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