2024 Manga Picks: Editor Interview Vol. 3 “SAKAMOTO DAYS”

The legendary assassin is now retired, gained some weight, and enjoys a peaceful and happy life with his family. SAKAMOTO DAYS by Yuto Suzuki portrays exhilarating battles involving a distinctive former assassin and his friends, combined with everyday comedy. Ishikawa, the editor in charge, who has accompanied Suzuki from his debut to the present, gives us a behind-the-scenes look at his work.

Yuto Suzuki
Taro Sakamoto is feared by all villains and admired by all hitmen. He’s a chubby guy who fell in love, retired from being an assassin, started a family, and now runs his own store. To protect his beloved family from a looming crisis and past ties, he once again enters the fray...! This is a new type of action comedy serialized in the Weekly Shonen Jump magazine!
Taro Sakamoto is feared by all villains and admired by all hitmen. He’s a chubby guy who fell in love, retired from being an assassin, started a family, and now runs his own store. To protect his beloved family from a looming crisis and past ties, he once again enters the fray...! This is a new type of action comedy serialized in the Weekly Shonen Jump magazine!
Editor / Sousuke Ishikawa
Editorial staff of Weekly Shonen Jump

Major Works

“We Never Learn” “I’m From Japan” “Magu-chan: God of Destruction”
Editorial staff of Weekly Shonen Jump

Major Works

“We Never Learn” “I’m From Japan” “Magu-chan: God of Destruction”

The birth of

── Please tell us how SAKAMOTO DAYS came to be.

Ishikawa:  Suzuki had published two one-shot pieces, “Garaku” and “Locker Room,” that were published in “Shonen Jump+.” After that, he set a goal to “create a character that readers will like” and published the prototype of SAKAMOTO DAYS, “SAKAMOTO - SAMAMOTO,” in “JUMP GIGA.” In order to get serialized in “Weekly Shonen Jump,” we needed a character that readers would like, and what Suzuki came up with was “a chubby and absurdly strong protagonist.” He had always wanted to draw a manga about a hitman, so we mixed these elements and added a comedy element. This one-shot became so popular that we created the serialized version, SAKAMOTO DAYS.


Early in the memorable first episode. This man, who looks so peaceful, is a legendary assassin…?!

── The fact that the protagonist is a “chubby old man” is quite unique.

Ishikawa:  There may have been some concerns in the editorial department since this isn’t “something you see often in a shonen manga” (haha). But I think Suzuki wanted to craft a character with dualities and depth in their personality, such as being “chubby and quiet, but really strong.” Among all the characters that Suzuki had created back then, Sakamoto stood out the most. To enhance the overall appearance, we positioned Shin, a handsome character, next to him. But that’s not the only reason we put Shin there. Since Sakamoto is reserved, having a mind-reading character makes the story move smoothly. With Shin there, we can also have the running gag of “Don’t kill me in your mind!” which brightens up the story.

── Was there a reason Suzuki wanted to create a hitman story?

Ishikawa:  Suzuki has a fondness for movies, and I believe it’s influenced by foreign hitman films like “John Wick.” Works such as “The Equalizer” also resonate closely. I also believe that within Suzuki’s perception of “cool” is a character that is a collected, strong, and hard worker. He’s good at creating action, so it was the perfect theme.

── When you first started serialization, how did you choose the direction of the story?

Ishikawa:  Since it was Suzuki’s first serialization, our focus was more on generating content swiftly rather than meticulously planning all future developments. In the first draft, Sakamoto was killing people, but for the serialization, to create drama, and for Sakamoto to be likable to the readers, we changed the setting to the current one where he doesn’t kill people. At first, we had planned an episodic narrative that would only take place at Sakamoto’s. Sakamoto would be a handyman, and he would solve everyday problems that came in as requests with superb action… However, as we continued, the story and characters expanded, leading us to pivot towards an action-oriented direction.

── The worldview of “SAKAMOTO DAYS” is a curious balance of realism and the presence of a hitman blended into everyday life.

Ishikawa:  As we have continued this work, we’ve also come to realize that this is the world of SAKAMOTO DAYS. If you depict a battle of hitmen in the real world, where there are restrictions like “shouldn’t be seen killing” and “must keep the identity hidden,” it becomes challenging to handle them on a larger scale. Even though the readers would want to see action scenes because it’s a manga about hitmen. That’s why rather than reality, I prioritize creating the big showy scenes that “we want to create,” like at the store or shrine in public places (laughs). I think that has resulted in the current line of reality. Also, if the ordinary people in the story are scared, the readers won’t become attached to this world, so we change their reactions quite a bit. For example, at the dango shop, even when someone is killed right next door, they don’t make a big deal out of it (laughs).

The process of creating the story!

── Can you tell us how you conduct each meeting and what you often discuss at meetings?

Ishikawa:  We meet once a week, in person at the beginning, but since COVID we have been meeting online. We decide on the story for each session and refine the draft. We typically establish the beginning and the end of the story, then I suggest things like “it’d be more interesting if we zoomed out this part,” or “what if we bring up this storyline that readers are currently interested in,” or “perhaps the situation should take a different turn.” Suzuki then selects the elements he finds interesting from my suggestions, or we brainstorm something more captivating. If it’s an action scene, we’d think of how to choreograph the killing. For example, in a fight scene on a train, we explore how similar scenes were depicted in other manga or movies, and what made them enjoyable or interesting. It’s a process of coming up with something that we find genuinely enjoyable!

── So a lot of the interesting and fun materials are created during the meeting?

Ishikawa:  That’s right. If the beginning and end are established, there’s some freedom for the middle, so we discuss how to liven up this part. It’s similar to the process of making an episodic chapter. Although, it’s hard to prepare an interesting plot or story every week (laughs). I always check various movies and manga, and try to talk about the ones I found captivating. However, with a change of scenario, the way you perceive something can change, and Suzuki has a tremendous amount of ideas in the first place, so I only hope that it will help him in his writing.

── How did you create those intense action scenes and what do you focus on in writing the story?

Ishikawa:  I’m not entirely sure about that either (laughs). I believe it might be because Suzuki has a passion for movies, allowing him to create engaging camera work. Additionally, his skill in drawing the human body enables him to translate the fantastic movements he envisions directly onto paper… On the flip side, he’s also very mindful of readability. For instance, he avoids making the camera work overly complex and aims to capture the moment when the action kicks off. He often mentions trying to figure out where the action looks the best. Perhaps because of this, Suzuki’s action scenes are very easy to read. SAKAMOTO DAYS is actually read by a fairly wide age range. I have the impression that older readers find action scenes difficult to read, but with the simple camera work, it makes them immersed in the story, resulting in a broad readership.


Disassembling a gun while swinging his fist and landing a punch. The sound effect in the middle, and the pacing are exquisite!

── As an editor, do you ever give feedback about the action scenes?

Ishikawa:   I frequently offer suggestions like “a battle in a confined space would be interesting” or pitch ideas for various scenarios and creative starting points. Suzuki, in turn, also proposes intriguing concepts, such as “I want to do a battle in an amusement park” or “I want to try paintball.”


A fistfight in a narrow train, no way! This is one of Ishikawa’s favorite scenes.

── How do you plan the framing and composition of the panels?

Ishikawa:  Suzuki has been studying Nihonga (Japanese style of painting) since he was a student, and at that time he was keenly aware of “taking a good shape.” Simply put, it’s the notion that “within a certain angle of view, having a particular outline makes it visually appealing” or rather, it’s the ability to create a layout. Even the cuts where the action has stopped midway look dynamic. He’s always studying videos and collects videos that interest him on Pinterest.
The other thing is that even now, he’ll often watch the latest movies, TV series and entertainment amidst his serialization. He’s conscious of the fact he wants to keep his sense of values up-to-date.

── There are various assassins in the work. How do you come up with the characterization and design of each of them?

Ishikawa:  There’s quite a few ways, but the first is coming up with a desired development, and then characters necessary for that are considered. It might be a new character we meet undercover, a family member for a family drama and so on. Then there’s the ORDER, which plays a pivotal part of the work. There are also characters that were created for a particular action sequence we wanted to do. For example, Heisuke was created out of the desire to create a sniper. Other times, a character comes from an interesting manga or movie that we’ve seen. Higuchi, the “virtue points” character that appeared recently, came from a funny video. Recently, it’s become easier for Suzuki to draw characters, resulting in a growing number of characters that are cool and strong, reflecting his genuine preferences (laughs).

── Since the subject of the story is inevitably cruel, are there specific considerations you make?

Ishikawa:  When powerful individuals clash in battles, injuries are bound to occur, but I’m mindful of avoiding excessively brutal depictions. Even if it’s shocking from a visual point of view, I try to make it look cool and dramatic. The “coolness” of the story depends on the reader’s own sense of “cool,” but I consciously try to steer away from gratuitous brutality or creating a sense of pity and cruelty. Even Gaku’s blown off arm was attached right away (laughs).

── It’s a work that is both serious and has strong comedic elements. Is there something in particular you do to keep this balance?

Ishikawa:  In the early days at Sakamoto’s, we wanted to create characters that readers would enjoy and a world that readers would want to visit, so we included more comedy. Comedy serves to highlight the contrast to a character, and even enemy characters who are more serious are appealing if they have some comedic side to them. This also goes hand in hand with my awareness of avoiding excessive brutality. Since the manga is published in a magazine targeting a younger audience, I consciously introduce elements of humor to make it enjoyable and accessible to a broader readership.

About Suzuki-sensei!

── From your point of view as editor, what kind of person is Suzuki-sensei?

Ishikawa:  He’s a craftsman. Even a single frame of action is made very precisely, and the draft is drawn very beautifully. I have the impression that he delves deeply into what makes things interesting. He’s also very open-minded, readily incorporating ideas that he finds more interesting into his work. He’s honest with things he likes, and seems to actively enjoy both YouTube and new entertainment. He originally studied Nihonga (Japanese style of painting), but now has mastered manga drawing and is able to draw very striking expressions. He had a solid look when he was drawing “Garaku,” but even then, it was undeniably captivating.

── “Garaku” and “Locker room” were the talk of the town. How was it received by the editorial department?

Ishikawa:  Both works were quite popular on Shonen Jump+ and I was asked “are they works of one of your newcomers?” (laughs). As I mentioned earlier, there were some issues with the characters for a Jump series, but I think it was a good way to introduce Suzuki as an artist to the world. However, no one in the editorial department had ever seen Suzuki’s drawings, so while he was recognized as a skilled artist, I don’t think they knew how to evaluate him.


Suzuki’s debut one-shot “Garaku”. It has a unique atmosphere, high artistic prowess, and a series of shocking developments!

── From your point of view, how has Suzuki changed and grown from his debut to the present?

Ishikawa:  I got to know Suzuki around the time of the Tezuka Award. He didn’t win the award at that time, but I was intrigued and contacted him. Then, he brought me “Garaku.” Back then, being a newcomer in my first year at the department, my thoughts were more like, “Oh, interesting creators are coming to Jump” (laughs). Soon after, he developed the ability to create works that resonate with a broader audience, truly growing as an author. His techniques have increased, his drawings have become more and more sophisticated for manga, he’s able to create not only action scenes but also comedies and family stories, create many characters, and he’s been able to enjoy drawing too. Right now, I think he’s working on where to take the bigger story line of SAKAMOTO DAYS.

There’s more to come for

── Tell us about your favorite character and favorite scene.

Ishikawa:  I like Shin. I like the way he grows and faces difficulties. Visually, I also like Osaragi. I like the duality of her personality, and the Osaragi and Shishiba duo is fun to watch. I know I keep mentioning it, but my favorite scene is the battle on the train in chapter 30. When I read the draft, I thought it was genius and was so surprised. I also like the first two chapters where Heisuke appeared (chapter 17-18) and the battle between Osaragi and the death row prisoner (chapter 42-43), which are nicely integrated with drama and action. Shin’s awakening (chapter 40-41) is also a favorite.


Osaragi’s death battle at the Shrine is a beautiful and impactful scene!

── What are your future plans and goals for SAKAMOTO DAYS?

Ishikawa:  I want to make it more interesting, bring out more of Sakamoto and Shin’s good parts, and gain more attention. Suzuki is growing and absorbing more and more things, so I think he can create something more interesting and unprecedented. Right now, my goal is to enjoy with readers how the battle between Sakamoto and x (Slur) will turn out.

── Do you have a message for the readers of MANGA Plus?

Ishikawa:   It makes me very happy that SAKAMOTO DAYS is being read overseas as well. Especially since Suzuki loves foreign action movies, it’s an honor that SAKAMOTO DAYS, which was inspired by them, is being enjoyed overseas. We will continue to make SAKAMOTO DAYS even more captivating with action that can only be seen in SAKAMOTO DAYS. I hope you’ll enjoy it!