Interview with Yamane-sensei!

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?

[Rough sketch]

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!