Article by: Ichibo Harada＠HEW
The iseikai genre isn't just for men.
Flos Comic, brought to you by Kadokawa, is a comic label that assembles comics based off of web novels where the heroine is reborn or summoned into an alternate world. They celebrated their second anniversary in February, 2020.
What are today's women looking for in the iseikai genre? One of the popular works being turned into a manga by Flos Comic is "Seijo no Maryoku wa Bannou Desu." We asked the original author, Yuka Tachibana and the head creator of the comic version, Azuki Fuji, as well as various members of the publishing team about the differences between men's and women's varying taste in this genre.
What makes Seijo no Maryoku a hit, regardless of gender
── Firstly, how did Flos Comic come to be?
"K", head of comic adaptation: The ones in charge of setting it up were me and N. We wanted to make a manga label for girls, but we also needed a hook that resonated with current audiences. We decided on the concept of focusing on the iseikai genre.
── I'm sorry to ask but, as a male editor, were you worried at all about starting a manga label geared toward young women?
K: Actually, we both really love shoujo manga. I especially love the strong colors used in fantasy shoujo manga, so I was much more excited than worried.
Besides, even in manga for girls, the fantasy genre, including iseikai, is also widely read my men, so I wasn't concerned.
── I see... Since you decided that Flos Comics was going to be focusing on the iseikai genre, you must have felt there was a lot of demand for iseikai works marketed to women.
"N", head of comic adaptation: That's right. There are lots of iseikai stories aimed at women submitted to Shousetsu ni Narou (a user-generated online novel website also known as Narou.) So, if men's works can be this popular, we thought focusing on works aimed at women could work, too. At Flos Comics, we bring new life to Kadokawa's female-oriented stories from Narou. And, just as K said, if we look back at past works, there's an affinity between shoujo manga and the iseikai genre.
── By the way, when you first launched, extremely few companies were publishing, let alone making comic adaptations of female-oriented stories on Narou. Azuki Fuji, when you were asked to make comic adaptations of novels, were you concerned at all?
Azuki Fuji: This was an unknown genre for me, so internally I was completely overwhelmed, haha. But, the label was just being created, so there was nothing to compare this to. But, among the many offers to make comic adaptations of Narou stories, only Flos Comic was focused on making shoujo manga. I had my concerns, but I thought it looked interesting.
── What inspired you to write "Seijo no Maryoku wa Bannou Desu"?
Tachibana: I saw the award winners listed on the top page of Shosetsuka ni Narou. That made me want to give it a try so I casually started writing. I looked at the popularity rankings and saw that tons of the popular works for both men and women had the word "seijo" (a female saint) in them. I realized that seijo would be a key element for my story, and started putting together the plot. I started as a writer on Narou, so I easily developed a sense of what would be received well or not.
── So "seijo" is an important factor for popularity for both men and women.
Tachibana: If it's a work for guys, the "seijo" character won't be nearly as cool as the protagonist, haha.
"Y", original novel editor: Within the female-oriented iseikai world, the biggest three tropes are the villianess, the duke's daughter, and the seijo, haha.
In works aimed at women, does the herione always need a love insterest?
── Within the iseikai genre, what differences do you feel exist between works primarily targeted for men versus those for women?
── Page layout?
K: In shoujo manga, decorative frames are sometimes used to intentionally blur the lines between artwork. For people who aren't used to shoujo manga, it can sometimes be hard to read.
── That unique page flow is really unique to shoujo manga.
── The fans are different, too?
The key to making a relatable heroine is making her... easy to work with?
── Yuka, you were originally writing for Shosetsuka ni Narou. What did you find the most fun about novels on Narou?
Tachibana: My life was pretty hard at the time... So I would put myself in the shoes of the main character, enjoying the idea of running away to anywhere else but where I actually was. I had to work a ton of overtime at the job I had then. I reflected that in the life the heroine of "Seijo no Maryoku," named Sei, who has similar struggles until she gets transported to an alternate world, haha. I'd come home late, eat a bento box from the convenience store, wake up early... In the midst of that cycle, I just kept thinking that if I could only be freed from my life I'd be much happier, haha.
── There's a scene where Sei explains her old life to the people in the fantasy world she enters and shocks them. So that was your real life mixing into the story...!
Tachibana: So, I tried my best to make "Seijo no Maryoku" a stress-free story. One of the big reasons entertainment exists is to lift us up. I certainly felt that way, and my target audience was 20 to 30-year-old working people. My goal was to make a story that could help everyone who works so hard every day feel a little bit better.
── Your target audience wasn't teenagers, it was a little bit older?
── The cast of characters in "Seijo no Maryoku" is mainly good people. More than just stereotypical fictional personalities, your character feel like people who would have really good personalities even if they existed in the real world.
Tachibana: I build characters on the base of, "Would I want to work with this person?" Would I want them as a coworker, would I want them as a boss, etc. At one job, I had a really fantastic boss. Johan at the medicinal herb laboratory took a lot of inspiration from that boss. The way Sei is always getting praised and encouraged is also inspired by past coworkers. I focused on her being someone women would like as a cute coworker, or a real team player.
── From your perspective, what kind of heroine are girls eager to support?
Tachibana: I think serious and upbeat are the most important traits. If she's given a job, she wants to do her best... that kind of thing. When I'm writing Sei, it's vital that others don't speak badly about her.
Y: Speaking of which, when we were publishing "Seijo no Maryoku" with Kadokawa Books, they felt that having this heroine you'd want to work with was really important. The users on Shousetsuka ni Narou are younger, but the average reader who can pay 1000 JYP for a physical book are generally going to be much older than that. I think 40 to 50 years olds are probably the biggest group buying "Seijo no Maryoku." For working people, the moment they think, "Ugh, I'd never want to work with someone like that," is the moment they close the book.
── When you hear "someone I want to work with", what kind of character comes to mind for you?
Y: First is someone who doesn't complain. After that is someone with a real desire to grow, who doesn't blame others, who thinks positively and is passionate. Sei has all of those attributes, so Yuka has given us a very sympathetic heroine.
The scene in the comic adaptation that moved the original author
── Fuji, when you first read the novel of "Seijo no Maryoku," what did you think of it?
Fuji: It was the first time I'd read that kind of stress free, easy to read novel. It was really refreshing. Of course there are exciting parts, too, but it's refined so well that it doesn't rattle your emotions too much. I was really surprised to find a novel like that, but I also knew it'd be difficult to carry that atmosphere over into the comic adaptation...
── Sei is more lively in the manga adaptation and has more of a shoujo manga heroine vibe. Was that one of the things you decided on before making the comic?
Tachibana: No, I usually just leave everything up to them. When you're working with mixed media, it's best to tailor the writing style to suit each medium. So, it's really fun when readers say that the manga version of Sei is super cute, haha. In the novel, she's a little more reserved.
Fuji: I just went ahead with what I liked, haha. For example, when I thought it'd suit the manga better to up the tension in certain places. After that is my focus on facial expressions. I love giving characters a wide range of expressions, and when I'm deciding Sei's reactions, I really just go for it. Because it's a manga, those expressions are linked with the tempo and readability of the work, too, I think.
── What else do you focus on when adapting something to a comic book?
── The original novel kept descriptions to a minimum, making it very easy to read. How do you come up with an image for the scenes without much description in the book?
Fuji: I would imagine it by myself, or ask Yuka, but one thing that really stuck out in my mind was the potion making scene. In the original novel, the potion recipe says to "put water and herbs in a pot, then mix it with your magic power and let it boil," and then it just ends. But I thought portraying how the potion was made would be a really fun moment for the manga. I thought "maybe it would go like this..." and put down my ideas into the artwork.
── Where do your "maybe it would go like this" type of ideas come from?
Fuji: Among my references was a picture of Hermione from Harry Potter mixing a potion. I imagined what it would look like if she kept adding things and it started boiling more... and my idea was born.
Tachibana: Part of the original novel was relying on the reader's imagination, so when I first saw the potion scene in the comic adaptation, I was like "So that's how they make the potions!" I was really moved, haha.
Fuji: I've heard from fans of the original novel who say that after reading the novel, the comic adaptation never felt unnatural to them. I truly think the comic adaptation leaves that kind of impression with people.
── With added scenes, like the potion making scene, it's amazing that fans have said it doesn't feel off from the original work.
Creating the outstanding cool Hawk is a pain for the author and the artist?
── Who are your favorite characters?
Tachibana: The easiest to write are the division chief and the laboratory chief. So I have them appear in the story a lot, haha.
Fuji: For me the easiest person to draw is definitely the division chief. Super easy to draw. But the character I like the best is the laboratory chief, Johan. I love him. His look and his personality obviously, but he definitely has a hot voice, too. I haven't actually heard his voice, but it's got to be nice, right!? Imagine you're walking around the lab, and from behind you, you hear him say "Are you ok?"...I'd fall in love instantly!
── Who's the hardest character to write?
Tachibana: Hawk talks very little, so it was hard to think of his lines. But everyone wanted more flirting from him... What a dilemma, haha. So, I try to have him speak through his actions. A less talk, more action kind of guy.
Fuji: Hawk is really difficult for me, too... haha. He's incredibly cool, and there's so much pressure to make him look good all the time! So drawing him makes me want to cry...
── Lastly, do you have a message for those interested in reading "Seijo no Maryoku"?
Tachibana: If you can pick up this book at the end of a long day and relax, that alone makes me proud f my work.
Fuji: As an artist, I focused on making this a stress free work. If it cheers you up, I'd be so happy.