On October 17, 2021, as part of onBLUE’s 10th Anniversary celebration tour, BL manga artist Kanna Kii-sensei held an online talk show ZOOM event and became the fifth event in onBLUE’s “Online Talk Event Tour” where various artists host a series of talk shows spanning over a year!
The talk show was hosted by Editor Shika, Kanna-sensei’s editor. Thankfully, as Kanna-sensei’s chief editor, Shika could dig deep to find out everything fans wanted to know! Well then, what kind of behind-the-scenes stories, funny episodes, and anecdotes were revealed?
Off to the event! – Before that, though, there was an event hashtag written on the waiting screen: #紀伊トーク2021 (#KiiTalk2021). If you’re interested, search for the hashtag on Twitter! (note: most tweets are in Japanese)
Without further ado, off to the event!
Part 1 (Q&A Session)
Q&A about Kanna Kii-sensei
Before the screen changed to show the first question, Kanna-sensei expressed her enthrallment by the chat section.
This time, too, fans sent in a mountain of questions. Kanna-sensei and Editor Shika both carefully chose panels from Kanna-sensei’s works that related and matched with the question being asked.
“Have you always liked drawing? When did you start?”
Kanna-sensei has been drawing since she was in preschool. The very first manga she created in elementary school was about a young witch but was left unfinished because she was not able to follow through with the story.
Editor Shika: Do you still have the story you drew?
Kanna-sensei: No. Even if I did, I would never show it.
Both: Fair enough.
Aw man! I guess we will just have to keep imagining little Kanna-sensei’s works.
And before we moved on to the next question, Kanna-sensei mumbled.
Kanna-sensei: Listening to two people talking without any background music or anything… doesn’t that get boring?
Editor Shika: THAT’S WHY WE HAVE TO BE ENTERTAINING SO IT DOESN’T GET BORING!
Kanna-sensei chuckled at Editor Shika’s quippy retort. They seemed like they got along well and it was entertaining to imagine that this is their everyday dynamic together.
“Which part of your work is your favorite? Do you have a part in the L’étranger series that you want to point out and say ‘I worked really hard on this section!’?”
Kanna-sensei explained that although she does not have a specific part she favors, she wants readers to “look at everything as a whole.”
Editor Shika: We hope you all take your time and observe every part of her drawings.
Even without being told to, before realizing it, Kanna-sensei’s art captivates and locks you in.
Before the next question, Kanna-sensei mumbled again.
Kanna-sensei: I have to read the chat at the same time so I’m so busy. And I haven’t finished my draft drawing… which I should’ve been finished with already.
Editor Shika: WHY HAVEN’T YOU DRAWN YOUR DRAFT YET!?
Kanna-sensei: I fell asleep~
The two of them are like a “mangaka and editor” comedy duo, you just can’t help but laugh.
“I heard that you used to work as an animator. What made you want to become a mangaka?”
Kanna-sensei thought that working in an animation studio would help build her stamina to complete projects, stamina that she said she did not have initially. As to what made her want to become a manga artist, well, we have Editor Shika to thank for that! Shika kept asking her to “draw something!”
Upon hearing that Editor Shika was the hero who persuaded Kanna-sensei (who did not have much interest in manga originally) to draw manga, the chat section had an uproar of triumphant cheers.
After (successfully!) soliciting Kanna-sensei for a year to complete her first manuscript, came the time to decide her pen name.
How exactly did Kanna Kii-sensei come up with “Kanna Kii”? The origin story that even Editor Shika was not aware of!
The name “Kanna Kii” is a combination of names derived from actress “Kii Kitano” and the character “Kanna” in the anime Dennou Coil (aired on NHK in 2007).
Kanna-sensei: I was told ‘Please submit the title and your pen name!’ so I combined names from a commercial that featured Kii Kitano and a work I was watching on DVD at the time. Now that I think about it, my pen name sounds a bit too cutesy.
Editor Shika: I think it’s a nice name.
“What is your favorite food? What do you eat before a deadline and after you’ve survived it?”
In a Mio-esque way, Kanna-sensei was excited to answer this question.
As she has a multitude of favorite foods, Kanna-sensei could not pinpoint an all-time favorite and chose three things: noodles, pears, and riceballs. However, because she has to battle the ultimate demon “drowsiness” before any deadline, she fights by either eating only miso soup or cornflakes with milk.
Kanna-sensei: My lifestyle really just becomes a husk of a human being’s during those times.
Editor Shika: You should eat something tastier.
Is it that Kanna-sensei waits to savor her favorite delicacies until after her deadlines?
Kanna-sensei: After the deadline passes, I usually eat something like tonkatsu and get carried away and get a stomach ache afterwards.
Kanna-sensei also passionately conveyed her love for miso soup to the viewers.
Kanna-sensei: Somebody asked in the chat ‘what do you like to put in your miso soup?’ Anything is good. Miso soup is a magical food because anything is miso soup if you put it in a soup of dashi and miso. It’s fast, nutritious, and so good. Riceballs and miso soup are such gems of Japanese food!
Editor Shika chuckled at Kanna-sensei’s love song to miso soup.
Besides that, Editor Shika asked what kind of foods she would enjoy receiving as a gift. After thinking for a while, Kanna-sensei came to the conclusion that nothing is the best.
Kanna-sensei: Receiving letters makes me the happiest.
“What is your holy grail manga?”
The screen showed the covers for Kazuhiro Fujita’s Ushio & Tora, Tamaki Fuji’s Mr. Shina No Seirei Nikki, and Aiko Nobara’s Akiyama-kun.
Kanna-sensei explained that Kazuhiro Fujita’s Ushio & Tora is probably her favorite manga.
Kanna-sensei: Reading this manga shows me the lights and shadows of human beings in this world. I really like it. It’s very interesting.
Editor Shika also described it as being “a good read through and through.”
Next is the holy grail BL Mr. Shina No Seirei Nikki. When Kanna-sensei was a student, there were few cute, shojo manga-like BL titles. But after reading all of Tamaki Fuji’s works, Mr. Shina No Seirei Nikki became Kanna-sensei’s favorite after a moving episode where the protagonist and a boy from the kingdom of mer-people part ways. She mentioned that this episode influenced her subsequent view of “boys’ love” itself..
Kanna-sensei: If someone were to tell me “Give me a BL that you like,” I’d simply reply, “Oh, Akiyama-kun. The end.” It’s simply a good BL manga and a good manga in general. Akiyama-kun is so cute. All of the characters are charming.
Editor Shika seemed to agree and laughed amiably.
Kanna-sensei: Aiko Nobara’s manga is so funny and beautiful and the boys are so cute, it’s perfect. I don’t have any other comments. (laughs)
The drawings are soft and casual, and the characters are cute in their gaps and weaknesses. It’s perfect.
“Is there anybody who influences you in terms of your drawing style and artwork? If not, I’d love to know who your favorite mangaka, illustrator, animator, etc. is!”
Kanna-sensei has always admired how Akira Yasuda’s detailed drawings are incredibly enticing but has never really mentioned it until now.
As for a mangaka, Kanna-sensei likes Tsutomu Nihei and became interested in Knights of Sidonia after first reading, in a magazine, the part where the protagonist Nagate and Tsumugi go on a date. She thought ‘I’ve just read something extraordinary and went on to collect each volume. Kanna-sensei also recommends Tsutomu Nihei’s latest title Aposimz.
Editor Shika: I recommend it to you all as well.
Kanna-sensei: And thus concludes the otakus’ presentation on our favorite manga.
Lastly, ever since preschool, Kanna-sensei has loved Noboru Baba’s Eleven Cats and Albatrosses where the cats make the Albatrosses eat croquettes and recommends reading it when you are feeling drained and tired.
Next, Kanna-sensei introduced two of her recent manga reads.
First was Tatsuki Fujimoto’s Chainsaw Man. She decided to read the first volume because it was popular, and bought it at the convenience store. As she read on, the story became more and more interesting so she finished that first volume and ended up immediately collecting the entire series, Kanna-sensei said while laughing.
Her second recent read was Akihito Tsukushi’s Made in Abyss. Kanna-sensei explained that she first saw the anime, then the movie, and then read the manga. Both Kanna-sensei and Editor Shika noted that Made in Abyss was a recommendation for “advanced course readers” and that even though some of the drawings may not be up everybody’s alley, they recommend (?) it.
The next question was “I love the atmosphere that flows through your work! Is there anything you value in your daily life in order to depict ‘everydayness’ in your works?”
Kanna-sensei described ‘everydayness’ as a repetition of ‘nothingness,’ so she does not pay special attention to anything in particular in her daily life. She explained that as manga is a form of entertainment and fantasy, she pays attention to the kind of “nothingness” that is established in the manga, but that there is nothing specifically that she does differently in her own everyday life.
“I love the stories that you draw because I feel the tenderness in them. They fill my heart with a sense of contentment, and the world in the story makes me feel love, envy, and sadness.
I am curious to know what kind of life has enabled you to paint such a tender story. I would be very happy if you could tell me the things you liked as a child and what has influenced you.”
Kanna-sensei explained that she grew up in an environment where views on same-sex relationships were open and the idea of romance was not particularly tied to the idea of gender. Kanna-sensei stated that she was lucky her mother and her friends around her were wonderful people and that their influences may bleed into her work.
Editor Shika: Somehow, I can imagine that your upbringing and environment have influenced the work that you do now.
About Kanna Kii-sensei’s Drawing Process
“Do you work digitally or analog? If you work digitally, do you create your own pens and tones?”
Kanna-sensei answered that she creates the storyboard analog but everything after is done digitally. When drawing digitally, Kanna-sensei explained that she uses the default tools and does not create her own pens. After inking in her sketch with Paint Tool SAI, Kanna-sensei moves to Photoshop to draw the tones.
She explained that she basically has her preferred settings on her most frequently used pens, but she does not customize or download any specific tools.
Editor Shika: You can create those amazing drawings without relying on special tools.
Kanna-sensei mentioned with regret that Clip Studio Paint is a great software, but she just cannot seem to get a handle on it. There are things that only an expert can know and feel, which is very interesting to hear about.
“What part of the manga creation process is your favorite??”
Kanna-sensei answered immediately.
Kanna-sensei: Creating the storyboard. Creating the plot and the storyboard. Only. Everything afterwards is a struggle.
Editor Shika burst out laughing at Kanna-sensei’s rapid response. Whenever Editor Shika needs a storyboard, she simply says “Make sure you make the storyboard next!” Kanna-sensei described that the way Editor Shika asks for a storyboard is easy to handle. But…
Kanna-sensei: After that I have to draw and redraw over and over again until it becomes a readable story… it’s tough…
Editor Shika: All I do is say “good luck!”
“How long does it usually take for you to finish drawing one page? How do you allot time to drafting and inking?”
Kanna-sensei said with a half-defeated voice, “I don’t know… If I knew this I wouldn’t have to suffer so much before deadlines.”
Just like a student hours before their assignment is due, right before her deadlines, Kanna-sensei divides the remaining time by the number of remaining pages and calculates the number of minutes she can spend per page.
Editor Shika: You calculate, then end up pushing the deadline back by X number of days, usually.
Kanna-sensei: Why must you expose me like this.
This is Shun Hashimoto-sensei’s case when a deadline is approaching.
Kanna-sensei: This slide is full of malice.
Editor Shika: I don’t make such scary calls.
Kanna-sensei: Well yes, this is pure fiction. The editor looks exactly like Editor Shika, but she is nothing like this. It’s fiction. Please don’t get that mixed up. Let me repeat that 30 times.
Editor Shika: The chat section is saying, “I thought this was real!”
Kanna-sensei: Editor Shika is kind. She supports me and always cheers me on!
Editor Shika: The only thing true to life in these pages is the desk.
Kanna-sensei: When they let me draw the storyboard in the Editorial Department, I took a picture of Editor Shika’s desk so, oh yes, the desk is real.
…Well apparently there are some non-fiction parts too.
Next was a question picked up from the chat section.
“Do you have any assistants?”
What a surprise! Kanna-sensei has zero assistants!
Kanna-sensei: I’m not great or anything. A good mangaka should hire an assistant and divide up the labor in order to properly meet deadlines.
Even though Editor Shika’s wry smile did not appear on the screen after hearing this response, it was easy to imagine.
“Are you the type to decide the title in advance or at the end?”
Kanna-sensei thinks about the title throughout the creation process, then gives a final answer at the end when asked.
When deciding the titles for the L’étranger series and Qualia under the snow, Kanna-sensei made sure to include the letter の (no) because of an urban legend that certain works that include the character の become a hit. This was news to Editor Shika.
Kanna-sensei: So people say Princess Mo????ke has two の (no) so it was a huge hit.
Editor Shika: Oh! Wow!
She is not fixated on this urban legend for all of her works though, it was merely in the back of her mind.
Editor Shika expressed that Kanna-sensei was quite decisive and someone who straightforwardly says, “This is the title.”
“Please tell us about your character designs. How did Shun and Mio become Shun and Mio?”
Kanna-sensei answered that she is not too fussy about designing characters. When it was decided she would create a BL manga, she thought about two boys whose elements and personalities would not clash who were easy for her to draw, and that became Shun and Mio. Rather than creating a character on the basis of her favorite attributes, Kanna-sensei first focuses on what kind of characters are needed in the story.
Editor Shika commented that Kanna-sensei’s process was very methodical.
About the Characters
“How did your characters get their names? How were they created?”
Kanna-sensei started with recounting Shun Hashimoto’s (橋本駿) name.
Surprisingly, Shun’s name was undecided until the very end. The original idea was to name him Shun Miyao (宮尾駿), but as it would only be one character difference from a certain famous director, Kanna-sensei looked for a common surname for Shun.
Mio Chibana (知花実央) was decided after first searching for a surname that originates from Okinawa. For his given name, Kanna-sensei wanted to give him something that was unisex.
Editor Shika: The chat section is saying “Thank you for being Shun’s Super Darling!”
Kanna-sensei: Mio is a Shun-exclusive Super Darling.
Editor Shika: Thank you for taking care of such a hassle of a man.
Kanna-sensei: Yes, Mio is a good guy.
Sakurako’s (桜子) name was inspired from a friend when Kanna-sensei was a student, who had only sisters whose names all included a flower and ended with the character “ko” (子), like you would see at an all-girls’ school. The surname “Shimizu” was given to Sakurako in preparation for a collaboration cafe event where one of the goodies was an autographed Polaroid picture with her full name.
Fumi Hashimoto (橋本文) is derived from Kanna-sensei’s own brother whose name begins with “Fumi” albeit a different character. She made sure to emphasize that Fumi is not based on her brother whatsoever but recounted a time when her father read her manga and thought she named him after her brother.
The conversation shifted to how Kanna-sensei’s father reads her works, and how he is the one who checks her homepage the most! Editor Shika was ECSTATIC to hear this.
Editor Shika: It’s very rare to hear stories about the Kii Family so I got worked up.
Kanna-sensei explained that Fumi appeared because she thought it necessary for Sakurako to properly establish and convey a sincere connection with others as a female character in BL. When she first started drawing, she did not plan to draw a character like Fumi. Kanna-sensei mentioned that Fumi did not appear because she wanted to draw a young boy character.
Editor Shika: I love Fumi so whenever he makes an appearance I’m happy.
Kanna-sensei: He’s funny so it’s fun to draw him..
Editor Shika: I love how he just unapologetically barges in on any kind of atmosphere.
Kanna-sensei: Having a character like Fumi is very useful because he can make any scene funny. He would have the highest bonus pay.
Editor Shika: Fumi is doing good work.
“What does Sakurako do for a living? Does she work for the family business?”
Kanna-sensei: Sakurako is such a great person.
Kanna-sensei answered that Sakurako’s family deals in hotel management so she also works in that sector. She is very mysterious and intriguing.
Mio and Shun
“I think ‘L’étranger’ in L’étranger de la Plage means something like “gentile” or “traveler,” but does ‘L’étranger’ refer to Mio and Shun?”
Kanna-sensei responded that this is generally true, but that it also includes all characters in the manga. Kanna-sensei also explained that she chose the word in katakana to convey the nuance of someone who is a bit off or floating.
Editor Shika: From the way you draw them, I can feel that these people will probably always be on the fringes wherever they find themselves.
Kanna-sensei: Right, there is also a connotation that these people are ephemeral.
“Do Mio and Shun have a trivial profile? Like their favorite and least favorite foods?”
Kanna-sensei had a general idea in her head about their profiles.
Mio loves any and all food that lands in his mouth, but Shun is not that interested in eating. Shun has no interest in food and therefore cannot cook, and does not mind having meal replacements instead of actual meals.
Kanna-sensei does not drink black coffee herself, but she imagined Shun liking americanos. Mio would add a lot of sugar and milk… basically he would like what kids would like.
The pair do not have favorite colors, but Shun generally picks monotone clothes and Mio also wears flashy clothes in primary colors.
In terms of manga, Mio likes FULLMETAL ALCHEMIST and Naruto, while Shun would probably choose something like Phoenix.
Shun reads novels rather than manga, and Mio is a manga lover.
“Mio’s clothes make me think, ‘Oh, this is just like Mio!’ But Shun’s clothes are casual and actually stylish (even though he is Shun Hashimoto!), and he looks like a mature older brother (even though he is Shun Hashimoto!) with good fashion taste. Is there a specific brand you refer to for his fashion? Shun sometimes comes across as mature, and I’m frustrated that I’m attracted to him. I like him…”
Mio does not particularly try to be stylish, but when he tries on whatever clothes he finds, they look good on him. Shun wears the type of clothes that would be sold at a store called ‘Journal Standard.’
Kanna-sensei: It’s not too expensive but not very cheap but has the image of being a but nice. He still wears things from Uniqlo. He leans to more formal but still lies somewhere between formal and casual. Besides T-shirts, I think I put him in many collared shirts.
Editor Shika: So that’s how his style became fashionable.
“I love the atmosphere of Mio and Shun, they’re not all over each other and not too sweet but they do firmly love each other. Do you have any particular points that you like about them?”
Kanna-sensei explained that as long as everybody likes them, she is happy, and there is nothing in particular that she likes about them as a couple. Kanna-sensei commented while Editor Shika laughed in the background, that she likes how Shun lives his life as he sees fit even if that means making enemies along the way, but that he should start focusing on getting his life a bit more in order at this point.
Editor Shika: You can do it Shun!!
Kanna-sensei: He might be trying but he could try a little harder.
Kanna-sensei also revealed that the two probably do have their lovey dovey moments, she just does not draw them in!
Editor Shika: What! Why not? You should draw it!
Kanna-sensei: I am the one drawing the manga, but the characters Mio and Shun are first and foremost, a couple, and that stuff is… private. There’re a lot of things that only the two of them know about and I feel strange exposing that to the public.
Editor Shika: I see! I understand. Maybe if I assign a special chapter where the two of them are lovey dovey…
Kanna-sensei: Whether I will actually draw that or not is a different story…
Editor Shika: Please have some faith in me and my efforts, everybody!
“There was a scene where Shun said something about how younger guys were not his type to begin with, but what kind of guy was his type? Personally, I think Shun likes guys with good-looking faces~! (Both Mio and Wada have good faces…)”
Kanna-sensei: Shun is all about looks.
Editor Shika: Yep.
Truthfully, the setting that Shun is not into younger guys was borne from Kanna-sensei thinking about the fact that Shun the adult falling in love with Mio the high schooler in L’étranger de la Plage was a bit… hm.
Editor Shika: Shun has such a good-looking face~
Kanna-sensei: It’s not bad.
“Please tell us about why Shun cut his hair before getting a new phone!”
Kanna-sensei commented that a sudden change in hairstyle is such a “L’étranger thing.” But the reason was very realistic: his hair got long so he decided to cut it. But Kanna-sensei explained that it also expressed a renewal of his mood from the long-haired, goofing off phase, and that he decided to start thinking seriously about his life.
About Mahou ga Tsukaenakutemo and Future Plans
“In Mahou ga Tsukaenakutemo, which page was the most difficult to draw and which was your favorite?”
Kanna-sensei described the live concert scenes with the crowd and musical instruments made her think “Enough!”
Editor Shika: Thanks to your hardship though, we were able to enjoy a magnificent story.
Kanna-sensei: Manga is entertainment.
According to Kanna-sensei, she does not specifically have certain scenes or panels that she especially likes. But, she responded that she likes the burnt out Kishi towards the end of the story.
Although this strays from her favorite scene, Kanna-sensei pointed out that she likes the story Paradise! in this collection the most. She wished that she could draw a bunch of stories like it, but that it just does not come to her so easily.
“I am curious about the events during the period not depicted in the main story. Do you have any plans to recount them in the main story or spin-offs in the future? (For example…did Shun work after graduating from high school until his engagement? Also, how did Shun spend his time between moving to Okinawa after his breakup and Mio returning to the island? Etc. etc.).”
Kanna-sensei replied that she has no time or plans to draw anything about the period of time that has not been depicted. On the contrary, she expressed her hope that someone else would draw or write a spin-off or an official novel.
Part 2 (Live Drawing Session)
After the longer-than-planned Q&A session and a short break, a live drawing session was held by Kanna Kii-sensei. When she shared her screen to the crowd, there was a draft of Mio and Shun, shoulder to shoulder, on the Paint Tool SAI software program window.
When Kanna-sensei shared her screen, she was worried about not being about to see the chat section. Thank you for caring about reading each fan’s message, Kanna-sensei!
Before she began drawing, Kanna-sensei mumbled.
Kanna-sensei: Can I just say something first? There is no way I am going to be able to finish drawing anything in only 30 minutes.
Editor Shika: Shall we make it 40 minutes?
Kanna-sensei: 10 minutes doesn’t make a difference!! This is how I create excuses so that I can have something to blame later on.
Editor Shika: Everybody, please forgive us if the drawing session takes longer than planned.
Kanna-sensei: Please forgive me if I don’t finish the drawing.
And so, the live drawing session began!
While Kanna-sensei was drawing, Editor Shika would ask other questions that were sent in, or pick up questions from the live chat section, or have a chat about miscellaneous topics or memories with Kanna-sensei.
Kanna-sensei proceeded inking in the draft.
The two talked about how Mio and Shun would like their eggs cooked (Shun would want a tamagoyaki like at an izakaya, and Mio would care more about the quantity rather than the cooking method), Kanna-sensei’s cat, the fact that Editor Shika’s most common feedback is “CUTE!”, and a wide array of other topics.
Time flew by as we watched Kanna-sensei draw, and listened to her and Editor Shika. The two seemed to really get along and enjoy talking with each other.
Just when you thought the inking in was finished, Kanna-sensei made adjustments by using techniques that could only be executed through digital means, such as fixing the hair and shadows in a flash. It was like watching a magician.
As soon as Kanna-sensei finished inking in the draft, she started adding colors and continued talking with Editor Shika.
They talked about the production of the movie version of L’étranger de la plage, memories of talking in a cafe Kanna-sensei started drawing manga, and Kanna-sensei’s longing to live without having to work.
After around 1 hour and 15 minutes from starting the live drawing session, the cute couple’s shot of Mio and Shun was complete.
Post-Live Drawing Session
After the live drawing, viewers participated in a survey.
The question was: Where do you want Mio and Shun to go on a trip together?
The choices were: Sendai (gyutan), Ehime (Dogo Onsen), Osaka (Eat-’til-you-drop), Hakata (Again, eat-’til-you-drop), and Nara (the deer are cute!)
The most popular destination was… Osaka with 30% of the votes! In 2nd place was Nara with 28%.
Kanna-sensei: The story will change gears and become a BL manga that just visits tourist attractions around the country!
That also sounds interesting!
Lastly, Kanna-sensei and Editor Shika shared their final messages to the viewers.
Kanna-sensei: I’m not sure what to say… I apologize for the low number of pages in the updates recently, but I congratulate myself just by being able to continue drawing. So clearly I have set a very low bar for myself but please look forward to the next volume. That would make me the happiest. That’s about it. Editor Shika will now say something positively great to make up for the fact that I can’t seem to find the words right now!
And so Editor Shika was thrown under the bus…
Editor Shika: I apologize for confusing some of you by starting late today. The archive will be ready soon after this and will be sent to the message section where everyone who bought tickets can see. Archive tickets will be available separately, and we hope you all can watch this for another few days. Well, thank you very much for your time today. We look forward to seeing you in the future.
Kanna Kii-sensei, Editor Shika, thank you very much for a spectacular time! Thank you for your hard work!
©︎紀伊カンナ／祥伝社on BLUE COMICS
This article is available in Japanese on honto’s swamp website below:
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