At this year’s Anime Fest (over Labor Day weekend, 2015), I had the privilege of interviewing Japanese manga creator Arina Tanemura. Tanemura is a well known creator in America, with nearly all of her titles published in English through Viz Media. (I’ve reviewed a few of them on ComicAttack.) This is her second visit to Anime Fest. Last time I was unable to interview her, as many of the Japanese guests that year were hesitant to speak to media members. This year, however, Tanemura’s interviews were scheduled ahead of time. Usually I post the audio of my interviews, but for privacy reasons I have transcribed the interview into text. Where I was able, I attempted to include parts of Tanemura’s personality into the text. It’s my first time interviewing someone from Japan, and I was a bit nervous, so I failed to ask some appropriate followups here and there, but I hope you enjoy the interview anyway. Many thanks to the translator, Jonathan, for facilitating an easy interview.
If you’d like to explore Tanemura’s work, Viz Media offers many free first chapter previews of manga on Vizmanga.com. Her newest series, Idol Dream, will be released by Viz Media this November.
ComicAttak: This is your second time at Anime Fest, but you’ve been to America many times. What’s been your favorite thing about visiting?
Arina Tanemura: It’s a difficult question to answer. [pauses] I think just being here is kind of neat, looking at the different scenery. But really just being here in America is a fun experience.
CA: What is your favorite thing about attending American conventions and meeting your American fans?
AT: Gosh, I really enjoy that actually, it’s very fun. Because I normally don’t get a chance to meet a lot of my fans.
CA: Do you attend a lot of fan events in Japan?
AT: Yeah, actually. In Japan we have a lot of different signing events. And recently I’ve been holding my own kind of talk events, too.
CA: Is there a favorite place/location you’ve gotten to travel to as research for one of your series?
AT: When I was making Gentleman’s Alliance [Cross], I ended up going to Germany. And I liked a lot of the buildings and the architecture there. So I took lots and lots of pictures and reference for that. That would probably be the best example.
CA: Would you say that you enjoy being able to travel and take photographs (outside of research)?
AT: Yeah, actually, I do. I like going out and taking a lot of photography of anywhere I go, really.
CA: What parts of yourself do you put into your characters?
AT: So, yes, actually I do. But it tends to be more of the male characters that I put my personality into. Maybe the part where they seduce the heroine. [laughs]
CA: Your most recent title is 31 Ai Dream. It was recently licensed here (as Idol Dreams) and will come out in November; could you tell your American fans what to expect?
AT: It’s a shojo, or young girl transformation story. However, the twist is it’s not the story of a young girl growing up. It’s the opposite. It’s a 31-year-old that transforms back into the age of a 15-year-old; it’s her story.
CA: She becomes a model, right?
AT: Yes, she does, she becomes a model when she goes back to 15.
CA: How does this differ from Full Moon, where a young girl makes a contract to become an idol singer? Are there similar elements to the magical fantasy?
AT: Actually, no, there’s really very limited fantasy in this work at all. Really it’s just the transformation part.
CA: Do you prefer the magical girl stories, or is it nice to write something different?
AT: Probably a little bit different. I really like the magical girl, but this time it’s more of an adult love story.
CA: Some of your characters are reinterpretations of historical and fictional heroines (like Joan of Arc (Kamikaze Kaitō Jeanne) and Princess Kaguya (Sakura Hime Kaden)). Are there any others you would like to explore or insert into your stories?
AT: At this point, I don’t really have any immediate plans to include any historical references like that.
CA: Do you like studying history and researching?
AT: Yeah, I guess you could say that.
CA: You sang a song for the Full Moon anime CD. Have you done anything else like that? Do you enjoy singing?
AT: As far as work goes, that was the only song that I’ve sung. But actually it’s kind of my own personal hobby. I did release a CD of multiple tracks where I was singing.
[She seemed embarrassed/nervous to answer this, so I assured her I wasn’t going to ask her to sing.]
CA: When you design clothes for your characters, do you pay attention to what’s in fashion/style (period or present day)?
AT: I don’t really try to line it up with the period so much. But I do think, ‘this is clothing that I would like to wear.’ So I kind of just draw what I want.
CA: In a previous interview, you stated an interest in drawing a figure skating manga. Is that something you’re still interested in?
AT: I did say that, and yes, someday I would like to, but still there’s really no concrete plans. [laughs] There’s no offer from the editors yet.
CA: For readers not familiar with your work, what would you tell them to encourage interest? (Or, how would she describe her style to potential readers.)
AT: Hmm. If you like laughs, or you like tears. [laughs]
CA: When you are working on a manga, is there any particular music you might play, or something you like to have on television? What inspires you and helps you focus?
AT: I do always kind of have something going on. There’s a type of programming in Japan called variety TV, and I like to keep that on. You may not know this, but there’s a particular show called Game Center CX. I’ve also been watching the drama 24.
CA: The variety shows would be background noise?
AT: I don’t actually focus and watch it, but I do hear it and listen as I’m working.
CA: Did she mean the American 24? Do you like American crime shows?
AT: No, I think I’m probably just stuck on 24 for some reason. It was broadcast in Japan. It’s very popular.
CA: What differences have you noticed between your Japanese and American fans? (Do they favor different characters, prefer different series, etc.)
AT: If I had to say…. I’ve noticed that Full Moon tends to be very popular here. In Japan, Phantom Thief Jeanne is more popular. But in Germany, Gentleman’s Alliance, and in Taiwan maybe Full Moon is more popular.
CA: Do you still have and post about your cats?
AT: Yes, I still have cats, and I still post about them. Two American short hair cats.
Thank you Anime Fest for letting me interview Tanemura, and thank you Tanemura for talking with me!