His arms crossed, Fukuda let out a sigh and sat down at the table in Takikawa Cafe. It figured Yuujiro wasn't there yet. Normally the man would come to meet him at the studio, but he'd had to go out to pick up screentones anyway so he figured he could meet his editor for once. The cafe wasn't far from the store and wasn't much further from his editor's office, but still he ended up waiting. He should have gone back to work on the next names and let Yuujiro worry about his own time. Still, it was nice to grab a break when he could and he was finally getting to the point where he could have a little down time.
He ordered a cup of coffee and checked his watch, reaching up to adjust his hat. Okay, so maybe he was here a little early. He'd have a few extra minutes to kill, so he took a look around the cafe. So many mangaka came here for meetings that it wasn't unusual for them to leave a copy of something on one of the tables. They usually tucked them away on a little shelf in the back and Fukuda went there now to look through the titles. There were copies of several things that friends of his had written, but nothing that stood out that he hadn't already read. He made a mental note to bring a copy of the first volume of Road Racer GIRI the next time he came by. Maybe he'd even autograph it.
The last book at the end of the row fell over and Fukuda picked it up. The title hadn't grabbed him at all and the color was too muted to demand his attention, but he took a second glance at it, snorting. "Wild Rose? What the hell kind of a pen name is that?" The cover image grabbed him, though. Cute and well-done enough to count for something, but the content took another moment to hit him. Wait, two guys holding on to each other like that- Was this BL? He went back to the table with the book, beginning to leaf through it. He barely looked up when his coffee arrived, fingers tracing along the pages. Okay, so the art was pretty decent, but what the hell was this story? Why were the backgrounds so damned bland? And this sex scene- Did anyone actually do that?
He'd pored through the whole book, his coffee going cold, before Yuujiro showed up looked harassed. Fukuda slid the book to the chair beside him and reached for his coffee, determined not to show just how cold it was. "Niizuma Eiji," Yuujiro said as an explanation.
"You could've fucking called," Fukuda said, nearly spitting the words into his coffee. He really wasn't that upset because, somehow, it didn't feel like his time had been wasted. Yuujiro got coffee of his own and Fukuda drained his as quickly as he could and asked for tea next. They took care of business and Fukuda left the other man behind to pay. Tucked in his bag was the manga from before.
Back at the studio with everyone else gone for the day, Fukuda found himself taking the manga out again and paging through it. He was honestly a little surprised he'd never picked up something like this before. He'd tried out most kinds of manga. Hell, he'd worked on enough kinds before he managed to get a series of his own off the ground. This kind, though? It hit a little too close to home. He didn't tell anyone, but he was gay. It was pretty much guaranteed that you couldn't sell a racing manga if even your editors were busy making fun of you. He put on a little bit of a front, sure, but he really wasn't some moe freak type. He was a guy who liked the stuff guys did, he just also liked other guys. It made it difficult to find sexual partners when he couldn't really come forward about it, but finding dates was even worse.
The manga in his hands seemed heavier than it had and Fukuda put it down on top of his lightbox, cursing when he nearly knocked over a bottle of ink. Righting it, he pulled his legs up to his chest, feet curling against the edge of the chair. If that's the kind of stuff that could get printed at- He frowned and checked the imprint. Shukokan? Yeah, they were the ones who did Rose Boy Comics. Maybe, with all of this free time he'd had recently, he should make up a name and take it over. It'd be ridiculous, sure, but as long as he had time, a little extra money would be nice and maybe that would fulfill something in him?
His tongue sticking out of the corner of his mouth, Fukuda grabbed a fresh piece of paper and began sketching out a name. If chicks who called themselves Wild Rose could write two guys meeting and having sex, couldn't he do it better? Well, he was certainly going to try.
The offices at Rose Boy were just like the Jump offices, except most of the staffers were women. Fukuda was glad he'd dressed in something a little nicer than his usual t-shirt and jeans and had left off the hat, choosing to pull the top part of his hair back in a ponytail. He felt a little less like himself which felt good here. He wasn't sure he liked the looks he was getting, but no one had called him out as being Fukuda Shinta yet. Then again, mangaka themselves didn't make it into pictures unless it was at the back of the tankouban or if you were Eiji.
It seemed to take forever until a young guy walked out to greet him. "Hello. I'm Ozawa Tomonori. You wanted to talk about a submission?"
Fukuda took a long moment to stare at the guy. Fuck. He was practically moe incarnate with that face that gave a constant smile and big, expressive eyes. Fukuda really wanted to work with him now for some reason. The guy wasn't his type, but he had that energy he liked in editors. Sometimes he wished Yuujiro had a little more of that. "Y-yeah," he said when he realized he hadn't responded to the guy. "It's just a name, but I thought maybe that would be okay?"
Ozawa looked at him strangely for a moment, but shrugged. "I've got the time, I guess."
The editor gestured for Fukuda to follow him and they ended up in a small office. He'd gone through this enough times not to be too nervous, but this was still at a whole different publisher. He sat down across the table from the other man and handed over the name he'd brought. "Here. I normally don't detail it so much for those, but since I wasn't bringing a finished manuscript, I thought this would do."
The minutes passed as Ozawa leafed through the pages, nodding here and there. When he finished the read-through, he set the papers on his desk. "Okay, this is good, but there are some things that need to be worked on."
Fukuda sat up straighter in his chair. "Like what?"
"Well, first, the character design. You're good at drawing faces and bodies, but right now it looks like a Kiyoshi Knight doujinshi. What our target audience likes to see is a big difference between the characters. So, one tall and one short. One with dark hair and one with light hair. Maybe a little bit of age difference." He blushed slightly and tapped his hand on the name. "The length is good and you seem to know what you're doing for formatting, but there's also the sex scene to consider."
"What's wrong with the sex scene? That's what it's like!" Fukuda grimaced and sat back in his chair again, wondering if the guy was a Kiyoshi fan. "What, is it too graphic or something?"
Ozawa nodded, the blush still on his cheeks. "Yeah, a little? The sound effects you've chosen are a little too perverse. It's something that seems to be common with guys when they first write BL."
Fukuda nodded. "So, if I fix that stuff, I'll get accepted?"
"Probably. But if you really want to make your readers love it, you have to add a little more moe. Your characters can't just meet in a bike shop because they happen to be there. Maybe one of them is really serious about biking and the other one is new to it? That spark of life. That's why moe is so popular." Ozawa smiled. "If you've heard of the mangaka Sakurako Kakyoin, he's one of our best sellers. I think you should read some of it." He winced. "And you're not supposed to know that's a guy." He laughed nervously and pushed the name back across the table. "Sorry, your work reminded me of his a little. I'm his editor, too. I kind of became the editor to all of the male artists?"
Putting the name away, Fukuda nodded. "Okay." He suddenly tensed his fists. "Next week! I'll bring in a manuscript. You're gonna love it." He pointed to Ozawa. "I don't care who this Sakurako guy is, I'm gonna outsell him." He reached up to adjust his hat, scowling at the realization that he wasn't wearing one, then stood and let himself out of the office.
They'd been getting faster getting the manuscripts done for GIRI. He'd actually gotten some sleep in lately. If he sacrificed that now, he could maybe churn out a manuscript in the down time without anyone the wiser. He had a GIRI manuscript due in a week anyway. He'd just use that to keep pace. But first, he was going to take the long way home to stop by a used manga shop he knew of. If that Sakurako guy sold well, Fukuda wasn't going to give him more royalties. But he still could maybe steal some technique.
Fukuda scratched his head as he pulled himself out of his futon and headed to the bathroom. He'd finished GIRI yesterday afternoon and Yuujiro was supposed to be coming by to pick it up. After sending everyone else out for food, he'd thrown together some ramen for himself and spent six hours or so doing the last details on his manuscript for Rose Boy. If he didn't get an offer for a serialization out of this, he'd be surprised. And pissed off.
As he was in the middle of his morning routine (a piss, a dump, scrubbing the last of last night's ink from his hands, and brushing his teeth), he heard a knock at the door and then the screech of it opening. He'd have to remember to oil that at some point, but it did make a handy way to alert them all to someone coming in the door. "Who is it?" Fukuda called out, zipping up his pants.
"Your editor," Yuujiro said with a laugh. "Is this the manuscript?"
"Yeah." Fukuda turned to the sink and began to pump lava soap into one palm before his eyes widened. "Shit!" But it was too late. He heard the screech of the door again and he slammed his palms against the edge of the sink, cursing again because now he'd spread soap all over it. He rinsed off his hands as best he could and raced out of the bathroom. He jammed his feet into his shoes and raced out the door, trying to find where Yuujiro had gone. "Yuujiro-san!" He tried jogging down the street, hopping on one foot to adjust the back of one shoe, but stopped and shouted obscenities at the corner market at the end, instead. Yuujiro wasn't in sight. Fukuda patted his pocket and discovered his phone was still upstairs. Taking a deep breath, he ran up to get it and, at the last moment, the finished GIRI manuscript. He was almost to the door before he realized he'd left his wallet. He grabbed it and his keys and raced out the door, already trying to call Yuujiro. Or course he didn't pick up. Granted, he might already be on the phone with someone else, but it still pissed him off that the man hadn't even checked to make sure he was grabbing the right thing. And maybe he was a little pissed at himself for not making sure the right manuscript was on top of the desk.
He headed toward the nearest station, but paused not far from it. He didn't normally take a taxi, but there was a dire need for it. He finally had some luck in finding one pulling up and letting a woman off, rejoicing as he slid onto the bench seat and told the driver where he was going. Yeah, the cab would cost more than he wanted to spend, but it greatly increased his chances of stopping Yuujiro before he actually looked through the manuscript. At the Jump offices, he threw his money to the taxi driver and raced up to Yuujiro's office. "Stop!" he yelled as he pushed through the door only to see the man pause with a sandwich poised at his lips. "Uh, well, I guess you can eat, but..." Fukuda swallowed. "You grabbed the wrong manuscript."
Yuujiro pulled the sandwich from his mouth. "Yeah, I was going to call you about that." He pushed over the manuscript for Rose Boy. "Your style looks a lot different there. A lot more polished."
Fukuda coughed. "Th-thanks." He handed over the completed GIRI manuscript and pulled the Rose Boy one toward him. "I did look over my contract first to make sure I could submit to them."
"Under a pen name?" Yuujiro took the first bite of his sandwich then, crunching through lettuce and mayo and whatever else was piled in there.
"Uh-" He paused. Had he really left that off? "Well, yeah, but I hadn't decided on one yet." He glared at Yuujiro. "Maybe I'll just use your name for putting me through this. I had to pay cab fare!"
"I'll pay you back," Yuujiro said as he pulled out his wallet and tossed over a few bills. It was slightly more than the cab fare had been, but Fukuda took it anyway. "And if you want to be Yuujiro? Go ahead."
"You're being weird," Fukuda said as he stuffed the money in his wallet. "It's just boy's love. Can't a guy get bored of writing about nothing but fast vehicles?"
"Yeah," Yuujiro said, dabbing at his mouth with a napkin. "But they generally don't put so much effort into drawing butts unless there's some vested interest there."
Fukuda scowled. Was his editor flirting with him? "You're not my type," he said finally. "And GIRI's not gonna suffer, so don't worry."
Yuujiro smiled. "I wasn't. You're not as good as Niizuma Eiji about keeping up with things, but I know I don't have to worry about you. Go turn that in," he said as he raised the sandwich to his mouth again. "Don't really use my name, though. Choose something ridiculous."
"Sandwich Nabe it is," Fukuda said as he walked out the door with his manuscript tucked under his elbow. Time to see if this was really worth it.
Ozawa patted the manuscript and nodded. "We'll definitely be putting this in for submission in the next round and I'm pretty sure it'll make it in." He smiled that smile again that just seemed to stir something within Fukuda to make him want to work harder or something.
"G-good," he stammered out. "I look forward to it." He stood up and bowed his head awkwardly. "I guess you'll call me or something?"
"Yes. The meeting isn't for a few days, but I'll show this to some people before then and get them interested." Ozawa laughed. "You really seemed to take a lot of the good cues from Kakyoin-sensei's work."
"Eh, thanks," Fukuda said with a laugh. "Did you realize that a lot of his sub main characters look a hell of a lot like you?"
Ozawa froze and then quickly covered his cheeks, his next words squeaked out. "No! That's probably just because I'm his editor so he sees me a lot or something."
"So, like that, huh? Good to know." Fukuda winked, feeling more on steady ground here. "You should introduce me sometime."
Pouting, Ozawa leaned forward on his desk. "I should make you go hang out with Wild Rose first. The two of you would probably get along."
"Huh? Why would I get along with a woman who writes BL?" Fukuda scratched his chin as he looked down at his new editor.
"Oh, Wild Rose is a guy. I'm also his editor. He's a little more the manly type like you, too."
Fukuda's stomach seemed to twist a little. "Okay. Let me meet him." He didn't really go for that fate bullshit, but it didn't hurt to meet a guy like that just in case, right?
"Get a serialization first," Ozawa said sternly. "Just because you're in Jump doesn't mean much to our audience if you can't deliver the moe."
"You know who I am?" Fukuda grinned. "Well, that figures. And I tried so hard on that pen name."
"Fukushi? Well, it just kind of confirmed things. I'm a big fan of your other work. It's hard not to notice the style." He patted his desk and sat up straight. "You've changed it just enough from your GIRI style that I don't think many people will notice. It's really smooth now. Your background work is really good, too. I think we're going to like working with you here. Maybe you can even teach some of our other artists a thing or two."
Laughing, Fukuda nodded. "Maybe. But right now? I gotta get back to GIRI. It's a harsh mistress, but worth every moment."
They finished up their meeting and Fukuda went on his way, wondering if maybe this Wild Rose thing was worth the shot in the dark he was maybe willing to take. Ah, fuck it. He didn't deal well with maybes. He'd meet the guy first and see what happened. At least they'd be starting with some common ground.