Anime and manga lovers! Who among you ever dreamed of opening an anime streaming page at work without anyone batting an eye? Or reading your favorite manga during your break without anyone judging you? Better yet, have a discussion about your latest anime find with your colleagues (yes, plural)?
If you’re thinking “I wish I could” and “why are my office rules so strict?” you should still consider yourself lucky. Although Japan is the birthplace of manga and anime, some Japanese fans have it rougher in their own country. In a society where securing employment is a constant battle, where black companies (companies that enforce sweat-shop employment systems) abound and overtime is a given, enjoying hobbies is a pipe dream for some.
Because while those “I wish I could” acts may seem only childish in western countries like in Europe or America, they are a little more unusual in Japan. Sometimes it is difficult to come across people who are open about their love for anime/manga.
There is a harsh stigma against “otaku (オタク)”, which is the term that refers to anime and manga enthusiasts. They are seen as individuals who obsess over one passion – antisocial beings that have no place in society.
That is why I was surprised to discover that away from the hustle and bustle of Tokyo city, some lucky people can and are encouraged by their workplace to cultivate their passion for manga and anime.
Welcome to MAGIA, an otaku heaven nestled in the streets of Shinjuku (新宿). While the company does not have indoor helicopter meetings like Google or a Cairo-inspired cafe like Airbnb, I am sure that it comes close for anime/manga enthusiasts. So when I was offered the chance to visit, I could not pass it up.
MAGIA is a newly-established digital publishing company that aims to gather manga from all over the world and share it for free. Through its online platform, MangaX, the company provides a Chinese version of its manga aside from the Japanese one, and plans to add more. The concept gives the reader more diverse content and helps connect people from different nationalities that share the same passion for manga and anime.
Its CEO, Akira Ishiguro, is an anime/manga fan who decided to live his passion to the fullest by founding MAGIA. With more than 30 original works up its sleeve, the company is slowly getting recognition in China, and Ishiguro hopes to tap into the American and European market soon.
From the moment you enter MAGIA’s headquarters, you can easily tell it is a anime/manga oriented company. Right by the door, if you look on your right (that is after you stop gawking at the elegant hardwood floor), you will find the meeting room, and discover a library heavily laden from floor to ground with shelves upon shelves of manga.
Thousands and thousands of volume of Shonen (action), Shoujo (Romance) and Seinen (aimed at adults), with some collector volumes thrown into the mix.
When there is no meeting scheduled, employees often go there to enjoy their lunch, their favorite comic, and sometimes their dinner, too. Who needs a manga cafe when you work at MAGIA?
The MediaNews/Promotion/Marketing office is right on the first floor, an open space where MAGIA employees bring their laptop to work, and where everyone sits wherever they please. There is hot water, tea, and coffee at hand. The windows have a sunny front and look up the street, and the table at the center is full of figurines and manga magazines to help with inspiration. It is the ideal place for brainstorming, and a lot of ideas for MAGIA’s design or direction take root there.
All employees (the translation team included) are free to use, read, and play with whatever is on the table. Are you eyeing the latest Ace figurine but can’t buy one yet because you’re low on funds? It’s OK, you can borrow the MAGIA one while you save for one yourself!
The second floor hosts the translation team, a sacred place where few are permitted to enter. But I didn’t mind when I discovered the masterpiece that is the third floor. It is a space totally designated for the employees’ well-being.
It features darts, card games of all sorts, a big screen and all the gear for gaming. Plush sofas and blankets in case you need a nap. Goodies scattered everywhere, like an enormous treasure box. Posters, plushies, clocks. In my humble opinion, this place should be open to visit, like a museum.
Concerned with its employees’ health, MAGIA also provides a kitchen fully decked out for them to cook their own food if they feel like it (see! Who says Otakus can’t enjoy healthy living?), a fridge with fresh produce, a bar and the most enormous mahogany table I have seen in my life. They even have a shabu-shabu pot! MAGIA sure gives another meaning to the expression “work hard, play hard”.
MAGIA employees enjoy it so much that it is quite ordinary for them to stay there after finishing work to play games, watch anime together, and have long chats. This is something that is sure to strengthen the bonds of the team or group harmony, a very important concept in Japan.
To top it off, work hours are pretty flexible. If a 2pm to 9pm schedule is what suits you best, that is what you get. With a bit (and sometimes a lot) of coordination and Ishiguro’s management skills, team meetings and individual tasks proceed without a hitch.
As Koike Kazuo (小池 一夫), the author of Lone Wolf and Cub (子連れ狼), said in a tweet, being an otaku for life is great! And seeing MAGIA employees’ smiling faces while they type away on their laptops, I am sure they think so too.
MAGIA is now gearing up to launch their news blog, and recently launched the English version of their manga browsing website. So be sure to check them out!
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