Sometimes I envy my superhero comic book reading brethren. Don’t get me wrong. I love manga. I inhale manga. I always have my eyes out for the next big thing.
The fact that, for the most part, manga have endings is big part of the appeal. As someone who cut her comic book reading teeth on X-Men titles in the 1990s, not having to worry about huge crossover events or decades of backstory was a revelation. I could pick up volume 1 and dive in. I didn’t even have to worry about reboots changing everything I understood about the world!
Even better, the creative team behind a manga stayed the same from start to finish. No sudden changes in art. No inexplicable reversals in characterization. In most cases, a manga series is even drawn and written by the same person. (With lots of assistants drawing the backgrounds and textures, of course.)
But this brings us to the other side of a having one person responsible for an entire series. What happens when they fall ill?
One of my favorite manga in recent years is Gangsta, a crime drama set in a city that serves as the home for drug-enhanced super soldiers cast aside by society once a major war ended. The mangaka, Kohske, has some of the most dynamic art I’ve seen in a while. She also has a severe chronic illness that leads her to being hospitalized from time to time. Long-time fans of her work are aware of her condition, so when a month or two passes without a new chapter, we understand.
Her latest flare-up, however, resulted in an extended stay in the hospital. And since mid-last year, Gangsta has been on hiatus. North American manga fans know what this means. The English adaptation has caught up with the Japanese run. We are now in limbo.
To be fair, fans haven’t been left without new Gangsta content. The series has a spin-off, Gangsta: Cursed, the first volume of which I read last December and greatly enjoyed. But it’s not the same. Cursed is a prequel series about a supporting character. I want to know what happens to main trio of Gangsta. We left off at arguably the manga’s darkest moment. I’m well aware this is the height of selfishness. Kohske is recuperating and battling a terrible illness. I want her to get better.
Fans of other manga titles know where I’m coming from. Black Lagoon‘s mangaka faces similar issues. For that matter, so does the mangaka of Saiyuki and I know there is a legion of Saiyuki fans out there who desperately hope for more of the stylish retelling of Journey to the West. (I won’t lie. I was a huge Saiyuki fan back in the day.)
That’s just talking about mangaka who face chronic illnesses. What about mangaka that don’t finish their series? Yes, I’m looking at you, CLAMP. Are we ever going to find out how the world ends in X/1999?
No matter the circumstances, what do we do as readers? Cross our fingers and hope for the best? After all, D.Gray-man recently came back from hiatus. HunterxHunter regularly goes in and out of hiatus. On the other hand, I was a huge fan of Saiyuki. And when the series went on hiatus, I mourned and kept hoping it would come back. It never really did, and I moved on to something else. I know that’s the likely fate for Gangsta, which captured the title of My Favorite Manga after Blade of the Immortal ended, but I want to fight the inevitable. I want to hold onto it a little bit longer.
Good thing I have Gangsta: Cursed then, right? But after that series ends, I guess we’ll see.