Among the 400+ pages of Schoolgirl Milky Crisis, this is just one of the many articles that have been taken from my long-running column in the British magazine NEO. So if you’re an American fan, the chances are high you have never seen this before:
Adventures in Manga Editing
Manga creators, particularly young ones who have yet to hire their assistants and work out a good schedule, are surprised by the daily grind of creating a comic. You have theoretically limitless time to create your perfect opener. You can hone it, refine it and remodel it as often as you like. It can take years for the idea to gestate and take full form, and for you to find the time to put it on paper. You have your whole life to write Chapter One.
But if you sell it to a Japanese weekly, you have seven days to write Chapter Two. Seven more to write Chapter Three. Want a holiday? Forget it, Chapter Four’s deadline is already looming. You’ve got everything that you wanted, but suddenly you’re on a treadmill with no end in sight. You drag in help from outside, you cut corners, you extend single fight scenes to last twenty pages so you don’t have to think up more story, and when the deadlines start to loom, you manufacture an alibi. Dead relatives, strange afflictions, sudden crises… some of them true.
People in the manga business are used to weird excuses. Which is why the manga publishers have ‘editors’ on their staff whose job it is to ride shotgun. Charming ones who suggest meeting up for a drink to hand over those last pages. Caring ones who phone to check you’re okay, coincidentally on the day before the deadline. And then there are the heavies, who will camp outside your letterbox and shout persistently until you feed the pages out, one by one.
Some manga creators can react badly to such pressure. An editor of my acquaintance was once forced to dart back and forth in a Tokyo street, dodging speeding traffic, to pick up the pages floating down from the rooftop, where an angry author was hurling them into the air. And you thought being a manga editor was a desk job?