Interview: Ryoko Fukuyama

by Chih-Chieh Chang, Sep 1st 2006
Ryoko Fukuyama, creator of Nousatsu Junkie, was born in Wakayama, Japan. She wanted to become a manga-ka at the young age of seven. During her college years, she won a manga prize by sending her work to Hana to Yume, which was promptly followed by her debut as a manga-ka. Right now her latest work, Nousatsu Junkie, is the #1 most popular manga in the Chinese version of Hana to Yume magazine (licensed by Tongli Publishing).

The story is about a girl named Naka Kaburagi, who tries very hard to become a model, but her facial expression becomes as terrifying as a wanted criminal whenever she gets nervous. Kaburagi struggles to find work until she stumbles across the astonishing secret of Umi “UMI” Kajiwara, a successful model. To keep Kaburagi quiet, UMI employs her connections to bring Naka into the modeling business.

This is the first time Fukuyama-sensei has visited Taiwan. She heard that Taiwanese mango is cheap and delicious and was eager to try it out.

(Two cosplayers came in. In addition to simply cosplaying, UMI walked really fast while dragging Naka (who has a hard time catching up UMI's steps), recreating the way the two characters behave in manga.)

MC: Please say hi to reporters and your fans, sensei.

Fukuyama (F): Nihao (in Chinese)! I'm Ryoko Fukuyama. I'm very embarrassed to see so many people spending their precious time to attend this press conference. This is my first time visiting Taiwan and I'm very nervous at this press conference; I'll do my best. Thank you very much.

MC: Please feel free to ask questions now.

Q: In your manga, UMI became a model by accident when the friend he accompanied to auditioning stage frightened and ran away. In addition, Naka has kept emphasizing that UMI is a cross-dressing pervert. Is UMI really a cross-dresser?

F: When I started formulating the story, it was about two cute girls becoming models. Later I thought the story might become funnier if one of them were a boy, so the character settings were made in that way. He works as a model in women's dresses, so being a cross-dresser is not his real personality.

Dormcat (D): Now we know that UMI is not a cross-dressing pervert in his heart, I'd like to know why sensei chose a cross-dressing model as the central character of the story? Furthermore, I want to congratulate sensei; Nousatsu Junkie has been licensed in America. Would you like to be interviewed and/or invited to attend an American or other international conventions to interact with your fans?

F: When we talk about “models,” the first impressions would be female ones; so did I think when I started creating the series. However, in addition to having the beauty of a “female” model, UMI is very smart as well and is capable to drive the world circling around him. I feel that changing UMI to a boy but disguised as a female model would make it funnier, more novel, and easier for me to continue the plot. As for theAmerican license: frankly, I have no idea about it, so I don't have any plan yet.

Q: Being a manga about modeling, it's inevitable to use a large quantity of costume designs, and you have mentioned in your manga that you've taken a lot of reference from fashion magazines. Could you elaborate on your bibliography? Second, you often draw a frog to represent yourself in manga, as well as omake panels of “most wanted scene where characters wearing an Afro hairstyle,” in which you redraw a scene (picked by popularity polls) with all characters in Afro. Are those signs related to another popular title (hint: Keroro Gunsō)? Third, as a supporting character, the 17-year old genius photographer (Ikue Tsutsumi) is very active. Does sensei have a personal preference towards him?

F: First question: I'd buy 3-4 of my favorite fashion magazines and read them cover-to-cover, then select some of my favorite and easier-to-draw patterns as references. However, because I always pick my favorites, they might look similar (laugh).
As for using a frog to represent myself: I remember that in my first introductory panel (located at the left 1/3rd of the page) I drew a frog, which was easier and less embarrassing than drawing a self-portrait. Before I knew it I started using the frog icon to represent myself. The Afro hairstyle was just created for fun, for I thought changing the hairstyle of a character might be funny, but readers sent enormous positive feedbacks, so I continue drawing them.
At the beginning of serialization, drawing Tsutsumi was as easy as drawing UMI, but right now it's harder to describe his personality now. And yes, I like him very much.

Q: Is there an idol you like personally? For example, Taiwan had adapted Hana Yori Dango into a live-action drama and gained huge success. Would you like to authorize Taiwanese TV stations to adapt your work into a live-action drama? If this happens, is there any specific Japanese and/or Taiwanese actor/actress you wish to take the role?

F: I've been expecting this question (laugh). For boys who fits UMI's image, idols from Johnny & Associates (ジャニーズ系) are the most suitable; for Naka, model Lina Ohta(太田 莉菜), whom I like very much, would be ideal.

D: Do you want Nousatsu Junkie to be animated?

F: If its possible I'd be very happy, for my wish is to see my work being adapted into anime and/or live-action drama. I may cry out of joy really hard when that day arrives.

MC: Sensei's work has already been adapted into drama CD (featuring Mai Nakahara as Naka and Junko Minagawa as Umi), so the day of an anime adaptation should not be far from now.

Q: After your work has been adapted into drama CD, in the manga you've mentioned your experience about working with seiyuu, and you started to buy lots of anime in order to learn more about seiyuu. Could you tell us more about your favorite anime and seiyuu?

F: Before my manga was adapted into drama CD I paid very little attention to the world of voice acting. Many fans wrote letters to me suggesting, “The voice of Romi Paku would fit UMI the best!” So I watched Fullmetal Alchemist from start to finish; I love it, both her voice acting and the anime series.

Q: What's your impression of Taiwan before and after your arrival? Furthermore, your Nousatsu Junkie is very popular here. Do you have anything to tell your fans?

F: Many manga-ka of Hana to Yume had visited Taiwan before. After they returned to Japan they would report their experiences as omake manga panels. They described fans here are very passionate and zealous, and now I can say what they said was very true. Fans here are also very energetic with loud voices. Fortunately, due to effects of the recent typhoon the weather here is actually cooler than that of Japan right now.
I'm very grateful to have the chance sitting right here meeting my fans, seeing my work being published and enjoyed outside Japan. It's hard to describe how I feel – let's say I'm surrounded by your passion and love. Thank you very much.

Q: Many of my friends and I feel the way of coloring technique of sensei's manga is very special. I'd like to ask sensei that, in addition to costume designs, how did you design your conceptual color settings?

A: All drawings are finished with computers, including color pictures. Right now I've stick with brighter, lighter colors, and I pay extra attentions to combinations between adjacent bright colors.

Q: Do you have any plan for your next serialization?


A: I've thought of many possible ideas. The one I want to materialize the most are either about magic, student councils, and science fiction, of which I could never do when I was still a rookie.

Q: Sensei mentioned you wanted to become a manga-ka at seven. What are the most inspirational manga titles and/or artists to you?


A: I can hardly remember why I wanted to become a manga-ka at seven, and there was no other manga-ka in my family. In my second grade my mother bought me a Shogakukan's Shogaku Ninensei (小学二年生), a Gakunenshi (学年誌) of theirs, in which it had a ballet manga named Lovely Mari-chan by Kimiko Uehara (上原 きみこ).
I loved it very much so I started imitating. Personally I love works by Fumica Okano (岡野 史佳) and Ryo Ikuemi (いくえみ 綾).

MC: Now it's time for readers’ questions picked by sensei herself. First one: how did you get the inspiration to give the heroine with a mean face?


A: In the beginning I designed Naka as a girl who doesn't laugh at all. Then I thought being just “without laughter” wasn't funny enough, so I gave her a mean face whenever she's in front of a camera.

MC: Second: why did sensei choose the modeling business as the series' backdrop?


A: I have always been in love with the modeling business and the fashion industry. It was rather surprising and weird that I started using this topic so late.

MC: Third question: what would you most want to do if you had a day off?

A: I don't have enough time to take a break for a long time (laugh). Even when I do, I have to reply numerous letters from readers. I'd rather blank out and do nothing if I do have a day off.

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