Our Creators’ Corner this month features Hidebu Takahashi, creator of Yuki and Matsu. In this interview, Takahashi-sensei talks about what they like most about creating BL manga and generously answers questions from fans!
Thank you for taking the time out of your busy schedule for this interview. Could you please introduce yourself?
Hello. My name is Hidebu Takahashi.
When did your interest in manga begin?
Probably like most children in Japan, manga was one of the most familiar pastimes ever since I can remember.
Which manga is your favorite or has left the biggest impression on you?
I think Osamu Tezuka’s Black Jack.
Do you like games or anime? Which game, anime, etc. is your favorite?
For anime, I think Mobile Suit Gundam: Char’s Counterattack.
How did you discover BL?
My gateway was derivative works of Slam Dunk. But don’t tell anyone…
Which BL work is your favorite?
I thought Pornographer by Maki Marukido was very entertaining.
What made you want to become a mangaka?
There’s no particular event, but when I was a child, I thought “I want to become a mangaka” and then I just got older with the same thought.
What did you do to become a mangaka? (i.e. technical school, etc.)
I didn’t especially do anything in preparation, but I did create a lot of doujinshis.
As an active mangaka, what kind of hurdles do you have to face?
I can’t afford to let my creative juices run dry, so I take care of my own mood.
Is there any manga or other works that have influenced you or greatly affected you?
Manga, movies, TV dramas, music, and many more. I think movies and TV dramas have had a big impact on me.
What do you like most about drawing BL manga?
That I can draw men.
Do you have any manga that you want to draw next or in the future?
I would like to draw a sorcerer story someday.
Are there any things you focused on in particular in Yuki and Matsu, which is available on futekiya?
I tried avoiding using a lot of rhymes and onomatopoeia and tried to portray the characters’ expressions as if they were actors acting.
Do you have any behind-the-scenes stories about Yuki and Matsu that you can tell us about?
It took many moons for it to take shape, and the editor was extremely patient with me.
Are there any scenes or characters that you want readers to pay special attention to?
Be sure to pay attention to the charm of the middle-aged and older characters like Kikyoya, Chojiya, and Obara.
futekiya is a service that distributes BL manga that has been translated into English. What do you think about futekiya?
Thank you for expanding your readership to include non-Japanese-speaking countries!
Questions from fans
from Luisito (Brazil):
You were praised by both Golden Kamuy’s Satoru Noda-sensei and My Lesbian Experience with Loneliness’ Kabi Nagata-sensei. Have you read their works? Do you think being praised by someone who is outside from BL fandom can bring more people to BL?
I’ve read both Golden Kamuy and My Lesbian Experience with Loneliness. I have all the printed volumes of Kabi Nagata-sensei works. It seems that some people read my work because of Satoru Noda-sensei’s recommendation. I am beyond grateful.
from Pachi (Brazil):
I LOVE LOVE LOVE your work.
Do you watch any overseas media? If yes, what do you like? I have a feeling you like cult movies (laughs)
I’ve been influenced a lot by particularly American movies from the 1970s to 1980s. Just as you predicted, I love movies like Omeni, The Exorcist, Carrie, and The Shining. I also like Alien, Mad Max, Hidden, Apocalypse Now, The Godfather, The Untouchables, and Blue Velvet.
from Penny Rich (Canada):
Yuki and Matsu is one of my favourite manga. I would be the first in line if it were ever to be printed in English I have read Yuki and Matsu a number of times and I am ever impressed with the beauty of the artwork. I love the character designs. Yuki in particular recalls the Bishōnen images of Takabatake Kashō. On the subject of character design I do have a question: I noticed that between the first chapter and the second that there is a distinct difference in how Doctor Sho-an is drawn, there is the difference of his hair, but his facial features feel different as well. Was the first chapter originally supposed to be a one shot? Does this account for the difference in design? Thank you, Sensei, for all of your hard work. I hope to see more of your work published in English. And thank you Futekiya team for all your hard work!
Pining for Yuki (first chapter of Yuki and Matsu) was written sometime around 2013 without any real plan of serialization, so I was thinking of personally releasing it online. But, thanks to the efforts of the editor and the coincidental first issue of .Bloom, I was able to start the series Yuki and Matsu, using Pining for Yuki as a jumping off point. There is a time gap of about 3 years between Pining for Yuki and Yuki and Matsu but the production time of Yuki and Matsu was about 3 months. Pining for Yuki was also included in the book and became a story in and of itself.
from Emil (Finland):
What inspired you to pick up BL after your original seinen series Stigmata -Stigmata Investigation-?
What is your favourite thing to draw? (I’m always amazed at how you draw clothing seams!)
Before starting the series Stigmata -Stigmata Investigation-, the editor-in-chief of Grand Jump told me “Try to contain the BL” (because it’s a seinen magazine) and at the time (because it’s a seinen magazine), I also intended on keeping the BL to a minimum but ended up going in the opposite direction, somehow. The fact that I was told to do so might have had the opposite effect. But, no one complained about it so that made me happy.
My favorite thing to draw is naked men!
from Maipon (Finland):
I am a huge fan of your BL series, thank you for creating such unique and memorable stories! Do you think drawing BL is different from doing seinen or other genres?
In BL, you don’t have to worry about drawing naked men! There’s no need to make a gag out of naked men.
from fp (France):
Yuki and Matsu is one of the most inventive and visually outstanding mangas I’ve read these past few years. Being able to read your work in English is a blessing! As an artist who already had an established career in manga before going into commercial BL, has your experience in drawing seinen manga influenced the way you approach the BL genre?
After drawing for seinen magazines, I became convinced that the “hot guy” is a dream and a fantasy for both women and men.
from Cleide (Italy):
Your art style is very unique! What are your sources of inspiration?
The pen drawings of Aubrey Beardsley and Harry Clarke, as well as the prints of Albrecht Dürer were very appealing to me as a child.
from nina (Malaysia):
Among your works, which one do you wish to see being adapted into a movie or a drama?
I’d like to see Stigmata made into a live-action movie. With lots of blood splatter.
from Kawo (Malaysia):
Hello sensei! I’ve always enjoyed your works, really love your art style and expression, you are such an inspiration for me!
How did you do your research for a historical work like Yuki and Matsu? Do you watch historical movies or read books, etc.? I find it hard to grasp a lot of facts when researching, let alone compile it together.
What gave you the idea to create Yuki and Matsu? It’s beautiful!
That is all! Thank you so much for making such beautiful mangas! I will always support you, Sensei!
Yuki and Matsu started like a fairytale “once upon a time…” without reference to a specific period in time, but eventually, it became the Meiji Era to somewhat ambiguously connect fairytales with reality. So the historical research wasn’t the strictest! It wasn’t that thorough!
The inspiration behind Yuki and Matsu came from a historical series called Hissatsu (especially the 1970s version). In this TV series, there was a character who was a doctor in public but an assassin in private. The combination of having a doctor and a bloody world was largely influenced by this series. I was also greatly influenced by the worldview of Akira Kurosawa’s Yojimbo. Yojimbo is set in an inn town along a travelling road as well.
from Roxy (Malaysia):
I love Yuki to Matsu very much!! I read and bought them in Japanese but I’m very happy to read this beautiful story again in English.
I have a few questions if I may, what is the age difference between Dr. Sho-an and Yuki?
Did Dr. Sho-an’s father ever find out that he was his son?
Are Sakichi and Roku together?
Are you a fan of old Hong Kong movies?
And this is my wishful thinking but I would love to see more of Dr. Sho-an and Yuki’s days together. I cried when I saw them grew old and how lovingly Yuki cares for Dr. Sho-an…It’s so beautiful…Thank you for such a wonderful story!
Sho-an and Yuki are about 15 years apart in age.
Sho-an’s father did not realize that the doctor who operated on him was his son. He left Sho-an’s mother for Edo before the child was born, so he didn’t know whether the child was a son or a daughter.
Sakichi and Roku probably spent many years without becoming lovers. After losing Tatsuo, Sakichi was probably hesitant to love someone. But when he got older, they may have become lovers.
I don’t know all too much about old Hong Kong movies, sorry.
from Bunny (Malaysia):
Have you ever imagined how would it be if Yuki and Sho-an could experience the modern era at young age? What kind of occupation that modern Yuki would have?😳 I can imagine Sho-an as a doctor, obviously… (laughs)
Sakichi is a public safety policeman who uses his lover, Yuki (Tatsuo), as a spy to find out about far-left groups. Sakichi is a dirty cop who is not afraid to use nasty tricks. When Yuki is exposed as a spy and pursued by a far-left group, he is saved by a medical practitioner, Sho-an, who is about to be erased by Sakichi to keep his mouth shut. The two are then targeted by both the police and far-left groups…
from midgeyu (USA):
What do you believe BL stories set in historical times offer that BL stories set in contemporary times cannot?
One of the possibilities of stories set in the distant past is that they can depict fairy tales that are detached from modern reality, although the same could be said for stories set in the future and other realities. And, paradoxically, I think there is a kind of vividness that emerges because it is a fairy tale. Just as distorted portraits make the beauty and ugliness of people stand out.
from LW (USA):
Dear Sensei, thank you for creating Yuki and Matsu, I adore it. Thank you for sharing so much on Twitter and Pixiv too.
Do you work digitally, or analog?
What kind of BL manga would you like to work on in the future? Will you ever bring back Sakichi as the star of a modern yakuza BL? (Haha, this might be too oddly specific a question!)
Do you like to travel? If you could go on a dream trip, where would you go?
Oh completely analog! When I draw digitally, the line doesn’t go where I want it to, so I gave up.
It’s tough to depict modern-day yakuza as their numbers have been declining since the Anti-Boryokudan Act in 1992; which is good for public safety but… Maybe if we set the story in the 1980s…
I’m not the biggest fan of traveling, but if I could go on a dream trip, I would like to sneak a peek into the world of the past.
from Tomato (USA):
Do you have any hobbies that you enjoy?
What is your daily work schedule like?
I think your work defies a lot of common conventions in the BL genre, and is a work of art by itself. Do you make a conscious effort to avoid conventions and stereotypes?
Do you have any advice for young artists who are making comics?
What do you think is important in depicting a romantic relationship?
I love your drawings of food! What are some foods that you love?
Thank you for giving us this opportunity to ask questions. I love your artwork & storytelling!!!
My hobby is to conduct a live broadcasting of Kamen Rider and Super Sentai on Twitter.
My daily schedule isn’t particularly set. I can’t live a regular life!
Rather than BL in particular, I try to keep the comic strips and onomatopoeia that are often used in manga to a minimum and try to recreate the effects they have through the characters’ facial expressions. I’m not thinking as far as breaking the stereotype, but I don’t think it’s necessary to swear so much allegiance to all manga techniques.
When you feel the itch to draw manga, and to show what you’ve created to other people, you can’t help but become a mangaka.
When I draw romance, I think of it as a metaphor for all human relationships.
I think there is a similarity between drawing food that looks good and drawing people that look good. My favorite food is curry and rice.
from Eri (USA):
What’s something you wish for your readers to take away from your works? Did you ever see yourself writing stories with romance between men? Did you ever expect good feedback from readers? Thank you for your hard work! Your works are amazing!
I hope that readers will find a moment of melancholic peace in my work. If you enjoy it too much, you may get tired, so I’ll try to make it a little melancholic.
I used to think that drawing BL as a hobby, but not as a job. I thought that BL (for me) was too full of personal fantasies to be seen by a wide audience. Now, I don’t see anything wrong with letting my personal fantasies hang out in the open. And I’m very grateful that there are readers who enjoy it!
from Laura (USA):
(First of all, I love your work! Yuki and Matsu is amazing, and I’m always hoping Stigmata gets an English translation, though I’ve been trying to read it in Japanese.)
Do you have any favorite music (artists or songs) you would be willing to share with us?
Thank you so much!!!
I like listening to Depeche Mode.
I hope Stigmata gets an English translation as well but also I wish you luck reading in Japanese!
And finally, do you have a message for futekiya readers?
Dear futekiya readers, and those who submitted questions, thank you for battling the obstacle of language and culture and reading my work! Really, thank you so much!
Thank you very much!
Read Hidebu Takahashi’s Work on futekiya
About futekiya: Read what you love
In 2018, futekiya began as a Boys Love (BL) 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.