post industrialization


Waiting On The Dream, Juan Madrid

Waiting On The Dream by NYC-based photographer Juan Madrid is a rumination on the mythology of the post-industrial city in the United States. With Flint, Michigan acting as the backdrop, a critical eye is turned toward the social and cultural landscape of the country and the history that binds it.

Battery City Gothic
  • There’s an apartment building on the 3rd block sector that no Draculoid will enter. It’s said that their masks don’t work there and it’s a haven for those wanting to escape. People move in all the time but the building is always empty.
  • Some say that if your headphones become damaged due to age or injury that you’ll hear a broadcast in a language that doesn’t make sense; it doesn’t sound like any company approved language taught to the masses. Sometimes people say they can understand what’s being said. Those that do stop talking and appear more living ghosts then anything else.
  • Elizabeth’s Diner on the 5th block sector is always a hot spot for exterminators and enforcers who are off duty and want to enjoy a nice meal. If you go around to the back door, without being caught, and knock three times a small slot will open. Tell whoever is inside that you ‘need reeducation’ and wait exactly three minutes. Sometimes you’ll be slid a still warm bagel from the oven and other times you’ll get a single mitten. No one knows why; if you ask the owners they’ll tell you there isn’t a back door. Sometimes they’ll prove it.
  • There’s an elevator in the BL/Ind headquarters that’s perpetually out of order; yet everyone still uses it. Occasionally those who ride it disappear. Draculoids who go up sometimes vanish and leave only their masks behind. No one talks about it.
  • It’s said that if you manage to gain access to Korse’s private room that you’ll find a small music box on his dresser. Opening it causes a strange disjointed melody to play throughout the room. Those that hear it tend to find themselves outside the city without any recollection as to how they got there or why. Sometimes they’re missing limbs or articles of clothing.
  • A Juvie Hall by the name of Ripper claims to have found a way to become invisible to all of BL/Ind’s cameras and security equipment. He promises to share it if anyone has the right currency. Those that pay before receiving it tend to wind up throw into the cemetery ditches; those that wait tend to just disappear.
  • It’s said that if you toss a piece of actual metal currency into the cemetery ditch near the crematorium that you’ll be granted one wish. Those that wish upon the dead find themselves afraid to turn around; swearing that there’s a small girl there waiting for them. That she promises to do whatever they ask granted they never see her face. Do not wish upon the dead.
Economy of the Manga Industry; or, Why I don’t care that Togashi does whatever he wants

I’ve casually mentioned before that I think people who go around saying “Manga writers work under horrible conditions! Oda Eiichiro doesn’t ever sleep!” are twisting reality and kind of maybe sort of need to take a step back. This is not because I believe manga artists have it great, and they’re just whiners who need to cry more into their piles of money. Quite the opposite. I say this because if your knowledge of “how the manga industry works” boils down to “Oda Eiichiro only sleeps 4 hours a day and rarely gets a day off”, your knowledge of the cruelties of the manga industry is fairly shallow and it’s probably better you didn’t bother. I know that sounds rude, but there it is!

Here are some realities about the manga industry:
(The usual disclaimer: I am not a manga industry insider, just an accountant who reads a lot of junk. There are many sides to every issue and it’s impossible for me to cover them all in a short tumblr post. Please post your own opinions about this topic, the fandom needs more opinions. Etc.)

!!! Because the demand for detail in manga art has increased exponentially since the Tezuka days, the majority of manga artists need to employ assistants in order to meet the demand of manga magazines.1 These assistants need to be paid, and this money needs to come out of the manga artist’s pocket. Other expenses that need to come out of the manga artist’s pocket: food for the assistants, stationary and other materials, travel expenses, rent for the production office, reference books, and other such necessities. Reality for the majority of manga artists is this: the money they get for turning in their manuscript will not cover these expenses, and they are running a manga production office at a loss.

!!! Publishers expect the manga artists to cover this loss by selling a lot of tankobon. However, manga publishers do not guarantee that a manga featured in their magazines will get a tankobon release. The only thing a manga publisher guarantees its artists is the initial payment for the production of the manuscript they ordered.2 If they judge that a tankobon release will not turn a profit, they are under no obligation to publish it,3 and they are in fact often very hesitant to publish tankobon.

!!! The money a manga artist gets for turning in a manuscript is calculated by the page. The majority of manga artists (and other people working for Japanese publishers) are not informed of the price of their manuscripts before they get paid. This is a long-standing tradition in the industry, and I would wager a guess that it stems from a traditional Japanese ideal of being stoic about money, especially when you’re an artist, and that it hasn’t gone out of style because it’s convenient for the corporations. What this results in is a new manga artist being asked to finish a manuscript for publication, paying for all expenses out of pocket, and then realizing after the fact that they worked at a loss, or that they might as well have flipped burgers.

!!! What this results in for most up-and-coming manga artist is this: They’re offered to serialize a manga. You might think this means they’ve made it big, and the manga artist probably thinks so too. They accept, and hire assistants and buy all the necessities. Every week, they produce a manuscript at a loss. This loss accumulates. Their series is canceled, and no tankobon is released – or it is released, but doesn’t sell enough to cover their loss. All they are left with after a serialization is debt.

!!! There are no formal procedures for negotiating the price of manuscripts. Sometimes, the price just rises – and the artist is informed by noticing more money in their bank. If an artist negotiates to have their price raised, they will often be told that higher manuscript prices will mean less offers, so they should retract their demands.

!!! I need to be fair and also illustrate things from the publisher’s point of view. The reason publishers are so hesitant to release manga tankobon is this: Japanese bookstores do not buy the books on their shelves. They “borrow” them, and are free to return them to the wholesaler, who are free to return them to the publisher (but usually do not; the publisher pays the wholesaler for their warehouse). Any tankobon (or magazine4) not sold is a direct loss for the publisher.

!!! Paradoxically, this is also the reason Japanese publishers need to keep publishing books and magazines even when they know most of them will not turn a profit. This is a bit complicated, but in simple terms, the relationship between the wholesaler and the publisher works like this: The wholesaler pays the publisher for the items the wholesaler circulates to bookstores. This usually results in a debt for the publisher, because there is no actual sale until the items have reached the end user (the bookstore customer) – until then, there is the potential that the publisher must buy back every single item (this potential = debt). In order to cover this debt, they must pass on more new items to the wholesaler. Because if they do not, then they need to pay their debt and take back their stock, and that means the publisher will likely go bankrupt.

!!! Another reality about manga publishers: the Japanese publishing industry has been in a recession for a long time, and to be quite honest, magazines do not sell. I’m not sure if Japanese publishers are still possessed by the ghost of times past when weeklies sold like hot bread and there was an increased circulation and an increased revenue with every issue, but whatever the reason, Japanese publishers are currently publishing manga magazines at a constant, accumulating loss, and do not seem to have any intention to stop. Weekly Shonen Jump (with its 2 million issues per week) is an exception, not the rule. Just like its artists, manga publishers expect to cover this loss with tankobon sales. And because the profit is bigger if you sell a million copies of one item, compared to a million copies combined of 10 items5, publishers are constantly on the lookout for the next One Piece and refuse to let go of any property that’s covering their losses.

!!! Which leads me to Togashi Yoshihiro. I often hear people speak of how Togashi needs to “do his job”. However, this is a misnomer. Togashi is not an employee of Weekly Shonen Jump, or Shueisha. Togashi (just like the vast majority of manga artists) is an independent subcontractor. The only guarantee Jump offers him is to pay for any manuscript he produces which they choose to print in their magazines. Jump is under no obligation to 1) cover his expenses, 2) guarantee that he has a job next week or even tomorrow, or 3) publish his manga as tankobon. Jump chooses to do all these things. Why? Because Togashi’s manga sell enough to cover some of their accumulating losses.

In the vast majority of cases, the facts I described above mean that Jump can fuck over any subcontractor they want to. But fact is, Togash is in the rare position to have Jump by its balls rather than the other way around. He doesn’t have to play by the publishers’ rules to make a living as a manga artist.

Now, you might disagree with what I’m saying. You might be of the opinion that these are just free market forces at play, and if a manga artist can’t survive under the system as it is now, then that’s just social Darwinism at play and they need to find another job6. You are free to think so! I disagree, and I don’t know of any other industry where independent subcontractors are hired without a signed contract or a budget that both parties agreed to, but you’re free to your opinions about how the market economy should function7. But you need to stop telling manga artists to “do their job” without any knowledge of what doing this “job” actually entails.

1. Sometimes, especially monthly shojo series can be drawn by one or two people depending on how fast the manga artist is. Ikeno Koi, for example, rarely utilized assistants. If you want to make a normal living as a manga artist, this is probably the ideal.
2. An exception is magazines paying artists an “exclusivity fee”, which a lot of Shueisha magazines do, including Jump. This is a fee they pay their artists and potential artists in exchange for the artist never drawing manga for any other magazine, and the reason you will see a lot of Jump manga advertised as “Jump is the only place you can read manga by Kishimoto-sensei!”
3. To be fair, the reverse is also true. If a manga artist wants to take their manuscript to another publisher to get a tankobon released, this is the artist’s right.
4. The “circulation” number of magazines that Japanese publishers use in their advertising is the number printed and circulated to bookstores, not sold. Since bookstores can return everything that didn’t sell, the actual sales might be as low as half the circulation.
5, Because of initial publishing costs.
6. Which most of them do.
7. Though it’s worth noting that the relationship of Japanese publishers, wholesalers, and bookstores does not follow the usual rules of a free market economy at all. For example, this relationship is why you never see bookstores mark down the prices on books the way you often do with English paperbacks (and also the reason some tankobon don’t sell as well as they might have – but that’s another complicated topic).

Manga Binbo by the artist of Black Jack ni yoroshiku is a great central resource for this type of information, but this is all things that have been discussed in a lot of different places. Another book I read recently which also mentioned details about manuscript prices is Satonaka Machiko’s Manga Nyumon. A book which goes into details about the costs of publishing and the structure of the Japanese publishing industry is funsenki by Sadano Wataru.