Japanese manga artist and creator of Chibi Vampire (Karin) Yuna Kagesaki made her first visit to an American anime convention at Sakura-Con 2008 in Seattle, Washington. At two panel appearances, Kagesaki-sensei answered questions from panel moderator and TokyoPop Senior Editor Lillian Diaz-Pryzbyl and also answered questions from her fans in the audience.
Dressed in black from head-to-toe and carrying a mask of her self-portrait caricature (with signature bleeding nose), Kagesaki-sensei started out shy, but soon warmed up to give humorous, self-depreciating answers that reminded many of the sly wit she writes into every volume of Chibi Vampire.
See what she had to say about her life as a manga-ka, the Chibi Vampire manga and anime, her impressions of her American fans and her plans for her next projects.
EARLY BEGINNINGSQ: what was your first manga series? Did you start by drawing doujinshi?
YK: When i was in high school I did a project called Ai Yun. It has situations that I wouldn't show to anyone nowadays, except my friends. As long as I live, I'm only going to show this to my friends. And even then, i'm going to ask my friends to dispose of it so no one ever sees it!
Q: How did you get into becoming a manga artist?
YK: I've been drawing since I was in kindergarten, even before. I decided around my third year in elementary school to become a professional manga artist. When I was a little older, I joined an amateur doujinshi circle and started attending doujinshi conventions.
If I wasn't a manga-ka, I think I would just stay at home all the time. (laughs)
Q: How long did it take for you to become a professional manga artist?
YK: I was 22 years old when I made my professional debut. I decided i wanted to be a manga artist when I was in 3rd grade, and made my debut when I was 22, so it took me 14 years.
Q: Can you tell us how you made the transition from doing fan art to becoming a pro? Did you get discovered, or did you send samples out?
YK: There's a process where you can take an idea to the publishing company, and if they like it, they might pick it up. I wasn't able to do it that way, but through the doujinshi conventions, there are people who go to those events and scout for new talent that way. That's how I got picked up.
Q: Did you always work with Kadokawa Shoten, your current publisher?
YK: When I started out, my adult-oriented work was published by Comic House. Shonen Gahosha published my general work, the same company that published Trigun.
ABOUT CHIBI VAMPIRE
Q: What inspired Chibi Vampire?
YK: The idea for Chibi Vampire came about when my supervisor suggested that I write a vampire story and have a girl that bleeds too much. The seed of the story came from my editor asking, "What about a vampire that gives blood instead of taking blood?" and then I took it from there.
Q: Do you relate to your main character, Karin at all?
YK: Karin tends to be a space cadet. She's clumsy and be slow to catch on to things... I think that has a lot of similarity to myself. (laughs)
Q: Did you plan on the reunion between Usui-kun and his estranged father to be so dramatic?
YK: I did plan on things to happen that way from the beginning, because this scene is very important to the story.
Q: Do we ever get to meet Kenta's half-sister?
YK: No, sorry.
Q; Where there any scenes that you wanted to make between Kenta and Karin that you weren't able to do because of one reason or another?
YK: There aren't any scenes in particular like that. However, that doesn't mean that the story wasn't changed as circumstances required as I developed the story.
This story took a long time to tell, so as I progressed, the story between Kenta and Karin got more involved and detailed.
Q: Is the character with the mole somehow influenced by Tomie (the Japanese horror vixen created by Junji Ito and later made into a series of cult horror films)?
YK: I've heard of Tomie, but did not think of that character when I created this series. Those sorts of moles are considered sexy (in Japanese culture). It's said that moles appear there if you cry a lot, so it is very attractive.
THE LIFE OF A MANGA ARTIST
Q: What's the biggest challenge that you face as a manga-ka?
YK: Wrapping up a story and sticking a proper ending on it -- that's the hardest thing.
Q: What's a typical day like for you? What are your hours?
YK: I wake up at 6 am, and I try to finish all my work by 8:30, then go to sleep by midnight.
Q: Do you have a lot of assistants?
YK: I have the usual amount - usually two - three at any given time.
Q: What do your assistants do?
YK: I think of the story, do the pencils and do all the color art. The assistants clean up the pencils, do the inking of large black areas and apply screentones.
As I work with my editor putting the manga together, the editor helps me to decide where to put the breaks between chapters and decide the schedule.
I do the penciling of the storyboarding and start drawing the pictures. ]Then I take it to the editor who says, "No, that's wrong, do it over again." Then I do it over again and my assistants and I get the pages done.
Q: Since your work is so deadline-driven, is it hard to take vacations?
YK: Prior to deadlines, it's impossible to take a vacation. Even after you hand in the manuscript, you think you can -- but no, you have to do the color pages. So no, I haven't been able to take a vacation while I'm working on a series.(More on Page 2)