I feel like I've been reading a lot of manga lately (despite my job, because of my job, etc) and I wanted to write a bit about (and sort out in my head) what I'm thinking of it. Let's see what I can remember...
Most recently (2am this morning) I finished the last (tenth) volume of Yumemiru Taiyou, which I mentioned in my last post when I was still only half way through v3. I'm swinging back toward Betsuma-flavoured shoujo again, which was my one-true-manga-love for a time in the mid-00s, when I was studying Japanese in college (until I fell for Hidaka Banri and became a HanaLaLa loyalist). Because of my studies, I started buying one-shot collections in Japanese (the kind with several stories from some up-and-coming new artist who hadn't been given the go-ahead for a long series yet), so that I could practice reading something and have the satisfaction of a conclusion without investing the time it would take me to read an entire multi-volume series in my newly-(barely-)learned second language. I don't remember exactly how I chose which artists or books to pick up: I think it was just looking at book covers on Shueisha's website, and browsing the previews they had there for each month's new releases. I also picked up a couple prized magazines on rare occasions when I could get to Mitsuwa in Chicago.
Somehow with all of this I discovered Takano Ichigo, who had a funky-sketchy art style with always-fashionably-dressed characters of assorted styles and personalities. I would describe her artwork as "colourful" even when it was all black-and-white, because of her heavy use of simple patterns—stripes, polka-dots, bows, stars—and the way she combined solid tones. Another thing that impressed me was that some of her one-shots had unexpected sad endings: a love-interest with a fatal disease, or cases where, sorry, they just don't like you back. You may know I'm not one to go in for the beautifully-tragic-melodramatic shoujo series that are designed (calculated) to make you cry buckets, but her short stories that alternated between despair and joy and just-plain-silliness (sometimes in the same story) really stuck with me like no others from those years quite did.
And then... for whatever reasons (HanaLaLa taking over my brain, ease of reading manga in English at a time when there was an abundance of titles to choose from, wanting longer series with characters I could invest in while not being ready to dive into long reads in Japanese, difficulty of finding books at a good price (my early purchases were from YesAsia because it had free shipping, but it didn't always have books in stock, and a lot of what came up in searches was in Chinese which was no use to me)), I stopped keeping up with Japanese releases, so I never read Takano Ichigo's first long series. (there's also a one-shot collection of hers that I could never find... I need to look into that now.)
And then Crunchyroll started digitally publishing her work and I was like "Cool! But I don't read digital manga. And they should've asked me to letter it."
And then SevenSeas picked up orange and I emailed the editor immediately and said "let me let me let me i wanna letter it!!!! it's mine!" (not really. I asked enthusiastically, but professionally.) If you aren't familiar with the series, the first (and maybe only) thing you need to know is that it's great and by all means you should read it. But if you want to know more, it's a story about a group of friends, and starts out with the main character, Naho, receiving a letter from herself-ten-years-in-the-future.( Collapse )
And it's great, and Takano Ichigo creates the most interesting and lovable and entertaining characters, and they often have very clear flaws, but those flaws make them relatable and all the more lovable.
And so I lettered it and first thing I was like "Ohhhhh Takano Ichigo how I love your art! What an honour it is to contribute my lettering, and I only hope I may do work worthy of being in the same book as your art!!" and I put my heart into replicating all her "colourful" screentone patterns and bubble lettering and funky-handdrawn-style, stuff like googly-eyes and bows tacked on to headings, or that elementary-and-middle-school-girl dot-handwriting (where the ends and points of all your letters end in a dot) that I'd quite forgotten about in the 20-odd intervening years since that was a Thing, and so whenever that came up I'd copy-paste the text into photoshop, then hand-draw dots onto all the ends. It was so fun. And this was the book where I used my own handwriting for the main character's letter to herself. When I think on it now, it feels maybe a little self-indulgent to do that (since I made no effort to disguise or transform my handwriting). I didn't think to make up an in-character handwriting style until I got to a substantial chunk of another character's handwriting and realized it needed to look handwritten rather than like a font, but also not look like the same person wrote it. So how I did that was, I lettered it with a font to get the words in place, then set the layer semi-transparent, then made a new letter to write over it, trying not to trace too faithfully, to give it a natural-handwritten-look with consistent quirks of letter-shaping. And that is how I became Suwa. Thankfully he didn't write stuff all throughout the story as Naho did.
While I was working on the series, all my excitement for Takano Ichigo manga came flooding back and I wanted to read everything she ever did, so I reread the one-shots I still had, and then along came the opportunity to buy the whole Yumemiru Taiyou set from Amazon Japan. So of course I did that. But because of busyness and the intimidation of a 10-volume series (I've worked my way up to reading whole series in Japanese, but still usually do so one or two volumes at a time, although I did read all of Hirunaka no Ryuusei, and then also Aoharu Ride, at once. man, that addictive Betsuma drama...) I didn't read it right away. But as described last time, I started reading YT, and then I stopped because of denial reasons, and then I picked it up again when I got over the thing I was in denial about, and then I couldn't stop reading (some of it is just the expected momentum of reading a shoujo series and waiting for them to Start Going Out Already!!) And it was moving and funny and cute and drama-tastic and bittersweet and interesting and aggravating. But mostly all the good stuff. (it was also a pretty easy read for me, vocab-wise, which was very satisfying.) My mind was in a weird place after I finished and was thinking about this series and orange, because orange feels a lot more realistic and down to earth and YT had more "only in shoujo manga..." developments. But then as I was rereading the bonus comics on the website/twitter (the ones for orange are great too!! there's some kabe-don art :D) and thinking about the characters more, they started blending together and connecting somehow. But then also, it was 2am so I was probably a little loopy.
Once again, I love all the characters she creates. And I love the fashion sense(s). There's one character who always wears button-up shirts and a tie, even to the beach. Or if he has to wear a tshirt for some reason, there's still a tie. So dapper. And a character who carries out most of the antagonist's schemes and sets up obstacles so you might call him a "bad guy" nevertheless has his own life going on in the background and it's precious, and meanwhile he is just strange, in an understated sort of way.( Collapse )
The best best part was once I got to the end, I could look at her website gallery again and read all the silly extra comics posted there that she'd drawn for the series, and they would make sense. And there are so many adorable things there. So that alone would make the series worth the read in my eyes, but overall I enjoyed it so much. And also there was a drawing I realized was of the landlord inviting orange's Kakeru to stay at his place (it's basically a house full of kids who are dealing with stressful stuff and need some space to work through things, so he's there to be the responsible adult who watches out for them but isn't their parent and can give them some outside perspective.) and my heart got a little melty. Awwww~ Takano Ichigo loves her own characters, and that comes through in her work and in the fact that she keeps drawing them for fun after the series ends, and that's something I always love to see from an artist.
Also!!! In orange there is a Suwa and a Kakeru and they aren't the same person!!!! It kept weirding me out. (if you recall, Kakeru Suwa is a very important name (and character) in Tears of a Lamb :D)
Well, this was going to be about other stuff I've been reading too, but I guess it's just a history of me and Takano Ichigo. Go read her books!!