In Japan, Tomo Maeda is known as the creator of a number of manga series in a variety of different genres, but only two of her manga have been published in English: Black Sun, Silver Moon, a seven-volume supernatural tale about a priest and his assistant who must fight zombies each night, and Beyond My Touch, a book of short boys-love manga. Black Sun, Silver Moon was originally published by Go! Comi in 2007 (I reviewed the first volume), but the company folded and the series is out of print. However, vol. 1 is available on the digital comics site JManga.
Maeda came to MangaNEXT, along with representatives from JManga and her Japanese publisher, Shinshokan, to take part in two question-and-answer sessions (in which she also drew sketches of her characters and signed autographs). We had the opportunity to talk to her one-on-one about her influences, her style, and why she likes to draw priests. Read on!
MTV Geek: What was the first manga you ever read?
Tomo Maeda: Doraemon.
MTV Geek: How did you learn to draw?
Tomo Maeda: I just started off with kind of childish scribbles. There was a corner in the Shonen Jump magazine that taught people how to draw, and I often drew from that.
MTV Geek: What was your first professional manga, and what did you learn from making it?
Tomo Maeda: My first one was called Honey Blood. It was about vampires. It was a bit dark.
MTV Geek: You have a particular talent for capturing the characters' expressions. How did you develop this?
Tomo Maeda: In the beginning, I felt that was one of my weak points, so I decided I needed to get better at it. One of the methods I chose was to look at different books and study various facial features, for example the wrinkles on the face. I practiced and practiced from that.
MTV Geek: One of the challenges of drawing comics is creating a good flow from panel to panel, so the reader's eye follows the right path across the page. How did you learn how to do that—or did it just come naturally?
Tomo Maeda: When I am creating the flow of the panels, specifically with the shoujo genre, there are a lot of things that come out of the actual panel so I works with editors on getting advice on what is conveyed smoothly and what needs work. I use the flow of the panels as a precursor to anime, using the flow of the panels to get across the motion of a scene.
MTV Geek: A lot of shoujo manga is very busy, with lots of little details, tiny panels, and different screentones. Your manga has a clean look. Why do you prefer that—or is this the influence of your editors?
Tomo Maeda: I decided it all by myself. I change it up depending on the genre I am writing. With Black Sun, Silver Moon, it's kind of a shonen, more horror-type style, so there are not so many flowers. When I am writing in a shoujo style, I will put in the different kinds of flowers, more background images, and make it look more fancy.
MTV Geek: It seems like Black Sun, Silver Moon mixes light and dark elements. There is dark supernatural story, but you add in lots of humor and everyday things. Why do you like to write that way?
Tomo Maeda: I do try to create a kind of balance. If a title is just too dark, it becomes difficult to read and too heavy for the reader, so I like to mix it up and make it entertaining and easy to read.
MTV Geek: As an American, I am always interested in the way Christianity is depicted in manga. Why did you choose to make Shikimi a priest? What did that add to the story?
Tomo Maeda: I just really like the priest's outfit. Being Japanese, I don't have a strong religious identity, but I do have an interest in religions, and I found it interesting to work with Christianity as a theme. I did some research in books on Christianity and found it to be a difficult topic.
MTV Geek: We have only a few of your manga here in the U.S. Can you tell me about the series you are working on in Japan?
Tomo Maeda: Recently I have been working on Kesshou Monogatari (The Crystal Tale), and I am interested in releasing this in other countries. The theme of it is based on Japanese yokai, so I feel that it would need some liner notes.