If you’re a manga fan, chances are you’ve read or listened to more than one disappointing interview with a manga artist. These are the geniuses behind the artistic universes you dream about and the characters you clutch to your breast in body-pillow form... and when some American reporter asks, “What inspired you to create this?” they stare blankly before muttering, “I had a deadline.”
All too often, something gets lost in translation between Japanese manga artists and Western interviewers. Now Deb Aoki, a seasoned manga journalist, shares her secrets of interviewing Japanese artists on her website, Manga Comics Manga.
The most entertaining parts are the brainstorming tweets Aoki collected from fellow journalists and manga translators. They swap advice on getting artists to open up (“Take them out drinking...”) and dish about creators they’ve interviewed. Turns out questions guaranteed to get American comic artists talking, like “What are your influences?” often cause manga artists to clam up. (Still, it’s hard not to admire Kitaro creator Shigeru Mizuki’s answer: “I’m the best artist I’ve ever known. So there was no reason to look at anyone else’s art.”)
Speaking from the other side, underground manga artist Junko Mizuno shares the two questions from Western interviewers that make her most uncomfortable. And sometimes manga artists give the interviewers cookies. So learn how to get on their good side.
Image from Deb Aoki.