Anno-sensei writes for the josei demographic, manga for young women as opposed to young girls. Though there is a long history of josei in Japan-about 35-40 years-there isn’t that big of a presense in the US. Not to say that there aren’t that many josei fans in the US, just that the market doesn’t release alot of manga for young women. Only a few companies have titles of that demographic including the currently defuct CPM and Tokyopop. That is changing with the growing popularity of mangaka like Anno-sensei and Yazawa Ai-sensei (Paradise Kiss). Vertical had just announced the day before that they will be releasing another josei title, Helter Skelter by Okazaki Kyoko-sensei and of course, there is Yen Press releasing more from Mori Kaoru-sensei (Emma.)
Ed Chavez of Vertical Inc. opened the panel by introducing Anno Moyoco-sensei.
- Anno: Thank you so much for today, I’m delighted to be here.
Anno-sensei started her career over 20 years ago. Besides titles like Sakuran she also worked on shoujo titles like, Jelly Beans, Flowers and Bees and Sugar Sugar Rune. She has written for wide demographics, including her currently running Hataraki Man and Ochibisan. Of course, the gateway josei series for many include Happy Mania which was released by Tokyopop in the early 2000. Anno-sensei celebrated her 20th anniversary as a mangaka in 2009.
Chavez began with his own Q&A.
- Q: What is your inspiration to become a mangaka?
A: When I was 10 years, I decided to become a mangaka.
Q: Was there a particular artist that you were inspired by?
A: I always loved manga. My mother’s brother, my uncle was a mangaka and we lived in the same house. I was influenced by him as well.
Q: Being around a fellow mangaka, you were introduced very early on on the difficulties of being a mangaka.
A: I learned how to speak with editors and how to appease them.
Q: You debuted in your teens?
A: Actually I was bringing work to editors when I was 15. I debuted when I was 17.
Q: Things have changed since then as artists. What is the experience like initially?
A: I was in highschool when I debuted. I actually wrote about the boyfriend I was dating at that time. I didn’t think it was going to be published so I was very surprised.
Q: Did you want to debut as a shoujo artist? Since I wasn’t sure if was for Kodansha or Nakayoshi.
A: No, that wasn’t my intention. When I was a child, I like Hakusensha, Hana to Yume. I wanted to write manga like Yamagishi Ryoko-sensei.
Chavez: Yamagishi Ryoko was one of the original 49ers [born in 1949, revolutionalized shoujo manga], one of the mothers of shoujo manga. She introduced flowery characters. Perhaps she also started doing catgirls as well? Has fantasy in her stories, very close relationship to Hakusensha and Lala.
Q: That is very curious since Anno-sensei’s works don’t often focus on fantasy. Hakusensha’s works are very fantastical, fanciful. Why the directional change?
A: I originally want to write fantasy and historical, but I don’t know history and I couldn’t figure it out. So I wanted to write something that I could write about which became teenage romance.
Q: We’ve seen alot of teenage romance in the states. We get alot of shoujo and shonen titles. How did you get to start writing manga for young women? What led to Happy Mania?
A: Shoujo manga didn’t click for me. Sometimes the main character would like a boy, and she wouldn’t think about him. And out of nowhere he would say, “I like you too.” There were all these things that happened that didn’t feel realistic. People didn’t get turned down, they didn’t get dumped. I kept thinking that that wasn’t how it works. All the shoujo manga I have read was about how relationships reach the point where two admit their feelings for each other, but they don’t write about what happens afterwards. They didn’t write about how ‘I like this person but I don’t understand him,’ or ‘We have sex, but it’s not working out.’
Q: Was this something evident in women’s manga in the 90′s? Was this something she felt she needed to share?
A: Even in the mid-90′s, I wasn’t seeing much shoujo manga or manga for women that dealt with these issues. There were manga for grown up women, but for some reason in those manga, when the girl breaks up with their boyfriend, it’s because another guy said they liked you. I said that’s not realistic!
Chavez: Happy Mania has alot of these themes, trouble with their romance, very complicated yet straightforward character.
Q: Strong female characters is very prominent in her works. Fashion and style is also a bit part of her stories.
A: It’s not necessarily that I’m interested in drawing fashion, when I create a character, I want to be sure that she is accurate. She is true to her character. If I draw a character that is not fashionable at all, her clothes will show who she is. But Japanese girls are usually fashionable, so when I’m drawing Japanese girls, I sometimes draw that they are stylish. If I draw someone who is not interested in fashion at all, I make sure to draw clothes that reflect that.
Chavez: In Flowers and Bees, there is a focus on the only outside, but also on the personality. They’re approachable and attractive as well.
A: Actually, I drew that manga for Young magazine which has an audience of junior high and highschool boys. What they’re very interested in is how to be popular with girls. I really wanted to tell that ‘What you’re doing is half right…and half wrong.’
Chavez: Reading that, I found the consistency. I feel like ‘I should take some notes here.’ Even though I was at my 20s at that time. *audience laughs*
- Q: Some shoujo and josei artists stick to a certain demographic. You have written a number of titles for male audiences. When planning to create a title for guys, do you approach your work differently? I know you focus on characters alot. Is there a difference in your stylistic approach?
A: There are differences in the story. Especially for a male audience, I make sure not to have too many inner monologues. I don’t have too many thought proceses. For men, they tend to find these things tedious. *audience laughs*
Q: Is some of that tedium expressed at all in Hataraki Man?
A: For Hataraki Man, there are also alot of female readers. I think the audience is half and half. I know that male readers don’t often like to read about the internal workings of the characters’ mind, but with Hataraki Man, I knew that in a Japanese workplace that there are sometimes critical women who work hard and are perceived as too serious. I wanted to write a female character and express the inner working of her mind so that male readers would find interesting.
Chavez: I think it proved to be quite successful since it’s received so much recognition and not just in Japan. I think we all would like to see it in English someday. *audience applauds* It’s a Vertical office favorite.
A: It’s very popular in publishing companies.
Chavez: *laughs* Yeah, I wonder why. For those of you who don’t know, it is about a publishing company, journalism and the like. People who work in similar fields are very attracted to the book.
Q: What is your experience been so far in NY? What would like to do in the remainder of your time here?
A: I haven’t been to a bar yet.
Chavez: We’ll try to fix that. *audience laughs*
Q: Any titles of your own works that you like to see in English? Any titles you would like to recommend to editors like myself? One that would be good for American audiences….
A: Something that was on the screen before is Jelly Beans which is a fashion one, Love Master X and I would love for my American readers to read Ochibisan.
Q: The interesting thing to note about Ochibisan is that the graphic novel is both in English and in Japanese. Who was behind that decision?
A: Because I didn’t have enough pages.
Chavez: *laughs* A perfectly fine reason. I have some ideas about Ochibisan so we’ll talk about that later.
On that obscure note, it makes me wonder if Vertical will be releasing Ochibisan as a Japanese and English title? I want it! ^_^ Chavez opened the floor for questions.
- Q: How does Anno-sensei feel about her series being adapted to animation and live action drama?
A: I expressed something that could only be expressed in that form. When someone creates an anime based on that, in a way I don’t it is totally related to me. I enjoy it visually.
Q: What is your typical schedule? Your typical workday?
A: It depends on the mangaka. For me when I’m working, I would work for about 10 hours days. 5 hours in the morning, 5 hours in the afternoon with an hour for a break. When I am really busy and working on a deadline, I work for 36 hours in a row.
Chavez: There have been some translation of mangaka’s work schedule online. It can be a really brutal business. They might not have alot of free time.
A: Yeah, I can’t recommend it. *audience laughs*
Q: How long did it take to develop your own style? Which artist inspired your characters?
A: I was inspired by professional mangaka. It took about 5 years to develope my own style and characters. One person I was influenced by is Okazaki Kyoko-sensei, whom I worked for.
Chavez: As mentioned before, Vertical will be releasing Okazaki’s Helter Skelther next summer. Vertical is trying to establish a growing platform for manga for women, with Anno-sensei, Yazawa Ai-sensei.
Q: You mentioned that josei is not that well represented in the West, what do you think is the limitations of that?
A: I can’t really think of an answer.
Q: Your first submission was about a relationship with an ex-boyfriend. Do you have any other works that are of people that you know?
A: Of course, for Happy Mania I had 5 pretty messed up friends. *audience laughs* After I wrote that, for some reason, they weren’t my friends anymore.
Chavez: I thought that those characters were lovable.
A: Of course, some of that were my own experiences.
Q: What is the significance behind your self portrait of the baby?
A: Sometimes I say something that is very aggressive. I thought if I drew myself as a baby, they’ll forgive me. *audience laughs*
- Q: Will you be producing a sequel to Sakuran?
A: Not released yet, but I’ve written several stories that continue after Sakuran. Eventually, I hope to print them as manga. *audience applauds*
Chavez: Sakuran was just released this past summer and it already received several accolades. It was ‘Best Graphic Novel’ for Book Expo America. This year, it was also nominated as ‘Best Graphic Novel to Look Forward To’ at San Diego Comic Con.
Q: What materials do you use to color your pages with and draw your manga with?
A: I use Copics, which are oil based magic markers for Sakuran.
Chavez: So if you want to replicate what she has done, go buy some and practice, practice, practice. For 36 hours straight. *audience laughs*
Q: For Sakuran, were you focusing on historical accuracy or something that might appeal for modern viewers?
A: The kimono styles are based on historical data, but the patterns are based on patterns that I have liked.
Q: What is your research process for Sakuran?
A: Before I worked on Sakuran, I didn’t have that much knowledge on the Edo period. Once I decided to write it, my husband found this book in a used bookstore. It was published about 40 years ago and it was basically poems, some written jokingly, but poems about customers who have gone to these teahouses. Completely different from the historical text. Very real, very grounded and I was inspired by it.
Q: *asked the question several times since the horse head was in the way* *finally removed the head* Since your husband is Anno Hideaki, has he ever bounced off ideas with you in the past? Any ideas that you have incorporated?
A: I actually started Sakuran because my husband said, ‘Why don’t you just write something that you want to write?’
Q: Any titles or artists in the josei demographic that you want to recommend to publish?
A: A friend but, Itou Risa-sensei.
Chavez: If anyone picked up a copy of Chi’s Sweet Home, she is very close friends with Konami Kanata-sensei. There is actually an additional manga in one of the volumes of Chi’s Sweet Home. She does alot of gag manga.
Q: You’re such an inspiration to me as an artist. How are you with drawing boys?
A: I think everyone has a part of them like a boy. You need to call upon that part.
- Q: What would recommend to mainstream American women to be intorduced to josei manga?
A: Read. *audience laughs* Hataraki Man and Love Master X. For Sakuran, if you take it as a story, it’s a historic story set in a world of prostitution. But there is another way to read it. There is a subtext to it. It is about manga artists, star mangaka and manga artists that are not stars.
Q: Did the ex-boyfriend read the very first story that you penned?
A: I think he did. When I wrote Happy Mania later, he called me and asked, ‘Is that me?’ *audience laughs*
Q: Is it hard to keep the story entertaining for male readers?
A: For male readers, if I have a story that is too romantic, than they’ll dismiss it as a romantic comedy. So even though I write about romance, I balance it so that it’s not so serious.
Q: You have a few series like Happy Mania and Sakuran which have characters that can aggravate as much as they can entertain. How can you have a flawed heroine and not have the readers give up on the characters?
A: Actually, I wanted to write Happy Mania and create a character that you would go, ‘What are you doing?!?’ Because it would be interesting to have that kind of character. But than I have her friend who is very together and they create a balance.
Chavez confirmed that the 100 autograph tickets in the morning have been distributed, but he encouraged fans to still show up at the signing in the case the line is opened. There is of course the second signing tomorrow.