Why should Kentaro Miura's death make us reflect on the way we treat authors who slowly complete (or do not complete at all) their works?
I had been on the hot draft of this article for nine months. I wasn't sure how to complete it and how to finish it.
Unfortunately, the death of Kentaro Miura, the author of the manga Berserk, gave me reason to take it back and finish it.
Initially, this article was titled Time to leave George RR Martin alone, but the version you will read today has been expanded and revised, to make a broader discussion.
"When does [insert author / tress name] end the saga?", "Instead of doing [insert activity X], [insert author / tress name] should write!" I'm phrases that we have probably all said.
They arise from the desire to have new material for a product that we like, to see a story that we are passionate about ending, and from the frustration of not seeing these desires satisfied. Feeling frustrated and upset about these reasons is completely normal. Also let off steam on the internet asking "But instead of doing X, Rothfuss can't complete his saga?" it is normal and understandable.
With this article I don't want to demonize anyone, nor make those who wrote such things feel guilty, nor tell you that you are a bad person if you want George RR Martin to finish his A Song of Ice and Fire.
This article, on the other hand, wants to try to reflect on the fact that this type of attitude, after a certain point, can be unhealthy, especially if it is then received by aindustry that is prone to the exploitation of its workers. Of course, we cannot define the public responsible for the exploitation of authors by the industries, but we will delve into this further later.
Let's see how this discourse unfolds in the case of authors such as GRR Martin, Patrick Rothfuss and Kentaro Miura, and how Miura's death can teach us something.
George RR Martin's catchphrase about slowness
“George RR Martin is not done yet The Winds of Winter"And" This is what George RR Martin does instead of writing "are now catchphrases that have accompanied us for years.
Also thanks to a George RR Martin which continues to promise that yes, the sixth book of A Song of Ice and Fire, The Winds of Winter, will come out. So, every new year there are memes and articles about how slow this fantasy author is to write his most successful saga.
Its slowness is well known and renowned. Indeed, A Song of Ice and Fire they saw their first book, A game of thrones, published in 1996, and the fifth book, A Dance with Dragons, in 2011. Waiting to finally have the sixth book, we had time to see an eight-season TV series started (2011) and ended (2019). In the eighteen years since I started reading this saga way back in 2003, I have only seen two books published.
However, after nine years of catchphrase about Martin's slowness, it is my personal opinion that we should leave this author alone for a while.
But let's move on, and see the situation of other authors.
Patrick Rothfuss, delays and depression
Much less known than Martin, Patrick Rothfuss is one of the major American fantasy authors of the past decade.
He is in fact the author of the trilogy The Chronicles of the King's Assassin, currently composed of two books: The name of the wind (2007) and Fear of the wise (2011). The third volume, The Doors of Stone, has not yet been concluded.
Nonetheless, the first two books have sold very well and Rothfuss continues to enjoy high regard in the fantasy world. Not for nothing, it was Rothfuss himself who curated the texts and history of the comic book story Rick and Morty vs. Dungeons & Dragons.
The ten years that have passed since the publication of Fear of the wise however, they made themselves heard in his fanbase. Today, in fact, it is difficult to come across online discussions of Rothfuss (even concerning things other than writing) without bringing out his slowness in writing and his delay in the publication of the third volume.
By now, Rothfuss can hardly express any kind of opinion without someone trying to invalidate it by bringing up the argument of delay. "But he finished his work instead of talking talking talking," writes a user on a well-known Facebook group of readers and fantasy writers.
Depression and fan support
One thing must also be emphasized: in recent years Rothfuss has had to deal with the trough. And, as he also tells on Twitter, it was not easy:
In retrospect, attempting to battle crippling depression by drinking vodka and watching Attack on Titan might not have been a great plan.
I'm off to bed. And while I'm not doing great, I'm okay. If you know what I mean. Thanks for your support, folks. Take care of yourselves.
In retrospect, trying to defeat a crippling depression by drinking vodka and watching Attack on Titan may not have been a great plan.
I got out of bed. And while I'm not very well, I'm okay. If you know what I mean. Thanks for your support, folks. Take care of yourself.
Thankfully, though, a large chunk of his fanbase continues to support a lot of Rothfuss:
1) Take care of yourself, Pat. We all love you. And yes, I know exactly what you mean.
Take care of yourself, Pat. We all love you. And yes, I know exactly what you mean.
2) more importantly take care of yourself and remember you are awesome!
But first of all take care of yourself and remember that you are awesome!
3) love you bud. You're such an inspiration. Keep at it. Don't quit. You've impacted and changed a lot of lives.
I love you, mate. You are a great inspiration. Hold on. Don't give in. You made a big impact and changed so many lives.
Kentaro Miura and the tremendous pace of work of Japanese mangaka
Creator of the seinen manga Berserk and one of the most acclaimed mangaka of the last forty years, Kentaro Miura died on May 6, 2021.
Berserk started running in 1989 and is still ongoing. However, from 2006 onwards Miura began to slow down and make the pace of its publications more irregular. Currently, it published about two or three chapters per year.
Generally, the fandom of Berserk he has always been quite understanding towards Miura. In fact, not only has the quality of the manga's illustrations always been very high, but the fact that the author has been continuing to write the work for thirty years has always aroused the solidarity of readers.
Nevertheless, unfortunately, over the years there have been unhappy releases from fans, who believed that Miura no longer had "desire to work".
In reverse, in an interview Miura said she worked about 10 or 11 hours a day, sleeping about 6 or 7 hours a "night". In addition, Miura stressed that she practically never takes vacation. His own schedule is very particular, as the magaka tended to sleep from noon to seven in the evening, then working all night and the following morning.
The truth we don't want to hear: authors are not required to finish their works
I understand that when you are committed to creating a series of products, theoretically you should arrive at the end of this series. However, we must remember that, generally, an author is not paid in advance for the whole series he is supposed to publish, but book after book, except in cases where the publisher enters into a contract for an entire trilogy.
In this sense, generally there are no legal constraints that force an author to finish his series.
Of course, we can assume that Martin or Rothfuss should finish their works out of respect for the fans. This argument is understandable, but it has a major flaw: it does not take into account the fact that a writer is under no obligation to finish his work.
Let us remember that you can always be fired from a job
After all, a person who works in tourism may decide to quit in the height of the summer season, without completing the "holiday period" from start to finish, because the pay is too low. Similarly, a person who works on a video game may decide to quit because the pace of work is too oppressive. You can quit because more important things happen in our life. You can get fired because you don't get along well with colleagues. Or, you can get fired because we simply don't like our job anymore.
So why do we have the idea that a writer or a writer should marry their job without the possibility of divorce?
Rothfuss has the right not to complete The Doors of Stone because he suffers from depression and honestly has other things to worry about. Scott Lynch, the author of the cycle of the Galantuomini Bastards, stopped at the third volume out of seven, has the right not to write, if in the meantime he too has to fight depression. A prolific author like Brandon Sanderson may not continue the saga of The rhythmist, if you do not feel ready to face the issues that that setting.
And yes, an author like George Martin may not even conclude A Chronicle of Ice and Fire, if he's wrapped up with the plot, or has no more ideas, or he's just tired of working on that story.
Kentaro Miura: an author who has worked too hard?
What does all this talk have to do with Kentaro Miura and his death?
Well, in recent days a post by the screenwriter has been shot on Facebook Giovanni Barbieri. Let's see what it says better.
Kentaro Miura (1966-2021) died on 6 May. He leaves no wife or children.
Cause of death is aortic dissection. In practice, the internal tissue of the aorta tears and creates a sac. When the pouch in turn breaks, the outcome is fatal.
Causes include high blood pressure and excess stimulants. Only early diagnosis can save lives.
But what was Miura's life like? Let's try to read the autobiographical notes he left in his comics ...
A life as a recluse: Miura's statements in the XNUMXs
Barbieri's post continues, listing Miura's statements in the nineties, that is, in the years in which Berserk came out with greater continuity:
I got a fever of 40. Looking back, I only had two days off this year. (1993)
I lost 5 kilos without doing anything. I wonder why. (1993)
For the past two months, I've slept an average of less than four hours a night. (1993)
I will turn 27 in July. Looking back, it's been 27 years of comics. Is this what I want? (1993)
Since I moved, my hours of sleep have been less than four. (1994)
It's the same every year, I have to work on Christmas and New Year. I would like to celebrate, once in a while. (1994)
I had a day off for the first time in a month and a half and when I got out, I had heat stroke. (1995)
I bought new shoes and clothes for the New Year. I only have a pair of sneakers. (1996)
I was in Okinawa for my first mangaka vacation and for the first two and a half days I was sick with heat stroke. (1998)
A life spent for work, even when work seems to be decreasing: Miura's statements in the '00s
Berserk it came out continuously until 2006, but even after Miura's routine it hasn't improved much.
In the past month and a half, I've been out for two hours to have dinner at a club. (2001)
If I haven't seen people for a long time, my mouth no longer works as it should. (2002)
My days off are half a day every two months. I haven't taken two consecutive days off in four years. I'm getting tired. (2004)
I had another collapse from overwork. (2005)
My thirty years are about to end. My life is a mess, made up only of manga. But it can't be returned to me, so I'll go ahead! I will stay indoors again this year. (2006) After all, I will not stay indoors, because I feel alone. (2006)
I haven't been able to go out for a week and chocolate has become a precious food. (2006)
Two thirds of my body is made of energy bars. Does that mean that Berserk is two-thirds sponsored by the manufacturer? (2009)
I haven't been able to see live cherry blossoms this year either. (2011)
The hard life of the mangaka: the artist as a machine for the production of works
As we said before and as we have seen now, Kentaro Miura has always worked at a tremendously fast pace. There is also the possibility that this highly stressful lifestyle has accelerated the manifestation of the aortic dissection, although this remains a hypothesis nonetheless.
Unfortunately, working in these conditions is not a Miura prerogative: practically all Japanese mangaka have similar work rates.
In this article let's see some examples.
Eiichiro Oda, the author of one piece, for example, claims to sleep only three hours a night.
Masashi Kishimoto, the author of Naruto, has a very similar pace of life, working up to 19 hours a day and sleeping for three.
Akira Toriyama, the author of Dragon Ball, on the other hand, tends to work until he collapses.
But on the web They are also the work schedules of other mangaka, such as Hiroshi Shiibashi, author of The lords of monsters, which you can see in the image above. Notice how Shiibashi tends to sleep up to a minimum of three hours a night, and with only three hours of free time a week!
It is inhuman work rhythms, which violate the human rights of gods and mangakas and which can have tremendous effects on their health, as also reported this article.
Certainly, these rhythms of work are quite common in Japanese society, where, between a sense of duty towards the community (and therefore towards the publishing house and readers, in the case of mangaka) and an ultra-capitalist economy, there is often little space for the cultivation of an identity of the single person, detached from work and his social duties, and therefore entitled to, for example, free time.
What can we do to avoid other Miuras?
Let's be honest: we Westerners can do very little to change the Japanese world of work.
Particularly, we have very little means of influencing the lives of mangaka. In fact, let us always remember that a large part of the income derived from the sale of manga and anime comes from the Japanese market.
Therefore, even if we wanted, for example, to boycott the manga of the publishing house for which Miura worked, that is the Hakusensha, asking that the working conditions of their mangaka improve, the economic damage we could do would be minimal, because there would always be the Japanese market.
One thing we can do instead is change, in general, our attitude towards those who create content, above all to avoid that other publishers or manufacturers emulate too much the rhythms of work proposed by manga publishers.
So I think we should be focusing more not on when a book, movie or video game will come out, but on how ethical the way it is produced is.
And that yes, it means boycotting the video game manufacturers they do crunching on its employees, as in the case of cyberpunk 2077. Or boycott films directed by directors who treat those who work with them badly, as in the case of Joss Whedon.
And yes, on a smaller, more personal level, it also means limiting ourselves to how often we can pester our favorite authors, when they are slow to publish the new book of a saga we love.
Why, in the end, by doing so we approach and validate, even unconsciously, that kind of mentality that is perhaps responsible for Miura's death, and who sees those who create content as a vending machine, which must always produce and in any case, because “otherwise they betray the fans”.