Monday, September 25, 2006

Telecommuting between the United States and Japan

When I was in college and toying with the idea of becoming a mangaka, I thought that with the convenience of fax machines, FedEx, and low-rate international calling plans, I could probably manage to work on my manga in the states with editors stationed in Japan.

Things got a lot more convenient by the time it mattered.

From the moment I started working with my editor in Japan on the Darwin manga book, we communicated via emails. At times, we would talk over the phone, but email fit the bill (and my budget). This worked out particularly well because after I’d come home from my day job, I’d grab some dinner, and by the time I got to work on my manga, the work day would have just started in Japan.

Sending files over the internet only got more convenient as internet traffic speeds increased. At the beginning, I only sent text files containing outlines and scripts. When I got to the drawing phase, each page that I sent for content checking was compressed to 1 to 3 megabytes. The final black and white half-toned images sent to the printing press were even smaller, despite their resolution being 2400 dots-per-inch, so the files were never too big (although the cover illustration files were quite large and a bit more of a hassle to deal with).

The only time we found snail mail to be more convenient was when Otsuka-san was editing the final proofs. Instead of doing it online, he’d print out the pages, mark them up in red and mail them over.

So from beginning to end, we were able to do most of our business over the internet. But still, I flew over to Japan a couple of times over the course of the project to meet with my editor. After all, you eventually want to put a face on that virtual person across the internet, and there’s no better way of getting to know each other than to meet in person.

At one of those meetings, my editor introduced me to Shimizu-san, an editor of manga (Otsuka-san edits science books). I was a bit nervous because Shimizu-san was the vice editor in chief of that big-time weekly manga magazine, Shonen Magazine. My nervousness was completely unfounded, as he turned out to be very friendly and encouraging, and gave me a lot of useful advice. For example, “If something’s annoying or boring for you to draw, it’s probably annoying or boring for the reader to read it,” is something very useful that I keep in mind every time I draw, to this day.

Shimizu-san is unfortunately no longer with us, as he passed away of a stroke. He has a great legacy of having positively influenced many mangaka. I always carry around advice from people like him and my father, so it’s my hope that I can keep some of their influences living on in my works.


Post a Comment

<< Home