In two decades, manga has established itself in Europe and France as the best-selling and most popular comic book format, even surpassing the traditional American comic book which is nevertheless increasingly represented in cinema. It is on the one hand the colossal offer of variety of manga which attracts an increasingly large audience but also the massive arrival of anime (the cartoon adaptation of manga) in France which make it today the best-selling cultural product in the country along with video games. But at what price the authors (mangaka) must work to know the glory and see their works being published? This is what we suggest you see in a few points.
1. The hassle of being edited
Before even talking about the rest, we must obviously address the difficulty of being published in Japan in one of the many manga magazines (mangashi). The main problem is the far too high number of authors who want to be published, even if the country produces an astronomical amount of manga monthly. Some spend years before breaking through working without receiving money from their art and others simply abandon the project when they see the doors of publishing houses closing in front of them.
2. The hassle of being read
If there are annoying things when you live in a manga, there seems to be even more when you write them. For those who manage to pass the editing stage (and it’s already a huge hassle) there is a second level to overcome: that of being read. Here too the problem is that the huge offer: a new work finds itself drowned in the middle of a huge batch of other works and must stand out to find its audience and have a chance to continue. The formats being episodic, the magazines do not hesitate to abandon a series that does not work.
3. The heavy shadow of the cancellation of a series
Generally, when a magazine publishes a new series, it conducts a survey of its readers to find out which series are the public’s favorites. The ones that do well continue to be published until there are enough issues to make a bound tome, but the others are outright cancellation before they’ve even managed to develop their story well. Dramatic for those who thought they had finally been published and had passed the first stage.
4. Constant (and growing) stress from the start of the career
If the hassle of being published, which can take several years for some, as well as the fear of seeing his series canceled for lack of success with the public, is already very heavy and stressful for mangakas from the start of their career, the problems intensify greatly for those who are “lucky” to continue the adventure for a very specific reason: the aberrant publication rate. No respite is allowed, no relief is present, the stress is constant from the start to the end of the series, which can take years.
5. A historically established publication rhythm
From the moment a manga starts to be popular and to work, we can seriously say that the real shit happens. The scandalously frenetic pace of publication very often plays on the health of mangaka: no more delays are tolerated and you have to produce the number of pages imposed by the publisher each week and start again the following week without any interruption. Historically, this publication rhythm has existed for too long to be reformed and even if heavyweights in the industry like the authors of One Pieceof Naruto or of 20th Century Boys have already criticized the system it doesn’t seem to be changing anytime soon.
6. Dangerous lifestyle and serious health problems
Do a simple search on the internet by typing the words “mangaka health problem” and you will see that there is not just one example. Mangakas spend on average between 12 and 15 hours a day working and some sleep so little and rarely have vacations that they develop illnesses or health problems after a few years of work. Back problems, depression, suicide, burn-out, disease, exhaustion… There are countless scary examples that affect authors in the field.
7. A phenomenon that even affects the “stars” of the industry
These issues don’t just affect young mangaka, even the best-selling manga author of all time Eiichiro Oda (One Piece) said he sleeps three hours a night and hopes to finish soon with his manga, which has existed for almost 20 years, to finally rest. Naoki Urasawa (Monster, 20th Century Boys) also said in the 2000s that the pace of release was killing and exhausting many artists and that it was not healthy to continue on this model.
8. Increasingly oppressive publishers
As a series becomes a success, the publisher presses the author and takes more and more control of the work to ensure its longevity. If we were talking about a formal prohibition of late rendering, this goes further: the publisher can force the author to take a direction that he does not want in his work or even to lengthen it against his advice to continue to sell. The best example of such a case is Death Note which was originally to end after seven volumes but whose publisher pushed to lengthen the series, hence the arrival of the character of Mello after the “L” period.
9. The anime, the ultimate consecration to boost sales and the fatal trap of the rhythm of publication
When a manga is really successful, it can be adapted into an anime. These cartoon TV series can then considerably inflate the popularity of a work and boost the sales of the original manga, as with The attack of the Titans. But the trap of an anime is that if the original manga is not finished it can quickly catch up with the rhythm of publication and oblige the author to increase his frequency of work. The anime can then be delayed with “filler episodes” which are not in the original work but lengthen the story to extend the seasons while waiting for the continuation of the manga. A means of pressure still very stressful.
10. A global success that will not help matters?
If the sale of manga has been a colossal success in Japan and Europe for decades, it continues to attract more and more people, including in the United States where the culture of comics is however predominant. Faced with a much larger audience and increasingly significant sales, it is unfortunately foreseeable that the pace imposed by publishers on mangakas will not change. Practices that have lasted far too long, as the words of Akira Toriyama, the creator of Dragon Ballwho said, speaking of his pace of work at the time: “there was a time when I only slept twenty minutes in the space of six days, it was as if I was going to die”.