Veteran editor Shintaro Kawakubo, the man who was in charge of editing Attack on Titan, The Quintessential Quintuplets, and the currently serializing Gachiakuta, talked about the struggles he faced in his first manga as an editor, in a recent interview.
Kawakubo joined Kodansha in 2006, the same year as Hajime Isayama brought his work to their editorial department. However, Kawakubo and Isayama didn’t work together until 2009.
In these three years, Kawakubo learned the ropes, working as a subordinate under a chief editor on Kazuki Yamamoto’s GodHand Teru manga. However, according to Kawakubo, the workload was too much for him to handle at that time.
GodHand Teru was a weekly manga being published on Kodansha’s Weekly Shonen Magazine. By the time Kawakubo joined the team, which already had 2 editors working on it, the manga had already published 30 volumes.
He was entering a situation where a good amount of trust was already established between the author and the chief editor. And for a newbie, this was stomach-churning experience.
Kawakubo recalls his initial meetings with the team at Urawa, calling them depressing.
These meetings involved the editors giving their impressions of the plot progression and chapter names that the author suggested. And as a rookie, Kawakubo did not have a very good time in these events, eventually realizing that his suggestions to the author were not that great.
“The three editors would go to Urawa and show the names to Mr. Yamamoto, and I, as the younger one, would first give my impression, and Mr. Yamamoto would listen to me with a smile and a nod,” he said.
“When I finished my impressions and the chief editor began to share his thoughts, Mr. Yamamoto would pick up his pen for the first time. He had put the pen on the table earlier. At that moment, I realized that my opinion was not that great (laughs). I remember it well,” Kawakubo added.
Additionally, GodHand Teru was a medical manga, which meant there was a lot of medical research that needed to be done. The research was carried out by interviewing doctor at the university hospital and Kawakubo had to adjust his schedule accordingly.
“I had to go to meetings and do interviews at the same time, so I consulted with the emergency room doctor at the university hospital. Naturally, he is a very busy man, and because of his profession, there were many sudden schedule changes, so I had to do the interviews within the constraints of his job,” Kawakubo said.
The doctor would check to see if what Yamamoto had drawn in his name was medically correct and if it could happen in reality. If the doctor felt something was off, Kawakubo had to hold another interview him for alternative ideas.
As he understood the rigors of manga editing, the grueling work also gave him a sense of direction, which would then shape his thought process. And eventually in 2009, he launched his first work, in which he worked exclusively with a manga author, before working with Isayama on Attack on Titan.
Kawakubo elaborated on how he approached his work with Isayama and how it varied from the general method.
Usually, editors and authors discuss the plot development and climax of each chapter in their meetings. However, Kawakubo was not interested in directly discussing the plot, instead he and Isayama would go over the infinite possibilities, and the motive behind a character’s actions.
“Suppose Isayama-san says he wants to draw a scene that doesn’t exist in real life, where Armin slaps Eren,” Kawakubo said, explaining the process. “In such a case, he would say, ‘But is that the kind of scene where he slaps Eren?’ It starts from a point like that. We put the character aside for a moment and talk about when a person would want to slap someone.”
“It’s not directly related to the plot, but we are constantly discussing the infinite possibilities and ‘ifs’. We talk a lot about the past, the future, the present, and other characters…, and then Isayama-san selects the ones that have the possibility of Armin hitting Eren and makes them into names. This is the kind of meeting we have almost every time,” he added.
According to Kawakubo, he tries to play catch with the artist and tries to get the idea that’s in his mind.
“When you have been working as a manga editor for a long time, you have a good idea of where the goal must be. So, when I get stuck, if we are at this point, I will throw around a possible answer and ask, ‘What about a development like A?’ I throw it out. The writer will respond, ‘A is not good enough, but how about a development like B?’ and come close to an answer… that is one of my ideals,” the editor said.
At the end of the interview, he added that being a manga editor is not a special job, and that he didn’t have any special tips for people on how to be an editor.
“This kind of attitude is important because you are a manga editor. In the end, it is just a job, so I think it is important to know ‘what stance you take in your work,” he said.
Kawakubo has been working as an editor for Kodansha for close to 17 years. He is currently in charge of Kei Urana’s Gachiakuta.
He praised Urana’s detailed artwork in the manga, and asked fans to check it out!
Source: Comic Natalie