The Ties That Bind

The manga artist Mutsumi Akazaki was having a bad day. She had been slogging through the latest instalment of the Fractale comic, a tie-in to the anime series of the same name, and mused on her blog that she wished she could work on something she actually enjoyed, that wasn’t “uninteresting.”

Fractale’s notoriously prickly director, Yutaka Yamamoto, hit the roof, demanding that Akazaki be fired, and adding insult to injury by suggesting that she sod off and draw her heart’s desire, instead of riding the coattails of others.

Akazaki had been very stupid. You don’t bite the hand that feeds you, particularly when you are just starting out. And bitching online about how harrrrd your life is is a rookie error, particularly when you are drawing comics for a living, and not, say, packing sardines in a factory or huddling in a tent in Fukushima. Nor are any fans (Fractale presumably still has some) likely to smile on a creative who makes it plain how much they hate the show that Fractale fans love. Fans like to think that creators are other fans, otherwise they feel bilked and cheated.

But Yamamoto’s knee-jerk response offers a glimpse of the way that tie-in writers are often treated – ridiculed by some other creators for not being “original”, even though fitting one’s creative output to meet the restrictions of someone else’s franchise is no mean feat in itself.

However, at the end of June, the Gangan Online website posted the next instalment of the Fractale manga bang on schedule. Akazaki had already delivered it, after all, and there was the upcoming compilation release to consider. It was, perhaps, a subtle little reminder that Fractale doesn’t actually belong to its director either. The story is by Hiroki Azuma, the show-runner is Mari Okada, and a committee of six executive producers form the actual Jedi Council that steers the franchise through the media. In other words, Yamamoto himself had been given quiet notice that he, too, was working for hire on a product that actually belonged to someone else.

Jonathan Clements is the author of Schoolgirl Milky Crisis: Adventures in the Anime and Manga Trade. This article first appeared in NEO #89, 2011.

13 thoughts on “The Ties That Bind

  1. This is kind of a scary trend with how many professionals seem to be making ill advised tweets or blog posts. This is not the worst by far, but its worrying that it keeps happening.

  2. Shaun: I don’t think it’s scary, I think it’s very encouraging. The more this kind of thing happens, the more the social norms and expectations will change.

    To use a more American example, the more people post embarrassing stuff on Facebook, the more other people will internalize the shocking fact that people *do embarrassing stuff and that doesn’t make them bad or evil people*. There are ‘martyrs’ in the short term, yes, but there always are.

    I regard this as a good thing because 1) it’s pretty much inevitable, due to technology (security and privacy are *hard*, ‘open’ is the default) and so, the sooner the better; 2) transparency and sunlight are valuable and good things in a culture, and I think that whatever the best point in the spectrum is, the Japanese are probably on the too-secretive side, has damaged their online efforts.

    (A bold statement, I know; I try to justify it in )

  3. DocWatson — chippy = “prickly”. In fact, I have now changed it to “prickly”, as my dictionary of slang tells me that chippy means something altogether different in America.

  4. Jari, I shall have a look next time I am in a Suomalainen Kirjakauppa. Congratulations on so many pictures — clearing image permissions is one of the most miserable parts of the job.

  5. Pingback: Viz launches new BL line, DMP to run Yaoi-Con « MangaBlog

  6. Jonathan: I hadn’t thought of that, since in the present context the word was used as an adjective, not a noun, and because the American slang usage of “chippie” is outdated. I just knew that the Urban Dictionary did not have it (though apparently Merriam-Webster’s does -_-;).

  7. Gwern, the only problem i s this has actual cost jobs, or worse. Earlier this year a PR firm lost a contract with a major videogame publishers after the president tweeted a threat to ‘cut off’ reviewers who had been ‘too mean’ to a rather high profile title that had been near universally panned.

    • Shaun, as I said, there’s always some martyrs before people finally adapt and we can get on with using the new techs and ways of being.

      Incidentally, as far as I can tell, Akazaki is not publishing a new series, or anything at all now, bearing out my prediction a year ago:

      (A pity for her, but there are so many would-be mangaka that I wonder if it matters to anyone else.)

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