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