The story is so crazy and fabulous. It's one of the rare shonen manga that manages to have a plot and not just people fighting to get to a tournament in a big arena. One Piece is just really charming. When I first saw it, I thought, "This is just so weird. I don't like this at all." Now, I frankly like One Piece better than Naruto.
Naruto is a great comic, but it's also is very serious, melodramatic and sometimes kind of cheesy. One Piece kind of winks at the reader a little more. Naruto's art is also more traditional. It's a really good-looking manga, but it's not as much of a break from tradition as One Piece is.
LIFE AFTER 'MANGA': THE STIFF AND BEYOND
Q: Speaking of original style, I noticed that you're not just a manga editor, but you also create your own Webcomic called The Stiff. What's it about and how did you get started with that project?
JT: I've actually had to put that project on hold since I've been working on this book. But I will be getting back to it soon. The Stiff is a comic that I plan to be 1,000 pages long. I've always wanted to do a very long story in the manga style. It's a story about a high school relationship. It focuses on a guy who loves horror movies, but he hates sex and pornography because he finds it to be degrading to women. So he's kind of conflicted. Then he falls in love with a mysterious transfer student.
It's a psychological story, a little bit of a horror story and a mystery. It's also a high school romance. So The Stiff is basically is a comic influenced by my two favorite genres of manga: horror and romantic comedy. It also has a psychological element and an autobiographical element, which has done so well in American independent comics.
Q: So where are you with this project? Are you almost done with it, in the middle, or...?
JT: It's only about a quarter of the ways through. I've had to put it on hold for several months. I wanted it to run about 1,000 pages and I'm only up to 250. I really like the sprawling manga narrative, with the long story with a lot of characters. But of course, it's more of a labor of love, so I don't have to pump out a lot of episodes in a short time frame, and I don't have to change my story based on readers' or editors' opinions, for better or for worse.
That's why I'm into small press comics. They have the ability to do stories with complete freedom. That's something I've always admired. So I don't know how much people would think of it this way, but to me, The Stiff is influenced by manga and by American comics. Basically, I describe it as a high school psychological horror romantic comedy story.
Q: So now that Manga: The Complete Guide is out there and available in bookstores, how has your life changed as a result of this book?
JT: Well, I've gotten a lot more manga! I've been able to meet a lot of great people too. As some great philosopher said, "The more I know, the more I know that I don't know." I'm really grateful to all of the people who've helped me out, and all the people I've met while working on the book.
Working on this book required that I leave my job at VIZ, where I had been for ten years previously. I'm also grateful that I've been able to talk about manga and express my views about manga in such a public forum. So it's been an incredible opportunity.
Q: What projects do you have on tap for the coming year?
JT: Obviously, the manga market is always constantly changing, so I'm keeping my eye on what's happening, for updates for the book, and for my manga reviews in Otaku USA magazine. Those reviews are kind of a continuation of my manga book, in my mind.
As for future projects, aside from Otaku USA, I'm starting work on a fantasy novel, which called Aegyptica. This is something that I've been planning on working on for a while. "Aegypitica" is the name of a lost history of Egypt. I hope to have it finished, if not published next year.