While I was on my laptop surfing through my favorite Japanese blog sites this week, I came across some very horrible and disturbing news. One of the manga I had been following and reading for the past few months will never get to its 10th chapter, let alone ever be completed. I was shocked. What was the mangaka doing? Upon further research I found that the reason for her abrupt cancellation of her only manga series, Orange, was her inability to keep up with deadlines and the turmoil she brought to her publishing company every time she missed a deadline. Yes, Takano Ichigo felt so badly about this issue that she decided to shut the manga down completely in order to never disappoint others again and to give the chance to other artists who she believes she has “stolen” the spot from.
This got me thinking. Do we, as readers, really know what goes on behind those colorful covers and ink lines?
- We get excited when a new chapter comes out.
- We fantasize about meeting a real live artist/author of a manga and being able to ask them about their story line or why they decided this one character should die.
- We think, oh how wonderful it would be to draw amazing art that everyone admires.
But until we become a mangaka or comic drawer ourselves, we will never truly know how much effort is put into each page or how much pain they had to go through to meet their demanding deadlines.
As I was going through my week with these thoughts, in my English Class, we had begun making poems from All Quiet on the Western Front about the tragedies of war. During one of the explanations for the poem, my teacher started talking about how war is something that films or books could never quite document completely. This is because the actual experience of going to war is so horrifying that unless metaphors and figurative language is used, we would never understand how these war veterans felt. However, there are concepts of war that even through usage of literary devices, we will never fully grasp unless we were out there battling it out.
- We praise them for their efforts and always mention them as brave soldiers and heroes of our country.
- We look through newspapers for news of their return or updates about their struggles and think about how great it would be to meet a war veteran.
- We’ve all thought about applying for the military.
This is not to say that war veterans aren’t brave and courageous. They are. However, it is the way we perceive them that makes me cringe. We gloss over their lives and experiences with pretty words because we aren’t aware of what really goes on behind the battlefields. So as I was thinking of this, another thought came to me. Aren’t soldiers kind of like mangakas?
A comparison of Kubo Tite, a well known mangaka among younger readers, as he draws his next Bleach cover and a soldier out a war with his guns at the ready.
- Process of starting each occupation: Virtually any person who has got the talent, dedication and determination can apply for the army/military/marines/etc or enlist under a publisher for manga. There’s a slight difference in the age limit, as one has to be of legal age to apply for the army whereas a mangaka can be of any age. But the application process is similar. To become a mangaka, you must first send your work to a publisher to be approved, much like a resume or application to join the army. If the publisher likes your work, you’re well on your way towards a job as a mangaka.
- Tools of the Trade: To excel in these professions, one must have specific tools to work with. For war, it’s guns, gunpowder and bullets. For mangakas, they rely on specialized rulers, different sized ink pens and various types of paper.
- Stress/Problems/Troubles: When a soldier is enlisted for war, there are countless problems they have to face. Health, keeping their sanity, and staying alive are among their issues. Much of the time a soldier is under the stress of not being able to come home to their families. Surprisingly, mangakas face more pressure than the outside world perceives them to. Every time a deadline approaches, a mangaka will give up their means of living in order to finish what needs to be done (like a new chapter with 40 new pages). They starve themselves because eating is a waste of time — precious time they could be using to draw. Excessive and continuous drawing can also cause carpel tunnel, a syndrome in which the wrists and other hand joints refuse to function and cause their owner great pain. Lastly, a mangaka is probably only a mangaka. Most of them don’t have side jobs and if their manga falls in popularity and not enough people buy their work, they’re out of a job.
- How We View Them VS What Actually Happens: We all know that war is no joking matter. But to what extent do we really value what these people do for us? We talk about their courageous actions halfheartedly. For some of us who war has not yet affected, we don’t really see past the hollywood glamour of “Heroes Protecting America”. We don’t hear the screams these soldiers had to listen to at night when their comrades who are dying from wounds can’t be put to rest. We don’t see the dead bodies they do. We don’t feel the burn of bombs on our skin or the cold hard touch of the dirt ground that they are pressed against. Similarly, readers of manga don’t exactly see what the mangaka go through. We get mad when they don’t update and we think “It’s only drawing manga. How hard can it be?” But it’s much more difficult than we can ever imagine. We don’t feel the constant pressure of deadlines over our heads. We don’t have to draw out every single line and color in every single crevice. We don’t fear the loss of our jobs because of a decline in society’s interest in the arts.
After I took some time to really think about what the artist Takano Ichigo was going through, I started to sympathize with her. Yes, I had been mad at her for selfishly quitting her job and leaving her work undone. It only made things worse for her fans and ultimately for the publishers who have stuck through her this whole time only to have produced a barely introduced manga, But that didn’t mean what she was going through was something I could shrug off and disregard.
A manga artist is receiving the International Manga Award. A veteran is being recognized for his work in the Korean War.
So next time, think a little before you say something like “I hate that mangaka for taking so long on their updates. Why can’t they just draw faster?” or condemn those young soldiers who enlisted themselves for a few months before deciding it was too much to handle. There’s an unimaginable amount of blood, sweat and tears they have shed just for us to have a little laugh once in a while or be able to sit comfortably in our homes without fear of bombardment. Love them, thank them, appreciate them: mangakas and war heroes alike.