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The Kazuo Koike Interview…

Sorry for the long silence, I’ve been really busy these months. I hope to be back soon. Meanwhile, here are some pictures of the “making of” the Kazuo Koike (Lone Wolf and Cub, Lady Snowblood, Crying Freeman, Samurai Executioner, Path of the Assassin and so on scriptwriter) interview, yesterday (February 17th 2011) in Tokyo.

Hideki Ohwada: About Gambling Manga

Legend of Koizumi author Hideki Ohwada (his profile can be read here) talks about gambling manga.

Sure you know there are comics about gambling, such as mah-jong, pachinko, shogi, go, chess, poker… Anything goes. Why are they so popular in Japan? How did this genre start? We asked Hideki Ohwada, author of the hugely popular mah-jong political gag manga Legend of Koizumi, about this and he gave us this short answer:

(Also on Vimeo)

Mangaka Profile (8): Tokuo Yokota

  • Name: Tokuo Yokota
  • In Japanese: よこたとくお
  • Date of birth: October 30th, 1936
  • Hometown: Fukushima Prefecture.
  • Debut: 1955 (19 years old), with Yamabiko Senshi (Warrior of the Echo).
  • Main works: Margaret-chan; Gakken educational manga series.

Facts:

  • Although he signs his works with his name written in hiragana script, よこたとくお, it is actually written 横田徳男.
  • As many mangaka of his generation, he was an avid reader of Manga Shōnen magazine. The Fujiko Fujio duo, Shōtarō Ishinomori, Fujio Akatsuka, Hiroo Terada, Kunio Nagatani, Jirō Tsunoda and Hideko Mizuno, among others, were greatly impressed by this magazine that featured works of Osamu Tezuka, and would send their works to the reader’s corner.
  • Ishinomori sent a letter to the reader’s corner of Manga Shōnen proposing the creation of a “manga studies group” that would be called Higashi Nihon Manga Kenkyūkai (East Japan Association of Manga Studies). Yokota, Akatsuka and Nagatani, among other young manga artists, send their works to Ishinomori, who bundled up a fanzine called Bokujū Itteki (One Ink Drop). This is how these artists got to know each other. Only one copy of each issue of Bokujū Itteki existed. It was a simple binding of all the manuscripts and they would send the copy to each other in turns, by mail.
  • Yokota and Akatsuka decided to move to Tokyo to pursue their dreams and they shared a little apartment while they worked in factories during the day and created their manga during the night.
  • Yokota debuted in 1955 in the kashihon industry and suggested Akatsuka to do the same.
  • Ishinomori eventually moved to Tokyo and stayed at Yokota and Akatsuka’s place for some weeks before moving to the Tokiwa-sō apartments.
  • Akatsuka, and later Yokota, eventually moved to Tokiwa-sō as well. Yokota lived in the “manga apartments” for 3 years, from 1957 to 1960.
  • During his first years as a mangaka, Yokota specialized on shōjo stories thanks to his roundish, cute drawing style. His most famous fiction work is マーガレットちゃん (Margaret-chan), featuring the adventure of Margaret magazine’s girl mascot.
  • In the mid 60s, he was approached by Gakken to produce a series of educational manga. Since then, he has produced countless works on many aspects of knowledge: proverbs, electricity, natural phenomena, biographies… He is one of the most prominent educational manga authors of Japan.
  • Samples of his work can be read online for free. For instance, “moving manga” Kirin Beer Daigaku Jōzō Gakubu (Kirin Beer University, Faculty of Brewing) can be sampled in Kirin Beer’s site: index / chapter 1.

Here I am again…

This is a little post just to tell you that I’m finally back at putting new contents on Masters of Manga. After some months really busy with trips, fairs and conferences, I can finally focus again on this project, at least a few hours per week. I don’t know, however, how frequently will I be able to share new contents with you, because –for the same reasons I had to leave MoM aside these last weeks– I really need to focus on my main translation job as deadlines are  looming there. On the other hand, holidays are really close and I’ll have to take it easy because of that too, of course. January, please come fast… ^_^

By the way, during my last trip to Japan I interviewed Hideshi Hino. Another one for the list!

Felipe Smith – Advices for Becoming a Mangaka in Japan

When I met Felipe Smith some weeks ago, he instantly became one of the persons I most admire among those I’ve met in Japan.

Let me explain myself. I’ve been asked lots of time about how to become a manga artist and work in Japan for the big Japanese publishers by many manga-style Western artists. I always told them that it was a nearly impossible task.

One thing is to publish a single manga, a short story or even a full volume (which could be possible), the other is to publish weekly, bi-weekly or monthly, during a long period of time.

See, Japanese manga publishers are really difficult to approach to. They have they own way of working and, first of all, they hardly master any language other than Japanese. So, this would be the first big obstacle: you need to understand, read, write and speak the language. And this is no easy task.

But let’s imagine you know the language. Then you’d need to compete against thousands of Japanese artists who also want to become professional mangaka. And you’d need to beat them. Needless to say, this is not an easy task.


Then, there is the working visa barrier. It’s not easy to get a visa for working in Japan. And then you need to move to Japan and adapt to their way of life in a land where, at first, you virtually don’t know anybody.

And even when you’ve overcome all the obstacles, you have to get used to work really long hours for long periods of time (years!) and be ready to become a virtual slave of your work.

And this is no guarantee that you’ll become rich and famous! Once you’ve done all this, then you need to create a fanbase. You need the readers to pick your books from the store in order to get enough money to pay for your expenses. Easy task? Ask that to the thousands of Japanese mangaka who barely make a living out of their work.

However, Felipe proved that this could be done.

He did not only learn the language, he also convinced a main Japanese publisher as Kôdansha that he would be able to move and work in Japan, to work long hours and get a series –Peepo Choo– going on for a year and a half.

He is really worth admiring, isn’t he?

Now let’s see what advices he has for those who want to follow his steps:

(By the way, if you understand Spanish, also see him in the Spanish version as he says some other interesting stuff. Felipe is from the US, but his father is Jamaican and his mother Argentinian, and he spent years in Argentina, so he speaks native-level Spanish).

(Also on Vimeo)