Interview: Range Murata

by Jonathan Mays,
Range Murata

Who he is: Anime/manga artist

What he's done: Creator: Robot; Character Designer: Last Exile, Blue Submarine No. 6

Quotable: "By publishing Robot, I thought I could influence other publishers to start similar projects that would seek out the next up-and-coming artist."

Last time we talked, you were here in Anaheim to promote Last Exile. What's happened since then?
Robot has been my major project, of course, and I've also been working on something with Gonzo for about a year.

Care to elaborate?
It's called Mardock Scramble. It's an adaptation from a Japanese novel that received the SF (Science Fiction) Prize. This will be the first time that the novel is put into video form. Gonzo has Blue Submarine No. 6 and Yukikaze under its belt, and now they are trying to put this new style of animation in line with those high quality animations. This time everything will be done in 3D, all the elements. As an illustrator, right now I'm working on the sketches and talking it over with the 3D designers. If this actually does pull through, it will be a new animation style.

The story is kind of... dark. Basically the main character is a girl, and her body is burned by the bad guy, and she dies, but then she's resurrected. So she's out for revenge.

I guess you're really here to talk about Robot, so let's do that now.
(English) O-Kay.

Where'd you get the idea?
In 1999 I made a magazine called Flat, and that was kind of the precursor to Robot. My goal was to make a place where new artists could be noticed and get attention in ways that the mainstream magazines don't give them right now. By publishing Robot, I thought I could influence other publishers to start similar projects that would seek out the next up-and-coming artist.

Sadly, there hasn't been a change in those publishing agencies. So I thought that, instead of just stopping at one volume, I would make it an ongoing series so I could continue to promote them.

So your big goal was to expose new artists?
Yes, in making this magazine, I wanted to have the mainstream audience recognize these artists and be exposed to the worlds that they make.

How long do you plan to keep it going?
I'm going to try to continue it as long as I can!

Did anything turn out better than you expected?
Not limiting myself to just Robot, since I release a lot of art books, I do like making, putting together magazines and designing, illustrating them. Apart from that, I do like making things in general, compiling them together. But for Robot, it was different since I was compiling other people's works as well as my own. I was astonished that this project actually pulled together and I was able to put everyone's work into one magazine.

How about the biggest challenge?
[laughing] Deadlines.

It was kind of hard to go and check up on each of the artists, see how their contributions to the magazine were going. But I think the same thing applies to all magazines that have different artists that make up the magazine.

What's “wrong” with the manga industry right now?
I see a trend of them trying to make only hits, and of course I can't say that's a wrong way to pursue a career, but sometimes I think trying to make everything into a hit so it would be accepted by a broad audience can hinder the artists. It suppresses them.

For publishers and marketers, I know they have to consider the market, and publishers' and consumers' opinions about different works. But sometimes, the artists can't show their true colors. So they need a place to show their real selves. Right now, Robot is the only magazine that showcases new artist works in full color; in Japan the trend is to only have black and white versions of them. So this is kind of a cutting edge move to make it all in color, and I hope other publishers jump on the bandwagon.

We already know about some of Robot's artists, like Yoshitoshi Abe. Is there anybody else you would like to introduce now?
Well, I would like to promote all of the artists. You mentioned Abe—in order for this magazine to go on, I need to include artists who are more widely known. But I also include a lot of artists who are sort of underground. I have ones like Abe to keep the publication going so I can keep on releasing new volumes. It's kind of like Flat, except that was only a one-shot magazine.

Can you explain Flat some more?
It was a one-shot art book.

And Robot is the same thing?
For Flat, it was a prototype for Robot. The artists who participated in it were more “maniac,” more audience specific. And more verbose. Robot is a bit lighter in tone.

Anything else you'd like to talk about?
I would like to remind everyone to pick up Robot so they can experience its stories in full color.

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