Meet the Manga Editors: The Philosophy and Practice of Manga Editing – Notes!

Credit: Peggy Sue Wood | @pswediting

About the Event

This panel was originally presented at Anime NYC Online in November 2020. “Take a deep dive into the manga editing world with Ajani Oloye (Manga Editor/Translator), Carl Li (Editor, Yen Press), Haruko Hashimoto (Editor, Kodansha Comics), and Tania Biswas (Senior Editor, Square Enix). The panelists will discuss the philosophy and practice of manga editing and chat live throughout the talk! Moderated by Mark de Vera (Sales and Marketing Director, Yen Press & Wannabe Manga Editor). Panel is presented by Anime News Network (ANN).”


The notes below are not exact quotes from the editors. They are summations of what each editor said. Thank you. 

Carl Li (Editor, Yen Press)

  • Being a manga editor is a lot of massaging the product. You have the Translator who gives you the translation, a Letterer who gives you the letting and you have to kind of make sure that you are getting the product into what you feel, as much as possible, is a faithful interpretation of the material. 
  • Adding culture notes and translations is a fun part of the job. It’s nerdy and a joy. 
  • Advice: Try to sharpen both your artistic sense and writing sense. If you can marry them together, you’ll be in a good position for this kind of work.

Haruko Hashimoto (Editor, Kodansha Comics)

  • Project management is a huge part of the job. It’s not just checking the language or translations and applying it to the images. It tends to be a lot of doing what you can before the PDF is due for print. 
  • When it comes to the philosophy of manga editing, you must remember manga editing is not a fandom. You cannot just be a fan. It’s a job and that comes with time management, prioritizing, critical consumption and analyses of things you really love. It’s truly a discipline and you have to be accountable to your work or else you can’t put out the 45 books a year you need to or move onto another project. Responding to emails in a timely manner is just as important as liking manga. It’s a reality check–remembering to have boundaries, be professional, and that it is a career you’re building in a small industry. Good practice for this is, potentially, reading a lot of manga and writing down constructive criticism you have of what you like. Where a translation may have been better, or where the art could use cleaning, for example. Then you’re not just reading for fun but you’re gaining something that you take away from it and can share.
  • Language, knowing it, is huge. There is a lot of cultural context that may be missed if you can’t do some research into media from the culture the work is coming from. So while you can maybe get by, it is really important to be humble and recognize that you are lacking this skill and try to make up for it in different or other ways.
  • The work of being a manga editor is often a compromise of what the text needs and being confident that you’ve made the right choice and can move on.

Tania Biswas (Senior Editor, Square Enix)

  • Manga Editing is like spinning a lot of plates all at once. Lots of things get compressed. It’s not just dates for assigning freelancers [translators], or Letterers–there is also proofreading, and checking translations and adapting the text.
  • Advice: Being a good editor is also knowing when to quit. Sometimes, you need to stop. Perfectionism can negatively impact the work–it can impact schedules, it can be over-thought.. It’s okay to let go.
  • Knowing the language is a large part of manga editing. If you don’t have it in your skill set, definitely learn context as best you can. Also, knowing the flow of comics/manga is a great benefit to editing the works. Biswas admits that when first starting in this career, they didn’t have that language mastery, but it is a collaborative environment so there were some ways to mediate that missing skill until it could grow. 
  • Advice: Network! If you are at a convention or keynote–talk to the people presenting and get your name out there. TALK and CONNECT–and, yes, read manga! Find your favorites, go back and read them, write down and think about them–what was good, bad, what you might have done differently and why you feel that way. Write down why you like it and why it become a favorite. Also, read other things–consume media, have conversations with strangers and friends, people watch, etc. Language is not just one way. By living and seeing how it changes and grows, and, really, the more you learn–the more you can bring what you learn to what you are editing which is most often dialogue. As Biswas says, “Voices really make manga.”
  • The Process of Manga Editing: 
    1. The material purchased for publication (new licensed titles) comes down the pipeline to the editors. 
    2. Editors get their new assignment(s) and seek out a translator and a letterer. 
    3. Next is setting the dates and making sure everyone can meet the deadlines. Also, making sure that everyone on the team is getting along well with the material (they like it, it makes sense to them, etc.). 
    4. Typically, translations (176-192 pages) take about 2-4 weeks to finish. 
    5. Lettering takes another 1-3 weeks. 
    6. Next is the editorial period. Editorial is about another month (hopefully with 2 passes) after getting pages back from the Translator and Letterer. 
    7. Proofing Prints: Once the book goes to print, there is about a month for proofs (samples of the book) to be sent back and reviewed by the editors to see if there are any changes that need to be done last minute or revised. During the proofing stage, editors make sure the color looks good (where there is color) etc. Sometimes you’ll get F&Gs (which are folded and glued pages before the book is completely put together) during this stage, but not always.
    8. Printing: After proofing, the editors have to give their okay to print and about 4 weeks later the prints are done. The amount of copies printed is decided by the publisher. 
    9. Publishing: After printing, it takes about another month and half before distribution as things get shipped out and purchased by bookstores and the like.
    10. People buy the newly released editions of the manga. 

Ajani Oloye (Freelance Manga Editor/Translator)

  • Manga editors are involved for every part of the process. They’re responsible for the work and kind of act like firefighters–being aware of potential issues and trying to mediate or ‘extinguish the fire’ before it gets published. It’s also a lot of translating which is why language is so important to this particular role. 
  • The philosophy of editing manga and being a good editor is sensitivity to not only the people involved in the work, or the material, but also the world or area it’s being released into. A really good editor is absorbing things from the world around them–looking at how people talk and move and think–and applying it to the work’s translation/introduction into a different localization. Having a critical eye is very important too, especially for the language. We don’t always think about the way we talk, for example, but it’s often an adaptation of the nomenclature that depends on the area you’re in and your upbringing. Catching that is an important part of adjusting and editing the dialogue.
  • Advice: Be involved in the industry and get to know people. Manga Editing as a business is a lot smaller than people think and having those kinds of connections can go a long way. On the slightly cynical side, be prepared not to make money. Publishing, in general, is not a great place to make money (outside of, maybe, the author). It’s a labor of passion rather than one with a lot of financial gain. 

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