Our Creators’ Corner this month features Kazuki Natsume, author of I HATE, MODS, NIGHTS BEFORE NIGHT, and BY MY SIDE!
Thank you for taking the time to sit down with us. Could you please first introduce yourself?
Thank you for setting up this interview. My name is Kazuki Natsume. Very pleased to meet you!
When did your interest in manga begin?
My first memory of manga is when I was in elementary school, my mother bought me the Cardcaptor Sakura comics at a bookstore we happened to visit. The cover was just so cute and pretty, I promised my mother I would help clean the tub and shower if she bought it for me.
After that, at school, the Weekly Shonen Jump was popular, so I read Hunter x Hunter, Naruto, and Reborn! and became more and more immersed in manga.
Which manga is your favorite or has left the biggest impression on you?
It’s very difficult to choose just one… I like many different manga, but the one that left the biggest impression on me is Banana Fish. I read it after I had made my commercial debut (after I had completed MODS), but I read all of it in one sitting. Even after I finished reading it, the characters stuck in my head and I would start crying when I remembered their stories.
I was overwhelmed with both the feelings of “Why did I not know about this masterpiece earlier!?” and “I am so grateful that I live in a time where I can read something like this!” Sometimes, I unconsciously mutter “Ash…” to myself. It left a huge impression on me and it will forever hold a special place in my heart.
Do you like games or anime? Which game, anime, etc., is your favorite?
Since becoming an adult I haven’t played many games, but when I was young I played and replayed Pokémon over and over again. I also used to go to my friend’s house and play Super Smash Bros. and Mario Kart since they had an extra controller. (laughs)
In terms of anime, I love Studio Ghibli works. Princess Mononoke, Pom Poko, My Neighbor Totoro, Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind, Castle in the Sky, Kiki’s Delivery Service, Spirited Away, Porco Rosso, On Your Mark… There are just too many to list! I watched them so many times as a child that I could just about recite all of the lines. But even now when I watch them, there are still many messages that pierce the heart and make me cry. In addition to the story, the pictures and compositions of Studio Ghibli’s works are truly wonderful and moving.
How did you discover BL?
When I was a student, I saw the art and drawings of several artists through their websites. They were my starting point. The first BL work I encountered was just an illustration, but I remember feeling an electric current rush through my body. I would visit that artist’s website several times a day just to look at that piece…
Which BL work (anime, manga, movie, drama, etc.) is your favorite?
I like BL works with masculine semes and ukes. I like the unique sex appeal that men have. I like it when a cool guy falls in love with someone of the same sex and gets his heart stirred up and the uke is like “I’m not going to give in and let you do as you please!” I think that kind of BL is OG.
What made you want to become a mangaka?
I always loved drawing as a child and wanted to grow up and have a job where I could draw. As a hobby, I used to upload my work online which is where my current editor reached out to me and I was able to make a formal debut.
What did you do to become a mangaka?
I drew as much as I could every single day.
When I was a student, social networking sites called “drawing BBS” and “drawing chat” were popular, where various painters drew pictures and interacted with each other. I was so impressed by the many good painters that I went there everyday to improve my drawing skills. I absolutely loved drawing everyday like that at the time.
As a mangaka, what challenges do you face?
I learned that simply “liking” it is not enough.
There is such a big difference between drawing manga as a hobby and as a livelihood. The first thing I did was realize how incompetent I was.
There are times when I am overwhelmed by the difficulty of drawing manga, and there are times when I am cornered by my own inadequacy. But at the same time, I think I can be seriously worried like this because of my love for it. And, after so much thought was put into them, when readers like these characters I’ve created, I am truly happy from the bottom of my heart.
There are many times that I’ve hit dead ends or experienced major setbacks, but there are just as many times that I’ve thought “I’m so glad I am drawing!” I will continue to work hard and strive to do my best in the future, too.
Which manga or other works have influenced you?
Music, I think. I’ve always been influenced by songs by BUMP OF CHICKEN. Whenever I was in a rut in life or hit a dead end, I would listen to their music. Other than that, I think music is a big part of what formed the world views and motifs I like.
What do you enjoy most about drawing BL?
I like that moment when I come up with the concept of the setting and characters. At the very beginning, I can just go on and on thinking about whatever I want, which is really fun. But from there I have to go into specifics about the story and create a storyboard. The selection process is pretty hard.
What kind of manga would you be interested in drawing in the future?
I’ve been able to draw some special settings like yakuza and fantasy stories, so recently I’ve been wanting to draw a slice of life. And I still want to continue to draw BL!
Are there any things you focused on in particular in I HATE, MODS, NIGHTS BEFORE NIGHT, and By My Side which are being released on futekiya?
In all of these works, I kept in mind to depict male sex appeal. There are many characters with different ways of thinking and personalities, but I wanted to keep their quality of sex appeal constant.
Are there any scenes or characters that you want readers to pay special attention to?
There’s something in each and every character that I hope readers pay attention to, but personally I really like Shiro and Haru’s relationship so I would be happy if readers also paid special attention to that.
They share the same past and loss through Shigure, and they even hated each other. Even now, they still verbally say they hate each other, but they have a special bond and love that is unique to them.
Do you have any behind-the-scenes stories about I HATE, MODS, NIGHTS BEFORE NIGHT, and By My Side that you can tell us about?
I HATE: Kiriya’s kisses taste like vanilla (because he smokes vanilla flavored cigarettes).
MODS: When Haru and Shiro were living together, they used the same body soap and shampoo, so they smelled the same. Now that Shiro lives with Tora, Shiro buys a body soap that is easy on the wallet (and never realizes that Haru used to buy luxury soap that costs about ten times as much).
NIGHTS BEFORE NIGHT: Haru was Shigure’s first time with a man.
BY MY SIDE: The reason why Kei is so good at giving head is because he used to use sex toys and practice while thinking of Chiyo. In the room right next to him.
futekiya is a service that distributes BL manga that has been translated into English. What do you think about futekiya?
When I was notified about an English release on futekiya I was very honored and happy.
I also like works that are written in different languages and I just look at the artwork. To be able to read stories from foreign countries in a language you understand is an incredible thing, in my opinion.
I am grateful for being able to have my manga be published in Japan already, but being able to have my manga cross oceans into the hands of readers from around the world thanks to futekiya – it still feels like a dream to me.
I am nothing but thankful for all those involved to make this possible, and for all those who read my manga.
Next week, Natsume-sensei will answer the first part of the questions from fans!
27-year-old Nozomi Hirose has dated girls before, but he’s never even been able to kiss any of them. He puts all the blame for his little problem on his old high school classmate Kiriya, who randomly asked if they can be kissing buddies – friends who kiss sometimes. What happens when they meet again as adults, ten years after Hirose ran out on a kiss that went on for way too long?
When his sister gets scammed, Tora takes it upon himself to save up enough to make the money she’d lost back. Responding to an ad looking for a “hotel pick-up driver” leads him into gay escort service “Rain,” where he gets assigned to Shiro, their biggest moneymaker. Tora says he isn’t gay and definitely isn’t interested in Shiro’s services, but can he really knock it when he hasn’t even tried it?
It’s been a long time since Haru, owner of the gay escort service “Rain,” left his yakuza days behind. But when the Ichijo clan, the group he had once belonged to, says he’s the only civilian they can trust to hide the clan head’s troublemaking son Yukitaka in line, there seems to be no choice for him but to follow suit. There’s just one problem, though – Yukitaka looks just like his half-brother Shigure, Haru’s lost love… A must-read for MODS fans!
Kei and Chiyo have been each other’s best bros for the past ten years, and now they’re living in neighboring apartments as adults. Chiyo thinks that after spending most of their lives together, he knows everything there is to his friend…until he walks in on Kei, moaning his name in the dark.
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.