Interview with Moyoco Anno
Moyoco Anno is an award-winning manga artist and writer. She has published dozens of renowned titles such as Happy Mania, Sakuran and Sugar Sugar Rune. In recent years, Moyoco Anno has been very active in the international manga community, attending events and publishing her works overseas. This year, she was a guest speaker at the Toronto Comic Arts Festival on May 10th and 11th. J-COLLABO is honored to interview her about Japanese manga culture, her main theme in her works, and more.
– Recently, you have been very active outside of Japan, such as the Toronto Comic Arts Festival this year. Please tell us about your recent activities.
I have regularly published a series titled The Diary of Ochibi in Asahi News, but I changed the location of the piece to a weekly magazine called AERA and publish the one-page manga in full color using watercolors.
– You have such a great taste of colors as we see in your works. Is your sense of color affected by Japanese traditional use of color in some way?
I think that I must be naturally influenced by Japanese traditional sense of art. I have been interested in Kimonos for long time, as well as dressing in them, so I might be influenced by patterns of Kimonos. Also, when I created a manga about the Edo era of Japan, I researched a lot about Ukiyoe, and other published works for general people in Edo era. Those stay present in my mind.
These days I usually stay in Tokyo because of work but I also reside in Kamakura. This traditional neighborhood might also have some influence on my artistic taste. There are many traditional-style housings, so everyone has many plants in their gardens, and they are all so beautiful. They are not like British-style gardens, but traditional Japanese-style gardens. I like those traditional ones, so these might have infuenced my taste.
– Please tell us about your main story theme in your works.
I always make sure to depict something that everyone wonders about in their daily life, no matter which era or situation I’m focusing on. Something that people wonder “why do things always end up this way?” or “why can’t I do like this?” Everyone has many things that they cannot do easily. This might sound exaggerated, but I would like to express a fragment of those things in my work.
– Your works seem to focus often on women. Is there anything you have in your mind as you choose them as a theme?
I think that there are many factors that face women in their daily lives. They want to do great at work, but also they want to enjoy the romance side of their lives. In this situation, women seem like they are very exhausted, so I think that it’s better if they can enjoy this balancing act. If you have some chance to change your way to perceive things, you might be able to change yourself in better way. I would like to depict such things.
– In Japan, manga seems like more than just mere entertainment because they are accepted by society even when they focus on deeper issues. What do you think about this unique Japanese manga culture?
It is wonderful. I think that this is thanks to the older generation, such as Osamu Tezuka, who created the continuing tradition of Japanese unique manga culture. Japanese manga culture is unique in a way that this tradition has empowered the readers, including myself, to be able to read between the lines. Therefore Japan has become the great ground for manga creators to freely express deeper or complicated issues in their works, thanks to very accepting readers who can comprehend these themes.
– What do you think of manga’s unique characteristics compared to other entertainments such as movies, and novels?
One thing that is very clear is that manga doesn’t need production cost. Only with paper and a pen, anyone can create a great imaginary world. In the case of movies, you need to think about locations to shoot and stage costumes, and you realize that your imaginary world is almost impossible to visualize. But manga can do it. You can also imagine things by reading novels, but what I really like about manga is the point that the readers can actually feel sound or atmosphere from what they are given by manga, which bridges words and drawings using a story line. In this sense, manga is a great medium.
– It seems like shōjo manga (manga for girls and women) is unique in Japan. As you popularize manga all over the world, what do you think about shōjo manga’s unique value?
A good shōjo manga is the manga that depicts something in order to help enrich the lives of little girls. Some literatures and novels can do this too, but at least in my case it was shōjo manga that I learned a lot about something beautiful, generous mind and so on. So I hope this kind of good shōjo manga will continue being published more in the future.
– What is manga’s role in the world from now on?
It is to help people think about the feelings of others. It has been said that Japanese culture is a culture to conjecture. When I watch movies from overseas, I often wonder like, “Why are these people not listening to one another?” They seem like they live their lives with their own pace. It is also a good thing in some ways, but I think that it would be better if they listened a little more to what other people say. You don’t need to accept everything, but understand that there are other ways of thinking. If you think that “this person might do such thing because he thinks in this way,” you don’t need to be so upset and break a wine glass. In this sense, manga can teach us something like how unknown people’s minds change through stories. As we read manga, story sometimes reminds us that, “I haven’t liked this type of people, but they might be thinking like this way.” Even if this happens only for a moment, I believe that various things can be changed.
– Do you have any specific topic that you would like to depict in your works for the world?
Basically, I would like my readers to have a good time, so I would like to depict works that let them say, “it was so fun!” as they close the books. This would never change even if my works would be read by overseas readers. I don’t have anything specific in my mind, but while I am currently working on the picture-book-like series The Diary of Ochibi, I am also working on a serialization about a woman working in a Parisian brothel in the 19th century. So I want to let them know that there is a broad range of manga.
– Please give a message to Japanese youth who have grown up with manga.
I think readers of manga should face reality more. In real life, there are many things that don’t go as well as in manga, and many things that appear to be not as fun as in manga. However, it is better to consider manga as a place to take a rest that helps you keep going in your real life. I sometimes see people who mix up the real world and the manga world, so it is important to think of them as separate. I hope that manga will be the best resting place for people’s mind.
A manga artist and writer. Anno debuted in 1989 as a shōjo manga artist. Since that time, Happy Mania of 1995 and Hataraki-man of 2006 have been adapted into Japanese TV drama series. In 2005, Anno’s series Sugar Sugar Rune won the 29th Kōdansha Manga Prize Children’s section. In 2007, Sakuran was adapted into a feature length live action film by the director Mika Ninagawa. Anno was celebrated for her 20th year anniversary as a manga artist in 2009. The Diary of Ochibi was her first series published in the Asahi Newspaper from 2007 to March 2013, and Anno continues its publication in the weekly magazine AERA in full color starting in May this year. Also her latest work, MEMOIRS OF AMOROUS GENTLEMEN, has been published since November 2013. On top of her great works in Japan, Anno also published Insufficient Direction in English and, in April of this year, developed an anime from the series. Anno also published BUFFALO 5 GIRLS, MEMOIRS OF AMOROUS GENTLEMEN, INSUFFICIENT DIRECTION and THE DIARY OF OCHIBI, in an American online streaming website, Crunchyroll.