In the previous weeks, we announced that we will be participating in DoKomi in May and bringing mangaka Hana to the event. To learn more about the BL scene in Germany, we asked German BL artist Ichiman about herself and her BL-related artist activities.
Hello! Could you please introduce yourself.
Ichiman: Hi! My online name is Ichiman or Ichi and I’m from Germany. I was born and raised in Berlin and have two half brothers. I’m in my late 20s now.
My childhood was fairly normal and I was a happy child, it was only a lot later in life when I realized that my upbringing might be a bit unusual to some people.
My parents are both politically active and part of a big German workers union. I didn’t know that it wasn’t considered normal to have such progressive, left-leaning parents as I did. We also lived in the “gay district” of the city and my parents’ friends, as well as caretakers in the kindergarten, were oftentimes part of the LGBTQ* community, too.
Aside from the very pragmatic and left-leaning household I grew up in, I was also massively influenced by my father’s hobby of collecting comics.
I don’t ever remember a time where I wasn’t reading Franco-Belgian or even American comics. I also always loved to draw and tell stories that my parents had to listen to for hours on end (lol).
My parents have always encouraged me to get a more down-to-earth type of job, but they never stopped me from pursuing my hobby of drawing. My dad – who is a great illustrator and who I looked up to a lot as a kid – even showed me how to get better at drawing perspective and how to shade properly.
Even though my parents really didn’t want me to pursue something like illustration, they suggested similar fields like Graphic Design.
As a teenager, I was very into Lolita fashion and Visual Kei. Therefore, I ended up wanting to become a fashion designer.
After my 2-year training in Graphic Design when I was 19, I worked as an intern and then also as a part-timer in a studio for fashion and costuming while trying to get into an art school in Berlin.
Sadly, I wouldn’t be accepted for years and also had to leave my job, because my boss wasn’t very satisfied with my working speed. She, however, gave me the tip to not go for fashion, but for illustration instead and that’s what I did shortly after.
I left Berlin for a year and worked on a portfolio during a one year course and that’s when I matured a lot more and got interested in Fine Arts.
I finally had success with my portfolio and moved to the city I currently live in for my studies.
I am now part of the comics and illustration class of my university and am looking forward to finishing my degree in 2021.
Illustration is a very rare branch of study in Germany and mostly just considered to be a part of Communication Design or Graphic Design.
So I’m very glad I made it into this class and that I was able to network with so many great artists.
Since I started studying so late, I need to financially support myself with a part-time job as an assistant for disabled people and through my Online Shop, Patreon and occasional commissions.
But I’m still far away from being able to support myself financially solely with my artwork.
I’m currently working on a portfolio to show to publishers at the Comic Salon in Erlangen, which is a great opportunity for indie artists and comic book authors such as myself.
I am also still interested in studying in Japan for a semester due to my interest in manga, but I’m not sure if that will be a possibility (because of financial issues).
When did you get interested in Japanese culture or manga and how?
Ichiman: I think it was when I watched Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon for the first time. I got obsessed with it immediately and even drew all of the Sailor Senshi on A3 papers. I made my own Sailor Moon original characters (OC) and daydreamed about it all the time.
For some reason, anime was really popular in Germany during the 90s. Multiple tv programs existed that specifically were aimed at anime fans and even some rather niche anime would be shown alongside Western cartoons early in the morning on weekend days.
I think it was mostly because the German media didn’t know how to classify anime just yet. It was always considered to be a bit trashy and childish, even if it had darker or even sexual themes.
(I definitely remember seeing inappropriate things that weren’t meant for my innocent children’s
Please share any memories you have of manga during your childhood. Which manga had the most impact on you and why?
Ichiman: I remember that the first manga I ever read was more shonen or even ecchi, but that changed a lot in my early teens. Names that come to mind are Oh My Goddess! or even Dragon Ball.
Oh My Goddess! definitely left an imprint on my mind because of the sexually suggestive themes and the gorgeous character designs. It was kind of a guilty pleasure and the fanservice appealed to my developing prepubescent mind.
It took me a bit longer to truly find the genres I learned to love, but I think my interests shifted a lot when I discovered the dark beauty of Kaori Yuki’s work through a manga magazine called Daisuki.
In the late 1990s and early 2000s, a few German publishers tried to recreate magazines like Weekly Shonen Jump and released a few magazines (like Daisuki for shojo and Banzai! for shonen) and that’s where I learned to love the shojo genre.
I loved Fruits Basket and Godchild, specifically for the bishounen characters.
Do you remember any Japanese contents such as games, TV programs, Japanese songs, books, movies, food, arts, etc. that you watched, listened to or consumed during your childhood?
Ichiman: Pokémon cards and the Pokémon games for GameBoy were the biggest craze in my childhood. We were also very obsessed with Tamagotchi and Nintendo games in general.
A Japanese variety show that almost all Germans my age will recognize from the Channel RTL2 was Takeshi’s Castle. Generally speaking, there was a lot of odd fascination with Japanese pop culture, but sadly it was also common to mock it at the same time.
When I was 9, I started doing aikido because it was a popular sport for girls to learn self-defense. That’s when I met my then best friend, who was just as interested in Japanese pop culture as I was.
Through her, I also learned about Dance Dance Revolution and games like The Legend of Zelda or Soulcalibur.
Other Japanese influences in my life came through Harajuku street fashion and Visual Kei, but that was a bit later.
How were you introduced to Boys’ Love?
Ichiman: The first time I noticed BL was through shojo manga, such as Fruits Basket.
I already mentioned it earlier, but I was also a big fan of Kaori Yuki because of her goth aesthetic and dark themes. She often incorporated BL romance or gay subtext into her stories.
I grew more and more curious about BL but was also very embarrassed about it. BL used to be a big taboo, even though it was also very popular in Germany.
My interest in BL was always accompanied by a lot of shame, but I eventually ended up buying my first BL manga when I was 14 or 15 and from then on I didn’t really care about other genres for a long, long time (lol!).
Is there any manga (BL and non-BL) you are personally into right now?
Ichiman: It’s not a manga, but I’m really into Welcome to the Café of Love by Churr. (Generally speaking, I am mostly reading manwha at the moment.)
But I also really liked Can He Get a Lover in a Sex Trade Shop? by Kabano Sakadachi!
But other than that, I’m mostly watching anime!
( I currently absolutely love Promare by Studio Trigger.)
What are your top 3 BL manga/novel recommendations?
Ichiman: Go For It, Nakamura! by Syundei (Manga), Welcome to the Café of Love by Churr (manwha), and No. 6 by Atsuko Asano (novel).
What do you think of Ichiman’s BL recommendations? Tell us what you think on our Twitter account @futekiya!
Next week, Ichiman will be talking about her work as a BL artist so please look forward to it!
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