JARED SIVILA WRITES – Manga (Japanese graphic novels) is a globally cherished medium comprised of emotionally charged and exciting stories accompanied by charming, distinct illustrations. These works are very difficult to produce-just ask the many authors who dare to tackle the high-pressure challenge of producing their manga on an extensive publication and serialization timeline. While Manga volumes and chapters have become a monolithic mainstay in the Japanese publishing industry, the beloved mangakas who create them, pouring their hearts and souls into their work, sometimes face dire consequences, mentally and physically.
Yoshihiro Togashi, author of the legendary series Hunter X Hunter, is one such mangaka. With nearly 380 20-page chapters and 36 volumes of the story, Hunter X Hunter has built up a devoted legion of fans who are deeply immersed in his creative vision and narrations. Consider it, though, from Togashi’s viewpoint: How to manage the stress involved in producing and selling 79 million volumes globally, in a neat and timely fashion?
Perhaps not surprisingly, Togashi’s health has deteriorated and so has become a gigantic barrier to reaching the finish line with his series. With consistent back problems and other illnesses he had been forced to put the series on hiatus since 2018- that is, until May 24, when Togashi himself tweeted a photo of a sketched draft of the beloved series that has been gone for so long. The tweet indicates that Hunter X Hunter has returned.
As indicated by the millions of likes and hundreds of thousands of retweets on Togashi’s post, fans were quick to celebrate the return of a beloved action-adventure series that has been in serialization since 1998. Yet some also question his readiness to return to the form. In the many footers of his chapter releases, Togashi mentions his back pain, and how it is a struggle for him to get up to the hospital, or to even to sit on the toilet or in a chair.
Togashi is not alone. Monetary and social pressures push many mangaka to remain consistent with punishing schedules, as magazine collectives like Shounen Jump constantly cycle and discontinue any series that isn’t quite up to par with the competition. Chapters are released weekly or monthly, demanding that the authors draft, draw, and edit their stories like clockwork. Eventually, a collection of chapters is published in the form of a volume, generating revenue through sales, merchandise, and even anime and movie adaptations if the series is popular enough. These manga series, then, require an immense amount of dedication on the part of the mangaka, who must not only script and draft cohesive stories but outline, draw, and detail every panel of their works.
Are Togashi and others up to it? The death of the beloved mangaka of Berserk, Kentaro Miura, in 2021– at the age of fifty-four – paints a grim future for veterans of the industry. One must wonder if these artists’ health concerns stem from external complications or result from a grueling work environment. Fans of long running manga series such as Berserk or Hunter X Hunter and are now rightfully concerned — not just about maintaining the high quality of the writing or the detail of the paneling required to make good manga, but whether or not the series, and their authors, will even survive.