Before I knew it, my mini-series had come to an end.
Looking back on it now, it makes me moan in embarrassment.
The series ranked at about fifth place in the series popularity contest that they ran, which was pretty good for a brand-new author. It was pretty good… but not good enough to let me continue the series. After all, my next project was already in the works.
I had already begun working on a storyboard for the first chapter. F-san said I still didn’t have to start yet, but I hated just sitting around and waiting. And I hated doing work just because someone told me to.
I draw because I want to draw. I didn’t know what sort of expectations the editing department had for me, but if they thought that schedule-wise, a person of my ability shouldn’t need to start drawing yet, then that meant it was time for me to show them that I was above their standards.
I wanted to take the challenge of bringing my own draft to the drawing board with nothing but my own ability. I didn’t want to have to be ordered to do it.
Before the serialization began, I went to Hakata numerous times to collect data. K-san, the man who had given us the original idea and data, didn’t seem to have any desires other than the ability to introduce himself as the “original creator” at the coast guard headquarters.
When I was working on my draft at our hotel, he came to me without a care in the world and said: “When you’re collecting data, you should just switch into play mode. You don’t need to treat it like work.”
The editing department said that they wanted to start the serialization within the year, but I didn’t want to draw just when they told me to, so I had already rung my gong. K-san probably had no idea that for me, the fight had already begun, nor did he know how much time I was really putting into this.
So, I asked him how long he thought it took me to draw one page.
“One hour? Huh? Nope? Uh… thirty minutes?” he answered.
The correct answer was that it took about six to eight hours until I finished the final draft’s page. Some pages took 12 hours. Some spread pages with detailed backgrounds could take up to three whole days.
It seemed like to him, drawing the manga just meant drawing pictures to represent the story, so it didn’t involve much creativity. It was actually kind of refreshing to run into someone who understood so little about manga. That’s when I started to realize that as long as I didn’t carry any expectations about anything, I would never feel disappointed.
Every time we went out to dinner after collecting data, F-san and K-san would talk about the story. We had toured a smuggling ship, so they thought it would be a good idea to use that real incident as a basis for a plot about capturing a smuggling ship.
Too bad I’ve already finished the first draft, I thought. To me, it just sounded like they were flapping their gums for no reason.
After eating blowfish for the first time, and getting to touch a girl’s boobs outside of the boob pub after it had already closed, you know, just having all sorts of great first experiences, I felt like I wanted to thank them somehow. But for some reason, I just couldn’t bring myself to be that honest with them, and I wanted to focus on the manga as much as possible, so I just kept my ears shut. I developed a tendency to ignore everything the two of them said. All I did was draw manga, but I would still grab a boob or two when the opportunity presented itself.
Now that I look back on it, I think both of them were trying to work hard for the sake of the manga. At the time, though, I could only see them as two people who insisted on chattering in my immediate vicinity.
Those two won’t be any help to me. I need to get it together and do this on my own.
I had to be that way, otherwise I’d have no reason to keep drawing the manga.
I wasn’t the editors’ slave. I couldn’t just sit still because they told me to. I desperately wanted to make this manga my own original creation. But I can see how I may have looked conceited to them. What I really regret is not saying “That won’t be of any help to me at this stage. It isn’t necessary,” right then and there.
One day, after we returned to Tokyo, I finished the storyboard for the first chapter and took it in to the editors’ office.
F-san read it, and whispered: “Good… good!” over and over.
Of course it is. I poured my blood, sweat and tears into it.
As usual, I was grumbling to myself, but after seeing F-san so pleased like that, I couldn’t help but feel a bit happy myself. I was happy, but I had been betrayed so many times up to this point, that I couldn’t just be honest and smile.
After that, the usual (?) 10 editors gathered up and went out to dinner with me. Now that I look back on it, I guess they really had a lot of expectations for me. My mini-series hadn’t necessarily been bad, but I think they just thought: “With his skills, he can handle an even bigger series.” In short, they were gambling on me.
Even though they weren’t actually paying me to draw these storyboards.
At this point, it had been half a year since I made my debut. After many years of being told “there’s no seat for you on this train,” all of a sudden, I was riding in a VIP seat on a bullet train.
I had to stay cynical, or else I might have lost myself.
For the draft, I had thought up my own vision of a coast guard’s day-to-day life. “An accident happens, and when the coast guard gets to the ship, they find out it was a smuggling ship.” That was basically the story.
I hadn’t given a single thought to anything F-san or K-san had said, but in the end, they didn’t seem to care. I wanted to mix exciting rescue scenes with the smuggling incident to add more tension and make it into an unpredictable, thrilling story. And it seemed like I had succeeded.
Soon, F-san started a long speech.
“I heard that the draft of the first chapter got finished today, so I had you all make a little room in your schedules so you could come out and celebrate with us. Now, if this draft was crappy, that would really ruin everything, wouldn’t it? And you know, on top of that, Sato-kun didn’t listen to a single thing we told him. I was really worried for a while, but hey, it’s great, so who cares? I figured that guys like him do better work when they’re left alone, so kudos to me for not bugging him! A bad editor would scold him here, but I let him draw what he wanted! I’m awesome, aren’t I? You can see the editor-in-chief sitting there grinning his face off, and you know why? Because we’ve got an exciting new serialization to carry us through to the next year! Now he can put his feet up for the rest of the year! And it’s only September!”
For better or worse, F-san was certainly entertaining. Whether he praised you or put you down, he made it entertaining. And drank a lot. Incidentally, one of the other editors at the table, whom F-san really tore up, happened to become the supervising editor of “New Give My Regards to Black Jack,” ten years later. It’s funny how things work out like that.
Since the draft was finished, it was time to think of a title. F-san suggested putting “Blue” in the title, since it was about the sea, so everyone started thinking of titles that had “Blue” in it.
“If we’re gonna put fish in, then what about Scramble Fish?”
Then, someone suggested that if the title was written sideways, maybe it’d be better to use actual Japanese characters. Then someone asked: “There’s an animal called a sea cow, right?”
Everyone stared blankly at him. But then…
“What about sea monsters?”
“Monsters? That won’t work.”
“Congers are so yummy.”
Then, finally someone suggested: “Sea monkeys.”
“No way!” Everyone said, and started laughing about it. But as you may know, a few days later, “Umizaru” (Sea Monkeys) became the official title.
This reminds me of another connection. Many years later, the assistant editor-in-chief, who was present at that celebration, took part as an instructor in a seminar toward people who aim to become editors of magazines. Apparently, during the seminar, he claimed that he had been the one who thought up the title.
Perhaps he was the person who actually tossed out the word, but that was during a brainstorming session where everyone was tossing out words. That’s all it was. Allegedly, he said something to the effect of: “No one else there could come up with any good ideas, so I tossed one out.”
Everyone wants the credit.
“I thought up that story.”
“I thought up that character.”
“That joke was something I came up with.”
“That manga wouldn’t exist if it wasn’t for me.”
Soon, it really starts to sound like they just could have done it all without me.
But that’s how people are, I keep telling myself. As long as I don’t expect certain things from them, I shouldn’t have to feel disappointed again.
To Be Continued