Manga Answerman - Do's and Don'ts of Meeting Convention Guests from Japan

by Deb Aoki,

Now that the 2018 summer anime and comic convention season is in full swing, North American fans are in for a treat – the chance to meet some manga and light novel authors and artists from Japan at Anime Expo, including creators like Go Nagai (Devilman, Cutie Honey), Kugane Maruyama (Overlord), Kumo Kagyu (Goblin Slayer) and Ao Jūmonji (Grimgar of Fantasy and Ash). At San Diego Comic-Con, fans will greet Kohei Horihoshi (My Hero Academia) for his first overseas comic convention appearance.

So with this in mind, I think it's worth mentioning some friendly reminders of do's and don'ts about meeting manga artists and light novel authors visiting from Japan.

DO be enthusiastic and friendly! – Manga artists and authors rarely get to see their overseas fans, so it's a treat for them to get to meet you. Believe it or not, a lot of Japanese manga and light novel creators have only an abstract sense that they have fans outside of Japan.

DON'T ask for a hug – Come on, that's kind of awkward, okay? When I deal with colleagues from Japan, I don't expect to greet them with a hug as I would with friends from North America or Europe. Heck, shaking hands is even a little awkward sometimes, because physical contact like that is not the usual way people greet each other in Japan. The other reason to not ask for a hug? Well, sometimes at hot summer conventions, people can get a little… ripe. There's nothing ickier than being hugged by someone who's sweaty and stinky, and that goes for anyone, not just people from Japan.

DO cosplay as their characters – Japanese manga and light novel creators are always impressed when fans show their appreciation and love for their characters by dressing up as them. If you're lucky, you might even get a photo with them after the panel or during the signing.

DON'T ask them to sign your fan art – I recall a manga artist having to tell a fan that they weren't comfortable signing anything that they didn't create. SUPER AWKWARD.

DON'T bring bulky or hard-to-pack gifts – A little gift is a nice touch when you meet a creator at an autograph session, but keep in mind that the author is also traveling back to Japan eventually, and luggage space is precious! Large artworks, stuffed dolls and anything fragile creates a problem for creators when they're returning to Japan, so try to be mindful of that if you bring a present for them. Pro-tip: a little gift for their editor and the translator assisting the author or artist at the signing is also a nice touch.

DO tell them that you love their work! After all, you're a fan, and maybe you just spent an hour or more standing in line to meet them and get a signature. While they're signing your book or signing board, maybe say a few words of thanks or mention a favorite character or scene. It beats just standing there and staring at them.

DON'T tell them that you read their work on scanlation sites – This is a huge no-no. You may have done that, but you don't get any fan brownie points for saying that you love their work so much that you went out of your way to read the illegally uploaded version. Sure, they'll smile politely at you when you say that - but don't let that smile fool you, they definitely don't think highly of you for reading their work on pirate sites. It may be true that you discovered their work on a scanlation website, but you don't need to tell them that.

DON'T ask questions in the Q&A about events or characters that have not yet appeared in the official English releases – That also says “I read the scanlations!” I've seen this happen again and again, and it's really uncool. At Hiro Mashima (Fairy Tail)'s panel at New York Comic-Con a few years back, a fan did that and the publisher had to pointedly remind him that he was basically spoiling the story for almost everyone else in the room, and implicitly that he was being a jerk.

So be friendly, be appreciative, and don't be a jerk, and you'll make this summer's conventions a happy and memorable experience for creators visiting from Japan!

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Deb Aoki was the founding editor for Manga, and now writes about manga for Anime News Network and Publishers Weekly. She is also a comics creator/illustrator, and has been a life-long reader of manga (even before it was readily available in English). You can follow her on Twitter at @debaoki.

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