Tuesday, October 9, 2018

SWF 2018 - Interview with Meguru Hinomoto

Fans of shojo manga would be happy to know that another shojo manga artist is coming for SWF next month. Meet Meguru Hinomoto who made her debut as an artist of girls’ manga in 2003. According to her bio, her works can be found as web and mobile manga, which include girls’ manga for school children, adult manga for female readers, and manga focusing on teenage romance. Meguru is also talented in turning novels written by other authors into manga.

Her SWF panels are:




Thanks to Keisuke Koizumi for the translation, Kitakyushu Office City and JCC Singapore.

You started out very young as a mangaka. What are the advantages of being a professional manga artist when you are fresh out of high school?

I started writing manga when I was about 12 years old. I had intended to keep doing so as my hobby even if I didn’t become a professional manga artist by the time I reach 20 or 22 years old. I posted out as many works as possible to the publishers and several publishers started approaching me when I was 16 years old. In the year of my graduation from a vocational school, one of my works got awarded and I debuted as a manga artist.

Did you have a regular job before becoming a full time mangaka?

Not before my debut. I concentrated on my own manga work and school. After the debut, I worked as an assistant for other professional manga artists until my own manga works were constantly published.

At SWF, you want to share about the sensitive emotions woven in shojo manga. How does shojo manga express such sensitive emotions in the storytelling?

Girls and ladies often treasure something cute and tiny, like a treasure box only for herself that she wouldn't show to anyone. Manga is like this small treasure box. I consider manga as a treasure box in which the readers put their private memories, emotions or passion, like memories about family or friends, emotions for the persons they love etc. I would draw carefully but it is also to describe such important emotions woven inside the characters' words and the whole scene itself.

What are the conventions of shojo manga? How is shojo manga different from shonen manga?

I guess one of the characteristics of shojo manga and a main difference from boys' manga (shonen) is 'monologue', where characters' emotions are expressed by sentences. In shojo manga, together with the drawings, monologues often emphasize how harsh their (characters) agonies are, how different their reality is from their ideals, how ugly they are inside and so on. Many of the shojo manga artists keep making efforts to improve their skills of monologues.

How is your manga different from other shojo manga?

I am trying not to make my work too sensuous because I expect male readers to read my work too even though they are meant for girls and ladies. And especially in shojo manga, panel layout can be often complicated, I usually try to avoid that.

What are some of your favourite shojo manga?

I loved the 'Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon' anime when I was 10 years old and its comic was the very first comic I bought in my life. Apart from Ms. Naoko Takeuchi, the artist of Sailor Moon, there are many authors I loved, for example Ms. Nami Akimoto and Megumi Tachikawa whose work were published through the shojo manga magazine 'Nakayoshi' at that time. Other than that, I often read the manga by Ms. Rina Morimoto whose works were published through another shojo manga magazine "Ribbon" and the ones by Ms Jun Fukami who is a ladies' manga artist.

What is the future for shojo manga?

In 1990's, though I know only the latter part of it, Japan faced a new trend where adults read manga which was originally meant for boys and girls and it was the era when the manga culture or industry was enriched. After that, manga played a big role in the movement of women into society too. I truly hope Manga will stay as something to lead the society as it has been doing.

I have read some of your manga - A Cup of Perfection, My Boyfriend the Home Boy and Host Taxi.
Are you a big fan of coffee? (you should try Nanyang coffee when you are in Singapore)

Thank you very much for reading my works. You may have realized some are expressed with poor skills because these comics were published quite long time ago when I was not a fully matured manga artist yet. Well, coffee is indispensible when I am working, I would love to go to a local coffee shop in Singapore.

There are some negative portrayal of male-female relationships in Host Taxi and the male character in A Cup of Perfection forced a kiss on the heroine. Maybe male characters should be non-aggressive and be like the reclusive male lead in My Boyfriend the Home Boy. What do you think?

To be honest, I was very much worried when I was working on those comics.

I believe there are many things and events that we should absolutely stay away from in our actual daily life. From my comics, I expect the readers to experience such things virtually, feel disgusted and think what to do if it was them through the eyes of the characters in the manga. And eventually I hope my manga will be a trigger to review and improve readers’ own daily lives and their relationship with the people around them.

Social problems are being reflected in manga. I never avoid such problems when I am starting a new work or content. I always aim to describe a woman who can value the people around her as much as she value herself.

You are interested in the collaborations between different artists. What is your experience like working with other artists?

I wrote manga works with my own stories originally, but the story making gradually lost its attraction for me and that triggered my collaborations with other artists. Even though it is not easy to express someone else's thoughts and stories with my own drawing, and I feel a very heavy responsibility in re-making their work, those jobs are worthwhile and enjoyable for me, I think. I want to do as many collaborations as possible. 5 years of experience in collaborations have reconfirmed my own strong points too.

Can you tell us more about more about the Kitakyushu Manga Museum? How does the Kitakyushu City Office support manga and mangakas?

Fukuoka prefecture is big and it includes Fukuoka City, Kitakyushu City and some other cities. While the biggest city, Fukuoka focuses on IT, games and performance arts mainly, Kitakyushu City focuses on manga as the first priority. In typical small cities in Japan, people read manga as part of mass entertainment. On the other hand, Kitakyushu wants to transform such pure mass entertainment into something more meaningful by organizing popular events like pop culture festivals, manga contests and exhibitions and also by transmitting the latest information related to the manga industries. It becomes a culture or tradition for the city, which would become a place to 'experience' and not just 'reading' of manga. Kitakyushu City and the Manga Museum is indeed a manga hub that entertains you with various aspects of Manga culture.

I met you in June at the 17th International Comic Artist Conference (ICC) in Taipei. The Mayor of Kitakyushu City attended as well as the city will be hosting the 18th ICC in October next year. How did you find the ICC event in Taipei? What are your impressions of comics from other Asian countries like Taiwan, China, Hong Kong, Korea, Malaysia, Singapore and Macau?

That was my first time joining a comic conference and I was shocked to see how much overseas artists admire Japanese manga culture. I realized that manga is one part of the Japanese culture that we can be truly proud of. It was great to see different types of manga there, some reminds me of the Japanese ones and some don't. They clearly had characteristics of the countries or culture where they are from.

Recently, we can enjoy so called 'Panel reading' (1 page 1 panel only) and 'webtoon types' (scroll vertically) on our gadgets thanks to the new technologies developed in mobile phones and the internet industry. There are pros and cons about that idea depending on the characteristics of each manga. But it convinced me manga culture will keep expanding from now on.

What are your aspirations? What's next for you?

I recently introduced to 'webtoon' and started working on vertically scrolled manga. In traditional manga, the artists lay out the panels on each page and carefully arrange the content so the most exciting or thrilling moment comes just after flipping the page. This method is called 'Mekuri' In Japanese, meaning 'Flipping'. But for webtoon, there isn't any chance for 'Mekuri'. This is a new challenge for me. It's a really exciting challenge and I am trying my best to find my own expression or method in webtoon.

Is this your first trip to Singapore? What do you hope to visit? Or hope to eat!

Yes, this is my first time in Singapore.

Sadly, the Merlion and Marina Bay Sands are the only things I know about Singapore for now. Thus, I want to experience as many places and food as possible during this trip, especially the famous food among the Japanese people, though I can't enjoy some of the food because of my flour allergy, lol.

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