An Interview with Makoto Shinkai

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Makoto Shinkai has had an interesting year, to put it lightly:  Your Name (two years in the making) was released in Japan, first as a novel in June, then as a full anime feature film the following month, to massive fanfares. Within 28 days of release it became the first non-Ghibli and non-series anime movie to earn over 10 billion yen at the box office. At the time of writing it’s now not only the 4th highest grossest anime film and 7th highest-grossing film of all time in Japan, it’s also been #1 at the Japanese box office for nine consecutive weeks. A huge achievement, to say the least, considering Mr Shinkai started his career making short films and doing everything himself from the animation to the voice acting. No wonder he’s been hailed as the ‘next Miyazaki’ (a title he’s shied away from, as he is a massive fan of Hayao Miyazaki’s work) and his film became the very first anime film to be part of the Best Film Award competition at BFI’s London Film Festival, which took place between 5th – 16th October.

Before the UK premiere screening of his box office hit, Your Name (all three BFI screenings very quickly sold out), Makoto Shinkai took some time to answer some questions about his latest movie, its success and how it all came together.


We’ve been following your work since the beginning where you were mostly working on them by yourself and it seems all your work has been leading up to Your Name – did you ever expect to create a movie as successful as this?

I never expected this! It’s been 14 years since I started making animation films and what I always had in mind is that I wanted more people to see my movies every time, more people than the last one. I also wanted them to think that they had a really good time and enjoyed the movie. So, in a way Your Name is a dream come true for me, but the scale is so massive that I’m totally overwhelmed and I’m not really comfortable about it.

The film seems to be designed to appeal to a very wide audience; does that mean it is less ‘personal’ to you compared to your previous work?

This is something I really wanted to make. I collaborated with various other talented people: Masayohi Tanaka, the character designer, and Masashi Ando, the animator (who used to work with Studio Ghibli) was like [a]  really amazing combination; they just gave so much depth to my work.

Also, the music by Radwimps; they just gave loads of colours to the film I think, made it more catchy in a way. So being able to work with various talents was just amazing; it was my first time doing that scale of collaboration, and I owe that to them.

Having saying that, the film is still 100% mine and very personal. 

You mentioned working with Radwimps; can you tell us more about that?

It was 18 months of collaboration and they had never done a movie soundtrack before. [In the movie] we’ve got 4 vocal songs and 22 music tracks. I gave the first draft of my script and I told them to write anything. So they came back with the songs; when they played them I changed my script accordingly here and there. Then I carried on writing my script;  I would ask them; “I’ve got this scene; can you change this and that?” so I did that for about 18 months.  It was a long process but really worth it. When we started working on it, the band said to me “We won’t let you down!” And I thought, yeah, I really want to work with them.

It’s been reported that the producer, Genki Kamura had some influence in the creation of the story – what were the biggest changes that the story went through during development?

We had script meetings for 6 months with Genki and the team. I did the script myself but every month I would meet up with them and we’d talk about it. So we would discuss whether a scene was boring or too complicated. I’d then update everything and then meet up again in 4 weeks’ time.

Genki gave me some really good suggestions and a fresh perspective about the structure of the film. [For example] the film started in Itomori where Mitsuha (the female protagonist) lives and Genki suggested that we keep it within 15 minutes; any longer and it would be boring and I said that’s [a] good idea. Also we’ve got several climaxes in the movie: two main scenes are when the leads meet years previously and again [in present day]. Genki suggested they have to be in the same frame, to come one after another, whereas on my original script it was separate. So, he had really good suggestions for me.

The ‘body switching’ trope is mostly used for comedy and the lesson at the end is to understand each other better by ‘walking in each other’s shoes’. However, you created a film that not only avoided the old jokes but also created something fresh from it, made it feel more authentic and relatable. Was that something you originally strived for when writing it or did it just come out naturally during the process?

I wanted to describe those exciting emotions you have as a teenager. The main theme here is these two people have met, and then meet again at the end. But the ‘body swap’ isn’t the main element of the film, they could have met through social media, it was just a prop I used, it didn’t have to be via the body swap.

Your Name 2

In the movie, building into the last act of the movie there’s a scene where Taki (the male protagonist) drinks sake in a cave and then it enters an elaborate fantasy sequence. It’s a beautiful scene – can you talk about how that was created?

That scene was actually directed by Yoshitoshi Shinomiya, a classical Japanese painter. He’s got a different perspective of colours and I wanted that scene to be different from everything else [in the film]. I did the storyboard but the actual art direction was done by him. The sequence is only two minutes and I originally wanted to make it like a vague, fantasy scene because the film is kinda tense so I just wanted the audience to feel a bit relaxed. But Mr Shinomiya made it more powerful and tighter, I didn’t expect the end result but it’s really, really good.

You also wrote the novel that the film is based upon; is there any part of the book that you were unable to get across in the movie but wish you could?

The answer is no; I wrote the original script and while I was making the movie I got to write the book, so the book came after. I finished the book and it came out before I filmed, so no scenes [were left out]. I re-wrote the script via the first-person perspective so it gave me more depth about each character and that really helped me with directing the voice actors because I knew more about the characters than when I wrote the actual script.

Watching the movie, it’s very clear it’s a ‘Makoto Shinkai’ feature – it’s got all your elements – but one thing has clearly changed; you’ve turned down the melancholy in the film. Why is that?

When I started working on this movie, the one important thing I wanted was the audience to leave the cinema with a smile on their face and I also wanted to put some comedy elements into my script, that was the first time I did it. I wanted to put every emotion – happiness, sadness, melancholy – everything [into this movie] and two years ago when I started, I was confident that I could do it. I probably wouldn’t have before, but I knew that I could do different emotions with this one.

How do you balance what you want to achieve as a storyteller with the growing commercial pressures that have come with the success of Your Name?

I actually get asked that by various media and random people. I worked on a big budget and with Toho [for Your Name] but I get asked whether it was difficult or if I had my creative freedom restricted but actually, no, they don’t tell me what to do at all. Sometimes I didn’t know what to do, I’d say I want to do this, or that, and ask which is better? Toho would help and say,“actually this works better.” I think that’s pretty much all, they never told me to change things, there was no compromise, so I feel I was able to do more while working with Toho than I did before, because I had the budget and they gave me total freedom.

After the success of Your Name, you’ve probably been asked the same questions over and over again! Is there anything you haven’t been asked yet but wish they would?

Probably the comet scene; it’s a long sequence, the song used in it is called ‘Sparkle’ and the middle 8 is a minute. Normally one cut in animation is about 4 to 6 seconds but in the movie, we’ve got 3 cuts. I was worried about what people would think but actually no one’s commented on it so I assume it’s all okay!

Due to the broad appeal of this movie, you’re likely going to get many people including non-anime fans checking out your movie and wondering what to watch next; what would you recommend out of your films that they check out?

That’s a difficult question (laughs). I would imagine people, the general public, would be aware of Miyazaki’s work? [In regards to my films] Garden of Words, probably? I don’t like to talk about my old movies because I always feel that there are things that I could have done better or differently so I get embarrassed about them (laughs). But I know fans like my work and I don’t want to say anything negative. So, I think Garden of Words because it’s short, but easy to watch for non-anime fans to enjoy.

gardenof-words

 

Thanks to Fetch media for the interview opportunity.

Your Name comes to select UK cinemas on 18th November and nationwide from 24th November. To find out where it’s screening near you and to purchase tickets go here.

Retro Anime: Genki interviews Roberto Bottazzi about his Kickstarter project

Retro Anime Interview 

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Anime has become a global phenomenon over the last decade thanks in part to the internet and the way it has made things increasingly available but many fans consuming the latest titles on Crunchyroll are only watching the latest series airing in Japan and remain unaware of the long history of the industry and the many titles that built it. There are still huge gaps in terms of our knowledge about titles from the 1960s and earlier but one man, Roberto Bottazi, an Italian living in the UK, wants to uncover every animated feature and short made in Japan from the early 20th Century to the mid-1960s. He has written a book and is finalising a Kickstarter project which will be launched in September. This project will allow backers the chance to own a book that he hopes will provide the most comprehensive list of pre-1960s anime available in the English language. Here, he answers a number of questions:

Genki: Tell us a little about your background?

Roberto: I’m Italian, originally from the region known for Parma ham, Parmigiano reggiano, tortelli, Lambrusco, balsamic vinegar. I ran a forum back in 1994 about Japanese films/OAVs available in Italian language. The aim was to discover everything not commercially available for nostalgic purposes.

Genki: What is the first anime you watched?

Roberto: This is a difficult question. Like most of the Italian people I watched many because when I was young there were dozen of Japanese series on TV. I remember having watched hours of those series every single day! It was possibly Heidi, one of the first anime broadcast in Italy in 1978.

Genki: Your book is about retro anime but how do you define retro anime and what was the first retro anime you watched?

Roberto: I think it depends on who you’re asking this. What can be really considered “retro”?
Let’s talk about Cat’s Eye (1983-1985). For some people this could be definitely considered “retro”, but not for me. So then, if you consider 1983 as a “retro” year, how would you describe something from 1960 or before? Let’s say my first “old” anime was the first Kimba series (made in 1965), but at the time of watching it was the year 1977, so I don’t know if this reply to your question!
To me “retro” is definitely everything before my birth, so this book is really in topic!

Genki: What inspired you to make this book? Was there a particular incident or film or creator that made you think you had to document the history of anime?

Roberto: To be honest, I started this book as a personal list, because I found interesting to have a proper list of all those mostly unknown shorts. The problem was, the list was getting bigger and bigger, I didn’t expect to find so many titles, especially before the Second World War, so it was a real surprise and, at the same time it was a real challenge. I think that everything in the book had to be documented.

Genki: You have a preview page on your website, is this going to be the format and page layout used on every page or will there be other styles?

Roberto: The list layout will be basically the same, but I’m planning on adding some colour to the page’s background.

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Genki: What makes your book unique?

Roberto: I could be wrong, but I believe that this book is possibly the first chronological list available in the world (well, at least in the western world) covering Japanese production from the beginning.

Genki: How long did it take you to make the book?

Roberto: I started it four years ago and I’m still working on it every moment I can but it’s mainly for some small fixes here and there rather than big changes. It was a very big challenge!

Genki: How comprehensive is the list of films and what are the time periods you cover?

Roberto: The first official title was made in 1917 and I planned to cover everything until 1969. I think this is the most comprehensive list you’ll ever find about the roots of Japanese animation!

Genki: What sources did you use to research the book? Did you need the help of native Japanese speakers?

Roberto: Several sources. Well, of course the internet helped me a lot. Or maybe not because information is scarce in some cases and it was really a pain to figure everything out and put all the pieces together. Then DVDs, contacts around the world, I also bought some Japanese books, but unfortunately I don’t know Japanese, so I needed the help of a friend of mine who runs the Kotatsu Japanese Animation Festival in Cardiff. I cannot thank her enough.

Genki: How widely available is retro anime in Japan and the West and has the internet made a difference?

Roberto: Everything made in black and white to me represents history and I think it’s very important to have a proper list of all the titles that built the Japanese animation industry which has become so important in the world. The National Film Center in Tokyo is still recovering and restoring shorts, but if you don’t live there it is unlikely you will have the chance to see them unless you travel. Fortunately, there are some DVDs printed, so it’s possible to track down something to buy on Japanese shops or auctions.

Genki: How much retro anime has yet to be discovered?

Roberto: Most of the titles are still in a reference list, with no evidence of an existing copy, sometimes even without evidence of the director’s name. It may be impossible to know exactly what and how much is missing.

Genki: What was the most rewarding anime to research?

Roberto: After a rough draft of the list (more or less 600 titles) every single title added later was a reward, because I knew I found another piece of information to improve the list and make it more comprehensive!

Genki: Are there any foreign influences you explore such as Disney?

Roberto: We cannot talk about animation without Disney. It isn’t be a secret that even Osamu Tezuka was deeply influenced by Disney. To me Walt Disney was the master, the man that influenced the entire world, not only Tezuka. He changed a lot the way that animation should be made but I didn’t put any detail about him in the book as I preferred to be more focused about Japanese animators.

Genki: What do you think is the general perception of classic anime in the west and in Japan?

Roberto: I think it depends heavily on the culture of the country. For example, in Italy we had the boom of Japanese animation in the eighties but there isn’t really a reason for this. I mean the first anime in Italy were screened like a test, to see if people liked a particular kind of product. In 1978, we had Heidi and Ufo Robot Grendizer. These appeal to different audiences but were both massive hits especially if you consider that they had their theme songs made exclusively for Italy so they also sold a lot of 7 inch vinyls for the Italian market. After that, it seems like every channel wanted to compete with the others, so try to imagine after a couple of years we had something like 20/25 different series to choose from. Every anime had its own Italian song which meant more vinyls, LPs toys, every kind of merchandise. Young people went crazy for Japanese cartoons. It was more or less the same in Europe, France, Spain and Germany.

We cannot say the same for Britain. Of course they had their own cartoons, so I think that at the time TV and sponsors were pushing for British animation, perhaps because they didn’t need to dub them! However, television channels in the USA were more keen than those in the UK to broadcast Japanese animation during eighties with anime like Macross, Gatchaman, Starblazer on television screens…

Genki: You plan to take this book to Kickstarter to raise money. Why do you think this is an ideal platform to get this book published and will you accept money from other sources such as Paypal?

Roberto: I really hope so! Of course I can accept money from other sources, as long as this could help me to reach my goal and see finally my project finished!

Genki: What sort of audience do you envision buying this book?

Roberto: Apart from researchers, this book would be more interesting for forty and fifty years old, as I think the nature of the subject is related to the period you’re born. But I really hope there are some young guys and gals out there interested in this Japanese phenomenon that want to dig into this mysterious and rather obscure past!

Genki: What is your target for Kickstarter?

Roberto: I’m in contact with some printers and I’m still thinking about different merchandise that can be given to backers as rewards but I would like to focus mainly on the book itself, that’s the important thing.  It will probably be a “no frills” campaign, but we’ll see.

Genki: What people should expect to find inside the book?

Roberto: Well, the chronological list is the main part of the book and it is spread over 170 pages. To make tracking down anime easier, information is compiled alphabetically and there is a directors’ index as well as a glossary for technical words. There are small chapters about origins of animation, how the animation is made, the main directors and a chapter about the availability of the anime on DVD. There will also be supplementary analysis and there is plenty of colour! Everything you need to know about the roots of Japanese animation in over 300 pages!

Genki: Anything else you’d like to say to people to encourage them to support the book?

Roberto: Don’t be fooled about the black and white animation, there’s plenty of good anime that needs to be watched. This book could be your one and only chance to have the most complete list made. It is useful for keeping track of those old films or series that you were wondering about and you won’t find this book in any shops, so grab this opportunity, because when it’s gone, it’s gone!

You can find out more about the project on Roberto’s website.

An interview with Kotoyo Noguchi

Kotoyo Noguchi is an independent manga artist, illustrator and designer based in Japan. To date she has published two volumes of her Life with Mii: Everyday Cat Stories (Shirokuro Neko Manga) series in English for an international audience through the Kindle store. The manga depicts true stories from the author’s personal experiences taking care of a pet cat, and its heartwarming style has made it successful enough to top Amazon Japan’s list of bestselling Kindle comics.

All images copyright Kotoyo Noguchi

Anime UK News recently had the opportunity to ask the creator a few questions about her manga and the unique challenges of self-publishing for a global audience.

AUKN: When did you first start creating illustrations and manga?

When I was about fifteen years old I started drawing manga in my notepad with a pencil. Back then, I also wrote novels. At age seventeen I joined my high school’s Manga Club and began drawing manga using a pen and ink.

All images copyright Kotoyo Noguchi

AUKN: What made you first decide to publish your work in English?

It had to be in English in order to be read by people around the world. Japanese-language editions weren’t accepted back when the KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing) service launched on Amazon USA, so I’d planned to publish in English right from the start.

AUKN: UK manga fans have traditionally purchased manga in book form, usually imported from North America. However, the market is changing rapidly and digital manga is becoming much more popular which makes it possible to reach a wider audience. Are there any challenges you have encountered with publishing your work on platforms such as Amazon? Would you recommend it to other authors?

There are different fees depending on the platform. The payment methods, commission (such as delivery charges) and taxes vary from country to country. Manga in particular uses a lot of data, which means that the selling price can’t be too low when authors have to pay delivery charges. The creators don’t receive any manuscript payment or advances and have to bear all of the risks themselves. I wouldn’t recommend it to other authors, but I think that those who want to give it a try will still go ahead.

AUKN: As fans, we often want to let writers know how we feel about a story we have read. With traditional distribution it’s difficult to be sure that our feedback will ever reach the creators. If a fan wants to comment on your work, how would you prefer they contacted you? Through social media? By leaving a review on Amazon?

Of course, I’m very glad to see Amazon reviews from readers. Reviews are ideal for making recommendations to other readers, while social networking suits direct communication with authors. Any reviews or comments give the creators a lot of motivation (and occasionally, they knock the wind out of our sails too). Because authors create their books in order to make readers happy. I think that receiving both reviews and direct correspondence is a wonderful thing.

AUKN: Will you be producing more English-translated work in future for your fans around the world?

Of course. Life with Mii has a sequel in Japan due to reader demand. I’d like to publish an English version of it someday.

AUKN: Is there anything that the English-speaking fan community can do to help Japanese creators?

Japanese-speakers don’t have access to much information about services and events in the English-speaking world. So I think Japanese creators have to communicate with English-speakers in a positive manner. It’s easy to participate in online activities (like this interview) so I was keen to do it. But some publishers dislike allowing direct contact with authors. Also, many Japanese people are not good at English, which I think is the biggest issue.

AUKN: Have you discovered anything unexpected – for example, countries where your stories were more popular than you thought they would be?

I didn’t expect to be interviewed by Anime UK News.

AUKN: Your Life With Mii manga collects lots of different short stories about your experiences taking care of your cat. Are any of the stories about Mii-chan particularly close to your heart?

While I like every memory with Mii, the first time she got in my bed is unforgettable.

All images copyright Kotoyo Noguchi

AUKN: Your drawings of cats are very cute, and cat lovers will instantly recognise the way their pets behave in your work even though our countries are so far apart. Even though your manga can be enjoyed by people all over the world, there are lots of small details in the background which are distinctly Japanese, such as the stories about using a kotatsu in winter. When your manga was being adapted into English, were you worried that foreign fans might not understand any of the cultural references?

I asked my friend, who is a translator, some questions before publishing. She told me “Never mind, leave it as it is.” After publishing, I received a message from a reader in Mexico. She said “I want to buy a Kotatsu. I have become very interested in it.” I wonder whether cat lovers want to buy silver vine too? Things we’ve never seen before can be attractive. As a matter of fact, I wanted to eat Marmite when I saw it on the Internet but I couldn’t buy it in my local grocery shop so I bought Vegemite instead. Well, I think it had an interesting taste.

All images copyright Kotoyo Noguchi

All images copyright Kotoyo Noguchi

AUKN: I see that your two books have also had physical releases in English through Amazon’s CreateSpace service. Do you feel that there is still a demand for paper copies of manga, rather than reading everything electronically?

I think it’s important that readers can choose the format they prefer rather than it being my opinion. Both digital and physical publication have strengths and weaknesses. It’s good to have two options available so there’s a backup, and likewise it’s good to have many distribution channels, including book shops. However, the costs increase along with the number of middlemen. It’s a difficult route for a self-publisher. Furthermore, book shops might sell more than physical books in the future.

AUKN: The translated version of Life With Mii has also been released on the Japanese Kindle store as a language-learning aid for Japanese readers studying English. The concept of ‘tadoku’ – learning another language naturally through reading rather than traditional study – is really interesting and attractive. Have you considered adapting your manga for English-speakers who are learning Japanese as well?

Of course I’ve thought about it. Learning a foreign language takes a long time; if you’re not happy then you can’t keep going. Language is a communication tool but in Japan its main purpose is for taking tests. Since learning methods have been focusing on grammar for many years, most Japanese people can’t actually use English. For more about the effectiveness of Tadoku, please read the story of the linguist Stephen Krashen.

All images copyright Kotoyo Noguchi

AUKN: The designs on the Life With Mii merchandise are very cute (we love the “You are the boss” picture!) What made you decide to start selling merchandise based on your manga?

Thank you! I love it too. I originally created it as a LINE sticker. It’s good but I wanted to have some merchandise like T-shirts, so I thought “I’ll make what I want!” Cat lovers want to be with their favourite cat at all times, right?

All images copyright Kotoyo Noguchi

AUKN: Your DeviantArt/Instagram accounts (and the larger illustrations of Mii in the Life With Mii manga) show that you can work with a variety of art styles. Have you considered trying a more realistic style in any of your future manga? We would be interested to see it!

Yes, I will make works in a variety of styles. I have to do the design and editing, so I have several authors within me and I feel that I have to nurture them. Going back to the question, I’m currently editing some manga I drew back in my school days which is very interesting. It’s so crude that it takes my breath away, but that’s fine. Such things can’t be published commercially so that’s one of the advantages of self-publishing. I even made an animation a few years ago (the translation is still underway so it’s only in Japanese).

All images copyright Kotoyo Noguchi

AUKN: You are quite active on social media (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram etc). Do you find this is a good way to promote your work across the world?

It’s good to use the best method. Each social network has its own features so I think we have to choose the service according to the situation. For example, official information goes on Facebook, rough pictures go on Twitter, and so on.

AUKN: Aside from your own work, what are your favourite manga or anime series? Do you have any particular inspirations?

I can’t list all of the ones I like! Ah, well on the topic of gender there’s Princess Knight and Lady Oscar (The Rose of Versailles), for special powers there’s Tokimeki Tonight and Fullmetal Alchemist, for science fiction there’s Dirty Pair and Galaxy Express 999, for action with a female cast there’s Yajikita Gakuen Douchuuki, for fantasy there’s The Twelve Kingdoms, Guin Saga, Moribito; I like these kinds of things and they inspire me. With Life with Mii, I wanted to express it as a picture book like Hans Fischer’s Pitschi and Charles Monroe Schulz’s Peanuts.

AUKN: Finally – please tell us more about your work! If a future fan is reading this interview, how would you encourage them to take a look at your manga on Amazon?

Hi, Anime UK News readers, I’m Kotoyo Noguchi. Life with Mii is a manga of my life with my cat Mii. Unfortunately, Mii now lives on in Heaven. When sharing your life with a cat there are happy things and also worries about foods, training and whether your cat might be sick. Life with Mii is for people who have cats and people who have lost their cats; I drew it for all of the people who love cats. Although I can’t talk to each and every one of you, I hope this manga will snuggle up in your life.

All images copyright Kotoyo Noguchi


Life with Mii: Everyday cat stories (Volume 1)
Life with Mii: Everyday cat stories (Volume 2)
白黒猫まんが (Volume 1) [Tadoku version for Japanese people studying English]
白黒猫まんが (Volume 2) [Tadoku version for Japanese people studying English]

Kotoyo Noguchi on Facebook (English)
Kotoyo Noguchi on Facebook (Japanese)
Kotoyo Noguchi on Twitter
Kotoyo Noguchi on DeviantArt
Official Website
Official Goods Shop

All images used in this interview are copyrighted and the property of Kotoyo Noguchi. They have been reproduced with the creator’s permission.


If you enjoyed this article, please also check our interview with Mariko Hihara, a Japanese author involved in self-publishing for the English-speaking audience.

An interview with Mariko Hihara

Mariko Hihara is an experienced Japanese author who has written over fifty novels, primarily in the boys’ love/yaoi and fantasy genres, as well as scripts for several manga. She has been quick to adapt to the potential of self-publishing her work for the English-speaking market outside Japan through channels such as the Kindle Store and iBooks.

All images copyright Hihara Mariko

Anime UK News was lucky enough to be able to interview Hihara-sensei to talk about her experiences as a creator.

AUKN: When did you first start creating stories and manga?

I read the Handbook for Comics (Ishinomori Shotaro No Mangaka Nyumon) by Shotaro Ishinomori, a famous manga writer, when I was in elementary school. From then on I started creating manga.

AUKN: What made you first decide to publish your work in English?

In 2010 I read a news article on a website which said that Amazon’s self-publishing platform had launched in the US, but it was not available in Japan. So I decided to publish my books in English through Amazon.com.

AUKN: UK manga fans have traditionally purchased manga in book form, usually imported from North America. However, the market is changing rapidly and digital manga is becoming much more popular which makes it possible to reach a wider audience. Are there any challenges you have encountered with publishing your work on platforms such as Amazon? Would you recommend it to other authors?

Five years ago it was very difficult to create digital comics. But now there are many free tools to make digital books on the web, such as Amazon’s Kindle Comic Creator. So any authors can easily self-publish now.

AUKN: As fans, we often want to let writers know how we feel about a story we have read. With traditional distribution it’s difficult to be sure that our feedback will ever reach the creators. If a fan wants to comment on your work, how would you prefer they contacted you? Through social media? By leaving a review on Amazon?

We are encouraged by any kinds of feedback from our fans. But please never leave negative reviews on Amazon if possible, I beg you!

AUKN: Will you be producing more English-translated work in future for your fans around the world?

Yesss!

AUKN: Is there anything that the English-speaking fan community can do to help Japanese creators?

Help with our English translations is always appreciated. If we make any grammar mistakes, please let us know!

AUKN: Have you discovered anything unexpected – for example, countries where your stories were more popular than you thought they would be?

We have discovered that American and British fans have different tastes.

AUKN: English translations of short stories and novels are still relatively rare, even though they are steadily becoming more popular. Since you have experience of writing novels and creating manga scripts, would you be able to tell us a little about the differences between creating a story as a novel and as a manga?

When I create a novel I prefer to describe the psychology of the characters. With manga, I would emphasise the visuals and the way the characters move.

All images copyright Hihara Mariko

AUKN: You have also published some of your work in English on the iTunes store. How has the experience differed between publishing on Amazon’s Kindle and the iTunes ebook service?

Apple and Amazon have their own censorship criteria. So some of our titles were pulled from the Kindle store but not from iTunes, and vice versa.

AUKN: The UK is a popular setting for manga, with titles as diverse in theme as Kaoru Mori’s Emma and Kouta Hirano’s Hellsing basing their stories here, and the Victorian era seems especially popular. What is it about the setting that inspired you to choose it for your My Beloved Werewolf series?

I love novels set in the Victorian Age, such as the works of Dickens and George MacDonald. I also love Sherlock Holmes. So I used the Victorian era as the setting for my series.

AUKN: Do you hope that this series will be particularly popular with British readers?

Yesss!

All images copyright Hihara Mariko

AUKN: Yaoi/BL is an increasingly popular genre here in the west, with more new titles getting published every month. What do you think it is about BL stories that make them so popular across the world?

This is a very difficult question. Research on why BL is read in America has been inconclusive and it still hasn’t even been properly studied in Japan, so this is my personal opinion.

I think that obstacles fan the flames of love. In the past, there were many hindrances such as social class, wealth and so on. But there are fewer of these obstacles nowadays, so many people – especially girls who like romance – love yaoi/BL.

All images copyright Hihara Mariko

AUKN: If our readers could only buy one of your books, which would you recommend they try first?

I recommend Longing for Spring. It’s a historical romance with a Japanese noble boy and a Japanese-American set in the post-WWII period. It’s like Downton Abbey.

AUKN: Aside from your own work, what are your favourite manga or anime series? Do you have any particular inspirations?

I love Osamu Tezuka’s work. He created many manga with stories about shapeshifting such as Big X, The Vampires, Princess Knight and Rainbow Parakeet. And I love the anime series Sailor Moon. So I have been inspired by those titles.

AUKN: Finally – please tell us more about your work! If a future fan is reading this interview, how would you encourage them to take a look at your manga on Amazon?

We hope that people who love romance, fantasy and adventure will read and enjoy our manga. On top of that, we hope that manga fans will come to Japan and participate in Comic Market! There are many places that manga fans should try to visit in Japan. For example, there are museums dedicated to local creators (Ghibli Museum, Osamu Tezuka Manga Museum, Shotaro Ishinomori Memorial Museum and many more, such as those listed on this Japanese website) and also regions which manga have used as their settings.

All images copyright Hihara Mariko


Roppongi Night Clinic volume 1
Longing for Spring
Passion Under the Full Moon (My Beloved Werewolf volume 1)
Roll Over Dickens (My Beloved Werewolf volume 2)
A Boy from the East (My Beloved Werewolf volume 3)
Sunny, with occasional dogs (My Beloved Werewolf volume 4)

Mariko Hihara on Facebook
Official Website

All images used in this interview are copyrighted. They have been reproduced with the creator’s permission.


If you enjoyed this article, please also check our interview with Kotoyo Noguchi, a Japanese illustrator involved in self-publishing for the English-speaking audience.