Soon, the first chapter of Give My Regards to Black Jack had been published in Morning.
After I had been told that the serialization would begin in five weeks, without any warning, they started exactly on schedule, without giving me any time to prepare. By the time the first chapter was published, I had only just finished the third one. I didn’t have a stock of storyboards either, and up until the third chapter, every page had been a color page.
After I finished a storyboard, my editor would say: “Congratulations. We’ve gotten the OK to give you color pages.” So I cut even more time out of my sleep to finish them. I was so busy at this point that I no longer had any time to shave or change my clothes. I was just a creature who went back and forth between my apartment on the 4th floor and my office on the 1st floor.
I had very little control over the production schedule, which was very unnerving. All I had were the reference books in my office and the small bits of medical data that the editors would bring me. I had no time to double-check and make sure everything was correct. So I used my imagination to think up scenes from a hospital that I’d never actually seen in real life. What I built up with drawing Umizaru was my ability to draw something a world I’ve never seen, as if I’ve actually seen it. I felt as if I was trapped up in a dark room with only a few parts, and being asked to create something amazing that no one’s ever seen before. But, without any other choice, I just desperately fought as hard as I could and kept working.
Aside from the intense schedule, I was also surprised by how in the first chapter, they had changed the lines I had written without telling me. If it was something as small as rephrasing something, I could understand it, but the main character’s monologues and the medical information had been replaced with completely different things. In 4 different spots.
After opening the magazine, for a moment, I couldn’t really process what was happening. After all, this was my work. I owned the rights to it, and no one else had the right to change anything about what I had written. Legally, that is. The same thing had happened in Umizaru, and as a result, I had gotten into a big fight with the editors… Now, it was happening again, but from the very first chapter. What I had written had been replaced with very explanatory words that lacked any sort of sense or suggestiveness.
I immediately protested to my supervising editor, but he quickly shut the door on me. “We’re working our hardest to make this piece as good as possible. Can’t you simply understand that we were just trying to make your work better?” I ended up getting nothing but a scolding.
“That’s not what I’m talking about. This is my work, right? If you want to change the lines, please talk to me about it first. The main character of my manga doesn’t say things like this. And if the lines get changed, that can also affect the plot later on.”
“Why don’t get it? This doesn’t belong to you,” he said, sighing and treating me like a complete fool who didn’t understand anything.
I had been through this many times while working on Umizaru. Every time I tried to explain to the editors that they couldn’t just change the lines whenever they felt like it, I ended up feeling like I was trying to communicate with an alien.
This time, I had two supervising editors. S-san, an editor who was a company employee, and T-san, a pro editor. In the end, it was determined that I was the one who had the wrong idea, simply due to influence by numbers.
I was a fool for thinking that even the tiniest thing might improve after switching to another magazine. The pitch black feelings I had built up toward the editors while working on Umizaru, and the equally pitch black feelings I now harbored toward the insane situation I was currently in became the fuel for my work. I turned all my anger toward my manuscript.
The more those adults with their shit-eating grins corrupted me, the purer my devotion toward my manga became. That was all I could believe. I was in a crisis situation, and I had no time to waste.
I had the owner of a public health center who I met while doing research check my manuscripts and fix any errors he found. I was very low on photograph data, so I just kept staring at the few photos I had and drew everything from them. Even though I had experience doing a weekly manga, I already felt like I had reached my limit…but the train had already left the station.
In the end, chapter one got very favorable reviews. It instantly jumped to the second spot in the reader polls, and requests to turn it into a TV show came from just about every TV station. Reviews were published in newspapers and magazines, and it was covered by a lot of media sources. In one night, my world was turned upside down.
Now that I think about it calmly, it seems impossible that the first chapter of a series without any published volumes could garner such a response. Even if reporters did publish articles about it one day after the chapter was released, it would still take several weeks for those articles to reach all the readers. There’s also no way TV stations would make offers like that so quickly… which means that the editors must have started doing PR from much earlier. And it had worked rather well. The editors seemed pleased with themselves. Their plan had been a success, which must have felt quite nice. They had succeeded in selling the manga. I recognize that.
But I’m the one who created it. They’re the ones who sold it.
S-san even went out of his way to show me a message that he had received from the ex-editor-in-chief. “He’s the one who taught me everything I know about being an editor, and he said this is the first manga he’s actually enjoyed reading since he left. And that he loves the way we planned it. He’s never complimented anything this much!”
He seemed really happy. And of course, by “the editor-in-chief loves the way we planned it,” he meant “The two of us editors are awesome.”
It went on and on. “Usually, as long as the first chapter gets out the door, the manga artist can deal with the rest, but editors are the only ones who can properly handle a project from the very beginning. Manga can be created without manga artists, but you can’t create manga without an editor. Editors are the only ones who turn it from a 0 into a 1.”
As I listened to this, I honestly had no idea what he was trying to say. Manga can be created without manga artists? It sounded like he was trying to say that he was the one who was creating the story, and it just made no sense. I’m the one who created it… It was the same old crap all over again.
As soon as the manga started getting popular, there was an also an incident among my art staff.
One day, when I entered the office, K-kun, one of my staff members, said he wanted to talk with me.
Apparently, his editor had told him that he could start a serialization if he quit working at my office. I was confused, though. For not only had K-kun not drawn any sort of storyboard, he hadn’t even gone to a meeting where they discussed what sort of manga he was going to draw. Why did he have to quit all of a sudden?
Why would an editor say that sort of thing to an assistant like him who hadn’t any real serialization experience? But he was worried about raising any questions and being seen as unreliable by his editor.
K-kun had always wanted his own serialization, and his editor kept inviting him to meetings where they promised him a spot for his own piece, but telling him that they’d let him draw something if he quit working for me just didn’t sound right.
Incidentally, the editor who K-kun had been dealing with worked for the same magazine that had published Umizaru.
Not long after that, I received a call from F-san, who had been my editor during my Umizaru days.
“Congratulations on your new serialization,” he said. Ever since Umizaru ended, I hadn’t met with K-san, the original creator and data provider, so F-san suggested the three of us get together.
As soon as we met each other in a diner nearby my office, K-san told us about his recent work.
“It’s hard to find someone who can draw as well as you, Sato-kun. I-kun is working hard, but his art is just, you know…”
K-san was currently working on a different piece in the same magazine that had published Umizaru. But I think he was only credited as the ‘original creator’ this time.
After he finished putting down the artist, he said: “I wish we could work together again.”
Apparently, he had tried doing a piece with a similar theme to Umizaru in the exact same magazine, but it didn’t gain any popularity, and was going to end soon.
Well yeah, of course.
I’m the one who thought all that stuff up.
Soon, I asked F-san the big question. “An editor told K-kun that they’d let him draw a series if he quit working for me. What’s the deal with that? It seems like they haven’t even decided what exactly he’s going to do… Don’t you think it’s a bit rash of them to force him to quit so early?”
F-san seemed a bit taken aback, but soon regained his composure. “K-kun has talent. It’s true that they haven’t decided what his series will be yet, but I’m sure they’ll get on that right away. You left a big hole in the magazine. Just believe in us and let us take care of him.”
Well, that made it very clear. K-kun was supposed to be my replacement. K-san had worked on another series similar to Umizaru, but it hadn’t gone well, so now he was going to try and take one of my assistants and force him to draw art similar to mine. Just when my new serialization had just begun to make some waves.
I went back to my office, but I didn’t tell K-kun what F-san had said. Meanwhile, Black Jack just kept getting more and more popular. Every week, the media interviewed me and did coverage on it.
Very soon after that, K-kun stopped working for me.
To Be Continued