Sato’s Road to Manga #31

Soon, I was almost finished drawing my first volume of Umizaru.

 

The manuscript fees weren’t enough to keep my studio out of the red, so by this point, the 2 million yen of savings that I had at the beginning of the serialization had now been whittled down to 1 million. Of course, publishing the volume would fix that. Once my royalties started coming in, everything would be alright.

 

Royalties are the payments made by a publisher or record company to the author or artist whose copyrighted works are being sold. With manga, usually, manga artists receive 10% of the list price of every volume that’s sold. That means from a volume that sells for 500 yen, the artist receives 50 yen. If 10,000 volumes sell, then the artist makes 500,000 yen. If 20,000 sell, then that becomes 1 million yen, if 50,000 sell, then 2.5 million, and if 100,000 sell, then 5 million.

 

With Umizaru, there was also K-san, the person who had been credited with supplying data and the original idea to us. K-san didn’t actually write the story, whether or not he would be paid royalties was a question. He did come up with the original idea, though, and I respected him for that, but his main job was researching and coordinating, and he didn’t take part in the weekly meetings,so although he did help us create the work, it didn’t necessarily mean he could make a copyright claim.

 

But it’s true that without him, this serialization would have never come to be, so I could understand how one might think that he deserved to receive royalties. But if one starts going down that road, they would also have to include the Japan Coast Guard, since they gave us data, as well as the magazine itself, and lastly, me. (Of course, they could have just hired another mangaka to draw it.) On the other hand, K-san received a monetary sum for each chapter that was published, so in that regard, he was already being compensated for his work.

 

Deciding who receives what amount of royalties is a very difficult thing to do. It also seemed that K-san mistakenly believed that he was being treated as the “original creator,” so I imagine he also believed that he deserved royalties. Normally, with manga that have both a credited artist and original creator, the 10% of the royalties are split in half between them. If the original creator is a big name and the manga artist is a newbie, they might split it 6-4 or 7-3.

 

Once I had finished a volume’s worth of chapters, I started thinking about royalties. F-san, my supervising editor, said he was going to look into the company’s policy, and told me to wait a bit for the answer.

 

“The way I see it, Sato-kun, you’re the one drawing everything, so I don’t think we need to pay royalties to K-san. We have to make sure we don’t do anything different from how we’ve treated similar manga in the past, though, so can you just leave it to me to find out what the company says? I won’t let anything bad happen to you.”

 

“I won’t let anything bad happen to you.” That didn’t necessarily mean he’d let anything good happen to me, either. When I heard those words, I realized that I’d be better off not raising my expectations. If anything, it felt like he was trying to prepare me to hear some bad news, which made me feel a bit dejected, but I didn’t tell him how I really felt.

 

I also bet that he was telling K-san something completely different. F-san wasn’t my ally, and the higher I raised my expectations, the more despair I invited on myself. I just kept telling myself that staying emotionless was the way to be, and told F-san: “I wouldn’t get mad if it was 5-5.”

 

Speaking of which, when was the volume actually going to go on sale?

 

It suddenly occurred to me that I still didn’t know the exact date. Publishing a trade volume is a big goal for any manga artist, and since I had never actually published one, I wasn’t exactly sure how the procedure went. The chapters were being serialized, so it seemed like we would have to talk about it soon. But when? All I could do was keep waiting.

 

I was just finishing up the final draft of the ninth chapter, which ended another story arc, and the first volume. When I got done, I was called into the editors’ office. I had worked my hardest in order to finish the first nine chapters on my own, and I wasn’t planning on asking for help for the 10th one. I already prepared an image in my head for it, and researched various sea accident cases to use as references. Still, I was surprised that anyone had yet to ask me about my plans for the next parts. I had heard that if it wasn’t popular, the series would be canceled at the 10th chapter, so as I entered the meeting booth, I wondered if they were going to end my series, and if there wouldn’t be a volume published after all.

 

When I entered the meeting booth, I noticed that K-san and F-san were already there. It seemed like they had been discussing something before I came. Suddenly, I was handed several documents. There seemed to be some sort of plot (?) written on them, in which a fishing ship capsized and the main character had to go out to save them.

 

It seemed like they were trying to tell me to write that story. “I think we can have another guy go out and do the research for this, so as soon as we figure out what we’re aiming for, we’ll send him out,” F-san said, as he continued the meeting.

 

At first, I didn’t really understand what was happening. I thought it was my job to think up the story. All the research on the Coast Guard had been handed to me from the editors’ office, but I was the one who had cooked it up. But now, the story was being pushed along without me. I was being left behind.

 

Appparently, F-san and K-san had a meeting without me in which they discussed how to handle the story from chapter 10 onwards. And since I had finished the 9th chapter, they had chosen that moment to show it to me.

 

That’s when I realized that they didn’t think of me as the author. To them, I was just a guy who sat down and drew pictures. “We’re the brains of the operation.” That’s how they saw it.

 

After that hour-long meeting, we went out to dinner along with ten other editors and the editor-in-chief. There, F-san brought up the topic of the trade volume.

 

“What do you want to do about the volume, chief? I think summer break may be a good time to publish it. Don’t you think that’d be a good time to publish a volume?”

 

“Hmmm, yeah, I guess,” the chief answered. “The second volume should be finished by then, so it’ll be easy to start planning it there.”

 

“In that case, let’s sell the second volume in August, two months later. That’ll make more of an impact. The bookstores will be like ‘Wow, they’re really serious about selling this,’ don’t you think?” F-san asked.

 

“No, the readers probably won’t have enough money to buy them both that close together. They’ll be using their money on other things during summer break.”

 

“Oh, come on! Kids these days get enough allowance to buy a volume of manga a month, you know! Gahahaha!”

 

And on and on they went.

 

My serialization was not being canceled, and they also planned to publish a volume of collected chapters. Of course, I didn’t find out about this until February, five months after July, after going in over 1 million yet of debt from drawing Umizaru for four months. At this rate, by the time the volume came out, I would not only have spent my entire savings, but I would probably have to borrow money to go on living. When I made mention of this, F-san got angry at me for managing my staff badly.

 

“You pay them too much,” he said.

 

At the time, they made 150,000 yen a month. I rented a beat-up apartment that I also used as my studio for 67,000 yen a month, gave them no insurance, and had them work 12 hours a day there. I tried to fix it so that they wouldn’t work more than 40 hours a week, but honestly, not giving them insurance was against the law. Every month, as I looked at my balance drop lower and lower in my checkbook, I always wished that I could pay them more.

 

Publishing that trade volume was a life-or-death situation to me, and I didn’t understand how they could talk about such a thing in front of me, as if it had nothing at all to do with me. I also couldn’t believe that they could pay me such cheap manuscript fees and then yell at me for paying my staff “too much.”

 

Eventually, I just stopped talking. I completely lost my will to speak.

 

At first, F-san got angry at me for this, but then he coaxed me into going to a second place with him.

 

Soon, K-san, F-san, and myself were sitting in a dimly-lit bar. There, I finally opened my mouth again. I felt as if I would never be able to go home unless I did.

 

“Aren’t I the one who’s drawing this manga?”

 

F-san and K-san stared at me in shock.

 

 

To Be Continued



Sato’s Road to Manga #30

If I can become a mangaka, I’ll finally be able to say goodbye to this failure of a life.

 

If I become a mangaka, I’ll get rich.
If I become a mangaka, girls will pay attention to me.
If I become a mangaka, my life will be a success.
If I become a mangaka, everything will change.

 

…or so I thought. But starting a serialization only put me 200,000 yen in the hole every month. I was also too busy to go anywhere, so I spent my days sipping cup ramen in my tiny room.

 

When the first chapter was printed in the magazine, my parents in Hokkaido bought 50 copies of the magazine and sent them to neighbors and relatives. When I had quit university and told them I wanted to become a mangaka, they had hidden this from people, so I was amazed by their actions. It seemed that to them, “Becoming a mangaka = shameful.”

 

“Dropping out of university and taking a stab at a weird vocation like becoming a mangaka = shameful.”

 

“Becoming a mangaka = success = worth boasting about.”

 

It’s pretty simple logic.

 

As for the serialization, in the beginning, there was no real reader response to it, and while editors said “people really like it,” I never really saw any proof of their claim. I had worked constantly without sleeping and resting, but it hadn’t gotten me much, it seemed. After finally becoming a mangaka with a serialization, I didn’t even have the fifteen minutes I needed to step into the limelight.

 

I thought that with this manga, I was going to bomb the world and send it into a panic. People would be so surprised at the overwhelming scale of this manga, written by an amateur, no less. TV stations would come in asking to adapt it, and they’d have to fight each other to secure the rights.

 

But for the time being, none of that came true. As usual, I was just sitting in my room, masturbating and drawing manga like I always had.

 

When the third chapter was published in the magazine, a special on Umizaru was published in the reader pages.

 

Reader pages are pages in the magazine that feature illustrations and postcards sent by readers to the editors’ office. The editors choose from what was sent and make a special page out of them. Since there were an average of 30 series in one issue, they’d pick out 5 or 6 to focus on in the reader pages to balance everything out.

 

This time, my series had been featured. On the Umizaru page, it said “The overwhelming response from the readers in regards to this new serialization has sent the entire editors’ office into a panic! It’s a total emergency!”

 

They actually devoted two whole pages to Umizaru that time. Here, I was able to see postcards and illustrations of characters and ships that readers had sent in. It really seemed like a ton of people had come to like my manga, and the editors were very pleased.

 

This surprised me as well.

 

Wow… those editors never told me about any of these postcards, yet look at how many there are! This is insane. There’s a ton of comics in this magazine, but these people all chose mine to focus on. It must really be popular. I’m going to become a popular mangaka! Once I publish my first volume, I’ll be raking in the royalties! Man, is this really happening? Am I finally realizing my Japanese dream? Man, I’m so awesome!

 

That’s basically what went through my mind as I read those pages.

 

By that time, I had drawn the first eight chapters. I showed the pages to my staff so we could all be proud and encourage each other to keep moving forward. They were pretty happy about it all.

 

By the time we got to the eighth chapter, we had finished the first story arc, and were up to the second half of the second arc. In the first arc, the main character was punished for overdoing things, and got involved with an arms smuggling case. In the first arc, I depicted a smuggling and ocean rescue case, so this time the editors requested that I focus on port guard and land work. K-san, our data collector, went back to the coast guard office and prepared a lot of documents for me.

 

In the next chapter, the ninth, I planned to finish the second story arc. So, one night, I gave the editors’ office a call and reported in that I would stay up all night to finish the chapter. The truth was, I had already called them three hours earlier and told them that the chapter would be done soon, but then F-san told me to “call back when it’s done.” So, I did, but unfortunately F-san wasn’t at the office anymore.

 

I shrugged, hung up, and prepared for bed. Then I got a call from F-san. On the other side I could hear a lot of noise, like he was out somewhere.

 

“I’m in Kabuki-cho right now. Did you finish the manuscript? I’ll take it from you later, just get down here whenever you’re done. I have a very important matter to talk to you about. Just don’t forget to grab the receipt from the taxi driver.”

 

When I got to Kabuki-cho, I found F-san waiting outside a building. He took me up to a club on the 6th floor. When he opened the door, I saw four other editors inside shouting and acting rowdy.

 

When F-san opened the door, he said: “there’s nothing but ugly girls and old ladies in here! Let’s beat it!!”

 

The editors all cracked up, and one of the girls said: “F-san, stop being so mean! You weren’t saying that last night…” and ran over and hugged him.

 

“What are you talking about last night for? You wouldn’t let me do a thing!” F-san shouted back, and then sat down on one of the sofas.

 

The girl motioned for me to sit down next to him, so I did. I never did find out what the “very important matter” was.

 

One hour, then another passed, and I started to get sleepy and wanted to go home.

 

“You’re writing the story, aren’t you, Sato-kun? If we’re drinking with the writer, we can have the company pay for this as ‘work’!” F-san said, and then I finally understood why they had called me here. There wasn’t anything important he had to talk to me about.

 

So I asked him. “I saw the special pages on Umizaru. I was surprised that there was such a response… do I get to receive those postcards later?” I asked.

 

“That stuff was all just made-up! We had those reader pages ready even before your first chapter was published! I just had one of the editors make it up! Got it?! It’s all just fake!” F-san said, with a hearty laugh.

 

“You’re so pure, Sato-kun,” the other editors said, joining in.

 

And so, I continued sitting in the corner of the room, waiting for their revelry to end.

 

This was when I realized that becoming a mangaka changes nothing.

 

To Be Continued



Sato’s Road to Manga #29

Soon, my new serialization began.

 

Its title was “Umizaru” (Sea Monkeys.)

 

This happened nine months after my original debut.

 

The magazine went out of print in 2009, but up until that point, no one had beaten my record of getting a serialization within nine months of a debut.

 

By the time the first chapter was published, I had already written the first six. After finishing the manuscripts from the storyboards I had built up, I finally had to start creating a chapter a week from nothing but blank paper. Of course, the actual deadlines were earlier than when the actual magazine was released.

 

Editors generally share the belief that “if we let the mangaka work until the real deadline, then they’ll end up missing it, so it’s better to just give them a fake one.”

 

As a result, they never told me the proper deadline for when my work had to be turned in. I had a feeling they were telling me to turn manuscripts in three weeks before they would actually be featured in the magazine, and it wasn’t until several years later that I actually learned how real magazine deadlines worked.

 

Anyway, I was in a panic. According to the deadline I had been given, the fourth chapter had to be ready by the time the first chapter was published, so I had one week’s worth of saved-up money to use to make my next manuscript. If I ended up using up all this money, my serialization would not be able to continue. The words “The author of this series suddenly became ill, so it will be canceled” would appear on the back page of the magazine.

 

I felt absolutely no joy about my serialization beginning. And I had heard about how cancelling the manga would cause trouble for a lot of people enough times to make my ears bleed.

 

At the time, there were several authors in the magazine that often went on breaks, and the editors always said terrible things. “Once you turn into that, you’re finished,” I was told over and over again. I didn’t understand why these people were telling me bad things about other people who made the same living as I did, but they did manage to input “missing a deadline is a crime” into my brain. If I happened to miss a deadline, I would become a criminal who’d be picked to death by the editors.

 

I basically felt like a miracle had happened every time I finished 20 pages in seven days. Physically, I was really working beyond my human limits. I couldn’t waste even a second.

 

Whenever I met someone for the first time, it seemed like they couldn’t believe the young man sitting in front of them was thinking up stories and turning them into manga week after week. What they really seemed to think was that the editor had an excellent brain trust that used clever business strategies to think up and prepare the next story, and that I was just simply doing as I was told.

 

The reality was that I was pretty much doing everything by myself.

 

Whenever I finished a manuscript, the first thing I would do is call the editors’ office. Usually, on the next day, my supervising editor would come to pick up the manuscript at a coffee shop in Kouenji, where I worked, and then we’d have a “meeting” for the next hour there.

 

The editor would say things like “How about we do this next time?” My job was just to sit down, shut up, and listen to him. Most of what the editors said was pretty terrible. None of them had ever actually written real stories, and honestly, compared to what I had prepared, their plans were cheap and contrived.

 

But telling them that would only instigate their prideful minds, and insisting that I wanted to do something else would only draw the conversation out longer, so I simply sat and waited for the editor to finish talking.

 

After all, the last thing I wanted to do was waste even more time. Once my hour was up and I was freed, I would go right back to my office/apartment and start working on the next storyboard.

 

If things went well, I’d finish it within the day, but at the latest, I would finish it by the next day. Once complete, I’d fax it to the editors. Once I did that, I’d go out to eat. It was basically my only chance. After coming back, I’d get a call back from the editors.

 

Now. Here’s the part where for once, I truly thought, “yeah, these guys are pros.” They’d tell me which parts of my storyboard were hard to understand, or lacked proper balance, would say things like “If you do this here, you can save a whole page. Just add this information to make it easier to understand” or “it’s impossible for you to draw the whole story within the page limit here, so just end it at page 16 and then spread out the last four pages.”

 

Then, I’d spend the next several hours fixing the storyboard. After repeating this, at some point, they’d say “OK, go ahead and draw it.” This is when I knew the storyboard had “passed.”

 

Then, I could finally begin the main work. It would usually take me a day and a half to get this far, which left me with five and a half days. I’d use two days to finish the dozen or so pages of character art, then I’d get my art staff involved. Their job was to draw the backgrounds behind the characters, so I had to do my work ahead of them, or else they’d have nothing to do.

 

By this point, I’d usually have three and a half days left. When my staff came, I’d draw the last character pages on their first day, and then I’d draw backgrounds along with them on the second.

 

My staff would begin work at 11 am and finish at 11 pm. I’d keep working through to the morning even after they left.

 

Talking with my staff members was my only way of connecting with the outside world. I had no time to watch TV, movies, or read books. Whenever I was awake, I was staring at my desk. I always ate at 5 PM. I mostly called out for delivery, and only ate once a day.

 

On the seventh day, I’d do the finishing touches. I’d apply screen tones and cut like crazy. By the end, the area around my desk would be white with cut-off pieces. After suffering through calls from the editors asking when the manuscript would come in, and ignoring invitations from my friends, skipping baths, not shaving, and making sure all parts of the process went as they should, I’d finally finish one manuscript in a week’s time.

 

It was a steady, honest process. I didn’t have a brain trust, but I did have a solid staff. They couldn’t direct the art without my supervision, though, so I always had to create a storyboard and explain things to them as they drew.

 

On the first day, when drawing the storyboard, I slept for about seven hours. If I didn’t sleep, I would zone out and I wouldn’t be able to think up a good story. On the next day, I’d fix the storyboard and start working on the art, so I could sleep for about six hours. On the next day, I’d be in art mode, so I slept for about five hours. Then four, then three. I usually ended up finishing the manuscript after staying up all night.

 

I never had a day off. Not until Umizaru finished its serialization after two and a half years. No break for Obon or New Year’s.

 

When the serialization first began, I started living without wasting anything, not even time, in order to make sure I didn’t run out of my week’s worth of money. After two weeks, and the third chapter was published, I had managed to draw the sixth and seventh chapters each within seven days.

 

After I paid my staff their first salaries, I had lost over one million yen in my savings. Meanwhile, the manuscript fees from the publisher wouldn’t be deposited into my account until a month after the chapters were published in the magazine. After gathering all the materials I needed for my art and my office and paying my staff members, it made sense how I had lost so much.

 

Allow me to repeat: I felt absolutely no joy about my serialization beginning.

 

To Be Continued



Sato’s Road to Manga #28

What kind of person does the title of “mangaka” describe?

 

Does someone become a mangaka after making a debut in a commercial magazine, or when they gets a solid serialization? Do they become a mangaka when their first trade volume is published, or simply by considering themselves as a mangaka?

 

People have different definitions of what a mangaka is, and up until a certain point, I thought that as long as you were drawing manga to make a living, you were one.

 

Which meant that I had already become one.

 

Ever since I quit working for T-san, I hadn’t borrowed money from anyone, and supported myself solely through my published manga and manuscript fees. It may have been a meager living, but I was still proud. In my bank account, I had saved up money from when I was still an amateur, and when I had done side illustration jobs to make money. I had about 2,000,000 yen.

 

I made a personal rule for myself: no matter how severe my life got, I was never allowed to touch that money.

 

But soon, a day came when I had to break that rule.

 

After finishing my draft of the third chapter, the day my serialization would begin was set, in early December. I think I heard about the decision in October.

 

This meant that I had to begin the art at once. It was a weekly serialization, which meant that me drawing out each storyboard and manuscript week after week would be a physical impossibility. On top of that, this was also a manga that would require a lot of difficult technical drawings of nature and sea vessels. In short, it was time for me to hire art staff.

 

Art staff are paid not by the publishers, but by the mangaka themselves. Usually people who aren’t familiar with the manga industry are surprised when they hear this. All the art staff’s wages come straight from the manuscript fees that the mangaka receives.

 

So, how much money is required to hire one staff member? If one staff member gets 150,000 yen per month, that means 450,000 a month for three people. I had seen a lot of different studios by this point, so I knew that I would need at least three staff members to keep up with the serialization. On the other hand, if I only got 10,000 for each page, and I would be producing about 80 pages per month, that meant 800,000 yen per month.

 

The reason I used “if” up there is because at this point in time, I still hadn’t been told how much I would be paid for my manuscripts. Whenever I asked the editors, they would just give me ambiguous asnwers, but since I was paid 8,500 yen a page for my previous works, I was hoping that they’d bump it up to 10,000 for this serialization.

 

But even if I got 800,000 yen per month, after subtracting the 450,000 yen in wages, that left me with only 350,000 yen of profit. I also had to pay for all my art supplies and screen tones, which cost about 100,000 yen a month, so 350,000 – 100,000 = 250,000. It was also a standard of the industry that the mangaka would purchase the staff’s food while they were at work, so that was another -100,000. I would lose some more with tax, and subtracting what I would need for utilities and transportation, it pretty much left me with zero.

 

At the time, I lived in a cheap apartment with a 9.6 sq m. Japanese-style room and a 6.4 sq m. kitchen. It cost 67,000 yen per month.

 

As soon as I paid my rent, I would be in the red. I also had no “room” to move to a larger room to accommodate three staff members. Of course, I also didn’t have any money to rent another room, so I had no choice but to use my home as my office. And I had absolutely no money to cover my own personal expenses with. Calculating it leniently still left me about 200,000 yen in the hole.

 

When I told the editors about this, they offered to let me “borrow money from them.” But it didn’t make any sense to me. Why would they suggest that I should go into debt in order to start a serialization with them?

 

In the end, I decided that I would just have to chip away at my savings and keep drawing until the first volume of my serialization was published. Once the volume was released to the world, I would be able to earn some of the money back in royalties. Of course, at this point, I had no guarantee that they would allow my serialization to continue, or even publish a volume for me, but what else could I do?

 

To me, the realization that I could not make a living as a mangaka also meant one other thing: that I was, in fact, no longer a mangaka.

 

And so, my life shoved into a tiny room with three other guys began.

 

It took a while for me to get solid staff members. The first person that the editor’s office introduced to me to had previously worked in a veteran mangaka’s studio. When I asked him if he would be alright with working for 150,000 a month, he replied with: “I got 200,000 a month at ___-sensei’s” and “I’m a specialist. I can’t work for less than what a guy at a convenience store makes.”

 

And so the negotiations began. Despite what he said, he was still barely able to draw one patrol ship in a single day’s worth of time.

 

“At __-sensei’s place, we’d just trace these,” he said, along with other random excuses.

 

“If his studio was so good, then why did you quit?” I asked him. Apparently, this guy had taken his own storyboard in to his employer’s editor, who promptly told him it sucked, so he got pissed off and quit all of a sudden.

 

Realizing that it would be impossible to work well with this kind of person, I said: “I don’t have enough money to pay you what you deserve,” and had him quit.

 

The next staff member I found was a good person, but he couldn’t draw, so I just had him come for two days to check his skills, and then passed on him.

 

With this happened, the editor got angry at me. “Stop being so selfish,” he said. I wanted him to introduce skilled artists to me, but it seemed that he just wanted me to assemble a team as fast as possible so I could finish my work.

 

“Everyone’s an amateur when they first start out! That’s the first step to becoming a mangaka!” he shouted.

 

What he was saying was true, but…

 

The third person I met was someone who was the same age as me. Just like the second one, he was an amateur, but I felt like he was a bit better, so I just decided to keep him for the time being.

 

The fourth and fifth staff members I met were both girls. They had no experience in the manga industry, but I knew that just because someone was experienced it didn’t necessarily mean they’d be a good worker. I also knew that I had no more time to be picky.

 

I was going to be spending a very long amount of time with these people, so I decided to turn my focus to their personalities. The only person on my art staff who could draw the kind of art I was demanding was me, and I would just have to deal with that.

 

And so, I assembled my first team: two men and two women. Everyone was a complete amateur except for me, so they got hardly any work done. But of course they didn’t. There’s no way they’d be able to replicate the skills that I had spent years perfecting. So I taught them the basics of perspective, had them redraw the same picture over and over again, and when they just couldn’t do it, I gave up and drew the thing myself.

 

But I knew that if I kept rejecting what they worked so hard to draw over and over again, it would only depress them, so sometimes I’d accept some art that had technically “failed” and just redo parts of it myself. Sometimes, that ended up taking even longer, but who was I to complain?

 

I had three staff members, but they could only draw about two or three pages of background art per day. Looking at it purely from a rate-to-output POV, it meant that they were making far more money than I was. I would get frustrated at them for not being able to work faster, and they would get frustrated about me getting frustrated at them despite them working their hardest.

 

The truth is, I had tried to created a standard for what I would do whenever I employed someone. I wanted to make sure I never turned into F-san and required my staff to obey my every word. I also didn’t want to make them stay up all night, nor did I want them to stay at the studio for days at a time working. I didn’t want them to run errands for me. I just wanted them to do normal work.

 

I kind of wanted to run my studio how T-san had run his. I even stole a line from him. When one of my staff members called me sensei, I said: “Mangaka aren’t sensei. Just call me Sato-san.”

 

We set work hours and meal times before the fact, and no matter how tight the deadlines were, I never made them do overtime, except on the final day when the manuscript was due. I was trying to create a studio where people could work as actual people.

 

Yeah. Easier said than done.

 

In the end, what actually happened was, I would let my staff members go home early while I stayed up all night finishing the work. I had to teach them all how to draw, so that took up a lot of time. If we had an hour, I would spend about 45 minutes of it working at my desk, and 15 minutes directing my staff and checking their work.

 

I was employing people to make my job easier, yet it seemed like it was only getting harder. It only gave me more work to do in the end. Honestly, I was shocked by how hard it seemed to be to employ people. Finally, I was able to understand why F-san always got so mad and yelled at people. The male staff member, perhaps since he was the same age at me, even said “I’m only art staff. That isn’t my job,” and wouldn’t help me clean the room up.

 

If I was patient, it would encourage their behavior, and if I got angry at them, it would ruin our relationship. And my editor told me “you hired three whole people, so you’d better turn stuff in on time.”

 

“I want to draw on my own,” I whispered to myself one night.

 

But I could handle it. I had my dream of becoming a mangaka, and I was going to work hard to make it come true. When I look back on it all now, it all seems like nothing but good memories to me. No pain, no gain, right? But then I think back to myself, curled up at night ruminating about those things, and I think: That’s exactly what the editors wanted me to think, wasn’t it?

 

I had just gotten a strange new job where the more I worked, the deeper in the hole I got. There’s a word that exists in the manga industry: “serialization poverty.” It describes the situation when a mangaka’s serialization suddenly gets canceled, and they’re left with nothing but a huge debt. I had a dream that connected me to an industry where that situation was a reality, but I still didn’t seem to realize the true scope of the doom it spelled for me.

 

Oh, but there was one miracle that happened. One of the first female staff members I hired ended up becoming my wife.

 

To Be Continued