Interview: Iqura Sugimoto

by Chih-Chieh Chang,
Kadokawa Media (Taiwan) invited Iqura Sugimoto, author of Variante, to visit TIBE 2006. The story of Variante is about an average girl, whose family was mercilessly slaughtered, including herself. However, after her corpse was sent to a secret research lab, she returned from the realm of dead miraculously – with an additional parasitic and morphing left arm, where her original arm was amputated. This new arm looks like just about anything except human... .

Born in Hokkaido, Sugimoto-sensei has a very young and attractive look – hard to believe that she already has a daughter. She loves old-school manga classics, such as Ashita no Joe and Glass no Kamen. Before starting Variante, Sugimoto-sensei has another penname, Mao Kuon, for her earlier works, which includes mostly shounen-ai series and the manga adaptation of the famous game Tales of Destiny.

There are many nostalgic anime around. Please tell us how those nostalgic titles influenced your work.

Although I love many old-school titles such as Ashita no Joe and Glass no Kamen, they are quite different from the work I'm drawing now. Furthermore, the methods of representation is those classics are significantly different from new titles nowadays. The editor would reject my current titles for being cliché if I use the storytelling methods of those classics in them. Therefore it'd be difficult to use the old ways in new titles.

I've heard that sensei's penname is related to salmon eggs, which is also your favorite food. I'd like to know if sensei chose the penname because of her favorite food or if it's just a coincidence. Moreover, we know that sensei is fond of rock music. Could you tell us which musician you like?

I just love eating them. I was born in Hokkaido, so my mom would send ikura (salmon egg)-related food products to me in Tokyo whenever the season is right. That's why I chose the name. As for the rock music: I have three assistants who would come to help me before the deadline. They'll bring their own music, so I can hear a variety of different music types. In the old days I loved underground rock bands and would watch their live concerts. However, after becoming a full-time, serializing manga-ka I have little time to watch them. Having a daughter could be another reason for having so little time.

Sensei has a cute one-year-old daughter. Does having a daughter affect your storyline?

After creating a new life form in my body and delivering her, my biggest change is that each and every life has become more important and valuable. In manga and many other forms of fictional literatures, many characters are killed without an apparent reason. Nowadays, however, even if I have to kill a character, I'd make sure s/he wouldn't die meaninglessly or without a cause. I'll treasure more for the value of one's life.

Sensei has used other penname(s) for earlier works. Why have you created a new penname for Variante?

I used to use Mao Kuon as my penname. However, most works under that name were BL (boy's love; shounen-ai) titles – female-oriented. Both Variante and its serializing magazine, Dragon Age, are male-oriented, so I don't want readers have linked Variente with the fixed image of Mao Kuon – a name linked with female-oriented manga. Furthermore, I'd like to have a fresh start as a rookie with Iqura Sugimoto, but everyone from Japan to Taiwan knows Mao Kuon = Iqura Sugimoto.

Have you started lagging behind schedule after having a daughter?

More or less, inevitably. However, since I've been living with my mother-in-law, there are not many problems.

Mr. Harada, Editor: There are some manga-ka who have habits of lagging behind schedule, and Sugimoto-sensei is not one of them (laugh).

What are sensei's hobbies?


MC: There are many anime-themed Pachinko machines (e.g. Gatchaman, Mazinger Z, etc.), which one would you choose to play?

I'd observe first and choose the one most often giving jackpots (laugh).

Harada: Sensei's really good at Pachinko. If she retires as a manga-ka, she could make a living by playing Pachinko alone (laugh).

Has sensei cosplayed?

I only had cosplayed once at a concert as my favorite member of a band (Sex Machinegun).

Two questions: 1) How did you compose the story of Variante? Since it's highly related to biology and medicine, have you done extensive research (e.g. visit a medical facility) for your story? 2) The info showed sensei loves to play RPGs; which type of RPGs do you play?

The world and most of its settings were formulated step by step after discussing with Mr. Harada. I've also searched through some books of particular interest for the technical aspects of the story. RPGs are mostly popular ones: Final Fantasy, Dragon Quest, and the Tales series; I drew the manga adaptation of Tales of Destiny.

How did you become a manga-ka? You look so beautiful; have you been scouted for show business?

When I was younger I created some doujinshi; the publishers appreciated my works and published them commercially. I've never been scouted; however, sometimes when I dress in a neutral, manlier outfit, scouts from male cabarets have asked me “wanna have a job in our cabaret?”

Sensei has created many doujinshi before. How have they affected your current creations? Which one is the most memorable and/or rewarding?

Drawing needs lots of practice, and doujinshi has provided me much valuable practice. When customers bought my work, I felt very excited and appreciated, and it was those feelings propelled me to continue creating more stories. My favorite doujinshi was based on Tales of Destiny, because it started my career as a commercial manga-ka after an editor saw it and appreciated it.

Have you encountered any difficulties when creating Variante?

There are those topics I'm not familiar with, such as battle scenes and technicalities. The only thing I could do was dig up more books and do more research.

How did you adjust your attitude when you switched your direction of creation from female-oriented titles to this one? Like fan service for female and male readers?

Compared with my BL-era works, I have changed the topic I want to draw. I want to draw some female protagonists, yet BL titles contain only males.

How would you suggest younger generation willing to become a manga-ka? What would you tell your Taiwanese fans?

The history of Taiwanese manga and doujinshi are still much younger than Japan's. I wish for the younger generation in Taiwan to work harder, because then, their works will be as good as Japan's. I'd be very happy to see manga from both countries sell well. Readers are very passionate; even more so than Japanese fans.

MC: Thank you very much for the interview.

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