Comic Books Magazine

Q&A: Abigail Blackman On Manga Editing, Lettering, and Japanese Nuance

Posted on the 07 April 2015 by Kaminomi @OrganizationASG

CPACI posted the audio version of the manga insight panel I moderated at Castle Point Anime Con. Now, here’s the transcribed version of it, just for you people who aren’t prone to listening! So if you missed some audio when you listened to it originally or want to see what was said in text, you now have the opportunity. Enjoy!

Justin: Welcome to the Insight Into The Manga Industry Panel! My name is Justin Stroman, I am the Editor-in-Chief of Organization Anti-Social Geniuses. We’re a blog that looks behind the scenes of anime and manga, so more often than not we talk to people in the industry, like editors, translators, letterers, people like that. We also talk to people on the anime side as well.

(Explanation on what social media you can find us on)

But my role here is to be the moderator here. This panel is all about Abigail Blackman. Hi Abigail!

Abigail Blackman: Hello!

Justin: How are you doing today?

Abigail: I’m well, I’m well. How are all of you? *crowd acknowledges the question, laughs*

Justin: So Abigail, talk a little about yourself, what you do, stuff like that.

Abigail: Well I worked as an editor for 5 years in the New York offices of Yen Press. I worked up from an intern to associate editor. I currently work in Michigan, which is why I’m Skyping in today, where I continue to edit and letter about 5 titles a month for Yen Press.

Justin: How did you get the opportunity to work at Yen Press?

Abigail: When I started out on my getting a job after college, I was really interested in publishing, it was kind of where I was looking. And, in addition to loving story-telling, and loving those parts of the text that you get — I was an English major — I also really love art and illustration, and when this opportunity at Yen Press came along, it seemed like a really good chance for me to blend those two interests and to really get a sense of storytelling that way, both visually and in text.

Justin: At the time did you have any misconceptions about the manga industry before working there?

Abigail: In all honesty I wasn’t a huge manga fan before coming to Yen Press. I grew up in the era where pretty much the only anime shows you saw on TV were Dragonball Z, Pokemon, Yu-Gi-Oh!, that kind of thing, and I loved anime, but I didn’t read a lot of manga, and I didn’t have a real good concept of the scope of how much material is out there before I started at Yen so I didn’t really know what to expect. And you know, everyone has this sort of stereotypical otaku kind of idea and I was like, “I don’t know if they’re going to be like that,” I didn’t know what the material was going to be like, and I think getting in it was really exciting to see that manga was so much more than just, and while I like Dragonball Z and Yu-Gi-Oh and stuff, it was cool to see that were so many different types of stories in manga that I haven’t heard about. And it was really exciting to get to be a part of that at such an intimate level of really working with the material.  And while we are all big fans now of manga, and everyone who works in the manga industry is, I think it was also eye opening to see how the business works. When you have to sometimes make hard decisions that as a fan you want one thing but as a business you want another thing and that was also an important eye opening lesson to learn when I first started in the industry.

Justin: So obviously you’re big on editing but you also letter manga. What exactly is the role of a manga letterer?

Abigail: Well the manga letterer is really responsible for the pages that you see when you buy the book. The letterer takes the raw art files that we get from Japan. They take the translation and they’re the one who lays it all out for you, so they’re responsible for all the text placement, all the font, really making sure the actual, physical reading experience, they’re the ones who lay out all of that so they’re the ones who really put the book together in that way.

Justin: Do you happen to have any examples you can possibly show us?

Abigail: Sure!

Lettering a manga page from start to finish

Umineko WHEN THEY CRY Episode 5 © Ryukishi07/07th Expansion © Akitaka / SQUARE ENIX

So these are just some pages from Umineko. We use Photoshop and InDesign, and these are the big programs, along with Illustrator, that letterers use, so this is kind of the progression that you’ll see. They’ll get a file, often it will have the Japanese text still laid into it, so the letterer has to go in and re-draw the art, and patch it to make sure none of that Japanese shows up, and then laying in the text, mimicking this when you can see there’s a lot of size differentiation, going in and actually laying in the text to mimic that original Japanese. So it’s kind of fun, I really enjoy it, but you’re sort of putting all the pieces together and really creating the final pages through all three steps.

Justin: What’s challenged you the most in regards to lettering a manga?

Abigail: I think the hardest thing with lettering is sometimes you will get pages where there’s a lot of text that’s like right over a character’s face and you would have to re-draw the whole thing, that does happen. Usually there’s a few pages every book that are really challenging, that you have to do a lot of re-drawing. The goal of the letterer is to make sure that you the reader can read all the text comfortably, so a lot of times when you get that really tiny bubble and you have to squeeze a ton of text in there, there are a lot of challenges that come up as you go where you have to figure out, “Well how are we going to do this,” and make sure it comes across to the reader in the best way so that you’re not having to break your spine or really jump through hoops to try and read the story. You want it to flow.

But yeah, cleaning is the hardest part.

Justin: So in addition to lettering, you also do editing for manga. Can you name some of the biggest things an editor does for manga?

Abigail: I think the editor is involved at every single stage of the process. From the time the book is licensed to the time its printed, the editor is the one who oversees the entire process and they’re the ones who are really responsible to the reader and original creator in making sure that you get the very best reading experience while making sure we’re as true to the original as possible or true to the author’s intentions as possible.

So from licensing the initial title, we first send it out to the translator and the letterer, and once we get that first initial lettered book in, the editor goes through it — we take the Japanese book and we go right alongside it and we make sure the translation reads. Clearly we make sure it’s accurate, that it sounds like natural dialogue, if there’s anything where the letterer accidentally cuts something off or we don’t like the way they laid it out, we make sure that we’re checking that so that comes across. That goes through two editors and two copy-editors — copy editors check for punctuation — and that goes through a number of reads. Then we send it to a printer, they send us back a set of proofs of the pages, or how they look when they print, and then we go through it again and check to make sure nothing shifted in the printing process, that there’s not any final things we missed, and while all that’s going on, the editor’s responsible for working with the art team on the cover and the logo concept. They’re the ones who go through and approve the covers and make sure if there’s any tweaks or little things that the art department missed that we need to go through and double check those, and the editor’s also responsible for a lot of the promotional copy, the back cover, anything you see in an advertisement, that’s the editor. So it’s a lot of overseeing, making sure all of the pieces come together. So from initially getting that lettered script from the letterer to getting the final book, it’s a 4 month process.

Justin: What’s challenged you the most in editing a manga?

Abigail: Every book has its own unique challenges. I think the hardest part as an editor is that Japanese specifically is a language that has a lot of nuance — they might be literally saying one thing, but it’s implied to mean another thing. And English isn’t quite so nuanced, so that’s a challenge for every book because you’re writing the dialogue, you want to capture the correct meaning, capturing that person’s personality. The hardest books to edit by far are the comedies, especially those 4-panel books like Sunshine Sketch or, I’m doing one right now, that’s a Puella Magi 4-panel, and anytime you have a joke there’s a lot of very language specific jokes, and those can be really difficult to edit because you want the reader to laugh at the right place but sometimes the Japanese joke is just really hard to capture. So comedy editing, making sure that comes across is an extra level of difficulty on top of Japanese nuance.

Justin: You’ve been in this industry for now…8 years correct? What’s surprised you about being in the industry this long?

Abigail: You know, it’s been really cool to see the manga landscape changing in that time. You know there was kind of a dip for a while with Borders, TOKYOPOP, and places like Go! Comi and CMX kind of tanked right after I started, but it’s been really cool to see now all the types of series that come out, I think publishers are sort of broadening their horizons and we’re getting some interesting adult Josei, and Seinen titles starting to find a bit more success than they had previously, so it’s exciting to see publishers trying out new things, and it’s cool to see the digital stuff kind of taking off now, it was something everyone was sort of trying. They knew it was important and now that’s really taking off with a lot of publishers having apps and manga’s available on Kindle, so it’s been cool to see how the industry has changed in the last little while.

Justin: How’s it been like interacting with the fans who go to conventions, for example like Castle Point Anime Convention?

Abigail: It’s really fun. I feel like when you work in an office and you work on a project you’re excited about it and the other editors are super excited about it, but you just throw it out there and you’re like, “Well I hope people like it!” You’ll get some fan feedback through the website and comments and stuff, but it’s really at conventions that you really get someone up there who’s like, “OMIGOSH, I really adore Thermae Romae and I’m just so excited you put that out!” And getting to see cosplayers and getting to see people who really love the series as much as you do and who appreciate it the time we put into it…it’s really great to geek out with the readers and see the enthusiasm about the freebies we have to give away and stuff, so fans can be really great, and it’s fun to meet them at cons and stuff.

Justin: What’s been the coolest moment in the industry for you?

Sho Sakurai at Yen Press

Abigail: It’s hard to say. I’ve met a lot of really cool artists, mostly as a fan. If you know Yen we haven’t brought over too many artists. But we did one time have a Japanese pop idol visit our office…I don’t know if you’re familiar with the band Arashi, but Sho from Arashi was doing a news program about, I guess it was about Japanese culture in America, manga and anime popularity here, so he visited the office, and he was, you know, leaning over our shoulder while we were working, and we were told we had to be very professional and we couldn’t fangirl about him.

…Meanwhile we would go to karaoke every week and be singing Arashi songs, so it was really exciting to have this pop idol in the office asking us about our work and having his perfect skin…so it was really fun. But it is great to meet artists and have that backstage opportunity to talk to the people who are involved in Japan and who are involved in making manga — not the pop idols but even the editors, just to hear from them a little, it’s really cool.

Justin: So ok, you work for Yen Press, and then all of a sudden you decided to start your own company. What’s going on here?

Abigail: I love Yen Press, and Yen is a great place to work — and I still work for them full time — but New York can be a really hard place to live. I came from the Midwest so I was in NY for 5 years, and I kind of felt like the stress and pressure was something that I felt I could not physically continue with so they were really great and they gave me an opportunity to work freelance for them so that’s why I’m back in Michigan. And there are a lot of opportunities if you’re someone who is interested in lettering and rewriting, a lot of those opportunities are freelance so if you’re not sure if you can live in the city there are opportunities to work from home. So for me it was I missed the trees, the birds, and I just needed to get away for a little while. So it’s worked out for me, working from home.

Justin: What are your plans for the company down the road?

Abigail: Well right now most of what I’m doing is lettering and editing, I’d like to do more design work, doing ads, and possibly covers for some other publishers. I’ve just started in December so it’s early days, and sort of getting used to the schedule. But hopefully more colorful design work is in the future.

Justin: You’ve worked on a lot of manga. What’s been your favorite manga to work on?

Abigail: I have a little bit of love for all the series I’ve worked on, but I think my favorite is probably A Bride’s Story, by Kaoru Mori. I was a big fan of Emma, which is a Victorian romance story that Yen is going to put out, before I started at Yen and when we got Bride Story I was so excited because it’s so beautiful, it’s just a great story, she’s a great artist, and I felt really proud to be a part of that, and it’s one of books that I feel very comfortable recommending to friends that aren’t necessarily into manga, so I like that too, it’s a book I hand off to a more casual reader.

Justin: What type of advice would you give to someone who might be interested in either editing or lettering or doing both for manga?

Abigail: For lettering, if you want to do lettering and you’re interested in design, get very comfortable with Adobe Suite products — Photoshop, InDesign, knowing the functions of Illustrator — and, a lot of it is, when you’re reading manga, and this applies to editors too, when you’re reading manga that you like pay attention to things, either the way the text is laid out that you like or don’t like, and the same with editorial say, “Well that doesn’t read like I would write it.” So just be an attentive reader and then if you can try to practice those techniques, like I showed you with those samples, as a letterer you have to do a lot of re-drawing. And especially, for Yen doesn’t clean out the sound effects, but Viz does, I think some of the others clean out the big ones, so that can be a lot more intensive, so be really comfortable there with the actual drawing.

If your goal is being an editor and working in a manga office, especially at the entry-level they’re looking for someone who is passionate, but also someone who can show that they understand that it’s a business. That’s the hardest thing for a lot of fans, we had some interns, who I know that was the biggest eye-opener for them, that it’s a series that you really really really love that just will never be successful here and that’s hard to come to terms with sometimes. Or maybe even things like, “I love this book but we can’t do a foil cover and embossing on the cover because we know it’s not gonna sell well enough so we’ll have to do a regular cover.”

So I think demonstrating that you are a fan but that you understand some business aspects is also really important. If you have the opportunity to have some basic business training at your school or early business classes that could be really helpful. As I said I was interested in publishing so that’s another part of being aware of the business aspects. And just being a good writer, and being an attentive reader when you read, and when composing your cover letters and such, just making sure you are comfortable in your writing skills, because a lot of editorial is writing sales copy, back cover copy, communicating with agencies when we’re licensing and requesting materials so that’s going to be really important as you start out. A lot of the other skills you’ll kind of learn — you’ll learn the style of the company for example — but starting out showing those writing skills, passion, and a little bit of business sense is going to make you stand out a little bit from the rest.

(Audience Questions. Note the range of attended were around 12-14 to adults)

Q&A: Abigail Blackman On Manga Editing, Lettering, and Japanese Nuance

Were you nervous at first when you started at Yen?

Abigail: I was very nervous because I wasn’t super familiar with the industry. My first day on the job was actually New York Anime Fest in the Fall, and they were just like, “Hey we just hired you, why don’t you come and work the booth for a couple of hours?” So that was really when I was very suddenly immersed with having fans who knew more about the books than I did and having to be around a lot of industry people, so it was really intense, but I feel like the comic book industry is a really welcoming community. Because everyone really loves comics I feel like we’re sort of bound by a similar passion and everyone’s really gracious, so I was nervous but you get acclimated pretty quickly.

Did your knowledge of the Japanese language expand after getting a job at Yen Press?

Abigail: Yes. I had taken about two years of college Japanese kind of for fun, and I think that did give my resume a second look. As an early editor it’s not necessarily critical but it did help me a lot and you do start to get a sense of how Japanese typically phrases things, because a lot of the books, for example a lot of fantasy manga have similar ways that they phrase things, so you kind of start getting a sense of the tempo of the language, or cadence, so there are times when I’ll be reading a script without the Japanese and I’ll go, “That’s wrong and I just know,” you can kind of feel how the Japanese words things and feel a mistranslation *laughs* it’s kind of weird so you do get a really good sense of the language as you work with it so if you’re learning but if you don’t feel you’re comfortable with translating then an editor is a good thing to be.

Can you explain the licensing process, which books get licensed and which don’t?

Abigail: There’s a lot of factors that go into making a licensing decision. Yen gets pretty much every month, we work with an agency, all the publishers in the US work through the same agency — that agency represents pretty much all of the Japanese publishers. So we work through them and they talk to all of the publishers. And they send us a box every month of magazines of new titles that they think would be good for us, so we’re always getting a lot in that we have to look through.

For every publisher it’s gonna be a little different. Yen tries to keep a balanced list, we’re kind of eclectic, so sometimes it might be like, “Well we feel like we really need some more shoujo, what’s available right now that’s shoujo? What’s new right now? Ok that’s really similar to this, so maybe we should go a different direction, or these are similar, we want to match the success of that.” You’re kind of looking for holes in your list to see where can we find something a little different. There are obvious ones, if this one that’s a hugely successful property, probably someone’s looking at the manga, but for some of the smaller titles it is a lot about finding where you can use a few more to keep the thing balanced, so that you’re not only publishing shounen or only publishing shoujo.

For an imprint like Shojo Beat where all they publish is shoujo, they too are trying to find a balance between, “Ok we have a lot of supernatural ones, maybe we need some more typical school comedy ones,” and now they’re kind of going for the more adult shoujo titles. So it is a process of balancing, and certain types of titles that tend to not be as successful, that’s changing. For example it used to be that sports manga no one wanted to touch it, it didn’t sell; now with series like Haikyuu!, with the anime being so popular and Free! being so popular, I think maybe sports manga is on the rise, that changes too in how you license things. And sometimes it takes a long time. Several years ago Yen licensed the DURARARA!! manga and everyone was freaking out and wondered why we didn’t license the novel, and only just recently we licensed it. Well that’s been in discussion since then. They’ve been discussing that for years. So sometimes it’s just a timing thing too. Yeah, it’s a puzzle.

Did you know a lot about comics when you started at Yen?

Abigail: I did not know a lot about comics. I watched anime, I knew of manga, but my library did not have a big selection at the time. Bookstores didn’t have a huge manga section the way now they do have a good manga selection. I knew it existed, I didn’t read a lot of it. I didn’t love superhero comics so I wasn’t into that side of it, so I really didn’t know a lot about comics at the time. Unfortunately.

Do you edit any American authors?

Abigail: I have worked on an original project before. In the early stages it’s really where it’s most different. When you’re editing a manga you can’t change the story. You have to keep the translation the same, so when you’re editing a manga, what you’re trying to do is improve readability. When you’re working with an original author, Yen does a lot of novel adaptations or its a totally original story, what you’re really trying to do is help the author tell their story in the best way.

So they’ll submit a summary of what they want to happen in this chapter, and you say, “Ok well, that’s a lot, maybe we should break it into two chapters,” so you do kind of do a rough edit that way, and then they break it down and say, “On each page this is what I want to happen.” You might say, “That’s 4 pages, you could do that in one, let’s shift it around,” you’re kind of adjusting the pacing of the comic. And once it goes to a separate artist and/or once they start drawing it, you go through again and look at the panels and you say, “Wow that’s a huge panel, maybe that’s too much space or too much time on that,” so you’re kind of working with them as they’re sculpting their story, the editor is that sort of second perspective to come in and say, “This is great, but let’s think about how we can really polish it to help you become better as a storyteller, artist, and to help your reader understand the story you want to communicate.” So that’s the editor’s job at all times is thinking about making that original story come across the best way possible to the final reader.

Was editing always your ambition growing up or did you want to do something else?

Abigail: When I first was applying to colleges I knew I wanted do English but I was thinking teacher. Then I entered into a classroom and it was like, “Oh no, that’s not going to work out.” But I thought that story telling was always my passion. Like I really loved reading good books and loved seeing in different ways storytellers told stories, through movies or through books, that was what I really loved so I decided to keep the English major but just shift my focus into publishing so that I could work with story tellers and the comic book ended up being a surprise, but it ended up being a really good fit and really fun for me.

Triage X
A Bride's Story

What advice do you have for people who are maybe sitting in their basements and creating their own stories? How do they go ahead and present that to try and get it published?

Abigail: You know, it’s tough because there’s not one magic way. All the publishers have submission guidelines but I know you feel like you’re sending it off to the nether and it may never come back. If you can get it in front of an editor and get feedback at a con or somewhere else, that’s always a good place to try, and show it to as many people as you can to get feedback and really take feedback, because if they’re readers they will tell you what they like and what they don’t like.

I honestly think publishing is taking a little turn where there’s all this self-publishing, a lot of comic artists are kind of getting their footing online first, so I think, I wish I could tell you there’s a magic way. If you can make it to a con where there’s a publisher with an editor I would do what you can to go to those reviews, to show up at the booth and ask if there’s someone who can talk to you, and just get their feedback about it. But don’t stop creating. There’s so many opportunities nowadays online that you can find your fan base and if it’s something you love to keep going for it, but getting it in front of an editor where they have to look you in the face is the best way to ensure you’re not going to get lost in the pile and at least you’ll get feedback, even if you don’t get a contract, you’ll hopefully get some good feedback that you can apply and develop so that you can be successful.

Hi. I don’t know much about manga, but I’m noticing a lot more books in the bookstore, and I was curious about the Western culture. I know the Japanese books are written from Japanese writers and it’s more about their culture. How far are the publishers willing to go towards catering to the Western aspects of the business where the fans might actually get a little angry if it’s not really the brand they want?

Abigail: You know it’s interesting that you say that because we do get, and especially at library conferences, librarians are really confused, about how manga’s not very diverse, that’s a big thing in America, we expect diversity, and it’s a Japanese school and it’s very foreign looking to them. The reality, at this point, is the manga market in America and even in Europe is still relatively small and the way manga is published is that it’s released in these big fat magazines, it’s released chapter by chapter, so in Japan the Japanese audience gives a lot of feedback to the author, the magazine sales and the feedback is what helps the publishers kind of decide if they’re going to continue a story, maybe the feedback would help them decide even what direction to take the story sometimes. Like if a popular character is supposed to die off, they might be like, “Well no we’re not going to do that now, the fans have spoken.” So I think that as long as Japan is their primary audience, I don’t know that the market in the US and Europe, while it’s growing, I don’t think it’s still big enough that they going to write comics specifically for American audiences.

That said, you can still see Western influences in a lot of things where they pull from either Western culture, or a lot of Western culture, but even things that pull from Western mythology, Western literature, so I think there’s definitely some interest and there are titles that have some common themes that we all associate with, but I’m not sure they’re going to deliberately write something targeted for a Western audience at this point.

Have you gone out of the country to publish a manga?

Abigail: I have not. I’ve gone to Canada. *audience laughs* The senior editorial staff — our publishing director and senior editor — they go to Japan about twice a year to touch base with the Japanese publishers, talk to them about what’s new, what’s coming up, what they’re excited about, and to find out what we might be publishing. So we do keep touch with Japan, just to keep the business contact, going up and keep talking to them. And they come to cons, they’re quite often at SDCC, so we see them quite frequently.

If there’s a joke that you can’t make sense of, what do you do when you translate it?

Abigail: You know, kind of as a last resort, if we really cannot come up with an English alternative or twist the words to make it funny, we will sometimes just leave it and add a translation note at the end. I personally hate doing that because I feel like, especially if it’s a 4-panel or a book where there’s supposed to be a punchline, and you know it’s supposed to be a joke and then you’re like, “wait…” it takes you out of the book and I don’t like interrupting the flow for you to say, “wait, what the heck does that mean?” But yeah, we do sometimes have to rely on translation notes, and if we really have to change it to make a joke fit the art or whatever, we’ll still try to add a translation note so you know what the original is supposed to be. But there are a lot of examples of times where we just can’t think of something.

How was your experience working with Yotsuba! and Kagerou Daze?

Abigail: Well Yotsuba! is one of my favorite series to work on. It makes me laugh out loud every volume, I absolutely love Yotsuba, and it’s fun, there’s not a lot of text, her reactions are so great to write and to letter. That’s a series that I always look forward to. Kagerou, I really enjoyed working on it, that was a fun series, and one that when we licensed it I don’t think I knew exactly what it was, so that was fun to dive in and be kind of clueless about and then discover, maybe as a new reader would discover it. So that one, I think it’s gonna be interesting to see how it turns out. That one’s a lot fun too. That one’s more busybook with a lot of fonts and a lot of different characters in it but those are both really fun.

Have you ever worked on multiple projects simultaneously, and what was the experience like? Did you ever want to just drop it and go over something else?

Abigail: Yes. It is very rare that an editor is working on one thing. Particularly if you work in an office, you might be editing something, but then you might have a cover proof come in for another book, you have to write copy for something coming six months down the road, you have to see the printer proof…you’re constantly seeing 10 different books at one time and you have to keep track of what stage they’re at and you have to be able to switch gears. Like for example, “I’m working on A Bride’s Story, welp now I gotta write copy for Triage X,” and that’s a shift. So in the office, if you’re a person who needs a lot of focus, that can be frustrating, but there’s usually, if you’re in the middle of something and you’re like, “I need to not do this anymore,” you can pretty easily find something else to work on. There’s always a different book of a different genre to be jumping over to.

I know you touched on this a little bit about working with original ideas and if an artist or creator are coming to you with an idea for a certain medium that it can currently be in, like do you like seeing involved scripts more or sample pages?

Abigail: Yen tends to like to see…if you’re coming with a specific project that you want us to pick up, they like to see a script sample to see your writing. They like to see character designs and character descriptions. And they do like to see finished pages, not necessarily of the comic that you’re pitching, but of your previous work so that they can see what your perspective is in that way. Because the editor is part of the process throughout — this is true of a novel too — a lot changes along the way so you don’t have to feel like, “Oh I have to finish 50 pages to turn it in,” so it’s the summary, character designs, the descriptions, and sample pages are of the biggest importance. And for the sample pages, this isn’t fixed for everyone, but I know Yen’s senior editor in particular, she kind of wants to see your inks, if you do toning just your pencil sketches, if you do inking just your inking, and your final finish with the toning or with color or whatever you do ’cause it can show her where your strengths are or show her your process a little, which is important for an editor to communicate, to know how you work.

For those who are trying to get in the industry where would you find internship opportunities? Are they posted online or would you find them somewhere else?

Abigail: They do post it online. Yen’s a little tricky. I had kind of a weird internship situation but every year in the summer Hachette Book Group, which is Yen’s parent company, has an internship program, so that’s a good way to learn what publishing is all about. And then you get assigned to a specific division. So if you wanted to do an internship for Yen you would be part of Orbit Yen, which is the sci-fi and comics division. So for Yen that’s every year and they usually post it on the Yen website that the opportunity has come up. But if you visit the Hachette Book Group site that’s where you can find out the most current information about that. I know Kodansha has hired interns in the past, but most of them I feel are good at responding if you can find their generic email so if you contact a specific company they would be able to tell you if they have internships available and that might be a good way to indicate your interest in it and maybe talk to an editor at a specific company about how you might get some experience.

Unfortunately the industry, it isn’t big enough to have one dedicated job board, but if you make a point to check out their job sites once in a while then you should stumble upon something.

My daughter likes drawing and you mentioned that there are several ways online that people are now exposing their work. What might some of those ways online be?

Abigail: Well just connecting with…well I feel like people are connecting on community art sites. Make sure that if she’s an illustrator, especially if you’re trying to get work in design or any kind of illustration, if you don’t have your own dedicated site showing your work or portfolio, publishers are probably not going to look at you. So having her own site, there are places to upload your own comics, there are some comic magazines that will allow you to…they’re selective about who they’ll put in it, but you can send in a pitch to them to be included, so it’s just about exposing herself as best she can, promoting herself among other art groups and being consistent about uploading content.

What classes would you recommend someone take in college or university for the types of jobs you have at your company?

Abigail: I would say…I feel like most of the people at Yen have English degrees. So be thinking about classes that will help you have a critical eye for how a story is structured or for what makes a good character. That’s really the big takeaway from a lot of English classes, so if there’s any specific classes that are about story structure or about building a story those can be really helpful. I think some basic business class, and I’m not saying necessarily to be a Business minor or anything like that, I think taking some just to learn the basics of the costs of producing for a business are important, and I found those to be really helpful. And when you license a new series they do actually write up a business sheet so that’s really something that’s good to be familiar with, it’s not something you need to be an expert at, they’ll show you on the job, but it’s good to be familiar with. And if you can take a couple Japanese classes, whether that’s in college or somewhere local has some offering, but showing you’re interested in the language is also not a bad idea.

You mentioned trying to be as accurate as possible with the phrasing of Japanese language. How do you handle those situations where not that the language is the issue but the cultural barrier, like for example a very specific Japanese reference to history or the environment over there?

Abigail: Yeah. Kind of like with the jokes we do add translation notes, it kind of depends on the situation, I’ll sometimes try to judge, “Is this a passing mention? Is this something that if this person doesn’t understand they won’t understand the next 4 pages?” So sometimes what we’ll do they’ll mention an obscure term, and we’ll somehow find a way to add that in the same panel, like if there was some political thing, and they just mention the word, and you didn’t know what it was, we might say, “This political thing! You know, the movement to blah blah blah!” We might do something like so you don’t have to stop and get taken out. So we might occasionally try to clarify or add a descriptor on that will help someone who’s not familiar enough to understand, just to get them through and help them through to read the next few pages, then put a lengthy translation note at the end. Happens a lot with festivals and things I feel like.

I just wanted to follow up with that question. How much liberty can you do in changing up the words or meaning?

Abigail: I try never to, honestly. As much as we can stay as close to the original, I will occasionally add an extra adjective just to clarify the nuance, so sometimes you’re adding words to clarify the nuance of the language, like it might just say “Yes,” but the way he said it made him sound like a punk, so maybe you’ll add an extra word to make him come off that way. If I feel like more information is needed, you might add a couple of words just to clarify some things so a reader will understand it. Yen is very strict about keeping it to be the most accurate as possible. I know some series in the past there’s been some issues that people don’t like that they’re censoring or whatever, we don’t do any of that, but there is flexibility, you can translate the same thing 10 different ways, so there is some flexibility in how you choose to translate something, but we always make sure that the original meaning comes across. That’s really the goal, so the reader will get that meaning and understand that if it’s a cultural thing then it’s going to be tricky.


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