Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Sunday Champions. (Editor in chief Ichihara and Takekawa interview pt2)

Hullo, Hello, Greetings! It's a little later than I would have liked but here's part two of the Takekawa and Ichihara interview! It was interesting to hear these two talk about their respective magazines and how important shounen manga is to Japan and the world et all! As always this was translated by me, and while I don't mind sharing it with friends I do warn it might have some small mistakes. If you notice anything please let me know!

---I'd like Ichihara to field this one. In 2015 you assumed the role of Head editor at Sunday. At the time you said in an interview with Comic Natalie “It is my mission to create a place to raise and train trueborn rookie manga artists.” “The one who will decide what runs in the magazine is me, and me alone through my judgments, my views and sense of aesthetics.” You went on to boldly state that “This policy has been met with harsh opposition in the Sunday editorial office” but then on the TV show “Wide Secret” with Hitoshi Matsumoto you then said that despite the opposition to your policies there had been a great effect. It's been four years since then –how much as the Sunday editorial department changed?

Ichihara: If at first I had decided “In the first three years we have to do things this way” then we would have been done for. Though there have been points that haven't gone to plan, I'd score this 4 year interval with 85 points.

Takekawa: That's a pretty high score.

Ichihara: I'd label myself as a longtime member of the staff, so I had a distinct vision of what we should be doing. Of course there are several tasks to deal with so breaking it down and understanding what needs to be done in the long, mid, and short term is important. For example, a long term goal would be to restructure the editorial office. In truth this is a process that'll be ongoing for years. I can see it still occurring for the editor after me and maybe even the editor after that. Specifically speaking, it's a situation where the manga artists and the editors are unable to keep training and growing. However, three or four years isn't enough to accomplish this. It's the type of work that requires around 8 years or so to really stay on track. The sales for Sunday have recovered, and to the company that might be more than enough, but to me seeking refuge in sales recovering isn't enough. There's no meaning in this if the moment I leave things go back to withering away. We have to strengthen the backbone of Sunday. I want to be able to look forward to the day I retire as I've been working really hard. (laughs).

Takekawa: Oh no, (laughs) It's way too soon for you to be thinking of retirement.

---Have you seen a good response to your proposition of “Training true born rookie manga”?

Ichihara: To start with, it's not just the manga artists that have to be considered. There are many ways that the method of recognizing true talent and then gingerly raising it to superiority misses out on opportunities for maturation. Although many editors use cajoling an artist to help them grow, I feel like it then becomes difficult to be honest with them when it comes to plotting and storyboarding. I've often had to sigh and label a storyboard with an “are you kidding?”, note.

Takekawa: I know full well that the editors at Sunday are a different breed. (Laughs).

Ichihara: If an editor just yells when they get an awful storyboard, then the artist won't realize what's wrong with it. They'll think that what they have is perfectly fine.  Though if they ask now “Remember that storyboard from before? Do you understand how bad it was?” and they say “Yes I do” then that means they've grown a bit. To be specific I'm not saying that it only takes one editor or manga artist to become amazing, rather that's just halfway down the line, as they had to be left in the fields going wild for some time before coming to us.

---In your 2015 interview you stated you'd supervise rookies oneshots until serialization all on your own. Are you still doing that?

Ichiara: No, if I were to attempt that I'd probably die. (laughs). It'd take three years for me to supervise one person, so last year in July we made a faction who would look over rookie artists oneshots. There are three people serving as chiefs there, and I leave raising the rookies to them. They are provisional ace editors with an emphasis on temporary since I haven't approved of them yet. (laughs.)

Takekawa: You haven't yet? (laughs).

Ichihara: They haven't had enough achievements yet, you see. However They can check on a rookie's storyboard and give it the okay, and once I hear that it's good from the chiefs then I read the completed storyboard.

(What's important is 'Admiring the cool guys.' Takekawa).

--Mr. Ichihara's continuous reformation of the editorial department is a constant process. Mr. Takekawa, you became the head editor of Champion in 2017, right?

Takekawa: That's right. Before I was in, I heard Mr. Ichihara's declaratory statement and thought it was rather impressive.

--- Even though you hadn't made the same claim as boldly and publicly as Mr. Ichihara, was there the same kind of declaration made within the editorial department at champion where you said “This is how we'll change things?”

Takekawa: During the tenor of the previous head editor Takefumi Sawa, I was the vice head editor, and assisted with planning, and the pros and cons of publishing. (For the entirety of the magazine.) So I was left in charge of quite a bit for several years. So surprisingly I was at first inclined to leave things as they were when I became head editor. There wasn't a lot of time where I thought to myself that I needed to make a change or else. Moreso than changing, my first thought was how to keep a certain thing the same.

---What was that “First thought”?

Takekawa: I've been reading shounen manga as a kid and I'm definitely the type who admires the cool characters. When I say cool, I don't necessarily mean the good looking type, more those who had a way of living that made me think “This is the kind of adult I want to be”. In this world there are many people who think that they're cool and probably don't think this but I think it's important, no, essential for shounen manga to have characters one can admire and imitate. So before I became head editor, the characters of the works I did edit had that kind of feeling to them. Even as head editor an air of cool guys and cool works has been what I have wanted to fill the magazine with. I believe that being able to stimulate the readers with the character's way of life is important.

---So would you say that rather than reformation that preserving what's there is important?

Ichihara: If you make moves during a time where nothing needs to be changed then that leads to massive damages. When I became the head editor I didn't reform the department because of a misguided sense of  “I wanna change this”. Sunday was on the verge of sinking so I did what I could to prevent that. My ideal of course would be to go on business trips and eat good food while big hits come one after another all receiving adaptations while we're grinning about how successful we are.

Takekawa: Amazing –yeah that would be the life wouldn't it? (Laughs)

(A person who changes the water from an artist into black tea, and the person who thinks about what they should carry –Takekawa)

--For several years now, some have theorized “Manga editors are no longer necessary” on social media platforms and the like. What are your thoughts on this? For example in regard to hit manga that originate from the internet there have been people saying “Even without an editorial staff people are able to individually come out with popular works, so we don't need editors anymore”. What do you think when you see thoughts like this?

Ichihara: I think people should just read manga that interests them without worrying about the editors? (Laughs)

Everyone: (laughs).

Ichihara: Back when I was just a reader, it isn't as if I read something and thought “Man this manga had one hell of an editor.” Heck, even now I don't think that. Though I suppose when people read this interview they might think that, perhaps. Though really it's best if a reader just reads whatever manga they enjoy without worrying about the editors. (laughs). Though it's not as if this changes the importance of an editorial staff, I think. To the artist knowing that the editorial staff has their back makes it easier for them to draw to their heart's content.

---While it's true that web manga artists only have to think about themselves when they put something out for sale, I don't think they're all that different from other artists who want people to enjoy their work.

Takekawa: In my opinion, an editorial staff is absolutely essential. I don't think I can convey this in one simple thought or word, however. There are some people for example who are dripping –overflowing with talent and have the impetus to keep creating for the rest of their lives. Meanwhile there are some artists that despite having water they don't know what to add to it to make black tea. Then there are those who have black tea but have no idea how to serve it to others. In relation to this, Manga editors seem to the readers as simply “the people they submit manuscripts to”, which fair, because explaining to them how things go on a case by case basis is rather difficult. Working as the person who adds that special something, or packages that special something might be a simplification of what we do, and it's not the simplification of that process that makes us valuable –rather it's being there for the artists and working with them to bring out their best that is where the value comes in.

Ichihara: Building a bond over creating something is essential.

---Others in support of “Editors not being necessary” are of the opinion that even if rookie editors working with manga artists “Went to a good school, it doesn't mean they necessarily studied manga. Does advice from amateurs really add up to much?”

Ichihara: But manga itself is ultimately for the readers, right? Manga readers don't exactly study the stuff so aren't they too just amateurs? (laughs).


Takekawa: I believe it's good for editors to be young. Even if they don't know much about manga, they've got the ability to sympathize with and be close with the readers. In another way you could almost say they're at their most valuable when they're starting out.

Ichihara: Editors aren't supposed to be stand-ins for the readers. I can say for myself at least that I no longer stand at the same viewpoint the readers do. (laughs) But in honesty if someone were to ask me. “What do we even need editors for?” I probably couldn't answer. I know I've been doing this for a long time, but the editor's role is to be close to the artist. Now if the question were “What kind of editor would this specific artist need?” I'd be able to answer that.

Takekawa: It comes off as pretty obvious, but there are different types of creators who have different needs. Piggybacking on what I said earlier about the water, this is why we need different types of editors. Ultimately having more varied editors is a good thing. Experience is important of course, but younger editors not holding back in their thoughts and sensibilities is important too.

(Humans don't change, so that's why Manga shouldn't change. --Ichihara).

---What would you two say is the most fun part of being a manga editor?

Ichihara: All of it.

Takekawa: I have fun pretty much every day so it's hard for me to pinpoint one thing as “this is the most fun”. I just have a good time without really thinking too much about it. This might be an amateur way of stating this but sometimes I wonder to myself “Is it okay that I do something like this”? I've loved reading manga for a long time now so when I became the editor of Shounen Champion I was like “Things have gotten crazy now.” (laughs).

Ichihara: I somehow became a big Sunday fan. I didn't realize it until I was out of Shougakukan though, and I'm the head editor! (laughs)

---So you weren't taken in by Shougakukan at first when you were job searching, Mr. Ichihara?

Ichihara: That's right. In reality I was going to work in the food service industry, but I had memories of enjoying Mr. Adachi's “Touch” back when I was taking exams. I didn't really know if I had what it took to be an editor since I barely passed exams. Even when I came for the interview the others around me had amazing grades and scholastic achievements. I thought for sure they were going to ask me something like “What is your objective at this company” or something like that. I thought I was done for when the interviewer thrust a bunch of information on Shougakukan's various magazines at me. I didn't really know much of anything so it was basically luck. (laughs).

---The people who diligently put in effort to get into Shougakukan are going to get angry (laughs).

Takekawa: Nah, it was fate.

Ichihara: I'd say all work in manga is fun in response to “What about being a manga editor is fun”? I know company workers could come up with a mountain full of things that are a pain, but one could say that about any job, really. There isn't a such thing as a manga related job that isn't fun. As for stuff I'd love to do, I'd love to direct Gessan (Monthly Shounen Sunday) and the entire Sunday label for like twenty years. Now that I've become Sunday's head editor, I'd like to do all I can while I'm at the helm –it's all rather fun and interesting. If I were reborn, I'd want to do it all again.

---By the way The “Osaka University of arts post secondary manga” magazine's 7th issue in 2007 had an interview with the head editors of the four big shounen manga magazines. In that interview, Mr. Sawa's conversation about editorial work being worth doing, he mentioned how “With a pen, ink, and paper a manga artist and their editor can change the world.” “This is a bad thing of course, but it's as thrilling as being accomplices in a counterfeiting plan, (laughs).” I couldn't help but think when he said that it sounded very “Champion-ish”.

Takekawa: He sure did say that. He's a dangerous man (laughs).

Ichihara: Being a manga editor is fun but I never once have thought of counterfeiting money. (laughs).

---It's like creating something from nothing.

Ichihara: It's the manga artist that's doing the creating, but being there for them as they do is fun.

Takekawa: It's like the rush of raising a baby every week. It's a joyful place to be.

---I've heard it for years that since manga publishing is a buisness without limits that it can be difficult, but you're saying despite that it's still fun?

Ichihara: I don't think that correlates. (laughs) The day to day work is fun.

Takekawa: Even if there are lots of painful parts, I don't think of them as particularly bad...maybe. (laughs)

Ichihara: Because the manga industry is full of people who don't fully understand it and only see things in the sense of a constantly impending crisis that they say it's painful. They think “But it isn't actually you making the manga” too. I however don't believe the way that manga is created changes much. Not even just manga, but if I can say this –the way that stories are created. “The tale of Genji” and other ancient stories from the time of Papyrus are about the same, I believe. The way we read stories has changed and it is necessary to adapt to that, but that has nothing to do with the editorial staff. Barring humans suddenly evolving to a point where they can peek into the heads of others, the way we present ourselves will remain unchanging.

(If it's a project on the pages of the magazine we want, there's no other way to do it. --Ichihara)

---To change the subject a bit, This is Shounen Champion's 50th anniversary and you're using the magazine, website and other means to advertise it. Sunday and Magazine both celebrated their 50th anniversaries in 2009 all year long. This time, as the senior do you have any advice to offer Mr. Ichihara?

Ichihara: Is that the preamble to a news article? 90% of what's in the preamble doesn't get written in the article, so....(laughs)

Takekawa: Oh my. (laughs)
Ichihara: The events we had for our 50th anniversary were...pricey. Not so much for the readers, but we went under the premise of doing it for someone's sake. (Laughs bitterly), that's why I'll say this one thing to you –This kind of event is for the readers so do what you can for them. This is just an example, but even if you were to throw in the “50th anniversary” into the logo somewhere that's not going to be motivation for a reader to conclude “I have to buy this”. However, if you do a good job of conveying your projects and intentions in the magazine itself, and do right by the readers that would be amazing.

Takekawa: Thank you.

---In 2019 Champion is doing a “Masterpiece Revival” where they reprint manga from legends. And have interviews with the artists.

Ichihara: I think its good for younger audiences to see works they may not be familiar with. As in when one buys the magazine themselves they get a wealth of information. It's only there you can convey what projects you have for this year long anniversary celebration.

Takekawa: It's as you say. Since it's the 50th anniversary we got to asking ourselves what can we do for the readers? Although that itself is hard to say, conveying 50 years of history to an era of readers who may not have experienced it themselves is a good thing. That's why for example we re-ran “750 rider” we thought to do so for readers who haven't been able to read it themselves.

---Tsunoda Jiro's “Horror Newspaper” Mr. Tatsuhiko Yamagami's “Bratty Detective” and so's incredible you were able to get a lineup of legendary manga artists to interview.

Takekawa: Of course I think that what is serialized in Champion right now is really great, but there are plenty of works that deserve praise and discussion such as “Dokaben” “Black Jack” “Bratty Detective” “Macaroni Imperial Manor” Readers now may not be familiar with that era and I don't think it's a stretch to say that without those they wouldn't be able to read Champion now. I'm glad for the folks who are buying each week's issue to see these reprints. Otherwise we may not have brought them back after the first one. It means that they're enjoying these when they keep buying them.

---On that note are there any reactions from older fans of Champion when they buy these?

Takekawa: There are. The letters we get from them tend to be very well written. I think people who read shounen manga do so because it gives them vitality, and that vitality remains within their hearts. It might only be fragments or little pieces, I'm not sure but reading those manga hits the right spot and revives that energy within them and that makes me really happy.

Ichihara: And the end of magazine “This week's legendary work” project is pretty good too.

---It's the corner where you introduce two works with different themes each week. Ichihara is reading issue #24 right now which introduces “Mahjong Demon Ukiyou” and “Gamble Fish”.

Takekawa: What runs may not have been a super hit, but we ensured that they would be works beloved by everyone.

---It'd be natural to look back over 50 years and stick to introducing major works, but you're including manga that may not have been so in this corner.

Ichihara: That's right. There were fans of the manga that weren't major hits as well, and we'll be showcasing them the entire year.

---They may not have been masterpiece manga but manga people love are here, right?

Takekawa: You never know what'll be next. It's a gashapon type concept.

Ichihara: “Count down TV” will do that from time to time where they'll have a particular set of hit songs they'll do as a retrospective. I'm always up for it when they do an era I like, but when they play music from like four years ago I'll wonder “Is it really a retrospective when you're playing stuff this recent”? (laughs)

Takekawa: Songs and scents have a way of bringing back memories. I think it's good when memories come back, like “Back when I was reading this manga there were lots of good things happening to me” or “It reminds me of a love lost”. And such.

(There's meaning in these four magazines remaining unbroken. --Takekawa)

---On July 15th in Tokyo and Akihabara's UDX Gallery there was a “Shounen Champion 50th anniversary Thanksgiving”. Event. During the talkshow there was an interesting “Select Manifesto” project, right?

Takekawa: That's right. On the commemorative website for the 50th anniversary, we took three manefestos from artists and posted them. We did want a part of this project that the fans could participate in so after putting these up for a vote we would reveal the winner at the event.

---For example Ms. Paru Itagaki's “Exhibit it in color” “Rui's established as a photo panel” and “Call me the animal you most want to meet” were the choices and the winner was exhibited at the event.

Ichihara: That was fun. I think that events that include the readers are good. We have something for middle and highschool aged readers called the “Sunday Supporter club”. Just the other day the members had a “Sunday culture fest” There are two of these per year, however we have libraries that keep a back stock of sixty years, talk shows with the artists and so on. It was there that we have wonderful events where one can run into Mr. Gosho Aoyama or Mr. Kazuhiro Fujita. Everyone was really happy to be there. Perhaps those who come to these events might fall in love with Sunday for a lifetime.

---It's an important experience for raising a fan.

Ichihara: That's right. Fans like that become a source of energy for us.

Takekawa: It goes without saying if you're going to do an event like this you have to leave an impression in the reader's hearts.

Ichihara: If that were the case then Champion can do just about anything. I wonder if we could too. Sunday's 50th became a big deal, and yet this year for the 60th we've done nothing. It'll be the same for 61 maybe. (laughs).

--And last any cheers you might have for your respective magazines.
Ichihara: Takekawa said this at the start but, there are billions of humans on earth, but Weekly Shounen magazines are a one of a kind thing that exist as part of Japanese culture. Beyond that there are only four out there.

--And there are only four shounen manga magazine head editors.

Ichihara: That's right. That's why it's essential for the four of us to work with each other. In essence even pro baseball players don't have strife within their one united organization. We too with our four different labels and cultures are strengthened by each other. I don't know what'll happen in regards to the paper magazines, but right now the most important label we have is that of manga culture, and the only four of our kind. It's why we must all strive to do our best.

Takekawa: I too believe it is important for the four magazines to meld together well. Of course we'll compete with each others in sales, but when it comes to the topic of creating weekly shounen manga I think we all rise to the occasion. As I said earlier, more than being rivals I see us as “companions”. Running by oneself is lonely, isn't it? It's while one is in the midst of that run that perhaps weekly shounen manga made with vigor and vitality are created. This is why the four magazines running separately has a significant meaning. Within our separate paths we are able to come together and stand out even more. Let's continue to do our best.

Ichihara: Indeed!

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