☆ anime/manga,  ☆ being a mangaka,  ☆ i heart japan,  ☆ life

Working as an assistant on The Prince of Tennis p50

To see a list of all of the posts in this series, click here. (*^-^*)

Here we go! This is the END!

Here I go, really, but it feels as if all of you have come along with me in this journey. You feel as much a part of my story as the people that I worked with do. Is this like a tiny, manga version of The Neverending Story?

Childlike Empress: Bastian. Why don’t you do what you dream, Bastian?
Bastian: But I can’t, I have to keep my feet on the ground!
Childlike Empress: Call my name. Bastian, please! Save us!
Bastian: All right! I’ll do it! I’ll save you! I will do what I dream!

Ever give up, and dream big, right? As you can tell, I believe firmly in following your heart, no matter where it takes you! If it turns out to be wrong for you, you can always start over. *^-^*

So, to finish up my story… here we go, you guys!

October 8, 2010.

I was sitting in my apartment just settling down to eat lunch, and my phone suddenly rang. I usually avoid phone calls like the plague, but I picked it up to see who it was.

I couldn’t believe the name and picture flashing on the screen:

Takeshi Konomi-sensei.

O.O!!!! WHAT? Wait, why? Ehhhh???????

Konomi-sensei, calling me? Why in the world? Five months after my going-away party. NINE months since I’d worked for him. What could he……

My heart racing, I nervously hit “answer” on the phone and put it to me ear. “Hello?”

“Jamie! I’m glad that I could catch you!” The voice that I know and love. That voice, that fills me with so many different, conflicting emotions. But mainly admiration and love. I hadn’t expected to hear it again!

A quick, “how are you? Fine, how about you?” later, Konomi-sensei cut right to the chase.

“I need you. I really, really need you. I’m working on a one-shot manga for Shonen JUMP, and I need your help. PLEASE tell me that you’re available.”

“Please.”

O.O “……………….” What, wait? I don’t want to…. but I do… and wow, he’s asking me. He’s nearly begging me! He called me in person, not going through Watanabe-san! I can’t refuse this!!!

“Umm.. when?”

“Can you come in first thing tomorrow? For about a week. Please. I really need you!”

I was actually filming four days later, so I could only come in for a few days, but I agreed. Filled with nostalgia and trepidation, there I was the next morning, feeling surreal and heading off to Konomi-sensei’s house/studio.

It was so weird, walking up to his house, my suitcase trailing behind me. I hadn’t been here for almost nine months. 3/4 of a year. And when I’d walked away, my eyes blurry with tears, staring up at the sky, I’d thought that I’d never see this place again.

Pushing the intercom button, saying, “hi, it’s me!” in the cheeriest voice possible, I couldn’t help feeling strange. Saying hi to everyone, as if it hadn’t been nine months since I’d been here. It was so, so surreal.

Except for two changes, it was the same as I’d remembered. Same desks in the same place. Same wall decorations, same faces.

Almost.

Koko-san had been asked to come back for this one-shot manga too, and he greeted me cheerfully. It turned out that since leaving, he’d taken an art job unrelated to manga back in his hometown (I can’t remember what).

And there was another new girl!! I shall call her Mori-chan. She was adorable, and quite a bit like Maru-chan. For once, the number of girls in the studio was the same as guys. YES.

Unfortunately, though, this meant that there weren’t enough desks! Koko-san had been set up at a folding card table, but it was packed there. So, guess where I sat? At the snack counter! XD;;;; It was certainly strange, especially when people came up to refill their coffee right next to me. XD; I hope I didn’t get any screentone bits in anyone’s drink!

It was nice seeing everyone, so I turned into a bit of a chatterbox. “Your Japanese has really improved!” Sensei told me. I attributed it to the fact that I’d finally had time to study, and I was dating a Japanese person now (THAT relationship was a failure, but that story is not one I want to relive). We worked hard.

I was filled in on the gist of the story, a one-shot called Moon Walker Ltd.


It’s never been published in collected edition as it comes out once a year now there are only three chapters, but if you search for it online, there are ways to read it… I worked on chapter 1, by the way! ^^

We worked really hard on the one-shot manga, up until I had to leave. I got to draw all sorts of things that I’d never drawn in Tenipuri, like boats, guns, and lots of swirling water. It was pretty refreshing! (Although I’d drawn some weird things in Tenipuri… like falcons, eagles, and beetles, to name a few…..) Although the deadline for JUMP was Friday, and I was leaving on Wednesday for my Thursday filming, we were nowhere near done. At all. I felt terrible leaving.

The next day, Kaiwa-san sent me a mail in the middle of filming. “Please, please please come back and help us. We’re never going to finish!”

And so, that night after a long day filming, I went back to help everyone.

“WE ARE SO GLAD TO SEE YOU,” Kaiwa-san told me. Everyone was feeling the crunch. Not only had they finished the normal two chapters of Tenipuri this month, they’d basically been in the studio the whole month working nonstop to finish the 50 pages for the one shot, and now the JUMP editor was breathing down their neck.

We worked late, laaaate that night, and the next day, deadline looming, Sensei suddenly announced, “We need a break! Let’s all go to the park.”

Wait… WHAT?!? Is this why I came back? To play?!

There were way too many people to fit in his car now, no matter how many we tried to stuff in the back, so we walked down the street, past the local elementary school, to a park that I’d never been to. It was still warm out, even though it was October, so it was nice being outside, but I couldn’t help feel that there was something really wrong with going out to play when the deadline was supposedly TODAY.

I think that Sensei wanted to dodge his editor. In fact, I’m pretty darn sure of it.

Well, even if we didn’t really want to go out, and felt that we should be working, everyone spread out and walked around, joked around. Since Sensei was sitting all alone at the top of a little hill for a while, I went to join him.

He asked me about my life and the person I was dating, and whether I would get married anytime soon, and I asked him about his relationship experience, and about how he’d made himself as a mangaka. I can’t relate the relationship things because I feel like it’s not my story to tell, but he told me about how when he finally, finally made his debut in JUMP, he wasn’t paid much. He had to get by on one rice ball a day, struggling. He couldn’t afford assistants, and so he had to do all of the work on his own. It was really hard, but he stuck with it, and when he had his first hit in Tenipuri, he took a trip to Hawaii.

It was so intimate, so much like a brother or father handing down advice that I can’t help but feel that no matter what happens, no matter how long before I talk to him again, he will always be part of my family, and I’ll always be a part of his extended family. Forever.

The park didn’t last all that long– maybe an hour at most, and we then were back at the studio. It was good, too, because remember.. the deadline was TODAY.

Weeeeellll…. we were frantic, and in the late afternoon, the editor came by. This was a new editor for me Although, in truth, still quite familiar….

“The editor from JUMP is Hattori-san,” Kaiwa-san said in a loud mock-whisper.

“Hattori…. wait, THAT Hattori-san????!”

“Yes! The one from Bakuman!! He looks just like that, too! Red bushy hair, t-shirts..”

Omg! I was a huge fan of Bakuman, as were most of us. The people drawing the backgrounds for Bakuman are EXCELLENT. We constantly looked at the volumes, wondering what we could learn from them. And now, we’d meet one of the real-life characters??? (Did you know that most of the editors in Bakuman are based on real, actual Shonen JUMP editors? Yep.)

I had actually been thinking of Ashirogi Muto’s editor, Hattori, but it wasn’t him… red bushy hair meant that it was the younger, cuter editor of Niizuma Eiji!

And when he showed up and was introduced to Koko-san and I.. he already knew who we were. Apparently he’d seen us at JUMP Festa, and he of course had seen us on Jan-BANG.

Yesssss for being known in the JUMP offices. I wonder if he’d remember me now. What do you think?

In any case, we still had more than 20 pages to go, and the deadline was today. The afternoon was waning, and when Hattori-san saw that we were that far behind… he was not happy. Not at all. You could feel the disapproval radiating from him in waves. He badgered Sensei, but finally left in the evening with the pages that were finished, leaving us frantically trying to catch up.

Then, two hours later, after apparently running the pages to the JUMP offices in Tokyo and back, he returned. He took the pages that we had finished in the interim, and took those to the JUMP offices.

This continued all night, and onto the next day. But we still weren’t done. He started lecturing Sensei, about how JUMP is published on such a tight schedule at a weekly magazine, that if an author doesn’t turn in their pages, they have to pay Shueisha to make up for the loss.

When he left again, two pages in tow, Sensei leaned back in his chair and sighed loudly. AND THEN HE LEFT THE ROOM!

We didn’t see him the next time that Hattori-san returned for the pages. In fact, we didn’t see him for hours and WHAT THE HELL WAS HE DOING?

We ran later and later. Saturday night passed and Sunday morning dawned and Hattori bugged us with a vengeance. One time, he brought cakes for us, presumably to motivate everyone. Believe me, we were working hard and frantically. Sensei had returned to draw his pages, but JUMP wanted them, and there was no way with even seven assistants, we’d be able to finish. So, in a total rush, Hattori-san did his editing work there in the studio (one thing that editors do is literally print out page numbers and text and paste them onto the pages….. yes, very low-tech) And we, under Sensei’s guidance, started photocopying old panels and blowing up, cropping old backgrounds so that they would fit.

It kept the same text, but almost all of the panels on the last few pages were redesigned in order to allow us to cut and paste backgrounds and objects from earlier panels. It felt like a hashed-up, mish-mash, hack of a job, but we did the best that we could with JUMP breathing down our necks.

I thought that, when it was all over, despite the fact that we’d stayed up for three days straight now, Sensei would want to go out to eat with us. After all, he hadn’t seen me or Koko-san in forever. But he just dismissed us, and we left.

So strange. (I think he was exhausted)

When I left the studio that time, I wondered again, will I ever come here again?

Who knows. I really don’t know.

One week later, I had my work published in Shonen JUMP for the first time!!!!!! Granted it wasn’t my manga. But Shonen JUMP is the dream, right? THE most prestigious, hard-to-get-into manga magazine there is. And, even though it wasn’t my manga gracing the headlines, my art was still in there.


These were my two favorite pages to work on <3

Hell yeah. Another milestone down. 🙂 (Shin Tenipuri is published in JUMP SQ, which is a related magazine, but not THE Shonen JUMP, you know?)

That wasn’t the last time that I saw Konomi-sensei. I went to JUMP Festa in December to see him perform on stage, and talked to him backstage. He still felt like an older brother. <3

JUMP Festa was the last time that I talked to him in person, although I did ask for and receive a ticket to see the next Tenipuri Festa. I was having a bad day, so I just sat quietly in the kankeisha section and watched fondly, but my heart was there, on stage with him.

I talk to Kaiwa-san on occasion, and I keep up with what Su-chan is up to, but Marie, Tamusho, Koko-san and Maru-chan have sort of fallen by the wayside. Kaiwa-san told me that Tamusho quit after I did, but Marie and Maru-chan are still there, plugging away. Sensei is as busy as ever, and always trying to tackle new projects. In fact, every time that I see Kaiwa-san update his Facebook with “We haven’t had any vacation days this month,” or “I think that my daughter is forgetting who I am,” I feel a bit sad for him.

I also remember why I left.

Thank you, everyone, for coming with me on this journey!! This is the end of this story, at least for now.. sort of that, is! I talked about it earlier, but I thought that it would be really fun and amazing to edit this whole story down to a book that you can hold in your hands, and do a few illustrations.

I also have a number of funny little episodes that happened while I worked in the studio that I forgot to write about. You know how when you think that you’ve written everything, but something random pops into your head later? Yeah. 🙂 Tomorrow, I’m going to share one of those episodes (it’s short and stupid, but funny!), and talk about my plans for the book (I need some help, too)!

I also want to hear your comments, opinions, questions, and insights! Did I succeed in making you feel like you were there with me, experiencing things as they happened (even a little bit)? Or did I fail? Have you enjoyed this tale, or did I just totally suck?

I’m so emotionally drained from writing all of this. As you can imagine, it took a lot to relive the tumultuous emotions, and I think I’ve earned an early night. See you all tomorrow!!! <3<3<3<3<3

(2,207 geeks have read this)

Hi! This is Jamie Lynn Lano! I am a Washington State (USA) native who: ☆ Holds a Bachelors of the Arts in Media Arts & Animation from AiPx. ☆ Worked as an assistant mangaka in Japan for Konomi Takeshi on The Prince of Tennis. ☆ Was an essay columnist for Asahi Weekly from 2008-2013. ☆ Was the star of Asahi Pop'n Press on Asahi TV (Japan) from 2009-2013 ☆ Was a write for Metropolis magazine in 2010. ☆ Has kept a blog foreeeeeeeeever! First and Current blogs.

33 Comments

  • Theo

    I discovered your blog just this morning and literally spent all day reading the entries. I’m glad that I found it once it was all done and dusted because I don’t think I could bear the suspense of waiting for a new chapter to come out (especially after writing such great little teasers at the ends)

    Your writing really picked up near the end, not that it was ever bad, but your feelings were really coming through quite clearly in the latter entries and that made it impossible for me to put this down. I’m always looking for that emotional connection in the things I read.

    While I’ve no plans on becoming a mangaka, I really want to draw my own stories, even if it’s just for me and a few friends (there aren’t many fans of anime and manga around where I live (South Africa))

    To that end I decided a few months back to seriously learn how to draw. I’m still years away from that point but at least my figures are starting to look like actual people instead of person shaped objects.

    I was actually growing frustrated from my lack of progress, but after reading this I’m inspired to pick up my pencil once again, and I’d like to thank you for sharing your story with us.

  • aami

    READING THIS WAS SO AMAZING and your story is so amazing and everything about it is amazing ;__; thank you for sharing it with everyone! You truly are a wonderful person, and i hope you have an amazing future ahead of you 🙂

  • ysey

    can’t believe I spent 5hrs straight reading your amazing blog about working with Konomi-sensei! >_<

    hats off to you and thanks for that inspirational posts.

    btw, I also adore Ryoma!! <3

    hope all is well and I shall read the rest of your entries later, it's 7AM here!! xD

    • Jamie Lynn Lano

      Hehe! I am glad that you liked them!! It was quite an ordeal to dredge up so many memories, but I really did enjoy writing everything down, just to share the experience with as many people as possible. 🙂

  • Mona

    Thanks for sharing your story with us, it’s really how can I put it in words … So inspiring I have felt that I was in the scene. Your story need to be published I totally agree with that. Just wondering did sensei actually rewarded you and Koko with anything since you both weren’t working with him anymore?

    • Jamie Lynn Lano

      Thank you, Mona! And I was really happy to get all of your comments when I woke up this morning. 🙂

      Yes, me and Koko-san were paid a wage for each day’s work. It was nice to have a little bit extra money! 🙂

  • GoneToMoon

    Thanks for sharing your story.

    Very inspiring. I always wondered though, did you ever want to make your own manga?

        • Jamie Lynn Lano

          My manga will be in English first, because that’s the language that I write best in! I also don’t care about conquering the Japanese market right now. I’d rather work for people living all over the world than limit myself to the small amount of people who can read Japanese. 😉

  • ibi

    i was wondering, did it demotivate you when he told you that he had to live off one rice ball a day? i knew living conditions for mangaka aren’t the most luxurious (except for the big shots that is) but i didn’t think it would be that bad =S

    • Jamie Lynn Lano

      Not in the slightest! I’ve been that poor before, where I only had rice (and only because I’d bought it a long time ago)! So it’s not all that different from my regular life. 😉

  • Chalin

    Hello! Although this is my first time commenting, I’ve actually been stalking your site for nearly 2 years now! (Sorry, I’m quite shy!)

    Thank you so much for sharing this wonderful story! I honestly felt like I was there with you from the start to the end, through thick and thin.
    You’ve helped me remember a dream that I had forgotten and restored the warmth back in my little heart.

    Even though it saddens me that the journey is over, I’ll still be re-reading and re-experiencing your story over and over again.

    Thank you!

  • KC

    Congrats on finishing, Jamie! you know, i’ve been following your blog for a long time now so it’s been quite a ride! I really do hope you get to have your own manga in a big magazine too! i want to read it! and you should come back to Japan too cuz we should hang out! XD

    take care <3

    • Jamie Lynn Lano

      I plan to be back in September, and possibly during the summer to go to Comicket and whatever events that I can! 😀 I’d love to meet up!

      Thanks for the congrats! I can’t wait to get started on my manga full-steam again. Just as soon as this book is written and out in the world! 😀

  • Caroline

    This whole story has been turbo inspiring from beginning to end! It makes me infinitely curious at how other manga studios operate for some of my favourite works.. (also, I’m looking at you CLAMP). I seriously can not wait to see what you produce given all that you’ve learned with Konomi-sensei.

    • Jamie Lynn Lano

      Thanks! That’s a lot of pressure! 😀 But I’m up for it!!

      Yes, from what I’ve seen, manga studios have similarities, but each one is slightly different. CLAMP had a whole drama series based after them. I can’t remember the name, but you might want to look it up. It was obviously not 100% true, but gave a pretty good look into what their dynamic might be like when working. 😀

      • Caroline

        I’m trying to look it up but haven’t had any success. I know a few years ago I found a j-drama about a girl working as an assistant (or editor?) to a manga studio of just 4 brothers or something. I am completely drawing a blank with regard to the name.

        If you ever remember what it was I’d love to know :).

      • haze

        A kickstarter, I’m all for it. I would love it even more if you were to make a manga out of your story. A young foreigner aspiring to be a mangaka in japan, seems like a dream many would share. You can easily make a funny bittersweet shoujo with all of this!

        • Jamie Lynn Lano

          Still debating on the kickstarter, but I will probably end up waiting and doing it for a future project. I just think that preorders will be more than enough to take care of this one. Plus, kickstarter takes a lot more time than I need. 😀

          Haha! There are quite a few shoujo manga that are about working in a manga studio, though I don’t think that any of them have been translated into English (correct me if I’m wrong!).

  • Jc

    Thanks for sharing, i read all those stories the last 2 days :). It was fascinating to hear about that part of your life! Sad that it is over.

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