Creators’ Corner: Interview with Thanat

Our Creators’ Corner today features Sneaky Red, A Marked Love Match, and Motion Emotion creator Thanat. The futekiya Team had fun in this interview with Thanat-sensei who talked about their unexpected first encounter with BL, gave us a sneak peek at the latest volume of Sneaky Red, and generously answered questions from fans!


Hello, Thanat-sensei! Thank you very much for your time! Could you please give us a quick self-introduction?
My name is Thanat. I’m a manga artist. Nice to meet you!


We’d like to start with a few questions about yourself. When did you first become interested in manga?
If I remember correctly, I was already drawing manga when I was in kindergarten. I can’t recall whether I was reading manga back then, but I’m pretty sure I was drawing things that resembled manga at the age of 3-4.


What’s your favorite manga, or the manga that left the most significant impact on you?
I like so many titles, so I couldn’t pick just one, but Honey and Clover by Chica Umino-sensei is definitely one of my favorites. I also like Hikaru no Go, which was serialized on Shonen Jump, and the works by a manga artist called Motoi Yoshida-sensei. I read older manga really often, so I love Sanpei Shirato-sensei, Shotaro Ishinomori-sensei, and Tetsuya Chiba-sensei’s works.


Do you also like games or anime? If so, could you tell us about your favorite titles?
I watch anime and play games! I haven’t been watching that much anime recently, but I really like Bakusō Kyōdai Let’s & Go!!, an older anime about mini 4WD racing. To this day, it’s still one of my personal favorites! I also used to watch heaps of Cartoon Network shows back in the day. They were airing shows like The Powerpuff Girls, Samurai Jack, Johnny Bravo, and Dexter’s Laboratory back when I was a student, and I still remember these four titles clearly. As for more recent cartoons, I’ve watched a lot of Adventure Time.


We never knew you’d be mentioning shows like The Powerpuff Girls in this interview…!
There was a point when I watched more American cartoons – like the ones you’d see on Cartoon Network – than I did Japanese anime. Unlike Japanese anime, the teeth and tongues on American cartoon characters are really animated. I’m assuming it’s because actual English speakers do that too, but I thought it was really neat.


Some of our fans were wondering whether you’re well-versed in American culture. It seems like they’d hit the nail on the head!
I guess they picked that up by reading my manga. That makes me so happy! Thank you!


Now, let’s talk about Boys’ Love manga. When did you first learn about Boys’ Love? We’re sure all of our readers would love to know.
I learned about the concept of men falling in love with each other after watching some kind of TV drama, but I discovered Boys’ Love manga after visiting my grandpa in hospital and found a Yu Yu Hakusho BL doujinshi among the pile of books in their common room. I’m sure the staff had no idea what it actually was, but the content was actually pretty hardcore…! After I made that discovery, I kept sneaking off to the common room and reading that doujinshi every time I visited that hospital. (laughs)


Oh my…! If you don’t mind us asking, what was the main pairing in that doujinshi?
There were quite a few different pairings, so I’m assuming it was some kind of anthology. I personally liked the pairing between Kurama and Hiei.


Who knew you’d find a Boys’ love anthology in a hospital…! Do you have any favorite BL works or artists?
If I were to pick just a few, I’d firstly go for Sumako Kari-sensei. I also really like Haruko Kumota-sensei and Mushiba-sensei. There are so many Boys’ Love artists who I love, but I’ll just stick with these 3 for the time being.


Those artists’ works are in futekiya’s library! We actually started releasing Sumako Kari-sensei’s works after reading one of your previous interviews and saw you talking about how much you love Kari-sensei’s works.
Thank you! I’m so happy that you read my interview! I think Sumako Kari-sensei is a human treasure of the manga world.


We’d now like to ask some questions about your activities as a manga artist. What made you want to become a manga artist?
I started drawing when I was little, and I was lucky to have parents and an older sister who showered me with compliments over it. This made me really happy, so I got carried away and continued drawing manga even after entering primary school. My friends at school were really nice about it, too, and even said things like “I want to read more!”. I got carried away yet again, and when I was in grade 5 or 6, I told my parents that I want to become a manga artist… but since I wasn’t scoring too well in my school exams back then, they scolded me and told me that I’d need to study and build up my knowledge if I really wanted to become a manga artist. (laughs) I then realized that life couldn’t be that easy and laid my manga artist dreams to rest, but I decided to go for it again after graduating from university.


You mentioned that you attended university. What kind of preparation did it take for you to become a manga artist?
I didn’t really do anything when I was in university, but I started attending an event called Comitia after graduating. I took my manuscripts to some publishers on a few occasions before I started going to Comitia, but didn’t get very good results. I feel like I started going to Comitia since I thought to myself that “I need to draw more manga.”


We’re assuming you did quite a bit of self-publishing before you started drawing manga on a commercial basis.
Yes. I thought I should start by drawing as much manga as I could.


What are some challenges of being a manga artist?
Not only is drawing manga extremely difficult, but I feel like self-management is really difficult when you’re working as a manga artist. It’s been 7-8 years since I started drawing manga, but I’m still unable to separate my private life from work, so I’m often unable to actually rest up on my days off. To this day, I think it’s really difficult to manage my private life.


Fair enough. Are you doing anything to work on that?
These days, I’m trying to be less of a night owl and exercise more. I wasn’t that great at giving myself breaks, but I’ve managed to work on this a little by forcing myself to step away from my desk and play games.


Working at home is really hard, isn’t it…!
It really is! Video games help you take your mind off work, so I think it’s good to play games that you can really focus on.


What manga or other works inspire your manga?
I love music, so I think my works are heavily influenced by it. As of late, I started feeling like rhythm – like how smooth-sailing the reading experience is, or the overall tempo of the story – is a really important element when it comes to drawing manga. Of course, it’s important for the art to be attractive, but in the end, rhythm is a key part of a pleasant reading experience. In that sense, I think manga might be similar to music.


Interesting! Do you listen to music when you draw manga?
I’m constantly listening to music! In fact, I actually don’t think I can get anything done if I’m not listening to music. I often listen to slightly older Western songs, and I like bands that aren’t very mainstream in Japan, like The Killers and Stars. I also love famous musicians like Blur or Madonna. I listen to a lot of Western songs that were popular in the ’80s, too.


Thank you! Now, onto the next question; what’s your favorite part about drawing BL manga?
I just really, really like drawing men being lovey-dovey with each other. If I’m to be honest, I think that feeling alone has driven me to continue drawing Boys’ Love manga. I’ve never properly drawn manga that isn’t BL, so I can’t say for sure whether or not I’d be thinking this way when I draw non-BL manga, but it makes me happy that I get to draw lots of happy couples, and I especially enjoy drawing scenes like that. It’s probably unrealistic for real-life couples to be like, “I’m never gonna stop loving you!” but lots of Boys’ Love readers seem to love dynamics like that, and I’m very thankful for it.


Is there any manga that you would like to draw in the future? This doesn’t necessarily have to be Boys’ Love.
I’d like to try drawing manga with a female protagonist, just for once. I also want to try drawing manga that features muscular characters. I’ll do my best if I’m given an opportunity to make these come true!


futekiya has already released Motion Emotion, Sneaky Red, and A Marked Love Match. Are there any specific points that you focused on when writing these?
This has nothing to do with the actual storyline, but I focused on drawing with care across all 3 works so that the end result doesn’t look sloppy. Also, I tend to lean more and more towards comedy if I write on my own due to embarrassment; however, I got Kajikawa-san (my editor) to set me straight so that the serious scenes would actually be serious, and I’d be able to focus on conveying sparks of joy in my story. I was able to make note of these things thanks to Kajikawa-san pointing them out.


We love the comedic scenes in your manga. They always give us a good laugh!
I was probably going a bit overboard with them in the beginning, so I guess it means I’ve struck a good balance after Kajikawa-san helped improve my work. I’m relieved. (laughs)


Do you have any other behind-the-scenes episodes about these three titles?
I’d like to start with Motion Emotion. This manga puts the spotlight on two side characters from Sneaky Red, and I’d initially imagined Honda (the taller guy) to be a thoroughly gentle guy. I didn’t think he’d be the type to be pushy towards his senpai, but that’s exactly how he turned out after I started writing his story. I’m now pretty happy with how things turned out, but in the beginning, I used to ponder over the differences in character between the Honda in my mind and the Honda in the story.

Sneaky Red is probably my most popular work to date, and I’m happy to say that lots of people have told me they’d love to read more of this story. However, this manga took a lot of willpower to write, so there was a long gap between Volume 1 being released and me writing the sequel. The same thing happened again between the release of Volume 2 and Volume 3. I feel bad for my readers…

A Marked Love Match is a story about two high-school students and is based on a manga which I included in a doujinshi which I published in 2012 at Comitia. Three of the four chapters were already there, and I merely filled in the gaps before and after that, but it was really difficult…! I struggled to keep everything consistent, so I vowed to never take this kind of manga-writing approach again. (laughs)


Thank you! futekiya is a subscription service that releases Boys’ Love manga in English. What do you think about services like this?
Firstly, I’m very happy that you’ve released my works. My manga hasn’t yet been published in print in English, but every now and then, I’d get direct emails, or Twitter replies from English-speaking fans saying they’d love to read my work. I felt like there wasn’t much I could do given my limited English skills, but it’s really nice – both for me and my readers – that niche manga like mine is made available as part of a subscription service. I’m really grateful for futekiya’s service since it allows English-speaking readers to access my work, even if it isn’t published in print. Also, thanks to you guys, I’d wager that there are now fewer people who think to themselves like, “I don’t care if it’s an illegal upload. I want to read it!”. I’m grateful in that sense, too. 


Thank you very much for allowing futekiya to release Volume 3 of Sneaky Red!  Could you tell us about the main points of interest in this volume, such as specific characters or scenes?
In the 3rd volume of Sneaky Red, Haru (the blonde character) has grown up, settled down, and… became more humanly compared to how he was in Volumes 1 and 2, so I think my readers might enjoy that character development. There’s also a scene where the 4 main characters from Motion Emotion and Sneaky Red gather together, so I feel like this would be a point of interest for those who have followed the series.


Everyone loves it when characters from different titles interact with each other, so we’re sure our readers would really enjoy that. Thank you!

We’ve gotten through all questions from the futekiya side, so now we’d like to move onto the fan submissions. 

The first question is from Lily (Thailand). “When I first saw your pen-name, I thought you are Thai since “Thanat” is similar to a Thai name which means “wealthy.” Could I ask where your pen-name came from? What does it mean in Japanese?”
My pen-name has nothing to do with the Thai language – I didn’t actually know about this link due to lack of knowledge on my part. The name “Thanat” is based on the death god Thanatos… I’m afraid of death in the same way that people are scared of heights or closed spaces, and after I learned that this fear is called “thanatophobia,” I borrowed the first half of that name. As such, my pen-name doesn’t mean anything at all in Japanese.


The next question is from Alice (Brazil). “Hello! I read your short story that takes place in Brazil (seachange in Motion Emotion), and I loved it! What did you like the most when researching about Brazil? Do you plan on writing more stories about Brazil? I’d love to read them!”
Thank you! I feel bad for the fan who sent this question, but I’ve never actually been to Brazil… I based that story on the pile of references I got from a friend who went to Brazil.

I chose Brazil as the setting for seachange back then after I saw some soccer games and fashion magazines and thought to myself, “Brazil is really nice.” I also thought that the people in Brazil were really attractive, with their sun-kissed skin and buzzed hair. I’d love to visit Brazil at some point, and if I’m able to make that come true, it’d be nice if I could write another story about Brazil.


The next question is from An (Indonesia). “I love your work, Thanat-sensei. Please take care of your health. How many hours do you work for in a day?”
I have days where I’m working from the moment I wake up until the moment I go to bed, so I guess the maximum is 10-12 hours…? There are days where I do nothing, though, so I think the average would be 8-10 hours. In other words, I’m drawing almost all day. (laughs)


The next question is from Spinebreaker199 (Canada). “I really love Sneaky Red. How long does it usually take to finish a chapter?”
It took around 1.5 or 2 months to finish the chapter after coming up with ideas, but I’m now able to do that in around one month and 2-3 days. I can’t finish it in exactly a month, so I usually get my editor to extend my deadline by a couple of days. (laughs) So, I’d say it takes roughly 32 or 33 days for me to finish one chapter.


The next question is from P.Hu (U.S.A). “I like that your characters are multi-dimensional and not perfect. How do you decide the personality of your characters?”
I start by opening my croquis sketchbook and drawing 3-4 people who I feel like I’d enjoy drawing. If I come up with an idea that I like, I try to imagine them moving and talking. Once I’m able to imagine that character’s everyday life, I become certain that I’d be able to use that character, so I feature them in my manga.


 Thank you. The next question is from Lo (Vietnam). “Hello sensei! I really love your stories. I would like to ask how do you usually come up with the plot?”
Firstly, I think about how many chapters I’d need to wrap up that story and consider what kind of development actually happens within that limit. I then allocate those plot points to each chapter. I decide on the overall content first, then think about the specifics during the drawing process while making sure I don’t stray too far from my original plot. I have meetings with my editor before working on each episode, and if I’m unable to think of good ideas, I get her to help me out with brainstorming. A lot of the parts that my readers really enjoyed were actually there, thanks to my editor. (laughs) I don’t think I would have been able to draw manga if it weren’t for my editor…


The next question is from PS (United Kingdom). “Thank you for your amazing works and stories! A Marked Love Match is my personal favorite since I love delinquent characters. I think a lot of people are able to relate to your art and story. Violent or forceful love stories have become less common overseas, but many people love your manga. How do you manage to keep the balance between violence and realistic romance?”
I’m in awe at the fact this person analyzed my manga so deeply while reading it! Manga featuring violence – such as Sneaky Red and A Marked Love Match – are really quite touchy when it comes to communicating my message, so I took extra care not to paint violence itself in an affirmative light and to make it clear that those who resort to violence will have a price to pay. I don’t think I was able to communicate this fully in A Marked Love Match, but in Sneaky Red, Haru beats Misaki up quite often. In real life, Haru would get caught right away, and Misaki would be sent off to the hospital to receive care, but the manga would no longer be a form of entertainment if I was to depict those kinds of things… I believe that, as long as I make it clear in my manga that violence isn’t good, it’s acceptable to feature relationships like Haru and Misaki’s, where violence and true love are intertwined.


The next question is from Energetic Nova (U.S.A). “I look for Riba and other forms of power exchange or balance more than anything else in BL. Riba especially has become my treasure. What inspired you or made you decide to make riba (reversible) BL? Will you write more?  I have heard the reason it isn’t more common is that it is controversial in Japan.”
Although it’s become more widely accepted than it was before, riba isn’t very popular in Japan. I hadn’t even thought about riba when I was just drawing fanart, but I decided to write about a riba couple since those kinds of dynamics are probably more common in real life. BL characters are people first and foremost before they are tops or bottoms, so I don’t like building characters based on their status as the “top” or “bottom.” I’d like to keep drawing more riba couples if I can. If I’m able to make that happen, it’d be great if my overseas readers could support it…!


The final fan question is from Pepperoni (U.S.A). “Your art style does reference to a lot of fun pop culture, and I love those tiny details when I read your work. What are your favorite clothing/shoe brands and music genres?”
I’m thinking about just looking at the clothes or shoes rather than wearing them myself, but I like sports brands like Adidas. When I draw men’s fashion, I tend to look at fashion magazines that feature lots of sports brands or outdoorsy brands. I don’t know much about shoe brands, so all I can say is that I like sneakers… I also love cool logo t-shirts from skatewear brands.


Finally, what is your message to the readers of futekiya?
Thank you so, so much for reading my manga!

A lot of my works feature everyday events that are only really relevant to people in Japan, so I’m worried about how that’d come across to overseas readers, but the idea of you guys enjoying those aspects makes me really happy. I’ll keep doing my best with drawing manga, so I hope you’ll keep reading it on futekiya!


Thank you so much!  


Read Thanat’s Works on futekiya!


A Marked Love Match

During his third year in middle school, Yuya confesses to Ryo, a delinquent with a scary face. At first, Ryo doesn’t respond to the confession and they keep hanging out as friends. But, when Ryo finally asks Yuya still likes him in high school, these two finally start dating. So begins their love story that spans from middle school, high school, college, and adulthood! This volume also includes a short story about two men who start living together!




Sneaky Red

Lately, Misaki’s life has taken an odd turn. Going to work has become more difficult. It isn’t because he hates his job. Instead, Misaki is struggling to show his face to work because a brash college student called Kushiro is regularly bruising up his face. Misaki’s fights with Kushiro should have been normal. A typical jab here, an ordinary bruise there. But, as Kushiro keeps throwing the punches, Misaki realizes he might just like it.




Motion Emotion

One day by chance, Ayumu learns his handsome, popular, and younger co-worker Takeru has a crush on someone. Ayumu encourages Takeru to make a move. But every time he does, he notices Takeru standing a little too close to him. Then again, why does his heart pound so much when Takeru stands near him?
As Ayumu wonders how he feels about Takeru, Takeru finally makes a move…on Ayumu!
Motion Emotion also features “Seachange” and Murderous Youth,” BL short stories by Thanat!



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