Report from Anime Expo: An exclusive interview with Naoshi Arakawa

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Interview by Misaki C. Kido

Naoshi Arakawa was the Guest of Honor at Anime Expo 2016 in Los Angeles. And while Arakawa’s best known work Your Lie in April has gained recognition from the popularity of his manga and its anime adaptation, there’s not much public information about the man himself. But during a rare Stateside appearance, Arakawa spoke candidly about himself in front of a large audience there for his highlight panel, hosted by Kodansha Comics.


Your Lie in April volumes 1-9 are available in print and digital editions from Kodansha Comics.

Kodansha Comics (KC): How did you come up with the story of Your Lie in April?
Naoshi Arakawa (NA): It was actually one of the scrapped story ideas I had after debuting as a mangaka. When I got a spot in a monthly magazine to start my own series, I brought up one of my old ideas. I think I just saw a girl a playing violin on TV or something. I thought it was cool, so I wanted to do that. Originally, I was going to make it a story about a boy and a girl violinist. But it’s hard to keep drawing scenes with two violinists. So I decided to make the girl a violinist and the boy a pianist.

KC: Why did you pick the subject of classical music for your manga?
NA: At the time there was already a really popular rock manga called BECK. So no one dared make a manga about music that went head-to-head against that manga. There was also a manga about classical music called Nodame Cantabile. But it was focused on the orchestra and not so much on playing a single instrument, like violin. So if I were to draw a manga about music, I definitely wanted to focus on the violin. I wanted to make sure my own music manga didn’t seem second string.

KC: Did you play any instruments when you were growing up?
NA: Actually no, I didn’t play any instruments.

KC: What? Then how can you draw scenes like this one?
NA: People often ask me that and are surprised to know I’ve never played an instrument myself. But I did other things like kendo when I was growing up. So I’m familiar with the tension in the air at competitions. I drew these scenes based on those experiences. My editor was the one with the experience of playing music, actually, particularly violin. So I often asked any questions about classical music to him. I also went and did research myself.

KC: Beside the music, romance is another big theme in Your Lie in April. Why is that?
NA: When I first became a mangaka, I worked with a storywriter to make a slice-of-life manga about teenagers. My next manga was about soccer, but it was also in a slice-of-life style. When I got a chance to make my own series, the editors told me to do the same thing, but I’d already started to get bored of that, since I’d drawn so many of those in a row. So I started to think, “What if I did a shonen manga with some romance, like in a shojo manga?” Eventually, though, I even got bored of that, so I decided to make the musical performance scenes more like in a shonen manga, so I could blow off some steam.

KC: Why did you decide to become a mangaka?
NA: I think I wanted to be a storyteller. I have an older brother who was into reading Shonen Jump and Shonen Magazine. So I remember being surrounded by manga all the time. I also joined a manga club in college because my friends wanted to. But I never told anyone I wanted to become a mangaka. I grew up in the countryside where people are bit conservative. So if I told anyone I want to be a mangaka, they’d definitely look at me funny or tell me to “get a decent job with the government.” I was a rare breed. I was super-shy, so I didn’t want to get involved with people and just wanted to get into making stories. Only later I found out you need a certain level of communication skills and to involve yourself with other people to make manga.

KC: Do you have any hobbies?
NA: Hobbies? Hm … I collect figurines, like Iron Man. I actually like three-dimensional objects more than just pictures. I like statues over poseable figurines. I don’t know if you would call it a hobby, but I definitely have a collector tendency.

KC: What’s your zodiac sign?
NA: I’m an Aquarius.

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New chapters of Farewell, My Dear Cramer is available from comiXology and Kindle.

KC: After you’ve completed Your Lie in April, you’ve started to a new manga, Farewell, My Dear Cramer. Could you tell me a little bit about your work?
NA: Personally, I’ve been calling it “a manga that supports women’s soccer.” The world of women’s soccer is pretty rough, because they don’t get much funding. Even the American team, which is the best team in the world, they’re treated so differently compared to the men’s team. So there’s a talk about them boycotting from the Olympics. Japanese team seems to be the same way. Most of them are in business group team, so all the players have to work regular hours, then go to practice. I just wish that by making this manga, there will be more awareness about women’s soccer.

KC: The characters in this manga is not really typical girly-girls.
NA: I’m not interested in drawing girls who are just cute or “moe.” I want to draw girls who are cool and awesome. Of course later down the line, I would like to introduce more unique characters. But for most of the part, I want to focus on the three main characters. It’s a story about them working together. One of them was actually a lead character from my old work, Sayonara Football. So if you read Sayonara Football first, you’ll understand Farewell, My Dear Cramer even more deeply.

KC: Could you show us your work process?
NA: Here’s a rough sketch storyboard. We call it the “name” stage.

NA: And here’s the same page after linework. I do most of inking with G-pen. All the human characters are hand-drawn by me. After this stage, the assistant draws in the backgrounds and effects like speedlines.
 

NA: This is the same page, but fully inked. Sometimes I do this process myself, but I like to leave it up to the assistant. After it’s fully inked by hands, I scan it and make minor adjustment on the computer.

KC: Could we watch you actually draw?

KC: Thank you!

Here's a highlight video of Kodansha Comics at Anime Expo 2016:

Click here for more recaps of Kodansha Comics' announcements from Anime Expo 2016.


 

Kodansha Resurrection: out-of-print series now back—in digital (updated 8/2)

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Updated on 8/2: … and to our digital "resurrections" we've just added the first two volumes of Ryotaro Iwanaga's military alt-history saga Pumpkin Scissors and Volume 1 of Suzuhito Yasuda's monster-bash cult-fave Yozakura Quartet!

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Originally posted July 27:

They're back. Once upon a time, many legendary manga series in English went into limbo when their publishers ceased operations. Some of those—if they were published by Kodansha in Japan—continued to be released by yours truly, but several went out-of-print and/or were never completed.

Well, they're back now—in digital—and we're looking to finish them. Keep your eyes peeled for much more to come, but to kick off our Resurrection the first two volumes of each of these series go on sale today at all of our digital retail partners (comiXology, iBooks, Kindle, Kobo, and nook):

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• alien-invasion thriller ALIVEperhaps now best known as the breakthrough work of Noragami: Stray God mangaka Adachitoka
• absolute shojo cult-fave Nodame Cantabile, by Tomoko Ninomiya, about the ongoing relationship between two very different classical musicians
• monster-killer-comedy-turned-late-night-anime-classic Princess Resurrectionby Yasunori Mitsunaga
• Jin Kobayashi's epic of high-school hijinx, School Rumble

On top of that, enjoy these two back-in-print classics from Tsutomu Nihei that we've also just recently added to our digital lineup:

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The "Resurrection" promises to be one of the most ambitious ongoing projects by our digital publishing team. Look for new volumes to come out every week—and more announcements in the weeks and months to come.

Comic-Con reveals: BLAME! trailer world premiere, Attack on Titan Anthology cover, Ghost in the Shell deluxe

Whew! Here's what from Kodansha Comics made its way into the world for the first time at San Diego Comic-Con this past weekend!

BLAME! anime trailer WORLD PREMIERE

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Tsutomu Nihei drawing a sketch for a fan at the comiXology booth at San Diego Comic-Con.

Tsutomu Nihei, creator of science-fiction megamanga Knights of SidoniaBLAME!, and NOiSE, made a big splash in San Diego, greeting his fans and executing signings all around the con.

At his spotlight Vertical Comics panel, he announced the forthcoming BLAME! anime film, coming in 2017 as a Netflix Original. For the press release of the announcement of the anime, click hereThen he kicked off the world premiere of the trailer for the animated feature. You can see it right here:

Big thanks to our SDCC partners at Vertical Comics, 1000toys, BAIT, Bluefin, and comiXology!

Attack on Titan Anthology cover revealed!

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Paul Pope's transformative cover to the Attack on Titan Anthology—first seen at SDCC.

Meanwhile, at the Kodansha Comics panel on Saturday, more details around the hotly anticipated Attack on Titan Anthology were divulged, including insights to its creation and the revelation of variant covers for exclusive editions available from Diamond, Books-A-Million!, Barnes & Noble, and at New York Comic Con. But maybe the biggest news was the world premiere of the official cover by none other than transformative comics savant Paul Pope (@PULPH0PE).

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Left: Paolo Rivera's Books-A-Million! exclusive variant cover art. Right: Some wild pages from the Attack on Titan Anthology story by SDCC panelist Ronald Wimberly.

Announcing: The Ghost in the Shell deluxe edition

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• Deluxe re-release of the original The Ghost in the Shell series: volumes 1, 1.5, and 2. 
• Definitive edition under supervision of creator Shirow Masamune
• In time for the major film adaptation from Paramount Pictures!
• In the original right-to-left Japanese reading format with unaltered Japanese sound effects for the first time
• Coming 2017

The Akira 35th Anniversary Box Set

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• A deluxe box set of Akira volumes 1-6, plus the Akira Club art book, in large hardcover format
• With the art uncut and unaltered, in the original right-to-left reading format with the original Japanese sound effects
• MSRP $199.99
• Coming 2017

Tsutomu Nihei’s classic NOiSE is BACK in digital—read Chapter 1 here

Originally published by Tokyopop, then long out of print, Tsutomu Nihei's (Knights of Sidonia) dark cyberpunk prequel to BLAME! is now back—in digital. (Available now from Kindle, comiXology, iBooks, nook, and Kobo.)

Read the complete Chapter 1 of NOiSE here.

We also recently announced at Anime Expo other long out-of-print Kodansha licenses "resurrected" in digital—with more to come.

And be sure to catch Nihei-sensei's rare Stateside appearance at San Diego Comic Con 2016. Or if you can't make it to SDCC … stay tuned to this channel for a major announcement from manga's preeminent science-fiction master.

Here's a special video message from Nihei-sensei about his anticipation to visit SDCC2016. 

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About Tsutomu Nihei

Born in 1971 in Japan's Fukushima Prefecture, Tsutomu Nihei has been drawing comics professionally since the mid 1990s. In 1995 he was awarded the Jiro Taniguchi Special Prize in that year's Afternoon Magazine Four Seasons Awards for his submission called Blame. After working as an assistant to veteran comic artist Tsutomu Takahashi, Nihei went on to launch his debut series Blame! in Afternoon Magazine in 1998. Following the success of Blame! he next penned BioMega (Viz Media) and Wolverine SNIKT (Marvel). In 2009 Nihei returned to Afternoonto launch his latest series, Knights of Sidonia. In 2015 he won the Kodansha Manga Award in the General Comics category for his work on Knights of Sidonia.

Q: What’s happening at San Diego Comic-Con? (A: Tsutomu Nihei and lots more)

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Going to San Diego Comic-Con this year? We are too!

Be sure to catch Vertical Comics and Kodansha Comics' special guest artist at San Diego this year: Tsutomu Nihei, creator of science-fiction megahits Knights of SidoniaBLAME!, and NOiSE.  Here’s a schedule of Nihei-sensei's-related panels and signing sessions at SDCC:

Tsutomu Nihei Panel
Saturday, July 23
3-4
Room 4
Rare chance to see 'n' hear Tsutomu Nihei live in person. Plus—a major new anime project reveal

Tsutomu Nihei signing sessions

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Thursday, July 21
1-2
comiXology — booth 2547
Get your hands on the exclusive Nihei comiXology creator trading card

Thursday, July 21
3-4
BAIT
920 Fifth Avenue, San Diego (@Broadway)
This location is a ~15-minute walk from the convention center.

Saturday, July 23
5:30-6:30
Room AA20

The Tsutom Nihei Quest

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July 21-23 (Thursday through Saturday)
convention hours until around 5 p.m.
check in at Vertical Comics — booth 1631
For the first 3 days of SDCC, we’ll be hosting a scavenger hunt-style quest in and around the convention center, with texts and announcements direct from Nihei-sensei. Quest completers will get a free SDCC-exclusive Nihei-designed T-shirt while supplies last.

Plus don't miss:

Kodansha Comics/Attack on Titan Anthology Panel

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Saturday, July 23
11:30-12:30
Room 8
Meet Brenden Fletcher
(Batgirl, Gotham Academy, Motor Crush), Ronald Wimberly (Prince of Cats), Kate Leth (Kate or Die!, Vampirella), Jeremy Lambert (Haven: Origins), and Jody Houser (Orphan Black), the talent behind the Attack on Titan Anthology, the ambitious collaboration between the biggest manga hit of the decade and an all-star roster of comics creators, including Scott Snyder, Gail Simone, Phil Jimenez, Michael Avon Oeming, Faith Erin Hicks, and others. New art from the anthology will be revealed, along with a look at new comics from one of America's biggest manga publishers. Plus lots of free books and exclusive promo items.

Vertical Comics — booth 1631
July 20-24 (Wednesday through Sunday)
during convention hours
Come visit us at the Vertical Comics booth, where we'll have special giveaways, including free comiXology download codes for the not-yet-on-sale BLAME! Volume 1. The print edition of this Master Edition re-release of Nihei's manga classic will also be on sale at the booth, months before it hits stores. An SDCC exclusive signing board (shikishi) comes free with purchase.

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Anime Expo Recap: our announcements live from Los Angeles!

July 3 Update: Click here for the announcement on the Attack on Titan Season 2 anime!

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Here’s our running recap of what Kodansha Comics is announcing throughout the July 4th holiday weekend from Anime Expo 2016 in Los Angeles!

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At Friday's Attack on Titan Anthology Panel, we not only met some of the creative minds behind this unprecedented collaboration between Attack on Titan creator Hajime Isayama and an all-star list of the best Western comics artists and writers, we revealed never-before-seen art from the book and gave away exclusive trading cards and other goodies.

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We also announced the forthcoming release of Attack on Titan Adventurea unique Attack on Titan interactive novel in the tradition of "Choose Your Own Adventure." You'll work your way through branching storylines, puzzles, and more! Coming February 2017!

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At Saturday's Kodansha Comics panel, we announced Fire Force, the new manga about fighters against spontaneous combustion by Soul Eater creator Atsushi Okubo. Coming November 2016. 

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We then announced Ichi F, the landmark nonfiction manga memoir of worker in the Fukushima nuclear power plant that melted down in the wake of the March 2011 tsunami disaster. We'll be publishing this as a 600-page single volume in March 2017.

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We also announced the print graphic-novel release of our newest digital simulpub series, Kosuke Fujishima's motorcross dream, Toppu GPcoming in 2017. Also look out for the manga release of Clockwork Planet in 2017, the post-apocalyptic steampunk saga based on the popular light novel series.

Finally, on the digital side of things, we announced the beginning of digital re-releases of long out-of-print Kodansha series that had previously been released in English. More details to come, but look for:

Knights of Sidonia creator Tsutomu Nihei's single-volume prequel to BLAME!, NOiSE
ALIVE by Tadashi Kawashima and Noragami creator Adachitoka
The hit romance about two classical musicians Nodame Cantabile by Tomoko Ninomiya
Horror comedy Princess Resurrection by Yasunori Mitsunaga
High school love triangle comedy School Rumble by Jin Kobayashi

Look for these digital releases by the end of this month—with more announcements about digital re-rereleases from our archives coming at San Diego Comic Con!

Attack on Titan Season 2 announcement

Attack on Titan Season 2

At the Shingeki Matsuri event at the Tokyo International Forum on July 3, the 2nd season of the hit anime Attack on Titan was announced, and art from the new season was released.

The 2nd season will air in Spring 2017, an announcement that was met with cheers at the event hall.

Since Attack on Titan began airing in 2013, it has taken not just Japan but the entire world by storm, becoming a global franchise. The 2nd season has been the most anticipated anime release of the last several years.

More information is coming soon.

■■More Information■■
TV anime homepage:  http://www.shingeki.tv/
Official Twitter: @anime_shingeki

Staff
“Attack on Titan” created by Hajime Isayama (Bessatsu Shonen Magazine / Kodansha) 
Chief Director: Tetsuro Araki 
Director: Masashi Koizuka
Series Composition: Yasuko Kobayashi
Character Design: Kyoji Asano
Chief Animation Directors: Kyoji Asano, Satoshi Kadowaki, Ayumi Yamada
Assistant Director: Hiroyuki Tanaka
Action Animation Directors: Arifumi Imai, Yuuko Sera, Takuma Ebisu
Art Setting: Yuuho Taniuchi
Titan Setting: Takaaki Chiba
Prop Design: Takuma Ebisu
Color Key: Ken Hashimoto
Art Director: Shunichiro Yoshihara
3DCG Director: Shigenori Hirozumi
3DCG Producer: Shuhei Yabuta
Director of Photography: Kazuhiro Yamada
Editor: Aya Hida
Sound Director: Masafumi Mima
Music: Hiroyuki Sawano
Sound Effects: Shizuo Kurahashi
Sound Production: Techno Sound
Animation Production: WIT STUDIO

Cast
Eren: Yuuki Kaji
Mikasa: Yui Ishikawa
Armin: Marina Inoue
Jean: Kishō Taniyama
Annie: Yu Shimamura 
Sasha: Yu Kobayashi 
Christa: Shiori Mikami 
Conny: Hiro Shimono 
Reiner: Yoshimasa Hosoya 
Bertholt: Tomohisa Hashizume 
Ymir: Saki Fujita 
Levi: Hiroshi Kamiya 
Erwin: Daisuke Ono 
Hanji: Romi Park 
Hannes: Keiji Fujiwara 

 

What’s happening @ Anime Expo 2016?

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Going to Anime Expo this year? If you’re there, be sure to catch all things Kodansha Comics!

First of all, make sure to say hi to this year’s Anime Expo Guest of Honor: Naoshi Arakawa (Your Lie in April)! Here’s all Arakawa-sensei-related events going on at AX:

Naoshi Arakawa Panel
Saturday, July 2
12:15-1:15 p.m.
Room 403AB
Don’t miss this chance to see Naoshi Arakawa in person! 

Your Lie in April Quest
July 1-4, during convention hours
full info at the Kodansha Comics HUB at Booth #3501 (part of Kinokuniya booth)

Every day of AX, we’ll be hosting a scavenger hunt-style quest based on Arakawa-sensei’s hit manga Your Lie in April
First 1000 participants will get an AX Exclusive
Your Lie in April tote bag as a prize.*
Plus, the 10 fastest players each day will win a free copy of
Your Lie in April volume 1!**

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*while supplies last
**You can only compete on one day.

Naoshi Arakawa autograph sessions
Friday, July 1
1:30-2:30 p.m.
3:30-4:30 p.m.

Saturday, July 2
2:30-3:30 p.m.

All autograph sessions are held at Kentia Hall.

More events related to Kodansha Comics, and our sibiling-publisher Vertical Comics

Attack on Titan Anthology Panel
Friday, July 1
1-2 p.m.
Room LP3
Meet some of the creative minds behind this unprecedented collaboration between Attack on Titan creator Hajime Isayama and an all-star list of the best Western comics artists and writers! We’ll reveal never-before-seen art from the book and give away exclusive trading cards and other goodies.

Read-along with KIZUMONOGATARI and Attack on Titan 
Featuring the voice actors for the KIZU and Titan audiobooks and MONOGATARI editor Mariko Yajima.
Friday, July 1
3:30-4:30 p.m.
Room LP3/LACC 408AB

Vertical Comics Panel
Saturday, July 2
1:15-2:15 p.m.
Room LP4/LACC 411

Kodansha Comics Panel
Saturday, July 2
2:30-3:30 p.m.
Room LP4
The publisher of Attack on Titan, Sailor Moon, Fairy Tail, Noragami, and many more debut their new publishing plans for 2016 and beyond! Come speak with some of the editors, ask your questions, and get free books, posters, art cards, and more!

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Come Visit Us!

Kodansha Comics HUB
Exhibitor Hall Booth #3501 (part of the Kinokuniya booth)
Your information center for everything Kodansha Comics

Special features

Show Exclusive: free digital editions (courtesy comiXology) of Your Lie in April, Farewell My Dear Cramer, and Ajin: Demi-Human
AX Guest of Honor Naoshi Arakawa Gallery
Netflix Original Series Ajin: Demi-Human Photo Op
Start and prize point for the Your Lie in April Quest

————

Kodansha Comics booth
Exhibitor Hall Booth # 911
Your place to buy Kodansha Comics!

Show debuts
Fairy Tail Zero volume 2
Queen Emeraldas volume 1
Sweetness & Lightning volume 1
Attack on Titan volume 19 

Giveaways
Attack on Titan Anthology trading cards
Art cards featuring 5 different manga series 

————

Vertical Comics booth 
Exhibitor Hall Booth #509

Show debuts
Immortal Hounds volume 1 
Nichijou volume 3 
Wolfsmund volume 7 

Giveaways 
Chi's Sweet Home poster

 

Not Just Another Romance Manga Sale (June 14-28)

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Have you read any good shojo manga recently? Or do you just shy away from the whole genre because you think it's "just another romance manga"? Well, think again! We've cherry-picked some unique and incredible shojo manga from Kodansha Comics for you to try. 

Starting Tuesday, June 14, we are having a big sale on volume 1's of selected manga series on all digital retailer. 

What's on sale now (June 14-June 28): 

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Princess Jellyfish vol.1 for $6.99

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Say I Love You. vol.1 for $.3.99

 

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My Little Monster vol.1 for $3.99

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LDK vol.1 for $3.99

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Missions of Love vol.1 for $3.99

But hurry! These sales are for a limited time.