Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Short interviews with the 3 Mangaka at the Manga Festival 2013

Interview with Yaro Abe (深夜食堂)

I first heard about Shinya Shokudo from Connie Lam, the Executive Director of the HK Arts Centre, who is a big comics fan. Later, I found the books in the HK bookshops and that it has been made into a TV series. It is a food manga, which is a popular genre in Japan. You can find out more about food manga here.

Q: Why did you do such a story like Shinya Shokudo?
A: My stories are serialized in a magazine whose target audience is above 40 salary men and businessmen.
[NB: maybe older people like to eat?]

Q: Are you surprised by the popularity of the manga?
A: Yes, especially when I wrote it for a niche market (above 40 salary men) in Japan. It has been made into a TV series and published in Korea and Taiwan.

Q: What food have you tried in Singapore?
A: This is my first time in Singapore. I have tried the chicken rice at Chatterbox and I want to try all the food listed in the guide book. But I have no time yet!

Q: What advice would you give to young artists?
A: Don’t just draw what people like. Draw what you find interesting and focus on that. Each person is different so the manga they produced will be different.


Interview with Masayuki Ishikawa (Moyashimon/Tales of Agriculture)

I find the story of Moyashimon fascinating. A teenager entering an agriculture university and having the ability to see and communicate with microbes and bacteria. A professor wants to work with him to bring about new scientific discoveries to benefit the people. 2 other friends want him to help them ferment sake for sale. In America, he would have joined the X-Men. In Japan, he is as normal as your regular young adult who had diarrhea after eating bad curry rice. There is an anime and live action show for this. The girls in the manga are hot too.

Q: What is the genesis of Moyashimon?
A: Initially, I just wanted to draw a manga with a lot of people, big crowd, in a school setting. There is no bacteria when I first thought of the story.

Q: Why didn’t you do an action or romance manga?
A: Our daily life is not like that. This story is more about students and teachers.

Q: What sort of research did you do?
A: I visited a sake brewery. I talked to professionals, visited a lab and learned that when you put bacteria is a tank, they make sounds! I did not study agriculture as a student. But for this story, I went to the university libraries to do research.

Q: Is there a message behind your story?
A: Manga is for entertainment. The most important thing is that the students enjoy reading the story.

Q: You do not use assistants. Why is that so?
A: It is easier to do it alone.

Q: What advice would you give young artists?
A: Just enjoy trying. Do not get too pressurized. For those who want to be published in Japan, you don't need to study at a manga university. It is better to work under a mangaka as an assistant. Or go straight to the publishers or editors.


An interview with Mine Yoshizaki (Keroro Gunso/Sgt Frog)

Aliens arriving on Earth wanting to conquer us. But they are frogs and were captured by kids to become pets. Invasion failed. No way you can go wrong with this formula. Not when the chief frog, Sgt Frog has delusions of being Gundam, Kamen Rider and Evangelion. The anime is very successful too.

Q: Did you think Keroro Gunso would be so successful when you first started it?
A: I didn’t think from the commercial aspect. It was not something that I thought would sell when I first created it. But I wanted to draw something like this, so I took the risk and started the manga.

Q: Why did you use frogs as the aliens?
A: I was inspired by the Little Grey Man of Area 51. If you look at the silhouette of the Little Grey Man, it looks like a frog. Also when I look at the catalogue of frogs, there are many colours and appearances.

Q: Frogs versus men, who will win?
A: I hope they will make peace.

Q: What advice would you give to young artists in Asia?
A: I feel that the standard of comics is improving every year. Asian comics are approaching the standard of Japanese manga. We can learn from each other.

Japanese artists do not think of foreign market when they draw. They only think of their own market. This is a lack on our part. I think Japanese manga should be more opened and friendly to overseas readers. The themes should be made easier for overseas readers and contain less specific Japanese elements. Local artists are aware of this and they are more international compared to Japanese artists.

Thanks to Ashley, fsc and Sheuo Hui for helping out as translators.

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