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Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Sunday Retrospective (2019)



Greetings all! It's the end of the year and I didn't want to leave the blog without looking back at 2019 in memorandum. Sunday went through some interesting changes throughout to bring us where we are here with the magazine in 2020. It's nothing formal but let's look back at it, shall we?



The chart above indicates the rankings Sunday series had in the magazine's TOC and the color pages they received. (Thanks to Aipom626!) In all 10 new series began in Weekly Shounen Sunday in 2019. One was an irregular serialization, two have ended and one transferred out and concluded elsewhere. Overall 12 series ended in Sunday in 2019 including RYOKO, Yuugami, and Silver Spoon. These are the biggest names that ended in the magazine however we did lose very many smaller series with Undine, Memesis, Ano Natsu and Marry Grave all biting the dust. Saike also technically ended in the magazine very early in the year, though with Ponkotsu-chan almost immediately taking it's place it's almost as if Fukuchi never left, heh. We also had some short series like Ippei Aoki's Perfect Girl, and Mogi Yomogi's Mata Minu field de. It does seem as if Ichihara and the rest of the Shougakukan editorial department are trying to find new ways to introduce us to new series quickly and give rookies time to shine and further develop their storytelling and artistic skills. Not surprisingly some of the bigger hits this year came from established veterans --Takahashi with MAO and KOTOYAMA with Yofukashi no uta  but yet Shougakukan persists in giving the rookies spotlight despite it being advantageous to bring back established acts. 


So what happened to some of the more promising series like Undine wa kyou mo koi wo suru ka? Why did they seem to fizzle out? In the case of this particular series at least, it feels like the premise lent itself to ostensibly being a short serial. This is tempered by it also not selling that well, but this leads to an interesting phenomenon that's been more frequent in Sunday series in recent years --cancellation has been much faster than ever before. Where as series might at least make it to a fifth volume (so a little less than a year), we've been seeing more of them end with only three or four. I personally think a work should be given more time to grow, but this method has worked well for Sunday's rivals/contemporaries Jump and Magazine, so my personal feelings aside I can't deny that moving something out quickly has it's advantages. It'll be seen if they'll keep this up with the short serials they've been running lately, though. 

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I can't say I'm an expert on serializations for this magazine much less any other, but it seems Sunday is the one most frequently left in the distasteful position of bringing a series back from hiatus just for it to end. RYOKO being one of my favorites was unfortunately in this position when it returned in issue #8 just to end several weeks later. It feels like much more frequently that a series is brought back to great fanfare and continues until it naturally ends --though at least in RYOKO's case it seems it's fate was something both Mitsuhashi and Shougakukan decided on. I sadly think about what heights this series could have had if it only hadn't gone on hiatus, but alas that is the name of the game --out of sight, out of mind. Not to mention the unfortunate situation that left Fujiko Dosei to take a hiatus from manga completely before she "grew to hate it." after her Chrono Magia adaption was suddenly cut short for reasons unknown.  She's been tweeting about a doujinshi sequel of one of her series that ran in Sunday some time ago so she appears to be doing better but I hope this hasn't kept her from considering returning to Sunday. At least Mitsuhashi along with several other artists have been implied to return, like the aforementioned Undine author Shinya Misu, and even Silver Spoon's artist the well known Hiromu Arakawa has been implied to be back soon. Some authors like Hidenori Yamaji (Marry Grave) haven't directly said they'd be back but his appearance (with another author) in Sunday Super implies he hasn't left Shougakukan completely which is always a good sign. 



On that note there is a very promising future coming up in Sunday. Many authors who have already debuted with short series or oneshots are preparing more work, and more still who have yet to be in any magazine much less this one are also gearing up for their debut. (For the curious red info boxes are for artists who have debuted a work already, blue are for those who have yet to have anything serialized or featured, while grey are those currently in webry.) Again the heavy focus seems to be on developing new talent. Which considering the business from a longevity's point of view makes sense. One can only depend on an established artist for so long without fostering the talent of new and upcoming sensations. Admittedly Sunday is taking a gamble by having a new set of serials made up of nothing but rookies, but nothing ventured nothing gained. It's strange to say this but perhaps it's their position of being third in the (fan created) shounen trinity of magazines that allows them a bit more leverage in running what the others would not while maintaining their sense of identity.


So what do we have to look forward to in 2020? Several things! Major 2nd and Maoujo de oyasumi/Sleepy Princess in Demon Castle both picking up the Sunday anime slack with adaptions both airing this year, a classic Sunday manga by Hiroshi Takashige and illustrated by Ryouji Minagawa named "Spriggan"has also been green lit for an adaption, it has been recently stated that Yellow Tanabe's Birdmen will be wrapping up in issue #10 being the last of the monthly serials in the monthly magazine thus leaving us open for more manga (Monthly? Weekly? Who knows?) and of course three new newcomers who's serials only recently started. From left to right we have Sennou Shitsuji from Wakabi Asayama, PINGKONG by Comic Jackson and Usotsuki by MINAMI. These authors all come from great pedigrees as Asayama has done several oneshots in the magazine already, Comic Jackson was once an assistant for Nekoguchi (Amano Megumi Suki Darake!!) and MINAMI has had one serialization on Sunday Webry. I've been talking about their series on the twitter so if you're interested in learning more by all means check it out. Of course old favorites like Souboutei Kowasubeshi, Sheriff Evans, and Detective Conan are still around but I'm more interested in seeing what the landscape will offer for the rookies in Sunday. I personally believe it's good of them to try harder and develop new talent if only because it brings new experiences, viewpoints and of course stories to the table. In the end, however it comes down to whether the audience in Japan receive these series, but in a strange way that's part of the fun. 


So as 2019 wraps up Sunday finds itself in a position of admitted unease and change as it's flagship series ends, and it's other, other flagship series continues to be on hiatus for longer periods of time. Try to guess which series I'm talking about. Rather than hunker down and stay the same however, the editorial department is striking out to illicit change and I'm all for it. From having more contests and sit downs with newbie authors --including a story where they were very supportive of a 14 year old artist who didn't have the means to purchase materials and made do with what they could which you can read more about here I can tell what Shougakukan is doing is taking a bet on the future. As for me, well I'll keep right on doing what I'm doing. I do hope to have more guest writers on the blog and reviews of domestic releases like Komi Can't Communicate, the upcoming release of Maison Ikkoku, and more from Viz Media to keep things interesting, but most of all I want to continue providing the service of Sunday that people outside of Japan wouldn't get otherwise. I'm glad for anyone who wants to accompany me and am grateful for those who already have. Let's make 2020 another great year to be a Shounen Sunday fan. Until we meet again, take care. 


Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Sunday Champions. (Editor in chief Ichihara and Takekawa interview pt2)



Hullo, Hello, Greetings! It's a little later than I would have liked but here's part two of the Takekawa and Ichihara interview! It was interesting to hear these two talk about their respective magazines and how important shounen manga is to Japan and the world et all! As always this was translated by me, and while I don't mind sharing it with friends I do warn it might have some small mistakes. If you notice anything please let me know!

---I'd like Ichihara to field this one. In 2015 you assumed the role of Head editor at Sunday. At the time you said in an interview with Comic Natalie “It is my mission to create a place to raise and train trueborn rookie manga artists.” “The one who will decide what runs in the magazine is me, and me alone through my judgments, my views and sense of aesthetics.” You went on to boldly state that “This policy has been met with harsh opposition in the Sunday editorial office” but then on the TV show “Wide Secret” with Hitoshi Matsumoto you then said that despite the opposition to your policies there had been a great effect. It's been four years since then –how much as the Sunday editorial department changed?

Ichihara: If at first I had decided “In the first three years we have to do things this way” then we would have been done for. Though there have been points that haven't gone to plan, I'd score this 4 year interval with 85 points.

Takekawa: That's a pretty high score.

Ichihara: I'd label myself as a longtime member of the staff, so I had a distinct vision of what we should be doing. Of course there are several tasks to deal with so breaking it down and understanding what needs to be done in the long, mid, and short term is important. For example, a long term goal would be to restructure the editorial office. In truth this is a process that'll be ongoing for years. I can see it still occurring for the editor after me and maybe even the editor after that. Specifically speaking, it's a situation where the manga artists and the editors are unable to keep training and growing. However, three or four years isn't enough to accomplish this. It's the type of work that requires around 8 years or so to really stay on track. The sales for Sunday have recovered, and to the company that might be more than enough, but to me seeking refuge in sales recovering isn't enough. There's no meaning in this if the moment I leave things go back to withering away. We have to strengthen the backbone of Sunday. I want to be able to look forward to the day I retire as I've been working really hard. (laughs).

Takekawa: Oh no, (laughs) It's way too soon for you to be thinking of retirement.

---Have you seen a good response to your proposition of “Training true born rookie manga”?

Ichihara: To start with, it's not just the manga artists that have to be considered. There are many ways that the method of recognizing true talent and then gingerly raising it to superiority misses out on opportunities for maturation. Although many editors use cajoling an artist to help them grow, I feel like it then becomes difficult to be honest with them when it comes to plotting and storyboarding. I've often had to sigh and label a storyboard with an “are you kidding?”, note.

Takekawa: I know full well that the editors at Sunday are a different breed. (Laughs).

Ichihara: If an editor just yells when they get an awful storyboard, then the artist won't realize what's wrong with it. They'll think that what they have is perfectly fine.  Though if they ask now “Remember that storyboard from before? Do you understand how bad it was?” and they say “Yes I do” then that means they've grown a bit. To be specific I'm not saying that it only takes one editor or manga artist to become amazing, rather that's just halfway down the line, as they had to be left in the fields going wild for some time before coming to us.

---In your 2015 interview you stated you'd supervise rookies oneshots until serialization all on your own. Are you still doing that?

Ichiara: No, if I were to attempt that I'd probably die. (laughs). It'd take three years for me to supervise one person, so last year in July we made a faction who would look over rookie artists oneshots. There are three people serving as chiefs there, and I leave raising the rookies to them. They are provisional ace editors with an emphasis on temporary since I haven't approved of them yet. (laughs.)

Takekawa: You haven't yet? (laughs).

Ichihara: They haven't had enough achievements yet, you see. However They can check on a rookie's storyboard and give it the okay, and once I hear that it's good from the chiefs then I read the completed storyboard.

(What's important is 'Admiring the cool guys.' Takekawa).

--Mr. Ichihara's continuous reformation of the editorial department is a constant process. Mr. Takekawa, you became the head editor of Champion in 2017, right?

Takekawa: That's right. Before I was in, I heard Mr. Ichihara's declaratory statement and thought it was rather impressive.

--- Even though you hadn't made the same claim as boldly and publicly as Mr. Ichihara, was there the same kind of declaration made within the editorial department at champion where you said “This is how we'll change things?”

Takekawa: During the tenor of the previous head editor Takefumi Sawa, I was the vice head editor, and assisted with planning, and the pros and cons of publishing. (For the entirety of the magazine.) So I was left in charge of quite a bit for several years. So surprisingly I was at first inclined to leave things as they were when I became head editor. There wasn't a lot of time where I thought to myself that I needed to make a change or else. Moreso than changing, my first thought was how to keep a certain thing the same.

---What was that “First thought”?

Takekawa: I've been reading shounen manga as a kid and I'm definitely the type who admires the cool characters. When I say cool, I don't necessarily mean the good looking type, more those who had a way of living that made me think “This is the kind of adult I want to be”. In this world there are many people who think that they're cool and probably don't think this but I think it's important, no, essential for shounen manga to have characters one can admire and imitate. So before I became head editor, the characters of the works I did edit had that kind of feeling to them. Even as head editor an air of cool guys and cool works has been what I have wanted to fill the magazine with. I believe that being able to stimulate the readers with the character's way of life is important.

---So would you say that rather than reformation that preserving what's there is important?

Ichihara: If you make moves during a time where nothing needs to be changed then that leads to massive damages. When I became the head editor I didn't reform the department because of a misguided sense of  “I wanna change this”. Sunday was on the verge of sinking so I did what I could to prevent that. My ideal of course would be to go on business trips and eat good food while big hits come one after another all receiving adaptations while we're grinning about how successful we are.

Takekawa: Amazing –yeah that would be the life wouldn't it? (Laughs)

(A person who changes the water from an artist into black tea, and the person who thinks about what they should carry –Takekawa)

--For several years now, some have theorized “Manga editors are no longer necessary” on social media platforms and the like. What are your thoughts on this? For example in regard to hit manga that originate from the internet there have been people saying “Even without an editorial staff people are able to individually come out with popular works, so we don't need editors anymore”. What do you think when you see thoughts like this?

Ichihara: I think people should just read manga that interests them without worrying about the editors? (Laughs)

Everyone: (laughs).

Ichihara: Back when I was just a reader, it isn't as if I read something and thought “Man this manga had one hell of an editor.” Heck, even now I don't think that. Though I suppose when people read this interview they might think that, perhaps. Though really it's best if a reader just reads whatever manga they enjoy without worrying about the editors. (laughs). Though it's not as if this changes the importance of an editorial staff, I think. To the artist knowing that the editorial staff has their back makes it easier for them to draw to their heart's content.

---While it's true that web manga artists only have to think about themselves when they put something out for sale, I don't think they're all that different from other artists who want people to enjoy their work.

Takekawa: In my opinion, an editorial staff is absolutely essential. I don't think I can convey this in one simple thought or word, however. There are some people for example who are dripping –overflowing with talent and have the impetus to keep creating for the rest of their lives. Meanwhile there are some artists that despite having water they don't know what to add to it to make black tea. Then there are those who have black tea but have no idea how to serve it to others. In relation to this, Manga editors seem to the readers as simply “the people they submit manuscripts to”, which fair, because explaining to them how things go on a case by case basis is rather difficult. Working as the person who adds that special something, or packages that special something might be a simplification of what we do, and it's not the simplification of that process that makes us valuable –rather it's being there for the artists and working with them to bring out their best that is where the value comes in.

Ichihara: Building a bond over creating something is essential.

---Others in support of “Editors not being necessary” are of the opinion that even if rookie editors working with manga artists “Went to a good school, it doesn't mean they necessarily studied manga. Does advice from amateurs really add up to much?”

Ichihara: But manga itself is ultimately for the readers, right? Manga readers don't exactly study the stuff so aren't they too just amateurs? (laughs).

---True.

Takekawa: I believe it's good for editors to be young. Even if they don't know much about manga, they've got the ability to sympathize with and be close with the readers. In another way you could almost say they're at their most valuable when they're starting out.

Ichihara: Editors aren't supposed to be stand-ins for the readers. I can say for myself at least that I no longer stand at the same viewpoint the readers do. (laughs) But in honesty if someone were to ask me. “What do we even need editors for?” I probably couldn't answer. I know I've been doing this for a long time, but the editor's role is to be close to the artist. Now if the question were “What kind of editor would this specific artist need?” I'd be able to answer that.

Takekawa: It comes off as pretty obvious, but there are different types of creators who have different needs. Piggybacking on what I said earlier about the water, this is why we need different types of editors. Ultimately having more varied editors is a good thing. Experience is important of course, but younger editors not holding back in their thoughts and sensibilities is important too.

(Humans don't change, so that's why Manga shouldn't change. --Ichihara).

---What would you two say is the most fun part of being a manga editor?

Ichihara: All of it.

Takekawa: I have fun pretty much every day so it's hard for me to pinpoint one thing as “this is the most fun”. I just have a good time without really thinking too much about it. This might be an amateur way of stating this but sometimes I wonder to myself “Is it okay that I do something like this”? I've loved reading manga for a long time now so when I became the editor of Shounen Champion I was like “Things have gotten crazy now.” (laughs).

Ichihara: I somehow became a big Sunday fan. I didn't realize it until I was out of Shougakukan though, and I'm the head editor! (laughs)

---So you weren't taken in by Shougakukan at first when you were job searching, Mr. Ichihara?

Ichihara: That's right. In reality I was going to work in the food service industry, but I had memories of enjoying Mr. Adachi's “Touch” back when I was taking exams. I didn't really know if I had what it took to be an editor since I barely passed exams. Even when I came for the interview the others around me had amazing grades and scholastic achievements. I thought for sure they were going to ask me something like “What is your objective at this company” or something like that. I thought I was done for when the interviewer thrust a bunch of information on Shougakukan's various magazines at me. I didn't really know much of anything so it was basically luck. (laughs).

---The people who diligently put in effort to get into Shougakukan are going to get angry (laughs).

Takekawa: Nah, it was fate.

Ichihara: I'd say all work in manga is fun in response to “What about being a manga editor is fun”? I know company workers could come up with a mountain full of things that are a pain, but one could say that about any job, really. There isn't a such thing as a manga related job that isn't fun. As for stuff I'd love to do, I'd love to direct Gessan (Monthly Shounen Sunday) and the entire Sunday label for like twenty years. Now that I've become Sunday's head editor, I'd like to do all I can while I'm at the helm –it's all rather fun and interesting. If I were reborn, I'd want to do it all again.

---By the way The “Osaka University of arts post secondary manga” magazine's 7th issue in 2007 had an interview with the head editors of the four big shounen manga magazines. In that interview, Mr. Sawa's conversation about editorial work being worth doing, he mentioned how “With a pen, ink, and paper a manga artist and their editor can change the world.” “This is a bad thing of course, but it's as thrilling as being accomplices in a counterfeiting plan, (laughs).” I couldn't help but think when he said that it sounded very “Champion-ish”.

Takekawa: He sure did say that. He's a dangerous man (laughs).

Ichihara: Being a manga editor is fun but I never once have thought of counterfeiting money. (laughs).

---It's like creating something from nothing.

Ichihara: It's the manga artist that's doing the creating, but being there for them as they do is fun.

Takekawa: It's like the rush of raising a baby every week. It's a joyful place to be.

---I've heard it for years that since manga publishing is a buisness without limits that it can be difficult, but you're saying despite that it's still fun?

Ichihara: I don't think that correlates. (laughs) The day to day work is fun.

Takekawa: Even if there are lots of painful parts, I don't think of them as particularly bad...maybe. (laughs)

Ichihara: Because the manga industry is full of people who don't fully understand it and only see things in the sense of a constantly impending crisis that they say it's painful. They think “But it isn't actually you making the manga” too. I however don't believe the way that manga is created changes much. Not even just manga, but if I can say this –the way that stories are created. “The tale of Genji” and other ancient stories from the time of Papyrus are about the same, I believe. The way we read stories has changed and it is necessary to adapt to that, but that has nothing to do with the editorial staff. Barring humans suddenly evolving to a point where they can peek into the heads of others, the way we present ourselves will remain unchanging.

(If it's a project on the pages of the magazine we want, there's no other way to do it. --Ichihara)

---To change the subject a bit, This is Shounen Champion's 50th anniversary and you're using the magazine, website and other means to advertise it. Sunday and Magazine both celebrated their 50th anniversaries in 2009 all year long. This time, as the senior do you have any advice to offer Mr. Ichihara?

Ichihara: Is that the preamble to a news article? 90% of what's in the preamble doesn't get written in the article, so....(laughs)

Takekawa: Oh my. (laughs)
Ichihara: The events we had for our 50th anniversary were...pricey. Not so much for the readers, but we went under the premise of doing it for someone's sake. (Laughs bitterly), that's why I'll say this one thing to you –This kind of event is for the readers so do what you can for them. This is just an example, but even if you were to throw in the “50th anniversary” into the logo somewhere that's not going to be motivation for a reader to conclude “I have to buy this”. However, if you do a good job of conveying your projects and intentions in the magazine itself, and do right by the readers that would be amazing.

Takekawa: Thank you.

---In 2019 Champion is doing a “Masterpiece Revival” where they reprint manga from legends. And have interviews with the artists.

Ichihara: I think its good for younger audiences to see works they may not be familiar with. As in when one buys the magazine themselves they get a wealth of information. It's only there you can convey what projects you have for this year long anniversary celebration.

Takekawa: It's as you say. Since it's the 50th anniversary we got to asking ourselves what can we do for the readers? Although that itself is hard to say, conveying 50 years of history to an era of readers who may not have experienced it themselves is a good thing. That's why for example we re-ran “750 rider” we thought to do so for readers who haven't been able to read it themselves.

---Tsunoda Jiro's “Horror Newspaper” Mr. Tatsuhiko Yamagami's “Bratty Detective” and so on...it's incredible you were able to get a lineup of legendary manga artists to interview.

Takekawa: Of course I think that what is serialized in Champion right now is really great, but there are plenty of works that deserve praise and discussion such as “Dokaben” “Black Jack” “Bratty Detective” “Macaroni Imperial Manor” Readers now may not be familiar with that era and I don't think it's a stretch to say that without those they wouldn't be able to read Champion now. I'm glad for the folks who are buying each week's issue to see these reprints. Otherwise we may not have brought them back after the first one. It means that they're enjoying these when they keep buying them.

---On that note are there any reactions from older fans of Champion when they buy these?

Takekawa: There are. The letters we get from them tend to be very well written. I think people who read shounen manga do so because it gives them vitality, and that vitality remains within their hearts. It might only be fragments or little pieces, I'm not sure but reading those manga hits the right spot and revives that energy within them and that makes me really happy.

Ichihara: And the end of magazine “This week's legendary work” project is pretty good too.

---It's the corner where you introduce two works with different themes each week. Ichihara is reading issue #24 right now which introduces “Mahjong Demon Ukiyou” and “Gamble Fish”.

Takekawa: What runs may not have been a super hit, but we ensured that they would be works beloved by everyone.

---It'd be natural to look back over 50 years and stick to introducing major works, but you're including manga that may not have been so in this corner.

Ichihara: That's right. There were fans of the manga that weren't major hits as well, and we'll be showcasing them the entire year.

---They may not have been masterpiece manga but manga people love are here, right?

Takekawa: You never know what'll be next. It's a gashapon type concept.

Ichihara: “Count down TV” will do that from time to time where they'll have a particular set of hit songs they'll do as a retrospective. I'm always up for it when they do an era I like, but when they play music from like four years ago I'll wonder “Is it really a retrospective when you're playing stuff this recent”? (laughs)

Takekawa: Songs and scents have a way of bringing back memories. I think it's good when memories come back, like “Back when I was reading this manga there were lots of good things happening to me” or “It reminds me of a love lost”. And such.

(There's meaning in these four magazines remaining unbroken. --Takekawa)

---On July 15th in Tokyo and Akihabara's UDX Gallery there was a “Shounen Champion 50th anniversary Thanksgiving”. Event. During the talkshow there was an interesting “Select Manifesto” project, right?

Takekawa: That's right. On the commemorative website for the 50th anniversary, we took three manefestos from artists and posted them. We did want a part of this project that the fans could participate in so after putting these up for a vote we would reveal the winner at the event.

---For example Ms. Paru Itagaki's “Exhibit it in color” “Rui's established as a photo panel” and “Call me the animal you most want to meet” were the choices and the winner was exhibited at the event.

Ichihara: That was fun. I think that events that include the readers are good. We have something for middle and highschool aged readers called the “Sunday Supporter club”. Just the other day the members had a “Sunday culture fest” There are two of these per year, however we have libraries that keep a back stock of sixty years, talk shows with the artists and so on. It was there that we have wonderful events where one can run into Mr. Gosho Aoyama or Mr. Kazuhiro Fujita. Everyone was really happy to be there. Perhaps those who come to these events might fall in love with Sunday for a lifetime.

---It's an important experience for raising a fan.

Ichihara: That's right. Fans like that become a source of energy for us.

Takekawa: It goes without saying if you're going to do an event like this you have to leave an impression in the reader's hearts.

Ichihara: If that were the case then Champion can do just about anything. I wonder if we could too. Sunday's 50th became a big deal, and yet this year for the 60th we've done nothing. It'll be the same for 61 maybe. (laughs).

--And last any cheers you might have for your respective magazines.
Ichihara: Takekawa said this at the start but, there are billions of humans on earth, but Weekly Shounen magazines are a one of a kind thing that exist as part of Japanese culture. Beyond that there are only four out there.

--And there are only four shounen manga magazine head editors.

Ichihara: That's right. That's why it's essential for the four of us to work with each other. In essence even pro baseball players don't have strife within their one united organization. We too with our four different labels and cultures are strengthened by each other. I don't know what'll happen in regards to the paper magazines, but right now the most important label we have is that of manga culture, and the only four of our kind. It's why we must all strive to do our best.

Takekawa: I too believe it is important for the four magazines to meld together well. Of course we'll compete with each others in sales, but when it comes to the topic of creating weekly shounen manga I think we all rise to the occasion. As I said earlier, more than being rivals I see us as “companions”. Running by oneself is lonely, isn't it? It's while one is in the midst of that run that perhaps weekly shounen manga made with vigor and vitality are created. This is why the four magazines running separately has a significant meaning. Within our separate paths we are able to come together and stand out even more. Let's continue to do our best.

Ichihara: Indeed!


Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Case Closed Volume 71 and 72 Review

The year is 2011. Conan has been running in Weekly Shounen Sunday for about 17 and a half years. When is this going to end? Will Conan ever beat the Black Org? Will he and Ran get together? Maybe?! BUT WHEN IS THIS SERIES GOING TO END?!! The answer is never, but at least we still have Viz's releases.

Hi everyone! It’s Jecka, semi-enthusiast of Detective Conan, here to bring a little something different to the table. So about six months ago, there was a poll asking if you’d like the English volumes to be covered and here I am!! Gonna be honest, this took me so long to write that I ended up waiting for volume 72 as well but that’s okay since we FINALLY got the London case. Let's get going.


What's the hardest thing about covering Detective Conan (or in this case, Case Closed) volume, you ask? For sure it'd be the continuous cases. Gosho Aoyama tends to make the cases 3-5 chapters and volumes typically contain 11 chapters so a case concluding on the final chapter of the volume is rare. The first case we get in volume 71 is “The VHS of Memories”, (continuing from volume 70), which is essentially a Chiba love story. This case is cute but Aoyama's tendency to use (or overuse) the “childhood friends” trope is a little tiring. Furthermore he doubles down with Chiba who doesn't recognize Naeko so it adds to the frustration.


Next is a warm welcome from Jolly ol’ London. I’ve never been to London, but I’m always down for a visit a city in a country I’ve never been to. Aoyama's artwork does a great job capturing the local landmarks; the London eye, Big Ben, and 221B Baker Street. However, if there’s one thing I never liked about this case from the several re-watches and this reread it'd be everyone’s obsession over Sherlock Holmes. He’s treated like he was a real hero although everyone knows he’s fictional. If you told me this was a fever dream Conan had one night, I’d believe it because that’s what this case feels like.
    
   
       
The English used in the Japanese version of this case is quite good with the exception of a few grammatical errors and some awkward phrasing. Viz does their best to keep the original while correcting some of the problems.
  
     
                         

I can’t imagine Aoyama knows English well or at all really, but with this being only the third case he used English in (the first being the New York City case in volumes 34 and 35), I think he does a pretty decent job.

So, how about that case? The case is great. My favorite part is definitely the climax. Aoyama uses braille as a way to send messages similar to Morse code and I find that really creative. Most of the case is a scavenger hunt, and the story takes a different direction than most cases, but the obsession with Sherlock Holmes bugs me. Finally, yes, this is a big deal if you like the ShinRan ship. Aoyama teases us a little in this case, and it's not until recently (last year!) That he gives a follow up to these events. I won’t go into what happened, but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t at least a little excited for the two of them finally communicating to each other about their relationship. Considering this was drawn in 2011 and the “sequel” was nearly a decade later, I’m not sure how we as fans survived the wait.



Ahem, moving on. The next case in volume 72 follows Conan, now back in Japan, playing with the detective Boys in an abandoned building. It’s set to be demolished soon, but sure, go right ahead and play kick-the-can/hide-and-seek. This case I remember well; It was one of the first manga cases I skimmed though when I first started watching Conan back in 2011. I was curious to see how many chapters/episodes the series was up to and what was happening. The other thing I remember about it is the earthquake. Going back to the case, while the kids are wondering where Genta is hiding, an earthquake occurs. This was only months after the Tohoku earthquake so my memory of this case is how the case was edited in the anime. In the anime the disaster itself was completely removed as the actual earthquake was traumatizing with the tsunami and the damage to the Fukushima power plant. Otherwise, this case is your run of the mill Detective Boys case: No one dies, the kids are in minor peril, and they all go home and eat curry. Just a light snack after that big fish and chips meal.



The 2nd full case in this volume has to do with Kogoro giving a speech at his alma mater and a haunted house attraction. Believe it or not I never completed this one in the anime and the last time I saw this case was in 2011/2012. But hey, this is just in time for Halloween.



Ran and horror are never a good mix. Add in a bit of Conan, and it's a fine night for murder. I mostly enjoyed this case. It’s a simple revenge case, but I find it visually appealing. Conan’s inner commentary is actually pretty funny, and Sonoko is always a joy to see. Normally I’m not one for Halloween/horror stuff, but in this case I enjoyed it, and this is one of the best pages ever (kinda NSFW):


I love the way each panel is detailed and the angle Aoyama uses in the first. Conan isn’t typically a horror series (though I guess you could argue with all of the murder and mayhem it's almost one) but it never ceases to surprise its readers. Say what you want about his story telling, but Aoyama’s art and storyboarding is something else; the way the pages flow make each chapter an entertaining read even without dialog. Another thing I like about this is how Ran is using Conan as a shield. Unable to escape, he has to go along for the ride, although I’m not sure how comfortable being carried around by some jumpy girls could be. Likewise carrying a 40 pound kid around can’t be too comfortable either, you can't be picky in what weapons you use against the undead.



Final full case of volume 72 and it’s about Karuta. Before we continue here are three things you need to know about Gosho Aoyama:

1) he loves baseball (something he shares with his friend Mitsuru Adachi).
2) he enjoys video games (mostly Kancolle and Animal Crossing).
3) he loves Chihayafuru.

Looking back on this now that I know what karuta is I have more of an appreciation for this case. There isn't competitive karuta as you’d see in Chihayafuru, but as a first introduction it did make me curious about the game and how it’s played. As for the case, I don’t dislike the kids as much as some do and this case has them trying to solve a case since Conan is stuck in bed with a cold. Due to this, Haibara has to take care of the kids on her own and play detective in his place.



Volumes 71 and 72 don’t focus on the main plot of the series: Conan finding the Black Org. They do, however, continuously grow character relationships and we’re even taken to an entirely different country. I enjoy the character relationships and the twists and turns in the series. I read Conan for the adventures and these two volumes are no exception. I mentioned before I started watching the series in June 2011, and reading these volumes in particular was nostalgic as these are the cases I watched when I caught up to the series, and it was a pleasure to experience these chapters through this reread and appreciate them in new ways.

The last chapter in Volume 72 is the beginning of a new case, but I'll wait to cover that with volume 73 when it launches in January. Volume 73 is where we get some really fun mysteries and I'm looking forward to sharing them with you. I hope you enjoyed my unique take on Conan, and I very much hope that I'll have the chance to talk about the series again with everyone, and that's one truth that does prevail. Until then, thanks for reading!

Monday, October 28, 2019

Sunday Champions. (Editor in chief Ichihara and Takekawa interview pt1)



Sliding in at the end of the month is me, your tired translator and host! I've been sitting on this one for a really long time, but I finally got half of it done. (Half is better than none, trust me.) The interview is four "pages" long, but is quite wordy so I'm splitting it in half so folks can read some of it right away and keep the page from becoming too unwieldy. So what is this? It is as the title says --an interview with the head editor at Weekly Shounen Sunday --Takenori Ichihara and Shounen Champion's Shingo Takekawa. Champion recently celebrated it's 50th anniversary and to commemorate the event they took on the challenge of sitting down with their allies at Jump, Magazine, and of course Sunday. The interview was actually very informative and dare I say it, interesting! I'll have the second part out soon (I hope) but for now enjoy this first half.



(“The only four shounen manga magazines of their kind in the world. But we're not rivals –we're “companions”.)

“Sunday has the image of a 'Cool older brother' (Takekawa)

----You two meet on occasion and have drinks. During this time do you talk about manga? Or is it the opposite where you don't discuss work at all?

Ichihara: Manga is basically all we can talk about. (laughs). Our hobbies, and stuff like what cars we drive and whatnot never comes up.

Takekawa: If you take manga away from us there's nothing left, huh? (laughs).

---- As editors of Shounen Champion and Shounen Sunday, how much mutual awareness do you have of each other, if at all?

Takekawa: As the only four shounen manga magazines of their kind in the world, I'd like to say we're like allies. Each and every week we're thinking and feeling “What will they do now”as we read.

Ichihara: Champion is limitless in what it can do unlike other magazines, so it's not surprising that they get curious as to what it's up to. However what does it mean to have “awareness”? If one gets caught up in the thinking of “Oh so that's what those guys over there are planning” then it becomes more about rehashing their steps rather than something akin to “jealousy”.

Takekawa: Yeah, we're more about looking on at other magazines with a sense of pure reverence than jealousy.

Ichihara: If you mean awareness in that sense then there's nothing beyond professionalism, I think. After all we were reading all four magazines –including Jump and Magazine since we were kids.

Takekawa: Right? I want to say that for the most part manga editors have been reading and enjoying manga since they were children, and somehow ended up here. That's why it's not work to us, it's just expanding on what we already love.

---What are your impressions on each other's magazines?

Takekawa: My impression on Sunday now is the same as a long time ago. They're the “cooler older brother.” The series running Champion right now give the impression of being somewhat uneven I think –especially in comparison to the beautiful arrangement that Sunday has. Sunday exudes an aura of “Just relax and read”.

Ichihara: I'm not sure if having a beautiful arrangement is a good or bad thing. (laughs) For me, Champion's image is –well, it's more than a mere 'image', it feels like each magazine is on the level of a new civilization. It's incredibly rough, like concrete or gravel –a tough kind of feeling.

Takekawa: A rough feeling huh? (Laughs) Your praise makes me really happy.

Ichihara: You must have many difficulties in bringing about and maintaining that tough exterior, but it's a plus. The splitting image of Taizou Kabemura.
(Shounen manga's history is split between “Before Kabemura” and “After Kabemura”. --Ichihara).

---Champion's 2nd and 5th editorial chief was Taizou Kabemura. Champion went through impressive growth during his second stint in the 1970's especially –you could say that was it's first “Golden age”.

Ichihara: I love the history of shounen manga. During my first year as a new employee in Shogakukan, I read all of the documents between Sunday and Magazine. My impression at the time was even though Sunday and Magazine were born in 1959, they weren't really “Manga magazines” back then.

---Back then shounen magazines were way different than they are now. The covers featured baseball players like Sadaharu Oh and Shigeo Nagashima, and even ran novels. They're almost completely different than they are today.

Takekawa: The first issue of Shounen Champion featured the kick-boxer Tadashi Sawamura. It was a big deal to have stars from various circles featured in many magazines back then, huh?

Ichihara: The beginnings of Sunday and Magazine featured manga from the influential manga artists like Osamu Tezuka and Shotaro Ishinomori. In fact many amazing artists ran in these magazines, but it was an extremely slow build up for these magazines to feature manga exclusively. It's because the idea of a manga magazine was only beginning to form in the 1960's. Kiichi Toyoda who has since passed away was the first head editor of Shounen Sunday and he was said to have commented on the magazine that they didn't really know what they wanted to make at first. No one really had the know how to make a magazine directed to teenage boys after all. So the idea was to “somehow get together manga artists who seem like they'd make popular stuff”. They didn't have any particular quibbles with genre, since they didn't know what kind of manga would sell. --They just ran whatever they could for the first 10 to 15 years –gambling with trial or error.

---I see.

Ichihara: It was after that point that Magazine came out with “Kyoujin no Hoshi” and “Ashita no Joe”. “Joe” in particular was primarily read by folks in college. Which is why it's a misnomer to think that Magazine was only read by Elementary and middle school students. Ultimately it was Mr. Kabemura who made the distinction “This is what a magazine serializing manga for teenage boys should have”. For example –sports, action, occupational, comedy, and slightly perverted love comedies –it was Mr. Kabemura's personal aesthetic that all of these series run in one magazine. It was having all the things that middle and high schoolers like in one place like a kid's lunchbox that gave shape to how shounen magazines formed; especially as other magazines copied this format.

---Sunday and Magazine had already been around ten years by that time, but you're stating that it was Mr. Kabemura who gave birth to the current shape of Shounen magazines, then. It's true that in the 70's that we got manga like the baseball series “Dokaben” and the occupational manga “Black Jack”, as well as the slightly erotic “Cutie Honey”, school manga like “Yuuhi ga oka no Souridaijin” horror manga like “Ekoeko Azaraku”, gag manga like “Gaki deka” --famous works of various genres came one after another.

Takekawa: Mr. Kabemura has already passed way, but like Mr. Ichihara I've met many of the past editors in various get togethers. During the Champion 50th anniversary project, I was able to talk with the first head editor of Champion: Kyoumi Narita. Despite Narita being more senior than Mr. Kabemura, most of the talk was about Kabemura instead. (laughs) It truly does seem as if from it's roots on up that Champion is a product of Kabemura's influence. Of course Narita worked really hard to build Champion's foundations as a magazine –creating the first rails for the magazine to ride upon, and that alone deserves praise, but it was Kabemura's time as the second editorial chief that the roadmap to “what a shounen manga should be” really came into formation. Mr. Ichihara mentioned it earlier –it felt as if everything was lined up together in one place like a child's lunchbox. It's because of this that Jump, Magazine, Sunday all lined up to do the same and the age of shounan manga magazines began to take form at a thunderous pace and became the impressions we have of them now.

Ichihara: Shounen manga's history is split between “Before Kabemura” and “After Kabemura”

(Champion's forte is having many artists who put tropes into action. -Takekawa).

---Going back to your impressions, What is an element you'd say “I can't beat the opposition” in?

Takekawa: I try not to think too much about what I can't beat the opposition in. Rather than that I think it's more important to consider one's strengths and their individual characteristics. For example we talk about the creator's royal road, and how the editorial staff can get close to that person's style. That is how Champion has done things for a very long time. After all it is the creator who is coming up with the ideas. For example, the author of “Dokaben” Mr. Shinji Mizushima played grass lot baseball, the author of “Baki” Mr. Keisuke Itagaki was once in the self defense forces, and Mr. Wataru Watanabe who draws “Yowamushi pedal” rode bikes thousands of meters an entire year before starting the series. We have many authors in Champion who actually live on the front lines of what they draw and I believe that is the “knack” of Shounen magazine. Even now we've got some amazing talent –rather than thinking whether we can or can't outdo the opponent isn't important when there are other points to consider –Kentaro Satou said about the same thing when he appeared on “SASUKE” last year. Is that the same for you guys over at Sunday?

(TN- Kentaro Satou is the artist of “Magical girl site which runs in Monthly Champion.)

Ichihara: For Sunday manga, a good way to put it is that the series have a certain kind of refinement to them. It might be a slight bit of a depreciation to say this, but they're “adult-like”. Normally you'd expect a shounen manga protagonist to be full of energy and somewhat clumsy. The kind of character who would do anything to help out their friends and goes through many trials and tribulations to accomplish  their goals. However, that's actually a rare trait to have in Shounen Sunday manga. Rather you have many protagonists similar to those in “Detective Conan” who are smart city folk instead. Rather than our forte, I'd say it's in response to readers over several decades who like seeing this kind of character. It's the way culture has built up the magazine over a long time, I think. I'd say Sunday can't really beat Champion or Magazine when it comes to rougher, tougher manga, but that's not what Sunday stakes it's name upon anyway. For example, I think it's essential for a series like “Baki” to be in Champion. It's a culture where each magazine has staked out it's own territory –for example if an American were to say “This Miso soup is delicious, but how about I stick this wiener into it”? It'd be a thing where “Maybe it'd taste good, but is this culture?”

Takekawa: Hahahah.

--- That sense of “This suits this magazine” do you think that's the artists at work? Or the editors?

Ichihara: Hmm. I'd say both.

Takekawa: I don't think the artists or the editorial staff are conscious of it themselves. “This is a Champion manga, so it's in shounen champion” isn't something people really think about. Rather, it just feels like in the end that's how things work out. It's surprising but I believe that the right manga artists will gather to the right place on their own.

(I think it's wrong to say “That editorial department let that artist slip away” -Ichihara.)

---On the subject of “Fitting a magazine's type”. For the sake of argument –what would you do if a artist fitting Champion's profile came to Sunday?

Ichiahara: It'd depend on what the editor of that applicant would want to do. (laughs.)

---True. Some might even think “It's because we don't have someone with this narrative style here that I want to serialize them anyway”.

Ichihara: That's right. There are people like that. For example, I'm really not a fan of delinquent manga, but Mr. Hiroyuki Nishimori's manga “Kyou kara ore wa!!” is an excellent match for the magazine. In that case it'd be widening our culture. There's not a need be narrow minded and think at all times. “Oh this is Sunday” It's when borders and preconception are widened that you get innovative new works. Like for example when “Death Note” started in Jump, I'm sure many thought. “Oh so Jump does this now?”

Takekawa: That was really shocking.

Ichihara: Jump's objective is to appeal to the grade school demographic, but “Death Note” isn't the kind of series they'd gravitate toward. However, it's not as if serializing it was a purposeful effort to “widen our audience”, rather someone just thought it was interesting and let it run. The audience growing as a result was seen in hindsight. Though there are many stories where an editor has said “Oh that artist came to our department and we told them they don't fit our image. In the end they went to a different magazine and I couldn't have imagined they'd become this popular”. From every magazine.

---It's quite the infamous story that the author of “Attack on Titan” went to a different magazine at first.

Ichihara: I feel like every editor has at least 10 stories like this. When hearing those kinds of stories I'm sure there are folks that say “How could you let that artist slip away, you idiot?!” But I think that's wrong. That editor had their own aesthetic, and made the decision “This artist won't do here.” Due to that they went to another place and were able to blossom. Different cultures will give birth to different cultivation –and the possibility that growth won't happen in the wrong environment is there.

Takekawa: And it's the artist themselves that decides which magazine they want to go to. So “slipping away” is a misnomer anyway.

Ichihara: Right.

(There's something irritating about Beastars....Ichihara).

---The “rough” Champion and the “Cool older brother” have differing narrative styles....so what is a work you'd want Sunday fans to read in Champion, Mr. Takekawa?

Takekawa: A series I'd want anyone to read in Champion right now would have to be without a doubt “Beastars”. The setting is a world of animals where the herbivores and carnivores are in conflict. The artwork is lively, and the diversity reflected in today's society is represented well in the series. I can say with confidence that it's a series that's on the cutting edge of Shounen manga nowadays.

Ichihara: It's a splendid manga. I can't really describe in words how good it is. I think the representation of human life is so well crafted that it's not just a good manga but a good story overall. Though because it's drawn by a human there are all kinds of limitations. That being said, it would come off feeling artificial if it was some cute girl avatar instead. So as a humanistic work, “Beastars” presentation is second to none.

Takekawa: Thank you so much. Ms. Itagaki will be happy to hear that.

Ichihara: There's something irritating about Beastars. Uh, maybe “irritating” isn't the right word....(laughs).

Takekawa: Please by all means talk about what irritates you. (laughs).

Ichihara: It feels like we've lost when it comes to this genre so “irritated” may be the best way to put it. (laughs). For a period of time, personification was a big draw, so I got to thinking to myself “It's time for us to personify something in order to broaden or media reach.” So if it were a Sunday like romcom,  with personification as the core, then what I was thinking was a world where only the mens faces were dog-like, and then we'd have the female junior-high protagonist at a fast food place declaring “I'm so tired of shiba-inus!!” “For now on i'm all about Yorkshire terriers” as the serialization opens. The different breeds of dogs would have different personalities, so a world like that would have various means of presenting expressions and reactions, and would broaden horizons by quite a bit. However to create that world a real knack for expressiveness would be necessary as well as intelligence to get such a world to work. I was racking my brains to think of an artist with that kind of talent and then “Beastars” began. (laughs). It had already done what I wanted so now I couldn't. Character expressions, animal personification, all of them are covered so well in “Beastars”.

Takekawa: “Beastars” expressive techniques are in a field of their own, huh.

Ichihara: That's right. Moreover the art just continues to improve with each issue –it's truly surprising. From the first chapter until now the character's expressions and charm have become amazingly good!

Takekawa: The artwork was an impressive bloom from the very start.

Ichihara: Yes, the character artwork is powerful, like a picture of flowers. If there are flowers, then whether they're drawn well or not the design is there. If the design isn't well done then they're forgettable, so of course you want to make sure the design is on point. Well, it is our job to seek out these flowers and cultivate them.

Takekawa: Flowers huh? Artistic skill isn't an ability one is born with after all. There are different ranges and experiences. When I get in the bath and fall asleep after proofreading Beaststars thoughts of the next scene are all I can think of. It's incredible, it's flowers that leave a strong impression that you want to watch over.

Ichihara: Flowers take a lot of effort and skill to raise, so it's cruel when they don't live up to expectations.

Monday, October 7, 2019

Golden Sunday (Takahashi and Noda Interview) Part 2



Hey all! Been a little while, so I hope you've been keeping busy. I certainly have with this and that! The twitter is thriving, but the blog has been feeling a little lonely. How about I fix that up with another interview? That's right it's finally time for part two of the Takahashi and Noda talk! This was a lot of work and probably one of the toughest things I had to work on so needless to say I'm open to comments and (constructive) criticism. Noda and Takahashi are really a pair and this was fun despite being hard, so I hope you enjoy it.


“Golden Kamuy” volume 19 and Mao Volume 1 special project!!!

Satoru Noda x Rumiko Takahashi
The two artists who draw the “Meiji” and “Taishou” in the Reiwa era –Special Conversation!!
Mr. Noda, Ms. Takahashi, thanks so much for continuing this conversation. Ms. Takahashi what would you say is the charm of “Golden Kamuy”?
Takahashi (To be known as T): Hm, I guess I'd say how the realism is at a scary level. I think that's good, but perhaps the sudden appearance of the men getting into the sauna. It's like “Where did the tension go”? Though that too has it's charm, since people would probably wonder “How did they possibly get in there?”
Noda (To be known as N): It's just a bad habit of mine to fool around...
T: But that's still really interesting.
N: Conversely I get too embarrassed to draw naked girls acting all cute. Though with guys I have no problem.
T: Several pages before they were at each other's throats trying to kill one another, but then they're able to have a good enough affinity to mix together. It's kind of amazing, really.
N: I thought it was important to give them openings. It seems only Hijikata is tough as nails.
T: I understand. Deciding on who will be the tough one can be difficult, huh...Rarely do things go exactly as I plan them. I find it's often best to think of things as vaguely as possible as through doing that more interesting ideas that you weren't expecting can happen. Up until now I can say it's the things I wasn't planning for that ended up being the most fun to draw.
N: So you've never experienced writer's block?
T: Writer's block...of course I have? Though I don't acknowledge it. So let's just go with saying I've never experienced it.
N: I suppose for a weekly serialization one really doesn't have time to worry about writer's block. Though what would you say your reason is to keep drawing interesting manga in a weekly magazine?
T: It's embarrassing for me to say this, but I'd say it mostly has to do with me not wanting to back down from a challenge. If I find myself drawing a manuscript that's boring, then I'd rather stop than allow the quality to drop. It's because I keep this in mind that I can keep doing my best to draw an interesting manuscript. Even if you do have a high level manuscript ready, if you're able to think of something more fun in the meantime you should change it. In the end reviewing your work and reading it over is invaluable. If you're drawing something that you never want to see again then drawing manga is pretty difficult, no?
N: It is. That's why when I'm preparing for the collected volumes I make a lot of changes. Even when I get a week off from the magazine I'm basically using that to work.
T: Do you have any interesting anecdotes about that?
N: Well, it's kind of hard to talk about, but stuff like having enough pages and finding an easy means of tying events together, changing some of the lines, it's kind of like going back in time which I find somewhat fun. I even go back and fix Tanigaki's chest hairs.
T: Even Tanigaki's chest hairs, huh...(laughs).
T: Having enough pages to maintain momentum is quite important, probably just as much as Tanigaki's chest hairs.
N: When looking at the artwork it's easy to get overwhelmed by feelings isn't it? Especially when drawing something really difficult –you end up not realizing things until it's too late.
T: I get that. When there are gaps you end up feeling like an idiot....My debut work was a comedy, and when you saw it at a glance that's what it appeared to be. However when then drawing serious manga instead it gets to be a real trial to not have things looking foolish...
N: Is “MAO” any different?
T: “MAO” is quite restrained. Though I haven't thought of anything too silly for it either (laughs).
However there are times where there isn't a joke or straight man that are supposed to be funny. Without them saying so, where should one laugh? There are moments like these. Do you know Ranma ½?
N: Of course.
T: There were times where to me I'd have intended to draw a really sad scene, but when the editor read it they'd burst out laughing. Like for example when the guys who became a duck and pig went out on a journey...
N: Ryouga and Mousse, right?
T: Ah yes. So a lot had happened to them and they weren't able to return to themselves. So for that scene I had thought I'd drawn a really sad scene.
N: You had worked so hard on it but in the it was taken instead as a hilarious scene, despite the characters being dead serious about it. In Golden Kamuy there's a guy –Anehata who makes the utmost effort to stalk and have sex with animals. It's pretty deplorable, but because he's so serious about it, it almost feels like you should forgive him and cheer him on. Of course I can't go drawing that as is.
T: It was a somewhat moving scene. (laughs). I really like the story about the old guy and the princess. I laughed a lot at it –their pure love was really something else, wasn't it?
N: For that scene I asked my assistant to draw the clouds as a heart, and they were like “huh”?...
(Thinking of really charismatic characters...)
N: Do you think of the themes of the series from the first chapter?
T: For this series (Mao) I had had decided on just the major themes, but I hadn't quite figured out how I'd go about executing them. So each time I'd reach a highlight with the mindset “Okay this is how this should be.” So the highlights themselves were roughly decided on.
N: For me I'd have my editors asking me often “what's the theme for this week's chapter supposed to be?” It seems like they had totally forgotten...
T: I understand what it is to forget. It's not quite the same as when I have meetings with the editor, I'd remember the really interesting parts of the chapter the storyboard and Otoya –stuff like that.
N: I understand, but sometimes things go differently than my expectations, for example the character known as Henmi wasn't one I had developed very much and the editor even said that it'd be okay to kill him off...but I thought I should work on him some more and forcefully gave him some character development. After that I thought the manga needed something new, I decided why not make it a dog manga? Which meant bringing back Ryuu who had been popular before, so I strategically introduced him at a certain point. Ryuu allowed the story to expand even more so he's quite the convenient character.
T: Oh? Are there any others?
N: Kirawus and Kadokura are two characters I personally like a lot. They're quite a reliable duo. Oh and so I don't forget there was one charismatic evening where I was eating with my editors and they said “You should think of some incredible characters right now.” So I revealed to them “I'm thinking of a character who has sex with animals. What do you think?” The answer was “Ah...is that right?” And it was through that conversation that a character who probably shouldn't have been created was born. “He's a powerful medicine for the series, but where would you be able to introduce him naturally without it being forced within the nature of the Ainu?” Was the question, but because he's defiling animals I think that the Ainu have no choice but to get involved.” was my response. That's how that charismatic night went.
T: (Laughs) On the subject of powerful medicines, let's take the creation of the Edogai family. Of course Edogai is interesting but it's through how creepy he is.
N: Thank you. I found the idea of counterfeits to be extremely compelling. For that I even went to a taxidermist place for information and I got all kinds of information to keep things realistic from the workers there.
T: I see. On that note, what manga influenced you?
N: I'm a Jump reader. Of course things like “Kinniukman” and “Hana no Keiji” I picked up the beefy men chilling in a hot-spring scene from the reader's perspective from “Hana no Keiji” in particular, but it was meant to tie in with the previous scene. It's probably where I grew my sense of Machismo. When I was a kid, I had the naked poster of “Rambo 3” hanging over my bed. I was really a troublesome elementary school student. Ms. Takahashi, what's your ideal badass guy like?
T: Fundamentally I love the movie “Drunken fist” with Jackie Chan.
N: Jackie Chan is really cool, isn't he? I personally love “Drunken Fist” too.
T: Other than that I read “Ashita no Joe” and “Dororo” when I was a child. It seems my type is mostly made up of cool guys seen in shounen manga. However, since my debut was a comedy manga, I didn't really get to draw that type of character.
N: But Ranma is pretty cool, isn't he?
T: He is, but then there's “Ranma” within him. I wonder if drawing a guy like him was a good idea or not? (laughs).
(Note- Male Ranma is referred to using kanji, while female Ranma is written in hiragana. Noda uses the kanji here denoting the male Ranma, while Takahashi uses the hiragana denoting female.)
(A proper discussion of parents and results.)
T: Mr. Noda, when did you decide that you'd become a manga artist?
N: I'd say around the time of my high school graduation. Up until then I had only been reading (shounen) jump, and everyone in the magazine was amazing like faraway existences. I hadn't even drawn that much at the time either. Around that time I started reading Young Jump....I'm not sure how to put this but I saw that even though the newbies weren't the best they still did their best and that encouraged me. Certain manga there had a lot of zeal in them, but those are the kind of manga I love.
T: I get it, I do.
N: So I got to thinking that I'd try drawing something too. It's because this magazine in particular gaive me so much courage. Of courser the art quality in young jump is very high and you have to put your all into your work.
T: So what was your first work? Where did you submit it?
N: I won a prize at that magazine. I never said to my parents “I want to be a manga artist”. Though since I had results –a prize even, I thought that I should consult with them with what I wanted. “I said that I “Wanted to go to Tokyo”.
T: You got a prize for the very first manga you drew? That's amazing.
N: It was really crappy in all honesty. I didn't even use a G pen. Though before I knew it I was in Tokyo as Mitsurou Kubo's assistant. Kubo had also come from their homeland as a youngster full of dreams to pursue being a manga artist. If it weren't for that I wouldn't be in Tokyo so I took Kubo's invitation.
T: How old were you at that time?
N: I was over twenty. I got my start kind of late, but there had been some time that passed before I had really made my mind up to be a manga artist. While I was waiting for a serialization of my own I was still thinking about it, and from there I ended up at Yasuyuki Kunitomo's place as an assistant. Kunitomo had a great working schedule. I had 3 days to myself. It was afterwards that Kunimoto said to me “I'm glad that I gave you time to work on your own series.”
(I learned a lot from Kunitomo.)
T: Were you still using analog tools to draw while assisting Kunitomo?
N: Half of the time. Rather than say digital, we were using analog means to draw all kinds of scenery on the computer. Then we'd print out that data and attach it to the manuscript. So we'd draw backgrounds using analog scan those to the computer to build up stock, and it was my job to cut these and attach the various settings to the manuscript.
T: I see.
N: After I left there, I thought to go all digital, and thought“I'll start things from this age!”
T: I have a friend who appreciates the arts, so I knew of Kunitomo through them, but I didn't know they're a person who was advancing things in their own way.
N: Kunitomo is a very reasonable person.
T: It's through this that I can see in the near future that the staff of a series work from their indiviual homes, and I think it's incredible that this new method exists.
N: Right? Kunitomo knew computers better than I did when I was their assistant. They even taught me how to divide storyboards.
T: How to divide storyboards?
N: He taught me that since a chapter is 18 pages, that developments and scenes should change every six pages. If you show the same scenery for more than six pages it'll get boring. I learned all kinds of things there.
T: I understand what Kunitomo means about six pages. I spend about three days on the storyboard, and I spend a surprising amount of time chopping scenes up. After I get through page six ask myself if it's ready to show to the editor, if the point the story diverts should go here, if everything up until this point is okay, and so on. So I totally understand.
N: On that point, where do you get your ideas Ms. Takahashi? Movies? Books?
T: I wouldn't necessarily say I'm inspired by movies, but I do get a surprising amount of enjoyment from novels...
N: Why would you say that?
T: Obviously it's manga, if it's manga you can think of all kinds of foolish stuff and it's still fun. (laughs).
N: That is really fun isn't it?
(Do you have any routines you follow when drawing manga?)
T: It acts as a magic charm for me but when I'm drawing the storyboards I eat fish. I pray that the taurine I'm ingesting helps my brain work better.
N: You've always been doing that?
T: That's right. I always do it, I always find a way to. Any fish will do.
N: For me I don't have anything at all. When I'm drawing I don't move or do anything at all other than focusing on my artwork. I've even started correcting how I set my teeth. If I leave it be I can have them perfectly aligned. Do you not watch TV or anything either?
T: Eh? Of course I do.
N: Is that so? I don't even listen to the radio.
T: I have the TV on. I need the sound...Even during my meetings with the editor I have the TV on and sometimes words that I find interesting come up on the news. “Oh, that's a good one, that word is interesting” I'll think. On that note, have you already got a final scene for “Golden Kamuy” in mind?
N: Yes I do. Really making sure that the story is consistent with the finale I have in mind is difficult. I'll do my best to make sure the wrap up to the story is prepared well.
T: Lately that man –Tsurumi has been rather surprising. I hadn't noticed him.
N: That story has always been heating up. I'm glad that a certain scene that occurred in volume 18 happened. Typically I think of how a volume has ten chapters in it, but as that was the centerpiece of the volume, I made several adjustments.
T: Having that character on the cover, even changing the colors...you're quite considerate to keep folks from buying it by mistake. (Laughs)
N: There are times where you've made a mistake and bought something, huh.
T: I have three copies. (laughs) Up until now I haven't really thought too hard about the volumes I have, but it seems I'll have to for now on. I really look forward to when new volumes of Golden Kamuy come out so I can't help myself.
N: Thank you so much. Please take this complimentary volume.
T: No no, I still rather enjoy going to the bookstore myself and buying manga. Thank you very much for today. I'm quite glad we were able to meet each other.
N: It was an honor for me as well. Thank you so much!


Friday, September 20, 2019

Sleepy Sunday talkback (Maoujo De Oyasumi/ Sleepy Princess vol 2)



Hey all! It's your newly renovated blog owner Sakaki here with yet another Shounen Sunday review! Once again the gracious people at VIZ media have given me a free copy of a manga currently in Sunday to talk about and talk I shall! Sleepy Princess/Maoujo recently got green lit for an anime, so I felt this would be a perfect time to cash in on--er, spread the message! Hahah, yeah, that.

You might be wondering why I'm starting with volume two rather than the first, and the reason for that is I've actually been on a podcast to review volume one with the fine people at allcomic.com. I don't think I could really say more about the first volume that wasn't covered there, so I'm just gonna hop right to it. You can check out the podcast here! Now with that out of the way, let's get sleepy.


As with Komi's review (which you can read here) I have purchased the Japanese version of volume two. The same rules apply too --I won't be comparing translations other than to explain little quirks and gags. With the covers I have to admit I like the English version moreso than the Japanese one. The border on the covers of the Japanese version always bugged me, and I like that Viz did away with it and came up with a logo that matches the font of the Japanese original while being significantly more eye catching. 


Those who have been following along with this blog know the premise for this manga, but for the newcomers --Sleepy princess's title is the premise. It takes the "Princess being kidnapped by the demon king" trope and adds a unique spin --the Princess has been kidnapped but the hero is taking a while to rescue her. So what's she to do while she waits? Get some shut-eye of course! The humor of the series comes from the monsters being at a complete loss in handling their captive that at times seems more monstrous than them. 


As an aside, I like that Viz indicates the chapters as nights in the table of contents. The chapters are known as nights in Japanese too, but the table of contents page as featured above just goes with "contents". Good on Viz for adding that little bit of flair.


As far as Sunday series go, Kumanomata has got the pacing down pat --the volume is mostly one off stories where the princess is displeased (or misunderstands her status as a hostage and not a guest) and her efforts to change things to her benefit much to the chagrin of her captives. The first chapter of which is her efforts to create a sho--er, bathing vessel that is more to her liking. 


For that she'll need to gather resources. The first being hot water, which means barging into monster public bath....and their reactions are priceless. Again, they seem much more human than monster like which almost makes you feel sorry for them. I really like the direction Viz's translation took here in being much more direct --the Japanese is a little more vague and I'd have probably stuck with that in a translation if I had done it, but the translation adding in "I'm so embarrassed" and "Hide all sorts of parts!" really adds to the humor.


The next thing is to get a bathtub, and for that a noble Rocket Turtle (lighting the fuse on it's tail causes it to explode) gave up it's life. Although Kumanomata doesn't focus on it too much (at least not now...) I find it interesting that the Princess often comments to herself how confining her old life used to be and how she wouldn't be allowed to do what she wants there. Even in recent volumes there hasn't been too much information on her home life outside of a quip here and there so it does have me curious. Before that --a moment of silence for the Rocket Turtle. 


The encyclopedia entries for the beasts in this series are also a source of good humor. The Japanese version mentions the Rocket Turtle's "problems just slightly before" specifically but the joke is funny either way, if not sad for the Turtle. (Listen I was really attached to that guy for the two pages I knew him.) Glad to read the monsters at least were able to get the Turtle together again.


And now a bit of a multi-layered joke --The word for Seasame Seeds in Japanese is "Goma". In the original, the princess named her new buddy met in the second chapter "Goma-ch" with the rest being cut off. The reason for this is there is a seal character with the same name starring in a series named "Shonen Ashibe Go! Go! Goma-chan" who looks very similar to the critter pictured here. Close call Kumanomata, wouldn't want the anime to get swarmed with legal complaints before it even starts airing! Understandably Goma-chan isn't nearly as well known here so the translation had to work around the joke. 



This is Goma-chan for the curious.


The summer heat ends up being a bain for the princess (and by extension her captors) and as she looks for ways to beat the heat, she just continues to stir up trouble. This comes from a chapter where she's looking to make a water bed and after realizing that any liquid will do tears through the castle draining everything she can. This series and it's humor is so multi-layered while coming off as deceptivly simple. The monsters think that she's drunk (when she's more just desperate), and has gotten her hands on a liquor that heightens the battle readiness of the person who drinks it. It's named after Jackie (yes that one) but clearly has Bruce Lee in the imagery. Let that sink in for a minute.


But the main source of (dark) humor is the princess is downright diabolical in her efforts and means to have a good time. Standing in her way is a sure means of getting hurt! Makes you wonder who the true captives are, really. 


Though in another chapter where the princess has shrunken due to her own hubris (and magical items) they get some revenge by cuddling her to sleep. It's a crowning moment of awesome and "awwsome".  


Kumanomata's strength is that they have a pretty good idea of what our expectations are and how to subvert them. The chapter where the above screenshots come from introduces Harpy who's very interested in human culture and wants a human friend. You'd think that this would be the beginning of a fast friendship between the girls, but the princess basically ignores her until the end of the chapter where she realizes down pillows are amazing to sleep on and she thus invites her to a pajama party --except they're not allowed to talk to or look at each other. I suppose the Princess's actions aren't that surprising, but the direction the punchline goes is hilariously off kilter. Who would have thought that this is the conclusion Harpy comes to (even if she isn't wrong.) The Demon King also being somewhat blase about this as he tries to keep up only adds to the humor. 



The lettering and translation are on point too, I should add. While many publishers choose to translate sound effects via liner notes or on the sides of panels, (and I don't blame them.) Viz goes the extra mile and looks darn good doing it. Not only that but the localization choices are great too. 


"Nightbear" is probably my favorite thing to come out of the translation this volume. It's a cute and cuddly name that could be terrifying if one didn't see what the Nightbear looks like. Plus I'm a sucker for rhyming (even simple ones like this) so it works on different levels for me. 


Unfortunately, Shougakukan doesn't include cover flap art in their digital releases. Viz does  however, so we do get a look at Kumanomata's comments and what would be under the flaps and cover of the manga if you bought it physically. It's a nice little touch that I wish Shougakukan would include since a lot of of artists draw little extras underneath the covers for the fans. They're still getting the hang of digital releases, but Shueisha does include this in their releases so there's no reason why they shouldn't as well. 

That's my talkback on Sleepy Princess/Maoujo volume two! Special thanks to Viz media for giving me a free volume to talk about, Tetsuichiro Miyaki for the great translation, and Annette Roman as well as Susan Daigle-Leach for the adaption and lettering respectively! Your hard work on bringing more Sunday series is appreciated!! 


And on a parting note, this is it. This is the manga.  Until the next update, have a good Sunday, everyone!