I remember when Ed Chavez started at Vertical one of the things he mentioned was wanting to bring more manga-ka to the U.S. True to his word he helped North American otaku meet Usamaru Furuya, Konami Kanata, and Felipe Smith since then. Those three artists alone is quite the lineup. But as it stands Moyoco Anno is the crown jewel of his accomplishments. She is one of the more interesting and respected josei artists working today. She is a very unique voice in the world of manga and I am thankful that the English-speaking world got to get to know her a little better.
As Ed Chavez introduced Moyoco Anno we learned that she was the first josei artist to be published in English when TokyoPop released Happy Mania. Her magical girl series Sugar Sugar Rune was released by Del Rey and now Sakuran put out by Vertical Inc. has topped the critics lists. She is an endlessly amazing woman as she spoke in the panel and chatted with fans during the autograph signings.
I was amused that I predicted two things about the questions that would be asked during the Q and A. The first was someone would invariably ask her about her husband instead of her. The second was someone would mention they were also a manga artist while asking their question. I was right on both counts. I am not sure if I am proud that I know what was going to happen so precisely or a little ashamed of the routinely shameful questions you often hear. That aside most of the questions were insightful and got some meaty answers.
The first half of the panel was mostly Ed introducing Moyoco Anno and her body of work and then asking a combination of simple and complex questions. Since it was Ed Chavez he had a good sense of what questions would provoke good answers. But that is what we have all come to expect from the manga master. She started off talking quite a bit about how her uncle was a manga-ka and that inspired to make comics. She got a good sense of what it was like to deal with editors and deadlines seeing him work.
While I said she was fairly talkative I did ask the only question that totally stumped her. I asked what was the biggest advantages and limitations of writing josei manga. For that question she really had no reply. I wonder how much she could honestly not answer that on the spot and how much she did not want to burn bridges talking about the limiting nature of josei.
There were several other great questions that the audience asked. She mentioned that JellyBeans and Love Master X were probably her titles that were most accessible titles to a western audience. Apparently Happy Mania is based on the lives of herself and five of her friends. Probably to too coincidentally since the series has come out they are no longer friends. When she was asked why her avatar as an author was a little baby she said that she has a habit of being rather aggressive. She hoped that the image of a cute baby would blunt some of the acidic nature of her comments.
Ms. Anno’s debut at seventeen-years-old was brought up a couple of times. She told us her first published story was about her boyfriend at the time. Later someone asked if he’d read the story and she said indeed he had. She added that with later manga he’d sometimes call asking if certain moments were him, too!
As she started out writing shojo, Ed asked her about the transition to josei series. Ms. Anno talked at length about the idealistic nature of so much that was coming out at the time. She realized so few stories were willing to depicted the downsides of relationships. Even in other josei series, the women would only beak-up with a guy if there was another guy who had confessed to her. Ms. Anno wanted to injected a bit more reality to manga and the women seen there. If anyone has read any Happy Mania, it is full of not so perfect relationships!
Right off the bat I will mention the most interesting fact that came up which was that Moyoco Anno freely admitted that Sakuran was just as much about her experiences in the modern manga industry as it was about Edo period prostitution. Coupled with her hellish description of the time and personal commitments one makes as a professional manga author it becomes very clear how the lifestyle wore on her. It also explains her break from writing manga back in 2008. It does really open up Sakuran for a second read with that in mind. Coupled with her work on Hataraki Man it might even cause some people to take a look at her whole career to writing those two series with that in mind.
Unsurprisingly when the questions were opened up to the audience, there were lots of questions about Sakuran. She found a poetry book from the Edo period that sparked her interesting is doing the story. Her husband encouraged her to do it as well. Ms. Anno talked about how the story can actually be read as a commentary on navigating the office politics as a manga-ka, much to everyone’s delight! She even let us in on a little secret, she’s already completed some pages for a companion book to Sakuran.
I think that one of the most telling things about the whole day was the simple fact that when signing autographs she remembered everyone I know who asked a question during her panel. It is a minor point but one that proves that she was rather engaged with the audience which is always nice to see. Amusingly enough I who was so very eager to talk and ask questions during the panel was fairly at a loss of words when getting an autograph. But I suppose that also sums me up to a T as well. I would say that hands down anything involving Moyoco Anno was the highpoint of the convention. We so rarely get to converse with manga-ka, especially with one of this caliber, so it was an honor and a privilege to see her even for the short time we got with her. I really hope that Vertical and the other manga publishers can bring such a stellar selection of guests next year as well. Although I must say this year will be hard to beat.
I was already a fan of Ms. Anno’s work and that certainly made her my most anticipated guest of NYCC. Her panel and autograph sessions only furthered by enjoyment of her work and her attention to each of her fans as individuals means she’ll remain an incredibly fond memory.
I hope to see Hataraki Man in English one day soon!
Other NYCC 2102 Coverage:
New York Comic Con 2012: Tweets
New York Comic Con 2012: Our 6 Favorite Announcements
New York Comic Con 2012: General Impressions
New York Comic Con 2012: Exhibitors Hall & Artist Alley
New York Comic Con 2012: Anime & Manga Panels
New York Comic Con 2012: Comics & Media Panels