wow. There are actually adult, fully-employed males who behave like this… I was shocked out of my mind. And so, as if explaining something to a child, I slowly explained why the manga had to end. As I did this, F-san glared at me, and further distorted his asymmetrical face.


He was trying to intimidate me, as unbelievable as it may seem.


Then, when I finished speaking, he lit up a cigarette and replied. ”It’s not gonna end. Because I don’t think it should.”


Now, he just sounded like some low-level thug. He switched from the polite pronoun ‘boku’ to the rude, more informal pronoun ‘ore,’ and tried to sound tougher to me.


“Sato-san, man… what is it with you? The editor-in-chief changed, and we’ve switched out a bunch of series. You have no idea when they might cut you off as well… if the editor-in-chief wants to keep doing it, then that’s what we’ll do. It’s not your decision.”


After hearing this new speech pattern of his, I opened my mouth to reply, but he cut me off. “Shut up. You’re going to keep drawing, it right? In times like these, you have to say ‘Yes.’” He wasn’t even going to listen to me anymore.


By this point, he was mixing polite and rude speech together, and none of it made any sense to me.


My clenched fists were shaking. “When I try to discuss things with you, we never get anywhere. Please let me talk to the editor-in-chief,” I said, and left. I had to. I felt like if I stayed there any longer, I’d end up punching him.


After that, I kept requesting to speak with the editor-in-chief. But whenever I mentioned anything about ending the serialization, he would always start trying to intimidate me with threats and menacing statements. Our discussions never got anywhere, so I just kept asking him to bring the editor-in-chief out. Every time we had a new meeting, I’d think “OK, this will be the week he finally brings the editor-in-chief” only to be disappointed.


There was a lot I didn’t like about the old F-san, but he would always explain his editing policies and how that related to his own opinion, so for better or worse, at least he never lied. That’s why, even though I didn’t like him, there was still something about him that I could respect. People who have no personal pride are trouble. The only thing the second F-san had pride in was his role as the “gatekeeper,” and unless the artist decided to agree with the editing policies unconditionally, he’d just keep trying to shoo them away.


The old F-san probably realized that I could keep drawing manga without an editor, which is why he entrusted me to this idiotic guard.


Eventually, I just got fed up with him, so whenever he would come to my studio to pick up the manuscript, I’d keep my face glued to my desk, leave a bag containing the manuscript by the door, and force him to leave immediately, among many other childish things. But I thought that if I kept giving him these strong signs, the problem would spread to the entire editors’ office, and I might finally get a chance to right things.


Hm? You think that instead of trying all those roundabout tactics, I just should have tried calling the editor-in-chief and speaking to him directly? Of course, I tried to call him. Many times. His secretary wouldn’t even give me the time of day. I imagine that at the time, not letting Umizaru end was a supreme directive of the editors’ office. The volumes were selling well, and it was a popular series. Ever since the editor-in-chief changed, the magazine had forcibly cut off every series that didn’t fit with the new editing policies. But Umizaru was drawn by a newbie author, so they thought that instead, they could mold me and fit me to their own devices.


But there’s nothing worse than an editor who won’t work for the sake of the manga. I didn’t expect him to do any work for my sake, and since he was an employee at a company, it was only natural that he would do work for their sake, but unless it was benefiting the manga in some way, it wouldn’t really end up benefiting the company. Mangaka bet everything they have on their manga. Of course, I know that there are some artists who don’t think like that, but still. I wasn’t trying to end the manga for my own sake. I was doing it for the manga. I wanted it to end when it was still at its best.


At that time, to me, Umizaru was everything to me. OK, maybe not everything. Sometimes, I would think about perverted stuff. I always thought about W-san, as well, who I was still dating, and I also racked my head over my staff members and their salaries. But despite all that, the majority of the time I spent at work – in other words, all my waking hours – was spent thinking about Umizaru.


One day, I brought up the topic of ending the series again to F-san. However, since I knew he had a hearing problem, I made sure to say it in a very big voice, one that would surely reach his ears.


“I’m the author, and I’m serious about this. Talking with you gets me nowhere, so please bring the editor-in-chief here!”


This happened about two or three months after he became my new editor. I had reached my breaking point.


“If you continue to ignore me, then I’ll stop drawing the manga. I just can’t anymore.”


This is how F-san replied.


“You cocky little newbie. If you keep saying things like that, then I’ll tell them to the editor-in-chief. And then you’ll be the only one in trouble, because you’ll lose your job. Wouldn’t you agree?”


Something inside me snapped.


“Please, hold on a second. What are you going to tell the editor-in-chief? I haven’t even said anything yet. I just keep asking you to let me speak with him.”


“I can’t hear you.”


“You have ears, don’t you?”


“Who are you? Who are you talking to? I’ll really bring him here. Are you sure you want that?”


“Yeah. Bring him here. Talking with you is just a waste of time. Just hurry up and bring him here already!”


“How will bringing him here change anything?”




I slammed my fists down on the table in that family diner as hard as I could, stood up, and walked out.


To Be Continued

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