It was official now – Umizaru was going to end.
After confining myself to my studio for a bit, I went to visit the apartment of my old editor, the first F-san. After I had told him I wanted to make this arc of Umizaru the last, he agreed, and it had been decided right there that the series would officially come to an end.
After talking for a bit, he brought up something else. “Who do you want to be your supervising editor for the ending? I won’t force you to meet with that guy (the 2nd F-san) again, but a new editor who doesn’t know anything would just cause you problems, right? Do you want me to be your editor again?”
Editors aren’t something that can easily be switched out for another. When one editor left, it meant that another had to come in to replace him, which all had to be orchestrated inside the editors’ office beforehand. The fact that F-san asked me if I wanted him to be my editor again meant that the editors’ office had already considered this as a possibility, and were prepared to deal with it. The fact that we had been able to agree on Umizaru ending without talking to the editor-in-chief directly was also proof of that. Both sides realized that it was about time for the series to end, and that’s why were able to come to an agreement.
This was how far I had to go to get them to listen to the opinion of a newbie mangaka. My emotions had already frozen cold. Even though I still felt a lot of frustration, I didn’t let it bubble up to the surface. On that day, I didn’t want him to see the expression on my face, so even though we were inside, I was wearing a knit cap down so low that it covered up my glasses. I also intended to answer F-san’s question as stoically as possible. Possessing the eyes of a dead man was something I prided myself in.
“F-san, I believe that you’re someone who can listen to me seriously without trying to evade things. Please let me draw the ending to Umizaru. In order to do it, I need your help. I’m very sorry for all the trouble I’ve caused you up until now. Please lend me your strength…”
Suddenly, I stopped speaking. No more words would come out. I thought I would be able to stay emotionless, but all of a sudden, I had started crying.
I pulled down my cap even further so that it not only hid my glasses, but my entire nose as well, as snot dribbled out of my nose while I continued to cry. Taking a step back, I bet I looked really embarrassing. Or funny, maybe? This was the only time I’ve ever cried in the presence of an editor.
F-san just said one word: “Sorry.”
Who’s he apologizing to? Not to me, that’d be completely missing the point. Apologize to the manga. Apologize to the readers! And destroy the entire editors’ office while you’re at it!
I decided that once I finished drawing Umizaru, I’d stop drawing manga.
Drawing the ending would let me carry out my responsibility toward the readers. I had lived a stupid, wretched life. At least this way I could die in peace.
And so, I started charging toward the final chapter. Lots of things had ceased to mean anything to me, and now I just felt bad for the art staff who had worked on the manga with me. I got together all the money I had slowly saved up, and decided to pay it to them as severance. It was all I could think of. In the end, I didn’t have what it took to be a proper employer. I felt sorry just for being born.
That was about the time I got a call from Morning, a seinen manga magazine that was published by Kodansha.
First I got a call from T-san, one of the artists who I had worked under. “My editor said he’s interested in you, but are you interested in meeting with him? If you are, then I’ll give you his number.”
I felt like I didn’t really care, but I said “Yes, please,” and shortly after, I got a call from their editors’ office.
Later, two editors came to meet me. One was a company-employed editor, while the other belonged to an editing production company, but was currently working for Morning’s editing department. We sat across from each other in a family restaurant near my studio, and since they had gotten there first, they took the seats of honor, while I sat in the lowest seat. It’s a small detail, but so far in every meeting I had ever attended, the author had always been given the highest seat, so it seemed a bit strange to me.
S-san, the company-employed editor, had a big wart between his eyebrows, and was wearing a T-shirt with Antonio Enoki’s motto printed on it: “Don’t hesitate, just go, and you will understand.” (Incidentally, this quote comes from a poem called “Roads” written by Kiyozawa Tetsuo, later known as Akegarasu Tetsuo, but for some reason everyone thinks the quote originated from Ikkyu. Sorry, I know this is pointless trivia.)
T-san, the editor from the production company, was tall, slim and without muscle, yet his stomach protruded outwards, and looked to be a textbook example of the effects of intemperance on the body.
Editors coming as a pair was something new to me. And when I told them that, they said: “Whenever there’s only one supervising editor, the talks have a tendency to become secretive, and opinions tend to become biased, so we believe more than one editor should supervise projects in order to keep them fair.”
Huh. Guess even common practice differs from company to company.
S-san went on. “At Shogakukan, you only had one editor, right? I find that autors usually can’t handle all the enclosure and trouble that brings. Besides, they say if an editor makes a mistake, and he doesn’t report it to the guys upstairs, then it becomes the author’s mistake.”
“Yes, that’s certainly true,” I replied.
“Well, how exactly do you feel about Shogakukan? Do you have any complaints?” S-san asked. “Please tell us your honest opinion.”
I wasn’t exactly comfortable with the idea of spilling all the complains toward my magazine to some people I had met for the very first time, so I kept quiet.
Soon, S-san started speaking again. “We tried to obtain your contact information through various methods, but it seems that no one has it. Usually, we can find at least one person who can get us in touch with an author, but Shogakukan has a very tight guard up. We think of authors as freelancers, and not property of companies, so we don’t really think their style. It seems a bit… pompous, wouldn’t you agree? They think they own the authors. I bet that’s why their authors don’t trust them!”
I was surprised that he was telling me this all of a sudden. I had never told anyone about the problems I had with the editors’ office, so I started to suspect that maybe they had learned something. Either that, or they simply viewed Shogakukan as a rival.
“C’mon, let’s be honest here,” S-san said. “That magazine’s bad news, right? Ever since the editor-in-chief changed, they’ve been floundering. Authors have been escaping left and right, like rats running from a sinking ship. We’re kind of like hyenas, so when we see an editors’ office start to sink like that, we try to snatch up authors as quickly as possible. All we need to do is dangle a few hooks, and authors chomp down on them one after another.”
Most likely after realizing how rude S-san sounded, T-san cut in. “S-san, you can’t use the words ‘rats’ and ‘hooks’ when you talk about authors. I’m sorry about that – he isn’t the most eloquent person. But as far as the situation goes, we’ve heard from various sources that Young Sunday (the magazine Umizaru was serialized in) is in a bad way. We don’t work at their offices, so we don’t know the details, and there is no way for us to, but there are certain things we can feel, since we’re in the same line of work. For example, let’s say there’s an apple in front of you. Obviously, I see that apple and think it’s ‘red,’ but Sato-san, perhaps you think it’s ‘green.’ At that point, we would have to discuss just what it means for something to be ‘red.’ What does ‘red’ mean? Maybe it’s not actually an apple at all. In order to properly discuss something, there’s a certain amount of prerequisite information that must be made clear. For example… what has led you to come in front of us now, Sato-san? Can you share that information with us?”
It appeared that T-san thought of himself as a “polite, smart person,” but I didn’t quite understand what he was trying to tell me through his abstract examples. On the other hand, I wasn’t sure if S-san was merely trying to draw appeal from the fact that he was straightforward and exciting, if sometimes a little harsh, or if he simply was just a rude person.
“Hey, T. Enough already,” S-san said. “We’re not out there trying to scoop out every author we can. We feel that Sato-san is capable of meeting our readers’ needs, and that’s why we’re here. So, I’ll just give to you straight. How about coming and drawing for us?”
It was so sudden, that I had trouble coming up with an answer.
“I know, you probably can’t answer such a sudden question,” S-san added, then let out a hearty laugh.
Grinning, T-san jumped in. “Oh, he’s always like this. For example…”
We split up shortly after, with the promise to meet again in a month. I didn’t quite understand either of them, but they had certainly made an impact on me.
When I got back to my studio, I got a phone call from the editor who was currently supervising F-san, the first mangaka I had worked under. “I have a job to talk to you about, can you come and meet with me?”
Just after I had finished drawing Umizaru, and was thinking about quitting my career as a mangaka, all of a sudden, I found that I had gotten really popular.
To Be Continued