It’s been a long time since the last installment, so I imagine some of you have forgotten a bit about what’s happened. I’m very sorry to have kept you waiting for so long.
Lately, I’ve been busy working on a new creation, and I’ve been thinking of nothing but drawing, regardless of whether I’m asleep or awake. I’ve also been writing about nothing but drawing on my blog. Drawing in color has filled my mind with new methods and approaches to drawing, so I’ve even been drawing in my dreams.
I finally discovered a new style, and then, when I felt overjoyed about being able to work that into a new method, I woke up, realized it was a dream, then got depressed. That’s been happening about every day recently. Sometimes it’s fun to mull over something and struggle through it, and in a way I think that’s how a mangaka needs to be. But it also tends to make me stuck, so I’ve ended up making you wait for longer than I should have.
I’m going to try to keep a better balance from here on out. Now then, here we go.
With Umizaru finished, I left the town I had lived in for two years.
I paid my staff two months’ worth of salary, got married, then moved my home and studio to different places. This was the first time I had ever separated my home from my studio. My wife W-san had lived at home for her entire life, and said she wanted to try living in Kichijoji. After looking at different places, we got the feeling that Kichijoji was a disorderly place with a lot of market districts, so we moved to the 4th floor of a small apartment in the next town over. I rented space for my studio on the 1st floor as well.
I had another serialization lined up, but for the time being, I was technically unemployed. I kept paying my staff even though we had no work to do, and I was now renting two rooms, so I was worried for my future. I really wanted to thank my wife for following me despite that, and vowed to make her happy.
We had planned not to get married, but my parents just wouldn’t shut up about it, so we had a small wedding with our families only. My parents, who had been against me becoming a mangaka, then had gone around the neighborhood boasting about me after I had become one, celebrated our wedding by giving us a million yen as a present.
I kept on working as a mangaka because I enjoyed it. Even if I became poor, I didn’t want to accept economic help from anyone just so that I could go on drawing manga. My parents had asked for it, so I shelled out the 300,000 yen to put on a small wedding for them. Then they gave me a million yen in return. It really hurt my pride. That 300,000 was all I could muster at the time.
“We’re going to live on our own now,” I said, and gave them the money back.
“Are you going to trample over your parents’ wishes?!” My parents pressed back, then stuffed the envelope into my pocket.
To my parents, the way they appeared to the public was far more important than the wedding.
After Umizaru ended, F-san put on a celebratory banquet. I had closed myself off from him, so we hadn’t eaten together in quite a while. He reserved the second floor of a blowfish restaurant in Shnjuku, then invited the young editors there so that it wouldn’t just be the two of us (and therefore it wouldn’t be awkward). He went so overblown with the preparations that it all seemed really forced.
Expensive-looking platters came out one after another, and the editors who came took turns drowning me in compliments. They all talked about how unfortunate it was that the series had to end, and when the waiter came back to ask for drink orders, they shouted: “Bring out the most expensive alcohol in the store!”
K-san, the original creator and data collector, was not invited. The editor-in-chief and vice editor were also not present. I made sure to put on a smile so as not to ruin the atmosphere, but in the back of my mind, I was just hoping that I could go home as quickly as possible. Then, once F-san got a bit tipsy, he began to talk to me.
“So, what should we do about your next series? You just finished drawing one, so you may not be able to think up another idea immediately, but let’s make sure we start thinking about the next thing, OK?”
I guess this means the time for smiling is over, I thought. F-san went on.
“Umizaru was a really serious piece, so I bet it was hard to draw. Let’s go for a really bright and cheerful one next time. For example, sports. How about baseball?”
As he spoke, he took out some newspaper clipping that he had prepared. The story detailed a weak high school baseball team that had somehow made it to the national championship.
“You’re pretty good at drawing comedy stuff, right? Like, a sports manga that makes people laugh and cry.”
I took some time to think before I replied.
“I’ve already set up my next series.”
The editors instantly froze.
“No… I shouldn’t say.”
“What’s the big deal? Go on.”
“C’mon, we’ve come all this way together. What are you holding back for? Say it.”
“It’s… with Take Shobo.”
“Huh? Oh, them? That’s fine. You can keep that going until your next big series. I know how those things go.”
“No… I’ve also been contacted by Morning.”
“… What are you going to draw?”
“I’m sorry, but I can’t talk about that here.”
“We’re still in the process of hashing it out.”
“Fine. You don’t have to tell us, but since you owe us a lot…”
“No, I know that artists are all technically freelance, but… Come on. You were a no-name newbie, and you were able to draw Umizaru with us… And it worked out really well, didn’t it?”
“No, it didn’t…”
The silence continued. The air around us had gotten so heavy that no one could say anything.
Worried, the waiter came upstairs. “Oh my… So even you people quiet down sometimes!” he said, trying to make a joke. But the oppressive atmosphere forced him to make a quick exit.
Ever since that moment, the editors at the magazine that serialized Umizaru have called me a ‘traitor,’ and have continued to talk about me behind my back. So much, in fact, that I eventually started to hear about it.
Soon after, I started drawing the storyboards for my serialization with Take Shobo. They instantly got approval, and pre-serialization schedule was quickly decided upon. I felt like the editors there were adamant about keeping a tight grip on me, since I was an artist who had done a serialization in a weekly magazine.
This serialization was a mah jong manga about a negotiator working in the underground. I read books, went out to collect data, and focused on writing the story. I was keeping a pretty good pace.
I also continued going to meetings with the two editors from Morning. In the end, we decided to write a manga about a doctor. Umizaru was a rescue manga, so they requested that I write some manga about “life.” I offered up some ideas about stories that I wanted to do, but they all got shot down.
At the time, Umizaru wasn’t really selling that much, so to them, I probably seemed like a minor author who had the potential to sell more, if properly cooked by a major publisher like them.
F-san, not the editor, but the mangaka who had been my first mentor, was one of those ‘not so major’ mangaka who had been drawing a manga in a mah jong magazine when I had worked for him. The manga itself was really entertaining, so I had thought that he would become a major mangaka in no time. In truth, he did get scouted by a major magazine, and started drawing a gambling magazine. F-san was a gambling mangaka. Perhaps that made me a “life mangaka,” then.
“In the end, they always want you to draw the same sort of thing,” I thought, and decided to just go with it. Otherwise, it didn’t seem like they’d be willing to work with me. Instead of dragging on these meetings any further, I was more interested in making some money to pay my staff members, and had confidence that being pigeonholed into a “medical manga” wouldn’t be enough to completely kill my originality.
What I ended up stuffing into that manga would prove just how good an artist I really was. “Medicine” is a pretty broad field, and just about anything goes. And so, I decided to stuff the frustrations toward my profession and its unreasonable nature into this manga.
What does it mean to be a mangaka?
What does manga exist for?
Why do I draw manga?
“What does it mean to be a doctor?”
That’s the story I decided to write.
To Be Continued