The manga industry has started to reach heights that were unheard of merely a decade ago. What started as a niche past time in Japan, has become a worldwide phenomenon. The stories some manga artists can weave are simply astounding. And the release model means they can continue doing that story for a while. But often, that fame comes at the price of the manga artists’ health.
Quickly taking over as one of the most beloved artists and story mediums in media, manga has cemented its place in storytelling. And for good reason, since the accessibility and variety mean it can reach so many readers without any boundaries. It’s how you get stories like One Piece or Attack On Titan to become some of the greatest ever told.
But that variety means competition. It means strict update schedules, meeting deadlines, and constantly working day and night to create more and more content. That’s an unhealthy line of work. Something is not right when so many mangakas are falling ill frequently.
After all, it is the mangaka that is the most important aspect of any manga being published. They are the ones who create the plot, make the art panels, and bring it all to life. So, you can see why the pressure affecting them is such an issue. Several manga artists a.k.a mangakas have spoken up about the mental and physical toll creating manga takes. And I think we should discuss them.
Manga Artists: High-Intensity Environment, Low Benefits
You’d think being a famous mangaka would lead to some serious money but sadly, that is untrue. Unless they’re one of the big 3 creators, most manga artists are likely severely underpaid. And when you consider the amount of work they put in, it’s downright criminal.
Remember, manga is both a visual and written medium. That means you’re not only creating an entire story but drawing it out as well. That takes an insane amount of work. You can’t just create 100+ chapters filled with dynamic panels from thin air.
The work that goes in consumes the creator. Most mangakas can’t afford to hire assistant artists or junior storyboard creators, so they do all the work by themselves. That includes initial sketching, inking, planning the story panels and placement, and then so on and so forth. It is insane to expect all of that to be done by one person on a monthly, or even weekly, deadline.
And then after all that work, they don’t even get to see the fruits of their labor. Most of the money made from the release of manga is kept by the publishing and distributing companies. The intense labor they put in doesn’t yield similar results until many, many issues later.
No Rest For The Sick Manga Artists
And if all that pressure wasn’t enough, mangakas aren’t even allowed many days off, if any at all. Their work hours are intense, to say the least. Schedules posted by various mangakas have an average of just three hours a week where they aren’t working.
According to Masashi Kishimoto, the creator of iconic works such as Naruto and Naruto Shippuden, he would slave away for 19 hours per day when creating panels for his manga. Imagine having a workday that spans double the normal 9-5. And no weekends either! Overtime is just a part of Japanese culture in general, so these hours aren’t surprising.
But just because they are common, doesn’t make it okay. This is severely harsh for anyone, but especially someone creating a piece of work. This is artistic intent that gets stifled thanks to burnout.
The Mental And Physical Strain Can Prove Fatal
Losing Kentaro Miura earlier last year was a shock so severe that it shook the entire manga industry to its core. Known for his groundbreaking work with the dark fantasy manga, Berserk, he was only 54 years old when he passed away from an Acute Aortic Dissection. This issue usually stems from a pre-existing condition known as Hypertension.
It’s not hard to assume what caused Miura-san so much stress. Berserk was a beast to maintain and create. He spent his entire life pouring his heart and soul, into trying to deliver a work of art on a deadline. And sadly, his isn’t an isolated case.
Many mangakas have come forward about the horrible conditions they have to endure in their field. With little to no sleep, they are beyond fatigued. Many suffer from multiple health issues, both physical and mental. And there is no respite. You either force yourself to create or get left behind.
Sadly, a lot of the smaller mangakas don’t have an option. The constant pressure and burnout cycle leave them sick. And they can’t break out of it without damaging what they worked so hard for. So, they keep trying, at the cost of their well-being.
So, it’s no wonder so many mangakas end up having so many issues. Who wouldn’t with a field this demanding? But that’s why things need to change.