Episode 1

Higashimura Akiko
東村 アキコ

Quotes from the Episode:

‘It’s like they say, “Originally it was just a blank piece of paper,” but the mangaka, by drawing on it, causes a world to appear, people to appear.’

‘It’s like there’s a story in my head and I’m just playing the role of a “medium”, letting out onto the paper.’

  • Born October 15, 1975
  • Works include Princess Jellyfish and Tokyo Tarareba Girls
  • High-intensity, fast-paced workflow with several assistants.
  • Has one of the highest page counts in the world of manga
  • Last 10 Years – 100 pages/month

Higashimura Akiko – Short Documentary

Here is a 15 minute short version of the episode, highlighting the key scenes in the full documentary interview. 

(00:19) Intro Advice


Naoki Urasawa (N):
I was thinking, “I really need a miracle to happen!” 
With my own abilities I didn’t think I’d be able to go that far, so I was wondering if a miracle might happen while I was working on it, you see? 


(01:53) Skip Intro

It’s like they say, “Originally it was just a blank piece of paper,” but the mangaka, by drawing on it, causes a world to appear, people to appear.

Manga artists, you see, might actually be putting on an amazing performance here. 
When I thought of it, nobody was watching them while they were doing all this immense work.  

We’re seen as having the same type of occupation, but each person is like, their own sector, their own genre. 
It feels like it’ll be like looking at something that’s in a completely different genre. 
  • Name = A plan for the manga, drawn when planning the story.
Though all I’m doing is pulling the pen geeeeently along like this, somehow, emotions really do come to dwell in those lines.
And that moment when the emotions like, inhabit it, is something that takes your breath away. 

(04:02) Higashimura Intro

Higashimura Akiku (A):
When I draw a character’s face like, whoosh, in one go, that’s when I have the most fun. 
It’s like there’s this moment when you get the face how you want it, like it just fell into place, and when that happens I think, “Ah, I won’t ever be able to give this up.”

(05:20) Urasawa Meets Higashimura

  • Has one of the highest page counts in the world of mange due to her speed.
  • While working , she always wears a tracksuit. 
  • She uses more than 10 assistants.
  • Uses a clip board to keep the art steady. 

(06:28) Watching her Work


(07:40) The Rough Sketch


(09:11) Inking Process


(11:18) Her Fearsome Speed

This speed is really amazing. 
So long as I draw in the main lines and pass them around, if the worst case happens, well, I can at least publish something. That’s the way I think.
I’ve always had my serials while I’ve been raising my kid, so there were times when he’d get a fever, or when I’d get called into school, and that’d be the day of the deadline. 
  • became a mother when she was 29. 
In the end, I think the number one thing is to not drop an issue. (when the manuscript isn’t on time so it doesn’t get printed)
For me, too, I’ve always tried not to miss an issue. 
It’s that way of thinking, that’s how you maintain multiple serializations.
  • Once the vital outlines for the characters are finished, she passes the manuscript to her assistants, and begins supervising the backgrounds and effects.  
  • She’s used a G-pen from the start. Gives the pen quite a large amount of ink (dip).

(13:40) Drawing the Name

  • For the last 10 years has drawn roughly 100 pages per month. 
(14:08) Drawing the Name
You just dive right into drawing? 
I dive in. In my storyboards, I don’t write detailed sentences, or draw tiny little panels at all. I just dive right in and do it. 
Why do you draw your storyboards so properly?
I put fairly proper art in the storyboards, relatively speaking. 
With the expressions, too. I don’t really do circles and crosses. 
I am the same way. But I don’t do it as properly as this. 
What I end up drawing… drawing circles and making crosses, I don’t really think of it as drawing so it takes a lot of the fun out of it. 
I get that. I really enjoy drawing, like with the name.
When I’m doing this task, I don’t really think of it as work. 

(15:19) Getting Sleepy

We do get sleepy doing storyboards.
We do, I wonder why.
They make you sleepy to an astounding degree. 
Somehow, it’s really like you’re drawing them half asleep.
Yeah. You can do storyboards while dreaming, right? 
While you’re dreaming. And when they’re done you sleep for real. 
You sleep and then it’s done when you wake up, right? 
See there. It’s just spilling out.
Somehow, there’s no ambiguous hesitation there. None at all. 
It’s amazing. It’s like it’s flowing out. 
It’s like there’s a story in my head and I’m just playing the role of a “medium”, letting out onto the paper. 
There’s not much of an impression that I’m actively thinking. 
It’s just like I’m drawing the characters talking on the paper.  
I’m not thinking, “Let’s do this, let’s do that,” at all.  
There’s not much of an impression that I’m actively thinking. 
It’s just like I’m drawing the characters talking on the paper.  
I’m not thinking, “Let’s do this, let’s do that,” at all.  

(17:50) Drawing A Gag Scene

If I didn’t do this (write lots of dialogue in a panel), I get the feeling you’d get done reading in no time. 
You have this art that you’re tossing in without much thought, right? 
This degree of inattention to detail is actually just right. 
This would be no good if you drew it properly.
Yes, when I draw it in thoroughly, it’s somehow lame. 
I wonder why. 
The signs that you “don’t really care” are all there. 
That method of putting a bunch of stuff in one panel is actually pretty meaningful. 
It’s like, you’re cutting in while someone’s speaking, so you’ve got to make sure you wrap it up in a single panel. 
  • ‘Macaroni Hourensou’ gag scenes were a strong influence.

(19:24) Origin Story

  • She read “Ribon” magazing, she was a regular “Ribon Kid”
  • In the end, she liked comedy.
  • Was in the art club in high school and went to Kanazawa college of art. 
  • At 23 she debuted as a Mangaka
  • At 30 she made her own father a protagonist ‘Himawari – Kenichi Legend’

(21:39) An Eye For Quick Deductions

If you see a person’s room, you can understand their personality. 
It’s a little bit more vague than that, but you can somehow understand it.
I have a kid so how do I say this, it’s easy for me to see that sort of thing. 
You’ve got a head for quick deductions. 
I might have good intuition somehow. 
When I would go to someone’s house, I would know where the staples were right away. 
That was the kind of kid I was. 

(22:32) How To Express Character’s Appeal Through Art

The face is the one thing I always draw myself.  
The face is the first thing you absolutely have to get right. 
I think backgrounds are actually unneeded when it comes to manga. 
Isn’t everyone drawing too much right now?
Manga in the past had backgrounds that were just plain white. 
Your manga has a large amount of panels with lots of effect lines, but surprisingly there are panels that don’t have a background and only have effect lines as well.
I really tried to copy that, after see it. 
If you just stick a broad background in one panel…
…then people should be able to just fill it in inside their heads. 
Right, if you don’t ask the readers to imagine it, then there’s just too much information. 
  • Yokoyama Mitsuteru (1934 – 2004) lately (2015) may be her favourite mangaka. 
  • Filling in the hair completely was influenced by Yokoyama.

(24:40) The Clothes They Wear

  • Places value in illustrating the clothes people wear. 
  • Uses a felt pen to block/shade/colour in the images.
A mean looking person should wear a mean-looking design, whereas an innocent person calls for an innocent-looking design. 
I guess I might be pretty fussy about clothes. I’m a woman after all.  

(27:55) Using Her Assistant’s Ideas

  • Most of her assistants are young. Higashimura places great value on their fresh ideas and sensibilities. 
What I fear most I guess is becoming old-fashioned. It’s fine if it’s bad,  but I’d hate if it didn’t feel fresh. 
This theme (moon) that could persist until the final chapter, just plopped out now from an assistant. 
Well, that’s what manga production is like. 
This is why I haven’t gone digital, really. 
I think it’s definitely better to have people come and get ideas from them that way.  

(29:21) Finishing Touches


(29:52) Fixation on the Details of the Characters

For me, white ink is, somehow, a tool of addition, or a tool to augment the art. 
So rather than using it to erase mistakes…
… you can use it to create subtle expressions. 
But when I draw, what I pay attention to is, call it the “heaviness of things”, like for example, the heaviness of hair. 
Like a floaty kid should have floaty hair. 
Kimonos too, how the weight of a yukata would be different that a kimono worn in the winter, so I think I’m drawing while thinking about the weight of things.. 
When you can depict that, it makes you think, “I did it!”
I also feel the happiness that comes with successfully depicting something.  

(30:48) The Eyes

  •  Does the insides of the eyes with a maru pen.
  • The last thing she seriously evaluates is the characters eyes. 
It’s like you’re finishing by breathing life into them. 
It’s a task I quite enjoy, so, at the end it’s like I save the best task for last, I guess?

(32:11) Hidaka-Sensei

  • In high school she had a strict teacher in art class, Hidaka. 
It really is thanks to those years that sensei was pushing me. At that time I was drawing so much it felt like hell. 
I read “Kakukau Shikajika” and at first I sit and thought, “This person is a genius,” 
Instead of someone who could suddenly draw art like “Bam!”, actually, in order to get to that point, you had to put in a crazy amount of effort. 
It’s not really like the “darkness” in my life, but I had been hiding the parts of my life leading up to me drawing manga.
To put it bluntly, my lame past. 
I had actually planned to go with a character that was just like, “I’m not really trying that hard, I’m just sort of doing whatever.” 
But if I did that, it would’ve felt like a lie. 
So I just decided I’d draw the real thing, and I did.
  • Phrase which stirs Higashimura to action, Hidaka spoke repeatedly: “DRAW!”
In the end you have to draw. 
In the end it’s the same as calligraphy, or pottery. 
If you don’t draw the story won’t start. 
I do think he’s a rare type. I haven’t seen any others , since then.
He was so stoic and without lies 
He  was really somehow sort of cool.
Made you feel like there wasn’t anyone else like him. 

(36:08) Drawing Without Sketching

You’re making use of a shape that came coincidentally, right? 
Rather than having something in mind, you’re going with feeling. 
  • Nearing completion, still focussed on expressions till the end. 
This “tear sac line”, these really make the expression. 
They’re really important. 
That line for the bottom of the eye in manga, a .1mm difference can change things significantly. 
When you dab it in, the expressions totally change. 
You can express sorrow and such, or it could be just an ordinary happy face. 
  • With her team, completed 38 pages in 8 hours. 

(42:42) Conclusion

This story of “What if Uesugi Kenshin was a woman?”, somehow it’s about Higashimura-san herself in the world of manga, as a female artist. 
There’s a feeling of “I’ll conquer the nation!”, when you look at it. 
That sort of thing is cool, and I look up to it. 
Rather than, “I want to have fun doing something I love”, because I came from the countryside, I like people who are like, “I’m going to be number one!” more. 
Myself included.