How to Interview Japanese Manga Creators

A Cross-Cultural Primer for Western Pop Culture Journalists

  1. Since I started writing about manga as a journalist 8 years ago, I've had the opportunity to meet a lot of manga creators and editors from Japan. For the most part, it's been a wonderful experience! I've talked with some amazing creators who have shared some terrific stories with me and my readers.
  2. But I've also dealt with my share of interviews that were uhm... excruciatingly difficult. I've learned through trial and error (a lot of errors) that interviewing Japanese comics professionals can be VERY different than interviewing N. American comics creators and editors.
  3. EAST MEETS WEST AND SOMETIMES... IT'S NOT SO EASY
  4. Some of the differences and difficulties are based in cultural reasons. In addition to the obvious Japanese - English language barriers (most Japanese mangaka speak little to no English), there are many differences in expectations between Japanese and American people, as far as what's appropriate to discuss in an interview. And many of these "rules" are unspoken, unknown to you until you break them.
  5. It's nerve-wracking for me, and I'm a Japanese-American adult who grew up around Japanese culture, visits Japan regularly, and can speak and read some Japanese! There's so much that's left unsaid, as far as do's and don'ts, I find it intimidating sometimes. After years of doing this, I always feel like I still have so much to learn.
  6. At the same time, I've been wanting to see more manga coverage in mainstream comics news websites and magazines. If that's going to happen, then more western journalists will be talking with Japanese manga creators and editors, many for the first time.
  7. It's my hope that this guide will provide some helpful info to make this process easier and more enjoyable for everyone: the journalists, the artists and editors from Japan, the convention promoters, the translators, and the publishers / public relations peeps who help coordinate these interviews.
  8. Anyway, what follows is a combination of sharing what I know/what I've learned over the years, and tips/commentary from other writers / translators. I've asked them for their take on what makes interviewing manga artists and editors from Japan different than talking with American comics creators, what kind of questions work and don't work well, the context for cultural mores and tips for navigating Japanese interview etiquette.
  9. Also, I've thrown in a few suggestions and requests to the various publishers, public relations people, and event managers for ways to perhaps smooth out what can sometimes be an awkward process of promoting manga in America.
  10. Thanks much to manga interviewing pros:
  11. • Brigid Alverson (Comic Book Resources/Robot 6)
  12. • Christopher Butcher (Toronto Comic Arts Festival).
  13. Also many thanks to translators:
  14. Jocelyne Allen (Wolf Children Ame and Yuki, NonNonBa)
  15. Zack Davisson (Showa: A History of Japan, Opus)
  16. • Phil Knall (Steves)
  17. for their comments, ideas, and suggestions.
  18. Also, thanks go out to to manga creator Junko Mizuno for her take on what it's like to be on the interviewee side of the table.
  19. UPDATE (August 11, 2015):
  20. Thanks also to:
  21. Joe Curzon from UK anime/manga news site Otaku News
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