Talking to the creator of “Kaguya-sama: Love is War”! The dark side of the manga industry!?
VOD at Tamaki’s channel here (give it a like!). Tamaki is playing a mangaka simulation game. This is not a full transcription.
Tamaki Inuyama: an independent VTuber, avatar of Norio Tsukudani, the mangaka of Himegoto.
Aka Akasaka: mangaka behind Kaguya-sama: Love is War and the writer for Oshi no Ko in joint with Mengo Yokoyari, the artist.
Tamaki (T): Aka-sensei, you’re in an “exclusive contract” with Shueisha?
Aka (A): Yeah, so a lot of people have probably heard of Weekly Shonen Jump from the likes of Bakuman, but I’m also in Young Jump.
T: Wow! Could you tell everyone what an “exclusive contract” is?
A: It’s an agreement between you and the publisher that you’re not supposed to write for anyone else - in return, you get a contract fee.
T: You get a contract fee!?
A: Yeah. The money is really, really nice.
T: Holy crap, Shueisha is incredible!
A: So, yeah, it’s a contract that means you can’t get published elsewhere, but you get some of the marketing budget in return.
T: Oh, so that’s how the marketers push the message that “Young Jump is great!” Support Young Jump, guys!
T: First off, congratulations on Kaguya-sama S3!
A: Thank you!
T: That’s amazing. Like, seriously, S3?
A: I’m surprised, too.
T: This isn’t something that you suggested, right? Like, they just said, “let’s do S3”?
A: Yup. You know how some anime get aired as “split cours”? That didn’t happen here.
T: True, schedule-wise we’re past the point of split cours.
A: So some time after S2 ended, a bunch of fancy managers got together and had a meeting, looking at figures and sales volumes, before deciding to give the green light.
T: Ah, so that’s what happened for S2 and S3. Of course, the manga has been selling well, but the anime did well too, didn’t it?
A: Yeah, it was always in the Netflix top rankings. The anime was really well-made.
T: (In the character design screen for the game) What’s your birthday?
A: August 29.
T: Oh, so you’re born in August.
A: That’s the premise, yeah.
T: Wait, that’s not your birthday?
A: Nope, it isn’t.
T: What!? Why’d you bother to come up with that, then?
A: I tell a lot of lies.
T: You’re a liar...
A: Yeah. [Aka Akasaka] isn’t my real name. And I’m actually a girl.
T: There are people who would believe that. That you’re using some sort of voice pitch modification program to pose as a guy.
Roleplaying Aka’s career in-game
T: (For the first in-game manga we draw), I’m thinking of starting with Sayonara Piano Sonata, since that’s your first work.
A: Sure, sounds good. There’s actually one more work that I made before I started using the “Aka Akasaka” pen name.
T: Oh, I see. Are you sure it was okay to reveal that?
A: Well... let’s just go on here without revealing the title of the work.
T: For what it’s worth, I have pictures for Sayonara Piano Sonata, ib: Instant Bullet, Kaguya-sama, and Oshi no Ko prepared.
A: Piano Sonata it is, then!
Aka’s initial living conditions
T: What kind of place did you live in when you made your debut as a mangaka?
A: I actually started from my house in my hometown. ... After high school, I actually went to a vocational school for 2-3 months.
T: You went to a vocational school!?
A: Yeah, for a short time. I became a mangaka assistant shortly after entering. I was like, “It’s a new chapter in life! I should get a part-time job! Might as well be a mangaka assistant, then!”, but I ended up learning a whole lot. I had to learn at around 8 times the pace of what they did in school.
T: Right, manga is all about experience after all.
A: So I got tired from juggling school and my assistant work. After a while I was like, “... school... ? ... .... .... ?? School??” and I eventually just stopped going. I figured that since I had experience, I’d be okay without going to school. At the time, I was sharing a room with a friend.
T: Room sharing is a good option when you’re just starting out and have no money.
A: Yeah, it only cost around 40k yen. I got a friend I met online to share the room with me.
T: A friend you met online... ? Two guys... in a small room... the perfect setup...
A: Lol nope, nothing happened.
T: What a tease.
A: Mhm, just two guys in a bunk bed. Well, I guess if you looked at our GPS coordinates, you could say we were on top of each other.
A: So if you took a top-down silhouette of us, yeah we’d have been pretty closely entwined.
A: ... So that was where I lived when I first got serialized.
On the Shogakukan prize, and publisher keiretsu (13:40)
T: [Choosing a publisher in-game] Hakusensha, Iwate Shoten... Shogakukan? Hmm...
A: Ah, thank you for the Shogakukan Manga Award! Thank you, Shogakukan!
T: Wait, you won a major award?
A: I got an award in the “General Category” of the Shogakukan Manga Awards.
T: That’s amazing! They give awards?
A: You don’t submit your work... it’s more like Shogakukan selects manga to receive awards.
T: Wow, so Kaguya-sama got selected for the award then!
A: Yeah. It’s like a spin-off of the Kodansha Manga Awards.
T: I have a friend, Tsubasa Yamaguchi, who draws Blue Period. So this is similar to the kind of awards Blue Period wins, right?
A: You got it!
T: That’s amazing? How do you even get selected? Do they look at your sales volume?
A: I don’t know.
T: Kaguya-sama got selected by Shogakukan, even though it’s published by Shueisha?
A: To get into the manga industry a bit, Shogakukan and Shueisha are in the same group. They chose Kaguya-sama for the award, so this ‘group’ doesn’t really have anything to do with it, but publishers also form larger ‘factions’ (in Japan). Shueisha and Shogakukan happen to be pals, here.
T: They’re both part of the Hitotsubashi Group, right?
A: Yep, they are. Shogakukan is higher up in the hierarchy, though.
T: Hakusensha is a subsidiary of Shueisha (which is below Shogakukan), but they’re all part of the Hitotsubashi Group.
A: That’s right.
Skills to train when starting out as a mangaka (17:00)
T: (Choosing skills to level in-game) It looks like you can train your drawing speed, or the quality of your drawings. Which should we level?
A: Art quality comes first, doesn’t it?
T: I see, let’s level art quality then.
A: When you’re young, you have all the time in the world, so it’s fine to focus on learning to draw well.
T: That’s true. You still have time when you haven’t really gotten popular yet.
A: Yeah. Basics come first.
Field research (18:19)
T: What kind of places do you go to for your research?
A: ... I visit stores quite a lot, like music instrument stores. Sometimes I talk to my friends, too.
T: Right, asking your friends is also a kind of research.
A: Yeah. For some reason, I have more musician friends than mangaka friends.
T: Oh, your Wikipedia page links to a lot of musicians.
A: That’s right. I don’t know anything at all about music, but for some reason... when I go drinking with them, it’s a problem, since they talk about music a lot. All I can think is, wow, that’s so cool...
T: “That’s so cool” is as far as you can go if you don’t understand music, I guess.
Aka’s finances before starting as a mangaka (20:00)
A: (Character in-game had 2.5 million yen from savings and an award) People who have their lives in order like this don’t set out to be mangaka.
T: Haha! By the way, how much did you have saved before you made your debut as a mangaka?
A: Uh... about 60,000 yen.
T: Oh... uh... I see... how old were you?
A: ... That was when I was still part-timing at Shop Nine-Nine.
T: Wait, “Nine-Nine”? I don’t get it.
A: It was a 100-yen shop called “Shop 99”.
T: Not Daiso?
A: Not Daiso. I was also part-timing at a sushi shop.
T: (lol) You were working a lot, huh.
A: Yeah. I was still a high school student.
T: Wait, you won a prize for your manga while you were in high school?
A: No, it was after I left, when I was an assistant... I don’t think I was earning that much? Maybe around 100,000 yen.
T: Oh... your savings...
A: So I’d pay 40,000 yen for accommodation, and spend the remaining 60,000 on convenience store food...
T: That’s harsh...
A: I was working at Shop 99 when I left my family home, so that was pretty much it.
T: You worked pretty hard for it, then. By the way, Norio got lucky in high school with selling doujinshi, so she had around 3 million yen saved by the time she graduated from high school.
Fishy manga commissions (23:30)
T: (In-game) Oh, someone from Hakusensha came over... he wants us to draw a one-shot manga? In 6 days... for 1 million yen!
A: No, wait, hold on. You need to be suspicious at the point someone tells you to draw a one-shot in 1 week. Let’s reject this.
T: We’re rejecting it!? But, the money!! 1 million yen, sensei!!
A: Ah, okay, let’s accept then! For 1 million yen!
T: It’s 1 million yen because the deadline is in only 6 days!
A: Oh, so it’s like advertisement manga!
T: Crap, I think I just caught a glimpse of the dark side of advertisement manga.
Instant Bullet (24:50)
T: (Roleplaying Aka working on Instant Bullet in-game) Let’s pump all our Knowledge stat points in. May as well, when you’re just starting out.
A: I put everything I had into it. ... It got cancelled, though.
T: ... Instant Bullet got cancelled?
A: It did. I wanted to continue working on it, though.
T: W-well, maybe you’d be able to continue drawing it now that you’ve gone this far.
A: I guess! Maybe sometime, in some form... but it’s getting to the point where it’d be hard to continue it as a manga, so I’m just sitting around hoping for someone to give it an anime adaptation. If anyone’s listening... !
T: Stop! People will actually start asking you about it!
A: I’m looking forward to the Instant Bullet anime adaptation!
T: It might actually happen! You’re scaring me!
A: I won’t add anything extra! I’ll finish it and give it a proper ending! Please consider it!
T: Well, the manga work is mostly done already, and you have the story in your head. Maybe someone else could draw it? A concurrent serialization of sorts?
A: That would be great. I’m just waiting here, hoping for someone to continue drawing it.
T: Now that you’re talking about it here, it might actually happen, so maybe you should stop... although if you were to get another work animated, it would probably be Oshi no Ko.
A: In terms of what’s going on now... I don’t know.
Aka’s very first work (27:20)
T: Akasaka-sensei, when did you produce your first work?
A: What counts as my first work?
T: Whatever you managed to finish.
A: A School Rumble doujin, then.
T: School Rumble... times have changed...
A: Yeah, I really liked it. ... That roommate I mentioned earlier, the guy I lived with - we met over the internet as School Rumble fans. He wrote School Rumble fanfiction.
... We worked on a collab book, and then I produced my first photocopied doujin.
T: Ah, right, most people start with photocopied doujins after all.
A: So I thought, this is fun, and I kept at it for a while more, made a Louise [Zero no Tsukaima] doujin (T: Louise, lol)... and eventually I debuted in a doujin game.
T: You have a doujin game!?
A: Yeah, it’s what led to Instant Bullet. That was my first work.
T: You made that game with other friends and fans, I guess?
A: I was in high school.
A: I was in the Student Council.
T: Seriously? The Student Council? Isn’t Kaguya-sama supposed to be fiction?
A: I really was in there. I guess you’d think that I wouldn’t really do any council work... and it’s true. I didn’t do much.
T: I guess [Kaguya-sama’s] an accurate portrayal of your Student Council life, then.
A: But I do actually know the kind of work you do there, okay? You hear me, everyone? Kaguya-sama is like that, but I do actually know what StuCo work looks like.
Getting serialized (30:07)
T: (Serialization offer received in-game) Is it just me, or did they offer 1.75 million yen for our manuscript?
A: ... ...You can get that much?
T: Crazy, huh?
A: A lot crazier than what I got.
T: By the way, Norio got about 8,000 yen [per page] for her manuscript when she started out. Most newbies start at around 8,000 yen. Later when Himegoto got an anime adaptation, they said they’d raise the manuscript payment, so I asked, “how much will I get now?”, and they replied, “9,000 yen!”
T: I thought, yeah! I guess that’s what an anime adaptation is worth! I wound up switching publishers to Hakusensha, where they paid me 11,000 yen. 11,000 is pretty good by industry standards, but Akasaka-sensei, roughly how much do you get for your manuscripts? You don’t have to be specific.
A: Shueisha usually starts you off around 12,000 yen, though that varies. There are contracts you might end up signing, like serialization contracts or exclusivity contracts, and those usually raise the price per page by 0, 1, or 2 thousand yen, depending on how well you’re doing. Since I started serialization, each contract has raised the price by 2,000 yen.
T: You’ve gotten continuous 2,000 yen pay hikes all the way? Wow...
A: I won’t say how much I get, though.
T: Understandable. You are a top-class mangaka, after all, so... wow.
A: I have to hire more assistants now too, so that’s where the manuscript fee goes.
T: Absolutely. Some people are like, you get 10 million yen off manuscript fees alone! That money disappears, though. It feels like you’re working for free, week to week.
A: Assistants can absolutely make more money than the pros.
T: Yeah, professional assistants can really rake it in. It’s pretty tough.
A: People should just work as mangaka assistants instead of other part-time jobs. It pays well.
T: Yeah. It’s fun, too. Like, why bother working at a convenience store?
A: In the end, you don’t really make a profit unless the comic gets released separately, huh?
T: That’s right. It’s tempting to do everything yourself.
A: There are people who do all the backgrounds themselves, but what happens sometimes is that they can’t put out the volume releases at a good speed, so they don’t end up making a profit. Even after you hire an assistant, you wind up fixing a lot of their work by yourself. It’s really common to see people set insanely high standards for their work, only for those standards to strangle them later.
T: Holy crap, yeah, I know... once you start being picky with your manga, you can’t stop.
A: To be honest, I want to be a bit pickier [with Kaguya-sama], too.
T: Then again, weekly serialization means you absolutely have to finish one chapter a week, so there isn’t much room for that.
T: Akasaka-sensei, what’s your current editor like? As a person.
A: I think of him as a “cyborg”... At the workplace, he’s... he’s not “distant” or anything, but... how do I put this...
T: He doesn’t show emotion?
A: Exactly! He’s not emotional, but he’s super buff. He’s really got his act together, too. He doesn’t make any mistakes. If you asked him what his favorite manga is, he’d say “I don’t really have a favorite manga... but if I had to say, Prince of Tennis.”
T: “If I had to say”? Is that how people think when they produce manga? I’d think that everyone involved loves manga.
A: Yeah. When I met him, I thought, “this guy will be useful” (T: haha, “useful”?)... but yeah, people who don’t make mistakes are the most reassuring to work with. I trust him.
T: You have a good editor.
A: He really is.
T: Does your editor bring you to Enoshima?
A: Uh... um... he’s not a lunatic...
T: (lol) Is your editor aware of your menstrual cycle?
T: Right, you don’t menstruate.
A: But, uh... I hear quite a lot about menstrual cycles, actually.
T: What!? Really!?!!??! So it’s not just Norio who dealt with that!?
T: Gross! Eugh!
A: Assistants talk a lot. So sometimes they mention things like, “that mangaka has a really bad temper when she’s on her period”.
A: A lot of the time, people stay aware of that to protect themselves.
T: I see... Akasaka-sensei, you’re a woman too, so I guess I have to be careful...
A: Yeah, once a month, I...
T: ... ...Oh god, the dark side of the industry...
A: ... Is rearing its head.
T: By the way, don’t you think it’s power harassment when male [editors] ask young female mangaka to go out on a date with them?
A: It is.
A: It absolutely is. No question about it.
T: Poor Norio.
A: Yeah, she’s been through so much... I want to protect her...
T: You’d better! Protect her! By the way, for those of you who haven’t heard, when Norio was 19, her manga was being serialized, and her editor dragged her on a date to the Enoshima Aquarium saying that “this will be good for you!”... although she wasn’t feeling well, and she had to work on her manuscript, but she had to go.
T: Well, that kind of thing happens.
A: ... I guess editors are mostly men, so... but at Shueisha, I don’t think that kind of thing happens.
T: Wow, Shueisha is great. You can only trust Shueisha, huh?
A: Yep. We don’t have the gross, sticky kind of pervert in our ranks (T: sticky, lol). The perverts over here are closer in texture to carbonated water.
T: That’s a pretty powerful descriptor. Is that really okay?
T: By the way, [Norio’s] first editor wound up romantically interested in her, but after she moved to a different publisher, the same thing happened with her second editor. Is this something that just happens to female mangaka?
A: I don’t think that’s supposed to be the case, but like in other industries, people who aren’t attached to a company tend to be less responsible. In most cases, you wouldn’t expect an employee to do something like that, but if you’ve read Bakuman, you might know that there are editors who end up marrying the mangaka under their charge.
T: Oh, so there are a lot of those people, then.
A: Yeah, and sometimes it’s the female mangaka who makes the first move, instead. In the end, that’s something for consenting adults to work out.
T: Of course. If both of them want to date, go for it.
A: As long as there isn’t some kind of power imbalance involved, I think it’s okay. But if there’s something else involved, like dangling a serialization offer, then... that’s a problem.
T: Hahaha, yep, that’s an illicit transaction.
A: A “death (survival) game”.
T: No complaining if you die, seriously.
A: In general though, the idea of editors marrying mangaka is a little off-putting to me. I have to wonder whether it’s really a happy relationship.
T: You do get that “Hm?” when you wonder whether there’s any romance actually involved.
A: So yeah, I guess that’s something I want people to be careful of.
Editors as financial advisors (41:14)
T: (In-game offer from an NPC) This guy just told me to move out again!
A: Is he trying to manipulate you? ... Well, to be fair, editors do try to get their mangaka to spend money.
T: They do! They often tell you that you should buy expensive stuff! Why? Is it to stop you from running away?
A: Once you’ve got money, life becomes stable. You don’t have to focus on drawing manga with the goal of making money anymore. You lose that drive to make manga that sells. So they might tell you, why don’t you get a Ferrari? A Lamborghini?
A: I hear that sometimes.
T: That’s freaking Editor Yoshida from Bakuman!
A: Yeah, that guy’s serious.
T: Akasaka-sensei, did you buy anything expensive?
A: I bought a house.
T: Wow, you’re a homeowner now!
A: Yeah. I don’t think there’s really been anything else since then, though. An LCD tablet, I guess?
T: LCD tablets aren’t cheap, though. They’re around 300,000 yen.
A: Money goes to buying a TV and stuff, too.
T: You do need that stuff, I guess.
A: I had to get a big TV for Apex.
T: Eh... Apex... ?
A: Apex is fun. I played today, too.
T: I messaged you this morning to remind you about the stream, but you didn’t reply, so I figured you were playing Apex.
A: Sorry, I was in the middle of ranking battles...
T: Quit yer “ranking”! You’re always quick to respond, so I was wondering what happened today! [laughs]
A: Sorry. I just made it to Platinum.
T: You’re that good!? I’m planning on doing an Apex stream, actually. Share your screen with me! What do you think?
A: Sure... but I’m actually bad at the game.
T: Someone in Platinum has to be good at the game.
A: I guess I’ll get someone else in, too. Like Shiromanta-sensei.
T: Why... [laughs]
A: We’ve been playing a lot together lately.
T: Oh, so you’re close, then. Do mangaka play video games together a lot?
A: Yeah. We have a Discord server.
T: Wow, so you can just ask whether anyone’s up to play?
T: Sounds fun. No one invites me to play video games.
A: Apex is fun. Apex is fun.
T: Lol, you’re kidding if you think I can play Apex. Everyone in the room would rage at me if I joined.
A: Well, it’s like mahjong - everyone helps the newbie out when they’re just starting, to get them used to the game. I think that’s the most fun part.
T: Huh, so is the “protect the princess” game mode really fun?
A: It really is. People who stream mahjong for the first time get a lot of comments from people telling them what to do.
T: Ah, I see. So people become harsher on you once you’ve gotten the game down somewhat.
A: Yep! At first you shower the newbie in praise, but slowly you move towards “what are you doing?” as they get better.
T: So like in mahjong, when people start going “why did you discard that 7-so?” “Why didn’t you go for that yaku? You could have won.” That’s so scary...
A: “That riichi isn’t gonna work.” That might be the toughest period (for learning a game), but the start is genuinely a lot of fun.
T: So people are nice to you when they’re teaching you a game...
A: Yeah. The people teaching also have fun, so don’t worry about it.
T: Right. Let’s forget about the Apex talk, though.
Relationships, part 2 (45:40)
T: So we were talking about editors marrying mangaka. ... Why were we talking about Apex? I didn’t organize this to talk about Apex.
A: Wait, wasn’t the game we’re playing called Apex Ipponmichi? [It’s Manga Ipponmichi]
T: Nope. This isn’t a game about Apex. Do you know of any mangaka who have married their editors?
A: Those would be my teachers, Kazuma Kondo and Jinsei Kataoka. The two of them are married. Their meetings are like husband-wife conversations, and sometimes they have couple arguments over manga, like how something should be drawn a certain way. They’re both serious about manga, after all.
T: Yeah, I can see why they’d argue.
A: The line gets blurred between arguments about the manga and the usual couple arguments. It does result in a better work, though.
T: So their arguments are actually good (for the manga). That’s something that mangaka in general are really sensitive about, though. Another mangaka might look at your work and say, “shouldn’t you divide the panels this way instead?” But in the first place, I don’t think you should talk like that to other people about their own work. What do you think?
A: I tell [them] to go ahead and tell me if there’s anything they spot, or even to change whatever they feel needs to be changed. You know that I’m working on Oshi no Ko and Mengo-sensei is doing the illustration work, but I think of it as a collaboration.
T: Then again, there’s no way you and Mengo-sensei could be married [Mengo is married], so I don’t think any arguments you have would devolve into the kind of mud-slinging you see between genuinely close couples.
A: You’re right. A close couple would have no qualms about saying anything to each other.
T: They wouldn’t! That’s the scary part!
T: [speaking to the viewers] Also, this isn’t some kind of foreshadowing for me getting married to Akasaka-sensei. Stop it. Don’t get me flamed on social media. ... Also, it’s not Akasaka-sensei who’s going to get flamed. It’s me. The Akasaka fangirls will skin me alive. Don’t do it. I’d better keep my distance...
A: So... I guess this wasn’t really about marriage... but about how much people can argue about manga design. I’m on pretty good terms [with Mengo-sensei].
T: Makes sense, since you’re friends to begin with.
A: Yeah. I want to get along with her, so I don’t want to argue. There’s also the [shared] motivation of wanting to create good manga, so things go pretty well.
T: This works better with friends who respect each other, huh?
A: Yep. I respect Mengo-sensei quite a lot.
T: Makes sense that you’re doing well together, then. You also hear about mangaka getting married to seiyuus, right?
T: Or not?
A: I don’t think so.
T: Really!? Tell me it’s real...
A: I can only think of Conan [Gosho Aoyama and Minami Takayama], and Masumi Asano-san and Hata-sensei [from Hayate the Combat Butler]. It’s painful to think about.
T: [laughs] Painful!?
A: It is. I mean, not in that way. I’ve always been a huge fan of Masumi Asano-san - I listen to her radio show a lot. Hata-sensei would show up on her show every now and then, and I thought, he’s a really nice guy. And then they were married a few years later. “Wha- whaaaa”...
T: Right, I can see how that would hurt.
A: It does. It’s weird that it does, though. I admire them both, and they work on a romcom. That romcom sells better than [Kaguya], and it ran for longer...
T: [Hayate] was really popular, yeah.
A: So it’s this... these high-ups... ahhh...
T: [laughs] Sense of inferiority?
A: If only I’d been born 10 years earlier... maybe, just maybe...
T: That’s such a classic way to get depressed.
A: Well, they’re already married, so I’m just glad that they’re happy together now, but back then...
T: Then again, I think that mangaka in general have fans who would react the same way when they get married. For example, if you (Akasaka) got married and announced it, I’m sure that some people would get very depressed.
A: I think I liked Asano-san before Hata-sensei did.
A: I like that phrase.
T: “I loved her first... ”
A: In reality, seiyuu only really marry other seiyuu, I think.
T: Right. I wonder if those work out, though. Do they criticize each other’s work? Like, “your enunciation there was bad.”
A: I don’t think so, mostly.
T: Mangaka and manga design is one thing, but seiyuu couples probably have to agree in advance not to talk about work-related stuff, to avoid arguments further down the line.
A: I agree. Not talking about work is the correct choice if you want to avoid conflict. Also, criticism between seiyuu seems like it’d be more visceral, like, “are you trying to put me down as a person?” There’s no way you can tell anyone, “this isn’t your art style.”
T: Oh god, never.
A: Not even if you’re both artists.
Kaguya’s first print run, and books that don’t sell (52:23)
T: How many copies of the first volume of Kaguya-sama were printed? Though you might not have the numbers for the first print.
A: The first print started with 20,000 copies.
T: Oh, really!? They didn’t print, like 100,000 copies?
A: Nope. 100,000 copies were printed for chapter 10 [volume 2].
T: Wow! That means the first volume got about the same number of copies as a typical original series.
A: Yep. I think Instant Bullet had more copies printed [at the start]. 25,000 copies or something, I think.
T: It’s really impressive for an original manga to get 25,000 copies.
A: Yeah, I was really happy.
T: ... Ah... well, it’s not good for too many copies to get printed. Mama Norio had another work called Heroine Voice that came out after Himegoto, and the first print had about 20,000 copies. It was a massive flop. I’m still not sure how much of the first print actually sold.
A: Listen, everyone... manga that doesn’t sell gets brought to a disposal company and gets shredded to pieces.
T: Ah, aaaaahhh... my books...
A: It gets turned into recycled paper.
T: My heart... ...why are we talking about this?
A: Guys, if you don’t buy them, new mangaka’s books get shredded.
T: In all likelihood, Mama Norio’s Heroine Voice got shredded.
A: Aaaaahh, stop it... don’t shred Instant Bullet!! Please!!
T: We put our heart and soul into those books!! Please don’t shred them!!
T: ... Well, that’s the reality of the manga industry. Books that don’t sell have no value, so they get shredded... uahh... (I worked so hard, too... )
A: Please support new mangaka, guys!
T: Their lives depend on it. I wonder if [Heroine Voice] became toilet paper...
A: Your work... now gets used to wipe everyone’s butts...
T: I guess that’s still contributing to society in a way...
Store-exclusive special illustrations, and marketing stuff (54:20)
T: On the topic of manga volumes... I’m sure you’re all aware, but different stores sometimes have different special illustrations for newly released volumes. Mama Norio had to draw those for free most of the time. What about you?
A: I drew those for iB and Piano. Different ones for each bookstore, so there would be one for Toranoana, one for Melonbooks...
T: Or for Comic Zin...
A: Yeah... but it was really hard work.
T: It really is.
A: When I started at Young Jump, I asked whether I had to draw those, and they said, “It’s fine. We’ll handle it.”
T: Eeeeh!?!? You don’t have to draw them!?
A: Yeah. They crop out parts from the manga to make them for me.
T: You’re kidding!!!
A: They’re seriously an amazing magazine to work for.
T: Time for me to go to Young Jump!
A: Sure, come on in!
T: Wow! I had to draw colored illustrations for free, but over there...
A: You don’t have to draw those.
T: I don’t have to draw those...
A: It’s hard to say whether that’s good for sales, though, since you don’t have people who buy multiple copies to collect all the art.
T: Yeah, that’s true. Bookstores also reserve more space for volumes that have store-exclusive specials.
A: Shueisha’s general direction is to avoid putting too much of a burden on the artists.
T: Wow, that’s really good of Shueisha.
A: I’d expect that their sales department has to work extra hard to compensate.
T: Ah, I see. I assume that Shueisha has a lot of skilled salespeople. (A: Yep.) Manga relies a lot on sales and promotion, I think. Even if you write something really interesting, if it gets published in a small magazine, it won’t have the power to reach as wide an audience as the bigger magazines. That’s a pretty tough issue to handle.
A: Sales and advertisements... what they do is to bring your product from a “1” to a “1.1”, though. To take it from 100% to 110%. So you can try the same advertising strategy with two different series, but the series that was already popular would see much better results.
T: That’s true.
A: That’s why advertising for new mangaka returns so little.
T: No wonder they can’t really get ads placed.
A: Since there’s a limited advertising budget, they try to put it into series that are just about to explode, at exactly the right moment. New mangaka might wonder why their publishers don’t advertise them... but that’s partially because advertising wouldn’t achieve anything.
T: I see... how do new mangaka get popular, then?
A: One of the standard ways to go is to market it to your existing audience on Twitter or whatever.
T: Right, that makes sense since it’s your own work.
A: That’s pretty much unavoidable when you’re starting out.
T: My editor often used to tell me to advertise on Twitter, too. I feel like that’s a big waste for authors with large Twitter followings, though. Of course, I’d advertise my own series - but when you’re working in the entertainment industry like I am now, there are also offers to make use of your Twitter account. Like, companies might offer to pay you a certain amount per tweet about something, or for uploading a video [about their products]. Your Twitter follower count actually has monetary value. On the other hand, working in manga means you have to advertise basically for free, all the time. I remember thinking that that wasn’t a healthy work model.
A: There’s no denying that it’s the most effective method, though. It’s something that needs to be done.
T: Of course, there’s no choice.
A: Sometimes, publishers might bring up the topic of paying you for advertising fees... but you can only expect to get something proportional to self-promotion.
T: Nowadays, it’s almost mandatory for mangaka to have big Twitter followings. Now you need to focus on things apart from manga.
A: Yeah. Then again, at least you don’t get judged based on your follower count, unlike idols.
T: True. Illustrators do get some of that, though - being judged by follower counts. I hear quite a lot about how illustrators who don’t have at least 100,000 followers don’t even get job offers.
A: It does happen. People also look at your Twitter or Pixiv page to check how often you upload new work.
T: Wait, why?
A: You have to be able to draw a lot. People judge the volume you’re able to put out based on your upload frequency, and back when I was drawing light novel covers, people did evaluate me like that.
T: Oh, so they see whether you upload regularly! Pixiv has always been a popular platform for people to place commissions, after all.
A: Yep. If you’re looking to become an illustrator, you should try doing that to show that “I can draw quickly!”
Serialized mangaka vs. doujin artists (1:00:39)
T: Akasaka-sensei, you’ve drawn doujinshi. Which makes better money, doujinshi or serialization?
A: Well... ...um... ...at the top end, it’s probably serialization.
T: Of course.
A: ... But... hmm...
T: It’s not easy to judge, huh? A mangaka as popular as you naturally makes more from serialization. But if you look up the top Comiket artists, they don’t make any less than the most popular serialized mangaka.
A: That’s true.
T: Seriously, you can even get some of their work on auctions. It’s hard to say.
A: Well, on average... doujins, right?
T: Reaching your level of success as a serialized mangaka takes a lot of skill and quite a lot of luck. Aiming for that right off the bat isn’t realistic.
A: If you want to start making money right away, and you’ve got the skills, FANZA [by DMM, R18 content] is a good option.
T: Yeah. Selling digital work on the likes of FANZA or DMM is a good option if you’re looking to sell quickly.
A: I haven’t done the calculations so I’m not 100% sure either, but I think that makes decent money. At least the per-page income is a lot higher [than that of a serialized mangaka].
T: Mm-hmm, doujinshi artists make a lot more if you’re looking at per-page income.
Sex and readership (1:02:54)
[Tamaki and Aka panicking because the series’ in-game popularity took a hit]
T: There’s no way we can let this series end when it’s sold over 10 million copies... ! Oh my god oh my god...
A: The actual Kaguya-sama has been continually growing in popularity, though.
T: That’s amazing.
A: I’m very grateful. ... [In-game Kaguya-sama becomes popular among children] Oh, let’s market the series to children.
T: [laughs] Really?
A: Haha, I... apparently, there are actually young children who read Kaguya.
T: Oh, what? Kids read Kaguya?
A: Apparently, yeah. I heard that there are elementary school kids reading the series, but I’m actually considering drawing a sex scene in the series, so it’s a problem. I’m not sure how to handle it.
T: Lol, you’d better not. ... Wait, what? Kaguya and... the President... will do it? That’s lewd...
A: I’m thinking really hard about how to handle this, since I know that kids will see it.
T: Well, [Kaguya-sama] could provide an awakening for those kids...
A: Er, but... mmm... I don’t know...
T: Uh, I want to see it. ... You know how Tokyo Ghoul had that one lewd scene?
A: Yep, it did.
T: I bought the volume... just to see that chapter... [laughs]
T: I had to see it! I’d seen the anime, but I was like, the manga’s there already!? Which volume is it!?
A: I’m published in Young Jump, so I guess I might as well make a proper sex ed chapter. (T: sex ed, lol... ) To become like Futari Ecchi.
T: Futari Ecchi, now running in Hakusensha’s Young Animal. Do have a look.
A: Yep. [Katsu Aki] draws it, though.
T: He’s from Hakusensha instead. ... [regarding sex in Kaguya-sama] Really?
A: I really wanted to do it, but now I’m just not sure.
T: For a series to hit 10 million copies sold, you have to think about children as your reader base... or although Kaguya started aimed towards guys, you have to gain the support of a female reader base, too. No way you’re hitting 10 million copies otherwise. So it makes perfect sense that there are little girls who read Kaguya too, looking at the numbers.
A: Both otakus and non-otakus read manga, and otaku are in the minority. Aiming to capture all audiences puts you in a better position, and children make up part of that audience.
The Kaguya-sama live-action movie, and creator permissions for adaptations (1:05:25)
T: Mama Norio knows about Kaguya-sama, too.
A: I’m so grateful.
T: She heard about Kaguya from the movie adaptation.
A: That’s one of the best points about the movie, seriously. Why does everyone hate on the movie?
T: Otaku sometimes refer to live-action movie adaptations as “raping the original work”.
A: I'm nothing but grateful for the movie adaptation, honestly.
T: I know, right!? A movie adaptation is nothing but good news for the mangaka, so it would be nice if people stopped flaming it...
A: Seriously. The actors are the people being flamed, and I meet them sometimes. Just cut it out. If only for my sake.
T: That’s not what you wished for, after all.
A: It’s not.
T: A movie adaptation means that advertisements and posters go up all over the country. Actors with tons of experience sell the film. It’s an incredible amount of attention to receive.
A: It really is. There are people who say that “it should never have come out” - like, who are you to say that? That’s totally wrong. Of course, there are the people full of themselves who say that they’ve got zero interest in it, that they don’t care if the movie flops. It makes sense that they reject the movie - but they wouldn’t have accepted any [live-action movie] in the first place.
T: There are also mangaka who don’t want to receive anime or movie adaptations. I hear about people rejecting adaptations once in a while. Sometimes you might wonder why an incredibly popular series hasn’t received an adaptation, but the answer might be that the artist turned it down.
A: Yep, the creator can choose to turn down the adaptation offer.
T: You have that right as the original content creator. Before work on an anime adaptation starts, they don’t tell you, “we’re doing an anime adaptation!” They actually ask you whether you’re okay with it.
A: They also ask if you’re okay with the anime being produced by a particular studio.
T: If you turn it down, the matter gets dropped until the next time someone brings an anime adaptation up [for a different work].
A: They respect your decision.
Getting rich? (1:07:30)
A: [Receives in-game contract fee of 10 million yen] 10 million... wow...
T: (under her breath) 10 million... dafuq? I’ve never gotten 10 million for a contract fee...
T: By the way, there are a lot of people who think that getting an anime adaptation means that the anime production company hands the mangaka a lot of money. What was your experience like, Aka-sensei?
A: It’s not as crazy as some people make it sound, but I did get around 100,000 yen per episode, so it did add up to a decent sum. They buy the rights though, so it’s not like you get a percentage of the revenue from the show. I think it’s the same for [live-action] movie adaptations, but in any case, there’s a flat usage fee you get as a one-off payment. It’s not exactly a massive profit. The usual direction to take is to make your profit off the original manga.
T: Yeah, I guess royalties are your best bet in the end.
T: Don’t you also get copyright fees, though?
A: Copyright fees for merchandise, yeah.
T: People using your art for advertisements also need to pay copyright fees. Those sometimes come in all at once for a pretty big sum. What about those? It seems like Kaguya-sama would produce a lot of copyright fees.
A: I don’t pay attention, to be honest.
T: Right, you don’t know what payment comes from where...
A: Yeah... I don’t really look. But sometimes I look at my bank statement and notice there’s a really big deposit this month.
T: Oh, yeah! Some months just dump a lot of money on you.
A: When that happens, the bank contacts me to ask whether that huge deposit was a mistake.
T: They call you!
A: Yeah, so I have to tell them that it’s correct. I’m not doing anything illegal. Only then do they make the deposit.
T: The Attack on Titan mangaka went through the same thing, too. His manga suddenly began to sell and the bank asked him whether there was anything wrong with the sudden large deposit.
A: I get asked to take loans, too.
T: You do!?
A: The bank’s sales division comes looking for me.
T: Oh god!! Like, “This person has a ton of money, so we should sell him our loans!”
A: Yeah. “You appear to have a sizable amount pooled at the moment... would you happen to be interested in investing?”
T: Ahaha! Wow! How do you respond?
A: I turn them down by telling them I’m busy with work. Investing is totally fine, though. You all should do it.
T: That’s assuming you actually make money from your investments, though. Most people don’t.
Pages per month to get rich? (1:10:30)
T: Oh, following up on the topic of doujins we talked about earlier, when did you start feeling like you were really beginning to rake it in as a serialized mangaka?
A: Well... I was the type to draw 40 pages a month, so that becomes 400,000 yen. I mean, if you get 8,000 yen per page it’s different, but... anyway, say half of that goes to my assistants, so I get 200,000 yen. I guess you make more money if you draw more pages.
T: I see, so mass production is the answer.
A: The people who can’t make money out of serialization usually draw something like 32 pages per month, on the low side. This is a job where you can make more money by putting out more pages.
T: Not many people can draw 40 pages a month, though. Sensei. It’s not easy. You’ll die.
A: Uh... the person I was working under drew that much, so I figured that was the standard.
T: That explains it. Back when I was drawing both doujinshi and my serialized manga, there was a point where I was drawing 60 pages a month.
A: That will kill you.
T: I thought I was going to die.
A: That kind of stress causes you to lose your hair.
T: Oh, so that’s why my hair was thinning at the time.
A: Don’t draw 60 pages! I forbid you! That’s not something a human can take!
T: Well, I wanted money... and in line with what you said, the more you draw, the more you make.
A: Smart move.
T: I wouldn’t drop my serialized manga, so I did my serialized manuscripts, plus I wanted to produce two doujins in time for Comiket. Add that to the bonus illustrations that went with the merch for the new volume, and I realized... hey, where’s my hair gone?
A: Drawing too much does take a toll on you.
T: It really does.
A: Then again, now I go through 18 pages, 4 times a month.
T: Eek... that's so much work...
A: I mean, we were talking about calculating how many pages you need to draw... but drawing 60 pages [by yourself] is about as hard as that.
T: I know, right? That time I drew 60 pages, I thought for a moment that I could handle weekly serialization, but I started balding so I figured that I couldn't. If I hadn't started balding, it probably would've been possible.
A: Well, it's like how you shouldn't dive immediately into freezing water. It's important to gradually condition yourself.
T: Yup, gradually! So you could start with 30 pages per month, then try for 40 the next month.
A: That’s it. You’ll find that you get used to it, in general.
T: [laughs] Really?
A: If you’re able to set a regular weekly schedule... though if you start thinking too much, like whether your serialization is going to last, that can take a toll on you.
T: It does.
Stress management - with Apex (1:13:32)
A: You can safeguard your mental health by taking Apex breaks as and when necessary.
T: Ahaha! Enough Apex! Quit playing!
A: I’m not gonna quit!! Why would you say such a thing?? You’re the worst!! Why??
T: LOL, you’re scaring me!!
A: You’re going to destroy me!! Are you okay with that??
T: He’s been driven insane by Apex... oh my god...
A: [laughs] Taking breaks makes a huge difference when it comes to taking care of your mental health.
Stress management - having a BF/GF (1:13:50)
T: I think that having a BF would have helped things work out when I was drawing manga, though. Having a man is important.
T: A boyfriend can be a great source of support. You should all get girlfriends for support, too. Having a boyfriend is a huge source of motivation.
... In retrospect, I think being single caused me to lose hair back then. I’ve been thinking that if I decide to draw manga again someday, I should find a man, first.
T: ① Get a boyfriend. ② Get serialized.
A: I wonder, though. I think being single is better for weekly serialization, while it’s fine to be attached if you’re doing a monthly series.
... Have you heard of Jūhan Shuttai?
T: Wow, that takes me back! I really liked it!
A: There was one part where his girlfriend showed up, right?
T: Oh, right! Moga Mogami-chan played the girlfriend, didn’t she?
A: Yeah. I thought that was insanely realistic.
T: Wait, is that something that happens a lot IRL?
A: It does happen.
A: I mean, if you’re doing a weekly serialization, you might end up neglecting your girlfriend, or your wife. If that happens, it makes sense for that to happen.
T: Huh. So your partner wouldn’t endure the loneliness and support you, then?
A: Even if they put up with being lonely, they wouldn’t know how to support you.
T: Ah. Since they aren’t mangaka, they don’t know how to support a mangaka.
A: They can’t help you with shading, and you’d just get your assistants to help instead of them.
T: I see...
A: You might also just have instant noodles ready, so they don’t need to cook for you.
T: Being with you might feel purposeless, I see.
A: It would. You might also have a cleaner come in once a week to clean up, so they wouldn’t have to tidy up for you.
T: You’re kidding.
A: They wouldn’t have anything to do.
T: They’d just be there to be fed, then. That would feel pretty bad.
A: The mangaka wouldn’t pay attention to them either when they’re working on the manuscript. That kind of relationship does break off after a while.
... So there was this anime called Kakushigoto that aired recently.
T: Right, by the author of Zetsubou-sensei.
A: There was a household helper there, too. It was a realistic depiction.
T: Oh, man... what if they played Apex with you?
A: That would be amazing. Sharing a relationship or marriage like that would be perfect.
T: Right, so if the girl plays Apex... [laughs] I can’t play Apex, so I’m out. I can’t support your Apex endeavors.
A: I’m looking for a girlfriend now. One of the conditions is that she has to be at least Plat in Apex.
T: LOL You’re kidding! No women like that exist! Do they?
A: They do.
T: Really? Look around, I guess... I don’t know anyone, though...
A: It’s one of Aka Akasaka’s 5 major marriage conditions.
T: Do you have any conditions for marriage apart from Apex?
Aka’s conditions for marriage 1:18:02~
A: I really haven’t thought about it... Being kind, I suppose?
T: Being kind, huh... that’s me, then.
A: ... Uh... yeah. That’s right.
... She shouldn’t say that my manga is boring.
T: I read all your work. It’s really good.
A: Thank you.
... I guess they should be someone who enjoys my work.
T: So you want them to read your work, huh?
A: I mean, if you’re dating a mangaka, you wouldn’t usually read their manga, right?
T: Absolutely not. That’s actually a common situation when artists end up in a relationship. You might ask them what they think of their SO’s manga, and they’d tell you that they don’t like it at all.
A: That’s a breakup condition!
T: Really!? That’s bad enough to warrant a breakup?
A: It hurts...
T: Why break up, though?
A: I’d be like, you don’t even read my work... you aren’t interested...
T: Oh, so that would feel like they’re not interested!
A: It would.
... My need to cope is really showing. “Why?? I bet you aren’t interested in me!! That’s why you don’t read my manga!!”
T: Baby Akasaka... so you’re actually a girl...
A: Don’t you think that would be a common reaction for most people? Maybe it depends on the guy, though.
T: So you want them to read your manga.
A: Then again, it depends on the guy.
T: Apparently, Mama Norio doesn’t want her partner to read her manga.
A: I think that’s more common among female mangaka?
T: Don’t you think it’s kind of gross? ... (silence) oops, should I not have asked that?
A: ... Uh, well, it is, in a way. It does get embarrassing.
T: Whoops. I broke the Aka Akasaka flag. Sorry to everyone who was hoping something would happen.
A: Overall, I think most guys would want their partner to read their manga. There are a lot of men who draw to stroke their egos. Also, manga reflects the opinions of the mangaka, right? (Being in a relationship with someone who doesn’t read your manga) would feel like having someone eat the chocolate you gave them without reading the note you attached to it.
T: I see...
A: That’s my opinion, of course.
T: I guess female and male mangaka think differently, so... wow. I hadn’t realized.
A: There are guys who don’t need their partner to read their manga, though.
T: Of course, it depends on the person.
Aka’s royalties and Norio’s income (1:20:54)
T: By the way, I think everyone’s wondering... and it’s something anyone can calculate, but how much have you made in royalties?
A: You can seriously just calculate it if you look the numbers up.
T: Let’s teach everyone how to calculate royalties, then. Roughly 10% (of the sale price) goes to royalties, and now (as of Nov 14, 2020), 12 million copies are in circulation. Do the math.
A: One book gets me 50 yen, since the book costs 500 yen.
T: Were you able to calculate it? 50 yen times 12 million copies equals a lot!
A: 100 million yen disappears to taxes.
T: Right, you have to consider that some of it gets eaten by taxes.
A: Yup. A 9-digit figure goes to the country’s coffers.
T: Akasaka-sensei contributes an insane amount of taxes, guys. The roads we walk on every day are practically funded by him.
A: Uh, sometimes when I’m at the town office, they ask me if I’m interested in priority passes.
T: Get me an express ticket! ... So, Mama Norio makes somewhere around 100 million yen per year, but half of it gets taxed away. Seriously. Half of it just disappears. What is up with this country?
A: Japan! Well, if it helps everyone...
T: That’s how we contribute to society.
A: You have to tell yourself that.
T: Yup. You can’t sleep if you can’t convince yourself that your tax money is being used for good.
A: I hope I’m making the world a better place!
T: Let us fund the tax coffers! You guys just take care, okay? Haha... ow.
T: “Is that why (this road) is called Akasaka Street!?”
A: I don’t think I’ve contributed enough for that.
T: [laughs] I wonder how much you need to pay in taxes to get something like Toriyama Road.
A: I wonder. You’d have to be pretty high up.
Competitions and child labor (1:25:42)
(In-game character starts to serialize Oshi no Ko)
T: When you were about to start one of your manga series, did you ever take part in any competitions to win the serialization place?
A: I have. I actually have an old work that I submitted for serialization, but it didn’t make the cut.
T: Oh, what was it like?
A: There’s a certain MiiMaa light novel series (T: I love that series!). I didn’t win the competition for that series.
T: OMG!! Uh... sorry, I’m too excited so I can’t speak right... was it a competition for the illustrations to be used in the LN?
A: No, it was for the manga adaptation.
T: It got a manga adaptation!?!?
A: I think it did?
T: It did? You sure? I’m pretty sure it didn’t happen... I got all the volumes and drama CDs and everything... wait, there’s a manga. Why don’t I have it? I’m a filthy casual.
A: Yeah. That’s the series I didn’t win the chance to draw.
T: ... Wait, I have it. It’s right here in my room.
A: If I had won that competition, my manga might be in your room now.
T: Oh my god!! Seriously? Seriously??? I love it! It’s my favorite LN! I’ve read it so many times! I got the drama CD, too.
A: I really liked it, too. I started hating it just a little after I lost, though.
A: I really like it, though.
T: Can I talk about MiiMaa a bit?
T: When I was in middle school, my hobby was recording voiced drama CDs. Kind of like an internet voice actress.
T: So I’d contact the internet voice actresses I liked and have them voice lines, then edit them together to make something like a drama CD. I uploaded a voiced drama recording of the first volume of Usotsuki Mii-kun to Kowareta Maa-chan.
T: I think the website I hosted it on is gone now, but a few volumes later, the writer mentioned in one of the volumes afternotes that someone had made a drama CD. He mentioned that it was really well-done and it made him really happy. That’s my best memory from middle school.
A: Middle school... MiiMaa in middle school... right.
T: Oh... sorry...
A: No, uh... it’s okay... I was just reminded of my age...
T: We aren’t that far apart, though. Right? You’re 17.
A: [laughs] Uh yeah, 17.
T: A 17-year-old high school girl.
A: So yeah, there was a competition. But for (Sayonara) Piano Sonata, I was scouted directly from one of the doujinshi I drew. I don’t think there was even a serialization meeting.
T: Getting scouted is the fastest way to land a serialization.
A: Yup. There were a lot of serialization meetings after that.
T: Have you enrolled in any other competitions?
A: I think that’s the only one I entered.
T: I see.
A: Serialization meetings are competitions, after all.
T: Mama Norio entered a competition once when she was in high school. I think it was for a LN published by Fujimi Fantasia Bunko, in a pretty lewd magazine, what was it called... Dragon Age?
A: Dragon Age. LOL
T: They wanted to give an LN a manga adaptation, so I drew a bit and submitted my character designs. The editor at the time was a woman, and I was a third-year high school student and I had to go for my graduation ceremony. So I was like, gotta sleep early to attend my graduation! And at 1 in the morning, the editor calls me and tells me that I need to fix something in my submission. So I said, okay... and then it seemed like she was waiting for something, and then she told me that I was going to have to fix it now. At 1 in the morning.
A: You’re an adult!
T: I was a high school student, though. And I had my graduation coming up, but I figured I could wrap it up in 30 minutes. (A: Fujimi Shobo... ) ... I was on the phone and fixing stuff until 3 am. My graduation... and I didn’t win the competition anyway... so it’s like, where did all my work go?
A: I think it’s natural to lose in that kind of competition, though. Your time just goes down the drain.
T: Manga doesn’t cost anything to publish until it actually starts being serialized. Thinking about it, that was pretty shady.
A: Hmm. There are actual auditions though... so it’s not easy to judge what’s right.
T: reading a comment “Sounds like a violation of the Labor Standards Act.” You bet. You’re not supposed to make high school students work like that.
A: Yeah. Uh. Try not to think too hard about that.
T: Let’s just say that was a fictional account.
A: So that was a dream you had, huh.
T: Yeah, I dreamt that happened.
Aka’s personal sales milestone, and Norio on being complimented by Aka (1:31:44)
T: By the way, when did you begin to feel the impact of your income?
A: I think the threshold was the 1 million books sold milestone.
T: Did you, like, get a nicer place to live in after you sold a million copies?
A: Well... when I started weekly serialization at Young Jump, my manuscript fees added up to more than my royalties.
T: At the start, yeah.
A: At that point, I had stopped looking at the deposit receipts.
T: Wow! I guess that’s what happens if you get serialized in Young Jump! Man, I wanna get serialized too...
A: Go ahead.
T: During our last interview, you told me that I should try to get serialized in Young Jump. That made me really happy, and I was telling my mangaka friend that I’ll try to get serialized in YJ in my next life (A: next life... ). They told me that “that guy is a genius, so you shouldn’t believe him.” That was a sudden wake-up call. I said, “well, he said it’s not hard to get into YJ if you try!”, but they told me that “it’s easy for Akasaka-sensei, but that doesn’t apply to regular humans.” Oh... right...
A: No, I mean... I’m pretty sure that the odds are actually pretty high. There’s data lying around somewhere.
T: (seriously?) They told me that it’s hard to get a serialization approved at Young Jump in the first place. I hadn’t thought about that...
A: That’s not really that hard... I mean... uh... you don’t know your odds if you don’t take the shot, right? It’s worth at least trying. Maybe if you try 5 times and fail every time, your odds aren’t that great, but if you try 2 or 3 times and have experience as a published mangaka, I think your chances are pretty good.
T: Really... ? I don’t know for sure how much of what you’re telling me is correct...
A: I haven’t told you anything wrong.
T: Hmm... to Norio, you read her biggest commercial flop, Heroine Voice, and told her that it was good. You made her so happy.
A: I wasn’t kidding.
T: “If Akasaka-sensei said it was good, maybe I have talent after all!?”
A: You do.
A: ... Who do I address this to?
T: Mama Norio?
A: Mama Norio! You’ve got talent.
T: Really? (A: Yep.) Hey guys, a popular mangaka says so. What do you think? He’s popular, so he might be right.
A: Young Jump is a wonderful place. Come on in!
T: LOL “come on in”... I can’t just waltz in, you know.
A: Just treat it like a visit to Atami! It’s nearby. You just feel like it’s far away.
T: It’s pretty nearby... this is the setup to some kind of scam...
A: Korea isn’t far away, you know? (T: Hahaha!) It’s way closer than Hawaii. Just come on over.
Empty praise and Tamaki’s reincarnation (1:35:10)
T: You know, at first, I thought you were just saying that to be nice. But I’m aware that most male mangaka aren’t capable of empty praise.
A: I don’t give empty praise.
T: I know right? Why?
A: I mean... isn’t it kind of pointless? To lie?
T: [laughs] Right, right.
A: There are some male mangaka who find it really hard to praise other people’s work.
T: Most of the male mangaka I know speak their mind all the time.
A: Yup. That, or they don’t say anything.
T: Oh yeah, they become really quiet sometimes. “I don’t want to say this... ”
A: I know that feeling.
T: I guess that makes it all the more meaningful when someone actually praises your work.
A: It does. So, you know. Whenever you have the time, give it a shot. Or in your next life...
T: My next life...
A: If you have a kid and they say they want to be a mangaka when they grow up, you’ve gotta tell them, “you’re gonna become the star of Young Jump!”
T: “Mommy will get round to it in her next life, but you ought to get started in this life!” “Help me get a foot in the door!”
A: And when they can’t draw manga, you have to yell at them like, “why can’t you draw??” Become your daughter’s abusive mom.
T: LOL that’s the worst...
Mangaka obligations, and how they stay motivated (1:36:42)
T: Hang on, sensei. We’re out of the ‘knowledge’ stat (in-game), so we can’t draw anymore.
T: Oh man. Should we take a break this week?
A: Sure, why not!
T: (After convincing the in-game editor to let them take a break) Yay! Time to play! Let’s go to the department store while we’re on break.
A: You don’t actually get to rest while you’re on break, though.
T: Getting your break approved is one time, but you’re just pushing your deadlines further and further back until you can’t push them anymore. You end up backed against a wall.
A: Yeah, that can’t be helped.
T: (Norio’s previous editor) didn’t let her take breaks whenever she asked for one. That editor is a manuscript-collecting machine. That person is scary. I had to draw even when I was feeling sick and having a fever.
A: Everyone, this is reality.
T: We’re not exaggerating.
A: Not at all. Mangaka have to draw, no matter what. You have to keep drawing even if your parents die.
T: Ha... .ha... .... ha... .you have to keep drawing even when your parents die... I’ve never had to deal with that, so I don’t know...
A: You need to keep drawing even if you get a girlfriend. Even if you get a wife!
T: You need to keep drawing even if you’re being harassed by your editor! They’re aware of our menstrual cycle, so if you slow down, they’ll tell you, “you’re not on your period now, are you?”
T: Ew. Ugh. Gross. That sounds so disgusting when I say it out loud.
A: It’s a very wholesome industry.
T: Very wholesome indeed. Can’t quit!
A: You get addicted to work! ... I want to quit before I’m 40.
T: Hahaha! Seriously? Akasaka-sensei, is your age listed on Wikipedia?
A: It is.
T: How old are you?
T: 12 million copies sold at 32! That’s so young! Wow!
A: Well, for what it’s worth, I used to be in my 20s, too. At the same point in life as you.
T: I mean... Mama Norio says she makes 100 million yen a year... but she doesn’t have 100 million saved. ... She bought an apartment, so all the money disappeared.
A: inhales Who in their 20s does that!?
T: Everything saved, all gone!
A: Oi, you kidding!?
T: I’m, uh, actually 17 years old.
A: What kind of 17-year-old does that!?
T: At one point, money stopped motivating me and I felt like quitting as a Vtuber. So I bought an apartment. Don’t you feel that way sometimes?
A: You stop being rich.
T: You do. You have to spend big when you’re in that mood.
A: Seriously? Did spending (on the apartment) get you motivated?
T: Maybe? Someone on your level would probably have to buy at least one apartment to get relief.
A: You know, I’ve been thinking about how to keep my motivation up, and I figured that making a second manga would do it for me. So I started Oshi no Ko.
T: I see. Starting a new series really does feel like a fresh start.
A: Yeah. I’ve been getting good feedback for Kaguya too, so I think starting Oshi no Ko really was the right decision.
T: So your motivation to draw Kaguya-sama is going up too, as a result?
A: Yup, it is.
T: Nice. ... To be honest, buying the apartment was a strategy to avoid retiring as a Vtuber. If I hadn’t bought it, I might have retired around last month. There was a period when I was feeling really unmotivated.
A: ... ...
T: Good thing I bought this apartment!
A: Yeah... let’s... have fun... at our... jobs...
T: I mean, everyone gets unmotivated at some point. You should all celebrate the fact that I bought this apartment.
Aka Akasaka isn’t his real name. Neither Tamaki Inuyama nor Norio Tsukudani is her real name, either.
Aka usually wears a parka.
After Sayonara Piano Sonata ended, Aka received offers from quite a few publishers. As a result, he knows editors from other publishers, including Hakusensha.
Aka won a prize of 300,000 yen for his first work.
Aka’s pay while working at Shop 99 was 780 yen per hour.
Big thanks to /u/A_Sunfish for the translation.
You can read the first interview below.