I’ve been chasing after an interview with Hiroki Otsuka for Publishers Weekly for the past month, Otsuka (of Boys of Summer, ero-manga fame)who has been named Japan Society’s mangaka-in-residence. This in conjunction with the Utagawa Kuniyoshi exhibit and everything manga that Kuniyoshi’s woodblock prints have inspired.
Otsuka is at the Japan Society every weekend, starting on Fridays (5-9), Saturdays and Sundays (11-5), where he’s set up in a fishbowl office to work on his own Kuniyoshi inspired manga for Japan Society, Samurai Beam. Samurai Beam is being serialized online at the Japan Society website with Otsuka adding about 4pages per week.
I’ve visited Japan Society during Otsuka’s “office hours” to get an idea of how Otsuka works, how the manga is progressing – and to see how people interact with him while he’s at work. The way the fishbowl works is that people can come inside the office and interact with Otsuka, ask questions, watch him draw, etc. But Hiroki also does this thing where he slides the glass doors closed. When he does this, you’ll notice a few passers-by pressing their hands and faces against the glass panes with fervent curiosity.
The other thing I noticed is that Hiroki works with a stop-watch. I couldn’t help but ask about it and basically, the stop-watch is a way for him to terrorize his assistants (he’s got between 1-3 working with him at a given time). I don’t have a measurement for what it is that needs to be completed per 20 second/2minute increments (for example) but Hiroki will keep an eye on the watch, and his assistants, and if they’re talking too much or spacing out, he’ll pick it up and wave it at them and say “You’re not working fast enough.”
Speed, like inspiration, can be a fickle bitch.
Here’s an interview that the Japan Society did with Otsuka, where he says “Every day I would start with a story and sit and work for 16 hours to complete over 100 pages in one month.”
Channel Thirteen also has a video on Kuniyoshi where Otsuka weighs in and gives his opinion of Kuniyoshi’s work. “Check it out, Girl.” Otsuka pointed it out to me, “I’m on t.v. talking like a bitchy queen.”
I’ll be spending the day with Otsuka, and if you haven’t already experienced it, the Utagawa Kuniyoshi exhibit will be at the Japan Society for one more month.