Interview: Reiichi Hiiro

by Chih-Chieh Chang,
Reiichi Hiiro is a veteran BL/yaoi manga-ka, who has over a dozen different commercial titles. Invited by Taiwan Tohan Co. Ltd., Hiiro-sensei gives a brief interview as well as an autograph session for fans of her Double Call, a BL/yaoi manga about Major League Baseball (MLB) players. The story of Double Call surrounds two pairs of male couples who play for the Baltimore Orioles and the New York Mets.

Q: Why did sensei choose the realm of BL/yaoi as your focus? Please tell us also how did you become a manga-ka and which manga have influenced you the most.

Hiiro (H): I have been drawing doujinshi for many years. When I started drawing them, there was no specific “yaoi” genre. Before anyone realized, the genre was formed gradually through time, and I slowly shifted to this genre as well. It was not intentional. For outside influences, I'd say the invitation form editors of Kaiousha asking me to create such a title was the major factor.

Q: Double Call is sensei's first long-running series; most titles by sensei were short stories. Why chose baseball as the main theme of your first long-term serialization?

H: Personally I like baseball very much, and there was no other manga-ka has chosen baseball teams as the main theme of any yaoi title, so I combined my own favorites to construct the story.

Q: Did you want to develop it into a long story from the start?

H: In fact, Double Call was meant to be a short story in the beginning, however as I continued drawing it turned into a long serialization unintentionally.

Q: Any hint on your next project?

H: I'll continue this current serialization as long as possible, so there's no plan for a next title yet.

Dormcat (D): Why chose real MLB teams instead of Japanese teams? Don't you think using real teams might trouble some people?

H: If I chose Japanese professional baseball teams I would get into more trouble, as those teams would start asking me why I use their names to create a manga, particularly a yaoi one, which is always controversial (laugh). Back then when I started this series MLB was not as well known by common folks as it is today.

D: How about using fictional teams instead?

H: With the exception of the protagonist teams (the Orioles and the Mets), all other teams are fictional.

Q: Your autograph session will start in a few minutes from now; how do you feel? What's your first impression of Taiwan?

H: I am very nervous right now (laugh). Although I've been here for just two days I have visited many different places and tried many foods, especially DinTaiFung. In a twilight market I also tried “birdy fortune telling” with some good results.

Q: How do sensei feel about the CD drama of Double Call?

H: I've participated the entire production of CD drama and interacted with its seiyuu. I consider it excellent.

Q: Do you have any favorite seiyuu (of Double Call CD drama)? From what I've learned Yorito Sendou (voiced by Akira Ishida) is the most popular character.

H: Personally I'm more interested in (Tatsumi) Touma, played by (Toshiyuki) Morikawa-san.

D: BL/yaoi is already a minority within the general manga medium, which itself is in turn a minority of the entire pop culture market. Have you faced any difficulty with common social values or been shunned away?

H: In the early days the popularity of yaoi was indeed very restricted, only circulated among a small, hardcore fan base. However, now it is widely accepted and displayed publicly in regular bookstores, so I don't have any problem with society's values or such.

D: There's an Otome Road (乙女ロード) in Ikebukuro.

(Everyone laughed)

Q: Which manga, anime, books and movies you watch in your spare time? Any favorite?

A: One live-action movie I found very interesting recently is Pirates of the Caribbean. As for anime I'm watching Samurai 7 lately.

Later sensei moved to the stage area and greeted her fans. Compared to fans of other (BL/yaoi) titles, fans of Double Call were more mature, and the percentage of male fans was higher.

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