Koge Donbo

by Chris Macdonald, Transcription: George Phillips, Apr 10th 2005
Even if she hadn't created the massively popular Di Gi Charat, Koge Donbo would still be pretty cool. For starters, she maintains her own website, complete with its own Reversi gaming lounge—and two different skill levels! And how about that collection of Harry Potter fanart she draws in her free time? In fact, it's pretty hard to believe that she can manage a nifty website, a Harry Potter obsession, and one of Japan's most successful character franchises all at once. But that's why she's Koge Donbo and not us.

For starters, could you tell us a tiny bit about the influences on your work?

For influences, sometimes I'll look at some clothes when I'm going shopping and I'll think, "Oh these clothes are cute and they'll look cute on the characters" and I'll put it immediately down on paper, or I'll just be thinking “Oh, if they do something like this, they'll look cute,” and then put that down on paper. I'm not really influenced by one thing; I just stroll along and if I find something that I think is good, I'll put it down on paper. That sort of thing.

Regarding influences as far as people go – I've read about the people who've influenced you, but I know that there's an American artist who's extremely popular with anime fans, and says he's been heavily influenced by your work, and so I was just wondering if you'd ever heard of Fred Gallagher or Piro's Megatokyo?

Yes, I've heard of him. When I came to the US, Otakon staff would actually talk about him. I think they're big fans of both Megatokyo and him. It was like the first thing they said, the Otakon staff.

Now I feel bad. *Laughter* I've heard in previous interviews that you use a lot of computer artwork. I was wondering, do you draw by hand and paint by computer, or is it done entirely by computer?

I draw by hand, then scan it and paint it by computer.

With you working by computer, do you still use art assistants, or do you do your work on your own?

I have two different types of work – illustrations and manga. For illustrations, yeah, when I'm in a hurry, I'll ask assistants to draw some shadows, and then when I get it back from them, I'll do the final touches on it. So, yes, I do use assistants in that way. For actual manga, I'll initially draw the art and then give it to the assistants to draw in the background or something, and then get it back from the assistants and do the final touches as well.

How many art assistants do you have?

Two people.

Since you've been working with a computer, have you experimented with making 3D art of Di Gi Charat? Not animated, just art.

It's really hard, so I haven't tried it.

Not at all? Haven't even tried, haven't played?

I would love to, but it's way too hard, so I haven't tried it yet. I'd like to try it, but if I had people around me who were really familiar with that stuff, they could teach me and I could learn faster, but so far there's no one who really focuses on the 3D graphics, so I haven't had a chance to.

Here's a few more silly personal questions. Of all your characters, I was wondering who your favorite was, including your new works.

I do many different works, so it depends on when I'm working on that series or what illustration she's working on. I really can't choose one.

With regards to Di Gi Charat, which is the most famous here, which one is your favorite?

Hmm... After a long thinking, Di Gi Charat.

Of all your characters, which is the most like you?

Dejiko.

About two years ago, you did an interview based on fan-submitted questions. You did it in a manga. One of the questions that they asked you was if you still had time to do any doujinshi. At the time you said you'd love to, but you didn't have time to. In the past few years, have you actually managed to do any?

I haven't had time. It's time consuming. Compared to two years ago, I'm way busier now, because I have all the Broccoli work, and as well as my newest manga Kamichama Karin – which runs in the anthology magazine Nakayoshi. Since it's a magazine series, the deadlines are really tough.

Actually, I'm not familiar with the new manga series you just mentioned; could you explain a little about it?

It's a little tough. It's about a normal girl named Karin who meets a magical boy. She used to be a normal girl, but turns into a girl with special powers. It's a magical girl story. The magical powers she has are god's powers. It's mostly based on Greek mythology, so she gets Athena or whatnot's powers. It's strictly made for girls. It's the magazine that ran Card Captor Sakura and Sailor Moon. It's really made for girls, so it's based heavily on romantic aspects. Kami means God, chama is a suffix you put on, and Karin is her name.

At least from the reader's point of view, and maybe from your point of view too, it's very different – a young girl shoujo comic – whereas Di Gi Charat is very silly, but made for a broader audience. Do you find it difficult working with two genres?

Kamichama Karin and Di Gi Charat used to have a different target audience, but lately Di Gi Charat has become to be more targeted toward a younger audience, the same audience as Kamichama Karin, so in that way I didn't find to much difficulty in it. The hard part was when I first started the manga, I had to think from a young girl's point of view, and that was really a little bit difficult for me. A little, here and there.

You said it was a little difficult. For a lot of people, something may start difficult, but when it starts rolling or when the product is finished, they tend to be much more proud of their work and more satisfied when they're done. So, which one did you enjoy doing more?

Both Di Gi Charat and Kamichama Karin, honestly. I can't really choose between series like that. I mean, I worked on both of them, and like them both a lot.

Like choosing between two children?

Yeah, it's like that. I can only try to work harder and harder still.

Di Gi Charat first appeared in a magazine from Gamers in 1998, I think. Back then, were you prepared for how popular it would become?

I didn't think it would be this big. It was just a filler character for the magazine. When they were making the magazine, there was this open space in the magazine, so I just drew something and was like “Oh, just use this one.” So that's how Di Gi Charat came. No one expected it.

I don't know if you have this rather interesting phenomenon in Japan, but I know people here who like Di Gi Charat so much, and have watched the originals in Japanese, watched translations, read the manga... that they start to adopt characteristics from it. One of my staff, his girlfriend, whenever she's talking, throws in a —nyo in the middle of sentences.

When I would get work from a publisher, older publishers would say things like “I'm tired nyo.” So yes, it does happen a lot.

What do you think of it?

Perhaps it's probably easy to say, because I sometimes do it too. I think all the Broccoli staff does; they tend to say it too, both in Japan and the US.

Well, thank you very much for your time, and thank you very much for coming here.

Thank you.

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