Thinking About Author Hiatuses

Ssamba recently announced that she’s currently on hiatus. She’s the much-loved manhwaga [만화가]1 of the popular Korean webtoon hosted at Comico, Fluttering Feelings [설레는 기분].

It looks like she’s had computer problems. Webtoons are, unlike traditional black and white manga, drawn and fully colored using a drawing tablet connected to the desktop computer or laptop, which obviously has all the tools she needs to draw and paint. So it’s no laughing matter at all—she cannot make any progress with her serialized comic even if she wants to. Ssamba has then decided to resume her work on 17 Aug.

“NOOOOOOOOOOOO,” I screamed inside my head when I found out. That’s more than a month of not seeing any Seol-a X Norae yuri goodness. My goodness.

But I can't say "NO" to the artist whose self-caricature is as cute as this!

But, really, I can’t say “NO” to the artist whose self-caricature is as cute as this!

For the past six months, I have been up-to-date with the series, never missing a week without reading a fresh update. I have developed dependency on it. The series was like my weekly coffee, except that I don’t drink coffee—let alone weekly.

My first reaction in this case was surprise, followed by a tinge of grief. Generally, it was a slight feeling of sadness. It was briefly relieved by the compilation of illustrations Ssamba has done so far—from the conceptual drawings to fully colored cover pages. But immediately after scrolling through the last strip, my heart was filled with that bit of sadness again.

Slight sadness. Of course, as any other fan would normally react, I’d feel pretty bad if something I always looked forward to would suddenly disappear and for an indefinite period.

Truth be told, I am not totally, extremely upset with this news. I cannot and do not want to complain. There’s a part of me that understands and forgives the author for whatever troubles she might have run into. The part of me that recognizes that I’m only a fan. Not that a fan (or fans) has zero importance for or influence over the success of an author. But just because I’m a fan, it absolutely does not mean that I am entitled to everything about the author or her works. I’m a consumer but—more importantly—Ssamba is the artist.

She’s the creator. I may be paying her some KRW by faithfully reading her works on Comico, but I cannot dictate what and when she should write and draw. With honest admiration comes respect. And I have a great deal of respect towards the author of a work I truly love.

The artist draws and writes not just for the fans she strives to reach, but also for herself. She does not create the works solely for others to see, but also for her self-satisfaction, evaluation, and growth. The artist, too, is the spectator and critic of her own work. Knowing that she is not in the best condition to publicize her usual output, she acknowledges that it would not be the best for her fans.

Ssamba alluded to her health problems, too. She even advised her readers to be watchful of their well-being. This reminds me a lot of the other mangakas’ cases. Most of the reasons, if not all, cited by the publishers as reasons for their writers and illustrators’ breaks are health-related. The breaks could take several weeks or months, but in worse cases they may even take some years.

Hoshino Katsura resumes the admired D.Gray-Man in the new Shounen JUMP magazine, JUMP SQ.Crown, after being on hiatus. According to reports, she’s regularly had breaks since January 2013 because of illnesses and injuries of the mangaka. And not so long ago, Fujiwara Cocoa died because of an undisclosed illness. At the age of 31, she left her readers behind in this world, never seeing the next chapters of her newly serialized manga and will always be reminiscing on how her lovely stories and art have touched and inspired their lives. Inu X Boku SS was a very pretty and enjoyable show. I even read the manga and am a proud witness to her gorgeous art. I still can’t believe that the very person who penned it is now gone.

Roromiya Karuta Inu x Boku SS

Roromiya Karuta (Inu x Boku SS)

It’s not like death and illnesses are a new thing, even in this industry. But they aren’t often talked about. Needless to say, bad health and death are unpleasant subjects to discuss.

All of this leads me to question things, though.

If we think about it–hell, even if we don’t at all–mangaka are humans, too. We might have unknowingly worshipped them, putting these real people on the high, idealized seats in society.

“They are amazing storytellers.”

“They are gifted artists!”

“They are god!”


It’s time to check our delusions about them and realize once again that they are simply humans. They don’t earn that much to make them millionaires unless they’re best-selling authors—a feat not easy to achieve. It’s totally not easy, when it’s not just about talent or ability. But it’s also childish to think that money is everything that makes the person happy. And that mangaka don’t run into problems aside from health and computer troubles. They have their own lives—we all do—and to live means to find yourself in the midst of adversities from time to time.

Like I said, mangaka make a living by crafting their fantastic stories into drawings. To draw consistently under a regular schedule (be it weekly, monthly, bi-monthly) is, for us outsiders, an unimaginably professional and rigid routine. As Bakuman showed us, mangaka even have to sacrifice their sleep and (some of their) social life in order to meet their impending deadlines while keeping things cool, exciting, and awesome for their readers. All for the sake of rankings, in the hope to avoid the Death Axe, or shall we flatly call it Death Scythe?2 Sooner or later, some of them would have to write 「完」(The End) instead of「つづく」(to be continued), rendering them jobless until they work themselves to death to come up with a sworn better story and even god-tier art. Not only to gain satisfaction from their masterpiece as artists, but also to have some bills on their ever-emptying wallets.

Can I eat now? Said no one ever in a manga studio.

“Can I eat now?” Asked no one ever in a manga studio. WORK WORK WORK WORK.

Again, I find myself in a spiral of questions.

Are mangaka put under unnecessary pressures? Is the industry too harsh for them—especially for their health—but they can only go with the flow because it’s their primary source of income, if not only their passion and calling? Are their fans causing more harm than good? (This may be a good topic for another time) Don’t they experience writer’s block and creative burnout? Is that “… to research materials, etc.” one- or two-liner hiatus announcement that we see on the bottom of the last page of the chapter merely a cover-up on what are really happening behind the scenes? To deal with the never-ending stress from never-ending demand from the industry and consumers, do the mangaka succumb to alcoholic drinks in an attempt to drown their problems or too much drugs to help them sleep in the night? Do they have a solid support system to help them whenever they feel mentally lost or unwanted?

All those questions remain unanswered at the moment. If anything, I really don’t want to easily dismiss one source of conflict in Can’t See Can’t Hear But Love as something trivial.

Can't See Can't Hear But Love

Apparently, a reader and a self-proclaimed fan has many things she doesn’t know. The reality behind each page, panel, screentone , effect, ink shading, whiteout, and draft may be harsher than we know, or think we already know.

  1. That’s the Korean equivalent of the Japanese mangaka [漫画家]
  2. Bakuman taught me that series that do poorly in weekly rankings for quite some time or several weeks eventually get axed (discontinued). Plus, the popular representation of the Grim Reaper is a hooded human skeleton with a scythe.

25 responses to “Thinking About Author Hiatuses

  1. I know for a fact that the mangaka business isn’t easy, but Bakuman really showed that reality well. Yea, every time a mangaka is on hiatus because of illness, I feel kinda sorry for them. Death and illness aren’t uncommon in the manga industry, unfortunately. One thing that gets to me, which is also, something Bakuman has interpreted lightly-is the Death Axe. The cancellation notice is always gotten in advance (like a few weeks), that means they still need to work on those last few chapters prior to cancellation. Working with such a hectic schedule, yet knowing the manga would get cancelled soon, really does a number on your psyche. We, as manga reviewers (me included) might easily say “rushed pacing” at this point of time, but looking at the circumstances, it’s understandable, and sympathetic.

    • Yep, you’re right. I remember those details. The cancellation process really does some damage. And it’s also quite easy to spot a cancelled work. Most of them aren’t even 30 to 50+ chapters yet. It’s quite harsh. Also, I don’t kinda trust the popularity poll system in terms of which series to axe, but knowing that it’s manga magazines thrive on their readers, I can’t help but just resign to that fact. Sigh.

  2. Great post. I think that many mangaka, especially the ones whose manga are serialized weekly are under great pressure. I heard that the actual drawing is easier for the mangaka because they keep improving for being serialized weekly, plus they have assistants. Their main concern is coming up with the story/plot. And they also have to keep up with deadlines and such. But I guess that this doesn’t apply to webtoons. Do artists making webtoons have assistants, or do they do all the work themselves? If that’s so, then I guess it’s more difficult for them.

    As for the act of hiatus itself, I can’t help but feel disappointed as a reader, but I try to think from their perspective. We’re only bloggers, and we already experience burn-outs. Just imagine what it’s like for these people whose livelihoods depend on the work they keep pumping out.

    Anyway, what I’m saying is that as a reader, I want them to avoid going into hiatus, but as a writer/blogger, I respect them for their decisions to prioritize their own well-beings first. Once again, great post, Miha-chan. Glad that you’re finally back. Keep it up. Cheers!

    • Yeah, the thing with coming up with the next chapters’ plot, on top of having to lay them neatly on panels under a specific number of pages, is that it’s both a mentally and physically tiring activity. Some may work more efficiently under a strict schedule, but there are other people who see deadlines as pressures that would only cause them to panic rather than make them inspired.

      I’m not sure if webtoon artists have assistants. Seems to me that they normally don’t. But quite a number of webtoons are actually made by author-illustrator teams–I think far more often than Japanese manga are. Also, some webtoon artists have their own flagship, or studio. Sometimes, the authors are more widely known by their studio name than their real name. Most webtoons are published weekly and they’re fully colored. But it’s all digitally done, so it makes drawings seem kinda easier to work with (i.e. when a drawing from one panel gets copy-pasted in another). Again, they’re fully colored but I think webtoon artists have enough experience to finish their manuscript by their deadlines. And boy, they’re usually really well drawn!

      Yep. Basically, everyone who has a routine job, or even hobby, will eventually experience a burnout. A break is truly essential.

      • I agree. Some people work more efficiently under strict deadlines. Unfortunately, I’m not like those people. I prefer to take my own pace, and working on a thing until I’m satisfied regardless of the time.

        That’s interesting. But regardless of how they’re made, as long as they’re interesting to read, I think that’s what’s important. If the author decides to go on a hiatus, I think that we should just respect that. The author will eventually resume, so we’ll just have to wait. It sucks, especially if we’re so excited and curious about the next chapter, but ultimately it’s the author that’s making the webtoon and not us.

        I don’t normally read webtoons, but the ones that I read a while back are created by Korean artists, not so much by Japanese ones.

        • Aha. Same here. I tend to always prefer a loose scheduling. Deadlines are more of a pain in the ass to me, but now that I’m entering the real world, I need to get myself together. Whew. What a tough world. Anyway, I think I’ll do fine in the long-run (i.e. if I’m conditioned enough haha).

          Yes, nicely said! That’s what I was trying to say in this post. 😀

          Hmm, I haven’t actually encountered a Japanese webtoon. The 4-koma ones are the type closer to what we consider a webtoon, because each panel is almost the same as the previous/next one. But then in webtoons, it’s not exactly always like that (though they can use the same scenery over and over again; for instance, for establishing the location of a scene, time of the day, etc). I guess it’s easier to see what I’m describing if you’ve actually read one. Hehe. Just tell me if you want any recommendation. That said, I haven’t read a lot of webtoons. Yet.

        • Good luck with that. I still have a few more years before I enter the “real world”, so I’m taking advantage of my remaining time. But you’ll do fine. Just be positive.

          Isn’t the “HoriMiya” originally a webtoon? Then they published it the traditional way by hiring another illustrator to draw the story. I think that’s what happened. Not sure, though.

        • Oh, right. I forgot about that. HERO is the original illustrator and writer of the webtoon. I think it was a self-published webtoon, though. Then it became popular, so it was adapted into a magazine-published manga, re-illustrated by Hagiwara Daisuke (I totally love his style!).

          I’ve only seen one chapter of the ‘webtoon’ version of Horimiya (which was actually titled Hori-san to Miyamura-kun) and iirc, it is an unpolished manga manuscript. If you read Chikan Otoko, it resembles that. The format is very much like the traditional manga, but it’s a whole lot more unpolished. Like, it’s all lineart with minimal inking and shading. Really.

          So when you mentioned Japanese webtoon, it didn’t occur to me that the likes of Horimiya are ‘webtoons’, since I’m more exposed to the Korean webtoons. These are usually published on the web under Naver,, Comico, and some other comic-based websites through which, iirc, the authors earn some royalty-sort of fee from their comics’ traffic to the websites. (plus, and again, they’re fully colored and have a different formatting style, since they’re meant to be read by seamlessly scrolling down the monitor)

        • I don’t really know much about webtoons. I only came across of the HoriMiya one because I stumbled by Hero’s actual website where he first published the original HoriMiya manga which he drew himself. They were in Nihongo, and I although I can read it a bit, I quickly lost patience. Not the manga’s fault, but mine’s. Need to improve my reading skills there.

          Do you have any other webtoon recommendations?

        • Oh wow. Do you still have the link to HERO’s website for Horimiya and mind sharing it here?

          I’m not sure if you’re okay with works tagged as “horror”, but I’m quite fond of Gigi Goegoe (Tales of the Unusual). It isn’t that ‘scary’, but some arcs are pretty creepy that I would always think of them again. I don’t recommend reading it on nighttime, though.

          Winter Woods is also one of its kind. It’s about a Frankenstein-like existence who has ‘lived’ for many years, was previously under scrutiny of [mad] scientists, and now kinda on-the-loose. He doesn’t have a heart yet, and that’s where the story about him mainly revolves–how he doesn’t understand how humans behaves (because of their feelings), how they think, and why they feel and think in certain yet different ways. It’s a refreshing read with a somewhat Western twist in its setting and art style.

        • Here you go:

          Just click on the “堀さんと宮村くん” banner under “Comic”. It’s not very well-drawn but the story is still “HoriMiya”.

          I’m alright with any genre, actually. As long as its interesting and I feel like it, I’ll read it.

          Thanks for the recommendations. I’ll check them out.

        • Thanks! Oh yeah, iirc One-Punch Man was also originally a webcomic. As usual of a Japanese webcomic, it was ‘poorly’ drawn. We can think of them as rough drafts, hence they have a lot of differences with Korean ‘webtoons’.

        • Is that so? I don’t read “One-Punch Man”, but it’s on my (as usual) ultra-long to-read manga list. Yes, I can see now the difference between Japanese & Korean webtoons. There are times that I’m turned off with the art, but more often I don’t care. What I want is a good story. Anyway, thanks for the info.

  3. Wow, that’s quite a grueling schedule. I don’t know if I can handle long working hours like that. I always advise people to have a proper balance for health reasons.

    Whenever an author of a manga I’m following announces hiatus or reveals certain illness, my first reaction is fear actually. This is mostly because NANA, the manga that is never resumed and is one of my favorite manga of all times. I feel fear maybe because I find it hard to accept the fact that a series that I’ve been following so long (as in yearssss) may never have an ending.

    • Yes, it is grueling to the point that we can actually question if the working environment of mangaka even honors their human rights. Such a shame that the manga industry is as rigid as that, but complaining will make me look like a hypocrite. I’m just a fan who likes reading her favorite titles, after all. But really though… if only the schedules can be loosened up a bit. (I’m thinking the economic consequences for this may be too much on both the industry and the consumers. Tsk tsk)

      I’ve only watched the anime of NANA, but I can imagine how hard that had been for you and other fans. The anime ending felt okay, but I want to know what happened next by reading the manga. Upon knowing that the manga has (in)definitely discontinued, I was disheartened. (But I’m dying to know, so I might still pick it up later!)

      Btw, I heard that the mangaka of NANA has plans of writing a new one?

      • I also think it’s the working culture in Japan? Like how they tend to work overtime just because. And it doesn’t really matter what industry they’re in.

        NANA is the title I have strong emotional attachment to. As in, the more I watch/read the series, the more I’m drawn in into its world and actually feeling the emotions the characters are feeling. I think it’s the way Ai Yazawa draw the emotions and how she tells her story. So possibly not knowing the ending is very not a good feeling.

        Really? I haven’t really follow her news for the two years. I read it up soon. Thanks =)

        • Right. They put high value on their work and job. They hate tardiness, though surprisingly they allow their office employees to “nap” (though some are, like, just acting asleep). It gives the impression that the person has worked hard enough to tire himself out. I say it’s driven by capitalism, like almost everywhere in the world. But I’m not the most well-read on Japan and their work ethics, so I can’t conclusively say anything beyond that.

          Yeah, I get the feeling that she’s a really good writer, too. I mean, if she doesn’t draw manga, maybe she can manage writing short stories that have melancholic feels to them? I’m really impressed by character dialogues, monologues and narrations in NANA. She’s a very good wordsmith, that’s for sure. As for her art, (just basing on what I’ve seen in the anime) she flawlessly captures mixed emotions–especially when it’s usually just the eye and facial expressions that are given focus on.

          Yeah, but at the time I heard that news, she was still at *planning* stage. That was some months ago, but I didn’t check up on that story since. It struck to me as weird, though. Why start a new manga when she has NANA–a manga very loved by a lot of fans around the world?

        • Yeap, I would think is weird too that she decides to start a new manga instead of continuing what her fans have waited for so long.

        • Being an artist myself (though not very active in practice), I can sort of understand why she wouldn’t resume her work on NANA. When one has had way too many breaks from her work-in-progress (e.g. NANA, in her case), it takes a lot of mental and physical energy, motivation, and inspiration to get back to and finish the whole thing such that it would be a satisfying piece for the artist herself. Maybe that’s why she wants to “start over”, but not in the same title. For an artist, it’s akin to dying for not creating anything. So Yazawa decided to create another draft, another WIP to keep her artist soul living.

        • I see, I see. If you put it this way, I can understand why she would choose to publish a new series instead of continuing NANA. If the news is true, that is.

          Would you ever feel as an artist that there’s this nagging feeling that you didn’t complete an artwork if you’re in this situation? Just curious to understand from artist’s perspective. Nothing to do with Ai Yazawa.

        • Yes, there’s this somewhat fuzzy feeling if I leave an artwork unfinished. But if I can’t get to it right now, I’d find another time to get back to it. It might take weeks. Or longer than that. Every artwork, even a ‘completed’ one, is always a work-in-progress. Though I might ‘redo’ the whole composition, aim to make it feel and look better, if I am planning to revisit it.

  4. Wait, according to that chart, mangaka sleep only two hours on Sunday? How do they live?

    Even though most mangaka are poor, I’ve always been fascinated by the fact that Rumiko Takahashi is the richest woman in Japan–just from writing comic books!

    • I think the schedules vary according to the artists. This was a sample schedule from Shiibashi Hiroshi, mangaka of Nurarihyon no Mago. Looking closely, it was on Monday that he only had two hours allotted for sleep. The storyboarding stage apparently took a lot of his time because, as the name implies, it’s when the author basically makes the names (pun intended!)–that means story + the preliminary art. And the more experienced they are, the faster they work, I think. The number of assistants may also affect their work speed and how much free time they get in a week, though I’ve no knowledge on how many assistants they can get, maximum and minimum.

      I’d really love to know how they can still live. The easiest assumption to make is, they don’t lead ‘normal’ lives–or the average life of an average salaryman.

      A very few mangaka have really made it to the top. I read somewhere that Rumiko Takahashi is one of the most loved mangaka by publishers because she completes her manuscripts several weeks before the supposed deadlines! Plus, she’s a veteran. I guess her stories appeal to and resonate with a lot of Japanese people. Such thing as ‘growing up with her comics’ and stuff.

      My utmost concern, I guess, is for those who have just started making their names known. And the manga industry is huge. Hundreds of writers/mangaka pop up every time. It’s a tough world to compete in. And every time, the bar is set higher for newcomers to overcome. But yeah, even well-known/veteran authors succumb to illnesses.

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