If you were to tell manga fans last year that Berserk and Hunter x Hunter would no longer be on hiatus in 2022, you’d get laughed out of whatever water cooler conversation you were attempting to start. But, as fate would have it, the forever-hiatus alumni Hunter x Hunter is prepping for its return and Berserk is continuing without its late creator Kentaro Miura. Although many manga readers are eager to see other mangaka announce the return of their favorite series from hiatus purgatory, it’s important to remember the very human toll that placed those stories on hold in the first place.
Although Hunter x Hunter mangaka Yoshihiro Togashi broke the internet with the creation of his Twitter account and the subsequent manga outlines for the series’ imminent return, Togashi is still enduring the same physical ailments that put the series on hold in the first place. A number of years back, Togashi had serious back surgery, placing the manga on hiatus. In a message for his art exhibit commemorating the past 35 years of his work on manga such as HxH and Yu Yu Hakusho, Togashi said he can no longer draw HxH by traditional means of sitting at a desk. Instead, Togashi must lie down with a pillow at his back to continue the series.
“Everyone, I sincerely ask you to take care of your backs and hips. Just two weeks before writing this message, I couldn’t get into position to wipe my butt and had to take a shower every time I pooped,” Togashi said in the message. “It takes 3-5 times longer for me to do everyday movements. Your hips are important.”
Historically, manga artists aren’t given a lot of free time in their schedules in between cranking out 20-odd-pages of new chapters each week. Back in 2015, One Piece creator Eiichiro Oda revealed that his grueling schedule consists of him waking up at 5 a.m. and going to bed around 2 a.m. For those not keeping count, Oda has been working seven times longer than he sleeps, and he’s been doing so for around 25 years now. Togashi’s decision to return to such a lifestyle is only as commendable as it is worrisome with how it might impact his health.
Togashi’s return also drummed up rumors that Ai Yazawa, creator of the popular shoujo series NANA, would announce her return as well. Though, who could blame fans with the existence of new illustrations and merchandise for sale during her art exhibit, “All Time Best,” taking place in Tokyo’s Shinjuku Takashimaya department store. During an interview with Da Vinci, Kadokawa Media Factory’s manga news magazine, Yazawa apologized to fans, saying NANA’s hiatus will continue.
“It’s been a long time since NANA went on hiatus. I am sorry that I still cannot restart the serialization,” Yazawa told Da Vinci. “I’ve been putting as much as I’m capable of into the exhibit, so I hope you can enjoy it.”
Although Yazawa’s decision is upsetting for fans, they shouldn’t ignore why it had to go on hiatus in the first place. According to Anime News Network, Yazawa hasn’t “gripped a pen once” since returning from a Tokyo hospital after being treated for “an unspecified serious illness” back in 2010. While expectations were high for Yazawa to culminate her exhibit with an announcement of NANA’s return, at the end of the day, Yazawa is a human being and shouldn’t be expected to put her health on the line to give the girls from apartment 707 an ending.
This isn’t the first time a major series creator has stepped away from a manga project of theirs for their health. Although mangaka Takehiko Inoue has been moving and shaking with his directorial debut for the upcoming Slam Dunk movie, fans have long-since set aside any expectation for him to suddenly pick up where he left off in his historical samurai epic, Vagabond.
Similar to Yazawa’s NANA, Vagabond went on hiatus before concluding a major fight its story was building toward, primarily due to the creator’s health issues. Vagabond’s current hiatus is due to an “unsustainable mental strain” Inoue reports struggling with during the series. Given the near-inhuman attention to detail Inoue gave to the carnage and savagery of Musashi Miyamoto’s battles, I can’t blame him for needing to stay away from Vagabond and instead work on his other basketball manga series, Real.
In a 2010 interview, Inoue eloquently summed up what Vagabond’s hiatus meant to him:
“I see this hiatus as sort of a death for myself as an artist, which sounds like a pretty dramatic way to put it, I realize, but there’s so much baggage that I’ve been dragging along for so long, and I know I’ll become a much better artist if I shed all of that. After I return to that state of innocence, the manga I make will be several times better than what I’m capable of now, I’m sure of it. If I prematurely go back to working on it before that, I’ll just end up going through this all over again. I mean, I’d manage to churn out something decent, I suppose, sheerly out of a sense of professional duty– but it probably wouldn’t be anything outstanding. Although, really, the fact that I’m still talking about making it something ‘outstanding’ is itself a sign that I’m still carrying that baggage around. Anyway, I’m not touching Vagabond for now, because I think that’s what I need to be able to eventually produce something that feels right to me.”
Suffice it to say, if a mangaka announces an art exhibition, chances are it’s not to announce the return of their beloved series. The one exception being Inoue’s 2008 art exhibit “The Last” which provided an epilogue to the story, serving as a more than acceptable conclusion to the series.
As painful as it might be to experience your favorite manga entering a hiatus, it’s important to remember that the creators behind your beloved works are human just like you and should be afforded the choice to place their health above that of their work.