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.