Interview by Ichibo Harada @HEW
So you like anime but you're no good at drawing? Fear not, as there are tons of possibilities out there for you! In this series of interviews, we will shine a light on the job opportunities there may be for you!
This time, we will be interviewing two editors for the very special Kadokawa monthly magazine "Newtype", which has been the go-to magazine for retrieving the latest info about anime since 1985! Meet our guests Kaneuchi and Shibuno.
It is the Chief Editor who decides what makes it to the cover
── What exactly does an editor do?
Shibuno: We decide everyone's role and series they will be in charge of for every issue. That means they'll have to commission artworks, think of the layout of the articles, and take care of the media like WebNewtype as well.
Kaneuchi: Well, for "Newtype" we usually have a general meeting at the end of every month and brainstorm things like "Who could we interview?", or "Is there anyone we could commission some artworks?" so that each product manager gets to share the situation with their work to the rest of the team. On the following week, we would have another meeting where people would give ideas and tell what they want to do, like "I want to publish a column on XYZ" or "I want to get the center pages for this series because it's going to become the next big thing", and start assigning the pages. We also start discussing what series to feature on the cover!
── Who decides what makes it to the cover, and how?
── Having to pick a cover at the beginning of every month sounds quite like a hard task. You have to sort of forecast what will be popular, don't you?
Kaneuchi: I guess you could say we are gamblers, after all. (laughs)
── Would it be too much, to ask what was the best selling issue this year?
Shibuno: The one featuring Saekano (Dec. 2019 issue) and the Violet Evergarden movie one (Jun. 2020 issue) are definitely the ones you want to look out for.
Kaneuchi: The issue featuring Violet Evergarden contains a special article about Pokemon, too! The Leon and Raihan artwork we commissioned for that issue was very popular on social media too!
Artwork commissions are laid out to the slightest detail
── What would you describe as being particularly tough?
Kaneuchi: Commissioning the official animator to do any artwork, definitely. The quality of the artwork has a huge influence on whether the issue will sell or not, so it is extremely important to us. Dealing with the official animator though can be hard because they give a lot of feedback and won't make compromises. I've been told more than once things like "This character would never do that", "We can't draw such a background in this amount of time", or even "That's something that has to do with the game and not the anime...", sometimes it might feel like hitting a wall several times... (laughs)
── Other than the settings for the characters, what are some things you would have to give instructions about when commissioning?
Shibuno: I personally like to lay it all out when commissioning an artwork, from clothes to photography, background, props, and all sorts of details. I also attach a rough sketch of the artwork I am commissioning, but of course, we never publish those.
── Wow, I see! So your requests go from the pose to the most detailed bits, like the spreading of the hair in the back, or even the direction of each character's gaze.
Shibuno: I used to draw manga myself, so I became quite picky and tend to give many instructions. Although some animators don't appreciate too much guidance and I sometimes have to hold back...
── Shibuno, I hear you were the one who commissioned the cover for the upcoming August issue. Could you tell us more about that?
Shibuno: I had the honor of having the two heroines from Sword Art Online: Alicization - War of Underworld drawn together by the director Go Suzuki himself. Mainly because of the series name, I wanted to feature swords but didn't really know how to include them in the whole picture. So after thinking about it for a long time, I came to the conclusion that rather than having characters swinging swords, they'd probably look better still. If the swords became still, the characters wielding them could convey some movement, so I started thinking about how to give that impression through hair and clothes. The idea of having Asuna's hair lifted came from Mr. Suzuki. On this issue, we are featuring an interview where Mr. Suzuki talks about this cover and how he made it, so take a look at it if you're interested. It was really great to work with such a talented individual.
── So you have to be good at sketching to commission an illustration... I'm looking at Kaneuchi's sketches now and... sorry to say this but... they're not exactly the level one would imagine... (laughs)
Kaneuchi: My sketches are so bad I thought of taking classes for a while... (laughs)
Since I can't rely too much on drawing, I make up for it with written notes.
Shibuno: Well said! The final goal is for our idea to get through. You don't necessarily need to be good at drawing to be an editor.
Could a fan's cry on the web be turned into an illustration!?
── You really have to know everything about a series to commission an illustration then, don't you?
Kaneuchi: On top of being up to date with what's happening in the series, you have to also know what the fandom wants and expects from it. So, for example, I got the idea of a Leon x Raihan illustration for the Pokemon special from the fans. That pairing is pretty popular.
── I see, it's not only knowing the popular pairings, but also imagining the interactions between the characters and recreating the settings too... How do you check on those tropes?
Shibuno: We check social media, mostly pixiv. The pixiv Encyclopedia too is very resourceful as it's written by users who would input all sorts of weird facts and memes about every character. To us, being able to read things like "the fans always depict this character in these situations..." or "this character is often employed in this meme..." is very useful.
Kaneuchi: We also check which pairings are the most popular for each character on pixiv.
── So, this may be a stretch but, if a fan were to tweet something like: "I wanna see this and that character in this sort of setting", could that be picked up by any of you?
Kaneuchi: We could take a hint from such a tweet, yeah... (laughs)
Really, fans shouldn't hold back and post about their wishes for their favorite series, whether it's by drawing or writing them out. As an editor, I am always very fond to witness my sketches being turned into beautiful illustrations, and even if the artist has changed some of my guidelines, it's incredible how that never fails to exceed my expectations and I always end up admitting that they were right in what they did.
Shibuno: It's incredible to think that the official animators would pick your idea and develop it, I feel very lucky!
In this time, with media at their peak in popularity, are features a magazine's strength?
── What's a day in your shoes like? I always imagine an editor's job to be very demanding...
Kaneuchi: Publishers and editors' jobs have been changing a lot lately! It's not Heisei any more, we truly are in the Reiwa era now! (laughs) (ed. Reiwa is the new Japanese era that succeded Heisei in May 2019)
── What are you doing to differentiate "WebNewtype", your webzine, from your regular printed Newtype?
Kaneuchi: For example, when we were interviewing the cast and staff from "Wave, Listen to Me!" for the magazine, we got the opportunity to visit the creator of the series where they live and get an exclusive interview. Since the content of that interview was different from what we talked about in the original one with the cast, we decided to publish that exclusively on the web.
Shibuno: Being in charge of the "Kemono Michi" series, an isekai anime about pro-wrestling, I wanted to do something with the famous commentator Haruo Murata, and that lead to the ongoing "Jikkyo! Kemono Michi" where he comments every week's episode. On the printed version we could never keep up that pace, and the web feels like the most appropriate place for such a format.
── I see... Along with webzines, the media dealing with anime press are growing by the day; how are the printed magazines affected by that?
Shibuno: As the Chief Editor, I often find myself debating about "What should nowadays anime magazines be really about?". My personal opinion is that it is extremely difficult for webzines to elevate their articles to the level where they can introduce various anime connected by some file rouge, that for example is a tough format to achieve on web media. Furthermore, printed magazines can become proper collectible items that one can look at to recall anime that were airing in a certain period in time. Since we talked about commissioned illustrations, I think it's worth mentioning that that would not have the same impact on webzines, in my opinion.
── What sort of features will we find in your latest issue?
Shibuno: The feature about Sword Art Online: Alicization - War of Underworld is definitely our strong suit this month. We really dived deep and interviewed almost every member of the cast and developed some interesting, exhaustive pages. All the series' fans will surely enjoy reading it as we put in many pieces of information they might have forgotten about their favorite characters. It will be a nice stroll down Memory Lane!
── Now that you mention it, printed magazines can win over web media by being more exhaustive!
The editor job is a life-long learning experience
── Can you tell us about your careers so far?
Shibuno: We both joined this team in April last year, but our careers before that are quite different. I had been working for ASCII Media Works before (this company was absorbed by Kadokawa in 2013) making magazines about computers and business. So, yes, I was in the magazines' field before, but then I was asked to do sales planning for comics and the company stores, which went on for 4-5 years before I came back to being an editor for Newtype.
Kaneuchi: I had always been working for Media Factory (this company was absorbed by Kadokawa in 2013) making female-audience-targeted manga for magazines like Monthly Comic Gene, so joining this team was the first real switch in my career.
── Had you always dreamed of becoming an editor?
Kaneuchi: I was dreaming of becoming a manga editor when I was a student. It all started in high school when a mangaka visited my school looking for new material. I had such a good time sitting down with them and talking about their job that I thought I wanted to work with manga when I grew up.
── So you helped this mangaka think about the story as well?
Kaneuchi: Yes! We actually became very good friends and kept meeting after that, like going out for dinner, to the theater and so on. We actually came to a point where they were discussing with me how to develop the story in the next chapters...
── Your communication skills must be over 9,000!
Kaneuchi: Haha, no way... (laughs)
Shibuno: Communication is the key to being a good editor! (laughs)
Kaneuchi here approached the community at a very young age, probably without even noticing.
── How about you, Shibuno, did you want to become an editor too?
Shibuno: For a long time I wanted to become a mangaka, but then I realized that unfortunately, I wasn't skilled enough, so I thought I might pursue a career as an editor. Even though I wanted to become a manga editor, I ended up landing a job as an editor for computer magazines (laughs). That's when I recalled a fact about my father, who was an editor too: the first project he was put in charge of was a picture book about squids. Now, he did not know much about squids, but in the month he had to work on the project he studied all the time and became quite the connoisseur; that's when he told me: "Being an editor is a life-long learning experience: if you don't know about something, go out and get educated!", to which I couldn't reply with anything less than "yes, sir". (laughs)
Anime and voice actors enthusiasts are always welcome at the Newtype editing team
── How many people are there in the Newtype editing team?
── Does everyone know a lot about anime?
Kaneuchi: Yes, and not only anime! We all have our own field of interest apart from anime, that's what keeps the workspace fresh and going.
Shibuno: Exactly, we can rely on our coworkers when we are dealing with some genres we don't know much about. I myself know almost nothing about anime for the female audience, so I'd be in the office asking Kaneuchi things like "what's the deal with these Thai BLs?" (laughs)
Being surrounded by passionate people in the workspace can really save the day.
── Would you say that one's passion should always be anime related?
Shibuno: Not necessarily. For example, I proud myself in knowing a lot about Gundam, but honestly, I know more about plastic models and figures than the anime per se. Even so, I guess the more you know the better.
Kaneuchi: To succeed as an editor, I think that the more interests you have, the better you'll perform on your job.
── I once heard that some companies would avoid employing otaku because they might end up mixing work and private interests. What's the Newtype editing team stance about this?
Kaneuchi: Here at Newtype, anime and voice actors enthusiasts are always welcome! The core skill of this job is being able to always approach the next task with high spirits. That doesn't mean you can always do what you want to do, but you have to able to approach new topics with the same enthusiasm you would have when tackling the ones you love.