In October 2010, Yaoi-Con was held in San Francisco!
This 3-day convention is the biggest BL event in the United States. BL-loving women from various countries gather there – not just from the U.S., but from as far as Italy, Taiwan, and Russia. It is said that more than 5,000 people attend the convention.
The convention is held over three days at a hotel (the Hyatt Regency in 2010) and includes events such as discussions of BL works, cosplay contests, a doujinshi market, bishounen bingo, and a bishounen action. These would surprise even BL lovers in Japan.
Out of all these events, the one that attendees look forward to most is the face-to-face meeting with the BL artists who come from Japan as guests! Every year, Yaoi-Con invites popular BL artists to interact with their fans through autograph sessions, handshake events, and discussion panels. 2010 was the important 10th anniversary for Yaoi-Con, and it invited Ayano Yamane-sensei as a special guest!
More than 300 fans gathered for the Focus Panel event, where they could ask questions directly to Sensei. There was a long line of people wanting to ask questions! We’ve reproduced the panel’s Q&A portion between Yamane-sensei and her fans. Please check it out!
(Questions and answers are from October 2010)
Attendee: I heard a rumor that the Finder Series is ending at Volume 5, and I was really sad when I heard that.
Yamane-sensei: It seems that rumor has spread overseas for some reason. It’s still running in BE-BOY GOLD, so I was also surprised to hear that (laughs)
Attendee: Then when is Finder running until?
Yamane-sensei: The arc that’s currently running, “Escape and Love,” will end in the issue of BE-BOY GOLD that goes on sale in December 2010. That arc will be released as Volume 6 next year. I’m also thinking a bit about a new Finder story after that.
Attendee: Please tell us how you started liking BL!
Yamane-sensei: I’ve loved drawing manga for a long time. I began drawing during elementary school. I read lots of different manga, and I really got into “Saint Seiya.” Then I read a doujinishi of it. But strangely, when I first read it I wasn’t disgusted. “What the..! This is what I wanted to see!!” It got my adrenaline pumping at once (laughs)
Attendee: For the people who read your manga, what do you want them to feel?
Yamane-sensei: I feel that I’m writing about love and eros. BL doesn’t happen in everyday life, and one might say that it’s a fantasy that deviates from everyday life. Considering that, I’d be happy if I could make my readers’ hearts pound and ache at the love between two men.
Attendee: Do you have any male fans? What do you think of them?
Yamane-sensei: The readers of my works are overwhelmingly female, but occasionally there will be a male fan who comes to an autograph session… Though there aren’t many. (laughs) Male fans in Japan are very shy, but male fans overseas eagerly tell me what parts they thought were good or what characters they like, so I’m very thankful to them.
Attendee: I’ve read all of the Finder series, but while Asami behaved very sadistically at first, in the fifth volume “Finder no Shinjitsu” he’s become sweet and kind. What’s the reason for that?
Yamane-sensei: The Finder arc “Naked Truth” was serialized over roughly 5 years, and during that time, there were especially many suspenseful, life-threatening climax scenes. I thought it was about time that everyone wanted to see a sweet Asami, and so he became sweet. So 50% of the reason was for fan service. The thing that makes me happiest is to delight everyone, so I want to write a work that can at any time bring together what everyone wants to read and the essence of my characters.
Attendee: The characters you draw are sexy and lovely. Do you have any male models that you use as reference?
Yamane-sensei: Actually, I don’t have any models, but there have been times when I looked at my favorite actors or fashion models and thought, “Oh, that kind of fashion is nice” or “That gesture is great.” My imagination runs wild and it becomes reflected in my work.
Attendee: Is there a model for Asami?
Yamane-sensei: There isn’t. I draw him from my imagination. If there were someone like Asami in real life, that would be scary (laughs)
Attendee: I heard that Finder is going to become an anime?
Yamane-sensei: Not an anime, but a new genre of animation called “ANiMiX." The production on the ANiMiX is progressing smoothly. When the release date is decided I’ll be able to announce it, so please look forward to it.
(Note: ANiMiX is a new form of animation that is created from the original manga artwork. Of course, it’s fully voiced over! The cast is listed below.)
AKIHITO TAKABA - TETSUYA KAKIHARA
RYUICHI ASAMI - TAKAYA KURODA
LIU FEILONG - NOBUO TOBITA
KEI KIRISHIMA - YOSHIHISA KAWAHARA
KAZUMI SUOU - KENTA MIYAKE
YAMAZAKI - KOJI ISHII
KOU - DAISUKE HIRAKAWA
TAKATO - SHINNOSUKE TACHIBANA
Attendee: What will happen to “Crimson Spell”?
Yamane-sensei: I plan to continue it for about 2 more volumes.
Attendee: Will Feilong appear in the Finder Series any more?
Yamane-sensei: I get lots of requests from overseas readers who want Feilong to make an appearance (laughs) I hope to someday write a story for Feilong’s sake.
Attendee: Was Feilong in love with Asami?
Yamane-sensei: Feilong had romantic feelings for Asami, and that’s why he clung to Asami so strongly. But Asami was seeking something different from Feilong. If I had to say, he wanted friendship or a sense of camaraderie, maybe.
Attendee: Sensei, do you love characters with glasses?
Yamane-sensei: I do. There’s always one in every work I write (laughs)
Attendee: There are lots of different manga in Japan, but what kind of works do you get inspiration from? And what about things besides manga?
Yamane-sensei: As for manga, I mostly read shonen manga. Outside of manga, I also watch shonen anime, or overseas television dramas… I especially receive a lot of inspiration from American dramas.
Attendee: Out of the characters you’ve drawn, do you have a favorite?
Yamane-sensei: I love all the characters from Crimson Spell and the Finder Series.
Attendee: Which of your characters do you want to date?
Yamane-sensei: Akihito. I think it would be like a date with a friend.
Attendee: What about Asami?
Yamane-sensei: I would decline. Because I think I’d pale in comparison to Asami. (laughs) He’s also so scary that it couldn’t be a proper date (laughs)
Attendee: What are you into now?
Yamane-sensei: I’m into tokusatsu (special effects) shows. In particular, I really love Kamen Rider, and I have a lot of figurines in my house. (laughs)
Attendee: When you’re writing manga and you get writer’s block, what do you do?
Yamane-sensei: I earnestly sleep. (laughs) I sleep and when I wake up, I eat. Then I watch my favorite things to refresh myself, in order to regain my imagination. There have been lots of times when my imagination surges back while I’m in the bathroom or taking a bath.
Attendee: Which character is the hardest to draw?
Yamane-sensei: (immediately replies) Asami! Slicked back hair is difficult, so it honestly takes me a lot of time.
Attendee: Are you not going to write “A Foreign Love Affair” any more? Will Ranmaru get divorced?
Yamane-sensei: Right now, I’m very busy with “Crimson Spell” and the Finder Series, so I don’t have time… But, if an opportunity arises, I would like to write it again. It would be sad if Ranmaru and Kaoru get divorced, so I haven’t thought much about that possibility.
Attendee: When it was decided that the Finder Series and “Crimson Spell” would be published overseas, how did you feel?
Yamane-sensei: When writing the manga, I didn’t originally write it for a foreign audience, and there were lots of times where it was set overseas even though I’ve actually never been to those places. So I was initially worried about what to do if readers reacted with “That’s not how it really is!” But the manga were translated in various countries, and when I looked at the readers’ reactions, I was glad there wasn’t as much criticism as I had feared.
Attendee: Do you plan for Mikhail to appear in the Finder Series in the future?
Yamane-sensei: I don’t, but what should I do? (laughs) When I write a story related to Feilong, if he fits the story well I’ll have him make an appearance.
Attendee: What’s your favorite manga from Shonen Jump?
Yamane-sensei: These are a little old, but I really love “Death Note”, “Slam Dunk”, “Saint Seiya”, “Hikaru no Go”, and “Dragonball”.
Attendee: When you draw a complicated sexual position, do you call up a handsome model and have him actually pose for you?
Yamane-sensei: I’ve never had a model pose for me. (laughs) While looking at magazines or photobooks, my imagination goes from there and I draw.
Attendee: “Crimson Spell” is a fantasy with a very deep world. What’s your favorite fantasy novel?
Yamane-sensei: “The Lord of the Rings”. But actually, if I had to say, I prefer science fiction like “The Matrix”.
Attendee: Have you been to conventions other than in the United States?
Yamane-sensei: Yes. So far I’ve been invited to many countries. The ones I’ve been to before are Taiwan, Germany, and France. I’ve been happy to get such a warm welcome from the fans in every country, but the ones with the most passion and excitement are all of you in front of me right now. (laughs)
Attendee: You’re writing popular works like the Finder Series and “Crimson Spell”, but other than that what kind of work would you want to try writing?
Yamane-sensei: Long series are nice, but I have to always give them my best, and if it runs for several years it can really wear me down. So I would like to try a casual short story.
Ayano Yamane YAOI-CON Gallery
At the opening ceremony. Behind Sensei there's a huge banner for the 10th anniversary!
Surrounded by Crimson Spell cosplayers, posing with Havi's staff.
Another Crimson team appears! These three dashed from Taiwan to meet Sensei.
With Ruruka. Sensei is thrilled. "To see cosplay of a character from my own work!"
Also with Ruruka. Among the Crimson cosplayers, it seems Ruruka is especially popular!
The autograph session is held in a conference room of the hotel. Over 200 fans gather.
Oh, Havi and Vald came to the autograph session! Havi stares intently at Sensei's hand.
With the Yaoi-Con organizer Susan. Sensei presents her with a Akihito pillow cover as a gift.
The video you can see on the front page is footage of Ayano Yamane-sensei drawing a color illustration. It was filmed over 2 days and unveiled as a special video at Animate Girls Festival 2010, and then it was condensed into this 7-minute clip. Immediately after it was released, it received a great response not just from within Japan, but from overseas as well. Through the process of inking and coloring, Yamane-sensei gradually breathes life into the character. So we asked Yamane-sensei about that creation process!
──You have 8 steps to drawing a single color illustration. Can you simply explain them?
For a single illustration, the composition is very important. I have to think about what kind of illustration I want, and what kind of message I want to convey.
Because it's only a single illustration, from there the viewer will imagine what kind of scene or story is taking place, so I have to consider the composition and the characters' expressions.
(For example, "These two are in the helicopter's searchlight and are being chased across the rooftops...!" or "These two are heading to a formal party♪ They'll be drinking champagne♪")
There have been plenty of times when it took me several days to draw countless rough sketches until I made one that I liked (^^; If I don't decide the lines for inking during the rough sketch stage, I'll mess up later on.
Once I've decided on the rough sketch, I take the paper that I'll do the coloring on and attach the rough sketch underneath, then use a light table to reproduce the drawing. However, even if I trace the illuminated image, I'll never get exactly the same drawing...
The characters' expressions that I've spent so much time deciding on will end up changing a little at this stage, so I make some minute adjustments while taking care to not damage the paper.
The paper I use is gentle and becomes fuzzy easily, so I have to be very mindful. That's because when you apply color ink to a damaged part, it won't turn out pretty.
There have often been times when the paper becomes fuzzy despite great effort. I'm the type who gets irritated easily, so I keep working hard at it so that it doesn't all go to waste. (^^;
This step generally takes half a day.
Next, I apply color using color ink. First, I generally start with the skin. I prepare a blend of about 4 or 5 color inks in order to get the skin color I want. These are usually yellow, orange, pink, and brown.
I give the "seme" character a darker complexion, and the "uke" character a cute hint of pink...
When I'm applying color, I add a lot of water and apply the color thinly to the desired areas. The reason I add a lot of water is to gradate the color so that it doesn't become uneven.
Before I color the hair, I finish the face.
Because the face is a very important part for the illustration, if I don't decide on it here, I can't move on the rest of the illustration (^^;
For the detailed facial parts, I use a fine-point brush. The illustration's life is on the line here, so I have to be very delicate with this work.
After applying the base color, I quickly add shading while the ink is still wet. When adding the shading, I have to decide where the light is coming from and be careful not to mix up the directions of the shadows. If the shading is light, it becomes like a gentle drawing from a shoujo manga, and if the shading is thick, it becomes like a bold drawing from a shonen manga. This is an important step in bringing out the characters' three-dimensionality.
For things like the skin, clothes, and accessories, the way that light shines on them or shadows form varies by object. So when I have to draw something that I'm not used to drawing, I think it's important to study the actual object and expand my image of it. (For example, between cotton shirts and jeans, the way that they wrinkle and the thickness of their material is completely different. Also, when light shines on a black leather belt, the illuminated parts shine white.) In particular, when I apply color to jeans, I place actual jeans next to me as I color. The folds are very difficult...
After the face, this is the most delicate part. I create an angel's halo with a faint color, then using a fine-point brush I meticulously draw the flow of each tuft of hair. If a character has long hair, I might spend about half a day for the coloring. Black hair has a thicker color than blond hair or silver hair, so it takes a lot of time and labor. Coloring hair consumes a great amount of energy and stamina. After finishing the coloring, I have to take a break before I can continue (^^;
[About the coloring]
Skin -> Facial parts -> Hair -> Clothing -> Background. I color in that order, completing each part in turn. In general, I start with fainter colors and then follow with deeper colors. If you do it the other way, the deeper colors will blur into the fainter colors.
When coloring the background, I apply masking to the illustration. (Note: In order to not let the colors overlap, a sheet is placed over the finished characters and other parts.) Because I have to attach a sheet to prevent damage to the illustration, I gently attach one with a weak adhesiveness.
Airbrushes require a lot of work to maintain, so honestly I find them very bothersome. But when adding color to the background, they make the characters feel very lively, so I think of it as another important step and try my best.
For the background of the cover illustration of Finder Vol. 6, I used modeling paste and gesso as coating. Adding a pattern on the computer is easy, but drawing it by hand takes a lot of time and effort.
I wanted to bring out the warmth that only a hand-drawn background has, so I also drew flowers, a sofa, etc.
At the end, I finished it off by adding white highlights.
──When writing a chapter for your manga, what process do you go through from the idea to the manuscript?
First is the plot. I think about something similar to a synopsis for the manga. Until I get the okay, I can't continue on.
After the plot is decided, the next is the "name." The "name" is like the rough draft of a manga that includes the panel composition, dialogue, and the story's direction.
Using basic drawings on any kind of paper, I decide the detailed flow of the manga. This part of my work uses up the most brain cells. Most of the mental stress comes from this step.
After the "name" is finished, I finally do the underdrawing on manga manuscript paper. While doing the underdrawing, there have been times when the composition changes from the "name."
Once the underdrawing is done, I begin the inking. This is very patient and demanding work. In my case, I can finish at most 5 to 6 pages per day. When there are things like long-haired characters or monsters, my efficiency becomes even worse.
After the inking, I use an eraser and then do the "beta" (filling in all of the black areas). The erasing, background drawings, and background screentones are done by assistants. There are also many cases where I will draw small items such as futons and swords myself.
Adding screentones to erotic scenes requires detailed skill and individuality, so I do those myself. (laugh)
After adding the white, the work is complete.
──Up until a work is completed, about how many assistants are necessary?
For screentones and backgrounds, generally 2 or 3 come to help.
I've heard that some creators with a prolific monthly output have even more assistants.
Because of the assistants' wages, my money from the manuscript payments quickly disappears.
I don't produce much per month, so there are also months when I'm losing money.
──Personally, what do your characters mean to you?
I have a very strong love for the characters in the series I've been working on for a long time. They're like my children.
Whether one of my works becomes popular or not, they're my own creations, so that will never change. They're precious to me.
──Yamane-sensei, thank you very much for this precious interview!
That was very specific, wasn't it?
Producing works with any amount of passion is an overwhelming path to take.
Ultimately, her energy is spread to her readers, which should have even just a tiny effect on their lives.
When reading Yamane-sensei's works and thinking of the hidden stories behind their creation, it feels like you can see a different kind of drama going on!
Hello! Sorry for not writing in a while.
A new Finder volume is coming out after nearly two years, so Libre and Animate have been doing campaigns and other promotions for me, so here I am along with my greetings!
While I was working on this volume, the Great Tohoku (Northeast Japan) Earthquake happened. I extend my condolences to everyone who has suffered and whose lives are still disrupted.
Because I live in western Japan, I can only see the situation there through the images on the Internet and on television. But unable to bear the thought of the sorrow and sense of loss among those who have lost something precious, and the devastation of the beautiful coastal cities, I asked myself whether it was okay to be drawing manga. I couldn't cheer myself up, and I became faint-hearted and depressed.
During that time, I received messages through Twitter from people from the affected regions, saying "I'm looking forward to it!" Being the one encouraged by them, rather than the other way around, I once again felt a deep gratitude to my readers. Because there are people who are awaiting my work even in the middle of a disaster, I can't let myself get down...!
While everyone was starting their various support efforts, I thought about what I myself should do. I figured that providing "moe" and pleasure like always would make them the happiest! I discussed with my editor, and taking the readers' words to heart, we somehow managed to successfully release the new volume. It's the same erotic manga as always, but I'll be happy if you enjoy it (^o^)
There are 2 types of booklets it comes with, so please choose as you like (^-^)/
This volume was able to safely reach bookstores on the scheduled release date with the assistance of many people - the ones who searched desperately for paper due to the damaged paper mills, the ones who stayed overnight at the printing house to make sure the two types of substitute paper wouldn't get mixed together, the printing house that waited for the manuscript until the last minute, and the editor who encouraged me as always...!
Before this, I had no idea of just how many people I'm supported by when drawing my manga. I am truly eternally grateful.
Through people like that who are trying to somehow rebuild industries damaged by the disaster, I witnessed the resilience of Japan's manufacturing.
I love the seafood from the Sanriku coast, and I always buy Tohoku vegetables. And without the people who make paper and ink, I can't make a living. The strength of the Tohoku people is necessary for Japan.
That's why I wish for the day to come soon when all of their worries are over and they can reclaim their normal lives.