うそ~ I’m not actually a vampire. I’m just sensitive to sunlight…

Recently someone came to me privately with some very thoughtful questions about my job because they were considering their own future possibilities and wanted an inside look.

I thought many other aspiring manga lovers and fellow nerds would also be interested in this kind of topic, so I asked if it would be okay to share my comments here as well.

Enjoy!


“Was it difficult to enter your position with Renta in Tokyo?– do they only hire locally?”

It was a little difficult, but only because the hiring process was very thorough/intensive with multiple interviews and tests. I’ve been living in Japan for some time now and had the appropriate work visa and relevant university degree/work experience, but I think my love for art, language, and manga made me a great candidate for the position! I’m positive they didn’t know I would be so talkative or else they would have reconsidered… (*shared working space)

My position in the Tokyo office is a sei-sha-in (full time) contract, and my main job is to edit, check, and finalize the manga’s translation and lettering/layout quality for its final review before going on sale on the site.

We have a network of freelancers and companies who work with us to do translation and lettering, and it goes through several checks before publication.

Freelance translators, translation checkers, and letterers are often hired locally in Japan, but applicants for freelance-type positions do not necessarily need to live in Japan. Full time Renta! employees do, because as you have rightly guessed, I do a lot more than just editing (I also handle most online social media, marketing, projects for conventions, etc…) but not everyone’s job requires them to physically be in Tokyo or even Japan. In fact, as we continue to grow, the office we have in San Francisco will take on a bigger role in our activities, too.

“Do you find your day-to-day job challenging, grueling, fun? It seems that you handle both translating/editing as well as PR work, that’s quite a lot!”

Oh goodness. hmm. Incredibly fun and incredibly stressful. Trying to edit something to perfection takes a lot of mental energy! However, this is also a job where creativity is essential, and I never get bored because each page is different.

Language and translation has always been a passion of mine, and linguistics was my major in university. Art has ALSO been a passion of mine that I’ve kept up as a hobby my whole life. So to get to do a job where both art and language/writing are needed feels just perfect for me.

As I already mentioned, I do have to do more than just editing as part of my full-time position here. However, they also don’t force me to do anything I’m terrible at! We’re lucky to have a really great boss in the international department that runs the English site, and he encourages us to take initiatives on projects we’re excited about.

For me, that includes SNS and PR-adjacent stuff. I’m a little bit uhhhh… impulsive? lol. So I can get away with speaking from a “human” opinion/standpoint here on this blog and the twitter account for Yaoi that I have thoroughly infiltrated and taken over, and I love that it allows me to connect with other BL fans online.

Overall, we (fujoshi & fudanshi & pervs who love manga) are an awesome community, and I’d like to be able to pull more people together. As you know, most people get introduced to BL either by accident or by introduction via a friend! Let’s indoctrinate… I mean… introduce more people to Yaoi!! What a weird typo.

“I understand that to the translating/editing industry, there are some major problems such as piracy. Are there any other wide-reaching issues that you’ve come across?”

Piracy is an issue both in native Japanese and in the world of translation. I’ve spoken about it recently in this letter to Scanlation groups that was REALLY well received. (Bless the kind people out there who understand.) Chase also wrote about piracy in more depth here on this blog.

Other issues that come quickly to mind… would probably include cultural attitudes on sexuality.

As an issue, this is extremely difficult to discuss openly because we are all human, and most people struggle to set their own experience and beliefs to the side to try to see things from an unfamiliar or even opposite perspective. This is true not only when it comes to such a personal and sensitive topic, but in this case they also have to see past the fact that this content comes from a different culture entirely, so even things that SEEM like they would be universal, often aren’t.

I would like more English-speaking women (and men) to enjoy these types of genres out of Japan (awesome eroi ones) and gain a better understanding of their own sexuality without constantly feeling guilt, shame, and the need to repress everything always all the time, but unfortunately due to the nature of the subject, it can be very challenging to address.

As an industry, I think another issue we need to face is the growing desire of customers to have everything available both digitally and in print as soon as it is published vs. the desperate publishers trying to keep print sales up, too. This can make them hesitant to jump on the digital bandwagon. Yet, we book lovers want it both ways. We’re definitely not willing to give up paper printed books altogether, so finding a way to make everyone happy and still get as much content into English as possible 1) while still making the artists and publishers money 2) AND giving the English-speaking world the content they want can be challenging!

The last thing that occurred to me as far as issues in the industry go is that sometimes the more popular a manga is, the less likely it is to sell official and licensed copies because hardcore fans keep one eye on the Japanese releases, getting fan-translated editions way before it’s licensed in English (which is understandable, we’re a very thirsty impatient group!).

When the manga does finally become available, only obsessed fans buy it, and regular/casual fans do not.

Renta! has been getting more and more popular big-name titles as we grow, but I think one of the reasons we’ve been so successful is that we’ve been offering some really great titles that are actually quite nice and high quality, but that have been falling under the radar of the larger international community compared to huge, famous titles getting all the attention, so illegal translations aren’t available and people are more willing to try them out because they look good (and they ARE good!). Also, we publish so much contemporary manga that our releases are often too new to even be registered in the manga updates database by fans yet.

Again, sometimes, but not always, when we release a title from some of the more popular artists such as Tomo Kurahashi or Harada for instance, it’s difficult to get people who are already fans to buy something they’ve already read and have access to. Loyal and hardcore fans will buy them, but casual manga fans face an emotional barrier of being asked to pay for something they’ve already read, EVEN IF it is professional quality and will support the artist financially.

This has been my experience so far.

“Do you feel that despite these issues, your job is still enjoyable and viable, and you’re able to support yourself (both emotionally as well as financially)?”

I must admit, I have to read a lot of porny manga Monday through Friday, eight hours a day plus overtime, and sometimes that can be exhausting lol. It can also be fun though, and the other full-time editors I work with are amazing. We all emotionally-cope together.

(I bought a “stress banana” which we keep on our desks when we need an outlet. It stretches and twists and wobbles. It’s amazing. Everyone should have a stress banana.)

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As editors, we’re all perfectionist, perverted otaku who just want to get things right. But, when your job is to find and correct mistakes, it comes with the downside of having to find and correct mistakes all the time. Some of them seem unbelievable or unforgivable. However, we all make mistakes! Still…

Asking our computer screen daily “WHY ARE YOU LIKE THIS!?” is a common occurrence. We all vent but we all love our jobs and support each other! I’m really, really glad that I work with this group of amazing people.

To answer the last part, as I mentioned in the letter to scanlation groups, financially speaking, we are but one department/branch that’s part of a larger Japanese company with lots of bureaucracy and typical office life that comes with the job, so I can’t say that we do it for the money. We do it for love.

As long as I can spend all my extra money on new manga, I’m happy.

In Conclusion

I think it’s amazing that you’re interested in Japanese culture and are considering finding your way into a position that lets you share that with other people. I love that part about my job, too.

It’s true you can’t support yourself on what you love if you treat it like a hobby, but you’d be surprised if you take a look around and see what opportunities are out there.

I never expected to work with manga, never ever. But the right opportunity came at the right time and I hit apply SO fast. I knew that this was the job I wanted, and it felt right.

I have also been living in Japan for 10 years now, so it took lots of experience to get my Japanese and writing experience up to this level.

To be honest, I wasn’t even reading manga 10 years ago and never would have expected to end up where I am now. (I taught at an Eikaiwa my first year, and have done various teaching jobs since then. I was a writer’s assistant for a Japanese author in my previous job. Then life took some interesting turns. muehehe.)

My advice would be to grab onto whatever makes you curious or excited NOW, and it will lead you to something different that you love down the road.

Don’t overthink it, just follow your curiosity! : )