EDITORS ARE THE CLOSEST READERS WHICH THE MANGA ARTISTS CAN ALWAYS RELY ON!
Hi everyone! I’m Mayu!
I’m working as an editor apprentice at Monthly Comic ZENON, a Manga magazine published in Japan. There’s so many things to learn about, and I’m trying really hard to learn how to make a great Manga. I really wanna be the best editor of them all!!
But before that… what exactly is an editor? It’s easy to say an editor is someone who helps a Manga-ka make their Manga, but what kind of people are they?
In order to get a clue, I went to ask my big boss-the chief editor Mr. Hanada Takeshi, about WHAT an editor is, WHAT they do, and about the publishing of our grand magazine-Monthly Comic ZENON! Oooh, I feel lots of butterflies in my stomach right now…what if he gets mad at me for asking dumb questions!
OK, now I’m ready. How about you guys? Let’s see what kind of story he told…
-So, what exactly is the ‘Monthly Comic ZENON’? Is it something like ‘Weekly Shonen JUMP?’
ZENON is a Manga Magazine established under the concept of “KABUKU (傾く)”. Yes, most of the people overseas might think of Weekly Shonen JUMP whenever they talk about Manga magazines, but here in Japan there are really a lot of different magazines. As for Comic ZENON, it’s mainly targeted at working age people who used to read Weekly Shonen JUMP when they were young.
MAYU’S POINT!! : Monthly Comic ZENON and Weekly Shonen JUMP
‘Monthly Comic ZENON’ is a monthly Manga magazine published in Japan since October 2010. Currently, eight editors are working on the Comic ZENON team, and they publish approximately 700-900 pages of manga each month! We have published over 50 volumes of our magazine, working with many famous Manga artists such as Hara Tetsuo Sensei and Hojo Tsukasa Sensei, and also many energetic young Manga artists. We are also the ones which present the prize winning Mangas of the Silent Manga Audition on paper!
Weekly Shonen JUMP is obviously the most famous Manga magazine in Japan. All your favorite series like ‘Dragon Ball’, ‘ONE PIECE’, ‘NARUTO’ and ‘BLEACH’ were serialized at this magazine. The two Senseis supporting us in the Silent Manga Audition–Hara Sensei and Hojo Sensei– used to draw for this magazine too! Moreover, our great host Mr. Horie Nobuhiko even used to be the chief editor of JUMP!! Wow!!
-“KABUKU”? That doesn’t sound familiar even here in Japan… What does that mean?
“Kabuku”, or “Kabuki”, is an interesting word with many different meanings. One way to describe this word is “to perform differently from the others in a surprising way”. We really wanted to make a Manga magazine which can surprise all the readers. When we decided to establish Comic ZENON, Hara Sensei planned to draw the Manga ‘Ikusa no ko (The Child of War)’, a Manga about Oda Nobunaga, who was a unique person in Japanese history. Nobunaga is, so to speak, the most famous person to be a “Kabukimono (A person who performs in the Kabuki style)”. That’s because he was the one who created a whole new way of thinking during wartime Japan, by rejecting the traditions of those days and bringing in lots of new foreign stuff to use in his wars. Just like Nobunaga did, ZENON was born to question the conventional way of creating Manga and create something new.
MAYU’S POINT!! : Oda Nobunaga and ‘Ikusa no Ko (The Child of War)
Oda Nobunaga (1534-1582) is possibly the most famous historical figure in Japan. He is considered to be a very outrageous and open minded person, with his strong curiosity of Western culture. The Manga ‘Ikusa no Ko’ by Hara Tetsuo is about Nobunaga in his youth, and it is one of the bestselling Manga at Comic ZENON.
In addition to that, Kabuku also has an aspect of “living and dying for enjoyment”. You all know that if you do something odd, it’s certain that there is going to be someone giving you a cold stare. I believe that a person who truly performs “Kabuku” is a person who can stand up and declare that they are just doing their thing without worrying about others. This is also expressed in Hara Sensei’s Manga ‘Hana no Keiji’, and its protagonist Maeda Keiji. In Japanese history, Keiji was said to be a person who embodied the “dying for enjoyment” way of living, since he is loved from his fan as a mischievous and brazen character. In ‘Hana no Keiji’, he was described to be a person who loves to fight in wars, and tended to support the underdogs whenever there was a battle. A more recent example may be Mr. Kuroda Hiroki, a professional baseball player who pitched in Major League Baseball. He recently moved to his home team in Hiroshima, regardless of the risk that he may not be able to get a salary as high as the major league, even though he was still capable to play there. Many would think that he took an odd decision despite of his potential, but at the same time that’s why all the fans in Japan were so touched in it too. I want to express that kind of aesthetics in our Comic ZENON, too.
-Oh, they sound like tremendous natural entertainers! So, does that mean that editors should also live the “Kabuku” way?
Well, in fact no, it’s better for the editors to not perform “Kabuku”… It’s just that the editors and artists are the ones who need to make the work be a “Kabuking” one.
MAYU’S POINT!! : The work of an editor
A Manga editor may sound unfamiliar to most people outside Japan, but here it is a popular career. We do so much things… We search for good plots, talk with Manga artists about their work, check their drafts, check the lines, take care of the original copy drawn by the artists, think of catch phrases, make sure there’re no mistakes… Almost anything that the Manga artists and the press company doesn’t do! I’ll be able to give you the details next time!
Of course, the desire to create something interesting and new is an important thing for an editor too. But after all, it is the artists who are actually drawing the Manga. Editors are just there to help them make a better Manga, so I’d say it’s important to remain an ordinary reader.
-They have to stay as a reader? Even though they are part of the creation?
Sure. Whenever we make something for entertainment, we need to surprise people. That is, what we really need to do is to make something that overwhelms the reader’s expectations. However, in order to do so, we first need to know what the expectations exactly are, right? I believe that surprising someone by being stupid and surprising them by being entertaining is a completely different thing. It’s easy to draw something surprising and outrageous, but what we really need is to let the readers enjoy it. Thus, editors have to truly understand the reader’s perspective, AND exceed it. That’s why we editors need to think like an average reader whenever we help a Manga artist to draw some work. We are the closest readers which the Manga artists can rely on anytime.
-So, does that mean that editors should be very normal people?
Yes, but that’s not the only thing needed for an editor. Being a person with commonsense is obviously one aspect of being a good editor. As I said before, you need to know what you need to exceed. Another thing is to be able to enjoy talking. Most of the time, ideas pop up while you’re chatting, so an editor definitely needs to be able to enjoy talking for a long long time with the people. And last but not least, an editor needs to be a curious person. Having a wide range of interests helps to come up with a new idea, so a person with a huge range of curiosity is definitely a good helper for Manga artists. In fact, the word “ZENON” describes the importance of hearing the voices of others. It comes from the “Kanzenon Bosatsu (観世音菩薩, known as the goddess of mercy in Buddhism)”, which is said to hear the voices of suffering people and give mercy to them.
-Hmm, an editor needs to stay sensitive to any kind of information, because they are the closest readers to the Manga artists…that’s very interesting. By the way, what made you become an editor?
When I was a kid, I really loved Shonen JUMP. In those days, being the first to read it was a thing, and I always wanted to be the first one to read it. So, I thought of a job where I could read it before anyone else, and that’s exactly why I’m here working as an editor now. And after all, I think my desire to be the first reader actually links to the basics of being an editor.
-Such a cute story! What kind of thing makes you happy to be an editor?
Well, I think it’s when I hear the voices of someone who really enjoyed our work. I also feel so happy when the Manga artists thanks us for what we did. There’s one time I still remember well…that was when I was a novice editor just like you. I was attending a meeting with Hojo Tsukasa Sensei and the other editors, discussing the new story ‘Angel Heart’. Yes, I still remember, we were discussing how the protagonist Xiang-Ying should appear on the scene. I said “Well, I would make her go to the crossroad where Kaori died. I’m sure the heart would be naturally drawn to that place…”, and everyone started to build the whole story around that idea, and we completed the episode! Afterwards Hojo Sensei came up to me; an ordinary young guy who’s a novice, and said “Thank you for your great idea.” I was so surprised and pleased at that time… For me, it was just one small idea, and it really meant nothing important, but for Hojo Sensei it became the breakthrough for making the Manga. That was my happiest moment as being an editor.
MAYU’S POINT!! : Hojo Tsukasa, and ‘Angel Heart’
Hojo Tsukasa Sensei, well known for his works such as ‘Cat’s Eye’ and ‘City Hunter’, is currently drawing ‘Angel Heart 2nd Season’ here at Monthly Comic ZENON. The following scene is the one which started from Mr. Hanada’s one small idea. If it wasn’t for Mr. Hanada, this scene might not even exist…!! It’s feels so splendid that such a small idea created such a impressive scene, doesn’t it?
――What do you think about Silent Manga, after years of hosting competitions of them both inside and outside of Japan?
Silent Manga is actually performing “Kabuku” in the Manga industry, don’t you think? If you look at the Manga industry, the idea of having a Manga which expresses things without any dialogues (which indeed is a big part of Manga) is just unprecedented. But we did indeed hold this competition several times, and there were so many people who sent in their work. I’m certain that we succeeded in creating a whole new way of thinking in Manga!
-Do you have any tips you can introduce when drawing Silent Manga, from the editor’s point of view?
I know the artists out there are way better than me when it comes to drawing Manga, but if I could say one thing, I would recommend that they always re-read the Manga after they think they are finished.
One frame of Manga may be only a tiny bit of space, but in fact you can squeeze in more information than you can imagine. That is, if you just draw the characters and add speech bubbles, then you don’t have that much information. The true talent of “direction (like in movies)” appears in the other parts of Manga. You can put literally everything in the scene!
I’ll put it into a different way. Imagine a character having a smile on his/her face. Now, imagine what their hand is like. Maybe they are smiling, but the fist is clinched. Or maybe they are feeling easy and comfortable, so the hand is remaining relaxed.
Here’s another example. This morning, I said “Ohayo (Good morning)” to my colleagues. This “Ohayo” changes its implication depending on what story it has behind it. Maybe I’m going to die tomorrow, and this is my last “Ohayo”. Maybe I wasn’t able to speak up to this day, and my first word ever spoken was “Ohayo”. Or, maybe it’s just the same old “Ohayo” I say every morning. See that it’s all a different “Ohayo”? The point is how much you can let the readers interpret the meaning from your picture. Most of the good Manga artists are actually always concerned of this.
So, whenever you think your Manga is finished, try to read it again, and imagine what is happening besides what you just drew in your Manga. Where are they? How are their body like right now? How are the surroundings? The picture that comes into your mind is the picture which your work desperately needis right now! With this process, your manga is sure to become a greater and deeper work!
-Wow, that’s a great advice! I’ve never thought of that before… Finally, can I have a message from you to the readers?
In spite of whether you are a Manga reader or a Manga artist, I strongly recommend you to think of WHY your favorite Manga is so interesting and entertaining to you while you’re reading it. Thinking about the basis of entertainment would definitely help you make an entertaining Manga, and also to have an entertaining life—a KABUKING Life!!
Also, it is important to look back on what you like, not only searching for new things to like. Sometimes in life, you come to a moment where you’re wondering why you’re even doing the thing in front of you. On such an occasion, it’s a good thing to get back to the origins, and think of why you liked something in the first place. So, try looking back onto the things that truly moved you. Being able to say you like what you like is the very first step to truly “KABUKU”.
During this interview, the serious look never left off Mr. Hanada’s. I was so overwhelmed with the great story he told me, feeling the strong passion hidden under his cool looks. I really feel I just heard a lot about being an editor… the delight, the enjoyment, the strictness, and so much more!
Although I’ve learned the basics of being an editor, there’s still much more work to do! I can’t betray Mr. Hanada’s expectations after all I’ve heard!
Next week on MANGA INSIDER, I’m going to report the actual work of the editors! Don’t miss it!
And if you have any questions or comments, please do write it all in the comment section below!
Of course you can give messages to Hanada-san too! Please do ask nicely- remember, I’m the one who gets in trouble X)
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