Our Creators’ Corner this month features Chika Hongo, creator of Setagaya Synchronicity and Metro! In this interview, Hongo-sensei talks about what they like most about creating BL manga and answers questions from fans!
Could you please introduce yourself?
My name is Chika Hongo. I debuted as a mangaka in 2015. I am releasing a new volume this year so I hope there is an opportunity to have it translated again!
When did your interest in manga begin?
There was manga at my house and the school library since I was small so I naturally was interested in manga before I knew it.
Which manga is your favorite or has left the biggest impression on you?
Mesh by Moto Hagio left an impression on me.
It’s like an accumulation of all of my favorite things.
Do you like games or anime? Which is your favorite?
I love games and anime! It is impossible to choose a favorite but the DVD box set that I do have is Heat Guy J and the game that I probably have the most playtime on is Tales of Symphonia.
How did you discover BL?
A friend of mine taught me how to create fan work.
Which BL work is your favorite?
I have so many favorites! Udagawachou de Mattete yo. by Hideyoshico is one of them!
What made you want to become a mangaka?
I liked drawing and I loved manga so I always admired becoming a mangaka.
What did you do to become a mangaka?
I liked drawing in general before specifically drawing manga, so I began as an illustration major.
I attended an art prep school and graduated from the design department of an art college.
As an active mangaka, what kind of hurdles do you have to face?
Reading manga, which I used to love, becomes a little less of pure pleasure.
I tend to compare myself to them or look at them from a professional perspective.
Is there any manga or other works that have influenced you or greatly affected you?
I love all kinds of entertainment and am influenced by so many works.
What do you like most about drawing BL manga?
That they will be read by the readers!
Do you have any manga that you want to draw next or in the future?
I’ve been drawing serious manga for the past few years, so I’m thinking about drawing a heartwarming one.
Is there anything you focused on in particular in Setagaya Synchronicity and Metro, which are available on futekiya?
In Setagaya Synchronicity, I worked especially hard on scenes with a crowd.
In Metro, I paid particular attention to the depiction of the hands! I hope you can also see the differences between the hands of Mizuki and Shinobu.
Are there any scenes or characters that you want readers to pay special attention to?
For Setagaya Synchronicity, the sense of chaos at the amusement park.
And for Metro, after page 8, the title and table of contents.
I like those two very much.
Are there any behind-the-scenes facts about Setagaya Synchronicity or Metro that you can tell us?
In Japan, both works were released in a digital magazine called .Bloom, so each chapter has a theme based on the language of flowers. So I’ll introduce each theme here.
futekiya is a service that distributes BL manga that has been translated into English. What do you think about futekiya?
I’m happy that my manga is being distributed on futekiya because it will give people all over the world a chance to read them!
Also, I am very interested in where the name “futekiya” comes from.
Questions from fans:
from VanBA (United States):
I saw the BLCD for Metro nominated for the BL awards this year. Congratulations! Any chance for a collaboration to make the CD with English subtitles? Thank you for the hard work!
Is that an award overseas? Or maybe the Chil-Chil BL Award nomination? I am very interested to know!
The dialogues on the CD and in the manga are almost identical, so if you are able to get the CD, please do try listening to it while reading the manga on futekiya!
from shizu (United States):
In Setagaya Synchronicity, one of the main characters was in a heterosexual relationship for a large part of the story, which is not something often seen in BL. I thought it was a unique story with conflicts that I could easily see happening in the real world, but I wonder if it is commonly seen as a risk to include female characters who threaten the main couple’s relationship? Thank you for your amazing work, Hongo-sensei!
I believe that BL is a derivative of shoujo manga, and think that BL has been consumed as a way to forget about oneself (including one’s gender). It looks at love from a bird’s eye view. So, I did have some concerns about whether the readers would be able to accept that a woman would be an important character in the story.
from allthefujoshiunite (Turkey):
Hello, I’ve read both of your works with great interest! I wanted to ask a question about Setagaya Synchronicity. Next to the main theme of strange coincidences, I loved the romantic/sexual identity exploration Takafumi went through. Where did the idea come from? Did you want to add a cross-dressing theme and the rest followed, or did you want to explore Takafumi’s identity and used cross-dressing as a tool? Can’t wait to read more of your work through futekiya! (A little side note: I love the way you draw hands, Sensei. ^^ )
There is a general storyline of “I am attracted to you because you are you, regardless of whether I am gay or het, and whether you are male or female” in my BL works.
The idea of portraying someone who is in love with a woman, but sexually attracted to a man, was one of the types of ideas that came to me for this work. I wasn’t trying to portray any particular sexuality. But in the end, I had to seriously imagine the reality that someone like Takafumi lives in.
Also, I had a rule that the two of them had to do various part-time jobs in every episode.
The cross-dressing part-time job was one of them, and it was supposed to be a way to make Takafumi ask himself what made him distinguish between women and men… but cross-dressing is personally one of my favorite elements, so I’ve forgotten which came first now.
I like to draw hands too! Thank you very much! 🙂
from lmp (France):
I discovered your work back when Metro was released in Japan, I bought the digital version and was very impressed by the psychological depiction of the characters. Of course, I was thrilled to be able to read your works in English on futekiya! Setagaya Synchronicity was also a very pleasant surprise!
In both stories, the characters deal with complex emotions and seem to have trouble adjusting to social norms. Do you always plan to address sensitive subjects in your works or does it come up naturally as you develop the story? Do you find it difficult to maintain a balance between portraying the characters’ angst and developing their romance?
Thank you for reading the Japanese version too!
I feel that these elements develop naturally. I think that certain conflicts and repressions are an inevitable part of a story about the growth of characters, and a theme that I am thoroughly interested in.
The romantic element is a prerequisite, so I don’t find it too much of a difficulty 🙂
from Korin (Philippines):
Hello Sensei~! Have you ever included yourself as one of the characters in your story like an extra character?
When you were still a student, did you participate in any club activities (like sports or student council)?
Which genre do you like to draw the most? Do you usually draw using analog materials or digital materials?
P.S. Thank you so much for sharing your work with us~ I’ll be looking forward to your new work. Thank you for your hard work, Sensei~
If it’s something that I have experienced before, I often have included myself!
I was in the kendo club.
I don’t think I’ve ever drawn while keeping a specific genre in mind.
I basically exclusively draw digitally. I use CLIP STUDIO PAINT.
from Nany_11 (United States):
When did you know it was going to be a happy ending?
Unless it really doesn’t work with the story, I have decided to only draw happy endings. 🙂
from Pachi (Brazil):
First of all, thank you for your great work. I was really surprised with Setagaya Synchronicity because in the beginning I didn’t like Takafumi but by the end of the manga I was really rooting for him! I even wrote a review of the manga to recommend to other people ^-^
So, my question is how is your process of creating characters? Since they always feel like they have so many layers.
I am happy that you grew to like Takafumi.
I have to start by choosing the names!
Then, I create a chart but only with the bare minimum details, like age, profession, and recognizable physical attributes.
I’m not the type of person who decides on settings much beyond what appears in the work (because I don’t have that many people to share setting ideas with), so I’m glad you feel like it has many layers.
from Sypt (Vietnam):
I really love your mangas, especially Metro. The plot is very emotional indeed. What inspired you to set up the plot in Metro?
Metro was originally a short story (8 pages at the beginning of the book) using the theme of “Blossoming.”
In discussions with the editorial department, we decided to continue the story, and I started thinking about what kind of story would bring two people together. That’s when I started thinking about the plot.
In the beginning, when it was just a short story, there was no story beyond that, and I hadn’t thought about the ethical issues involved in the work, so I wonder what kind of commercial advantages the editor in charge of the story had in mind when he suggested that I draw a continuation.
from unknown (Malaysia):
Metro is a dark and depressing story. Is there a dark BL manga that you like?
I like Asumiko Nakamura sensei’s Double Mints and Kaori no Keishou.
from Pan (United States):
Do you have any hobbies that you are excited about?
I like looking at interior decor so I often change up the layout of my room!
I have recently started dabbling in things like painting furniture, too.
from Angie (United States):
What is your creative process like? Do you change ideas often as you draw?
Come up with an idea → After deciding on the storyline, decide on the number of chapters and a brief storyline for each chapter → Actually draw the manuscript.
I decide on the details of events and dialogues as I work on the manuscript, so there are times when my impression of the finished work is not what I first expected it would be.
I make close examinations rather than make many changes from there.
from Pompompurin (United States):
Hi sensei, I love your work! Where do you find your inspiration?
Like watching manga, movies, and anime, every experience in my daily life is an important experience! There are times when an ordinary experience suddenly becomes a seed for creativity. So, I keep my antenna up every day to make sure I don’t miss those feelings.
from Puff♡ (United States):
Metro is my absolute FAVORITE BL and Setagaya Synchronicity is a close second! I’ve noticed a theme of your protagonists gaining a lot of insight into their own identities as a result of the relationships they form in your works—and I think that’s so, so amazing. I personally think that Mizuki and Shinobu (from Metro) have wonderful chemistry and their relationship is one in which both of them rely on each other to satisfy their own goals and needs. They form such a strong relationship! What inspired you to create this unique type of relationship between these two characters?
Similar to what I said to answer Sypt’s question, the premise of the story is that Mizuki was molested and when I finished drawing Setagaya Synchronicity and talked with the editor in charge about the next story, we decided on trying an erotic story.
So, I decided to create a story that satisfied both the premise and eroticism criteria.
from Veganqueen (United States):
How long does it normally take you to finish one chapter?
Including the storyboard, it takes around a month to a month and a half.
from Roxy (Malaysia):
Hongo-sensei! I adore your works, especially Setagaya Synchronicity! Fukamachi is such a complex and cool character! May I know if Fukamachi has any other random quirky habits apart from folding the straw wrapper or studying while stretching?
And will we see a continuation of Metro someday? I was absorbed right into the story from the first chapter and I really want to read more about them!
Also, sensei’s water coloring skills are amazing! Do you draw the covers and color them using watercolor? Or do you draw the covers digitally?
Thank you very much and I’m looking forward to more of sensei’s works in the future!
He has a habit of taking off his glasses for sex 🙂
I drew everything that I wanted to for Metro, so there will be no sequel. I hope you can view it like a 90-minute short film of sorts.
All of the BL covers are done digitally. The times I draw in analog materials are very few and far between.
And finally, do you have a message for futekiya readers?
Thank you for reading this interview! When I saw the list of questions from the readers, I realized that there are so many people from so many different countries around the world that have read my work through futekiya. It made me so happy. I hope that there is a chance for you all to read my new manga as well. Although COVID-19 is still sending the world as we know it in a whirl, I am thinking of all of your good health.
Thank you very much!
Read Chika Hongo’s Works on futekiya
Every day, Mizuki takes the train to school. And every day, almost like clockwork, a certain man has his hands all over him. It’s an unusual routine that he’s almost getting used to, but what will he do when one day, the man promises him more? Is it really worth following him?
About futekiya: BL manga subscription
In 2018, futekiya began as a Boys’ Love manga news and culture website operated by FANTASISTA, INC., a CG/VR production studio based in Tokyo, Japan. futekiya transformed into a budding global distributor of officially licensed BL manga in 2019.
futekiya launched as an online subscription service for officially licensed BL manga on July 8, 2019. Determined to connect fans around the world with English-translated BL legally and conveniently, futekiya empowers readers to support creators and the manga industry.
Readers who subscribe to futekiya and pay a flat monthly fee of $6.99 will have access to our expanding library of English-language manga. To subscribe, please go to read.futekiya.com and create an account. More information is in our Guide.