Comic

Interview with Ogawa Burukku creator of Fallen by Gabe Canada

 

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Ogawa Burukku is a professional artist and comics creator who has had her skills honed and polishing living and working as an artist for ten years in Japan. She currently lives in Matsuyama where she publishes her own webcomic as well as working on manga and comic translations. She also worked as a manga assistant to artists such as Ishizuka Shinichi while studying at the Nippon Designer Gakuin. In a feat that seems more appropriate of one of the magical girls from her own comic Fallen, she was also managing her role in a Heavy Metal Band and juggling other jobs. It is no surprise then that I could not resist the temptation to ask for time management tips from the talented manga artist and creator when she agreed to an interview. Ogawa was kind enough to give us her timer via email where we discussed the growth in popularity of Magical Girl series, her experiences as a manga assistant, and the importance of healthy body diversity in manga and comics.

Gabe: Fallen is your unique take on the magical girls genre. Did you imagine being a sailor scout as a kid? This question may possibly be coming from someone who owned a toy version of Usagi/Serena's wand as a boy. ( I may also have destroyed all photographic evidence of this, you can not prove anything!)

I was actually about the same age as the sailor scouts when I first saw the DiC dub, so I was a little old to play pretend by then. I do remember playing a really dumb variant of the game H.O.R.S.E with a friend where we would shoot the basketball by mimicking attacks by the girls. Simultaneously humiliating and crazy fun. But I did idolize Sailor Jupiter specifically because she was my age, had my hair color, and was a bit of a tomboy like I was. She, however, embraced her femininity just as much as her tough side, which was an aspect of her that I really admired and wished I could do. I also really liked the color green, which is why Arma (main character of FaLLEN) has green for her Guardian color.

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Gabe: You have been to conventions in the U.S. Over the past year and have mentioned the success of Madoka Magica as spurring growth in magical girl Manga and anime in Japan. Have you seen a similar trend with Steven Universe, Zodiac Starforce and more magical girl properties appearing in the west as well?

While I don’t think MadoMagi has had a direct impact on magical girls appearing in the US, I think the fact that people who watched Sailor Moon and Card Captor Sakura as kids are now adults and impacting the animation and comic scene. There have been a lot of successful titles with female creators in the past few years (My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, Frozen, Steven Universe, and half of the team behind Zodiac Starforce) that has pushed studios to take notice. Steven Universe was the first series for Cartoon Network created by a woman, in fact, and I don’t think they expected Steven Universe to be the success it’s become. Anime has been creeping its influence into US series for a while now (Avatar, for example) and I think even Korean animation is leaving its mark. I think comics and animation in the US are finally giving women creators a shot and a lot of these titles have themes of girl power that you do see in magical girls series from the nineties. It took a while, but women creators are finally getting their chance to prove themselves!

Gabe: A two part question here. Have you ever considered doing a biographical comic because your life sounds like a Manga? You were balancing school, being a Manga assistant and being in a Heavy Metal band all at the same time. What tips can you give to aspiring artists out there in terms of time management?

Ha! I hear that a lot, actually. I remember an editor once told me he thought my comic I had brought him was boring, but thought my life was very interesting. I have considered a few ideas that would draw heavily from my experiences, but I had always thought I should change the heroine to someone different from myself. What I would rather do, actually, is write an autobiography on my experiences in Japan and just leave any fictional aspects out of it. I think people would be a little shocked to hear some of the things I went through, though. Maybe I should wait until my parents die so that I don’t shame them into hiding…

As for time management, this is something I really struggle with. My best advice is for people to know their limits. If you are slow at drawing, don’t give your webcomic a M-W-F update schedule. Have a buffer. Get used to having eye bags, bad skin, and energy drinks on hand. I don’t know a lot of artists, be it comic or animation artists, who get a lot of sleep. Those who do sacrifice a social life by spending every waking hour on their work. If you like job security and the 9-5 schedule you get at an office building, this is not the career for you. Deadlines are a harsh reality and they can be even harder if they are self-imposed, as they are in my case.

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Gabe: There are a variety of body types in Fallen. How important was it for you to showcase characters that were atypical of the mold of most magical girls series? Ultimately do you feel this makes your characters more relatable?

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A4. Let me put it this way; it was so important for me that Arma have darker skin, a flat chest, muscular physique, and a more masculine design that I was forced to publish my story independently because very few publishers wanted to deal with such a different female lead. Some told me she should be prettier, have a bigger chest, be blonde, whatever. I wasn’t going to have any of it. While I do keep my girls mostly physically fit, since I think realistically if you were bouncing around fighting monsters you’d have to be in pretty good shape, I have a variety of ages and not everyone has the same cup size. I think it’s more relatable to readers to have characters with flaws to their personality, who maybe aren’t Hollywood’s ideal of beauty. As a kid, I remember most shows featured blonde heroines with perfect bodies and faces with pretty clothes and simple personalities, and I had trouble looking up to them because I felt too different from them. I have never owned a Barbie doll for that reason. I know as a kid I would have loved to get my hands on an Arma doll with grip-action sword slashing! Not that my comic is for kids… but people who felt the same way I did as kids have told me they really enjoyed reading my comic for that reason. I’ve been really blessed to find so many readers, especially male readers, who tell me they can relate to Arma and even find her attractive despite not looking as feminine as some of the other characters. I’ve had a few girls tell me they have a crush on Arma, too! I just think that is too amazing for words. Really makes me happy I followed my convictions instead of giving in to any demands made by big time publishers. Though, a big time paycheck would be nice sometimes, haha.

Gabe: Can you describe your experience as a Manga assistant? And how you felt seeing a Manga you worked on in print for the first time?

Being a manga assistant on and off for a few years was pretty interesting. I worked for guys who were just starting off in the biz themselves and sometimes they weren’t totally sure how to do their jobs, which made it challenging for me as well. The first guy especially had trouble drawing out certain scenes and sometimes he would have me look up pages in manga published by bigger artists for reference artwork! I would definitely say, though, that working as an assistant was better training than the two years I spent at a manga school. As for the print question, I remember it wasn’t so much seeing pages I had worked on in print that were surreal, but seeing mistakes I had made in print form made my stomach churn. One time I had been sleep deprived for a few days when the mangaka turned to me and asked if his English was right in one panel that featured a non-Japanese character. I corrected it, and then realized a week later I had told him something really stupidly wrong, but by then it had already gone to print. I felt so bad about that. Another time I was tired, I drew a line really thick on a girl’s hand. The mangaka was so mad at me, but it still made it to print because the deadline was only hours away, and whenever I see it I feel really embarrassed. Other stuff I don’t really notice, but mistakes stand out really badly to me, even if nobody else catches them.

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The Texan in Tokyo by Gabe Canada

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Grace Mineta is the author of the Texan in Tokyo blog. Along with her popular YouTube videos chronicling her life with her husband Ryosuke in Japan she has published a volume of autobiographical comics that build upon them, available on the website My Japanese Husband Thinks I’m Crazy. Grace was kind enough to give me some of her time for the UKAnifest Blog and Blogcritics.org via email while she is working on finalizing her second volume of comics, My Japanese Husband Still thinks I’m crazy.

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The Interview...

What is your background as a cartoonist, when did you start chronicling your life in Tokyo and why did you choose an autobiographical comic as a means to tell your story?

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It's a funny story, really. I never set out to be a cartoonist. I had been writing a semi-popular "all about Japan" blog for about a year and a half when I got married. My husband and I were both in a transition period, so we decided to go on a month-long honeymoon through America and South America before our new jobs started in Tokyo. I didn't have time to write posts anymore, so I started drawing comics about our adventures on our honeymoon, taking a picture of the comic on my tablet, and uploading them onto my blog.

The comics ended up being wildly popular. And I realized I liked drawing our life much more than I liked writing about it.

The rest just sort of happened... After about six months of drawing comics about our life in Japan, someone suggested trying to publish a book. I'm horrible at handling rejection, so I decided to self-publish.

I launched a Kickstarter (crowd-funding campaign) to fund the book in August of 2014. When I hit "publish" on the campaign, the book was less than 20% completed, I hadn't finished the cover illustration, and I didn't even know how many pages the book would have. That's the beauty of crowd-funding, though. People give money to help support your dream project as you complete it (rather than just after). The book ended up being 220% funded ($14,000) in a month.

I guess I just figured I needed to start the book 'now,' or I would keep putting it off for the next couple months, waiting until everything was "perfect."

Many people dream of going to Japan to get involved in the anime or Manga industry. Now being a published comic artist and writer based in Tokyo can you see that as a potential future for yourself as well? 

Honestly, I have no idea. My style is very childish, like a cross between an American webcomic and a Japanese Manga book. Even though my books sell pretty well, I don't think my style is "beautiful" enough to ever break into the Japanese Manga industry. That's ok, though. My dream is to get the books translated into Japanese (something my husband works on a bit every night) and wiggle my way into the Japanese market.

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Your books and blog chronicle in a humorous way cultural misconceptions that Americans and Japanese people share about each other's countries. Do you encounter any specific stereotypes about being from Texas in particular? I'm imagining the popular belief in Japan that Americans eat red meat with every meal.(Well Texans actually do that right? Brisket for breakfast? As a Midwesterner my Dallas grandpa and grandma taught me it was a land of Bacon and untold carnivorous delight. ) 

Good question. Stereotypes are... interesting, I guess. The most popular stereotypes I've encountered about Texas revolve around cowboys, meat, and guns. A lot of my husband's coworkers imagine we eat steaks for dinner every night.
Can you give readers an idea what original drawings they will encounter in the eBook that can't be found on the blog?

The eBook is just like the blog... only more. Right now I draw 1-3 comics a day (usually 10 - 15 comics per week). I am only really able to publish comics 5 days a week on my blog, leaving a surplus of 5-10 comics every week.

Those surplus comics make up about half of the book. I love my readers. Of course I wanted to keep giving away comics for free on my blog... but I also wanted to give people an option to pay a bit of money to get "more."


I've seen on a number of English language illustrator and bloggers FAQ pages and now on yours that you get emails from people asking you if you can give them a job in Japan. I assume by virtue of being on a frequently asked page that this happened a lot?

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It really does. I get some of the oddest emails from people. Most of them (I assume) aren't actually regular readers - they just find my blog by typing "how to get a job in Japan" or "foreigner working in Japan" and then send the exact same emails to as many bloggers as they can find, hoping at least one person replies.

I used to reply to every single email I got... but these days, I get about 5-10 emails/messages a day. It's not feasible anymore. Not being able to actually engage and reply to my readers is one of the hardest things about "making it big."


Is it true your husband's only complaint about the comics so far is that he wants you to draw him more muscular?

He (jokingly) complains about it all the time! You can't tell from the comics, but he's a little over 6ft tall and is incredibly muscular. He can do sit-ups with me sitting on his back, 50+ chin-ups in a row, and all sorts of other crazy things. When people meet him in real life (after reading my blog), they're always surprised by how tall and ripped he is.

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Belle: The Art of Junko Mizuno (London Exhibition) by Aisha Anime

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Atomica Gallery, in association with Comica Festival, present Belle: The Art of Junko Mizuno, a retrospective solo exhibition from celebrated Japanese artist Junko Mizuno. Bringing together a collection of original paintings, rare limited edition prints, iconic silk-screen gig posters and other works from throughout her career, Belle is the first ever showing of Mizuno’s work in London and a rare opportunity for British audiences to view and purchase work from the cult artist.

Born in Japan and currently residing in San Francisco, USA, Mizuno is a self-taught artist who is recognized for her unique style erotic female and food imagery. Juxtaposing childlike cuteness and horror,  in remales of Cindella, Hansel & Gretal...

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An accomplished manga graphic novelist, Mizuno has published numerous books. She has created artwork for bands such as The Melvins, Faith No More and Mudhoney, designed vinyl figures for Kidrobot and animated the titles for Jonathan Ross’s BBC TV series Japanorama. She has previously exhibited in cities worldwide including Los Angeles, New York, Toronto, Tokyo, Paris, Milan, Barcelona, Berlin and Rome.

There were also some if her originals, prints and other items at the gallery for sale - of which three Jonathan Ross snapped up!

Atomica Gallery, 29 Shorts Gardens, was the prefect venue to house all Junko's beautiful pieces. Now Atomica Gallery has moved to Soho -


7 Greens Court
Soho, London, W1F 0HQ

Follow there website for more exhibitions there: http://www.atomicagallery.com

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