10 Years of Kodansha Comics—September Spotlight: Akiko Higashimura

10 years of Kodansha Comics!

The year 2019 marks the 10th anniversary of the first Kodansha Comics manga published in English. Please join us in celebration as we select
one classic Kodansha Comics series each month for exclusive content, promotions, and other surprises!

Princess Jellyfish Volumes 1-9 (complete series) and Tokyo Tarareba Girls Volumes 1-9 (complete series) are available from Kodansha Comics!

Our September Spotlight is on celebrated all-around manga genius Akiko Higashimura and her iconic shojo series Princess Jellyfish and Tokyo Tarareba Girls, just in time to celebrate the release of Princess Jellyfish‘s beautiful complete manga box set and Tokyo Tarareba Girls winning the prestigious Eisner Award at this year’s San Diego Comic Con! So what kind of “special surprises” do we have for you to pillage this month? Check ’em out!

Surprise 1: Exclusive Tara and Reba Pins!

As a part of the 10 Years of Kodansha Comics project, we’ve teamed up with our friends at Rightstuf to bring you these awesome Tara and Reba pins!

Visit Rightstuf and order any volume of Akiko Higashimura’s manga and you’ll receive an exclusive pin for FREE! Your order will also come with our new Kodansha Comics mascot Kacey pins! Available this month (September 2019) only or while supplies last.

Surprise 2: Princess Jellyfish and Tokyo Tarareba Girls digital sale!

Are you more of an otaku like the Amars or a hustler like the Tarareba Girls? Find out who your true friends are by reading both series! From now until September 9th, get up to 50% off on Princess Jellyfish and Tokyo Tarareba Girls at our digital retail partners: BookWalker, comiXology, Google Play, Kindle, MyAnimeList, and nook! 

Surprise 3: Princess Jellyfish and Tokyo Tarareba Survey Sweepstakes!

Wanting to check out Princess Jellyfish and Tokyo Tarareba Girls after hearing all the hype? Already a diehard member of Amars? Trying to score a date while working overtime at your job? For the month of September only, ONE lucky winner will win a Princess Jellyfish Complete Manga Box Set and Tokyo Tarareba Girls Volumes 1-9. All you have to do is take this survey by September 30 to enter for a chance to win!


©Jun Tsuchiya/B.P.B.

Surprise 4: Interview with Akiko Higashimura

After Tokyo Tarareba Girls‘s big Eisner win, we got the chance to sit down with Akiko Higashimura to talk about her reaction, her ideal “Girl’s Night Out,” and, that’s right, dating advice!

Kodansha Comics (KC):  Congratulations on winning an Eisner Award. Do you have any comments about the win and being the first woman creator winning in the U.S. Best Edition of International Material—Asia category?

Akiko Higashimura (AH): Honestly, I’m shocked. I thought shojo manga as an art form was so far removed from American comics that I’d never come close to winning this award. It makes me incredibly happy!

KC: You were partly inspired by Sex and the City when drawing Tokyo Tarareba Girls. What differences did you have to consider in order to create a story set in Tokyo with Japanese characters, rather than in New York?

AH: I love SATC. I was playing with the idea of drawing a manga with a “girl movie” vibe that featured single Japanese women in Tokyo, and that was how it all started. I really respect the directors and writers of SATC. It was a TV show that changed how women lived their lives, and it has a lot of fans in Japan, too. Many Japanese women are like Carrie. They enjoy fashion and throw themselves into their work. Women’s lifestyles in Tokyo and NY aren’t that different, which I think is a part of living in the modern age of the Internet. As for any differences between the manga and SATC, I guess I changed the place where they drink from a bar to a Japanese-style pub.

KC: If you were one of the characters in Tarareba Girls, what would your character be like? What would your profession and your ambitions be? And what would be your favorite drink? What’s your ideal “Girls’ Night Out”?

AH: The characters I relate to would have to be 50% the main character Rinko and 50% Key. I let the angel and devil inside me run free when I made those two characters.

I like drinking shochu. Where I was born (this place called Miyazaki in Japan), they drink it a lot.

For me, a girls’ night out would be sitting in a tatami room in a Japanese pub with cod milt and liver for snacks, drinking Hoppy. Men would be allowed to come, but in that setting they’d have to let the women call the shots.

KC: You’ve mentioned in the afterword and bonus comics that you’ve gotten a lot of reactions from readers, especially ones who consider TTG “Horror.” How have reactions changed as we get closer to 2020? Any reactions that have particularly stuck with you?  What do the fears and anxieties of female otaku and those of tarareba girls share in common, or how do they differ?

AH: I still hear from single women that it’s a horror story. The reactions haven’t changed, but the number of young women who have no interest in romance has been growing, I think.

KC: Do you see the challenges of 20-, 30-, and even 40-somethings today as being different from when they were when you first started Tokyo Tarareba Girls and Princess Jellyfish? Is there any resemblance or unified message you wanted to send across the two titles?

AH: Time marches on, and time is limited. If you want to get married and have a family, you have to put in the work early. You can’t sit around just saying, “What if?” Those words have goaded a lot of my readers into finding a partner, and tons have gotten married!! Although personally, I’ve failed twice at marriage, so I’m single!!

KC:  How did you learn to draw such funny facial expressions? I always look forward to how your characters are going to react to the latest impossible situation!

That’s all I drew, ever since I was in elementary school. I believe that everyone is born with a talent for manga. Look at me—I still do the stuff I did as a kid!

KC: Do you have any advice to the tarareba girls of the world in 2019? How about in the U.S.? Are tarareba girls different in different parts of the world?

AH:

  •  Instead of whining about how there are no good men out there, groom a male friend in your life into a “good man.”
  • Just go on dates, it doesn’t matter who! Limit girls’ night to once a month!
  • Hey, American tarareba girls, you aren’t the type who break up and then check your ex’s Instagram every single day, are you?!
  • Tarareba ladies are the same in any country!! A global sisterhood!! And that’s wonderful!! Women have all this in common.

Translator’s Notes

Shochu: A type of Japanese liquor that is usually between 25% and 45% alcohol by volume. It is earthier than sake, and is typically distilled from rice, barley, or buckwheat.

Hoppy The brand name of a beer-like beverage that has an extremely low alcohol content (0.8%).

About Akiko Higashimura

One of Japan’s most popular authors of manga for women, Akiko Higashimura is the author of more than a dozen series including the hits Kakukaku shikajika (Blank Canvas: My So-Called Artist’s Journey) and Mama wa Temparist. After its adaptation into a popular anime and live-action film, Princess Jellyfish was her first work to be released in English. Her recent work Tokyo Tarareba Girls won the 2019 Eisner Award for Best U.S. Edition of International Material—Asia.

Surprise 5: Akiko Higashimura’s original sketches from Tokyo Tarareba Girls Chapter 1!

Before it became an Eisner Award-winning series, Tokyo Tarareba Girls started as most manga does … as concept art. So behold: the original sketches by Akiko Higashimura, side-by-side with the final pages of Tokyo Tarareba Girls Chapter 1! What if!? What if!?

 

 

Watch this video of Akiko Higashimura in action at her workplace on Higashimura Akiko Production YouTube Channel.

Celebrate 10 Years of Kodansha Comics with us all year long by following us on KodanshaComics.com!

Be sure to check back again next month, when we’ll be throwing the spotlight onto yet another Kodansha classic!