A native of St. Petersburg, in the Russian Federation, Akimichi has been a regular contributor to Silent Manga Audition. From her experimental debut, Care, way back in SMA3, this prolific Mangaka has submitted a staggeringly impressive ten entries in total, with her latest First! winning her an SMA8 Honorable Mention Award. All this at the ripe old age of 19!!
“Friendship is very important to me, and an amazing source of inspiration for my manga.”
Where did you grow up?
I grew up in St. Petersburg. It’s a big city, with a rich history, brimming with hundreds of interesting places to visit. The Hermitage, which used to be the Winter Palace is now a huge art gallery with an amazing collection which I visit often. We also have lots of courses available throughout the city, even Manga masterclass sessions!
What is a typical day for you when you’re not creating manga?
I spend a lot of time in college, my major is Design, which covers design, art teaching techniques for colleges and art schools and writing design articles, plus endless homework! Sleep seems a luxury at the moment.
I also love spending time with my friends. When I was accepted to the college, I thought I would be solely focused on drawing, but thanks to my friends, I learned how to ride a bike, snowboard, skateboard and dance! Friendship is very important to me, and an amazing source of inspiration for my manga.
Talking about dancing, what kind of music do you listen to when you’re making manga?
I enjoy listening to calm music as it helps to relieve the stress of college and manga deadlines, but it soon gives way to dance music, where I can’t help but feel inspired! I love Japanese music, especially when creating manga, as well as K-Pop! When I draw to K-Pop, I can’t help but start dancing!
You can see this carefree attitude on the page. So, who’s your favorite K-Pop artist?
“SHINee”!! They have amazing voices and choreography. My sister and I are huge fans! I was actually dancing to them before we started this interview!
The Hermitage in St. Petersburg, home to Russia’s amazing art collection.
Winter Palace at Night by Paulius Malinovskis
“I like the freedom of working in pencil…”
How old were you when you first discovered manga? What effect did it have on you?
I was 12 years old when I first read Naruto by Kishimoto Masashi, which was really popular in Russia at the time…and I hated it!! All of my friends were reading it and kept telling me to give it a chance. After a lot of pressure, I was like “ok, ok” and picked up a copy. It was charming, funny, exciting and I was instantly hooked! It wasn’t long after this, that I started to draw manga. I didn’t know anything about creating manga back then, just letting myself flow instinctively with the pencil. As long as I created funny stories with effective emotions, I was happy.
Has manga been an important influence in your life since then?
I actually remember the exact date I picked up Naruto, it was the 22nd November. I realized I could do any profession if I wanted it enough. Even as a child, I watched movies and cartoons and I dreamed of doing something crazy, like becoming an astronaut or a Buddhist monk! I started painting pictures of what I wanted to do, but it wasn’t enough, it all felt incomplete. My friend just told me to try drawing, and 7 years later, I’m still drawing!
So a lot of your friends were into manga? Is manga popular in Russia?
Manga and anime is very popular in Russia. In fact, I read only 3 days ago that we’ll see big print runs of Russian translations of One Punch Man, Ajin: Demi-Human, Bakuman and Attack on Titan! We have a lot of mangaka who network in my Russian manga group, and all agree that anime was the gateway for them. This is great news for newcomers to manga as these classics will be easily available now!
What type of environment do you work in? Do you use traditional tools or have you embraced technology?
I like to experiment with different traditional techniques, like watercolor, ink and pencil. First! was made entirely in pencil. Though I started to create the manga in ink, something wasn’t quite right. Then I read Levius by Haruhisa Nakata, and was instantly hooked by his pencil style. He’s got very clear, effective line work and I wanted to try and recreate this effect.
I like the freedom of working in pencil, much more than ink. It’s beautifully fluid and dynamic. I submitted two stories for SMA8, one ink (Evil’s Fair Game) and the other was First!, and though it was easier, and more fun, to draw in pencil, I found it increasingly difficult to make a digital version for the correction process.
What challenges do you face making manga?
Sleep, or lack of! I always struggle over how many panels I should use, or where I should focus the narrative. For SMA8, I decided to create a very simple concept, with easy to follow action and it got me a result! I need to do more of the same for SMA9.
Akimichi’s creative hub.
“I wanted to make a manga about children, because children are very free, they’re not afraid to be in love…”
What was your reaction to winning the award?
I was shocked, but very happy! I’ve entered so many times before so the win was a little overwhelming! It means I’m on the right track.
And your friends and family?
My family and friends were happy for me, but they didn’t realize how big this contest is. They said “oh, congratulations”, but when I said it was a global competition from Japan, and I won an Honorable Mention Award, they were like, “WOW!!”. They were also very happy to hear we were having this interview!
What was the inspiration for First!?
I decided not to use a popular theme, like football or basketball. I read Slam Dunk, and I just didn’t want to recreate another sport based story. My philosophy is to always make something unique, something very special that I only I can do. I also wanted to make a manga about children, because children are very free, they’re not afraid to be in love, they cry, they scream and laugh without a second thought. Children run and dance in the street without a worry in the world.
How long did it take, from the initial idea to submitting your entry?
As soon as I saw the theme in April, I immediately started laying out the panels. I then left it for the summer, where I worked on other manga projects, as well college work and then started to draw First! in September. It took me about two weeks to submit my entry from there.
Did the finished entry fulfill your expectations?
Yes, I think so. I used a new pencil technique which I was very happy with. I showed my work to my friend in Japan and he understood it straight away. Because Japanese storytelling is so different to Russian, I was delighted he understood it instantly!
You’ve beautifully embraced the message of Silent Manga Audition, to create entertainment that crosses borders and language!!
Pencil or ink, pencil or ink…
“… with Silent Manga Audition, we can make our dreams come true!”
So the future, you’ve talked about SMA9, but do you have any other projects in the pipeline?
I want to continue practicing with the help of Yonkomas. I attended a manga lecture recently where people were stressing the importance of cartoon strips and Yonkomas to exercise creativity. So I’ve now started to add a daily Yonkoma to my Twitter page, about a day in my life. My latest was me in Ninja School!
Wow! There’s actually a Ninja school here in Japan…
Really?! I want to go!! It’s my biggest dream to be a ninja!! Well, second to being a manga creator of course.
So you’re ready for SMA9?
Yes, I’m brimming with ideas. Coming up with ideas isn’t the problem, I can make a story from almost anything I see, it’s knowing how to develop the promising ones! Its difficult having hundreds of ideas, then shortlisting to fifty, then ten, all to make one manga!
Would you like to tackle a big story arc or a series?
Yes, I really want to make a big story. I want to learn how professional mangaka in Japan work under weekly deadlines, and still produce amazing work again and again! It’s really exciting!
Well, as you only get 3 hours, you’ll be a natural!!
Hahaha, after all this study, I’m not afraid of anything!
Finally, is there anything you’d like to shout out to the SMAC!ommunity?
We should all stay positive and strong as a community! Only by our combined, flaming hearts can light up the darkness around us. I really love this competition because I can reach people from all over the world. From Brazil to Australia, I can say “you’re not alone”, I understand why you have so much love for drawing stories! Manga is the perfect weapon to fight for our dreams, our unity and freedom. With Silent Manga Audition, we can make our dreams come true!
The evolution of First!
Thank you very much Akimichi!
We are absolutely thrilled you’ve found kindred spirits within the SMAC!ommunity. Together, we can create an ever growing manga community, where we can collectively encourage and create manga from every corner of the globe!
Stay tuned for Friday, where we’ll talk to Russia’s first Grand Prix Winner, Sideburn004!!!
Do you want to join the world’s biggest manga community? Start drawing for the SMA9 round TODAY!
SMA9 is the first time we’ve offered THREE themes to choose from! If you feel like a challenge, why not pick two, or all three themes!
Make manga your language too! You have until March 31st, 2018 to say “HELLO” to your new friends! Click the banner for more details on how to enter…
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