It was a wonderful afternoon when I had the rare honor to interview Tateno Makoto-sensei. Present was Robert Newman of JManga, Shinshokan publishing staff including Director of Production Section, Suenaga Hironari-san. Newman assisted with the interpretation. We introduced ourselves and settled into the usual Q&A with a bit of fangirling on the side.
IL: What is your work schedule like?
Tateno: I wake up between 8am-10am. I sleep around 2am-3am. I am working all the time in between, but I do get in three meals a day.
IL: I know you use Maru-pens to draw but how much is your work on the computer right now?
Tateno: I do all my coloring on the computer. Occasionally, if there is a scene that needs to be on the computer, I will create it on the computer, print it out and paste it in with the rest of the work.
IL: You say you do the screentones by hand, so none of it is on the computer?
Tateno: None on the computer. I enjoy doing it all by hand. *laughs*
IL: Many fans love the fashion designs that you have in your work, for example in Red Angel and in Yokan. So what kinds of magazines do you consult to create your designs?
Tateno: Thank you, I’m happy that you like them. I use visual kei and goth loli magazines.
IL: You were an assistant to a mangaka before. Which mangaka was it?
Tateno: I was an assistant to Muchi Suzue-sensei. She is a very popular mangaka in Japan and her most famous work is Glass no Kamen.
IL: I know that one!
Tateno: I helped on it.
IL: What is your favorite drink?
Tateno: Beer…though I like all alcohol. *laughs*
IL: When you were working on How to Control a Sidecar, did you drink alot of cocktails to get inspiration for your Sidecar [the drink]?
Tateno: I drank alot. *laughs* For Sidecar and Martini, I went to five or six different bars to get inspiration.
IL: How did you get your inspiration to create ‘Cherry’ [the last drink in Sidecar]?
Tateno: For the martini, I came up with various recipes on my own.
IL: What is the name of your pet hamster? You may have mentioned it on your blog, but unfortunately, I can’t read it.
IL: Only one hamster?
IL: No other pets?
Tateno: None. *in English* Only hamster desu.
IL: You posted a lot of cute pictures of your hamster on your blog.
Tateno: Thank you!
IL: Some fans can’t read Japanese, but with so many pictures, they really enjoy your blog.
Tateno: Really? I will keep working hard!
IL: Thank you very much.
IL: You only released two artbooks, ‘Prince Sapphire’ and ‘Princess Ruby’. Do you have plans to release another artbook?
Tateno: I don’t have any plans currently.
IL: Many fans would like more artbooks since your illustrations are so gorgeous.
Tateno: I’m so happy to hear that.
IL: How do you name some of your characters? In Steal Moon, the seme is called Coyote. Do you have a naming style for your characters?
Tateno: I choose the names based on the theme of the manga. So for Steal Moon, I chose the character names that are related to the moon and same for Michael, Mika, Eru in Red Angel.
IL: For your deadlines, do you have any interesting experiences of running away from your editor?
Tateno: Generally speaking now, I’m very good about deadlines. But in the past when I debut, there were several times that I couldn’t make it when I was doing serializations. *laughs* I actually tried to postpone the process by calling the editor but it doesn’t work out too well.
IL: Ah sensei, ganbatte kudasai! *laughs*
IL: When Blue Sheep Reverie was released, it was in Hakusensha which is a shoujo magazine. Did you have plans for it to be a BL?
Tateno: This is kind of confidential information. Through Hakusensha, there was only one book licensed, but I wanted to continue the series. I waited for the contract to terminate so I could release it through another BL magazine.
IL: If you don’t want me to include this, I can take it out of the interview.
Tateno: It’s not a problem.
IL: Thank you. So even though it was released as a shoujo manga, you were not planning for Kai and Maria to be together?
Tateno: No, Kai was always planned to be with Lahti. Even if it was a shoujo manga, the outcome would have been the same.
IL: In Yellow, does Taki’s parents have a back story about why they were killed? It was never expanded upon.
Tateno: I’m thinking about writing that so it’s still a secret.
IL: We will look forward to it!
IL: Volume 5 of Blue Sheep Reverie will be released in March in the US. Is there something in volume 5 we should look forward to?
Tateno: Volume 5…there are lots of dead bodies, lots of blood flying around. *pause* Lots of yaoi.
IL: Yes! In volume 4, there wasn’t so much yaoi since Lahti and Kai were separated.
Tateno: There will be lots of yaoi.
IL: That’s good. Thank you very much!
IL: Though you end any of your series, years later, there may be a sequel. Many fans and I really enjoy those surprise continuations. Though you don’t have to name the title, is there a series you’re thinking about giving a sequel to?
Tateno: Right now, I don’t have anything in particular planned. But Yellow will continue.
IL: Concerning Bill 156 [Youth Ordinance] that was passed in Japan last year, what are your thoughts on it? Many of your works are already 18+ so they’re already set apart from what the media addressed in the bill. What do you think about the bill itself?
Tateno: From the perspective of a mangaka, I feel that it is very strict. But from my own personal opinion as a human, I feel that there are alot of content that shouldn’t be in full view of children. Like having the higher rated content be placed higher away from their eyes. I think that is a good thing.
IL: Instead of anime, when BL manga goes into the video media right now, they can be turned into Animix or Comix. What do you think about those other mediums?
Tateno: I think it’s good and interesting.
IL: Many fans are disappointed since we’re hoping for more animation in anime rather than just animated manga.
Tateno: I see. I haven’t seen too much of animix but probably anime is more enjoyable for the reader. In Japan, there are many fans of different seiyuu. For those fans, they’re [other mediums] are very good.
IL: Are there any of your manga that you would like to be animated in the future?
Tateno: I can’t say concretely, but there are various titles that I would like to have animated, but it’s not something that I can decide or bring to fruition on my own.
IL: When there are, the fans are looking forward to it.
Tateno: If all goes well, something will be made.
IL: Is there a manga that has not been released in English yet that you would like us to read?
Tateno: There aren’t that many of my shoujo titles released in English so I hope to have more shoujo titles in English so that readers can enjoy them. Especially the titles released in Hakusensha. I hope they’ll be released one day in English.
IL: You have many fans in the US. Do you have a message you would like to share with us?
Tateno: I’m so happy to have readers from other countries read my work. I’m happy to have my work be out there. Recently, I had more opportunities to participate in events and more chances to interact with fans directly. It makes me very happy and inspired.
IL: How are you liking New York so far?
Tateno: It’s wonderful. I like New York and the alcohol.
IL: If I may ask, what have you been doing these past few days in New York?
Tateno: I’ve been eating, taking in the sights around town. I went to Strawberry Fields.
IL: *puzzled* Strawberry Fields?
Shinshokan staff: Central Park.
IL: Really? I live in NY and I don’t even know it! *laughs* Thank you so much joining me today and taking the time out to share with me your thoughts and your work. *bows*
Tateno: Same here, thank you very much. *bows*
For ignorant NYers like me, Strawberry Fields is a memorial to John Lennon. It’s located in Central Park West and has a centerpiece, a circular mosaic stone with the words ‘Imagine’ on it. Truly inspirational.