Interview: Yuna Kagesaki

Japanese manga artist and creator of Chibi Vampire (Karin) Yuna Kagesaki made her first visit to an American anime convention at Sakura-Con 2008 in Seattle, Washington. At two panel appearances, Kagesaki-sensei answered questions from panel moderator and TokyoPop Senior Editor Lillian Diaz-Pryzbyl and also answered questions from her fans in the audience.

Dressed in black from head-to-toe and carrying a mask of her self-portrait caricature (with signature bleeding nose), Kagesaki-sensei started out shy, but soon warmed up to give humorous, self-depreciating answers that reminded many of the sly wit she writes into every volume of Chibi Vampire.

See what she had to say about her life as a manga-ka, the Chibi Vampire manga and anime, her impressions of her American fans and her plans for her next projects.


Q: what was your first manga series? Did you start by drawing doujinshi?

YK: When i was in high school I did a project called Ai Yun.

Q: How did you get into becoming a manga artist?

YK: I've been drawing since I was in kindergarten, even before. I decided around my third year in elementary school to become a professional manga artist. When I was a little older, I joined an amateur doujinshi circle and started attending doujinshi conventions.

If I wasn't a manga-ka, I think I would just stay at home all the time. (laughs)

Q: How long did it take for you to become a professional manga artist?

YK: I was 22 years old when I made my professional debut. I decided i wanted to be a manga artist when I was in 3rd grade, and made my debut when I was 22, so it took me 14 years.

Q: Can you tell us how you made the transition from doing fan art to becoming a pro? Did you get discovered, or did you send samples out?

YK: There's a process where you can take an idea to the publishing company, and if they like it, they might pick it up. I wasn't able to do it that way, but through the doujinshi conventions, there are people who go to those events and scout for new talent that way. That's how I got picked up.

Q: Did you always work with Kadokawa Shoten, your current publisher?

YK: When I started out, my adult-oriented work was published by Comic House. Shonen Gahosha published my general work, the same company that published Trigun.


Q: What inspired Chibi Vampire?

YK: The idea for Chibi Vampire came about when my supervisor suggested that I write a vampire story and have a girl that bleeds too much. The seed of the story came from my editor asking, "What about a vampire that gives blood instead of taking blood?" and then I took it from there.

Q: Do you relate to your main character, Karin at all?

YK: Karin tends to be a space cadet. She's clumsy and be slow to catch on to things... I think that has a lot of similarity to myself. (laughs)

Q: Did you plan on the reunion between Usui-kun and his estranged father to be so dramatic?

YK: I did plan on things to happen that way from the beginning, because this scene is very important to the story.

Q: Do we ever get to meet Kenta's half-sister?

YK: No, sorry.

Q: Where there any scenes that you wanted to make between Kenta and Karin that you weren't able to do because of one reason or another?

YK: There aren't any scenes in particular like that. However, that doesn't mean that the story wasn't changed as circumstances required as I developed the story.

This story took a long time to tell, so as I progressed, the story between Kenta and Karin got more involved and detailed.

Q: Is the character with the mole somehow influenced by Tomie (the Japanese horror vixen created by Junji Ito and later made into a series of cult horror films)?

YK: I've heard of Tomie, but did not think of that character when I created this series. Those sorts of moles are considered sexy (in Japanese culture). It's said that moles appear there if you cry a lot, so it is very attractive.


Q: What's the biggest challenge that you face as a manga-ka?

YK: Wrapping up a story and sticking a proper ending on it -- that's the hardest thing.

Q: What's a typical day like for you? What are your hours?

YK: I wake up at 6 am, and I try to finish all my work by 8:30, then go to sleep by midnight.

Q: Do you have a lot of assistants?

YK: I have the usual amount - usually two - three at any given time.

Q: What do your assistants do?

YK: I think of the story, do the pencils and do all the color art. The assistants clean up the pencils, do the inking of large black areas and apply screentones.

As I work with my editor putting the manga together, the editor helps me to decide where to put the breaks between chapters and decide the schedule.

I do the penciling storyboarding and start drawing the pictures.

Then I take it to the editor who says, "No, that's wrong, do it over again." Then I do it over again and my assistants and I get the pages done.

Q: Since your work is so deadline-driven, is it hard to take vacations?

YK: Prior to deadlines, it's impossible to take a vacation. Even after you hand in the manuscript, you think you can -- but no, you have to do the color pages. So no, I haven't been able to take a vacation while I'm working on a series.


Q: What hobbies do you have outside of drawing manga? What inspires you to create?

YK: As far as other manga that I like to read, as far as how it influences my work, it influences the look, but it doesn't influence my manga, storywise.

Q: What manga inspired you when you were growing up?

YK: Doraemon! However, I had a traumatic experience related to Doraemon. At one point my father ruined some of my volumes of Doraemon comics, so I'm still kind of scarred from that! (laughs)

Q: What kind of manga do you like to read now?

YK: I like to read Higurashi no Naku Koro ni (When They Cry), although that was originally a game. I played the game, which is unusual for me.

Q: Are there any foreign artists that inspire you?

YK: Sorry, I don't know much about foreign manga -- I haven't read much of it.

Q: Would you want to draw in a different manga genre, and if so what kind of stories?

YK: If I was to write in a different genre, I would do horror or suspense.


Q: The anime of Chibi Vampire has been released in the US -- you mentioned that the second half of the anime series takes a different turn. Can you explain what happens, what changes?

YK: The first half covers Volumes 1 to 7, which focuses on the the story of Kenta Usui, his household circumstances, and Karin's one-sided love for him.

From Volume 7 to the end of the series, Kenta and Karin both start to love each other, and it starts to get into the secrets of Karin's bloodline and clan.

Q: With Geneon out of business, are there any plans for any other U.S. company to pick up the licensing to release the rest of the anime series?

Lillian Diaz-Pryzbyl: Kagesaki sensei is surprised to hear the news -- this is the first time she's heard this!

Q: Were you involved in the development of the anime very much?

YK: I did watch the Japanese version and the content varied quite a bit from the manga, but I liked it quite a bit.

Q: Can you talk about the Chibi Vampire light novels, and how they're created?

YK: As far as the novels go, I just give the story outline and the character designs to Kai Tohru and Tohru does the rest. And since I don't have the ability to write novels, Kai Tohru did a great job, and I'm very pleased with it.


Q: Is Chibi Vampire your dream project? If not, what would be your dream manga project?

YK: As far as the ideal, dream work that I'd like to create, I don't know what it would be yet. But I think that as long as I'm doing the very best I can on everything I work on, I think that would be approaching my ideal.

Q: After so many years drawing a vampire story, are you sick of the genre, or would you consider doing more stories like this?

YK: I'm not sick of vampire stories, but If I was do another vampire story right after this, I'd run out of ideas, so I'm going to do something different next time.

Q: The last chapter was recently published in Japan. Do you have plans for your next series yet?

YK: As far as schedule or any plans, I will definitely do something with Monthly Dragon Age (Gekkan Doragon Eiji) magazine, where Chibi Vampire (Karin) was serialized.

I'll be doing a new series this summer, but no details on the new story yet. I'll be doing a few one-shot series then I'll work on a new series this summer.


Q: Is this your first visit to an American anime convention? What are your impressions?

YK: This is my first experience going to an anime convention in America. Coming here and seeing it has been really fun, especially seeing the cosplayers. it really brings it home to me how much Americans love anime and manga.

The fact Chibi Vampire has been so popular to me has been a complete surprise. Even when I got the sales figures, it didn't really hit me until I actually came here and met my fans.

Source: Deb Aoki


Fanged Films

From the Library

As the 20th century evolved, rational man turned to science to explain mythology that had pervaded for thousands of years. How could a man be mistaken for a vampire? How could someone appear to have been the victim of a vampire attack? Science, in time, came back with answers that may surprise you.Anemia
A million fancies strike you when you hear the name: Nosferatu!N O S F E R A T Udoes not die!What do you expect of the first showing of this great work?Aren't you afraid? - Men must die. But legend has it that a vampire, Nosferatu, 'der Untote' (the Undead), lives on men's blood! You want to see a symphony of horror? You may expect more. Be careful. Nosferatu is not just fun, not something to be taken lightly. Once more: beware.- Publicity for Nosferatu in the German magazine Buhne und Film, 1922  

Drawn to Vamps?