Name: Nao Yazawa
Occupation: Manga artist/teacher
Likes: British mysteries, sci-fi and comedy, including “Monty Python,” Rowan Atkinson’s “Blackadder,” “Hitchhikers’ Guide to the Galaxy”
Dislikes: Rude people
1. What’s the most notable manga that you’ve produced? The ’90s shōjo (girls’) manga series “Wedding Peach,” which was made into an anime. The series is published in Germany, the United States, Italy, Taiwan and Hong Kong.
2. How did you get into teaching manga to non-Japanese? I was invited to a couple of workshops abroad and, as not many manga artists speak English, one thing led to another and now teaching has become one of my main jobs.
3. What do you teach in your private English manga lessons? I teach everything: composition, storyboards, basic drawing techniques, panel layout, etc. Basically, anything that the student wishes to focus on.
4. Who are your students? Mainly tourists who want to get a taste of drawing manga, but some are serious about making a career as a manga artist.
5. Do you think non-Japanese have a chance of making it big as manga artists here? It’s very tough. I know some non-Japanese aspiring to become manga artists and who study at technical schools, but obviously language is a huge hurdle for them.
6. Can you name a successful foreign artist? Swedish artist Asa Ekstrom. She made it big by drawing manga about culture shock and the delight of being in Japan as a foreign artist.
7. How did you learn to speak English so well? Like most Japanese, my basic English skills come from studying for university entrance exams. I think my English was at its best back then.
8. Haven’t you had any extra English lessons? I have. When a German publishing house invited me to an animation event there, I signed up for English conversation lessons and also took a six-month correspondence course. I was desperate. I never imagined I’d need English as a manga artist.
9. Did you try to promote your manga abroad? Not really. When I bought my first PC around the year 2000, I tried creating my own website and uploaded some of my drawings with short romaji captions. Then I started getting emails from fans and publishers abroad. I realized there was quite a bit of foreign interest.
10. Which Japanese manga would you recommend to a foreign beginner of manga? Why? Osamu Tezuka’s “Black Jack.” The panel layout is easy to comprehend and the quality of the story is excellent. The one-off episodes should be easy to read, as are most of Tezuka-sensei’s works. And, simply, because it’s my personal favorite.
11. What would you have been if you weren’t a manga artist? I would probably have gotten a job that allowed for plenty of holidays and drawn manga as an amateur artist.
12. Nao Yazawa is your pen name. Where did it come from? And why do you have a cat as your Twitter icon? I wanted a unisex name, so I did away with the character ko and took the character tani from my hometown Kojiya. The cat icon is taken from a four-panel manga I did about my adorable cat, Moco, who lived until the age of 17.
13. Any upcoming manga ideas? Yes, I have a few, one of which is a sequel to my series titled “The Isolated Zone: Shinku Chitai.”
14. What do you like about teaching manga to foreign students? I enjoy the unexpected discoveries, the eureka moments created by what the students say and do.
15. Which do you enjoy more: teaching manga or drawing it? I enjoy both but drawing, especially creating characters, brings me more joy.
16. Manga artists have the image of being homebodies. Are you? Definitely, but I do also enjoy traveling. I just need a good reason to set off, like going to see friends.
17. What’s your favorite book, movie or music? There are so many. Book? “R is for Rocket” by Ray Bradbury. Movie? Roman Polanski’s “MacBeth,” Andrei Tarkovsky’s “Solaris.” Music? Everything by the Japanese band Tama.
18. In one word, what’s the appeal of Japanese manga? Its dynamism.
19. What gets you on cloud nine? When I succeed in drawing a facial expression in the exact way that I wanted to.
2o. Where would you recommend a foreign tourist to go? If you’re into anime, I would recommend the biannual comic market — especially the one in summer, but beware of heatstroke.
For more information, visit Nao Yazawa’s Facebook page or follow her on Twitter at twitter.com/naoyazawa.
IN FIVE EASY PIECES WITH TAKE 5