A manga duo who first discovered each other online, have together been taking huge strides along their path of manga creativity by not only winning awards in both SMA7 and EX2, but also in EX3, making them the first creative duo to ever finish top TWICE IN A ROW! As such, it is was with great pleasure that we sit down with our Vietnamese dream team and wish a VERY good morning to ZEVANIA and NATTORIN!
“We couldn’t work without each other’s help!”
Hello and nice to meet you! Care to introduce yourselves using just 3 words?
Zevania: Hello and thank you for the interview! I think “Creative”, “Humorous” and “Enthusiast” sum me up pretty well!
Nattorin: Hello! For me, I would say “Slow” (something I really want to change), “Distracted” and Emotional”.
Zevania: Yes, Nattorin has a wide range of emotions. One day he’ll laugh so much, yet the next day he might cry a lot. He’s such an emotional guy, but he’s the best companion I could ever ask for. I really don’t think I could work much without him!
How did you start to creating manga?
Zevania: I’ve had a deep love for manga ever since when I was a kid. That’s when I read my first ever Shonen manga, Naruto by Kishimoto-sensei! I would visit that manga everyday and try to copying his style. After many years, I tried recreating a whole chapter on my own and showed it to my friends. They laughed a lot, but from that moment on, I wanted to create something that provokes feelings in other people!
Nattorin: The first time I tried drawing manga was back in the elementary school, but I quickly gave up. When I started high school however, I began watching a lot of manga, anime, and movies, which reignited my passion for the medium, giving me to the urge to create my own personal work.
How did you first meet?
Nattorin: We met each other via an internet website. Then we created a group named “Digifuku” (meaning “Digital howls”), which was a name that I came up with. Howl is a night animal, so I thought it would be a perfect to represention of the late-night chatting activity that punctuated our daily lives back in 2013. Within this group of friends, we created illustrations, short comics and 4-koma manga together.
Zevania: The group is closed now. Only myself and Nattorin still work together, but the very first time we met offline was last year at the Kumamoto International Manga Festival. Meeting someone you already know, but have never actually met in person, was a really weird feeling, but funny at the same time.
ABOUT YOUR COUNTRY
“Our country’s unforgettable tastes are…!”
Is there anything you’d like to share about your country?
Zevania: I live in southern Vietnam. My place is abound with trees and plants, and has a big river passing through. As such, I can venture outside for a walk everyday and enjoy the fresh air whilst relaxing and thinking of new ideas.
Nattorin: I live in the north of the country, in a village situated near a large industrial zone. It used to be a fishing village when I was a child. As for the climate, we only have dry seasons or rainy seasons in my part of the country! Haha!
What do you enjoy most about your cities?
Zevania: I enjoy the people around me that I’m lucky to have in my life, and the food! My favorite dish is mien ga, chicken glass noodle soup.
Nattorin: I really enjoy the quiet atmosphere of my place. As for food, I definitely love cha la lot, which is wrapped betel leave with pork.
Zevania: I really want to try cha la lot too! It looks delicious. It’s a speciality of Nattorin’s city, but because we live some 1000 km apart from each other, I’ve never tried it.
What Japanese manga titles are popular in Vietnam right now?
Zevania: The most popular title of all time is Doraemon! I can see him almost everywhere, and everyone loves him – including me!
Nattorin: I love Doraemon too! Popular titles in Vietnam, much like in Japan, are One Piece and Naruto. Also, action-comedy manga like Gintama and One Punch Man are very popular.
Manga aside, how do people around you view Japan?
Zevania: Most of my friends love Japan and manga. Some of them, like Dekirewee, have actually participated in SMA. Because I work as a character designer for a Japanese game software company, I can also share my passion for Japan with my colleagues, who are all fans of Japanese works!
Nattorin: A lot of people here think Japan is like some kind of futuristic world! Haha! Manga and anime are entertainment for both children and adults alike.
ABOUT YOUR ENTRIES
“We’ve never seen hedgehogs in Vietnam!”
How long did it take to create your SMA7 ‘Grand Prix Runner Up’ entry “Our Promised Land” and your recent EX3 ‘Grand Prix Award’ winning entry, “To The Sky”?
Zevania: ‘Our Promised Land’ took roughly one month. After deciding the final setting of the story and the design of the characters, we immediately started working together. After finishing the rough sketch of the name, I began the pages’ detailed sketches. While I was working on that, I proceeded to send Nattorin each page I drew. For example, after finishing the details of page one, I would send Nattorin the same page so he could finish it while I began work on the next one.
Nattorin: As for ‘To The Sky’, we could only work on it during our free time so it took about 2-3 weeks if I recall correctly.
Where did you get the inspiration for your entries?
Zevania: I came up with the idea for ‘Our Promised Land’ when I was parched with thirst from running on a treadmill, and didn’t have any water with me. On the same day, I was working on a desert scene for my company, so I just combined this two themes and imagined the final story.
The main influence for the story’s apocalyptic world is a cartoon called Adventure Time. Even though it’s a very colorful animation, the story takes place in an apocalyptic time in which the world, after a nuclear war, becomes a Candy Kingdom.
As for the character design, I took inspiration from the manga Fumetsu no Anata e (不滅のあなたへ, To your Eternity) by Yoshitoki Ooima.
What’s the protagonist final destination in ‘Our Promised Land’?
Zevania: His final destination could be seen as a new land he’s searching for in order to live happily with his wife, but it could also be seen as a land of peaceful tranquility that people find at the end of their journey. Readers can interpret it in different ways, I suppose.
And how about ‘To The Sky’?
Zevania: Ah! I got the inspiration from my trip to Kumamoto last year when we got the chance to see all the beautiful nature there!
I really like the reflection of the birds in the hedgehogs eyes! Where there any parts of the manga that were tricky to draw?
Nattorin: Thank you!~ 😀 Everything was very smooth. Only the castle took me some time to draw, but it wasn’t so tricky for me to draw.
Zevania: The hardest part for me was to keep the hedgehog’s appearance consistent since I didn’t have enough time to make a detailed concept design for him, so I had to draw him without a reference sketch or guide.
I love the whole idea of a flying hedgehog! Do you have them in Vietnam, and what was the inspiration behind making one your protagonist?
Nattorin: Thank you, I’ve never seen hedgehogs in Vietnam!
Zevania: Thank you, I’m the same as Nattorin – I haven’t seen any hedgehog either! The idea came to me when I was looking for cute animal videos, and I came across a clip about a little hedgehog. I giggled when I saw it because they are so round. After watching the video, I suddenly asked myself “what if they could somehow fly?”
Beside your own manga, which award winning entries from SMA7 and EX3 did you like?
Zevania: “Forbidden Fruit” by Nao & Ivan Navinkin! I also enjoyed my friend Dekirewee’s “Taste better than Brain”.
Nattorin: “Forbidden Fruit” for me too and “BOOGY-BOOGY” by Andrés Zerpa. As for EX3, I’d have to say ‘Bamboo Dragon Samurai’! Jeet really knows how to combine fun with his extraordinary drawing style!
Zevania: Personally, my favorite EX3 entry is ‘Kumamoto Box’! I just love Massimo’s style and the way he tells his story through paneling.
Also, how does it feel to be the first team to win two successive EX rounds??
Nattorin: So surprised!! And so honored! Both times for Kumamoto. Maybe we have some kind of special connection with the place?? Haha!!
Zevania: Even after the trip, I still can’t believe I’ve had the chance to go there twice, let alone that we came in first place on both occasions!
We noticed that the same girl character appeared in both winning entries too! Who is she??
Nattorin & Zevania: Same with any of our other stories if you look closely! In every entry we’ve worked on, we always put in something connected with our previous entry. This one and last EX entry are both Kumamoto stories, so now she appears as one the locals!
“We’re really honored to be in the Masterclass!”
How was your time in Kumamoto last month? Did you enjoy yourselves?
Nattorin: Yes, very much! The landscape, the people in Kumamoto, and the camp event itself made me feel like I participated on one big family trip!
Zevania: This trip gave me so many memories and good experiences! I got to know so many more friends from around the world, and received so much more insight from the masters themselves!
Now that you’ve joined the camp, do you feel that your understanding of manga around the globe has changed?
Nattorin & Zevania: Yeah. Originally we thought we just had a problem with making a life for ourselves by creating manga in our country, but now we see a lot of the Masterclass members have the exact same problem. In light of their difficulties however, they still have an unbeatable passion for manga which really inspired us a lot.
Do you feel more empowered to work for the growth and development of manga in Vietnam now?
Nattorin & Zevania: More empowered for sure. Growing and developing manga in Vietnam will be a really hard challenge, with a long road ahead of us, but we are determined to do our best!
How was the Masterclass ceremony? How does it feel to now be part of a community of excellent creators numbering more than 50 members globally?
Nattorin: Personally, I still cannot believe I’m in the Masterclass now!!
Zevania: Ditto! I’m really honored to be a Masterclass member! The ceremony we had was a mixture of nothing but good feelings!
ABOUT THE FUTURE
“Focus on your characters’ facial expressions when you create a Manga!”
Do you have any dreams you hope to achieve?
Zevania: I have always wanted to impart my feelings and stories to a wider group of people. Now I feel more confident in creating manga thanks to the great advice I got from the SMAC! editors and judges. I’ve also wanted to make my own short silent animation for as long as I can remember, so maybe I can start inching closer to realizing that dream too.
Nattorin: Still nothing clear in my mind right now. Haha! Working as a professional mangaka is a big dream, but at the moment I think I really need more experience before I can achieve this goal.
Is there anything else you’d like to share with the community?
Zevania: I would like to share a little tip with the community. Try to focus on your characters’ facial expressions. So many artists really concentrate on how to create beautiful faces, but not on expressions. Facial emotions play a key role in making our manga enjoyable!
Nattorin: Our life is like a journey. In order to find our Promised Land, no matter how hard the journey may be, we must keep moving forward until we reach our final destination.
Thank you Zevania and Nattorin for your time, we can’t wait to see your work over the coming year, and of course, we look forward to welcoming you again to Kumamoto!!
As for the rest of you, your time is NOW! What better time to put your manga making skills to the TEST, by entering the exhilarating TRIAL that is the SILENT MANGA AUDITION® EXTRA ROUND FOUR (EX4) for your chance to win cash prizes and see your work on the screen! You have until November 30th to get your entries in, so be sure to mark it on your calendar!