Friday, March 2, 2012

AN INTERVIEW WITH ASUKA NEKO

So our second victim---er, um, guest is aspiring mangaka, as well as writer, Asuka Neko. You may know her as the mangaka of titles such as Square, Etsu!, Bitter Sweet, the doujinshi The Anti Squee!, as well as many other in-the-works titles. In this interview we talk about her feelings on yaoi, rabid fangirls, and making manga--especially Square. Prepare to enter the whacky mind of Asuka Neko!!

1. State your name, your mission, and whether or not you're a rabid fangirl.

My name is sometimes Asuka, sometimes Blue, and in the real world, it’s Beth. My mission is to become a better artist and to always continue developing my talents and using them for God’s glory. I am not really a rabid fangirl, even for as much as I like to talk about my favorite characters in my blog.

2. Have you actually ever met a rabid fangirl in real life? If so, what was she (or they) like?

Like a yaoi fangirl? I’ve met a few at anime club. Usually, they just sit in the corner and look up weird stuff on deviantART on laptops. A lot of them are really sweet though… if they would stop trying to show me random yaoi, I would probably get along with them better.

3. If anyone else were to meet a rabid fangirl, your advice to them would be...

There have been times when someone has been like, “oh, look at this yaoi, it’s my favorite picture ever!” and I just kind of nod my head and try not to look. My advice would be to be genuine, and to love them even though they may be a little crazy at times.

4. Okay, now let's get serious. What got you hooked to anime and manga?

I’ve been into anime and manga for as long as I can remember. Yep, I was one of those kids who was totally obsessed with Pokémon when I was little! What really got me completely into it was +Anima. It was the first manga I read and still one of my absolute favorites!

5. What do you find attractive about anime as opposed to American cartoons?

I like how beautiful the art can be, and the story lines are my favorite part. A lot of the time, anime story lines are more complicated and interesting than those in American cartoons (even though anime still has its clichés). I’ve also been attracted to anime art style for my whole life; I think it’s gorgeous!

6. If I were to ask you "which came first, the anime or the manga?", you'd say...

Usually, the manga comes first and the anime is based on it. There are some weird exceptions, though. But I would say the manga came first (and in general speaking, manga was invented before anime, I think).

7. Which is better, anime or manga, and why?

I typically like manga better because I can stop and look at art for as long as I want! With anime, you’d have to pause it to do that. It is cool seeing the characters from my favorite mangas in motion, though.

8. Now I remember an interesting fact about you is that you're left-handed. Does this make it easier for you to draw in the authentic manga direction of right-to-left as opposed to right-handers?

With traditional art, it does! I actually have to draw right-to-left to avoid getting my hands covered in lead and smudging my pictures. Now that I do most of my comics digitally, it doesn’t really matter, though.

9. Your "official" web page's link title is the name of one of your old manga, Black Glass. Whatever happened to that?

I tend to start a lot of projects and never finish them. It’s a bad habit of mine! Black Glass had an extremely complicated plot and way too many characters, so I lost track of it easily.

10. Have you ever considered reviving this project?

I have considered it a number of times, but if I was going to revive one of my old projects, it probably wouldn’t be Black Glass. This is mostly because I can’t remember anything about what was happening in it.

11. I recall that Etsu was a minor character in Black Glass. When did you decide to give Etsu her own manga?

Etsu was too much fun! I loved the parts with her, and when I decided not to continue Black Glass, I had to write something with Etsu! I also wanted to put her in the modern world.

12. Speaking of which, how is "Etsu!" moving along? Have you dropped it, or is it just on hiatus?

Etsu! is going more slowly than I would like (mostly because of Square), but I’ve been going back and redoing some of the older pages. I’m planning on revamping the script for it in the future, too. Etsu! is one of the projects I would like to work on more when Square finishes.

13. Your current series, "Square", where in the world did you come up with the idea for it?

Square happened because I wanted to write about boys! All of my other comics had been about girls, even though I really enjoy drawing boys, so I wrote Square.

14. Is there any particular challenge in creating 4-koma strips, compared to regular manga?

The hardest thing is being able to fit everything into four panels! Sometimes I come up with ideas where I feel like if I had five panels, I could fully express what I want to, but I have to limit myself. In other ways, it’s easier, especially in Square, because the strips are all independent of each other.

15. Do you have an intended volume run for "Square", or is it just gonna end when it's gonna end?

I would like to end it after the boys graduate. I’m thinking of doing something really big for their graduation, but with my own at the same time, I’m actually getting started on that now. I will probably do a summer arc, too.

16. Since we're on the subject of manga making, when did you decide you wanted to make your own manga, and why?

Ever since I started reading manga, I always wanted to make my own. I wrote a lot before I drew manga, and I thought it would be awesome to draw

17. Has anyone ever critisized your art harshly?

Yes, a couple times, especially when I was younger and didn’t really know what I was doing. It was especially hard because it was online and they didn’t actually know how old I was at the time. I’ve also had people give me criticism on art that’s really old, but I feel like that just shows me how I’ve improved.

18. Did this ever make you contemplate giving up on art?

No, not really, it just made me give up Gaia Online. Good critique actually helps me to improve my art. I once heard someone say that critique is the highest form of a compliment an artist can get, because it means someone else looked very closely at your art and wants to help you with it. But outright flaming and overly harsh criticism isn’t the same.

19. As a Christian, has your faith ever effected how you view anime and manga? If so, in what way?

Yes, definitely! Even though there are a lot of great things about anime and manga, there are also a lot of nasty ones. I think I’m more careful about what I watch and read than most people, and I don’t tolerate a lot of things that others just go along with.

20. Does your faith effect whether or not you'll view a series, and why?

Between my faith and the fact that I’m terrified of blood and violence, the animes I watch are actually quite limited. If something goes against my faith, I try to stay away from it, even if it’s a really popular series.

21. Have you ever considered creating a Christian manga?

I have! I want to make a manga version of the story of Esther someday. And even though the mangas I’m working on now are mostly humorous and not necessarily Christian, I try to keep my values clearly displayed. There are a lot of things people just accept in mangas, especially independently created ones, that I wouldn’t include in my own.

22. Have you ever seen a "glimpse of God" in anime or manga, and why? For example, something that makes you think of Him or strengthens your faith in some way.

There have been times when I’ve found great Christian mangas, and that definitely strengthens my faith. It’s good to see other people sharing their faith through their art.

23. Many attempts at Christian manga (such as "Serenity") have been known to fail miserably. Why do you think that is?

I think it might be because so many people in the manga community aren’t very receptive to Christian beliefs. I think they have to be more subtle than a lot of artists do, mostly because if you start preaching to someone, it tends to turn them off. Christian mangas tend to have narrower audiences, just because they only appeal to Christians. Also, a lot of attempts at manga fail miserably (I’ve seen it with my own), so it could just be part of that.

24. What do you think would make an excellent Christian manga? What would you like to see, and not to see?

I think an excellent Christian manga would be one with characters that draw me in, good art, and a story line that I find interesting, which happens to be everything I look for in a regular manga. The best part about a great Christian manga is that in addition to all of this… it’s a Christian manga! But, like I said earlier, even I don’t want to read a manga that is just condemning all beliefs that aren’t Christian or that has no real conflict and all of the characters seem fake and perfect. Real Christians struggle, so the characters need to as well, in order to make it relatable.

25. Do because of me, you've become a fan of "Game Plan!" Tell us what you like about it.

I love Game Plan because it has all of the characteristics that I think make a great Christian manga! I love the characters and I can relate to them. I also like that there are characters in it who seriously doubt, because someone who was doubting their faith could relate to them.

26. Have you read any other Christian manga besides GP? If so, what are your thoughts?

I can’t think of any other Christian manga I’ve read besides GP (except some others by the author of Game Plan). There is actually a manga version of the Bible at my library, but I haven’t read it because I don’t like the art style. I have, however, read other mangas by Christian artists, and it really depends on the artist whether I like them or not.

27. Getting back to creating manga, what usually inspires your stories and why?

It’s a mix of real life and dreams, really. I actually pull a lot of information for my stories from my dreams, which is kind of weird, but since I have really vivid dreams, it works. The entire end of For the Sake of Convenience (which I never got to, sadly) came from a dream. Square is mostly inspired by real life, though.

28. As a mangaka, do you feel it is your duty to provide an entertaining series for readers? If so, do you find joy in doing just that?

I do like to entertain my readers, but I don’t think that is the only reason I write my manga. If it was, then I would write shonen-ai, because most people find that more entertaining than weird teenage guys just being kind of strange. I do try to do things that I think my readers will find interesting, though, because if readers aren’t entertained… they don’t read the comic.

29. What do you hope to accomplish by creating manga?

My manga, like most art, is an outward expression of my feelings, and so I hope to share who I am through it. Right now, though, I would just like to get an entire manga finished!

30. You're known to openly dislike yaoi and shounen-ai. Is there any particular reason why?

Well, aside from the obvious (it going against my beliefs), I really dislike the fact that it’s basically taken over the internet. Also, a lot of yaoi fangirls tend to say that they like it because it’s ‘different’, but when every single yaoi manga out there has basically the same plot, I don’t see how. And the main reason I dislike it is because I don’t find it attractive at all.

31. I remember you conducting a survey to get a better understanding of why fangirls either like or dislike yaoi and shounen-ai. You were even planning to make it into a book. How did that project turn out?

Unfortunately, the replies I got didn’t turn out very well. I couldn’t really write anything from it, but I did find it interesting.

32. What made you decide to conduct that survey in the first place?

This was actually an attempt to understand what I don’t about fangirls. I wanted to get some opinions other than my own for it as well.

33. One of your complaints of "yaoi fangirls" is that they tend to attack other fangirls just because they don't ship BoyxBoy pairings. Would you respect them more if they respected the non-yaoi fangirls shipping the pairings that they like?

I probably would, actually. In fact, strangely enough, I don’t really mind the kind of people who just pair up everyone with everyone else, because I just read/look at the pairings I like and ignore the rest. I don’t like when everyone starts arguing about parings, and I try to stay out of the arguments as much as possible, but being so opinionated… it’s kind of hard.

34. As a fellow Tsubasa fan, what is your opinion on the number of KuroxFai stories on FanFiction.Net?

There are a TON. I don’t usually read fanfiction about Tsubasa anymore because of that. It doesn’t help that this is one of my least favorite pairings, so I really don’t like it.

35. By any chance, is the mega-number of yaoi fanfics the reason you created the doujinshi "The Anti-Squee"?

Yes, that and the fanart all over the place is why I created it. Also, I wanted to just have fun while pointing out that some pairings really are ridiculous.

36. Any upcoming plans for "The Anti-Squee", or is it a dead project?

I have wanted to do a new one for some of my favorite video games for a while now. I have done one already, but I’d like to do some more someday. I think if I make another Anti-Squee, I’m going to focus on the pairings that we really have no idea where they came from. Like pairing Kurogane with Fei Wang Reed.

37. Time for the most unoriginal anime/manga question! What's your favorite anime and/or manga, and why?

It’s actually a tough question to answer! I enjoy a lot of CLAMP manga because their characters and their storylines are amazing, but there are some mangas that I will just always love. +Anima is one of those. Even though I read it a long time ago, it’s one of my absolute favorites!

I am going to have to say Tsubasa, though, just because I love it so much and I can finally actually understand it.

38. Before we end this, did you enjoy this interview? Any favorite or difficult questions to answer?

I did enjoy this interview! It was a lot of fun. I guess the questions about the survey I did were hard, because I kind of did it on impulse a while ago, so I actually don’t really know what brought it on.

39. I think we've gone on enough. Any last words?

There is no coincidence, only inevitability.

I’m kidding. Actually, I have nothing interesting to say.