Interview by Nakanishi Kyu
The popular manga Senpai is an Otokonoko recently won first place in the "Top 5 Manga Fans Want to See Animated" ranking (アニメ化してほしいマンガランキング) and has now been slated for anime adaptation! This series, first serialized in full-color webtoon format on Line Manga, has finished its run, though its individual volumes (tankobon) are still being released. Moreover, fans can look forward to Senpai is an Otokonoko: The Encounter, a prequel set to begin serialization on December 21st.
The story centers around three main characters: Makoto Hanaoka, an otokonoko (男の娘, lit. "male daughter", sometimes pronounced otoko no musume) who wears a girl's school uniform to school, their junior Saki who harbors romantic feelings for them, and their childhood friend Ryuji. Their intertwined relationships form the heart of the story.
Pom, the author, works as an illustrator for a company, and has ventured into manga as part of their job. In our interview, they shared their journey into the unfamiliar territory of storytelling, the various approaches they adopted, and the unexpected advantages of an illustrator transitioning to webtoons.
- I started drawing manga because I'm a worrywart
- Learning storytelling through movies and the first volumes of manga
- Webtoons are a perfect fit for illustrators
- The "Senpai is an Otokonoko" prequel explores Makoto's middle school years
- "Senpai is an Otokonoko: The Encounter" starts on December 21st!
- "Senpai is an Otokonoko" is available on Line Manga!
- pixiv brings you the latest webtoon news!
- A manga artist and illustrator from Hyogo Prefecture. They started serializing Senpai is an Otokonoko on Line Manga in December 2019, and the main story was completed in December 2021. The anime adaptation of the work is in progress, and Senpai is an Otokonoko: The Encounter will restart serialization on December 21, 2023. Other works include Noah is Ark.
I started drawing manga because I'm a worrywart
── You're working as an illustrator for a company, and you've taken up manga as part of your job, right?
── Those are big worries for an employee!
── I see! Does drawing manga fit within your normal work schedule?
── Other manga artists might envy your situation.
── That seems unavoidable.
── If you can answer, how are copyrights handled?
── So, royalties from the manga and merchandise go to the company, not to you personally?
── It's rare to hear of a manga artist in such a traditional employee role.
── Indeed! When I heard you were working for a company I thought you'd have less freedom, but it sounds like you're in an environment where you can only focus only on creation.
Learning storytelling through movies and the first volumes of manga
── As an illustrator turned manga artist, have you found your background beneficial?
── In the realm of vertical-scrolling manga and webtoons, thumbnails play a crucial role, don't they?
── What are some challenges you’ve faced?
── Indeed, that's not just about drawing skills, but also about managerial abilities, right?
── In a previous interview, you mentioned that when you first started work on Senpai is an Otokonoko, you were only interested in drawing and struggled with the story aspect. How did you manage to develop the narrative?
── So, you learned through practical examples rather than theory.
Pom: Exactly. By doing so, I learned, for example, that a story often concludes more satisfyingly if the protagonist gives up on something but ends up coming back to it after various plot twists. (laughs) I can't say which specific works taught me this, but by familiarizing myself with a wide range of stories, I began to identify common patterns in story progression.
── Did you find it challenging to maintain consistency in your stories as you wrote them?
── How did you manage to "make it work"?
── I see. So, increasing your mental repertoire is key, isn't it?
Webtoons are a perfect fit for illustrators
── Do you have any advice for those who post their drawings on platforms like pixiv and are contemplating delving into manga?
── Interesting! Although this might sound like a roundabout approach to those who only want to focus on illustration...
── That’s an excellent perspective!
Pom: Also, for illustrators, I would highly recommend webtoons over traditional, horizontal black-and-white manga. Webtoons allow for more detailed and illustrative frames, offering a medium closer to regular illustrations. Traditional manga, on the other hand, involves juggling numerous elements, like managing dialogue, which isn’t as central in webtoons.
── That's a good point. In traditional manga, you have to plan the panel layout, and sometimes you have to modify the surrounding scenes to make a specific panel work, especially for a two-page spread.
Pom: Right, and to get to that point, you often have to draw many intricate, less appealing scenes.
── Less appealing scenes...? (laughs)
── Does this mean you find webtoons more creatively fulfilling as an artist?
── Senpai is an Otokonoko was originally released on Line Manga in a webtoon format, but its tankobon volumes are in the traditional horizontal reading style, right?
Pom: Yes. The conversion to the horizontal format was handled entirely by a specialized team.
The top image shows the webtoon layout, while the bottom shows its adaptation into traditional manga.
── When adapting your manga for horizontal reading, do you give the staff any specific instructions about panel layout?
── On the other hand, I've heard you're sometimes asked to do some extra drawing in the process of adapting the manga.
── That's wonderful. I think this sounds like a great method that allows you to feel like they're not just changing your work without consent.
Pom: Exactly. I still feel a strong attachment to the tankobon versions, as they still feel like my own work.
── Do you find that there's a difference in the audience for the same work when it's in vertical versus horizontal format?
── True, webtoon readers might include more casual manga fans.
The "Senpai is an Otokonoko" prequel explores Makoto's middle school years
── Let's talk about the anime adaptation of Senpai is an Otokonoko. It was recently announced that it will be broadcast on Fuji TV's noitaminA and other channels in 2024. More details will be revealed over time, correct?
── As the original creator, how much are you involved in the anime adaptation?
── It seems the anime producers are as dedicated to the original work as you are.
── That's so interesting! So, you're feeling quite relaxed and confident about the anime's production, like you're in safe hands.
── Could you share a little about your current projects? Now that Noah is Ark has wrapped up, are you resting or already gearing up for something new?
── A new chapter in the Senpai is an Otokonoko saga! That's big news.
── That sounds like it could be quite a heavy story.
── We're looking forward to it. Is there anything else you'd like to try in the future, related to manga and illustration or not?
Pom: Continuing from what I tried in Noah is Ark, I really love animals, so I want to draw more animal stories. I'm finding ways to integrate my interests into my work, keeping in mind what my readers enjoy. And... this is something I've been hesitant to say, but I've always dreamt of collaborating with the National Museum of Nature and Science in Tokyo one day!
── That sounds nice! It makes sense to push the angle that you're an author who is also knowledgeable about animals, in that case.
"Senpai is an Otokonoko: The Encounter" starts on December 21st!
Delve into the characters' past in this new installment, set to be released on Line Manga from Thursday, December 21st. Don't miss it!
"Senpai is an Otokonoko" is available on Line Manga!
Immerse yourself in the lives of high school students, including Makoto Hanaoka, a lover of all things cute, as they grapple with their genuine emotions and hidden vulnerabilities.
Prefer to read in the traditional horizontal format? The manga is also available in both print and digital formats, so be sure to check those out!
pixiv brings you the latest webtoon news!
We provide easy-to-follow lecture videos, storyboard templates, and more to help you get started with webtoon creation. It's all free – take advantage and check it out!
(Available in Japanese only.)