WonderCon@Home 2021 – So You Want to be a Manga Editor? –  Notes!


(screenshot/Sekai Ichi Hatsukoi, image source: link)

Credit: Peggy Sue Wood | @pswediting

About the Event:

Panel Description: Have a deep interest in all things manga and Japanese? Want to know how you can turn that passion into an amazing career? Well you won’t want to miss this wide-ranging conversation with the manga experts and editors at Kodansha US, Kodansha Japan, including Tiff Ferentini (editor, Kodansha US), Nate Gallant (editor, Kodansha US), Naoki Takuma (editor, Kodansha Japan), Natsuki Tsuchiya (editor, Kodansha Japan). You’ll learn the tips, tricks, and skills you’ll need to have to start your career in the amazing world of manga! Moderated by Ivan Salazar.

Link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dcHfzu6Whb8&t=47s&ab_channel=Comic-ConInternational

* Please note that when you see a person’s name before a paragraph, the information comes from them but is heavily paraphrased to fit an overall understanding of the editorial side to publishing manga rather than the specific projects they may be talking about. Thank you.

What does the day-to-day work life of a manga editor look like?

Tsuchiya: Creating manga happens everyday. Different parts of an editor’s work may includes meetings, checking a NAME (a layout), checking story outlines, and getting the manga manuscript ready for printing. Some formatting may be different from the work of editors like Ferentini, who works on volumes or novel, as Tsuchiya works in the magazine side of publishing comics. 

Tsuchiya: In the editorial meetings with manga creators, editors and authors discuss things like story development, how they want to develop a new character, and such. The goal is to help the creator iron out what’s going on in the chapter and how that relates to the larger story (or how it doesn’t). 


Tsuchiya: Above is an example of a NAME (layout). After meetings, the creators of the comic will work on one and send it to the editor to check if the story and contents look good. 

Tsuchiya: Once a completed manuscript is sent in, the editor arranges the dialogue (text) and does lettering (adding dialogue to the pages), and prepares it for print. This is similar to the process for American comics, however American comics often include a coloring period too. 

Takuma: Takuma,like Tsuchiya, works in a manga magazine. Process wise, it’s very similar to what Tsuchiya describes. Something Takuma adds is that often people ask him “What is a manga editor’s job like?” and he tends to answer that “Creators are the ones who actually draw/write the manga, Editors do everything else but drawing/writing. We’re involved from the very beginning, from the brainstorming phase to the NAME check phase, and manuscript finalization. Besides these creative processes, we work on marketing and promotion after the manga book is out. When the manga gets adapted into anime, we work together with anime creators to develop the anime scripts. For merchandise goods, we even check the product quality, too. So we work with various people for the different aspects around manga. I’d say our job is to take care of many things outside of manga drawing/writing [as we can].”

Essentially, editors help guide the story. 

Ferentini: Due to editorial schedules (which is basically the breakdown of getting a work and processing through publication/marketing/beyond), editors can work on anywhere from three to five series in a month. Generally your working on these at different stages all at the same time. One maybe at the marketing phase, while another is at the translation phase, and another maybe at the lettering phase. You do a lot of other things associated with the role, of course, emailing freelancers for example or creating cover/marketing copy (the stuff you read on the back of the book), too. An editor also reviews titles for licensing, that’s where we read some Japanese tankōbon (a manga volume), review it, and consider buying the rights to translate, and sell in a Western market. 

Ferentini: Some of the nice parts about reviewing for licenses is that you get to read manga you may not have read otherwise, you get to stay on top of new manga coming out of Japan, and you get to think about what an English speaking audience may like. 

Gallant: On a daily basis for Gallant, there are two major focuses. The first is getting a finished project from Japan and the second is localizing it. Localizing the product, similar to what Ferentini said, involves things like translating and script checking and so on. But, deeper than that is trying to accurately represent what’s going on in the Japanese story to an English-speaking audience that is both authentic to the work but also fitted to the audience. 

Gallant: It’s doing one’s best to do right by the intentions put into the book in the first place as you change things to make them accessible given the differences not just in language but culture. 

[This reminds me of that scene from Sekaiichi Hatsukoi…]


What really makes the difference between manga stories that are pitched and the ones that will be approved for publishing? What is the editors role in looking at the submissions that come in and knowing which ones will be suitable for publishing? Or, in simpler terms: How do you know which titles are suitable?

Takuma: From a magazine perspective, the Chief Editor makes decisions on which titles are approved for serialization in the magazine. Before choosing for publication, the manga creators will make and submit the first few chapters (layouts, dialogue–all of it). If it captures the Chief Editor’s interest, then the Chief chooses it for magazine serialization. That’s how it starts in a magazine. Sometimes creators pitch and sometimes the editorial staff pitches to the creators, asking if they want to work on a new project idea for the magazine. For example Orient came about after the editorial team reached out to the creator–Ohtaka-sensei—to see if she’d be interested in creating a manga for Kodansha Japan

Takuma: In the case of Shinobu Ohtaka’s Orient, the author had another manga series with Kodansha Japan in the past so the editorial team had a rough idea of what she wanted to work on next, which made it easy to pitch her an idea for further collaboration. 

How do you work with the creator(s) to craft a story in different genres? For example, a romance or shoujo.

Tsuchiya: As with most titles, it starts with the editorial team holding a meeting. For romance manga, theme and setting are very important. The theme of Perfect World, for example, was “romance with obstacles,” which was discussed and decided upon in such an editorial meeting. After further discussion, the topic of loving someone with a disability came up. After the meeting, the editorial team spoke with Aruga Rie (the author) and asked if she’d be interested in working within that theme–that was how the concept came about. 

Tsuchiya: The editors and creator made sure to interview people that would help give real perspective to the characters and reflect the first person voice in the narrative of Perfect World, such as wheelchair users (for the male lead) and an architect (for the female lead). In the US, this process may also include Sensitivity Readers.


What are some challenges faced when localizing manga from Japan to the USA?

Ferentini: Using Perfect World as a continuing example, in the US we sometimes use an Authenticity Reader, as was done with this project, to check that the experiences depicted and that translations are accurate. Sensitivity Readers were used to run over any language concerns that were had during the drafting process of translation as well.

What are some tips you can share for aspiring creators?

Takuma: As editors, they often visit manga schools in Japan and talk in front of aspiring manga creators. Takuma tells them that manga creators have something, in his opinion, in common with sports players. Many people want to become them but not all of them get the chance. The peak period of the career is short or limited for both, and–similar to how sports have different positions with each player having different strength–manga creators have different skills and strengths. Maybe one’s art style is great but their storytelling is lacking or vice versa. It is important to find one’s strength/what they are good at first, then practice hard–harder than anybody else–and that they find what their challenges are, improve them, and advance. That’s the only way to succeed, in his opinion. 

Tsuchiya: Speaking from her experience with shoujo manga, shoujo tends to illustrate inner personalities and emotions. When looking at new submissions or creators, Tsuchiya looks for strong willingness towards the manga and its originality. And, of course, being able to draw cutely. 

What are some tips to become an English-language manga editor?

Gallant: It’s different for everyplace, but at Kodansha it is a lot about translation and thinking about your relationship as the person who is presenting Japanese culture and media to an American audience. You work closely with the Japanese editors to make sure that things are accurate, and accessible, and authentic, and sensitive. That requires a lot of thinking about translation, and what is the best way to mediate cultural differences. You have to care the interchange of media and culture and how that can be creative and innovative. 

Ferentini: Passion is huge, but so is being able to translate. You should love manga. You should also love the language and culture from which it stems.

As a special extra that was not included in the panel but was published to the Official Kodansha US YouTube channel, is a tour of the editorial offices for Kodansha in Japan. Link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nK6Sp91JouE&ab_channel=KodanshaUS

Video Description: As a special addition to the WonderCon @ Home 2021 So You Want to be a Manga Editor panel,  Japan editors Naoki Takuma & Natsuki Tsuchiya take us on a tour of the Kodansha Japan editorial offices.

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