The Toronto Comic Arts Festival (TCAF) is a celebration of comics and graphic novels and their creators, which culminates in a two-day exhibition on 11 to 12 May and features a special vendor fair highlighting hundreds of comics creators from around the world. Taking place at the Toronto Reference Library in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, the festival events include readings, interviews, panels, workshops, gallery shows, art installations, and so much more. Past manga artists who have visited include Yoshihiro Tatsumi, Shintaro Kago, Inio Asano, Natsume Ono, Gengoroh Tagame, Aya Kanno, Konami Kanata, Moyoco Anno, Usamaru Furuya, Taiyo Matsumoto, and Akira Himekawa.
Yuri manga artist Hiromi Takashima arrived to TCAF to promote the fifth and final volume in her Kase-san and Cherry Blossoms manga series. Her visit coincided with a special 100 Years of Yuri Manga retrospective that celebrates a century of Japanese Girls Love comics. In a special interview that took place at the Japan Foundation in Toronto, interviewer and Yuricon founder Erica Friedman asked Takashima about her career, her advice for young creators, and her thoughts on the Kase-san anime adaptations.
From a young age, Takashima always loved to draw and practiced all the time. To become a manga artist, she refined her skills by working on several doujin series, which included an Evangelion fan series and some boys-love comics. Although she started out by working on BL manga, she thought it wasn’t right for her because she loved drawing girls instead. Her series Kase-san was eventually serialized in a yuri manga magazine called Hirari. Despite this success, she realized the genre had limited appeal and low readership and Hirari soon ceased publication. Takashima was nonetheless motivated to keep her series going and was content with continuing work on it no matter the format. Fortunately for her, Kase san found a new home in a new anthology called Wings. She felt a strong self satisfaction in the amount of hard work she put into the series and was happy to take more opportunities to draw cool girls.
“Find your core [what you’re passionate about] and don’t waver even when you don’t know what you want to draw” Advice from Hiromi Takashima for aspiring artists at #TCAF2019@TorontoComics
Friedman and Takashima went on to discuss the Kase-san anime adaptations, focusing on the five-minute MV and OVA directed by Takuya Sato. Takashima thought the MV had beautiful animation and was very impressed by the passionate work of Sato and his team. She never believed her manga series would be made into an anime and believed the OVA matched her expectations of her work.
Takashima spoke more about her Kase-san manga series and how important it was to explore her characters beyond their high school years. This development was uncommon to yuri manga and was a crucial step for Takashima to highlight their ongoing maturity. In her attempts to broaden the readership of yuri manga, Takashima believed that such stories can be less confined to romantic tropes. She would like to move past the yuri label to encourage more casual readers to engage with such works.
Before the interview ended, Takashima took some questions from the audience. In particular, she offered some advice for young creators who hope to become professional artists. Here’s what she had to say:
Everyone will struggle in their first try.
Create one original work and get it done.
Don’t be too down on yourself – if you fail, draw something!
Easiest way to get your work done is if you focus on your ideal couple/ship.
Expand one part of the story and the drawing will come easy afterwards.
Have a strong core and understand what you really like as a creator.
Never let what anyone says affect what you want to do.
Find your personal ‘moé’ – it’s your ‘burning fire’ of sorts
100 Years of Yuri Manga Retrospective
TCAF commemorated a century of yuri manga with a special exhibit organized by Erica Friedman. The exhibition ran through the entire month of May and features a collection of rare, out of print yuri classics and some familiar, modern titles as well. One of the earliest works highlighted was Yoshiya Nobuko’s Two Virgins in the Attic (Yaneura no Nishojo) – a novel published in 1919 that arguably laid the groundwork for the genre. Other titles that were exhibited in the display include the Strawberry Panic light novel series, manga series Sailor Moon, Sweet Blue Flowers, Rose of Versailles, and Revolutionary Girl Utena, and an anthology published by one of the first yuri publishers in the world. Takashima’s own Kase-san series was also highlighted.
If you would like to know more about yuri and its centuries long history, you can check out this article by Friedman here.
Trivia about Hiromi Takashima
Out of the many characters that inspired her, Takashima cited Lum Invader from Urusei Yatsura as a strong influence.
She thought Shin Godzilla was a very interesting film she saw recently.
Takashima’s personal moé – For BL works, it’s a tall character paired with a shorter character with a big of an age difference. For yuri, she likes characters that are foils to each other and opposite in personality.
It was great hearing Takashima speak about her own journey as a manga artist and she related to her audience really well throughout her panel. It was also interesting to visit the 100 Years of Yuri exhibit that showcased how the genre has evolved over time. Special thanks to TCAF, Erica Friedman, and The Japan Foundation for organizing this wonderful event.#