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Interview: Manga Maverick Junko Mizuno Brings Her Cute/Creepy Comics to SF

By August 24, 2009

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Junko MizunoIn the land between cute and grotesque, adorable and horrifying lives the artwork of cJunko Mizuno. Mizuno-sensei's fantastical artwork shows the influence of Hello Kitty and early 1970's shojo manga, as well as Japanese horror films, Western fairy tales and erotica, for a look that is unmistakably hers alone.

While her paintings have been shown at galleries around the world and her artwork has been featured on clothing and inspired limited edition toys, Mizuno's roots are in manga. New and in stores this month is Little Fluffy Gigolo Pelu, the latest Mizuno manga published by Last Gasp and JApress (the folks who brought you hallucinatory horror comic Pure Trance by Mizuno-sensei, as well as the award-winning Town of Evening Calm, Country of Cherry Blossoms by Fumiyo Kono).

Junko Mizuno tees at New PeopleLittle Fluffy Gigolo Pelu is an quirky sci-fi/fantasy fable about a lonely little alien fluff ball who decides to go to Earth to find true love. But as Pelu encounters self-destructive schoolgirls and women stuck in abusive relationships and the cruel, cruel men that they love, he starts to wonder: is his quest doomed to fail?

Check out my interview with Junko Mizuno and find out the retro-melodrama origins of Little Fluffy Gigolo Pelu, including the the Japanese film that inspired this tale of the lonely space traveler looking for love, and the find out her answer to this question: Why are the men in your manga such weasels?

While I was at the Junko Mizuno signing at New People: The Store in San Francisco this weekend, I also had a chance to chat with Patrick Macias, the Editor in Chief for Otaku USA magazine, as well as the guiding force behind JApress, the production company that worked with Last Gasp to publish Little Fluffy Gigolo Pelu and Pure Trance in the US. I also chatted a bit with Colin Turner, Last Gasp's Associate Publisher, about Junko Mizuno, Pelu and Last Gasp's other manga projects in the works.

Q: Patrick, why did you choose Little Fluffy Gigolo Pelu as JApress' next manga project after Town of Evening Calm, Country of Cherry Blossoms?

Patrick Macias: When Pure Trance was published in the USA back in 2005, Pelu was then Junkoís most recently-published manga work. While Pure Trance was a single standalone volume, Pelu was Junkoís longest manga serial to date, with three volumes total. I guess we were inspired to try and take on something that had a substantial amount of story.

Pure Trance Q: What do you love about Junko Mizuno's artwork?

Patrick Macias: It's shocking; and it stops you in your tracks, which is about the highest compliment I can give just about anything. Junko seems to be able to tap into some part of the subconscious that other artists canít or wonít. But her art also works as comics, as toys, so it can cover a lot of ground purely as pop culture too.

Colin Turner: I like everything! For me, it's just the thick lines and the raw comic energy that she puts into it. She has this indescribable aesthetic; when you see it, there's just this 'ah-ha' moment -- it's just perfect. On top of that, she twists it. Just her artwork alone would make it great, but she takes it and twists the themes of cute, creepy and gothic, wraps it up on itself and takes it to the next level.

Junko Mizuno signing Q: Why do you think people respond so favorably to her work in the U.S.?

Patrick Macias: I think largely for the same reasons why I like it. Her work contains grotesque extremes that seem tailor made for a country like America. But thereís also a lowbrow, sexy, rock and roll side to her work that hooks people as well. Also, she uses Japanese iconography -- like sukeban schoolgirls (juvenile delinquents) and geisha girls -- in a very tasteful way.

Q: What is JApress working on now?

Patrick Macias: We're working on Little Fluffy Gigolo Pelu Volume 2, and that's about all that we mention now -- but we will be doing more Junko Mizuno manga and other publishing projects.

Little Fluffy Gigolo Pelu Volume 1Q: Colin, I know Last Gasp has a few other manga projects in the works. Could you share any updates about that?

Colin Turner: We are doing Edogawa Rampo story adapted by Suehiro Maruo - The Strange Tale of Panorama Island. That will likely come out in latter part of 2010 -- hopefully it will be out by San Diego Comic-Con 2010. That's our next big one.

Barefoot Gen Volumes 9 and 10 are about to come out. This is the end of the series, so this is a big deal for us. And we're publishing Town of Evening Calm in hardcover next month.

Q: Are you pulling back on your manga publishing plans like many other publishers are nowadays?

Colin Turner: Oh, no. It's nothing like that. A lot of people came (into the manga publishing business) thinking 'we have to publish 14 manga titles every season.' We've been doing it like this all along.

When a project comes along that we want to do, if it fits in with the rest of the books that we publish, we'll do it. So it's not as if we're pulling back or publishing less in response to the market.

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Also, for more Junko Mizuno fun:

Image credit: photos - © Deb Aoki, artwork - © Junko Mizuno

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