Little Projecta Studio
GAROAn interview with an editor from the "monthly exciting manga"
Cover illustration: Yuusaku Hanakuma
Lars Cawley + Mr.Kitazono (translation by Naoko)
L: Do you think GARO is an unusual manga, and why?
K: Well, the first GARO was published in 1964 by the late Katsuichi Nagai who was editor and also president of GARO , to carry Kamui-den (Tales of Kamui) which is drawn by Sanpei Shirato. While Kamui-den was being serialized, they gathered other cartoonists like Yoshiharu Tsuge who was not prolific, their manga were also carried in GARO. GARO gave an opportunity to lots of people to draw their manga. Also they tried to discover newcomers and experimental manga at the same time. So that was what was happening at the beginning of GARO.
After the series, they discovered more and more new comers. GARO is getting more unusual, more uncommercial and more anti-establistment manga in the main. There was a tendency for cartoonists toward counter culture, alternative manga and in 60's to 70's. Under such a situation, GARO was supported by especially a lot of students and must have been a magazine for underground cartoonists.
So it is a kind of tradition for GARO. As a result of that, most manga in our magazine are getting more unusual and off the mainstream, I think. But we aren't trying to take a policy to make an unusual and uncommercial magazine. Mostly, people sends us that kind of manga. It happens very naturally. Then we just select interesting one. There was a student movement in 60's and 70's against that Japan concluded a security treaty with USA.)
L: In 90's the comic market in the world has changed a lot, has it effected anything in the Japanese comic market? Or has anything happened? ( Lars explained about the changing comic market in America.)
K: Really? ( He didn't know about that.)
L: In Japan there is a big game industry, that is taking lots of talent from regular manga, maybe GARO is the same, maybe different.
K: GARO is a magazine on a commercial basis imperfectly though. So, it doesn't matter even if cartoonists from GARO or some characters from GARO's manga are taken by a game industry. And then if we could make some more money, have fun and everyone can be happy, it's O.K. We usually leave cartoonists to do as they want, as much as possible. We try to bring out every cartoonist's good point... but... change, yeah... I should talk about changing um... For example, there is a manga called Neko-jiru (also the late artist's pen name) which has got such a cute character, but really cruel story compared with old manga. This kind of manga became been more popular lately. Some people inquire for us whether they could make a game, or toys with this character. We said it's O.K about that.
Another one is Suehiro Maruo's manga which is risqué and aesthetic. This one has already been animated before. It wasn't a commercialized thing, it was made by someone who likes that manga for amusement. But recently some publishers from France and America said they want to sell his comics in their countries. So, what has changed might be more and more people came to appreciate the manga which weren't popular before.
And also it might be a strange point in Japan now that you can make some money with them. It's true these manga are getting more popular, but it doesn't mean they became been appreciated by general. They are still uncommon manga. Then we started talking about when these two manga are from. Neko-jiru is from 90's. And Suehiro Maruo 's one is from 80's. He is working on illustrations mainly now. He debuted with an obscene (erotic?) manga.
L: Do you know Raw?
(We all talked together for a while about Robert Crumb's Weirdo and things.)
[some conversation is omitted]
L: Raw and Weirdo are both finished. It's really difficult to keep something like that going in the West because the market isn't so big. It seems like the most successful ones have a lot of letters from people who talk about the comic and notices, they are not just comics, like GARO. It's not just a comic. It's got some reviews and things. There is a page from readers. The readers see other people's drawing and they draw something and then go to GARO and other people read it. Maybe that is helping GARO to be popular.
K: Yes, that's right. GARO has been keep going for more than thirty years, but it has been in the red. We make up for it by other books (trade paperbacks). We have been keeping publishing GARO intently, because we want to develop newcomers. Some readers start drawing four frame comics. And then some of them start drawing long one. And people sees other's manga, then they think "That guy draws like this, but I will draw differently, or cooler, or something like that." We want to give them an opportunity like that.
L: It's interesting, because other manga do that sort of things, too. But they offer the big prizes and they pay for their manga, but GARO, there is no big prizes and the mangaka (cartoonists), maybe they get paid a little bit or nothing. But still people are keen, still they like GARO. So they must be a good thing about GARO. It's not to do with money.
K: Yes, there is no prizes in GARO. Also we aren't paying regular cartoonists, either now. Of course, we want to pay them in the future.
L: Is there the meaning of GARO?
K: It's a Ninja's name from Kamui-den. ( Then he went to look for that comic and old GARO) the story is about class discrimination in Edo era. The hero was in a low class. He decided it's the only way to be a Ninja to get away from the low class.
L: How many readers do you have?
K: Maybe, twenty or thirty thousand a month. Usually less than that.
L: It's about twice as many as one successful, alternative press might sell every three month.
K: They might be nearly the same as us, because we sell 30,000 comics every month but some of them come back here. Our way to publish the comics is different from America's.
L: GARO is more than just Manga what are the other things?
K: There is feature articles something like this. ( looking at old GARO He is Dan Takasugi . It's all about what he did in the past. He is a Media Man! He used to publish some books and other lots of things. He wanted to be a Media by himself.
( He showed some article to us, articles about other people and about strange old men )
We try to carry strange things. Another thing is manga criticism, four critics are writing, taking turns.
L: Maybe there are review of manga.
K: There are some pages of reviews for things like films or music, but not for manga, l don't know why. So in GARO, there is a lot of articles from people who is not doing things with manga. And also we don't pay them, either
L: Are there any more plans for something like " Sake Jock"? (A collection of GARO manga published by Fantagraphics ).
K: Not especially. That was from Adam Glickman who likes GARO. Re wanted to introduce GARO in America. That was his idea, not our idea. There is no plan of translated manga for ourselves, but if anyone asked us to do that we could help them. Here is the magazine from him Tokion. He is a co-ordinator of that magazine. We offered some manga to them with no money.
L: Would you like to see my comics?
K: Do you have one now? [Mr Kitazono looks at Victims of a Dirty War] I don't understand the meaning, but it's good drawing. Black and white are really balanced. It must be good if this story finished with the things in this bag had ate him. If you think like that, it's really fantastic and interesting. Your drawing reminds me of the french cartoonist whom I really like. The atmosphere of your drawing is different from Japanese's.
( He starts to look at Check The Blinker I ) The frame arrangement in the beginning part is really good, You can follow them with your eyes very smoothly, it's a good thing. And the drawing is dynamic and also elaborate as well. You have got a good taste! I want you to draw more and more.
People say continual effort is vital, you should keep drawing, like GARO will keep going. Ganbatte kudasai (please do your best). We are going to keep publishing GARO, too.
L+N: Arigato gozaimashita. (thank you very much.)