Yu-Gi-Oh! Season 5 Review

Yu-Gi-Oh! 5 

Yu Gi Oh cover

Ian Wolf’s Review

Warning: may contain spoilers

“Well, as L. P. Hartley said: ‘The past is a foreign country. They do things differently there.’ That was the opening of The Go-Between, which was a book. For anyone listing to a repeat of this show sometime in the near-future, a book was a kind of multi-layered Kindle thing.” – John Lloyd

In this final collection of the anime series whose original manga spawned the world’s biggest trading card game, there are many things worthy to note, but for me the most surprising thing is that – after having to go through quite a lot of stuff that has been poor – at the end of it all, I am glad to have watched it.

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This fifth collection is split over three story arcs. The first, “Grand Championship” begins with Mokuba inviting Yugi, Joey and Rebecca to take part in the Kiba Corp. Grand Championship, which will see 16 of the world’s best Duel Monsters players take part in a knock-out tournament, where the winner will face the current world champion, who is Yugi. They all agree, so they and their friends travel to the venue, a new theme park constructed by the Kiba brothers, but things soon go wrong as it seems that one of the competitors is keen to sabotage the contest. Seto Kiba, who is too busy organising the event to take part in it, soon believes he has tracked down the culprit: the Germanic Zigfried Lloyd, who is actually taking part in the contest under a false name, and whose accent seems to be a cross between Maximillion Pegasus and a rejected extra from ‘Allo ‘Allo!

The second arc is more interesting, mainly because it never aired in Japan, even though it was animated by the same people. The “Capsule Monsters” arc begins with Yugi’s grandfather away on archaeological trip. Meanwhile Joey wins tickets to travel to India, so he, Yugi, Tristan and Tea come along for the trip. However, their small plane crash lands in the middle of the jungle. Everyone survives, and the gang bump into a man named Dr. Alex Brisbane, an archaeologist who was working with Yugi’s grandfather, who has mysteriously disappeared. Alex leads the gang to a pyramid that they were both excavating, and while inside it they come across a room with a strange map-like floor. When they step on it, they fall through the floor and into a fantasy world, with strange devices on their arms and belts with cylindrical holsters on them. As they journey through this land, they touch strange rocks that free monsters that contain creatures from Duel Monsters. They are able to capture these monsters in capsules and journey through the land in order to return home, guided by a masked man who claims to be Alexander the Great – who unlike Zigfried, doesn’t have an accent, even though we definitely know where he comes from. Even if they don’t know what a Macedonian accent sounds like, Greek would have probably done. Either do all the accents, or none of them.

 

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Saving the best till last, the final arc, “Dawn of the Duel”, is not just the best arc of the collection, but probably the best of the whole series. Yugi, with all the Millennium Items and the three Egyptian God cards, plans to travel to Egypt to finally solve the mystery of the Pharaoh’s past. The night before he and the gang travel though, Yugi is burgled by Rex and Weevil, but they are in turn stopped by the evilly possessed Bakura, who takes back some of the items including the Millennium Ring and leaves the rest to Yugi. Bakura then tries to kidnap Mokuba, and has a duel with Seto which he quits before the end, leaving Seto the Millennium Eye and telling him to travel to Egypt too.

When Yugi and the gang arrive in Egypt they meet up with old friends, including Marek, who lead them to the Pharaoh’s tomb, with Bakura not far behind. Shadi, the guard of the Millennium Items, tells Yugi to hold up the Egyptian God cards to an old tablet depicting him. When he does, the Pharaoh’s spirit leaves him and returns to Ancient Egypt, where he finds himself having to relieve history; working with servants including a high priest who looks like and is named Seto, and having to deal with the original Bakura, who has also travelled back in time. In the past, he came from a village that was destroyed by the Pharaoh’s father, who created the Millennium Items, and wants revenge by enveloping the world in darkness. Yugi and his friends meanwhile, with Shadi’s help, enter the Pharaoh’s mind using the Millennium Key, and begin a journey that sees them travel to the past too. Soon afterwards, Kiba also arrives at the tomb, and using the Eye also travels back, where he learns about the origins of the Blue-Eyes White Dragon. While in the past, Yugi has to try and find the source that helped the Pharaoh save Ancient Egypt previously, namely the Pharaoh’s real name.

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Finally, after all this, it is discovered how the Pharaoh can finally be laid to rest after 5,000 years trapped in the Millennium Puzzle: he must lose a duel against a worthy opponent. The series thus ends with one final duel against the Pharaoh’s toughest opponent, the person to whom he taught everything: Yugi.

Having reviewed all five seasons of the series, certain things have kept recurring and annoying me. The fact there are no extras at all, no subtitles, poorly placed scene selections, dodgy accents in the voice acting, characters overreacting to things that make the situations more unrealistic, and so on. More stuff came up in this collection, such as the addition of a US age rating at the top left-hand corner of the scene at the start of and during the second half of the episodes as of the “Capsule Monsters” arc onwards. It is not surprising perhaps, that I did end up thinking that it was better to watch Yu-Gi-Oh! while playing a drinking game, which I did again, drinking beer when certain key-words and phrases were uttered. I won’t list the full results this time around, save to say that terms such as “Millennium”, “Egyptian God” and “Dark Magician” are good ones to go for.

However, I’m still glad I watched this series. This is partly due to the final arc, where everything starts to fall into place concerning the Millennium Items and the Pharaoh’s past. For once, we can ignore the whole trading card game for the majority of the story, and even when it does come up, it is interesting as Yugi is forced to duel on his own, without the Pharaoh’s help. The final arc is surprisingly moving, in particular the final showdown between Yugi and the Pharaoh, as you witness how the series ends. Whether it is a happy or sad ending depends on how you react to the main characters.

Yu-Gi-Oh! is a series that has many faults, but when it stops being about the game itself, and you focus on the characters, in particular the friendships between the central gang, in a strange way, it seems worth it. At times joyous, at times sad, at times ridiculous, it is still understandable that this anime has had the unexpected impact that it had.

Score: 6 / 10

Anime Quick Information 

  • Title: Yu-Gi-Oh! 5
  • UK Publisher: Manga Entertainment
  • Genre: Action, Adventure, Gaming, Fantasy
  • Studio: Studio Gallop
  • Type: TV series
  • Year: 2000
  • Running time: 17 hours, 20 minutes
  • Classification: PG

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Kamisama Kiss Season 2 Review

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It’s not easy being a human and a Land God – but seventeen-year-old Nanami Monozomo is doing her best to do a good job. After all, she owes so much to Mikage, the kami who passed his role and shrine on to her before disappearing. With the shrine, Nanami also inherited Mikage’s fox-familiar, the beautiful but disdainful Tomoe…but as they have grown to know each other better, it seems that they have developed feelings for one another. Strong feelings. And it isn’t good for a yokai to fall in love with a short-lived mortal, as Tomoe already knows to his cost.

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When Nanami is summoned to the gathering of the gods at the Divine Assembly at Izumo Shrine, it’s her chance to become accepted – but things don’t go as planned, right from the start. She is awarded the tricky task of ensuring the gateway to the Netherworld (Yomi) stays shut by the presiding god of Izumo, Okuninushi. Thank goodness she has Mamoru, the adorable little monkey/monkey-boy familiar given her by the wind god Otohiko. Because her kindly heart means that she risks everything by entering the Netherworld to help a young man Kirihito, little realizing that she may never be able to escape. And even if she does, rescuing Kirihito will create unforeseen repercussions that she could well come to regret.

Back home, Nanami encounters a little tengu boy, Botanmaru, in desperate need of help. He’s come looking for the missing heir to Mount Kurama as he may be the only one who can dispel a terrible miasma which is spreading over the mountain. The patriarch of the tengu, the Soujoubou, is seriously ill. But where is the runaway heir? Of course, he turns out to be none other than Nanami’s classmate and pop idol, Kurama. But can Kurama be persuaded to leave his glamorous life and return to his remote mountain roots?

A series like this could so easily have failed to transcend its shoujo stereotypes (instead of beautiful boys, there are beautiful yokai, kami and shikigami). Yet Nanami’s indomitable (yet likable) character, the diverting (sometimes terrifying) range of creatures and gods from Japanese mythology that she encounters, and, above all, the will they, won’t they? nature of her relationship with Tomoe makes this a very watchable anime.

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Two main story arcs are resolved in these twelve episodes – but the third overarching plot which creates such a tantalising and dramatic opening to the series (showing us Tomoe in his original wild fox spirit form on the rampage with another yokai, Akura-Ou) is still evolving, suggesting (one can but hope!) that another series will follow. There are plenty more volumes to adapt. Mangaka Julietta Suzuki has said that the manga will come to a close this summer (2016) so – fingers crossed! – we may still get a final TV season. (Although there is a four-episode OVA set in progress 2015-16, but it’s not been made available for the UK market. Yet. Pretty please, MVM?)

 

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The series is visually appealing with character designs faithful to the mangaka’s originals and gorgeous eye catches (when they’re as striking as this, they don’t seem an anachronism). Director Akitaro Daichi brings all his experience from Fruits Basket and he was also responsible for the script and storyboarding in some episodes; is this why it all flows so well as a narrative?

The US dub script is witty and, on the whole, an excellent option to the original (although the reference to the wind god Otohiko as ‘he/she guy’ is not the most sensitive of translations.) The US cast seem to relish their roles, with stand-out performances from Tia Ballard (Nanami) and Michael J. Tatum (Tomoe), Tia Ballard beautifully capturing Nanami’s wide range of feelings. The original cast are as convincing as ever, of course, with Shinnosuke Tachibana (Medici in Sekko Boys) as Tomoe and Suzuko Mimori (Umi Sonoda in Love Live) a delightful Nanami.

One of the pleasures of this immensely likable series is the music, – and not only the soundtrack by Toshio Masuda (Naruto) which is especially effective when underscoring the suspenseful supernatural elements. Every now and then an OP comes along that’s not only charming and catchy but boasts wittily choreographed animation that fits the song perfectly. “Kamisama no Kamisama (God of God)” (sung by Hanae, who sings all the Kamisama Kiss songs) is one of the best I’ve come across in a long while. (Although the metaphor of being spun around in a washing machine is er…unusual.) The Ending “Ototoi Oide” (Come Another Day) is a quietly reflective song, showing the main characters thinking about those dear to them. There’s an insert song in Episode 6 for the tengu turned pop idol Kurama (as in the first series); kudos to Sean O’Connor who sings (once more) very convincingly in the dub. I don’t often like the US equivalents (naming no names) but – personally – I think he makes a better alternative here to Daisuke Kishio as a singer.

Extras include two commentaries by the US cast, textless songs and a US trailer.

Irresistibly charming and fresh, Kamisama Kiss maintains a delicate balance between humour (Nanami and Tomoe disagree, usually quite violently), heartache (Nanami and Tomoe think longingly about each other) and supernatural peril (the Netherworld, evil yokai, angry tengu), all of which combine to make this an engaging watch. Recommended.

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The US dub script is witty and, on the whole, an excellent option to the original (although the reference to the wind god Otohiko as ‘he/she guy’ is not the most sensitive of translations.) The US cast seem to relish their roles, with stand-out performances from Tia Ballard (Nanami) and Michael J. Tatum (Tomoe), Tia Ballard beautifully capturing Nanami’s wide range of feelings. The original cast are as convincing as ever, of course, with Shinnosuke Tachibana (Medici in Sekko Boys) as Tomoe and Suzuko Mimori (Umi Sonoda in Love Live) a delightful Nanami.

One of the pleasures of this immensely likable series is the music, – and not only the soundtrack by Toshio Masuda (Naruto) which is especially effective when underscoring the suspenseful supernatural elements. Every now and then an OP comes along that’s not only charming and catchy but boasts wittily choreographed animation that fits the song perfectly. “Kamisama no Kamisama (God of God)” (sung by Hanae, who sings all the Kamisama Kiss songs) is one of the best I’ve come across in a long while. (Although the metaphor of being spun around in a washing machine is er…unusual.) The Ending “Ototoi Oide” (Come Another Day) is a quietly reflective song, showing the main characters thinking about those dear to them. There’s an insert song in Episode 6 for the tengu turned pop idol Kurama (as in the first series); kudos to Sean O’Connor who sings (once more) very convincingly in the dub. I don’t often like the US equivalents (naming no names) but – personally – I think he makes a better alternative here to Daisuke Kishio as a singer.

Extras include two commentaries by the US cast, textless songs and a US trailer.

kamisama g

Irresistibly charming and fresh, Kamisama Kiss maintains a delicate balance between humour (Nanami and Tomoe disagree, usually quite violently), heartache (Nanami and Tomoe think longingly about each other) and supernatural peril (the Netherworld, evil yokai, angry tengu), all of which combine to make this an engaging watch. Recommended.

Score: 8/10

Anime Quick Information 

  • Title: Kamisama Kiss Season 2
  • UK Publisher: MVM Films
  • Genre: Fantasy , Comedy , Romance , Shojo , Supernatural
  • Director: Akitaro Daichi
  • Studio: TMS Entertainment
  • Type: TV series
  • Year: 2015
  • DVD Release Date: 13th Jun. 2016
  • Running time: 300 minutes
  • Classification: 12

KonoSuba Season 1 Review

What if, when you die, you were given the chance to be reborn in another world tasked with defeating a demon lord? This is the choice that the shut-in main character of KonoSuba: God’s Blessing on This Wonderful World, Kazuma, must make after he pushes a pretty girl out the way of an oncoming tractor (that he saw as a massive truck) and dies from shock. A pretty (but rude) goddess named Aqua greets Kazuma in the afterlife and informs him that if he should decide to go to this other realm, he may pick one item to go with him: whatever he desires. Our hero decides that the best possible solution to this problem (and out of spite towards Aqua’s lack of caring) is to simply take the goddess with him. And so begins the unfortunate – I mean, brilliant – adventures of Kazuma.

As Kazuma soon discovers in this new world, nothing in life is that simple. After joining the guild in the starting town he’s landed in, Kazuma finds out how unfair his new reality really is. His stats (like those you’d find in an RPG), apart from intelligence and luck, are below average, which doesn’t offer him many choices for his life as an adventurer. Meanwhile Aqua has brilliant stats, apart from intelligence and luck, and can choose any job she’d like, even one of the highest: Arc Priest. Could things get any worse for Kazuma? Well, yes, things could definitely get worse. As he and Aqua attempt to take on many quests around the city they all end in failure. To make matters worse, their party is soon joined by an Arch Wizard, Megumin, who can only fire off her magic once a day; and a knight, Darkness, who can’t even hit a target standing still (and really enjoys being hit by enemies…). This party truly isn’t a useful one and, try as he might, Kazuma just can’t get away from the trio of idiots.

At its core KonoSuba is a comedy centered around the trials and tribulations of adventurers, showing that life is perhaps not as easygoing as it would be in an RPG. Even if this isn’t a video game, Kazuma manages to pull many links between the two and his extensive knowledge does come in handy. As a viewer it’s great to watch the similarities, especially with quests and the useless party members (I mean normally we’re only stuck with one, but Kazuma has three to deal with!) and the anime does nothing but amplify this feeling. I’m a massive JRPG fan, which is something I’ve probably mentioned in previous reviews. If I’m not watching anime or have my head stuck in a book, I’m off in some far off world with sword in hand, ready to slay some evil monster – because someone has to, right? It’s a genre of video games that I appreciate a lot and KonoSuba captures the feeling and tropes of fantasy worlds extremely well.

Almost every episode of the anime features an “emergency quest” of some description that Kazuma and friends are dragged into helping with. Half the time these quests have come into play because Kazuma or one of his ‘helpful’ party members have angered some evil monster, but there are some more random quests to balance things out. My personal favourite is the Cabbage Quest. This quest involves defeating and rounding up a flying hoard of cabbages, yes cabbages, that are flying toward the city. If this were a video game it would be a pretty low level quest and the type you just can’t be bothered completing, which KonoSuba knows and plays with wonderfully by having Kazuma make numerous comments about how he wishes he could just go back to bed. The series manages to make fun of every aspect of a JRPG that you possibly could in some fashion or other, and I quickly fell in love with the somewhat quirky humour on offer.

The series is made up of only 10 episodes, which is a shame as I was left wanting just a little bit more. However, it is worth noting that a second season has now been confirmed to be in production. Earlier episodes fare better in my favour as early on, each episode would include two different, but often linked, stories, whereas later we’re stuck with just one. This isn’t a bad thing on average but it does mean there were more episodes that I disliked by the end of the series’s run than those that I liked – although every single episode had something going for it. It’s rare for me to seriously sit down and watch a comedy of any sort, it’s not really my thing, but KonoSuba had me eager to view the latest episode every week purely because of how much fun I was having. I think there is something special here and I’m glad that I decided to give it a shot.

Animation has been handled by Studio Deen and leaves me with mixed impressions. Overall the show looks pretty cheaply made, and although certain scenes are quite impressive, the first few episodes just look awful. The animation was not even slightly consistent from scene to scene where the characters are concerned and they often looked horribly off-model. KonoSuba is a really colorful fantasy world but early on, the environments are fairly bland. It wasn’t until the fourth or fifth episode that Studio Deen got a handle on the quality. I’d imagine that the quality would be especially jarring to anyone who had previously seen the artwork for the light novel source because it’s much better than what Studio Deen provides. Thankfully KonoSuba isn’t the type of show that requires wonderful animation (even if it would have been nice) and gets by just fine even with its oddities, but potential viewers should definitely take note that this won’t be winning any awards for its art.

Music for the series has been provided by Masato Kouda, who also worked on the soundtracks for Magical Warfare and Maria the Virgin Witch. I wouldn’t say it’s the kind of music I could listen to away from the anime but played along with the show it works wonderfully, highlighting the dramatic moments only for the bubble to be burst. It’s neither a bad soundtrack nor an amazing one, but I’d say it generally works really well. No complaints in that regard here.

I can’t say that I have any complaints regarding the cast of voice actors either. Our cynical hero Kazuma is voiced by Jun Fukushima (Shinsuke Chazawa in Shirobako, Shoukichi Naruko in Yowamushi Pedal), who I’d previously not paid much notice to but felt provided a really great performance here. Kazuma is a very passionate character and it’s key that his VA can swap between his distrusting, cynical attitude and that of his more laid-back nature, which Fukushima does wonderfully. Aqua is handled by Sora Armamiya (Toka Kirishima in Tokyo Ghoul, Akame in Akame ga Kill!) and, like Fukushima, manages to balance Aqua’s split personality quite well. The goddess goes from being on top of the world to being crushed by her debts on a daily basis and it’s brilliant to see someone express that so clearly. Rie Takahash (Miki Naoki in School-Live!, Dorothy in Maria the Virgin Witch), who plays Megumin, and Ai Kayano (Shiro in No Game, No Life; Kyouka in Fairy Tail), who plays Darkness, are both fitting for their characters as well. They’re perhaps not as impressive as the actors playing Kazuma and Aqua, but given the roles they’re voicing, I’m certainly pleased with the result.

By the end of KonoSuba I’d fallen in love with the story of these hopeless heroes. I find myself excited for the second anime season and am hoping that someone will license the light novels. I even enjoyed the show enough to watch the earlier episodes twice through! There may have been some teething problems with the animation and some of the jokes just weren’t funny, but I think overall this was a pretty memorable comedy. It definitely gained a new fan in me. If you want to check the series out for yourself then you can find it streaming on Crunchyroll.

Title: KonoSuba: God's Blessing on This Wonderful World Season 1
Publisher: Crunchyroll (streaming)
Genre: Comedy, Fantasy, Adventure
Studio: Studio Deen
Type: TV Series
Original vintage: 2016
Format: Legal stream
Language options: Japanese audio with English subtitles
Running time: 250 minutes

Score: 8/10

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.