Interview: Toshio Maedaby Rebecca Silverman,
Toshio Maeda, self proclaimed "tentacle master," has been named the most influential erotic manga artist of the day. Originally he ventured into hentai manga due to the restrictions placed upon the content of shonen stories, and from there Maeda pioneered the use of tentacles as penis substitutes. Despite a terrible accident that temporarily robbed him of his drawing abilities, Maeda remains an active creator and promoter of his own work.
Maeda was visibly surprised that the person sent by ANN to interview him was a woman, and presumably my predilection for wearing long skirts and generally looking demure did not help. Despite that, he was open and friendly and did not display any discomfort. His English is excellent, which naturally facilitated the interview process. With a great charisma, Maeda entertained both myself and the two (superfluous) translators, holding court like the tentacle king he is. If you are ever at an event where Maeda is present, do go and talk to him. In the meantime, you can visit his site, which it goes without saying is NSFW and enjoy this interview, which was one of the best surprises of my trip to Japan Expo.
ANN: You've said before that you went into drawing adult manga because of the limitations of writing for children. Do you feel that children's literature in general is too limited in its scope and talks down to them?
There are some taboos, such as religion or politics or more things. In all the teenage boys' manga if you depict some, you know, violent scenes or give an opinion about politics or anything it is a bit hard - opinions from right wing or such things, right? When you are hinting about sex or something like that it is also forbidden. It's frustrating, you know, so that's why I decided to just go into manga for grown ups.
ANN: Rumor has it that you are a voracious reader. What do you enjoy reading?
I love books – I am bookworm, basically. Lately I've been reading English books. I don't know when, but I got a little tired of Japanese books – they all had a Japanese sensibility. So some years ago I started reading American books. Not just John Grisham types of books, people like that, I respect that, but it's not really my taste. I've been reading nonfiction. So many popular writers in America, so many nice writers in the states but they aren't popular.
ANN: Yes, only garbage seems to sell.
Yes yes yes, but I can't say that! (smiles)
ANN:I have to ask – why tentacles?
Why tentacles? For some reason there were some issues about censorship about the sex scenes. When I was drawing sex scenes, sensual scenes in bed, editors always asked me not to be so extreme. Of course we couldn't depict genitals, and if you can't see their genitals, it's not so good. And why they are so fussy about that was because they were the ones who would get arrested. We are not, always we have the freedom to express ourselves – freedom of speech, I think you really respect that in America (laughs). So actually we mangaka didn't give a shit about that, but the editors, they really cared about that, so they always said, “Please, not extreme.” But when we toned ourselves down, they said, “Come on, you should do more.” So that's why I did the tentacle thing. Because tentacles are not genitals. They are parts of the body, and some creatures have more than one. Because they are not genitals, they are like hands and legs or like uh, just body parts, so it's ok to go there. And attacking ladies with tentacles is not just part of a sex scene, you can see that. It's just outdoor things. So it was kind of a flimsy excuse for drawing that. (laughs)
ANN: You've written hentai for both men and women. What are the fundamental differences between the two?
Obviously it's totally different. I am writing for ladies comics, and my mindset is totally different. When I draw hentai manga, I'm really focusing on male readers. Sometimes female readers send me fan letters, and I don't know why. It is not my intention to get female manga fans [for my hentai works]. I'm so inquisitive about them – it's a big conundrum.
ANN: Have you seen an American romance novel?
In my point of view, romance novels are just porn for ladies. It's just designed for killing time. Romance is like some trashy hentai – it's the same thing. Oh, but I'm not saying that my manga is trashy. But actually, it's trashy. (laughs) But I can't say that, I'm a creator!
ANN: Have you ever been accused of disrespecting women because of your works?
Of course probably, but they are not the ones sending letters. They just, actually you know that how can you say that they feel its disgusting, they don't send letters to me. I don't know. Probably they do. Hmm. Sorry about that. I feel I'm guilty as charged.
ANN: Lolicon has been getting a fair amount of attention. What is your opinion of the genre?
You know, we have a long history about Lolicon. From the Edo era we were admiring innocent boys and girls, so we like something fragile and innocent. It's the same feeling that we have observing, how can I say it, the cherry blossoms. They're kind of fragile, and when they bloom, they're gone soon. Adolescence is like that. You know, the girls and boys their youth is gone soon. So that's why we Japanese people have a tendency to admire such beauty. And sometimes it goes into other things, for some people. Not me – I have no interest in such things. But the readers are interested and that is why I design characters. Basically there is a nonsexual aspect to it.
ANN: Are there any current trends in manga that you don't like or feel are wrong?
I think that America and Japan the editors and directors tend to think we're all idiots. They tend to simplify the endings or the concept or just everything. But sometimes we are thinking, “That wasn't great.” Do you think we are such idiotic people that in every storyline we are expecting a happy ending? So I mean you know, to cut to the chase – it's bullshit.
ANN: Have you heard of the Hunger Games? It's very controversial in the US right now. (explains concept)
Parents are always overreacting. Even when Pokémon went to America the parents are really worried about kids collecting cards or betting or something like that. They don't know that kids are so tough. In Japan kids are so spoiled. They don't have basic manners, they should watch their mouths, but after they learn, they mature. But if you don't learn to be a nice man at home, what happens? Shit happens.
ANN: Are there any lines you refuse to cross in your own work?
I'm always wondering where the line is, how I hold myself to cross or not cross lines. Probably I have already done it. I myself do have such a line. Probably it is changeable based on my mood. (laughs)
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