Manga Artist Interview Series (Part III)

The Manga Series > Hentai > Toshio Maeda > Takeshi Oshima > Rui Hashimoto

The Space Shuttle Columbia disaster earlier this month hit manga artist Rui Hashimoto a little harder than most. At the time, she had just finished her latest feature about the life of Japan's first female astronaut, Chiaki Mukai. Included were depictions of the Challenger accident in 1986 - a time when Mukai was still in training as a payload specialist. A "complete shock" is how Hashimoto described the irony.

The book is one in a recent biography series of comics she has completed for publisher Kodansha. But getting these assignments - and any manga work at all, for that matter - is tough these days. Even though manga is growing in popularity overseas, domestic publishers are cutting back as a result of reduced consumer spending - at least on comics. Further, they are increasingly less interested in listening to writers' ideas for new works. One of Hashimoto's former mainstays, the magazine If, recently discontinued operations altogether.

Upon entering her home, one can see Hashimoto is an artist first, with manga being mainly a way to pay the bills. (A cat-sized grasshopper of twisted metal sits next to the foyer; shelves of books featuring the works of Paul Gauguin and Claude Monet fill shelves outside her workroom; and a large painting of hers featuring a rendition of a multi-colored piece of seaweed hangs in the stairwell.)

Her manga career is a relatively recent venture, beginning six years ago after a friend suggested she put her skills gained from studying toward drawing manga. She is now working on a feature for the magazine Dejiru that will profile the complications a mother faces in dealing with a soon-to-be-married daughter.

Given that as a whole the industry tends to lean towards content that is rather misogynistic, being a female is not unique in this field; in fact, Hashimoto often finds herself sharing ideas with a large group of female artists.

This week the Captain touches upon the gender issue and much more as he continues his Manga Artist Interview Series by sharing excerpts of his conversation at the home of Hashimoto - his first manga queen in the series.


Name: Rui Hashimoto
Age: 35
Hometown: Senkawa, Tokyo
Hobbies: Taking care of three cats and one dog
Recent manga reading material: Makoto Isshiki's Piano no Mori
Former jobs: Italian-to-Japanese translation and waitressing


Captain Japan: What type of people read your work?

Rui Hashimoto: Well, women my age - women in their 30s, read Dejiru and If. My Chiaki Mukai and Florence Nightingale (Nightingale) books are for children.

You know, for the one I am working on now for Dejiru, about the mother and daughter, I am reading the teen magazine Egg. It is the best way to get a feel for the kids of today, but it is really embarrassing (She grabs her copy of Egg off the table so that I cannot see the tanned and trendy teenage girls filling its pages - Captain)!

CJ: Do you come up with the ideas for the comics on your own?

RH: They are my ideas. I must sell them one by one - it is basically freelance. Sometimes I'll hear that a publisher is looking for someone who can draw a certain type of manga, and I'll bring in my samples. That is how I was able to get the Nightingale job.

I'd like to work on as many different kinds [of manga] as possible. It is impossible to have all my works in one magazine because these days magazines are so classified - some for boys, some for girls, some for women... some for salarymen interested in hentai (I mentioned earlier that I had previously interviewed a few artists whose specialty is perversion - Captain).

If I bring something into a publisher there is no guarantee [as far as publication]. There are never any details about when it might be published; it is up to them, and I have to wait.

CJ: Female artists, like Rumiko Takahasi and Naoko Takahashi, who draws Sailor Moon, have become famous in Japan. Did they provide you with any sort of inspiration?

RH: Definitely not Sailor Moon (This comic is a current children's manga - Captain)! But Yumiko Igarashi's Candy Candy was a big influence. It was very famous with little girls. It was similar to Sailor Moon but for my generation. It was a television cartoon and manga where a little orphaned girl is adopted into a rich family; it was sort of like Annie.

CJ: Why did you like it?

For the first time I could see that manga is made by regular people, just like everyday goods like this plate (She picks a ceramic plate off the table - Captain). It was a first for me. Daily things are of course made by people; I understood this, but not when it comes to manga. This is when I started to learn about art and drawing.

But for drawing style, the woodblock print work of Hokusai Katsushika was an incredible influence. I really like this type of erotic art (She holds up a book containing ukiyo-e prints from Katsushika - Captain). It is really terrific.

CJ: Do you feel discrimination in this business because you are a woman? Or can this work give women a sense of freedom?

RH: I don't think about that. It is about your work, not whether you are a male or not. There is a lot of energy expended. But there is a limit as to what a person, male or female, can do. I was working on Nightingale 12 hours a day for 2 months so that I could finish it.

But for freedom, after getting married, many women work part-time as artists. But, at the same time, if you are a mother, and drawing while raising a child, sometimes it is hard to keep your focus.

CJ: If you look at the work of Toshio Maeda and Takeshi Oshima, you can see that it is based on perversion and female exploitation. Of course, it is not just these two artists; perverted comics compose a large percentage of the manga that is produced. Do you feel strange working in an industry that exploits women in such a way?

RH: When I started working as a manga artist my mother was really concerned about it because she held a bad image about the business. But now, there is no problem because my manga is as harmless as Candy Candy - it is at the same level of appeal or interest. You know, there are so many various sub-genres of manga that artists can do what they want...and I can do my own as well.

CJ: What do you think about Shonen Jump's popularity overseas?

RH: For my work, it doesn't mean much. But I'd feel really happy if young kids who read Shonen Jump now will grow up and start reading manga for adults...but not hentai [laughs]! It's a great way to transfer Japanese culture (outside of Japan).

CJ: What is your biggest problem in this business?

RH: There are no jobs [laughs]! And...there are too many artists (now). The competition is fierce; there is no balance with readership and production. Some people have even quit as artists. For me, I am hoping that people with real drawing skills, or talent, will continue on, producing great works and making the business stronger.

CJ: So it is the economy's weakened condition then that is causing the trouble, right?

RH: Yes, it is very difficult. The publishing companies are hurting. Spirited Away and Musashi Miyamoto's Vagabond are really the only two popular comics. A lot of people buy them so their sales are strong.

For me, I am not that famous, and the competition makes it really tough. I can only look at it one story at a time. But now I am wondering, though, if I can keep working as a manga artist or whether I should change to illustration for Web sites. There is so much demand for drawing characters, images, and mascots for companies' web pages.

CJ: Do you have fans writing to you?

RH: Well, my editors receive letters sometimes and they'll send me a copy. Mostly they are from young children.

One time, a mother wrote to say that she and her daughter read my manga together. The mother was a nurse, and she taught her daughter about her job through Nightingale. This made me very happy.

CJ: What are you interested in doing in the future?

RH: In Japan these days, many young kids are becoming less and less interested in getting married after observing the lives of their parents. They see the future as being bleak; they see their their parents' lives as company workers as being worthless. I would like to draw manga about people who still have a little hope in spite of seeing the reality of life - and I want to give them more hope.

Note: Fumiko Kojima contributed to this report from the Saitama Bureau. A special thanks goes to Freedom Lohr of TokyoDV for assisting in this interview. Images 2 and 5 are courtesy of Kodansha.

The Manga Series > Hentai > Toshio Maeda > Takeshi Oshima > Rui Hashimoto

Want to tell Captain Japan something?

Check out the Sake archive

Enter an email address and send this page to a friend


 Ride - Nowhere

 The Stone Roses- The Stone Roses

 Ross McDonald - The Far Side of the Dollar

More from the World's Only Website