OTAQUEST supporters and EXILE members NESMITH & SEKAI recently met with Weekly Shonen Jump Editor-In-Chief Hiroyuki Nakano to get a behind the scenes sneak peek at the creation of manga for the legendary magazine. Mr. Nakano got his start at Weekly Shonen Jump in the year 2000, and during his time with the magazine, he’s overseen iconic series such as Seikimatsu Leader den Takeshi! (Mitsutoshi Shimabukuro), Toriko (Mitsutoshi Shimabukuro), Bleach (Tite Kubo), and Neuro: Supernatural Detective (Yūsei Matsui). In 2017 he was promoted to the position of 11th generation Editor-In-Chief at the publication. Both NESMITH and SEKAI are longtime manga readers and huge Jump fans so this was a topic of immense interest for them, and they even got to see an amazing surprise provided by Mr. Nakano! We provide their conversation below, translated in English, in collaboration with Monthly EXILE Magazine.
NESMITH: The topic we’re covering today is “Weekly Shonen Jump” and knowing that you, Sekai are a huge fan of Jump, it’s only fitting that you wore a Demon Slayer shirt today!
SEKAI: This is a shirt I wear regularly, it’s not like I only wore it just for this.
Hiroyuki Nakano: Thank you very much. By the way, what Shonen Jump manga were you into when you were younger?
NESMITH: For me, I was really into Yu Yu Hakusho, Dragon Ball, Slam Dunk, and Hell Teacher Nūbē. Also, I was always a little excited about the raunchiness of The Outer Zone.
Hiroyuki Nakano: For you to mention those works, you must have started reading Jump at a slightly earlier age?
NESMITH: I started reading Jump in 4th or 5th grade.
Hiroyuki Nakano: Most people start in 5th or 6th grade, some even once they’ve entered middle school. Thankfully the range of fans has expanded greatly and we have many readers in their 30’s and 40’s, as well as many female fans, but the audience we’re writing for is still primarily for the 15-18 year old male demographic.
NESMITH: How about you, Sekai?
SEKAI: The big one for me was Naruto. I started reading Jump somewhere around 1999.
Hiroyuki Nakano: Right around the release of Naruto.
SEKAI: I’ve always held onto the volume of Jump where Chapter 1 of Naruto was released. I started reading it when I was in 3rd grade. Any chance I had I would read it, using it as basic kanji practice. I guess according to Hiroyuki I was also an early reader of Jump.
Hiroyuki Nakano: I was assigned to the editorial department for Jump in the year 2000, so right around the time you became a reader. I originally joined Shueisha with the desire to be a manga editor, but ever since I was little I was a Jump kid. At the time, titles like Kinnikuman, Captain Tsubasa, Dragon Ball, Slam Dunk, and Yu Yu Hakusho were being published. A long time ago there was a section for reader posts called Jump Hōsōkyoku where you could send in postcards and there were winners for each prefecture. There were many people who got their debut in Jump from being a writer for this.
SEKAI: And after a while, you became an editor for Jump.
NESMITH: So today we’d like to sit down with Editor in Chief Mr. Nakano and understand a little bit more about what the job of editor is, and what the process is for a work to get published in Jump.
Hiroyuki Nakano: First off, there are about 20 serialized works in Jump, and every week 17-19 pages have to be drawn. And for every series, there is a dedicated editor that manages said series. The bulk of the work is sitting down and creating each new chapter with the authors. If its a series that is currently being published, when the manuscript for next week comes we have a meeting and have a discussion. We’ll meet at their office or at a family restaurant, and if there isn’t enough time we might speak over the phone. Sometimes meetings only take an hour, and sometimes they may take a full day.
NESMITH: And is that where you gain their input in regards to how they want to steer the story and what their ideas are?
Hiroyuki Nakano: Yeah. And we have these postcards that are presents for the readers that have a spot where they can write their top three most interesting series of the week but…
NESMITH: Ah, like a survey! Using those postcards you rank the popularity of each series.
Hiroyuki Nakano: When we first receive the postcards, we have the junior editors count the postcards and make the ranking. Afterward, we use them as reader data and separate it based on gender, age, area, and whatnot. The rankings are the scariest part. Hearing them say things like “Yes, I’m 3rd!”, or “Man, I’m 19th…” and so forth.
NESMITH: I learned when I was reading Bakuman that Jump is a magazine that places a special emphasis on reader feedback. Is there a particular reason why it became that way?
Hiroyuki Nakano: I would say that has to do with the very origin of the magazine as a whole. It wasn’t always Weekly Shonen Jump. Originally there was Weekly Shonen Magazine and Weekly Shonen Sunday. When Weekly Shonen Jump joined the picture, it originally didn’t have any famous authors affiliated with it. As a result, it became a space for aspiring authors to prove themselves. However, there wasn’t a way to measure what was resonating with readers, so the usage of the survey became a way to gauge interest. That’s the origin of how we came to approach the opinions of Jump readers both new and old, and its continued ever since.
NESMITH: I see. Going back to what you were saying before about how manga is created, does the topic of the surveys come up when you have meetings with the authors?
Hiroyuki Nakano: Yes, it does. When talking about the story or characters moving forward, it’s definitely taken into consideration.
SEKAI: What kind of work takes place after the meetings?
Hiroyuki Nakano: After we meet we have the author come up with a name. We typically have them come up with a sort of rough draft. Today I brought with me the original rough draft of when Eiichiro Oda was naming of One Piece.
NESMITH & SEKAI: Oh wow! Incredible!
NESMITH: Did you have to make any adjustments to One Piece?
Hiroyuki Nakano: There have been instances where I’ve said things like “This section is hard to understand” or “the story isn’t progressing at all”. If it’s not interesting in the slightest I might even ask them to rewrite it.
NESMITH: The whole thing?!
Hiroyuki Nakano: The editor is the very first reader, so it’s important not to hold back and say things like “it’s interesting”. The readers can be a tough crowd, so it’s important to let the author know when what they’ve written isn’t interesting. The editor currently in charge of One Piece is still relatively inexperienced, so apparently, if they don’t give a thorough explanation of their judgments Oda Sensei gets upset, saying things like “Did you even read it? I need to know what isn’t good.”
NESMITH: It’s got to take some courage to explain your reasoning to Oda Sensei.
SEKAI: But it also takes a lot for Oda Sensei to try and pull that out of someone without much experience.
Hiroyuki Nakano: Once we have them decide on a name, we move onto the manuscript phase. Once we move into manuscripting it almost feels like I can take a breather. It becomes a lot easier to read how many days it’ll take for sketching, so we can gauge what timing we can have a draft done by. The most difficult part is finalizing a name. Sometimes things won’t come together at all and that… gives me a lot of anxiety. The ideal schedule is 3 days to come up with a name and 4 days for the manuscript but…
NESMITH: And you do this every week!
Hiroyuki Nakano: For veterans like Oda Sensei the manuscript doesn’t take too long, and it can actually take longer to come up with a name.
SEKAI: I’ve definitely heard that naming is a common struggle amongst manga artists.
Hiroyuki Nakano: We can’t get into manuscripts until a name is decided, so if that gets delayed it causes bigger problems further down. So our job as editors is to phone or meet with the author and help them come up with ideas.
NESMITH: And there are times where the editor’s ideas become included in the finalized work.
Hiroyuki Nakano: Yes, there are. Part of our job is to help the authors overcome any blocks they’re experiencing, so we throw them a bunch of ideas.
NESMITH: Wow… By the way, your workweek not only includes what we’ve just discussed but also the discovery of new talent?
Hiroyuki Nakano: Yes, it is. A core principle of Jump is the prioritization and development of up and coming authors, so we, and especially some of the junior staff, work on helping nurture a new author into a popular one.
NESMITH: Responding to newcomers while also working on something currently in serialization…
Hiroyuki Nakano: We typically respond to direct applications, or we ask talented entrants of manga competitions to work with us again. From winning the competition to writing a one-shot, and finally moving onto serialization. I’ve been an editor for about 10 years, and I think the number of authors I can call and get in contact with is around 100.
NESMITH: For example, an author than you discovered would be…
SEKAI: Yūsei Matsui, of Assassination Classroom fame.
Hiroyuki Nakano: I was in charge of his very first serialized work, Neuro: Supernatural Detective.
NESMITH: I’m a huge fan of Neuro. There’s a uniqueness to the art style that can be a bit grotesque at times, but I found it rather beautiful. Or rather, the expressions that exposed human greed were the best. However, it was a bit…unique.
Hiroyuki Nakano: I think the majority of authors would rather not tread down the beaten path. From the very beginning, I sensed quite a bit of potential from Matsui sensei. From how he would write his dialogues to his desire to draw a certain kind of work, it was almost guaranteed that he would be recognized. It did take some time, but once the character of Neuro was finalized it only took about half a year until serialization.
SEKAI: The struggle for him was the character…
NESMITH: But the road to making that was a tough one.
Hiroyuki Nakano: Yes, it was. For young inexperienced authors, I’ll invite them out to eat if they can give me what they’re thinking about. After I finish work I’ll say something like “I’ll treat you to dinner at a family restaurant, so let’s brainstorm.”
SEKAI: And meetings like those lead to the creation of series like Assassination Classroom.
Hiroyuki Nakano: The happiest moment in this job for me is the moment when an author that I’m meeting and seeing has their work put into serialization for the first time. As an editor, I’m unable to draw manga, but I do have pride in my job of assisting the author with every fiber of my being.
NESMITH: That’s a very intense relationship.
Hiroyuki Nakano: I guess the closest thing I can compare it to is a manager. Each and every relationship between an editor and an author is different. Some are almost like friends, while others are more like a father or an older brother, and there are even times where they can feel like your enemy.
SEKAI: We also have moments like that.
NESMITH: There might be times where we might butt heads with our staff in a desire to get the best out of each other. By having someone look at our creations from an average perspective while we’re creating it, it makes us want to try harder, and it allows for opportunities to notice things that weren’t spotted before. I’ve even noticed performers exchanging reasons for why SEKAI chose some actions in our dance routines.
Hiroyuki Nakano: Nowadays information isn’t just limited to postcards but also comes in from the net, and if you accept everything your own identity starts to fade. I think this is a thing creators from every genre face, not just manga creators. In regards to the fixes an editor recommends, I think an author that isn’t able to fix anything is honestly not good. However, I think an author that only knows how to fix what they are told exactly how they’re told and doesn’t think outside the box can cause problems as well. The “talented author” that we talk about in the editorial division is someone that can approach the fixes the editor proposes from another perspective and create a product that is even better than the original idea.
SEKAI: Most creators do tend to fall into the category of “people that don’t like being told what to do”.
Hiroyuki Nakano: However, there always has to be someone that is critical of a series before it goes to the readers. I think there has to be an awareness that not everything that’s made is 100% good to go.
SEKAI: it’s almost like a battle between the editors and the authors, seeing who can make the better product.
Hiroyuki Nakano: And as a product of that work, today I’ve brought with me the original manuscript for One Piece.
NESMITH: Wooah! This is something Oda sensei drew himself? Amazing!!
SEKAI: Even the dialogue is handwritten! Wow! I’ve got to make sure I keep this clean. This is art, a true Japanese treasure!
Hiroyuki Nakano: The raw manuscript really is on another level.
NESMITH: Wow, that sure was a treat! Up until now, we asked about the work of an editor, but what does the work of an Editor-in-Chief entail?
Hiroyuki Nakano: It’s definitely a position where I have to make a lot of decisions for the magazine. That being said, when I first became Editor-in-Chief I gained the belief that I have the least authority in regards to Jump. Of course, I have the final say in regards to the actual decision making, but the voice of our readers is so much louder than my own. No matter how much I want to continue publishing specific works, if it’s not popular it can’t continue serialization.
SEKAI: So you’re not the only one that decides if a new work should be published, you meet with everyone and decide together.
Hiroyuki Nakano: Yes, that’s how it’s done. Every few months we have a meeting where we discuss what manga should be serialized. Just as there are manga that start their run there, there are others that end their run.
SEKAI: Whenever I hear of a new manga being serialized I’m both happy and hopeful that they can continue.
Hiroyuki Nakano: We also feel the same. Typically we have about 10 editors who participate in the meetings. We’ll all get together and read the entire body of work and have a discussion. Sometimes the decision is unanimous, while other times there’s a lot of weighing of pros and cons.
SEKAI: Chainsaw Man only began during 2019, right?
Hiroyuki Nakano: That manga is, in the best way possible, not very Jump-like. But I think that’s why it’s so important to try things out. I’d like to remove the stereotype that “because it’s going to be serialized in Jump, it has to be a certain way”.
NESMITH: I definitely think that there is a “standard” way of doing things when it comes to manga. Do you think that standard changes over time?
Hiroyuki Nakano: It definitely does. As the times change so do the readers. I think it’s an unavoidable truth when it comes to manga magazines.
SEKAI: Come to think of it, I find how varied Jump is now as opposed to how it was back in the day to be a factor in its entertainment value. When Demon Slayer began serialization it was like a big surprise.
Hiroyuki Nakano: Ayotoge sensei of Demon Slayer was an author the entire department had high hopes for from the start. His way of writing dialogue and unique sex appeal made him a top contender, and I think the result of that being carried into shonen manga is Demon Slayer. It’s balanced. As editors, we continue to search for that moment when an author’s creativity and a reader’s interests align.
NESMITH: Thank you for giving us so much valuable information.
SEKAI: And allowing us to see such valuable materials, I think how I read manga has changed.
Hiroyuki Nakano: I think manga is something you should enjoy lightheartedly. But if you’re able to understand some of the blood, sweat, and tears that goes into each work it’d be nice.
SEKAI: We can understand. It’d be impossible to try and release a new song every week, even if we were told to do so.
NESMITH: And yet there are people who have been doing exactly that for over 20 years. Manga is incredible.
SEKAI: I’ll continue to read Jump every week!
We would like to thank Hiroyuki Nakano for participating in this interview, and to Monthly EXILE magazine, EXILE NESMITH, and EXILE SEKAI for conducting it! All of the latest Jump manga is available now in English alongside a massive collection of previous series on the official Shonen Jump website and the official App for iOS and Android!