Article by Kanako Wakui
In order to commemorate the app's first anniversary, we had an interview about the recipe of romance manga with Sukemune, the chief editor of Palcy, and Yano and Ueda, editors from the manga magazines Kiss and BE・LOVE which feature manga for women, such as The Full-Time Wife Escapist and Chihayafuru.
This article includes tips to draw smash hit works and the things that are important when it comes to drawing romance manga. If you are an aspiring manga artist, this article is a must-read!
■ An additional something to manga skills
── Tell us about the concept of each magazine.
Yano: The concept of Kiss is "read and fall in love". Many of the romance manga featured in the magazine are meant to make the readers experience just that.
Ueda: The concept of BE・LOVE's concept is "read and be happy". So many of the works featured in magazine depict how women live. BE・LOVE asks the authors to create works that can influence the readers emotionally. The magazine wants its readers to experience different emotions, to make them feel happy, excited, to despair and feel moved at the same time.
Yano: There are romance manga that feature an extremely handsome princelike guy and offer the readers a lot of dreams. But there are also romance manga that are so realistic and they make the readers wonder how the couple will overcome their problems despite the ugly sides of humans. I feel like many authors that create the works for Kiss are able to put the emotions we're all familiar with but can't name into words accurately. Many of the manga in Kiss are relatable and I think that's what's really great about the magazine.
── Are there any conditions that a work needs to fulfill in order to become a smash hit?
Ueda: Natsumi Ando is the author of Watashi-tachi wa Douka Shiteiru (We Are Not Ourselves Today) and I think her work is a combination of elements that girls are passionate about, such as the place Kanazawa, Japanese sweets, the infatuation with Japanese clothing, and a tactical romantic story. The work is now a popular series that the magazine is known for.
── But Kanazawa isn't the author's hometown, is it?
Ueda: It's just like the case with Ryo Oda, the author of Noumen Joshi no Hanako-san (Noh-masked High School Girl Hanako). She used to frequent a cultural center to find manga ideas and she got the inspiration to create Hanako, the high school girl character wearing a Noh mask, because there was a Noh class in the cultural center. Oda herself was initially not a huge fan of Noh.
Yano: I feel that authors who are working on smash hit works direct their curiosity toward the things that lie outside themselves. I think it's going to be difficult if someone wants to continue working as a manga artist for years but they only have their personal experience to draw manga from. So if you encounter something that you find interesting, regardless of whether or not you've tried it before, ask people about it. Have the power to absorb the good and ugly things about humans and incorporate them into your characters. Keep your mind open and you'll be able to discover your next manga theme after you've concluded a manga.
── So aspiring authors need to be brimming with curiosity?
■ What is the cause? Partnership or the work itself?
── Smash hit works mean there are works that aren't quite as lucky. What could be the cause?
Yano: I think a work that isn't popular is a work that doesn't leave you with much of an impression once you're done reading it. There are manga with characters and scenes that leave very little impression on you that you just can't seem to remember what you just read. On the other hand, an interesting manga is a manga that you will remember, be it for a character or a scene. You'll find at least one chapter memorable. If I come across a non-memorable scene in an author's work, I will advise them to ruminate over the scene a bit more.
Sukemune: We analyze manga through the storyboard. And when it comes to an interesting manga, you'll still be able to comprehend the story even though the storyboard only features stick figures of the characters.
Yano: A good storyboard is like that, yes. I agree.
Ueda: A good storyboard doesn't necessarily have to be drawn in details.
── So when an author's manuscripts keep getting rejected or when their series isn't doing well, what could be done to save the author?
Yano: When an author isn't compatible with their editor, causing their manga to have little progress, I think it will be a waste if the author continues to exert their best all on their own.
But if an author gets to have a proper conversation with their editor about what can be improved and fixed, and starts over together from scratch, the author will be able to set their next goal. The author will be motivated to think that they can't just stay stagnant here--that they have to start again, properly. Authors who are caught up in their stagnation probably don't have a clear idea about what's wrong with their manuscript.
Sukemune: I think an author who's been able to create popular works regardless of who they worked with will be able to draw interesting manga from now on too, regardless of who they get partnered up with. A good author knows what to absorb from the people they work with. They know how to change the way they handle their partnerships and take up the good things of their partners. They also absorb the opinions of young people through newbie editors. This is how a top-notch author works.
■ Don't seek the codes in romance manga for help
── Is there any trend in romance manga nowadays?
Ueda: I think more works today depict the story that happens after "the happily ever after". Readers who have had their fair share of excitement following what a couple usually goes through until they start dating want to know what happens after that. I think many readers want to continue to find hope, yearning, and a touch of reality in the story that takes place after a happy ending. They're curious about those things.
── As a reader gets older, I figure they tend to think that there's more than a happy ending.
── Death is the final ending... That's true. Does an author need to have a romantic experience to draw a romance manga?
Yano: Some romance manga are like textbooks, they feature the manners and patterns about love and depict specific things that should make your heart flutter. The kabedon trope was viral for a while some time ago and it's like there is a code stating that kabedon equals a moment that makes your heart flutter. I feel that if an author relies on a code to make their story progress, their manga will turn into some kind of textbook. I suppose an author needs to consider, with simple honesty, about a relationship between two characters that can make people happy when they get together.
── I've heard that men can't draw romance manga for women. But do your magazines welcome male authors?
Yano: Many of our manga that are targeted at men depict tremendous details of the inner workings of the mind whenever romance is involved. So I really don't think that men can't draw the inner workings of a woman's mind. But I do feel there is an invisible barrier that makes men think male authors won't ever be allowed to work for manga magazines for women.
Sukemune: I think what matters is what the readers think of the manga--whether they find it worth reading or not. I don't think it matters if the author is a man, a woman, or has specific sexuality.
■ The trends in Kiss and BE・LOVE
── I have the image that maintaining a balance between reality and fantasy is a tricky task when drawing a romance manga.
── Yes. It will hurt (laughs).
Yano: Yes. Readers who just want to read something soothing before they go to bed are in need of manga that are packed with dreams and beautiful depictions of only the good things in life. This is where it's important for the aim of the manga's creator to be crystal clear to understand.
── So an author should consider about their readers' needs and adjust the balance.
── Is there a minimum age for someone to become an author?
■ Read the manga in Kiss and BE・LOVE on Palcy
Starting from September 5, you will also be able to read the following titles on Palcy:
There are exclusive contents on Palcy too, so check it out!