Taipei International Book Exhibition
Interview with Yuzu Tsutae

by Chih-Chieh Chang,

Illustrator and manga-ka Yuzu Tsutae is the original creator and character designer of Suki na Mono wa Suki dakara Shouganai!! (“Sukisho” for short; some sources spell it as “Sukinamonoha Sukidakara Syouganai” and “Sukisyo,” respectively), a pioneering boy's love (BL) / shounen-ai game released in August 2000 that is one of the first commercial games of its kind. Since then, Tsutae has become a popular illustrator. Her other illustrated works include Oresama ni wa Kanawanai! (オレ様には敵わない!) and Ikinari Seitokai!? (いきなり生徒会!?), both written by Riho Sawaki (沢城 利穂).

[Note: the questions were contributed by audience members, including ANN correspondent Chih-Chieh, and the host of the event.]

How did you debut and become a manga-ka?

Tsutae: I was the character designer of Sukisho. After the game was released, Kadokawa approached me to discuss turning it into a light novel. The person who contacted me was the managing editor, Ms. Kumagai.

How did you start with the game then?

Tsutae: I was working part time at the game company (Platinum Label / Softpal). Because I love these type of stories, I wrote a BL game project plan. The company found it interesting and approved it, making me one of its designers.

[Chih-Chieh:] In your opinion and experience, what is the difference between character designing for games, illustrating light novels, and drawing manga?

Tsutae: Of course they are quite different. In the game version of Sukisho, I was in charge of scenario and character designing, but not the composition of the final game, so my part was relatively minor. As for novel illustration, I received tremendous assistance from the novel writer (Riho Sawaki), and I tried to present the illustration in a different way from the game version. It was difficult, but gradually, I foundd it more and more delightful. The manga version (published by Enterbrain), which contains scenes included and not included in the game, is done by me alone. It was quite hard, but being the original creator of the game, I tried to present what had not been presented in the game and novel in the manga. However, I'm still quite nervous about whether my ideas can be conveyed to readers successfully.

Have you ever been an assistant to other manga-ka, or do you have experience drawing doujinshi?

Tsutae: I've never been an assistant, but I've been drawing doujinshi, even now, and I have a booth at Comiket each year.

How do you decide the personality and combination of couples, like who's seme and who's uke? And which is your favorite pair?

Tsutae: Right now Sukisho has four pairs, all of which were decided in the beginning. However, they can be “reshuffled” if the story requires more variations. I don't have a favorite couple though; that really depends on my daily mood.

Then what's your favorite couple today?

Tsutae: I'd say it's Shinichiro Minato x Sora Hashiba, because I just finished eating xiaolongbao, and Sora is a gastronomer.

How about you, editor Ms. Kumagai?

Kumagai: My favorite pair is Sora Hashiba x Sunao Fujimori, because their cut scenes gave me the strongest impression when I saw the game for the first time.

What's the difference between drawing doujinshi and shougyoushi (commercial imprints)?

Tsutae: They are quite different. Usually my doujinshi are bangaihen (spinoffs) of my commercial titles. Drawing doujinshi, which has basically no limitation, is much more easygoing and relaxing.

As a female, how do you comprehend BL stories? Do you have homosexual friends who give you advice?

Tsutae: I supplement my deficiency with moe elements (laugh). A friend of a friend of a friend is homosexual, but I've never met him in person.

So what is the charisma of BL stories? Do you consider yourself as a fujoshi (female otaku)?

Tsutae: It's a difficult question to answer…

Kumagai: Normal people often regard BL titles as gay romances. It is, in fact, a type of fantasy created almost exclusively by girls to imagine how the romance would be between pretty boys. Because of its fantasy nature, BL stories are more like games to girls, because they can fantasize about romances arising among those handsome and beautiful boys. This is the most charming part of BL stories, especially for creators.

How do you feel about Taiwan?

Tsutae: I arrived in Taiwan last night. The night view was fantastic.

[Host:] When I brought her to the night market and showed her cakes made with porcine blood, she was the only Japanese guest I've ever met who dared to give it a try – with just two bites, though. All other Japanese guests refused to taste it once they learned what it was made of.

Before arriving here, what was your impression of Taiwan, and what do you plan to do while you are here?

Tsutae: I've heard from friends that Taiwan is a place full of passion, so I was both nervous and anticipatory. I had two plans: first, I heard that night markets are very famous, and the second plan is visiting some café with cats, for I'm a cat owner and lover.

Many of your characters behave cat-like. Since you are a cat lover, do you use your experience with your pet cats for your characters? Tell us about your pet experience too.

Tsutae: Sunao has a second personality, Ran, and I feel his character very much like a cat, so I put cat-like elements into his personality when I designed him. Even his primary personality Sunao is a bit cat-like.

To both Tsutae and Ms. Editor: who's your favorite BL creator and which one is your favorite title?

Tsutae: I read a lot BL stories, but I'd like to keep my favorite a secret.

Kumagai: I took this job because I love BL stories. There are tons of favorites… sorry I can't be more specific.

How do you feel about the Sukisho anime?

Tsutae: I was very happy that it was animated. The first impression was “wow, they are now alive!”

[Chih-Chieh:] In addition to the anime versions, there are many BL titles adapted into radio/CD drama, including Sukisho. Does Sensei [Tsutae] listen to them, and how do you feel about them?

Tsutae: Yes, of course I've heard the drama CD of Sukisho; they can increase your heartbeat and make you excited. Those seiyuu have excellent dramatic skills. Just listening to those CDs can entice one to buy the original (paper-based) work.

Most fans of BL drama CDs are very picky with seiyuu “couples.” What is your favorite seiyuu couple?

Tsutae: I'm not that picky (laugh). Basically, I love them all.

How did the porcine blood cake taste?

Tsutae: It was delicious. I don't quite understand why most Japanese didn't dare to taste it.

Was there any disagreements on couple pairing between Sensei and the editor?

Kumagai: Sukisho was released as a game first, and its novel basically follows the plotline of the game. However, we did discuss a lot at the beginning of the first volume which character should be singled out as the primary protagonist.

[Host:] Thanks to Sensei and Ms. Editor, and thanks for coming.

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