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New York Comic-Con 2012
Vertical Inc Presents Moyoco Anno Panel

by Crystalyn Hodgkins,

Vertical's Ed Chavez moderated the panel with manga creator Moyoco Anno on Saturday morning. Chavez introduced Anno, who was wearing a cream-colored kimono, and then Anno addressed the audience by thanking the audience for coming to her panel and saying she was delighted to be there.

Chavez noted that what makes Anno's work so unique is that she's a josei manga creator. There's a long history of josei manga in Japan, but not much of it has been brought over to the United States. Chavez noted that, however, that trend is slowly changing with Vertical publishing Anno, Ai Yazawa, and Kyoko Okazaki, or Yen Press bringing over Kaoru Mori's works.

Anno started her career more than 20 years ago. She has worked on Trumps, Jelly Beans, Sugar Sugar Rune, Flowers and Bees, Happy Mania, Hataraki Man, Sakuran, and Ochibi-san, which is a newspaper strip. Happy Mania was actually the first josei manga to be released in the United States. Anno celebrated her 20th year as a manga creator in 2009.

Chavez then launched into a Q&A session with Anno, with questions he had prepared.

When asked what inspired her to become a manga creator, Anno answered that when she was 10 years old, she suddenly wanted to become a manga creator. As for creators or works that inspired her, she has always loved manga, but her uncle is also a manga artist, so she was influenced by him as well. He lived in her house, so growing up with family in the industry, she learned how to talk to editors and appease them. She brought her first work to editors at age 15 and debuted at 17.

As she was writing her first stories in high school, and one of her first stories was about the boyfriend she was dating at the time. She didn't think it was going to be published, so she was surprised when it was.

When asked if she wanted to debut as a shojo manga artist, Anno responded that it wasn't originally her intention. When she was a child, she liked Hakusensha and the Hana to Yume magazine. Anno said she had wanted to write manga like Ryōko Yamagishi, who was one of the original 49ers. Chavez noted he was surprised by that, because Yamagishi introduced very flowery and fluffy characters in her works, and there was a lot of fantasy in her works, but Anno's work don't often focus on fantasy.

Anno said she originally wanted to try working with history and fantasy, but she wasn't a good student. So she wanted to write something she could write about, which turned out to be teenage romance.

When asked what led to her transitioning to josei and her writing Happy Mania, Anno responded that shojo manga didn't really click for her. In shojo stories, the heroine would pine and pine for the boy she likes, and one day out of nowhere he would suddenly say that he liked her too. The characters didn't get turned down or date someone and then get dumped. That didn't really click with Anno, and she said she would keep thinking: that's not how it really works. So she wanted to write something that felt more realistic. In shojo manga, the stories were about getting to the point that two people admitted liking each other and the relationship was going well. It didn't really show what happened afterwards, with situations like “I like them but I don't understand them,” or, “we had sex but it's not really working out.”

Anno noted that even in the mid-90s, even in women's manga, the manga didn't really deal with those issues. There were a lot of manga where women did break up and go out with other guys, but it was usually because another guy had said that they liked them.

Anno was then asked about fashion, since in Sugar Sugar Rune, Flowers and Bees, and even in Hataraki Man, fashion is at the forefront. Chavez asked how long she had been interested in fashion. Anno responded that it's not that she was interested in drawing or focusing on fashion, but when she creates a character, she wants to make sure that the character is accurate. If the character isn't into fashion, she wants to reflect that in the character's clothes. But many Japanese girls tend to be fashionable, so a lot of times they are stylish.

In Flowers and Bees, the characters discuss not just fashion but about having the right personality as well. Anno said she drew that comic for Young Magazine, which is intended for a male audience, and that audience is interested in being popular with girls. She wanted to let them know that what they were doing was half right but also half wrong.

Since Anno has written multiple titles for male udiences, Chavez asked if she does anything differently at all for those works. Anno said that she makes sure not to have as many internal monologues, partially because men find things tedious. However, in Hataraki Man, there were some internal monologues. This was partially because there are men who are critical of women who work hard, so she wanted to express the inner workings of the female characters in a way that men would find interesting.

Chavez and Anno noted that due to Hataraki Man taking place in the publishing industry, it is very popular with those who work in the industry.

When asked what works she would like to have published in English, Anno responded with Jelly Beans, Love Master X, and Ochibi-san. When asked why the graphic novels for Ochibi-san were published in both Japanese and English, Anno responded to a laughing audience that was because she didn't have enough pages.

Then Chavez asked for questions from the audience. In regards to Anno's manga that have been adapted into anime and live-action dramas, Anno said that in her manga, she expressed a story that could only be expressed in manga form. So when it's turned into a manga or drama, she feels that it's not really related to her anymore, and she can enjoy it as a visual product.

In regard to her typical work schedule, she normally works for 10 hours a day - five hours in the morning, then a one-hour break, then five hours in the afternoon. However, during times when she's on a deadline, she might work for 36 hours straight. Anno added that she can't recommend it.

In terms of how she created her own art style, Anno said that she was inspired by professional manga creators, and it took about five years to create her own style. She was particularly influenced by Kyoko Okazaki (Helter Skelter), whom she worked for for a while.

When asked if Anno pulls from personal experiences for her works, she said that during the time she wrote Happy Mania, she had five pretty messed up friends. She then said, laughing, that after she wrote it, they weren't really her friends anymore. She added that yes, some of her works are inspired by personal experiences.

When asked why she uses a drawing of a baby to represent herself, Anno said that sometimes she writes aggressive stories, so she thought that if she drew herself as a baby people would forgive her.

When asked if she was planning to write a sequel to Sakuran, Anno noted that she has written several stories that take place after Sakuran, but they have not yet been published. As for what she uses to color her drawings, she uses Copic, which are oil-based magic markers.

Anno was then asked if for Sakuran, if she was concerned about writing something historically accurate or something that would appeal to modern day readers. Anno responded that the kimono in the series were based on historical data, but the patterns on the kimono were ones that she particularly liked. When asked about her research process for Sakuran, Anno responded that when she decided to write a story in the Edo period, her husband found a book in a used bookstore that was about 40 years old that had a lot of jokey poems from customers who had gone to teahouses in the Edo period, and it was completely different from historical texts about that period. She was very inspired by the book.

When asked if her husband (Hideaki Anno) has ever bounced off ideas with her in the past, Anno responded that with Sakuran, she started it because her husband said to her, why don't you just write something you want to write?

In terms of other josei artists that Anno would recommend, Anno said that she would recommend Risa Itou. When asked if her ex-boyfriend ever read that first manga about him, she said she thinks he did, but when she wrote Happy Mania, he would call her up and ask if that was him featured in the manga.

When asked how she balances having a main character (like with Happy Mania) who are very flawed and aggravating but also entertaining, Anno said that she wanted to write a character that people would look at and think “what are you doing?!” But in Hataraki Man, the heroine's best friend is a person who is very together, so she acts as a balance to the heroine.

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