My first serialized work was about to be published.
In front of me was a stack of drafts for the first six chapters. The day the serialization would start still had yet to be decided, but once it did, I would become a weekly author.
At the time, I was living in an apartment in Koenji that was 9.6 square meters, with a kitchen that was 6.4 square meters large. It didn’t take long for me to start fantasizing. When my serialization starts, I’ll have to make the big room into my staff studio, while I draw manga in the kitchen. I wonder if I’ll be able to hire three people? I won’t make my staff stay up all night…
Since I was a weekly author now, that meant I had to draw one chapter, or 18 pages a week. So if I drew six pages of characters and three pages of backgrounds a day, and then inked all 18 pages by the sixth day, I’d be fine. Once the serialization began, I could hire staff and then let them draw the backgrounds to shrink my workload into three days’ worth. I could deliver a draft within three days.
I took a deep breath, and then started drawing my drafts.
If I decided to sleep three hours a day, and it took me a day to draw six pages of characters, that meant the equation was 21 hours divided by 6 pages = 3.5 hours. I’d have to get as far as inking a page every 3.5 hours in order to finish in time.
It didn’t seem like an impossible pace. I could buy several days’ worth of food and cigarettes at the convenience store, and then just stick my nose to the grindstone. If it took me 3.5 hours to draw one page, then I’d have to finish the sketching within 1.5 hours.
One page meant an average of seven panels, so I’d have to sketch one panel every 12-13 minutes. And in order to finish one every 12-13 minutes…
I decided to check my progress every ten minutes to try and meet my goals.
The first chapter was extra-long, at 36 pages, and I think it took me about two weeks to finish it. After taking the manuscript to the editors, they invited me to join them for dinner, but I declined and ran back to keep drawing. I decided on the sixth day, after turning in the manuscript, I’d allow myself to sleep for six hours.
The first time I went to turn in a draft, the assistant editor-in-chief saw me and said “Oh, you finished it?” He approached me, picked up the draft on the table, and started flipping through it. “Stiff…stiff, the art’s really stiff. You need to get more used to using your pen… you’re still at this level. (Gesturing with his hands) When __-sensei was here, he was…” After spouting off everything he had to say, he walked right off.
Since that editor wasn’t an artist, he probably had no idea about how much time it had taken to draw that “stiff” art. I wasn’t expecting him to encourage me, but it was still discouraging.
Does he just think that time and money are all that’s necessary to create a manuscript? I wondered.
What he was probably thinking was, “I’ve read tons of manuscripts, and I’m being nice enough to take time out of my busy schedule to give advice to this newbie, so he must be very happy.”
Sometimes, there were cases when even an amateur reader’s opinions could come in handy. It’s true true that readers and editors do contribute to an author’s growth, but I thought something was wrong with an editor who had absolutely no respect for an author, regardless of whether or not he was an amateur.
Why do they always talk down to me? I wondered.
After I left T-san’s studio, he’d invite me out to drink to check up on me time to time.
But I’m busy… I’d always think. Alright, if I lower the sketching time from 12-13 minutes to 9 minutes, that should give me 60 extra minutes to spare across three days, so I should be able to go out for that long, I decided, and ended up going out.
Going to the same place and seeing the same faces made me feel like I was in a place where I belonged, and that was fun. T-san was an artist, so he understood the quality of my work, and knew how difficult it was to finish an entire manuscript alone in one week. He understand the amount of work I was dealing with, and could also tell that I had focused on speed with my art. All of a sudden, I felt very ashamed.
But deep down, I had confidence in myself. I felt like I was working harder than anyone else. I felt like I had spent more time on manga than anyone else I was drinking with, and that I was drawing even more manga than T-san himself. Then I remember the words the assistant editor-in-chief had once told me.
“You’ve risen above T-kun. He’s only a monthly author. You’re going to become a weekly one.”
They had pissed me off at first, but in the end, they had poisoned me.
I think I had been called out at five in the morning that night. It was right before the place closed, and the sky was just starting to brighten. After it closed, we’d always go to T-san’s studio and continue drinking there. When I got there that time, I was so tired from work, and just tired in general, that I got drunk in no time at all.
As one of my teachers, T-san started giving me advice, but I was sick of hearing people talk about me. I didn’t feel like hearing other people’s opinions anymore.
No matter what anyone said, I just thought things like “Fine then, let’s see you try and do it. Do you know how hard I’ve been working?”
I didn’t just want people to tell me “You’re working hard. Wow!” or things like that. It’s just that no one would honestly acknowledge that I was doing anything good, and this lack of approval was starting to get to me.
I thought about talking back to T-san that night, but of course, I couldn’t bring myself to do it.
Later, my ex-co-worker Nippi stated talking to me. I think he asked me something about how I was scheduling myself. I think he thought that he’d be in the same shoes as me soon, so he wanted to know how my life was going.
It was just an innocent question. But I ended up unloading all my frustration on him. After I emphasized how amazing I was to finish all that work in one day, I asked him why he didn’t try drawing his own manga.
“I want to, but I have trouble finishing drafts,” he replied.
I saw this as Nippi being too easy on himself. “I drew manga even when I felt I couldn’t. Are you serious about wanting to become a mangaka?”
No one’s serious here. They’re all just drinking their time away. All they care about is feeling like they’re a part of something. None of them really like manga. They’ve created these tiny worlds for themselves where they can’t be negated by anyone. They just want to stay in here, smile, and feel like they’re important. Not a single one of them is fighting. Why aren’t they drawing manga? If you’re not serious about it, then don’t say “I want to be a mangaka” in front of someone who is serious. Stop being proud about just sticking one foot into the industry, you self-satisfied jerkoff asshole.
I unloaded all my stress and frustration on Nippi. T-san noticed this and got between us. At the time, I didn’t think that I was doing anything wrong, so I didn’t give any mind to T-san when he tried to calm things.
Of course, T-san wasn’t about to take this. “You’re lonely, aren’t you? You don’t have any friends, do you? Nippi’s just trying to be your friend.”
But for some reason, I wanted to prove him wrong. So things escalated even further, and I started into some verbal abuse. Nippi stopped responding to what I was saying, and then finally, T-san told me to just go home.
Go home? My pleasure. I’m tired of pretending to be friends with you posers.
When I left the studio, the morning sun was high in the sky, and I shuffled onto a train that was ripe with the alcoholic stench of salarymen on their way to work.
“Why am I drawing manga?”
I couldn’t really think of an answer.
When I woke up in my apartment in the afternoon, I was so disgusted with myself that I couldn’t even move.
To Be Continued