Part 1 | Part 2 | Parts 3 & 4 | Parts 5 & 6

This interview comes from pages 68-77 of the Hidamari Sketch Visual Fanbook, published in 2007. Although a bit dated at this point, it’s the source of some exclusive information, like, well, you know. That isn’t covered until the second section of the interview, though. This first part focuses on how Ume launched her career in the manga industry.

Through the wonders of OCR, I’ve been able to grab the entire text at about 95% accuracy, meaning I don’t have to keep looking at the scans/my own copy and the time wasted from searching online kanji dictionaries is completely eliminated. This means a translation gets to you faster!


“Each character… is based on me a bit.”

INTERVIEW WITH UME AOKI

2004, early spring. In the season where the scent of plums is fragrant, a newborn “Hidamari Sketch” lets out its first cry. How on earth did this genial work fascinate so many readers?  The author will tell us the truth, from how “Hidamari Sketch” first came about, to its future.

Interview by Ryouichi Watanabe. Cooperation with Musashino Art University.

Can you tell us the details of how serialization began?

Ume: In September 2003, my (current) editor asked me, “Would you like to draw something?” That was my chance.

How did you feel when you heard that?

Ume: “Oh my…” (laugh) I was surprised. I figured a serialized manga would have a story, so I was thinking of what to do. I had drawn 4koma before, but I hadn’t considered publishing one.

So “Hidamari Sketch” was your first time drawing for a magazine?

Ume: Not including anthologies and the like, but yes.

You must have been feeling considerable pressure, huh?

Ume:  A little bit, I hadn’t serialized anything before, and I didn’t know if I could keep it up for a long time. Back then, good or bad, how should I put it… I didn’t have much sense of responsibility.

Even if it turned out to be short-lived, that’s still what you felt?

Ume: I was only thinking about how to start the serialization, not about that. Back then I was just a beginner and a “challenger”. I didn’t have anything to secure myself, so afterwards I didn’t feel like I saw it. I felt like taking a risk.

Did you read, study, etc. other 4koma magazines?

Ume: They made me read a sample magazine to study from. Before my own publication began, I would read regularly. But after starting, I couldn’t read any of them for a time.

Why not?

Ume: I’m scared of being influenced by other works and jokes.

You can get influenced by a lot of seasonal things and the like, can’t you?

Ume: I don’t know what to do when influenced by a joke. If I think about it, I’m afraid I might accidentally use something close to it. If I’m really worried about that, I have to limit the range of my jokes. These days, I’ve been able to read without paying attention to that at all, though.

Have you gotten used to that fear?

Ume: It took a while, but I have.

What about readers’ reactions?

Ume: I heard very favorable responses through my editor, but I didn’t read online opinions because at first I didn’t know what my own readers’ voices would be like.

What parts of serialization are enjoyable, and what is tough?

Ume: The deadlines are tight!

That sure was blunt. (laugh)

Ume: Not at all! Sorry, sorry!  My apologies!

Well, is that because you take a lot of time while drawing? Or do you hold out until the last second?

Ume: I can’t always readily draw, so I end up holding out.

That’s, how to say… the worst condition. (laugh)

Ume: It sure is.

It’s pretty bad to do that, isn’t it?

Ume: It really is tight… Yes.

Have you ever forgotten something?

Ume: Jeez! Over and over! Over and over! …Yes.

But presently, there isn’t anything you’ve forgotten.

Ume: …Of course not.

Which takes more time, storyboards or the actual drawing?

Ume: Both of them.

To make them perfect.

Ume: Just about everything is slow. (laugh)

Well, what’s something enjoyable about it?

Ume: Making the storyboards is really fun. Then my mom at home e-mails me her thoughts each month, and that makes me happy.

That’s something to be grateful for, isn’t it?

Ume: They’re sold even in that area, from what I understand.

There, huh? (laugh)

Ume: It made me happy when a friend said they’d bought a volume. Besides that, there have been many other enjoyable occasions since I got published. Autograph sessions were also fun. I prefer meeting readers and hearing their real feelings rather than going by surveys and circulation numbers. E-mails from readers also make me really happy.

You haven’t heard much from female readers, though.

Ume: It seems like there aren’t that many.

It’s a mystery even though it’s a work that can be popular with women too. Do you want female readership to increase?

Ume: When my mother lent my ~70-year-old grandma “Hidamari Sketch”, she found it funny and had good things to say about it. It seems even the elderly have no problem understanding it, so it’d be nice if more women and older people read it. (laugh)

That should be put on the advertisement sashes of the volumes!


Next time, part 2: “The Atmosphere of Hidamari Sketch”

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