Enjoy the interview and the exclusive illustrations!
(* Translator's Note: While Hiura is affectionately called a "heroine" as a reference to his crossdressing, he clearly identifies as male in the Japanese text, even while wearing stereotypically female clothing. As such, he/him pronouns are used in this article.)
A miraculous balance of male and female readers
── Ototsuku was originally released on Twitter from the end of 2019 as the short manga Osananajimi (♂) o Onnanoko ni Shiteshimatta Hanashi.
── Suzuki, what did you like about Osananajimi (♂) o Onnanoko ni Shiteshimatta Hanashi?
Hiura, the author's ideal cross-dressing heroine
── No one can deny that Hiura has a certain charm that makes him cute both inside and out.
Banjo: At the time, I had the impression that most otokonoko characters were being portrayed as proactive and a bit aggressive. I personally prefer characters who are a little shy and defiant, so I combined these traits within an otokonoko character... and Hiura was born. You can say that Hiura is my ideal character. (laughs) While I was working on the concept of an otokonoko who is also a little grumpy, I came up with the idea that he would start cross-dressing not out of his own will, but for his partner's sake. So Midou comes in, as a man who loves make-up.
── The reason why Hiura started dressing up as a woman was to get Midou to notice him, wasn't it?
── Do you maybe have a thing for otokonoko characters yourself?
── In the looks department, Hiura is 100% bishoujo (美少女, a Japanese term for a beautiful young girl, usually an adolescent), but if you look closely, his body is still boyish in its own way, which is something that you seem to be very particular about.
Suzuki: Yeah, I would tell her that Hiura looked too much like a boy and also a bit stiff. (laughs)
Ideas are born out of love for the characters
── Hiura always looks cute, but there's always a panel where he's even cuter, right? Almost like a highlight.
── Do you think about the story first and then decide on a highlight later?
── Character expressions in Ototsuku stick with you. How do you learn to draw such captivating expressions?
I look at other works and admire some of the expressions I find, but I don't really use them as references in my day-to-day work. So I guess I'm pretty reckless, or maybe my love for Hiura is the driving force behind it all. (laughs)
── What do you think is the cutest thing about Hiura?
── I think it's a blessing for creators to be able to love their own characters. What is the secret behind this kind of love?
── It's the ideal cycle.
What looks good in real life doesn't always translate well in drawings
── Ototsuku talks about fashion and make-up. Are you a make-up lover yourself?
── Thinking about it, Hiura doesn't care much about fashion... in a good way. I think you're choosing the best items for him!
── I think a lot of artists have a hard time deciding what kind of clothes to put on their characters.
Banjo: This is something that I still struggle with: what looks good in real life doesn't always translate well in drawings. Oversized T-shirts are cute in real life, but in a manga, they end up looking kind of plain. It goes without saying that it may not be the best idea to just copy everything you see in a fashion magazine. In the end, I think artists need to use various references and then arrange them to suit their characters.
Suzuki: There have been times when I have looked at copyrighted illustrations of collaborations with apparel brands and wondered if that character would really wear that type of clothing. It's crucial to think about fashion while still keeping an eye on your characters. Don't get caught up in the trends, but rather ask yourself, "What would this character wear? What would look good on them?"
── What kind of references do you use for fashion?
I'm not familiar with fashion jargon, so I make up my own categories (e.g. "XYZ-style fashion") and then look up items that would fit. That way, when I have to decide what kind of outfit I want my characters to wear, I have a clearer picture of the overall direction to follow. Once I have chosen a specific style or category, I search for more items that would make a good outfit, and so on. It's quite a simple process.
── Sounds like having clear categories in mind also helps when it comes to deciding whether a fashionable item matches a certain character or not.
Suzuki: If we choose outfits that are really cool and perfectly coordinated, the readers may have trouble finding the characters approachable. So we have to be careful to keep a good balance between being fashionable while remaining approachable.
I push myself so that the delays don't carry over to the next day
── As part of the campaign to celebrate the release of the second volume of Ototsuku (learn more at the end of this article), we held a poll asking readers which costume they would like Hiura to wear. Now that the results are in, please tell us what you think.
── We'll be releasing some brand new illustrations of Hiura wearing the outfits chosen in the poll. Are there any outfits that you are particularly looking forward to drawing?
── Still, drawing six different illustrations just for this occasion is quite a task, isn't it? Do you consider yourself a fast artist?
Suzuki: Lies. As your editor in charge, I can say that you strike me as quite the speedy creator! Banjo always provides a very clear schedule, which makes it easier for me to consult her about promotional illustrations for bookstores and other work.
Banjo: I always try to leave enough time to face any problems that may arise. Meeting deadlines is what matters the most... I don't want my reputation as an artist to suffer because of something other than the quality of my work.
── How admirable! However, many people have trouble meeting their deadlines although it should be a must. What is the secret to your excellent time management?
Happy events alone can move a story
── Banjo, your previous works had a very serious flavor, didn't they? Isn't it difficult for you to draw a gentle romantic comedy like Ototsuku?
Suzuki: We discussed a lot about the episode where the rival character Hayakawa senpai appears, didn't we?
Banjo: I didn't want either character to be the villain and make the readers uncomfortable. I myself like to draw and read serious stories, but I know there are many readers who don't. I talked with Suzuki to find a balance that would make everyone happy.
── Will the world of Ototsuku continue its happy, carefree course?
Suzuki: I think the theme of boys cross-dressing as girls could be portrayed in a very serious way if we wanted to, but for Ototsuku we're discussing whether we should choose a different direction.
Banjo: Ototsuku is gonna be like: "This is the story of how my days became so much more fun when I started dressing up in cute outfits!" (laughs)
── What are your plans for the future, if you don't mind me asking?
I hope you'll be looking forward to it!
Announcing the results of the Twitter campaign to celebrate the release of vol.2!
Here are the illustrations of the six outfits chosen among the following 12 themes!