My first day fast approached, and after binge watching/reading more anime/manga than an angst laden, teenage emo, I felt ready to take up the mantle of Manga Editor in Training. Manga editing is another world away from the very British way of publishing I’d become accustomed to (lots of meetings with mountains of biscuits), so the day started with an awkward, ‘first day of school’ foreboding. With my bento packed, Tintin notepad at the ready (yes, I’m 38, and yes I still read the dubious adventures of the intrepid, bequiffed Belgic reporter), I ventured out onto the streets of Tokyo, and to my new office.
Never leave home without it
After navigating the labyrinthine patchwork of small streets that make up Kichijoji, I arrive at Coamix HQ with seconds to spare. In the very same torture chamber my interview was conducted, Taiyo and Editor-in-Chief Mocchi san are engrossed in a discussion, at a table buckling under the weight of countless, untouched cups of tea.
“You won me a bet” Taiyo gleefully informs me. “With Mocchi san here, milk after hot water.”
“Well, I’m pleased…that wasn’t why I got the job was it?” I reply with uncertainty…
With over 10 years publishing experience, plus an almost encyclopedic knowledge of movies and British and American comic books, winning my dream job on tea making preferences alone would feel somehow…hollow.
“Yes…amongst other things.” he enigmatically replies.
With a curt bow, majestically executed while clutching an armful of brimming tea cups, Mocchi san departs, leaving me alone with the cryptic Taiyo. Mentally ticking off my current situation, I follow the infuriating chap to the elevator…I’m employed by a Japanese manga publisher…I don’t speak Japanese…my knowledge of manga is sketchy at best…I’m 38 (which is unquestionably ancient in the Japanese working world)…how the @*?#$ did I land this job?!
A tea-rific victory for Taiyo
I observe my new senpai as the elevator meanders its way up to the 5th floor. After 10 years living in Blighty (that’s the U.K. to the uninitiated), 6 of which in my adoptive Manchester, Taiyo is all but British (I’ll never tire of hearing the word ‘bobbins’ delivered in his thick, Kyushu drawl). Hating silence of any kind, I offer a conversation about my native Britain.
“So, what do you miss about Britain?” I venture.
“Manchester” Taiyo replies without hesitation.
“Aye, its a great city.” I agree. “So, Manchester, that’s why I got the job…?”
“Yes…amongst other things.” I hate this man.
As the door to the SMAC! office creakes open, we are immediately confronted with World War 3. My new comrades-in-editing, Enrico and Mayu are in the grip of an almighty debate, with Mayu clearly having the upper hand, an upper hand curled into a fist, while emanating a malicious “fighting spirit” that fills the room.
“What’s going here?!” booms Taiyo.
“Mayu claims my Yonkoma makes zero sense!” answers a clearly flustered Enrico.
“Well it doesn’t make sense. AT. ALL.” Mayu retorts, plunging the room into a frosty silence.
…A Yonkoma, dear readers, is a 4 cell manga (yon = 4, get it?) that tells a complete story with a satisfyingly amusing conclusion. Much like the cartoon strips we all know and love, it’s also an indispensable tool for manga creators and editors alike. If you can create a good Yonkoma, you can create, assess and edit good manga. Right, back to the action…
After a cursory glance at the offending Yonkoma, I conclude that yes, it is a little clunky, but there is an idea there. The theme was “Winter”, and Enrico’s heroic effort was happily flowing along until it fell flat on its face in panel 3. Now, panel 3 is where a Yonkoma should go BOOM! It’s the climax, the WOW, the event that allows you to fill panel 4 with a satisfying conclusion, making the entire Yonkoma sing with harmony.
Now, as a lifelong fan of Calvin and Hobbes, not to mention knocking out a few storyboards in my time, I think I have a fairly good understanding of how a Yonkoma works . So, I decide to add my 2 cents…
“Weeeeell, I can see what you’re trying to do here Enrico” I helpfully offer. “But you need to utilize panel 3, own panel 3, be the boss of panel 3, and blow our minds with a fiendish, yet hilariously devised climax. You’ve just filled it with text! Would Roy Batty’s speech in Blade Runner have the impact it did if he’d tweeted it to Deckard?! C’mon!!”
The icy silence resumes…“Who is this loud mouthed Brit?!” my soon to be ex-colleagues must be thinking. “Barely introduced himself and he starts brutally criticizing our Yonkoma’s”. With all eyes on me, I casually muse to myself “Well, I don’t know how I got the job, but at least I know how I got sacked”.
“Haaaaaaaahahahahaha, THAT!!” Taiyo joyfully wails. “That is why I offered you the job”.
“Eh?” I manage to blurt out.
“You filled the void, you conversed with your colleagues with purpose and you got your point across” he replies. “much like the interview…I asked what your favorite movie was, and you replied instantly with five. Every other applicant pondered that question for 5 minutes.”
It would appear, suffering readers, that one of the, if not THE most important skill for a manga editor is communication. And communication with a purpose. The sole aim of the manga editor is to get the very best out of their mangaka, and to do that, they need to know exactly where the manga has to go. So the ability communicate suggestions and direction is VITAL when working with creative manga “genii” (that’s Latin, now the Romans are a very interesting bunch….not now Chris).
Finally!! Finally I’m able to use my incredible powers of talking enthusiastically about any, and every subject I find interesting, professionally!! I can climb to the dizzying heights of manga editing greatness, I can become a legend, A GOD!!
“Now make make the tea” Taiyo chimes in…“And a Yonkoma by the time the kettle boils”