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Sunday February 24, 2008

Takemiya the teacher

Though her enthusiastic students are reigniting Keiko Takemiya’s passion for manga, the eminent author vows to continue as a professor of manga studies at Kyoto Seika University.

KEIKO Takemiya was among 23 manga creators whose works were featured at the recent Shojo Manga Power! Tsuyoku Yasashiku Utsukushiku exhibition at the Kawasaki City Museum in Japan.

Based on the 2006 Shojo Manga! Girl Power! exhibition that toured nine cities in the United States and Canada, the Kawasaki exhibition displayed more than 100 original hand drawings and digitally scanned illustrations. Besides Takemiya, other mangaka included Osamu Tezuka, Masako Watanabe, Leiji Matsumoto and A-ko Mutsu.

“For me, manga is a very personal medium to express what I’m feeling deep down,” Takemiya said in a recent interview in Kyoto, where she has been working since 2000 as a professor of manga studies at Kyoto Seika University.

»Now I have many students, so I have no time to create regular manga series for magazines« KEIKO TAKEMIYA

Born in Tokushima, she made her debut as a manga artist at age 17. Takemiya has explored a variety of stories and themes, ranging from boys love to hard sci-fi. Her prestigious award-winning works include Kaze to Ki no Uta (Songs of Wind and Trees, 1976-84) and Terra e (To Terra, 1977-80), which was turned into an anime series on Japanese television last year.

Kaze to Ki no Uta, set in a fictional dormitory in France, featured romantic and sexual relationships between boys, stunning readers of the time. The work had a huge impact in the manga world and influenced the creation of the contemporary manga and novel genres of yaoi and boys love.

The artist says she was not a talkative child, so she had never imagined she would one day be a professor who would speak in front of throngs of students.

“When I was a child, even my mother often told me she didn’t know what I was thinking. But when I realised my thoughts could be conveyed and understood through my manga, I was very happy. That may be what people call ‘self-confidence,’” Takemiya said.

Last year, an English-language edition of her sci-fi manga Andromeda Stories began to come out in instalments from Vertical Inc, a US publisher specialising in Japanese popular fiction, allowing a wider readership to take a look at her prestigious works. Vertical has also published To Terra in English.

Last year, she was invited to a Canadian university to give lectures on her works. “There, an organiser told me, ‘I think you liberated Japanese women (with your manga) without getting into a fight against society.’ I thought that might be true,” Takemiya said. “Not only men but also women have an appetite for sex. I wanted to say so to my readers through the love stories between boys.”

However, Takemiya had been losing her passion as a manga artist before she became a professor at the Kyoto university, she said. “Talking to young students, I felt my passion (for manga) being revived by the students, thanks to their enthusiasm to become manga creators.”

Takemiya’s Terra e (To Terra or Toward the Terra) was made into a TV anime series last year. The sci-fi tale is about outcasts with psychic powers called the Mu (pic below).

That may be one of the reasons why Takemiya, 58, appears much younger.

“Many freshmen don’t know who I am,” she said with a laugh.

As a creator, however, she seems to be enjoying teaching young students who don’t know about her successful career.

But she expresses concern about her students, as “most of their creations are gloomy stories. I guess that may reflect a sense of stagnation they feel in society”.

Takemiya currently divides her time between Kyoto and Kanagawa Prefecture, where her studio/home is located, while holding solo exhibitions once or twice a year.

“Now I have many students, so I have no time to create regular manga series for magazines. I’ll concentrate on the teaching job as I’ve decided to teach students for 10 years ... at least.”

As a personal project, she has been working to digitally scan her original drawings and those of other professional manga artists to preserve the creators’ brush strokes for a long time to come. She calls her project genga dash.

In January, she held a solo exhibition in Kyoto, featuring her genga dash works.

“Genga dash (works) can recreate even the stains on old works. It will help more fans to casually enjoy works of mangaka at various events,” Takemiya said. “I hope we’ll be able to establish a digital archive of such works.”

Takemiya will also hold an exhibition titled Terra e: Tokyo Exhibition 2008, May 3-10 at Gallery Kubota in Kyobashi, Tokyo. It will feature 50 works, including her digitally scanned pieces and about 20 new works to be created for the exhibition. – The Daily Yomiuri / Asia News Network


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