Tales of Craftsmen: The Next Big Manga You Haven’t Heard About



Image of the volume one cover for Tales of Craftsmen From Kanda Gokurachou

Tales of Craftsmen From Kanda Gokurachou is a manga that I’m certain a lot of readers haven’t heard about. It’s not officially translated, it doesn’t have an anime coming up or anything that would promote it to a global audience. It is “just” a manga in Japanese that doesn’t have anything to its name… yet. In actuality, this manga has its sights set on becoming the next big (web) manga in 2024. But its story begins earlier, much earlier than that.

Despite finding its footing towards the latter half of 2023, and earning praise and accolade alike in 2024, Tales of Craftsmen actually found its beginnings all the way back in 2021. Yes, that publication year is correct, and intensely interesting. It took Tales of Crafstmen from January 27th, 2021 until August 31st, 2023 for a physical volume to appear for the series. Of course, with being a web manga, the approach and process is vastly different to that, and the mangaka (Akihito Sakaue) provides very clear context to that end.

With some digging (through an interesting website called TwiComi), I was able to pinpoint the beginning of Sakaue’s foray into Tales of Craftsmen. Impressively enough, the planning for the surprise hit manga began all the way back in April of 2020. It’s during this period of time that Sakaue took to Twitter to announce the beginning of their work on Tales of Craftsmen– by showing all the resources they’re using to create it. Personally speaking, I believe this a great example for how much effort goes into creating a manga. A lot of fans can take for granted the stories and works that we see, what with the success stories of one-shots done on an editor’s whim like Smoking Behind The Supermarket With You, but far more often than not the process is much more method and premeditated. Sakaue might be towards the extreme case of research and preparation, largely due to the content they’re working with, but the point still stands that the majority of manga do not materialize out of a single thought from a mangaka. And Sakaue does a great job of illustrating that with their posts on Twitter, creating a very detailed and easy-to-follow history of their time with Tales of Crafstmen.

It’s really an incredibly worthwhile read/scroll through to get a grasp on their perspective and experience with Tales of Crafstmen. So many little details and added bits, and plenty of panels shown. Seriously, you can read a lot of the manga on Twitter- so long as you know Japanese. I’m very confident that a license will happen at some point or another with the series, so I don’t recommend bothering with reading fan translations. However, in the last month a group has picked up the manga to translate, and has 3 chapters available currently. Just the right amount to get a read on the series if you’re not sure (or don’t know Japanese).

So like I said, there’s a lot of little details and tidbits, but when you look at all the information shared by Sakaue, you notice just how little interaction their earliest tweets had gotten. I mean, the post sharing the fact that Sakaue was creating a craftsmen focused manga only has 17 likes (as of creating this post), and the most they were able to collect on a single post was 346.

That was, until March 26th, 2021, nearly a little under a year after they announced the beginning of their work on Tales Of Craftsmen.

On that day, Sakaue shared some of the pages from their manga with the caption “A story about a bucket craftsman working hard to make buckets in the town of Edo.”. The first tweet in the thread went on to garner forty four thousand likes shortly thereafter.

Now, that’s no Smoking Behind The Supermarket With You, but I think it’s important to take into account the difference between magazines and mangaka. For example, Jinushi had roughly fifty-six thousand followers prior to Smoking Behind The Supermarket With You. They really weren’t a small fry by any means, but Akihito Sakaue currently has 12.5k followers. And yes, they were such a small account/user in their early days that I can’t even dig up any follower history for them at that point in time.

So, a relatively small Twitter account, an “unknown” mangaka, and a wildly successful marketing campaign for a manga nobody had heard about before. It’s quite the success story, I’d say, if I didn’t know the history behind it all. For example, yes, this is Sakaue’s first published-slash-serialized manga, but they’ve had experience in various doujin circles (as you’ll see on their Twitter account). Similarly, this successful marketing for Tales of Craftsmen wasn’t Sakaue’s first attempt. In reality, they made a post on the 22nd of January attempting to drum up interest in the release of their series in Comic Ran (a magazine by Leed), but this didn’t generate near the same hype that their follow up attempt in March was able to manage. While there’s a world of interesting messages to pull from that information, I think it’s just plain interesting to see how the outlook differs based on contextual information. In their first attempt, Tales of Craftsmen hadn’t even release its first chapter yet, but once the series had some depth to it, it immediately blew up on social media.

And social media continued to carry it into the present, and even set the stage for the future. That chatter wasn’t all smoke and mirrors, as on the first day of release for the initial volume of Tales of Craftsmen (2 years after that social media boom) it got a reprint. Sure, Leed doesn’t have the same bandwidth as larger publishers, so it probably wasn’t a huge print run. But still, it’s an impressive feat to manage as it completely blew expectations out of the water. And it’s continued to do so since that second turning point in August with the release of its first volume.

Since then, it’s been nominated for several major manga awards, and it’s even won another. On December 22nd, 2023 took first place in Freestyle’s “Read This Manga!” awards. It might not be an award name that everyone recognizes, but the pedigree and popularity that exists with some of its previous winners is undeniable. Included in the rankings of previous years are: Goodbye, Eri, Look Back, Don’t Call It Mystery, Cats of The Louvre, Hirayasumi, Orb: On The Movements Of The Earth, and many many other critically acclaimed series that we’ve received in English print.

Though probably the “biggest” achievement for Tales of Craftsmen From Kanda Gokurachou was its third place finish (only 2 points behind 2nd place) in the 2024 Manga Taisho awards. Only about 10 series get selected each year, and out of those only a single one can win. It’s incredibly stiff competition, and features a lot of works that we have or are getting in English. Here’s just a short list of that overlap: Daemons of The Shadow Realm by Hiromu Arakawa, You And I Are Polar Opposites by Koucha Agasawa, Hirayasumi by Keigo Shinzo, and Shimazaki and The Land of Peace by Gouten Hamada (which was just recently licensed). Out of a total of ten nominees, we already have 4 of them in English (either currently released or announced). It’s a very very prestigious award, and heavily influences what we as English readers get as licenses. After all, a few of those nominees (include Tales of Craftsmen) only began their publications in 2023. We might yet still see more from this suite of nominees (we’ve so far seen 6 of the 2023 nominees in English).

Conversely, a bit more of a “loose” yet arguably more important nomination is for the Osamu Tezuka Cultural Prize. Oftentimes not the greatest at predicting popularity and reception, the Tezuka Prize is more about the cultural, professional, and impactful work afforded by its nominees. Because of that, we don’t always see the winners in English (or they might take a while), but being nominated leaves Tales of Craftsmen in elite company. For one, it was nominated alongside manga master Taiyou Matsumoto’s Tokyo These Days, Yokoyari Mengo and Aka Akasaka’s popularity monster Oshi No Ko, and Shuzo’s Oshimi’s psychologically scarring Blood On The Tracks. Similarly, even winning in any category would place Tales of Craftsmen in elite company. Previous winners include: Demon Slayer, Golden Kamuy, Frieren, Orb: On The Movements of The Earth, and countless others.

So yeah, Tales Of Craftsmen From Kanda Gokurachou is kind of a big deal

And because of that, making English readers aware of its existence is very important, especially for getting it licensed. This is a work that would absolutely slip through the cracks with Viz Media and Kodansha, but Yen Press and specifically Seven Seas stand to be able to nab it. I say that because Yen Press is able to pull from a wide range of publishers, but Seven Seas has the shoe-in opportunity with having licensed from Leed before (A Chinese Fantasy: Law of The Fox, Colorless). With all of that in mind, if you want to read a manga that’s seen incredible response within the span of a year and just a single volume, I highly recommend making Yen Press and Seven Seas aware of the interest that exists with Tales of Craftsmen From Kanda Gokurachou.

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