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Tokyo These Days Volume 1 Review


Publisher Summary

After 30 years as a manga editor, Kazuo Shiozawa suddenly quits. Although he feels early retirement is the only way to atone for his failures as an editor, the manga world isn’t done with him.


On his final day as an editor, Shiozawa takes a train he’s ridden hundreds of times to impart some last advice to a manga creator whose work he used to edit. Later, he is drawn to return to a bookshop at the request of a junior editor who wants his help dealing with an incorrigible manga creator who used to be edited by Shiozawa and now refuses to work with anyone else. For Shiozawa, Tokyo these days is full of memory and is cocooned in the inescapable bonds among manga creators, their editors, art, and life itself.


I received this volume as an ARC from Viz Media in exchange for an honest review.


Background

 

Tokyo These Days was created by multiple Eisner Award winner Taiyo Matsumoto, who also wrote and illustrated the series Ping Pong, Sunny, Cats of the Louvre, No. 5, and more. The series listed have all been previously licensed by Viz Media, as well. Tokyo These Days ran in the seinen magazine Big Comic Original Zoukan. It was nominated for the Tezuka Osamu Cultural Prize in 2023, and is currently complete in Japan with three volumes.


I became interested in reading this manga once I saw that it was described as "explor[ing] the relationships between a manga editor, manga creators, art, and the rhythm of life these days." The inner workings of the manga industry itself fascinates me just as much as reading manga does. Anything that covers the topic of how manga is created and the emotions of those working on them immediately grabs my attention.


The other reason I picked this volume to try was because I have heard praises for Taiyo Matsumoto's previous works, but had yet to read any of them myself. I thought this would be a great one to start with due to the topic at hand.


Review

 

My initial reaction to finishing this first volume was that I didn't think I had much at all to say about it. It was different than I had been expecting. I thought it take a closer look at how the job of a manga editor actually functions, and to some extent it does show that, but it focuses more on the various characters' (both manga creators and editors) struggles with the current manga industry. They feel disconnected from the stories they tell, disillusioned by the publishing world, and some of the characters are previous manga creators who have quit all together. One of these is the main character, a manga editor with a 30 year long career named Kazuo Shiozawa who decides to retire early after his magazine folds.


Most of the cast tries to completely cut off their connection to manga, to the extent that one of the mangaka Shiozawa visits won't even step into a place that carries it. A few tried to create manga that were closer to what they really wanted to make, but their sales plummeted despite their dedication. Others once had that passion and managed to find great success, but now they drift through their current life and work in a creative rut, making works that Shiozawa says feel thin or hollow in comparison. What happened to the creative spark they once had?

Rather than a story about how manga is published, it is a closer look at the feelings of artists and editors who have hit a bump or low point in their work and lives. As someone who enjoys making art myself, I could relate to their frustrations when it comes to not being able to find the motivation or inspirational feelings you once had. The world can sometimes wear you down or take the joy of creating out of you. That's even more of the case when you're making art for a business that these mangaka say focuses on profits above all else. It's difficult to keep your head above water and write from the heart when you have to worry about breaking even at the very least, and trying to keep a connection with readers over the years. People's tastes change. They seek out something fresh and exciting. Perhaps you can't always keep the attention of the same readers regardless of the work you truly want to create. For some artists, that can breed a sense of resentment.



How does one push past both the suffocating world around them and the criticism of both their readers and their editor in order to make a breakthrough? I think this series will show that it takes strength of character, incredible passion, or maybe just a whole lot of stubbornness to not give up. Most artists are sensitive and sometimes eccentric people (I say that as someone who likes to draw and write, but is also surrounded by others who do, as well) who can get stuck in their heads or on a very particular vision they have in mind. This story shows that the relationship between an editor and a mangaka is meant to assist in improving their storytelling and illustrations in order for their work to truly shine. Other times, however, an artist's work can be muddled down by the redirected focus of "this is what will sell the best right now" even if it's not the story they actually wanted to tell. It is a line that Tokyo These Days shows us must be hard to walk in order to find a happy medium in this industry.


After sitting on this manga for roughly a full day after I had completed it, I realized that had more to say about it than previously thought. As originally I wrote this review, I bumped my rating up from a 3/5 to 4/5 stars. It affected me more deeply than anticipated, and I will probably continue to think about Tokyo These Days in the future, even if my expectations going in were different than what I received.


Final Thoughts

 

So, what kind of reader is Tokyo These Days for?


If you're a creative person, or even someone who's been feeling as if you're stuck in limbo with your current job or life in general, I think Tokyo These Days is worth reading. Of course, if you love all types of manga, this is also a series that you should try picking up. Even as Shiozawa and the others try to escape manga, they can't help but return to it, for they love it too much, and that shines through everything else. Manga has become part of their lives, and isn't something they can easily leave behind. It's something that manga lovers and the characters share.


However, if you were expecting a series more along the lines of Bakuman, this likely won't be your speed. Volume one did not go in depth about the creation of manga in a technical sense or how the magazines themselves function. It's also not written with any type of competition or sportsmans-like rivalry or goals. The best way I can describe Tokyo These Days in comparison is that it is a more down-to-earth, melancholic, and "literary" type of work. It fits perfectly in the Viz Signature line-up, which is catered toward older readers and those who be new to transitioning from US comics to manga.


Since Tokyo These Days is a $28.00 volume that may or may not strike home with everyone, I would say to try and pick it up during a sale to see how much you enjoy it.


Verdict: Pick It Up On Sale

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