Q&A answered by Seo sensei

Kaori Harakawa

About Hiroshi Seo

Hiroshi Seo is an illustrator who is active in various fields, including manga production and web direction. Based on the wealth of experience and skills he has cultivated over the years, he continues producing works with unique creativity. In this interview, we will delve into how Mr. Hiroshi Seo began his career as an illustrator, what he values in his work and the appeal of the artwork he produces.

What do you think are the unique expressions and characteristics that make “Japanese manga” unique among various types of cartoons in the world?

In my opinion, even though Ukiyo-e* is like Japanese culture, I think it’s a lot like “Galapagos”**. It’s a culture that has been developed in a closed space, without being aware of examples from the rest of the world. I feel that it’s fundamentally different from foreign cultures. Have you ever heard of the word “kodoku”? It’s when a lot of poisonous insects and creatures are put into a pot, and the one that survives is known to have the strongest poison. But instead, let’s say that it’s boiled down into a pot labeled “Japan”, and manga was chosen to be the best out of all. In a sense, I think it can be said that this is a condensed version of Japanese culture. Of course, each country and region has its own culture, and what’s produced there is a compact version of that culture. However, since Japan is an isolated country, there’s no active cultural exchange on a daily basis, so it’s thought to have been condensed in a more closed form. That’s why I think that the tropes in manga is considered to be exotic and incomprehensible for foreigners. For example, there’s one where a girl is running late to school with bread in her mouth. There’s also one in an all-girls’ school where the senpai and kouhais call each other “onee-sama” or “imouto” while fixing their uniform ties. To foreigners who aren’t used to Japanese manga style, it doesn’t make sense. But those high-context “tropes”, are really deep and interesting once you get to know them. I guess you can say that these high-contexts were created because of Galapagos.

*Ukiyo-e: is a Japanese art movement during the Edo period when Japan isolated themselves from the rest of the world.
** Galapagos: is a shortened word from the term, “Galapagos Syndrome” which is often used in Japan when describing a growing isolation from the rest of the world.

Now you’re working while wearing several hats! Could you tell us how many hats you were wearing again?

I am currently doing web production, advertising planning, teaching manga and illustration at the same time. I would like to draw manga again, but I think it would be difficult to work on a commercial manga while working on other multiple projects, so I think it would be better to publish my original manga on my own. If I were to publish, it could be on YouTube or maybe a website. I’m currently still trying to figure out what kind of media would be best.

What kind of stories do you want to draw?

I have a family now, and kids are really interesting to watch in terms of writing a story for manga. I can get small ideas and stories everyday by just going about my daily life. So I think it would be interesting to draw with kids’ stories! I also like to study programming at a web shop, and I’m friends with people who do programming, so I’d like to draw a manga with that kind of subject matter.
The world of competitive programming is becoming even more prospering, so it would be interesting to make competitive programmers as the subject theme.

We’ve heard that working on commercial mangas can be very busy. Is it true that manga artists always draw manga from the time they wake up in the morning until they go to bed at night?

I think it’s completely like that for weekly magazines. With monthly magazines, there’s some leeway but it depends on the environment and whether you’re doing it alone (without hiring an assistant). So it’s generally true, but there are exceptions. In my case, most of my work was for bimonthly or monthly publications but I was working completely on my own without hiring assistants, so I was drawing from morning till night. When it comes to the quality of manga, there’s no limit to it. The more work you put into your drawings, the better they get, so I tend to draw until I reach the deadline. That would mean that I wouldn’t have time to sleep, even if I’m working on a monthly publication. I draw manga because I love it and I just can’t quite find a perfect place to end it because of nitpicks and what not.

How did you practice drawing?

After becoming a professional, I would get myself to practice. At that time, I would draw what I liked and I was able to draw in no time. I wanted to copy my favorite artist’s art style, so I tried imitating them and before I knew it, I was able to draw, and it happened to be in a manga style. The next thing I knew, I realized that I was able to draw it fairly well.

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