Archive for the 'translation' Category

Mirai no Neiro – The Sound of the Future 2011 Playlist

Saturday, July 16th, 2011

If you’ve been to Anime Expo in the last two years, you might have seen the Vocaloid panel “The Sound of the Future”, by Masaki. (If not, you should go next year.)

This year kransom and I (plus mdl and stephieku) helped run the panel and did song translations. We still ended up an hour late, since the previous panel had way more corporate sponsorship, but here’s the playlist.

Most of these links are to the unsubtitled versions, since I forgot to ask if we could upload the translations, so contact us or watch this space if you’d like them. But you should watch them anyway!

1. honey and clover club by yuuyu and baker, video by nagimiso

2. Aku no Musume Trilogy by nazyo, NazekorewoP, Yuuki

3. DYE/Re:reflection+ by Treow, remixed by AVTechNO, video by heki

4. Nyanyanyanyanyanyanya! by daniwell, and the MMD version

5. Rondo of possible world by millstones, video by masataka

6. Strobe last by Powapowa, video by masataka

This one’s translated!

7. Sweet Devil and Electric Love by HachioujiP, video by wakamuraP

9. Memories (unfinished video) by SmileR, video by wakamuraP

10. Innocent girl feat. Kaai Yuki (international edit) by KagomeP and rlldi

I have no idea what this video is about.

11. Ameyumerou by HitoshizukuP and Suzunosuke

12. Flower Tail by yuukiss and 25 KAITOs

13. My world by KuchibashiP

(not actually related to the next song)

14. World is Mine video (unfinished) by Sadamasa Shiika

15. Last night, good night by kz/livetune

Finally, there were three new songs presented by the special guest producers:

1. Galapagos by Penguins Project
You can find the English introduction at his blog.

2. The Socialist by ZANEEDS
Japanese title: “What if Kagamine Rin read Marx’s ‘Das Kapital’”?

3. Boring Bowling by SunzriverP
It’s a song about bowling, because Americans love bowling. No translation just yet.

My AX report is that instead of Day 4, I went to the beach. I recommend you do the same!
Photos (featuring several returning stars) can be found here or on the sidebar —>

2ch translation: What K-ON would be like if it was American

Saturday, June 11th, 2011

Well, I think it’s funny, anyway.

Source: News4VIP via BIP blog


6.
Azunyan dies in every episode.

8.
Ritsu is black.
Illustration

11.
All the songs would have “Fuck” in the lyrics.

12.
There would be a laugh track.

4.
After School Drugs.

13.
After School Barbeque.

25.
All of them would have babysitting jobs.

29.
It would be dubbed in Japanese by Koichi Yamadera.

31.
After School Tea Party.

40.
There would be a very special episode about Ritsu’s pregnancy.

Is this Degrassi?

44.
Yui: “Shit! I cut my finger!”

61.
The first one killed would be a funny black guy who listens to rap.

64.
>>61
Azunyan?

68.
Mugi’s eyebrows would be salami.

??

77.
After HTT saves the school from being blown up by Islamic fundamentalists, they become heroes.

Cheerleaders: “We were wrong. You’re cool after all!”

83.
“Hamburger wa Okazu”

100.
There would be an annoying hairy alien living in Yui’s house.

106.
Sawako’s old band would have done Marilyn Manson covers.

113.
The club room would be covered in graffiti.

#114 is good but is beyond me to translate.

147.
Mugi would actually be a lesbian.

196.
Mugi’s shirt would have some nonsensical kanji on it.

202.
>>196
Don’t you mean Yui’s dressing gown?

Translation: 2ch attends Fanimecon

Friday, June 3rd, 2011

I also went to Fanime, so I can explain some of this in more detail. Also take a look at my photos, they’re much better than last time!

I’ve left “doujin” untranslated for that 2ch feel, but of course they mean the Artists’ Alley. You are also missing out on some jokes because I can’t think of a translation for アメリカのおまえら.

Source: the News4VIP thread I went to an American Comic Market via hamster sokuhou

1: Anonymous 2011/05/31(火) 13:00:42.69 ID:9cXwo77C0

I don’t know if you could call it a Comic Market, more like an anime festival, but anyway there were doujin booths and industry booths.


3: Anonymous 2011/05/31(火) 13:02:26.65 ID:N8peOve80

Foreigners cosplay pretty openly, huh.

At Comic Market, you’re required to arrive in normal clothes and change on site, to avoid scaring normal people on the way there.

7: Anonymous 2011/05/31(火) 13:03:07.53 ID:9cXwo77C0

8: Anonymous 2011/05/31(火) 13:03:32.42 ID:S9I+C3lZ0

It’s so similar I’d believe you if you told me it was Japan.

22: Anonymous 2011/05/31(火) 13:07:46.01 ID:n/GQz7rH0

>>7
When I saw the pizza, I knew it was America.

27: Ninpochou [Lv=2,xxxPT]1 2011/05/31(火) 13:10:52.33 ID:0byQt2KO0

I’d like to know what’s different about the doujinshi over there.

35: Anonymous 2011/05/31(火) 13:14:11.70 ID:9cXwo77C0

>>27
People mainly sell posters.
I barely saw any doujin books, but somehow I got a Japanese Touhou doujin. There were some from Taiwan.

I don’t know what the Japanese book was. There was a dealer called Fairy Doujin selling doujin artbooks in Chinese that were good but very expensive. Hen Da Ne did not come to Fanime, so there was no Comiket content to be found.

32: Anonymous 2011/05/31(火) 13:13:01.97 ID:9cXwo77C0

There’s a lot of guys like Saizensen-kun in America too.

Saizensen-kun is the name of a famous sweaty photographer who was the subject of an old Internet meme.

47: Anonymous 2011/05/31(火) 13:17:22.65 ID:9cXwo77C0

The doujin area

Some little girls

I must have missed him.

57: Anonymous 2011/05/31(火) 13:19:13.38 ID:S9I+C3lZ0

>>47
The familiar sight of backpacks…
Wait, isn’t this just Japan!?

55: Anonymous 2011/05/31(火) 13:18:38.78 ID:viUDrtXA0

I laughed at the Vocaloid cosplay.
What are the popular manga and anime in America right now? I was under the impression they’d stopped showing Naruto and Dragonball.

58: Anonymous 2011/05/31(火) 13:19:44.69 ID:9cXwo77C0

>>57
It’s the same as you guys. They all like Madoka Magica and stuff.

62: Anonymous 2011/05/31(火) 13:20:41.95 ID:9cXwo77C0

By the way, all the Asians I saw seemed to be Chinese.

78: Anonymous 2011/05/31(火) 13:24:47.31 ID:mJZBDakd0

Does doujin art over there use American comics style?

84: Anonymous 2011/05/31(火) 13:28:46.40 ID:9cXwo77C0

>>76
There was one with American-style Touhou.
But they weren’t selling doujin books, but posters for $15. And pins.

He means Miluda and Rabid Potato‘s booth. The pins are cool, but they were selling a book! You should go see them at AX!

123 Anonymous 2011/05/31(火) 13:43:20.68 ID:G+wiPBwPP

This is the best part of your photo.

133 Anonymous 2011/05/31(火) 13:48:55.84 ID:C+HWyze50

>>123
<Do you have a job?>

130 Anonymous 2011/05/31(火) 13:47:16.62 ID:Hh8lsAH60

Has fujoshi culture made it over there?
Does Amazon list BL as a category over there?

The manga category on amazon.jp is actually named “Manga / Anime / BL”.

185 Anonymous 2011/05/31(火) 14:23:31.92 ID:9cXwo77C0

These are all the doujin I found…

The one on top is by kata. I think the rest are Chinese. I’m impressed he found that many.


Suddenly got bored translating. The highlights:
- Americans only do posters for art.
- Americans are really good at making costumes.
- American cameras are silent so it’s easier to take stealth photos.
- You can take pictures anywhere in America, but it’s forbidden in most parts of Japanese events.

As for myself I’ve never bought an artist print, because I have no idea what to do with it… they should really do more books. That and many artists just aren’t that good.

As for Fanime, it was much better than Acen, but almost as programming-free. They had so many late panel changes that the schedule wasn’t printed until the second day, and Anime Hell disappeared this year. I spent most of it playing Twinkle Star Sprites and meeting Touhous.

The location and nearby food are really good, so convention recommended anyway.

  1. I have no idea what his name means. []

Discussion Translation: Kentaro Takekuma x Ken Akamatsu, Part 5

Thursday, April 21st, 2011

Translator’s Introduction: This is the final part of the five-part conversation between manga artist and J-Comi founder Ken Akamatsu and manga editor, writer, and professor Takekuma Kentaro. Previous parts, as well as a more detailed introduction, can be found via links on the index below.

Part 1:
“People are Noticing the Possibilities of Viewers Featuring Dynamic Advertising”

“Out of Print Titles Mean a Certain Standard of Quality and an Assurance of Not Being Too Erotic or Violent”

“Monkey Manga 2.0 was Planned to be a Media Mix”

Part 2:
“The Oil Crisis Led to the Model Where Graphic Novels, Not Magazines, Make the Money”

“If the Function of Magazines Moves to E-Publishing, New Artists Won’t Sell”

“Places for New Artists to Debut and Editors to Practice Will Disappear”

Part 3:
“Freelance Editors Will Increase, and Their Success Will Depend on Skill”

“When Manga Artists with Producing Skills Fade Away, the Industry Will Snap”

“Present-Day Japan Doesn’t Have the Time or Money to Read Manga That Isn’t Guaranteed to be Interesting”

Part 4:
“We Might Start Seeing More Manga Artists with Six-to-Eight Million Yen Salaries in the Future”

“As Long as an Artist Pays Their Own ‘Entertainment Fee,’ They Won’t Make Money”

“Manga Artists Will Independently Hire Editors, as Lawyers or Accountants are Hired”

Part 5:
“I Want to Do Something that Amuses Others, Not Myself”

“Our Job is to Provide a Place to Debut for Those with the Fundamentals Down”

“Let’s Meet Again in Five Years. We’ll See Then Who’s Laughing and Who’s Crying”

[Original Article: Masahiro Yamaguchi, ITmedia.
Copyright 2011 ITmedia Inc. All Rights Reserved.]

—————————

Part 5: Where is Manga Going?

“I Want to Do Something that Amuses Others, Not Myself”

Takekuma: You know, when this talk gets written up, it’d be a good idea to frame it as us opposing one another. At first glance, it might have looked like we had similar ideas, but once we actually met and talked, it’s clear that we’re coming from completely different places.

Akamatsu: Completely different. Our predictions for the future are different, and our standpoints are different, too.

Takekuma: While we do both look at the situation and think, “the industry will collapse within a few years if it keeps going down its current path,” our explanations are different. It’s actually interesting just how opposed our ideas are to the other’s.

Akamatsu: Yes, this isn’t going to be the kind of discussion that we can neatly wrap up with a “That’s right” and a “Yes, I agree.” We’re not agreeing on a single point.

Takekuma: Actually, how little we’re agreeing with each other is amazing. We must simply have different life philosophies. We start at the same place regarding present conditions, but go in such different directions because of our standpoints. I’m sorry if this is rude to say, but Mr. Akamatsu’s way of thinking is the way the successful think.

Akamatsu: But if you think about whose outlook is grimmer, it would have to be mine. Your outlook has optimism and dreams in parts of it. What I’m saying is that it’s a lost cause, so we should think of the next way of doing things.

Takekuma: Yeah. As far as I’m aware, your outlook on the industry is the most severe, realistic one out there. But looking at how quickly the internet is evolving, there’s no telling what will have happened five years from now. There might be some sort of new system or content that we can’t even imagine right now. So, we can worry about those things when they happen. Only, I personally want to do something that I find interesting.

Akamatsu: I’m different. I want to do something that other people find interesting.

I see, that’s the fundamental difference between you two.

Akamatsu: What Mr. Takekuma just said about doing something he likes is precisely what I consider to be an “entertainment fee”1 . That’s why it sets off all my warning lights like mad.

Takekuma: But for the past thirty years, I’ve been doing what I like doing. I’ve had my fair share of painful and difficult experiences, but it’s been fun. Of course, I’m not completely satisfied.

Akamatsu: You have an incredible vitality.

Takekuma: Only, after my stroke four years ago bringing me close to death, I started really thinking about my mortality. I think to myself that I have ten years left to live. I obviously don’t want to die as soon as that time is up, but I don’t have an image of my future past that point. My goal right now is to do everything I want to do before then.

What kinds of goals, specifically?

Takekuma: I have about three works that I want to create, which would also ideally help train new artists. These are ideas I’ve had since I was around 20, and I feel like now might finally be the time that I can turn them into a reality. Only, I’m not confident that I can finish all of them in ten years, but there’s one that I really want to do. However, it’s an idea that I’ve been unsuccessfully pitching to publishers starting ten years ago, so I have no choice but to build a system in which I can create it.

Is it just a manga, or something bigger, with a manga at its core?

Takekuma: It’s an overall expression, with manga at its core. That’s the only way I can put it, really, but I’ll announce it soon.

Of the two of you, Mr. Takekuma seems more like the so-called artist-type.

Akamatsu: You’re right.

Takekuma: Someone once asked me which I’d prefer: my dreams coming true tomorrow, or ten years from now. I replied by saying ten years from now. After all, the fun part of plastic models is building them, isn’t it? People who enjoy building models don’t find anything interesting about completed ones.

Akamatsu: I’d rather have the model be done tomorrow, then start on the next one the day after that.

Takekuma: And that’s what’s fundamentally different about us. (laughter) Honestly, I’d be fine with not even completing it.

Akamatsu: Whaat? (laughter)

Takekuma: I don’t mean to brag, but I’ve almost never built a plastic model to completiono. (laughter) I get sick of it halfway through. That’s why I was never able to become an artist who could see something through until the end. It’s very difficult for me to struggle through to the end of something, but Akamatsu-san must be where he is because he can do that.

“Our Job is to Provide a Place to Debut for Those with the Fundamentals Down” (Akamatsu)

Takekuma: I don’t have high demands to begin with, so if we were to have another conversation five years from now, I think that I would be satisfied with the way things are.

Akamatsu: You can’t let yourself be satisfied. Don’t you think about wanting more people around the world seeing what you do?

Takekuma: I do. But I don’t have the confidence that a book I release will sell a million copies in a year. Another way to put it is that I think that there’s work where it’s okay to only sell five digits. There are works like Mr. Tsuge (Yoshiharu)’s manga that couldn’t possibly sell a million copies. The fact that he hasn’t reached that level of sales doesn’t take anything away from his value as an artist, though.

Akamatsu: You could call Mr. Tsuge a pioneer, someone who influenced artists who came after him. In academics, influences like that would be called “basic research”, but you shouldn’t do basic research, because it’s not good business. I tell my juniors in the business this, but you shouldn’t do basic research, and you should match the title you bring to a publisher to the publisher. If you ignore those two things, you’ll have fun, but death is waiting for you.

Takekuma: If anything, that seems like worldly wisdom.

Akamatsu: That’s right. Manga worldly wisdom.

Takekuma: So, you would say that the fundamental ability to draw manga is something that an artist has in them from the beginning? That there’s no need to foster it.

Akamatsu: Like you said earlier, there are a lot of people with the fundamentals. I think that what our job is, is to provide a place to debut for those with the fundamentals down. We have to get them ready to leave the nest. Right now, even though there are baby birds with beautiful feathers and the ability to fly, in reality, they end up just falling to the ground and dying.

Takekuma: I was able to meet Takao Saito before, and he told me that geniuses like Tezuka (Osamu) who are able to exhibit their talent in every aspect of manga are very rare. However, even run-of-the-mill artists might be good at something, like dialogue, or drawing mecha, to the point where they’re better than even Tezuka at that one thing. What Saito Pro does is to gather individuals with skills like that, then have them work as a collective. When he first tried to create Saito Pro by calling out to his manga artist colleagues, they had pride as artists, and were too individualistic to all gather together. Anyway, they wouldn’t have been able to stand being told “you draw just the mecha, and you draw just the animals.”

What surprised Saito-sensei was that everyone thought that they were geniuses. It’s a ridiculous idea. If everyone was as talented as Osamu Tezuka, the manga industry never would have formed. That’s why he was thinking about how to create a methodology where run-of-the-mill artists could work. I think that Saito-sensei is a pioneer, in that he was the first person in the industry to create a methodology for “manga (gekiga) as a business”.

Akamatsu: So that’s why you were talking about an American comics-style division of labor. My response to that as an artist is that, like you said earlier, everyone thinks that they’re a genius, so I don’t think that a system like that would go well. Everyone who wants to become a manga artist does it thinking that they’re going to sell a million or even two million copies, so they can’t accept your system.

Takekuma: There are definitely artists who are like that, but there are also some who aren’t. If I thought that becoming a manga artist is meaningless if you don’t become a million-seller, I wouldn’t be teaching at a university. It’s not something that everyone can do, and I don’t have that kind of experience myself, either. I think it’s fine if you’re just paying the bills with manga. In other words, if it means a career drawing manga, then it’s fine to just be a professional assistant.

In that case, though, I think there should be a system where an individual can have their work drawn and released. They would submit their thumbnails or plot, and if it was accepted, they would act as a supervisor as the work is created by a company. I’m not saying that absolutely everything should turn into an American comics or Saito Pro-style arrangement. What I do want to say, though, is that talented people like Mr. Akamatsu who sell a million copies right off the bat are very rare, and that you can’t go in front of a class of students and tell them to all debut and become million sellers. It’s not something that’s realistic.

Akamatsu: Hmm… In that case, I feel like that after all, there are some fundamental problems with the idea of academic art education.

Takekuma: There’s something contradictory about the idea of “training talent”. I certainly have times when I feel ashamed about it.

“Let’s Meet Again in Five Years. We’ll See Then Who’s Laughing and Who’s Crying” (Takekuma)

Akamatsu: Our talk seems to have ended without us agreeing on anything. I wonder how it’s going to be written up.

Takekuma: Why not honestly show how little we agree with each other? I think it would be interesting for readers to see how I call myself an editor but act like an artist, and how you’re much more of an editor or producer-type than I am. We should settle this by meeting again in five years. Well see then who’s laughing and who’s crying. It might even be that we’ll be in a world that neither of us could have even imagined.

Akamatsu: Though, talks like this typically are wrapped up with some sort of harmonious ending.

Takekuma: That just means that this talk will get more attention. So, let’s meet again in five years, and do something like a look back at the last five years then.

Akamatsu: “Let’s meet again in five years” is actually a favorite phrase of mine. In high school and college, when I’d have a difference of opinion with someone, I’d often say, “in that case, let’s go for drinks again in five years.”

Takekuma: We agree on the general framework. We’re both doubtful that the publishing and manga industries can last for another five years. We also both think that e-publishing could offer a solution. I think we agree on at least that much.

Akamatsu: Yes, we do. (laughter)

Takekuma: In that case, I’ll see you in five years.

Akamatsu: Well, let’s keep giving it our best.

Takekuma: If I was responsible for writing this up, I’d be going crazy trying to figure out how. (uproarious laughter)

The talk, which began at 9 at night, ended at 4 in the morning, after changing locations multiple times. While both men agreed on the current state of the manga industry, and that they both felt a sense of danger, many of their arguments ran parallel to each other, and their different values soon became quite clear. By the second half of the discussion, both men found this huge gap in opinion to be interesting in itself, and began to talk and joke about it. It goes without saying that this writer was on the edge of his seat the entire time.

It is probably an overly hasty conclusion to say that the reason that the two men were at such odds is because one is a manga artist, and the other is an editor. Mr. Akamatsu is most certainly a manga author with a producer’s intentions, and conversely, Mr. Takekuma is an editor with an artist’s intentions, both strongly clashing with the standard notions of “manga artist” and “editor”. Despite their near-complete agreement regarding the current state of the manga industry, as well as the dangers facing it, their radically different approaches to these problems must surely be a result of their difference in life philosophies and personal keys to happiness. The exchange where Mr. Akamatsu replied to Mr. Takekuma saying, “I want to do something I find interesting” with “I want to do something that other people find interesting” epitomizes this.

Mr. Akamatsu, an active manga artist currently undertaking a weekly serialization, and Mr. Takekuma, a professor who spends his busy days traveling back and forth between universities in Tokyo and Kyoto. It would not have been unusual if these two men were to cut the talk short after realizing that they disagreed on nearly everything, but instead they exchanged ideas for over seven hours. This could only have been because each was interested in the other’s approach to solving a common problem.

While Mr. Takekuma saw J-Comi as a possible platform for the discovery of new talent, Mr. Akamatsu is proceeding towards the official opening of the site resolved to only use J-Comi as an archive for out of print titles and as a way to generate returns for manga authors. Mr. Akamatsu already had future plans for J-Comi in his mind, and Mr. Takekuma told us that he had “ambitions” of making his own work into a reality while also discovering new talent in the process. While the conversation adjourned with the two men promising to talk again in five years, based on the content of this talk, one will likely be able to further understand what each man is risking by watching their activities in the manga world from here on. (Afterword by Mr. Masahiro Yamaguchi)

  1. see day 4 []

Discussion Translation: Kentaro Takekuma x Ken Akamatsu, Part 4

Wednesday, April 20th, 2011

Translator’s Introduction: This is part four of the five-part conversation between manga artist and J-Comi founder Ken Akamatsu and manga editor, writer, and professor Takekuma Kentaro. Previous parts, as well as a more detailed introduction, can be found via links on the index below.

Part 1:
“People are Noticing the Possibilities of Viewers Featuring Dynamic Advertising”

“Out of Print Titles Mean a Certain Standard of Quality and an Assurance of Not Being Too Erotic or Violent”

“Monkey Manga 2.0 was Planned to be a Media Mix”

Part 2:
“The Oil Crisis Led to the Model Where Graphic Novels, Not Magazines, Make the Money”

“If the Function of Magazines Moves to E-Publishing, New Artists Won’t Sell”

“Places for New Artists to Debut and Editors to Practice Will Disappear”

Part 3:
“Freelance Editors Will Increase, and Their Success Will Depend on Skill”

“When Manga Artists with Producing Skills Fade Away, the Industry Will Snap”

“Present-Day Japan Doesn’t Have the Time or Money to Read Manga That Isn’t Guaranteed to be Interesting”

Part 4:
“We Might Start Seeing More Manga Artists with Six-to-Eight Million Yen Salaries in the Future”

“As Long as an Artist Pays Their Own ‘Entertainment Fee,’ They Won’t Make Money”

“Manga Artists Will Independently Hire Editors, as Lawyers or Accountants are Hired”

Part 5:
“I Want to Do Something that Amuses Others, Not Myself”

“Our Job is to Provide a Place to Debut for Those with the Fundamentals Down”

“Let’s Meet Again in Five Years. We’ll See Then Who’s Laughing and Who’s Crying”

[Original Article: Masahiro Yamaguchi, ITmedia.
Copyright 2011 ITmedia Inc. All Rights Reserved.]

———————

Part 4: “We Might Start Seeing More Manga Artists with Six-to-Eight Million Yen Salaries in the Future” (Takekuma)

Akamatsu: Thinking in terms of frameworks is dangerous. If anything, I think it’s best to take a shotgun approach. Have a lot of talented artists draw something, do a media mix, or all sorts of added-value extras, and put out a lot of product. Being able to try many different things is one advantage of manga. Editors mostly pay attention to frameworks and packages. I mentioned this on Twitter, but I feel like people aren’t recognizing just how risky creating frameworks can be.

Takekuma: Though you’re saying that about frameworks, editors have to work alongside an author, since their job isn’t something they can do alone.

Akamatsu: The kinds of fixed models you’re talking about are disappearing. I think that editors will start to disappear, and we’ll basically move to a model where a ton of titles are constantly released, and the industry focuses on fostering along whatever sticks. If this happens, then editorial corrections aren’t needed anymore. It’ll basically be that as long as you have a lot to choose from, something good will show up, and you won’t need to fix those works.

Takekuma: Actually, in a way, that was how the manga industry used to work. They assumed that they had an unending supply of new artists, and that a poor marksman would hit a target eventually, given enough tries. But now, even if you have a talented new artist…

Akamatsu: That’s right. There’s nowhere for their work to be released.

Takekuma: People working at the publishers have all been going to Comiket and Comitia recently, too. Places like those are really efficient in terms of finding talent.

— Other than Comiket, isn’t there also the option of exhibiting your work online now?

Takekuma: Yes. For example, the woman who did the cover of “Mavo” is forty right now, and first debuted as a manga artist at 38. She drew as a hobby until she got married, and started displaying her animations and manga online after marrying. She became well-known through those, and people started coming to her with work. The number of people debuting online these days is increasing quite a bit. Actually, all the young editors these days are looking at pixiv, looking for people they can start using immediately.

Akamatsu: But it’s like you always hear, right? The people who make the top 10 at pixiv get a bunch of people offering them work, but none of them want to pay the artist for it.

— There are definitely a number of professional manga artists who got their start on pixiv, though.

Akamatsu: But they’re not working in major magazines, are they?

Takekuma: I think the concept of the “major magazine” is going to start changing. We might be entering an age where we stop hearing about things like million-selling volumes, or series selling 20 million. This current generation of people like Mr. Akamatsu or series like One Piece might just be the last of their kind.

Akamatsu: Isn’t that the same as what I just said? The industry is going to snap after all.

Takekuma: No, you see, artists will still be able to sell 50,000 copies, for example. You can make a living selling 50,000 copies of a volume.

Akamatsu: You say 50,000, but how expensive are those volumes?

Takekuma: Regardless, I think that we’ll see more manga artists living off of six to eight million yen a year, as long as they have at least a bit of a name.

Akamatsu: Huh?

Takekuma: That’s what I’ve been trying to say. Since you’re a major artist, creating a million seller is a certain marker of status to you. I won’t take away from that, but I’m thinking that it’s fine to hit a bunch of singles, or even bunts. Just as long as you get on base.

Akamatsu: That must be an editor’s point of view. As an artist, you would obviously rather have a million people reading your work and be making a few hundred million yen a year. If baseball players all got paid 5 million yen a year, you’d be taking away the dream.

Takekuma: No, editors think that as well. But what happens if you fall short and can’t make it that far? Do you quit altogether, or do you stay, because you love manga? In any case, I think that we’ll start seeing a business model completely different from the one we have now. And, if it involves the overseas market like you were talking about earlier, there is certainly room to make however many hundreds of millions of yen. But the Japanese manga industry hasn’t been attempting to make that happen at all.

“As Long as an Artist Pays Their Own ‘Entertainment Fee,’ They Won’t Make Money” (Akamatsu)

Akamatsu: Which is better, a manga that’s interesting, or a manga that sells? Do you think it’s no good if a boring manga starts selling?

Takekuma: Hmm, I’d have to say the interesting manga.

Akamatsu: So you’re fine if a manga doesn’t sell, as long as it’s interesting?

Takekuma: If you put it like that, then yes. But doesn’t everyone think that they want to sell something interesting?

Akamatsu: Hmm, I don’t really like that line of thought. Isn’t that being too much of a romanticist?

— Recently in the world of J-Pop, there have been a lot of young artists who are fine with not selling a million copies, and are thinking of ways to just pay the bills by selling 50,000 or 100,000 copies. They’re also starting their own independent labels, and running their own businesses. At the same time, those people are also trying to get into the Oricon1 top five. I think that we’ll start seeing something similar in manga. The only problem is whether or not we’ll have as many people still hoping to become manga artists once that happens.

Akamatsu: That’s the problem. Why not just draw and upload what you do to pixiv?

Takekuma: I’ve never made a huge amount of money, so I’m more of the type who feels like if you don’t have money, you don’t have money, and I find that there’s a lot of enjoyable things about that kind of lifestyle.

Akamatsu: But back when Monkey Manga was selling and everyone was reading your work, you also had the experience of making a lot of money and everyone knowing your name, didn’t you?

Takekuma: Well, for “Monkey Manga”… Even if you say that it sold well, it wasn’t anything amazing. The company went and printed 200,000 copies for the first printing of the first volume, and Koji Aihara and I got them to hold up after that. We said to start with 50,000, then see how sales go. After that, the volume sold about 120,000 or 130,000 copies. Even so, there were a lot of unsold copies, so they printed 80,000 for volume 2, and 45,000 for volume 3. In the end, my read of printing 50,000 and waiting was right.

Akamatsu: If they were able to sell 120,000 copies of a 200,000 copy print run, they still must have made money.

Takekuma: Of course it still made money, but I’m a minor artist at heart. An underground, super-minor artist.

Akamatsu: In Bakuman, you have a story where upstart young boys say “we’re gonna sell a bunch of manga!” and an upstart editor who says “we’re gonna sell a bunch of manga!”. Do you think there’s something wrong with that line of thought?

Takekuma: Of course I’m fine with that. Just, I think that there are books that sell a million copies in one year, and books that sell a million copies, but not until after a hundred years. Of course, you’d think the former case is better, but it’s becoming a lot harder to do that.

Akamatsu: I don’t understand that. You’ve even had experience working on something that sold well.

Takekuma: But what I want is for something I worked on to last, even after I die. You were saying that I was being a romanticist earlier, but you’re exactly right. I’ve been living my life as a romanticist for the last fifty years. (laughter)

Akamatsu: I entered the manga world with the intention to quit if my first work didn’t sell, and even had a backup plan secured. But my juniors in the industry don’t have backup plans. In order to persuade my parents, I won a newcomers prize, and when I was debuting as a manga artist, I was simultaneously hunting for jobs. They were very demanding. I absolutely wasn’t thinking something like “I know I can make it!” or “I won’t give up until I make it!” You can say that I wasn’t much of a romanticist in that regard, but there are a lot of manga artists who are. In that way, I think of you as being like a manga artist, Mr. Takekuma.

Takekuma: Well, maybe I have an artist’s mentality. The reason I call myself an editor, too, is because I want to create a work as an editor.

— What kind of mentality do the students at Tama Art University and Kyoto Seika University who want to be manga artists have?

Takekuma: There’ve been a lot of people who I’ve thought are incredibly talented, but as far as I know, not a single one has debuted. There’s a lot of reasons for that. For example, they can’t communicate well with others, or they’re such perfectionists that they can’t show people something that might still have room for improvement.

Akamatsu: All the talented artists say that.

Takekuma: I had one female student who I thought was a genius, and she told me an idea she had for a manga. I told her it sounded interesting, and that she should draw thumbnails for it, but it’s been two years and she’s still not finished with them. Basically, she’s a perfectionist. During this period, she’s been selling BL (boys’ love) manga at Comitia, so she’ll draw those. Except, even though she received a booth at Comitia, she didn’t get there until three in the afternoon.2 She was drawing all the way until that point, and just brought bundles of unstapled copies with her to the event. Clearly, she’s not thinking about sales. When I looked at those copies, I thought that she was definitely very talented, but that if she’s this kind of person, she could never become a pro.

Akamatsu: In Akamatsu-ian Theory, there’s a concept called the “entertainment fee”. If you’re enjoying what you’re drawing, you are paying your own work’s entertainment fee, and so you won’t make any money from it. If you draw something so that your editor and your readers enjoy it, you receive that entertainment fee. If you’re enjoying what you make, you’re paying your entertainment fee, and it’s harder for other people to enjoy the work, while your chances of debuting also decrease.

If a genre requires a high entertainment fee, it means that the genre is also fun to draw, causing everyone to be attracted to it, and the number of writers in that genre will become very high. When that happens, page rates will go down, and you can’t make money. That’s why you shouldn’t get involved with something with a high entertainment fee when you can help it. On the flip side, commercial magazines have to make all sorts of people happy, so you have less freedom to enjoy yourself. As this happens, the chance that you’ll receive that entertainment fee becomes higher.

Takekuma: Does that mean that you couldn’t stand to continue doing what you do if you couldn’t make money from it?

Akamatsu: That’s another way to put it. If you look at it the other way around, I feel that something drawn by an artist who’s doing nothing but entertaining themselves couldn’t possibly make money. I’m not saying that it’s karma, though.

— Akamatsu-sensei, what motivates you right now?

Akamatsu: Seeing enjoyment on the faces of readers. After all, you can see how much people are enjoying themselves when you look at sales numbers. Sales numbers, or royalty checks. I see those and think, “I’m glad that people enjoyed my work this much.” It works out so that if readers are happy with my work, I’m happy too. It was definitely like that toward the end of Love Hina.

“Manga Artists Will Independently Hire Editors, as Lawyers or Accountants are Hired” (Takekuma)

Takekuma: While I can’t help but speak from an editor’s standpoint again, one thing I want is to see the state of manga change into something new before I die. My end goal is to die after I’ve created that state. J-Comi drew my attention because it’s one part of this new state, and if I were running J-Comi, I’d think about releasing it as a system for new authors and their work, as an attempt to revitalize the manga industry. Listening to what you’ve said today, though, that’s not what you want to do.

Akamatsu: That’s not something that I’m considering. Really, I’m trying to avoid any risk whatsoever.

Takekuma: But don’t they say “no risk, no return”?

Akamatsu: What I’ve concluded is that I can’t take the time and effort to raise young artists whose ability to create something interesting or something that sells is still unknown. You might say that doing just that is the most interesting part of all of this, but that’s a romantic way of thinking.

Takekuma: All editors are that way. The greatest joy an editor feels is when they meet a promising new artist.

Akamatsu: Editors might feel that way, but what about the lives of manga artists whose work doesn’t sell? There seems to even be a mood where editors aren’t considered true professionals until after they’ve gone through and crushed however many artists first. Looking at editors from a manga artist’s perspective, if I’m going to get involved with an editor, I want a 100% guarantee that my book is going to sell. All manga artists wonder why it’s them who are getting cut by publishers, while their editors are still employed at a company despite canceled series after canceled series.

— Won’t that be fixed once the number of freelance editors increases, like Mr. Takekuma was talking about? Up until now, manga artists haven’t been able to choose their own editors. Things might start getting better if the number of freelance editors goes up.

Takekuma: Freelance editors will become agents. Manga artists will hire editors, just like how they might hire a lawyer or an accountant. I think we’ll be seeing this happen in five years or so.

— That’s something that editors won’t be able to do as long as they’re hired at a company. Also, while you might be reassigned editors at a publisher, that won’t happen with freelancers.

Takekuma: I think that one reason that “Nodame Cantabile” was such a success was because the editor for the series, Ms. Mikawa, was a freelance editor, and was able to work on the series for eight years straight, from the very beginning to the very end. Have you ever worked with an editor who really wowed you, Mr. Akamatsu?

Akamatsu: I felt like that when I was first starting, but after two to three years, you start figuring out what an editor’s probably going to tell you. Once that happens, in theory, you could just start correcting your own manga.

— Looking at it the other way around, that means that those first two to three years are essential.

Akamatsu: That’s right. At Magazine, when a new editor is assigned to an artist, they’re also assigned a senior editor. That senior editor will tell the manga artist what they should fix, then turn to the younger editor and ask, “by the way, what do you think?” By doing this, both the manga artist and the senior editor are working together to train the younger editor. This means that it takes years to train an editor, and it also takes years to train a new manga artist. There’s no more room to do something like that. We’re in a situation where you have to get artists with some sort of immediate sales potential, so there’s no more room for training.

  1. a major Japanese media sales tracking company, similar to Billboard []
  2. Comitia, Japan’s largest all-original doujinshi event, generally ends at 4 PM. []

Discussion Translation: Kentaro Takekuma x Ken Akamatsu, Part 3

Tuesday, April 19th, 2011

Translator’s Introduction: This is part three of the five-part conversation between manga artist and J-Comi founder Ken Akamatsu and manga editor, writer, and professor Takekuma Kentaro. Previous parts, as well as a more detailed introduction, can be found via links on the index below.

Part 1:
“People are Noticing the Possibilities of Viewers Featuring Dynamic Advertising”

“Out of Print Titles Mean a Certain Standard of Quality and an Assurance of Not Being Too Erotic or Violent”

“Monkey Manga 2.0 was Planned to be a Media Mix”

Part 2:
“The Oil Crisis Led to the Model Where Graphic Novels, Not Magazines, Make the Money”

“If the Function of Magazines Moves to E-Publishing, New Artists Won’t Sell”

“Places for New Artists to Debut and Editors to Practice Will Disappear”

Part 3:
“Freelance Editors Will Increase, and Their Success Will Depend on Skill”

“When Manga Artists with Producing Skills Fade Away, the Industry Will Snap”

“Present-Day Japan Doesn’t Have the Time or Money to Read Manga That Isn’t Guaranteed to be Interesting”

Part 4:
“We Might Start Seeing More Manga Artists with Six-to-Eight Million Yen Salaries in the Future”

“As Long as an Artist Pays Their Own ‘Entertainment Fee,’ They Won’t Make Money”

“Manga Artists Will Independently Hire Editors, as Lawyers or Accountants are Hired”

Part 5:
“I Want to Do Something that Amuses Others, Not Myself”

“Our Job is to Provide a Place to Debut for Those with the Fundamentals Down”

“Let’s Meet Again in Five Years. We’ll See Then Who’s Laughing and Who’s Crying”

[Original Article: Masahiro Yamaguchi, ITmedia.
Copyright 2011 ITmedia Inc. All Rights Reserved.]

———————
Part 3: “When Manga Artists with Producing Skills Fade Away, the Industry Will Snap”

“Freelance Editors Will Increase, and Their Success Will Depend on Skill” (Takekuma)

Akamatsu: Established circles are still healthy at Comiket, as well. There’s lots of circles that have been wall circles1 for over ten years. The circles with the longest lines are always the same ones. There really haven’t been any new artists that have made themselves stand out. Once the people running these old circles reach their 40s or 50s and retire, the number of buyers are going to drop suddenly, too. Of course, the people buying comics are getting older, as well.

Takekuma: When you think about post-war manga history and ask why manga culture grew so large as an industry, I think that it’s because publishers would never fail to constantly keep publishing works by new authors. This was possible because the industry had the power of editors, who were able to find these new talents. But, just as Mr. Akamatsu discussed earlier, this system is crumbling.

I’m going to repeat myself here, but I see the number of freelance editors increasing. Because freelance editors don’t have the name of a publisher to back them up, they’ll have to truly compete based on skill. Factors like whether they’re able to pick out good talent, or if they can give good, accurate advice. Mr. Nagasaki (Takashi)2 or Mr. Kibayashi (Shin)3 are like this, as they’re the type of editor who gets closely involved in a series, or it might be more accurate to say that they basically act as the story writer. Mr. Nagasaki has said that it would be good in the future to have an even balance of freelance and employee manga editors. In other words, companies need to employ at least a certain minimum number of editors in order to continue doing business, but freelance editors who actually create a work along with an artist are very important.

—Out of curiosity, if you were to say it as directly as possible, what kinds of skills do editors need to have?

Akamatsu: In my case, it’s got to be “correction abilities.”

—Though, there are some artists who hate doing corrections.

Takekuma: As an editor, it’s important to be able to give feedback to an artist in a way that they can accept.

Akamatsu: If an editor’s correction clearly makes my manga more interesting, I’ll make the fix.

Takekuma: I’m currently running a seminar at Kyoto Seika University with Ms. Kaori Mikawa, the editor responsible for “Nodame Cantabile”, and she’s an exceptional freelance editor. She says that the most important part of an editor’s job is to “judge.” Since Ms. Mikawa has worked for this long as a freelance editor for companies like Kadokawa and Kodansha, she’s worked with all sorts of different artists, and has developed clear methods as far as what an editor should do.

For the seminar, Ms. Mikawa took a plot by an artist that she supervises at Kodansha, and with their consent, handed it out to the students, told them that there are problems with the plot, and that they should to try to correct them.

Akamatsu: Was it a written plot?

Takekuma: Written. The author is actually a veteran shoujo manga artist. In the seminar, Ms. Mikawa gave a lecture on how editors read plots and thumbnails, and there were lots of times when I’d hear something and think, “oh, I see now.” For example, there’s the kishoutenketsu narrative structure, but Ms. Mikawa has her own style when it comes to that structure. For example, it’s good to have two developments that could be call “twists”4. You’ll see similar advice if you read books about Hollywood screenwriting, but they don’t have the concept of kishoutenketsu there. Those narratives are generally based on the three-act play, but at the same time, they say that it’s still important to have two plot twists.

Akamatsu: Though, you could also blame script doctors for making every Hollywood story the same.

Takekuma: Of course, there’s that problem, but I do think that there are some basic rules. If you look at it that way, then only the freelance editors who have a grasp on those rules and who have editorial skills will be able to stay around. For example, if an artist loses popularity, they lose their contract. But, the editor of the series doesn’t get fired, right? The reason the editor stays is because they’re company employees. It’s not easy to fire a company employee, but it’s very easy to fire a freelancer. With a freelance system, the editor gets fired if the manga they’re editing loses popularity.

Akamatsu: So, in other words, free-market principles will make the quality of editors rise?

Takekuma: I think so. Am I being naive?

Akamatsu: Looking at the situation as a manga artist, there are a lot of manga artists who want to focus just on drawing. There are people who just want to draw thumbnails and get corrections back, and not deal with other people or listen to fans’ opinions beyond that. Artists like that really need someone to manage them, or someone to write a story for them, and I think that there’s room for a division of labor in that regard.

Only, I think that people like that will appear less and less from now on. Now, people are going through the trouble of uploading their own works on pixiv, then hearing feedback from everyone who has an opinion through their blogs or on Twitter. I think that because of this process, artists with a sense for business production will become more common. If there are artists like me who are starting their own business, there should be at least be people out there creating a manga with an anime adaptation in mind from the outset. As a result, it seems to me that the people who will rise to the top are going to be the ones with producing skills.

“When Manga Artists with Production Skills Fade Away, the Industry Will Snap” (Akamatsu)

Takekuma: We’re coming from different standpoints, and I think we’re saying the same thing, just coming from different places. I’ve said this on Twitter, too, but artists do also need producing skills. While I think this, though, if that really happens, then the distinction between artist and editor is going to disappear.

Akamatsu: That’s true. There’s been a polarization, where you have people who just want to draw, and then people with producing skills, and since new artists don’t have producing skills to begin with, they end up only being able to draw, never having learned those skills. Writer/editors can definitely develop alongside artists like that. However, those guys whose works have sold from the beginning and already have an audience, not to mention who draw and correct their own thumbnails, will have the run of the place for the next five or so years. I have a hypothesis that when these artists’ careers are up and they fade away, there will have been no place for young editors to learn, and the entire industry will snap, probably causing the Japanese manga industry to go extinct.

Takekuma: I think that you say that because you’re speaking from the position of an artist. As someone from an editorial background, I wonder if we can’t develop a new way of creating manga. An editor could act as a producer, and like how anime is made, creates a project plan to gather funds to pay staff with.

Akamatsu: But there’s no more money to go around. Also, it’s risky to gather an entire staff up, like you would when making a movie. That means that you can’t allow for the possibility of failure. One of the great things about manga is that even if a manga fails, there wasn’t much of an intial investment to begin with. I think that the moment you start involving a group of people, you make things a lot more dangerous.

Takekuma: It is important to make a careful decision about how many people you start off with, but I do also think that you have to start with artists who have prior results.

Akamatsu: Then what about young artists? You need money for them to be able to develop their skills, and there’s no place to publish their work.

Takekuma: What if we just say that there are plans to collect enough money. (laughter)

Akamatsu: What I’m afraid of is that new artists won’t be able to debut in the near future. With no correction abilities, editors won’t be able to grow any longer. It’ll be the same whether they’re freelance or employee editors. If the people who sell well now keep selling for the next five years, the Japanese manga industry will be over once they all retire after that. Of course, I don’t want this to happen, but…

Takekuma: I understand what you’re saying. I also think that the industry contracting is an inevitability. Only, I can’t see manga just disappearing from the world entirely. If the industry shrinks, then small-scale manga publishers, including doujinshi authors, will survive, and I think that it’s from there that the next generation of manga production methods will develop. Basically, I think that it’s possible to operate like a small business, creating manga via moderate investments while making sure your financial losses are reasonably small at worst.

Akamatsu: Looking at television dramas these days, you mostly see manga adaptations, so manga certainly still works as a primary industry. Manga might not be a bad industry to invest in.

Takekuma: Although, it’s very difficult to raise funds domestically in Japan. I think that movie producers are having a difficult time, too. You have to create a production committee to split the risk.

— How about finding a talented young artist, then getting a fund of 10 million yen or so together to hire some assistants and get something out there all at once?

Akamatsu: But isn’t that exactly the kind of high-risk business I’m worried about?

Takekuma: I wouldn’t try that method, either. As you said, the cost to produce a manga is cheap. If you compare it to anime, you’re talking about being tens, or even hundreds of times cheaper. That’s why it only costs 10 million yen to do a full-year weekly serialization of a series by a new artist.

Akamatsu: What happens if the manga is boring? You mentioned getting a “talented young artist,” but just because they’re talented doesn’t mean that their manga is going to sell. I’ve seen plenty of talented manga artists, but I also end up often having to wonder about them, “why doesn’t someone this good sell?”

Takekuma: That’s right. Focusing on new artists means always taking gambles.

Akamatsu: And investors don’t put their money on gambles.

—Then how about doing it with people who already have fanbases, or giving popular creators at Comiket a chance to debut?

Akamatsu: The artists who sell from spaces on the walls at Comiket might not fix their manuscripts when you give them corrections. After all, they’ve been selling well without having to make any corrections, and lines form for them at these events to buy a manga of whatever the artist feels like drawing, so they’re flawless as it is. Even if an editor tells them to fix something because they say it’s boring, the artist would just refuse. If that happens, then there’s no more use for editors.

— I see. So they consider what they’re doing to be final drafts.

Akamatsu: They’re done with the work as it is. They’ll sell 20,000 copies in one day, and even if they’ll never sell more copies of a work than that, they’re happy that so many people will line up to buy something that they’re drawing for fun, and since they can make a few million yen an event, they’re fine financially. And well, if they go sell through a doujinshi store after that, they can make even more.

“Present-Day Japan Doesn’t Have the Time or Money to Read Manga That Isn’t Guaranteed to be Interesting” (Akamatsu)

Takekuma: Are there no plans for you to serialize a new work of your own on J-Comi?

Akamatsu: No, there aren’t. I’ve been raised by Kodansha, and don’t have any intentions of betraying them. Mr. Ryu Murakami created G2010, but since titles going up there are new ones, publishers can’t be happy. The reason that publishers don’t mind me is because I’m only dealing in out-of-print books. I absolutely want to get along with publishers, because we need publishers in order for new talent to mature. Only, I think that there’s a problem, where their ability to actually do that is growing weaker.

— What’s needed in order for publishers to continue acting as development facilities for new artists? If they can’t keep doing that, it seems like their futures are going to be very grim.

Akamatsu: The problem is that readers have less and less spare time and money. Present-day Japan doesn’t have the time or the money to read manga that isn’t guaranteed to be interesting. Who does have those things are foreign readers. Foreign readers might have the spare time to read manga that might end up not being interesting. There’s no choice but to expand overseas. That’s why I want to make it so that a reader in China could go on J-Comi and immediately click through a translation of a manga.

Takekuma: I completely agree with you. At the same time, you also hear people talking about payment systems, where a chapter is only something like ten yen, so you can collect a lot of small payments from many readers around the world.

Akamatsu: Only, if you charge money for a new artist’s work, people won’t buy it unless they know it’s interesting. It’s a different story if the manga is free. People might think they’ll give it a little try, just to see. Asking people to pay without letting them try first doesn’t work anymore.

Takekuma: So what you’re saying is that if you give the content away for free, using an advertising model, you have a chance as long as you can expand globally. In that case, there might be a future for works by new authors.

Akamatsu: You could also release titles by famous authors on an advertising model, then add a newcomer’s manga on at the end of the volume. That way, there’s the possibility that a reader will continue to read the newcomer’s manga after the big-name title.

Takekuma: That’s also a possibility. I mentioned it earlier, but I think that manga production companies that own the rights to a certain character might start appearing, like how some American companies work. Those companies have producers, and a pool of talent, including newcomers, at their disposal. For example, you never know who’s drawing an issue of Batman or Superman, but the characters are incredibly famous. What about a system like that?

Akamatsu: It’s the same line of thought as anime production. Though, there’s not much to dream about if a lone artist can’t get rich quick with one huge hit.

Takekuma: The reason I’m talking about this system is because of my job teaching at a university, basically passing myself off as someone who’s training manga artists. If there was a system like this, there are lots of students out there who might not have the skill to make it as an author, but could be a good assistant. Because of that, I think about how if there were lots of American-style manga production studios, those students could work as staff, helping to create popular titles or popular characters, just thinking about employment for these students.

Akamatsu: Will the students be happy with that? They’re basically like animators at that point.

Takekuma: It might not be easy to convince them, but there are a lot of students who become seniors and realize that even if they’ve been learning manga-creation skills, using those skills to debut as an author is a whole different question, and become terrified. But, all they’ve been learning about for the past four years is manga, so they can’t afford to waste what they’ve been taught. There’s currently a strong image of assistants as apprentices, training to become an creator in the future, but if you could change this to more of an image of a career path, I think it would be good. After all, there are some veteran assistants (“pro assistants”) who keep doing it into their 40s or 50s. Take Koike Yes. He was the chief assistant on “Haguregumo” for thirty years, and could easily consider himself as an accomplished professional background artist, but instead he humbly says, “Oh, I’m still a long way from being a true artist.” I think that’s a problem with the manga industry.

Akamatsu: Except you can’t sustain that system unless your titles sell. That’s why I think it’s a bad idea to think about manga systems like that. It’s the same with movies, where you can think of all sorts of systems, like getting a talented director, or making sure to use a beautiful actress, but if you don’t hit the mark, you’re in a lot of trouble. Manga is really the best. There’s a large market, you don’t need an initial investment, and you can fail over and over again. Isn’t it a bad idea to destroy a system like that?

Takekuma: Listening to you, it sounds like you’re saying that whether a title sells or doesn’t sell is basically up to luck, and that know-how or any sort of methods to success can’t be inherited by others.

Akamatsu: Right. You really can’t help it. Even if I have an established “Akamatsu Method”, there’s no way of knowing if one of my assistants will also succeed by using it.

  1. Generally at Comiket, circles that the Planning Committee determines are likely to have large crowds are placed around the circumference of the exhibition halls to help manage their lines. []
  2. Editor and close collaborator with Naoki Urasawa []
  3. Former editor for Kodansha on titles such as GTO and writer for series including Kindaichi Case Files, GetBackers, and Drops of God []
  4. the “ten” of “kishoutenketsu” []

Discussion Translation: Kentaro Takekuma x Ken Akamatsu, Part 2

Monday, April 18th, 2011

Translator’s Introduction: This is part two of the five-part conversation between manga artist and J-Comi founder Ken Akamatsu and manga editor, writer, and professor Takekuma Kentaro. Part one, which also includes a more detailed introduction, can be found on the index below.

Part 1:
“People are Noticing the Possibilities of Viewers Featuring Dynamic Advertising”

“Out of Print Titles Mean a Certain Standard of Quality and an Assurance of Not Being Too Erotic or Violent”

“Monkey Manga 2.0 was Planned to be a Media Mix”

Part 2:
“The Oil Crisis Led to the Model Where Graphic Novels, Not Magazines, Make the Money”

“If the Function of Magazines Moves to E-Publishing, New Artists Won’t Sell”

“Places for New Artists to Debut and Editors to Practice Will Disappear”

Part 3:
“Freelance Editors Will Increase, and Their Success Will Depend on Skill”

“When Manga Artists with Producing Skills Fade Away, the Industry Will Snap”

“Present-Day Japan Doesn’t Have the Time or Money to Read Manga That Isn’t Guaranteed to be Interesting”

Part 4:
“We Might Start Seeing More Manga Artists with Six-to-Eight Million Yen Salaries in the Future”

“As Long as an Artist Pays Their Own ‘Entertainment Fee,’ They Won’t Make Money”

“Manga Artists Will Independently Hire Editors, as Lawyers or Accountants are Hired”

Part 5:
“I Want to Do Something that Amuses Others, Not Myself”

“Our Job is to Provide a Place to Debut for Those with the Fundamentals Down”

“Let’s Meet Again in Five Years. We’ll See Then Who’s Laughing and Who’s Crying”

[Original Article: Masahiro Yamaguchi, ITmedia.
Copyright 2011 ITmedia Inc. All Rights Reserved.]

———————

Part 2:

“The Oil Crisis Led to the Model Where Trade Paperbacks, Not Magazines, Make the Money” (Mr. Takekuma)

Takekuma: Six years ago, I put out a book called “Manga Genkouryou wa Naze Yasui no ka?” (TL: “Why are Manga Page Rates so Low?”). What first got me to write it was a 2-channel thread where someone had written that Takehiko Inoue, the author of “Vagabond,” was paid 200,000 yen a page as his page rate. I replied anonymously that a rate that high was impossible, but all the replies to me were flames. It turned into quite a battle.

Akamatsu: 200,000 is out of the question.

Takekuma: That was the first and last time I ever got in an argument on 2-channel. Actually, I went through a different route and had asked someone who would know what Mr. Inoue’s page rates were, approximately, at the end of “Slam Dunk.” Even if you extrapolated from there, I was sure that 200,000 was impossible.

Akamatsu: Page rates do go up a bit if your paperbacks begin to sell above a certain level.

Takekuma: That experience got me thinking about looking into the market for page rates in the industry. But it’s tough to ask questions about the subject to manga artists, even if you’re one yourself. That’s why I quietly asked an editor I know at a certain publisher. Of course, he’s a professional, and refused to tell me how much any one sensei made, but he did give me a hint, saying “Mr. Takekuma, disregarding the past, at the moment we don’t have a single artist we pay over 50,000 yen a page to.”

I also went through one other route, and found out that the editorial costs at a certain weekly shonen manga magazine required to put out one issue was about 20 million yen. A saddle-stitched magazine these days is about 400 pages long, and so if you do some rough math, the most the editorial department would be paying out is 50,000 yen a page. On top of that, some of the titles might have a writer in addition to an artist. In those cases, you need to pay the writer as well, so you’re down to a maximum of 25,000 yen a page. Although, there are gag manga artists who get 30,000 or 40,000 a page.

What I found so strange about this was that young artists today are getting paid the same page rate as I was when I started working in the early 1980s. Publishers were making incredible amounts of money during the Japanese economic bubble, and even as manga sales went up and up, page rates didn’t. On the other hand, editor salaries were going up.

Akamatsu: Yeah, probably.

Takekuma: I wrote this in “Why are Manga Page Rates so Low?”, but publishers stopped making their profits through magazine sales some time around the early 1970s. When I was a kid, there weren’t new paperbacks available for regular sale like there are now. Until forty years ago, major publishers weren’t using a model where they’d make their money through paperbacks. That’s why manga artists back then could do things like buy houses and cars just with the money they made from their magazine page rates. That’s basically unthinkable these days.

Akamatsu: Definitely.

Takekuma: You see, until the 1960s, the page rates at major manga magazines were high.

So, high for the price levels at the time?

Takekuma: Right. So, my theory is that the turning point at which magazines were no longer making money and where they started using the model where profits were made through paperbacks was the 1973 oil crisis. There were rumors then that there would be a paper shortage, and supermarkets around the country ran out of toilet paper. This was back when I was in middle school, but I still remember very well that there was a period when issues of “Sunday” and “Magazine” suddenly became half as thick as usual. Though, it was just for a short time.

Akamatsu: Really? I didn’t know about that.

Takekuma: If you ask some of the top, veteran editors at publishers, they’ll remember. Anyway, that among other reasons caused Sunday and Magazine’s circulations to drop suddenly. What suddenly rose up in their place were Champion and Jump. Because Jump especially focused on new authors, they were able to churn out popular newcomers.

For a long time after Jump was started, major artists wouldn’t draw for them. Go Nagai broke out at Jump with “Harenchi Gakuen” (“Shameless School”), then immediately went to go work for Shogakukan and Kodansha. I think that’s what caused Jump to begin using their system of exclusive contracts. Since all the veterans and top-selling artists were all working for Sunday and Magazine until the early 1970s, fewer pages in a magazine meant no space for newcomers to debut. But it’s my theory that the oil crisis is what caused those two magazines to go downhill for a period.

Akamatsu: That’s a very likely story. I’ve heard before that because Jump didn’t have fame or money, it had to sell itself through its new authors, but this is the first time I’ve heard about less space in magazines due to less paper. It’s very convincing.

Takekuma: After gathering information from lots of different sources, it’s the only conclusion I can come to. From the summer to the fall of 1973, Sunday and Magazine’s page counts fall, and so do their circulations. Jump rises to prominence after coming in and taking their place. I think it’s a major event in manga history.

Akamatsu: I’ve always just thought of Jump as a magazine that highly valued the Jump pedigree, but hadn’t thought of the space issue on top of that. Sunday and Magazine were fine, since they were full of big-name authors, but Jump was full of unknowns. They kept with that, and grew because of it. And even today, Jump doesn’t take in famous outside authors. Magazine brought in Itagaki (Keisuke) when “Baki” started selling, for example, and brought in CLAMP and whoever else. But Jump definitely doesn’t do that. There’s the rare exception, like Egawa Tatsuya, though.

You hear people say that even if Jump’s DNA sometimes spreads to other magazines, the reverse never happens.

Akamatsu: That’s what I had thought, but there’s also definitely the problem of page space. So that’s what made publishers move from magazine sales to paperback sales.

Takekuma: Of course, Shogakukan and Kodansha were releasing paperbacks before that. However, it wasn’t the majors who first started printing paperbacks in that format. In May 1966, a small publisher called Kodama Press began a label called “Diamond Comics.” After seeing that, Shogakukan, Kodansha, and Akita Shoten all entered the market within the year, but I don’t believe that any of them expected that it would become the core of their manga business.

Akamatsu: I did own “Doraemon” graphic novels by Tentoumushi Comics when I was in kindergarten, but what about those?

Takekuma: Well, Tentoumushi Comics began in the first half of the 1970s, right? By then, each publisher was already printing their own comics in paperback format. Shogakukan was the quickest of the majors to begin using the format (1966), but their first releases were “Ninja Bugeicho” and “Tetsuwan Atom” (“Astro Boy”). Neither of those titles were originally serialized by Shogakukan. Instead, Akita Shoten began selling paperbacks of popular titles serialized in Sunday under an imprint called “Sunday Comics”, which sold like crazy. Akita Shoten proved that paperbacks of manga could make serious money.

Akamatsu: What year was that?

Takekuma: Akita’s Sunday Comics began publishing in 1966. Sunday’s popular serializations being printed by Akita Shoten in paperback format lasted until about 1972.

Akamatsu: That was right around the time that I came into this world. It must have been like printing money at the peak of things.

Takekuma: I think that there were big changes going on right around the time you were born.

“If the Function of Magazines Moves to E-Publishing, New Artists Won’t Sell” (Akamatsu)

Still, the tankobon1 business has only been around for about 35 years. You can see traces of that at Shogakukan, where editors aren’t involved in creating trade paperback editions of manga. Editors at Kodansha and Shueisha do get involved with paperbacks, and they do perform manuscript revisions, but Shogakukan has their own separate trade paperback division.

Akamatsu: Well, Magazine has one too.

Oh, really? Paperbacks these days have designers attached to each specific volume, but in the past, it felt like they’d just use the same format as always, throw some color pages in, and that was it, not even doing revisions. As far as that goes, I always had an image in my mind of your paperbacks having more work put into them than those by other authors, Akamatsu-sensei.

Akamatsu: When they made paperbacks in the past, Magazine would also generally just collect what was serialized in the magazine, get whatever appropriate illustration they could from a magazine cover, then call it a day. Around my time, though, they started to think that just throwing a magazine cover illustration on a paperback didn’t make for much of a collector’s item, and that because the paperback edition is an entirely separate purchase for a reader, that we should do things like original covers, or add bonuses, or have different illustrations under the dust jacket.

And now you have all sorts of incredible special editions, things like bonus DVDs.

Akamatsu: That’s right. “Negima!” had a limited edition with an OAD (Original Animation DVD). My payment from the 3700 yen OAD package was only my regular trade paperback royalty, so Kodansha must be making a bunch. After all, I’m drawing the opening illustrations and storyboards for the anime for free, and same with my cover illustrations. Not only that, I drew different covers for the regular and limited editions. By making merchandise like that, fans get more excited and buy more books. It’s not even about the book anymore, it’s some sort of media franchise business.

Takekuma: That must be how most business is going to work from now on. That’s why I think everything about the state of publishing has to change, and that in the near future, the role that magazines play will most likely move entirely to e-publishing.

Akamatsu: However, that will cause the industry to shrink. People say this all the time, but magazines are something you buy and then pass around to your friends. You might pick up a magazine in order to read “Hajime no Ippo” (“Fighting Spirit”), but because of the magazine format, you might discover that there’s an interesting manga called “Baby Steps” in the magazine, too. Opportunities like this to discover new manga are disappearing.

Takekuma: Yes, but publishers are also now facing the very real problem of not being able to absorb the losses caused by publishing magazines. Really, the only magazine that a publisher can afford to keep around is Jump, which is leading to publishers doing things like putting up an entire magazine for free on the internet, like what’s been done with Morning 2.

Akamatsu: Well, that’s probably losing money too.

Takekuma: So, whether they sell a magazine in stores or post it online, they’re losing money. If you think about which is the better solution, printing physical magazines means that the more they print, the more they lose, so publishers are probably wishing that they could move their magazines online. In any case, I think that they’re going to have to eventually move to a model where they serialize for free electronically, then print a paper book once enough chapters have been published.

Akamatsu: That’s certainly the easiest solution from an infrastructure standpoint.

Like Akamatsu-sensei mentioned earlier, paper magazines are a single unit, so readers will often read whatever follows their favorite manga, but if you move to an a la carte e-publishing system…

Akamatsu: That’s right, manga by new artists will stop selling. To draw an analogy from the music industry, buying a CD album means you get 12 or so songs at once, but you buy music online one track at a time. 150 yen a track or whatever from iTunes. They don’t want you to do that, they want you to pay 3200 yen for the CD album. If people don’t, then there won’t be anyone to listen to those other tracks. Going back to manga magazines, there’s a growing disparity between titles within the same magazine, where a major magazine will now be split into major and minor titles. Titles that sell do well, but what’s happening now is that titles that don’t sell won’t even sell 50,000 copies. That’s bad for manga. So, it’s fine if things move to e-publishing, but if you can’t account for new artists, then the industry will be crushed five years down the line.

Takekuma: Of course, that’s true. But looking at the situation from an overall perspective, I think that paper magazines are only going to continue to shrink, so we have to start thinking of how to promote new artists. Figuring out how to sell their work is one of the big questions we face.

Akamatsu: I don’t think it’s possible. What do you suggest we do?

Takekuma: Right now, I’m thinking of a lot of different possibilities, but everything is still at the stage of trial and error, so I don’t have any ideas that I think are guaranteed to succeed.

How was “Mavo” in terms of developing new artists? You published up to volume five in paper format, but publication stopped in 2010.

Takekuma: I created “Mavo” in order to recover my own senses as an editor, and because I wanted to help foster student and amateur artists. Making a paper book really does give a different sense of accomplishment. One problem, though, was that I couldn’t pay manuscript fees (page rates) to the authors, other than the few professionals who worked on it. With me doing what I could on my own, I was able to sell 1000 copies, but I don’t have any sort of sales system, and so the sales numbers would stop right there. At some point, the only thing growing bigger and bigger was my inventory, and I realized that things weren’t looking good, so I stopped. But from an editorial standpoint, it’s a lot of fun to be able to put all sorts of artists in one place using the magazine format.

Akamatsu: That’s true.

Takekuma: As a magazine editor, part of what you do is put works by all sorts of different authors in the same place so that they’ll inspire each other. Mr. Yuri (Koichi), the first editor-in-chief of Afternoon, was a guest lecturer at Kyoto Seika University until last year, and he said the same thing. He said that the true charm of magazines is mixing veteran and new artists together, and having the new artists act as stimuli, inspiring even the veterans though their work. Only, from a reader’s standpoint, people are becoming used to buying individual volumes.

After creating the first volume of “Mavo” at the end of 2008, I went to exhibit at Comiket for the first time in 27 years, and it was a totally different world. I showed “Mavo” to someone who had been involved in doujinshi for a long time, and their first response was, “This is well made, but it’s probably not going to sell.” They said that combination books don’t sell. I didn’t even know what a “combination book”2 was, so I had to ask them what it meant. Apparently, in the world of Comiket, that’s what doujinshi that multiple authors contribute to, like a normal magazine, are called. Then, I asked, “isn’t it a given that doujinshi will be combination books?” That’s right when I realized that all the doujinshi being sold at Comiket were by individual artists.

Akamatsu: It does seem odd to keep calling them doujinshi. After all, the word implies that like-minded (doujin, “同人”) artists gather to make a magazine (shi, “誌”).

Takekuma: Exhibitors there are called “circles,” but people doing everything by themselves. That’s why people from my generation would normally call what they’re doing kojinshi (“individual magazines”). Apparently, combination magazines have a lot of different authors in them, but buyers just want to read the work by one specific author, and so they don’t want to pay money for comics they don’t want to read. And so, I was told, that’s why combination magazines are at a disadvantage.

Akamatsu: If you compare Jump’s circulation to One Piece’s print run, One Piece is higher. And so, readers of One Piece these days don’t really read other titles. They don’t have time to, either. Once One Piece overtook Jump, I think people began to feel that it’s just faster to buy the paperbacks of One Piece and Naruto and Bleach, then other titles like Bakuman, and that the era of reading magazines is already over.

Comic Natalie actually did a survey of its users. The results showed that on average, they’re buying 6-8 volumes of manga a month. About 2-3% said they bought over 30 a month, so everyone’s buying a lot of trade paperbacks. People around their 30s buy the most, and that’s also where the highest earners were, so they’re able to buy a lot. One thing they’re not buying, though, is magazines. Looking at those results, I really understood how important it is to listen to the paperback-only readers.

Takekuma: Around the beginning of the 1980s, the current business model of recouping profits through trade paperback sales was created, and publishers became extremely expansionary when the entire industry started to become lively as we entered the bubble era. That’s why they were fine with losing money on magazine sales. They figured that they would sell magazines as an advertising medium in order to sell paperbacks. But now, they’re losing their efficacy as an advertising medium.

Akamatsu: As an artist, I couldn’t continue to work without my trade paperback income.

“Places for New Artists to Debut and Editors to Practice Will Disappear” (Akamatsu)

Takekuma: I think that within three to five years, a considerable number of professional manga editors will be freelancers, though I’m not sure if they’ll become the majority. Right now, Shogakukan is experimenting with heavily using freelancers at the editorial department at “IKKI”. Kodansha has been using Ginnansha and other outside editing companies for a while now, too. Of course, Shueisha is still staying pure-blooded.

Akamatsu: I actually applied to work at Ginnansha when I was a senior in college.

Takekuma: I had read that in an interview, and it reminded me of Naoki Urasawa. Mr. Urasawa also applied to work at Shogakukan as an editor. They asked him what his hobbies were in an interview, and when he showed them his manga, they told him to become an artist, not an editor.

Akamatsu: And I had the same experience–I was very close to receiving a job offer, but then won a newcomers award. After that, EIC Igarashi told me that I should go draw manga.

Takekuma: After hearing that story, I began to understand why you approach your work in a very producer-like way. For example, you run your manga studio in a way similar to film or anime studios. After reading in an interview that you wanted to be an editor, it made sense.

Akamatsu: You see, I don’t like drawing pictures. I’ll go out to drink with other manga-ka, and they’ll start drawing girls on the back of order slips. It’s like something inside of them gets excited when they see a white piece of paper. I don’t feel like that one bit. I don’t like doing signatures either. But when I see younger authors who are so passionate about drawing, I start wanting to work and to sell manga.

Takekuma: I think it’s also a good strategy to do something like what Haruki Kadokawa did in the 1970s, where a publisher decides that something is definitely going to sell, and makes a movie of it, along with a huge advertising campaign including TV commercials. It’s hard to do that with a new artist, but for a title by someone like you, Mr. Akamatsu, or some other veteran. Kadokawa did something new when he broke into films in the 1970s, making a widely-discussed movie in order to sell books. His first movie was Seishi Yokomizo’s “Inugamike no Ichizoku” (“The Inugamis”). He had Kon Ichikawa (director) shoot it, and probably for the first time ever in Japan, spent something like twice the production budget on flooding the airwaves with television commercials, which made both the movie and the book popular. I think there’s a lot to be learned from that.

Akamatsu: Well, I can understand doing that during that period, but do you think that it’s possible these days? Other than if you did it with something already big, like One Piece.

Takekuma: Hmm. Either way, I do think that the biggest thing lacking in the manga world is advertising. Until now, to publishers, manga was something that sold even if you didn’t advertise. During the middle of the bubble, I asked a Shogakukan employee about how many copies they’d print of a paperback for a new author, on average, and he told me that they don’t go to the presses unless they do a run of at least 20,000 copies. These days, that number is 5,000 copies. Any fewer than that, they don’t get a paperback, even if their serialization ends.

During the bubble, anything that got printed would sell, as long as it was manga, so publishers never gave any serious thought to advertising or promotion. The biggest advertisement a manga would get was its serialization. That’s all breaking down right now. The more copies of a magazine a publisher prints, the more it costs them, and if on top of that it’s like no one is reading them, publishers are losing any reason to keep putting out a magazine. The only reason they keep doing it is because they want to publish paperbacks.

Akamatsu: Do you think that big-time advertising for just plain manga is going to revive manga, though? For example, advertising on television that the new volume of Vagabond has come out. Are you saying that you think that making that fact common knowledge will make more people buy Vagabond?

Takekuma: It might be oversimplified, but fundamentally, yes.

Akamatsu: But you can’t do that for new artists, though. What I’m afraid of is how even Jump can only manage to sell a very limited number of titles, like One Piece and Bleach. This is just a what-if, but will One Piece, Bleach, and Naruto still be around in three years? What do you think?

Takekuma: If it’s just three years, then they should still be around. I’m not sure about ten years from now, though.

Akamatsu: You never know, someone else might even be drawing it. Like Sazaesan.

Takekuma: That’s what makes me think that team-based production of manga titles will become bigger in the future, like how American comics, or Saito Production works.

Akamatsu: So, One Piece, Bleach, and Naruto will still most likely be around in three years. The reason is because Shueisha can’t end their serializations. Similarly, Magazine will still have Hajime no Ippo. But eventually, they’ll have to come to an end. And when they do, the three major magazines might end. They’re not developing new artists, after all.

It’s difficult for an editor to tell a major, established artist with a relatively fixed style, whose manga also sells well, to fix something he sees wrong in a manga, because the editor will be in trouble if the artists makes the fixes, then stops selling as much. It’s the same at both Magazine and Sunday. You draw it, they run it. Editors don’t intervene very much. If three years pass with nothing but artists like this at a magazine, the editors won’t know how to make corrections anymore.

There will be new artists, but no one to fix their work and no place to publish it, and no place for editors to be trained, either. Once that happens, all that will be left are major hit manga that span for ten to twenty years. Those hit titles will be like Lupin III, where the characters can’t be killed off, because there’s a new movie every few years. Once that happens, manga gets stale, and slowly grows weaker and weaker. Once that happens, the industry declines further. What I was worried about on Twitter was that it seemed to me that this chain of events is going to occur.

Takekuma: It’s a very probable situation.

Akamatsu: Right now, my editor at Magazine is younger than me, but it used to be that one artist would have three editors, who would all go wild with corrections. It might be because all the manga artists I associate with are popular ones, but they don’t do many corrections. If an editor was to reject a chapter, it would be so much work to redraw the whole thing that it couldn’t be finished by deadline, so an editor can’t reject a chapter even if they wanted to. I don’t know about Jump, though. It’s clear to me that editors’ correcting skills are declining. It seems like editorial departments feel the same way.

  1. the Japanese term used for the now-standard independent volumes of a single manga series, similar to the “graphic novel” or trade paperback format in American comics []
  2. 「合同誌」 []

Article Translation: The Exhaustive Debate Between Kentaro Takekuma x Ken Akamatsu: “The Role Manga Editors Should Take in the E-Publishing Era”, Part 1

Sunday, April 17th, 2011

Translator’s introduction: In mid-February, the eBook USER segment of the Japanese IT portal site ITmedia ran a fascinating interview between two highly visible individuals in the Japanese manga world, Ken Akamatsu, and Kentaro Takekuma. Both men are avid Twitter users, and a casual back-and-forth the two men had over the service would lay the groundwork for a discussion that the two had a few days later, which would end up continuing for seven hours.

I’ve received the gracious permission from both Masahiro Yamaguchi, the author of the 5-part article presenting the interview, as well as from ITmedia to post a personal translation here. In order to bring it to everyone as quickly as possible, I’ll be posting my translation in a similar 5-part format over the next week. I hope you enjoy the article, and if you have any questions, comments, or suggestions, please let me know.

——————————–

At this rate, the industry will collapse in a few years.” — Ken Akamatsu, a manga artist currently working on a weekly serialization, and Kentaro Takekuma, an editor known for “Even a Monkey can Draw Manga” and other titles. The two explain the changes brought about by the e-publishing era from their differing standpoints as manga artist and manga editor.

[Original Article: Masahiro Yamaguchi, ITmedia.
Copyright 2011 ITmedia Inc. All Rights Reserved.]

On January 27th, a dialogue took place in Tokyo between Kentaro Takekuma, an editor known for titles including “Even a Monkey can Draw Manga” as well as a professor at Kyoto Seika University, and Ken Akamatsu, representative director and president of J-Comi and manga artist.

The impetus for this talk on the role of manga editors in the e-publishing age was a conversation between the two on Twitter. (Details about how this talk came to fruition can be found on this Togetter summary (Japanese), or in this news article (Japanese) by Mr. Karaki of Comic Natalie, who also sat in on the conversation.)

Neither had met the other before until the day of the talk. The dialogue ended the next day, seven hours later, after covering a wide variety of topics, beginning with their exchange of opinions over the image of manga editors in the e-publishing era and going on to cover the present and future of J-Comi, Takekuma’s commentary on the industry as a university professor who teaches aspiring manga artists, and the story behind Mr. Takekuma’s unfinished “Saruman 2.0” (“Monkey Manga 2.0”).

Over the next five days, ITmedia eBook USER will bring you the details of this conversation jam-packed with both men’s thoughts. These are messages meant for the manga industry, the publishing industry, and all fans of manga in general.

The Exhaustive Debate Between Kentaro Takekuma x Ken Akamatsu: “The Role Manga Editors Should Take in the E-Publishing Era”

Part 1:
“People are Noticing the Possibilities of Viewers Featuring Dynamic Advertising”

“Out of Print Titles Mean a Certain Standard of Quality and an Assurance of Not Being Too Erotic or Violent”

“Monkey Manga 2.0 was Planned to be a Media Mix”

Part 2:
“The Oil Crisis Led to the Model Where Graphic Novels, Not Magazines, Make the Money”

“If the Function of Magazines Moves to E-Publishing, New Artists Won’t Sell”

“Places for New Artists to Debut and Editors to Practice Will Disappear”

Part 3:
“Freelance Editors Will Increase, and Their Success Will Depend on Skill”

“When Manga Artists with Producing Skills Fade Away, the Industry Will Snap”

“Present-Day Japan Doesn’t Have the Time or Money to Read Manga That Isn’t Guaranteed to be Interesting”

Part 4:
“We Might Start Seeing More Manga Artists with Six-to-Eight Million Yen Salaries in the Future”

“As Long as an Artist Pays Their Own ‘Entertainment Fee,’ They Won’t Make Money”

“Manga Artists Will Independently Hire Editors, as Lawyers or Accountants are Hired”

Part 5:
“I Want to Do Something that Amuses Others, Not Myself”

“Our Job is to Provide a Place to Debut for Those with the Fundamentals Down”

“Let’s Meet Again in Five Years. We’ll See Then Who’s Laughing and Who’s Crying”

As a note, statements by the author of this article, Mr. Karaki, and Mr. Nishio of the eBook USER editorial department will be denoted by a “

“People are Noticing the Possibilities of Viewers Featuring Dynamic Advertising” (Akamatsu)

Takekuma: Mr. Akamatsu, I read something on your blog saying that you first had the idea for J-Comi three years ago. It was also right around three years ago that I started to hear talk of the major publishers facing a crisis, and it seems like artists have been looking into e-publishing ever since then.

Akamatsu: That’s right. Only, three years ago, the iPad and the Kindle didn’t exist yet. At the time, I thought it’d be fine to wait on it until “Negima!” ended, and didn’t make any moves until 2010.

What made you start thinking about J-Comi?

Akamatsu: Half of it was me wanting to read lots of old manga, and the other half was as a way to fight piracy. Winny was at the peak of its popularity at that time, and while publishers would take legal action for titles they were still printing, like “One Piece,” the publishers didn’t have the right to sue on behalf of artists whose books were out of print.

Takekuma: Yep, that’s right. The only rights that publishers are given are publishing rights. If they put a book out of print, those rights lapse, and then the only person with rights to the work is the author.

Akamatsu: Since Japanese copyright infringement law requires the victim of piracy to make a formal complaint before a case is prosecuted, it makes it tough for authors. The other day, someone sharing “Negima!” on Share was arrested, but the police had to contact me first, and ask me if it was okay to arrest them. But before that happened, the publisher had to make a report to the police about a manga being serialized in one of their magazines being pirated. I wasn’t involved in that process at all, and if the title was out of print, I would have had to go to the police myself in order for anything to happen. That’s why so many artists just think it’s hopeless and give up.

Another thing that’s unforgivable is how erotic doujinshi gets uploaded to the internet the day it goes on sale at Comiket. For example, there was one Oreimo doujinshi that was recently uploaded to a bunch of different sites, and the doujin artist who drew that couldn’t do a thing. If he were to work together with the creator of Oreimo to press charges, he could, but that’s not a very realistic situation. Wonder Festival uses one-day licenses in order to work out copyright issues, but Comiket doesn’t, which leads to situations like these.

Takekuma: When I first saw J-Comi announced, I thought that it was ground-breaking. I mean, it’s a free ad-supported model that allows readers to copy the files as they please. I previously had vague ideas about a similar model, but didn’t know how to make it into a reality.

Akamatsu: I’d thought that someone must have done it before me, but when I talked to an advertising agency, they told me that no one had yet. There might have been others thinking about it, but I was lucky enough to also have fame and business abilities along with the idea.

The reason that the publishers don’t do this is that the majors like Kodansha and Shogakukan don’t think that putting ads on and distributing the manga that they receive from artists is the type of business that publishers are supposed to do. I think that’s why they won’t go into this field in the future, either.

Takekuma: So, it’s because publishers assume from the start that their business is distributing and selling physical, printed books?

Akamatsu: There’s that, but it’s also that they don’t think about giving things away for free. TV stations do it, but not publishers. It’s because they think that their business is a culture-oriented business.

For example, there’s the free newspaper “R25” that Recruit prints, but despite its huge circulation, you don’t hear people in publishing talk about it very often.

Takekuma: A lot of people in publishing consider free newspapers as just another kind of flier, not as a real publication.

Akamatsu: There’s a similar attitude towards e-publishing, and when you make your product free on top of that, there’s no interest there.

Takekuma: But that just means that this is a big opportunity. It’s not just manga artists, but also fiction authors (for example, Ryu Murakami, though he just started his own G2010) who can’t escape the model of selling their data for money. From that perspective, J-Comi, which has the advantage of being the only site on an advertising model, seems to me like it’ll succeed.

Akamatsu: While (SHINJU) Mayu-sensei’s “Houkago Wedding,” which was distributed for free as J-Comi’s Beta 2 test, brought in 525,000 yen for her, it looks like another Beta 2 title, “Koutsuujiko Kanteinin Tamaki Rinichiro,” though I don’t know if it will have the same click rate as “Houkago Wedding,” is going to make even more. If you consider that these are out of print books, if one volume makes over a million yen, it’s really impressive.

Of course, I’m also working together with Google to create a web viewer that will feature dynamic advertising. If you think about the project in the long run, this might be even more important.

Takekuma: When’s that being released?

Akamatsu: By the end of February. Honestly, I’d be happy to see a few thousand to a few tens of thousands of yen a month from one volume. We’re talking about out of print titles, so getting that much per month per title is pretty significant. What shocked me the most is when we announced that “Houkago Wedding” made 525,000 yen, some people replied back with comments like “that’s all?” Maybe they think that these are new titles?

There were definitely some people comparing the revenue to per-page manuscript payments for new manga.

Akamatsu: I’d see things like “the big names make 20-30,000 a page, you know,” and think that these people just don’t get it. Even 50,000 yen a volume would be something to celebrate. I feel like this is one area where that J-Comi needs to work on its PR.

When I say PR, I also mean PR toward J-Comi’s sponsors. What’s great about J-Comi ads is that they’re basically for five, even ten years. You can still read the same PDF 10 years later, after all. That’s why J-Comi doesn’t match very well with cheap, short-term advertising for periods like just a week.

Takekuma: Advertising sponsors always want to sell something new, after all. In that regard, things might be harder for you in the future.

Akamatsu: That’s right. But on the other hand, if we have a viewer that can insert dynamic ads, we can be constantly showing the latest ads, and, for example, show American ads to American readers. If we do that, then American advertisers will be interested, too.

Takekuma: That’s quite impressive. So, you’ll be putting out translated versions of J-Comi in the future?

Akamatsu: We will. You can view text, like dialogue or reader comments, on the screen in the viewer, kind of like film subtitles. Of course, you can turn them off, too. You’ll be able to switch this text into lots of different languages, like Chinese and Japanese. What I’m the most interested in is the Japanese dialogue subtitles. If the text has been entered, it’s easy to search, so if I wanted to see how many times the word for “life” or “death” showed up in a Tezuka manga, for example, I could do that. Personally, I think this is the most exciting part of the system.

Takekuma: It sounds interesting.

Akamatsu: I really would like to do it using OCR, but OCR doesn’t work at all with manga. That means that it has to be done by volunteers, who manually input the text from each page. Once that happens, then those comments will be searchable. Also, those lines of text can be used to target ads. For example, we did the text entry for “Houkago Wedding” ourselves, but it was a very quick process, since we just had to type in the text.

“Out of Print Titles Mean a Certain Standard of Quality and an Assurance of Not Being Too Erotic or Violent” (Akamatsu)

Takekuma: Is J-Comi limited to just out of print titles?

Akamatsu: I’m sure that there will be some people who will see the results we’re getting with “Houkago Wedding” and want to put new titles on J-Comi. After all, the revenue from J-Comi is equivalent to page rates at a publisher.

Takekuma: Of course, there’s the possibility that the number of clicks it got was due to the fact that Ms. Shinju is who she is. It might be tougher for debuting authors.

Akamatsu: Yes. If you want to know why we’ve limited J-Comi titles to out of print titles, it was because of two advantages to them. First, since they’ve been serialized in the past in a commercial magazine, we can be assured of at least a certain minimum of quality. The other is that since they’ve been published in a commercial magazine, we can be assured that they’re not overly erotic or violent.

If we were to take new artists at J-Comi, we’d have to look at their content, and we might have to say “this is a little too erotic,” or “you should change this part to be more like this,” and then the artists would come back with a fixed edition which we could then approve. If we do that, we’re just doing what editorial departments do, you see.

Takekuma: So if you began to take new artists, you’d have to start hiring editors.

At that point, you’re basically a publisher.

Akamatsu: If we did that, we’d be competing with Kodansha and Shogakukan. It’s way too difficult. I’ve personally gone to board members at Kodansha and told them that I have no intention of doing something like that and competing with them.

Takekuma: When I look at J-Comi, I think that’s something that’s unique about your plan. You don’t want to fight with publishers. Instead, you want to co-exist with them.

Akamatsu: For J-Comi, all we have to do is scan the books and upload them, then next thing you know readers have access. The readers access the files, and J-Comi puts in the ads. All the authors have to do is give us permission to run their manga. That, and set up a bank account.

“Monkey Manga 2.0 was Planned to be a Media Mix” (Takekuma)

Takekuma: The series “Monkey Manga 2.0” I was working on was ended (suspended) before we even got to the main part of the series. The people who decided to stop it were the authors, myself and Koji Aihara.

Akamatsu: Is it more or less due to the reasons that’re in the Wikipedia article?

Takekuma: Basically for those reasons. The two authors in Monkey Manga 2.0 (fictional versions of Aihara and Takekuma) decide to try to make a media mix series, with an anime, video game, goods, and so on, all related to their manga series. Aihara wanted to do that in real life too, but once the serialization started, he realized that he’s a manga artist at heart, and just wanted to focus on drawing manga.

Besides that, a new slipcase edition of “Monkey Manga” was released right before I had a stroke. That thing sold. That sold 3000 copies just through Amazon affiliate links put on my own blog. Before that, it was out of stock everywhere for over ten years. I’d actually asked Shogakukan to put it officially out of print so that it could be published by someone else. Other companies had actually come to me, asking if I wanted to publish the title with them.

Akamatsu: What was Shogakukan’s reply when you did that?

Takekuma: When I told my contact at Shogakukan that it had been ten years since the last printing of the latest edition of the book and asked if they could put it officially out of print so that I could have it printed at another publisher, I was told to wait for a bit, since he would go talk to the people above him. Next thing I knew, they decided they’d do a reprint. They suddenly got serious as soon as I talked about other publishers. (Laughter)

For that edition, we decided to add some new bonus material on how to draw moe manga. About a year before that, I made a post on my blog saying that Koji Aihara and I were old and didn’t understand moe, and asked my readers to help us out. As part of the post, Aihara drew an intentionally crummy un-moe girl, which I posted and asked readers to correct, and we got an incredible response. That post acted as good marketing just on its own. Another thing we did was to ask for almost a year for people to submit catchphrases to put on the packaging of the new edition. Shogakukan didn’t think that the new printing would sell, since it was a twenty-year-old title, so the first printing was only 9000 copies. One volume was 1680 yen, so it’s really expensive for a manga volume, and 3360 yen for both volumes. Thanks to the publicity the blog posts got, though, it managed to sell enough to warrant another print run.

Right after that, I was hospitalized due to my stroke, but without asking or anything, Amazon sent me a case of mineral water as a get well present. After that, someone from Amazon went to Shogakukan and asked them if they were going to put out a part 2 for Monkey Manga. That’s how we got started talking about a sequel.

At that time, we thought that if we were going to do a sequel, that we should do it in tandem with an official website. After that, we started talking about doing a media mix, and seriously considered making an anime. I was talking about getting Kaeru Otoko to help out, too. Aside from that, we were thinking of having voice actress auditions for moe characters that users online could vote for. Of course, everything would be done tongue-in-cheek. That way, if the whole project failed, then that failure could be used as a gag, too. Then, it just ended up not happening at all.

What did your supervising editor think about all of that?

Takekuma: Since the media mix project seemed like a sham, he probably didn’t realize that we were actually thinking of doing it. If he did, he probably wouldn’t have approved it.

Editors don’t tend to like their manga artists working much outside of manga very much. Even if it they’re told it’s something that would benefit their manga or bring in money for the magazine, they seem to think that it’s not what manga artists should be focusing their time on.

Takekuma: Well, that’s in some ways a very natural thing to think. I don’t think that editors need to baby their artists to the point of telling them that.

Translation: 2000-2010 best-selling TV anime

Monday, November 22nd, 2010

Note: I frequently encounter people complaining that cheap moe/fanservice anime are being made because they sell better than “serious” anime. However, these shows typically sell extremely poorly – I hope this list will help improve your internet arguments. I’ve added a somewhat-accurate list of genres/original source material.

Source: Anime sales thread material repository on livedoor bbs, presumably from 2ch originally.

These numbers are per-volume averages, with each DVD in a box set being counted as an individual volume. (*) indicates series still being released when the list was made in 2010/05.

List of 2000-2010 TV anime DVD/BDs with 10,000+ sales

Sales Genre Series
170,479 Comedy The World of Golden Eggs
79,204 Mecha SF Gundam SEED Destiny
76,760 Light Novel Bakemonogatari (*)
70,349 Mecha SF Gundam SEED
52,900 Shounen Full Metal Alchemist
50,552 Shounen Code Geass
46,147 Mecha SF Macross Frontier
42,822 4koma Comedy K-ON!
42,690 Shounen Code Geass R2
41,038 Light Novel SF The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya
39,208 SF Gundam 00
34,601 SF Gundam 00 S2
29,890 Seinen Ghost in the Shell S.A.C. 2nd Gig
29,768 Visual Novel Clannad
29,509 Sports Initial D Fourth Stage
29,146 4koma Comedy Lucky Star
27,377 Seinen Ghost in the Shell Stand Alone Complex
26,910 4koma Comedy Azumanga Daiou
26,047 Visual Novel Fantasy Fate/stay night
25,637 Harem Romance Love Hina
24,346 Visual Novel AIR
24,253 SF+Moe A Certain Scientific Railgun (*)
22,829 Light Novel Dulalala! (*)
22,591 Magical Girl SF Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha StrikerS
21,831 4koma Comedy Working!! (*)
20,450 Visual Novel Kanon (2006)
20,342 Healing Aria The Origination
20,052 Shounen SF Tengen Toppa Gurren-Lagann
19,819 Visual Novel Clannad After Story
19,297 Sports Ookiku Furikabutte
18,683 Fighting Bleach (1-20)
18,573 Fighting Bleach (42-63)
18,556 Light Novel SF The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya S2
18,535 ??? Mononoke
17,888 Sports Initial D Second Stage
17,864 Healing Aria The Animation
17,553 Comedy Full Metal Panic? Fumoffu
17,481 Fighting Bleach (21-41)
16,458 Harem Comedy Mahou Sensei Negima!
16,262 ??? Onegai Teacher
16,166 ??? Onegai Twins
16,079 SF Darker than Black S1
15,983 Healing Aria The Natural
15,448 Comedy Gintama S1
15,284 Comedy Gintama S2
15,246 Comedy Gintama S3
15,021 Shounen Death Note
14,216 Visual Novel Fantasy Shingetsutan Tsukihime
14,125 Fanservice Comedy Mahoromatic S1
13,920 Neo-Shounen Kuroshitsuji
13,789 Fanservice Strike Witches S1
13,723 Shounen Full Metal Alchemist Brotherhood (*)
13,360 Visual Novel D.C. ~Da Capo~
13,233 ??? Hand Maid May
12,971 ??? Mai-HiME
12,937 Comedy Gintama S4
12,673 SF Darker than Black S2 (*)
12,290 ??? Ai yori Aoshi
12,126 Light Novel A Certain Magical Index S1
12,094 ??? Infinite Ryvius
11,932 Shoujo Fruits Basket
11,920 Fighting Scryed
11,800 Novel SF Banner of the Stars
11,712 SF Eureka Seven
11,521 Fanservice Comedy Mahoromatic S2
11,440 ??? Read or Die TV
11,265 ??? Mai-Otome
11,251 Magical Girl Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha A’s
11,244 Comedy Minami-ke S1
11,243 ??? Rozen Maiden Träumend
11,039 ??? Honey & Clover
10,880 Harem Comedy Kannagi
10,620 Light Novel Shakugan no Shana S1
10,612 Light Novel Drama Toradora
10,315 ??? Natsume’s Book of Friends S2
10,236 ??? Natsume’s Book of Friends
10,219 Comedy Pani Poni Dash!
10,049 Seinen Mushi-shi
10,046 ??? Library War

Who says SHAFT needs industry awards?

Top 25 Average Employee Salaries + Total Sales for the Japanese Film/Motion Picture Industry

Tuesday, June 29th, 2010

Source: Nensyu Labo, compiled by them via publicly available securities reports and documents submitted for 2008.

Average yearly salary, in tens of thousands of yen. (100,000 JPY = roughly $1100)

1. Toei: 864
2. Toho: 837
3. Shochiku: 735
4. Tokyo Rakutenchi: 710
5. Gonzo: 654
6. Toei Animation: 651
7. TYO Productions: 620
8. OS: 620
9. Tokyo Theatres: 619
10. Subaru Enterprise: 615
11. Kokusai Hoei: 607
12. Aoi Advertising Promotion Inc.: 605
13. Tohokushinsha: 604
14. Flight System Consulting: 571
15. Marvelous Entertainment: 534
16. Sotsu: 518
17. Shizukatsu: 512
18. IG Port: 501
19. Omega Project Holdings: 490
20. TMS Entertainment: 485
21. We’ve: 483
22. Kin-ei: 444
23. Nakanihon Kogyo: 435
24. Musashino Kogyo: 430
25. Tokyu Recreation: 383

Sales Rankings, in hundreds of million of yen (100,000,000 yen = roughly 1.1 million USD). Number in () after studio name is rank in above list of average employee salary.

1. Toho (2): 2134
2. Toei (1): 1076
3. Shochiku (3): 949
4. Tohokushinsha (13) : 681
5. TYO Productions (7): 311
6. Tokyu Recreation (25): 277
7. Tokyo Theatres (9): 232
8. Toei Animation (6): 217
9. Aoi Advertising Promotion Inc (12): 167
10. Sotsu (16): 159
11. TMS Entertainment (20): 141
12. Marvelous Entertainment (15): 101
13. IG Port (18): 71
14. OS (8): 65
15. Gonzo (5): 63
16. Tokyo Rakuenchi (4): 37
17. Kin-ei (22): 37
18. Nakanihon Kogyo (23): 37
19. Kokusai Hoei (11): 34
20. Flight System Consulting (14): 30
21. Omega Project Holdings (19): 30
22. We’ve (21): 30
23. Subaru Kogyo (10): 24
24. Musashino Kogyo (24): 20
25. Shizukatsu (17): 11