Reasons Being A Manga Artist Is A Living Nightmare

Being a manga artist, or a "mangaka," must seem like a dream job to most otaku. Writing, drawing, and hanging out with your manga idols - what could be better? Well, unfortunately, the reality of what life is really like for manga artists is usually far from being a dream. Not only are jobs hard to come by, but they are riddled with unbelievable hardships and soul-crushing amounts of stress. 

The ugly truth? You'll work crazy long hours with hardly any breaks for very little money. You'll be super sleep deprived, overworked, and under enormous pressure from your editor to keep pumping out chapters every week. If you're an assistant, you could be doing the bulk of the grunt work, but if you're a creator, you might not be able to afford enough assistants to pick up the slack. All of the psychological and physical stress is enough to make a lot of artists seriously ill - or worse. Still interested? Here's a breakdown of the insane schedule of a manga artist and why being one is so terrible.  

  • You'll Be Signing Up For "Voluntary Enslavement"

    According to an editor at Shonen Jump, the essential qualities for any budding manga artist are "nerves of steel, a very strong stomach, and the ability to work for days without sleep, cash, or food." Wow. If you saw that written in a job description, would you still send in an application? Maybe you'd consider it if you could work as Akira Toriyama's assistant.

    It seems that survival as a mangaka requires an inhuman amount of grit and dedication. The cost is, as journalist Kaori Shoji puts it, "voluntary enslavement" against "overwhelming odds of failing."

  • You Only Have About Three Hours Of Free Time A Week (If You're Lucky)

    The schedule pictured above gives you the clearest idea of just how much work consumes a typical manga artist's life. According to this chart, mangaka have just three measly hours a week away from work. Think about that the next time you complain about having to come in on a Saturday. 

    Just to drive home how "normal" this kind of work-centric timetable is, here's another example from Naruto creator, Kishimoto Masashi.  

    6:00~9:00: Sleep
    9:00~13:00: Work
    13:00~14:00: Lunch
    14:00~23:00: Work
    23:00~24:00: Dinner/Bath
    24:00~30:00: Work

    That's a total of nineteen hours spent slaving over panels at his desk every day!

  • You Could Get Seriously Ill From Overworking

    Working so hard for so long inevitably leads to horrible medical problems. In 2011, a member of the publishing team called "CLAMP" (Cardcaptor Sakura) suffered an intense lumbar compression fracture in her lower back because of too many hours spent hunched over her desk.

    Katsura Hoshino (D.Gray-Man) has been plagued with illnesses and injuries throughout her career, leading to her main work, D.Gray-Man, being put on hiatus several times. Meanwhile, the legendary Tetsuo Hara (Fist of the North Star) has been in the business for over three decades and has a blind eye to show for it. Amazingly, he still insists on doing as much of the drawing as possible. What a guy! 

  • Your Sleep Pattern Will Be A Complete Mess

    Working for well over 10 hours a day on manga means that you can kiss good-bye to a normal sleeping cycle. Even the most successful creators don't get time to rest. Eichiro Oda (One Piece) only sleeps for three hours a day between 2am and 5am. Akira Toriyama (Dragon Ball) had a sleeping schedule that was so erratic when penning Dr. Slump that he'd simply pass out from overwork. 

  • Your Pay Is Shockingly Low

    You may have heard that a manga artist's salary is shockingly low. Given the insane hours and unrelenting schedule, you'd think that the salary would at least be decent. However, it's actually not. Professional mangaka Jamie Lynn Lano (assistant in Prince of Tennis) provided the exact figures on Quora:

    "If you earn 10,000 yen (around $100, give or take the exchange rate) per page, and you draw 32 pages per month, that's roughly $3,200 before taxes, so you can see how it would be hard to survive and still hire an assistant."

  • Death From Overwork Happens So Often In Japan, They Have A Word For It

    Death From Overwork Happens So Often In Japan, They Have A Word For It
    Photo: flickr / CC0

    Yes, that's right. The word is "karoshi," and its existence just proves how big of a problem overworking is in Japan. The comic above was drawn by illustrator Kona Shiomachi, in response to the 2015 suicide of an employee of the ad agency, Dentsu Inc., with karoshi being the reported cause. 

    Shiomachi, who had at one point been working close to 100 hours of overtime per month, drew the comic to illustrate the karoshi mindset of how suicide can be tempting. "If I move one step further [in front of the train], I wouldn’t have to go to work tomorrow." Hellish schedules and inhuman hours plague many parts of Japan's job economy, and manga is no exception. In 2017, a Naruto animator's death was also attributed to being severely overworked. It's not much of a stretch to imagine a busy manga artist would similarly be at risk, too.