Hailing from the beautiful Japanese island of Okinawa, SMA9 Excellence Award winner Shu Ashimine, joins us as one of our first ever homegrown awardees to talk about his entry, his creative influences, and how years of persistence really do pay off…
“I want to create stories that send a message to the reader.”
Hello Shu! How’s the weather in sunny Okinawa today?
Hello there! Actually it’s raining here right now! Haha!
Yikes! Well, let us brighten up your day by saying a huge CONGRATULATIONS on your recent SMA9 award win!! How does it feel?
Thank you! It feels amazing. I can’t even begin to tell you!
Oh, we’re very pleased to hear that! So then, let’s start by looking at the beginning of your journey. What inspired you to pick up the pen and start creating manga?
I used to enjoy drawing manga way back when I was in elementary school. Seeing my friends enjoy my work felt really good so I just kept plugging away I guess!
Well, we’re certainly glad you did! Have you developed any particular method over the years when it comes to creating manga?
Essentially, I want to create stories that send a message to the reader, and gives them something to think about. Naturally, I don’t want to overly labor the point of the story which is why I like to strive for an ideal balance of humor and action wherever possible.
I see! What steps do you take when you actually sit down and bring your stories to life?
First, I usually spend a good amount of time thinking of a story and planning it out in my head. Once I’ve got the foundation of the manga in place, I go straight into creating the name (storyboard).
Oh, so you don’t draw sketches or the like before creating the name?
No, not usually. I just dive in and plan the flow by making a storyboard. My SMA9 entry in particular had a forest setting so the woodland backgrounds gave me a fair bit of freedom to draw how I wanted which was nice.
Is the forest setting based on a real location somewhere in Okinawa?
Haha! No, it’s based on a forest in my head!
Speaking of your home in Okinawa, what kind of environment do you work in? Living somewhere as beautiful you do, I’m guessing you sometimes work outside in the glorious sun!
I do all of my pen work at home, but before I get to that stage, I usually sketch my names outdoors. It’s pretty hot at times though! Haha!
On the subject of pens, are you more of an analog guy, or do you prefer creating digitally?
I’m definitely an analog guy. In fact, this entry was the first time I attempted using a G-Pen!
Oh really!? How did it feel switching to one of those?
It felt really “manga”! Haha! I’ve always drawn using a ball pen until now, so the pressure I had to apply was a little different and it felt unlike anything I’ve used before which was pretty exciting.
Did it feel uncomfortable to use at all?
It took a bit of getting used to at first. The first page required a lot of correction fluid but I started to get the hang of it after a few pages.
Wow, that’s pretty quick!
I can’t speak for anyone else of course, but I felt that I got to grips with it fairly quickly, yes.
Coming from the home of manga, are there any titles that have influenced you stylistically or otherwise?
I really like action manga, and anything that catches my eye really. I really dig Slam Dunk and AKIRA, but my absolute favorite would have to be Dragon Ball!
Dragon Ball! Which character!?
Goku! I just love everything about him! Hahah!
ABOUT YOUR ENTRY
“I drew inspiration from my daily meals!“
How did you find the themes for SMA9? Was it easy for you to come up with a story, or did it prove challenging to you?
I always think about food so the story for my entry came to me very naturally! Since ancient times hunters would have to kill or be killed when searching for food, so I wanted to create a story that conveys the respect and appreciation shown by those hunters towards their prey.
Oh, I see! So creating your entry, “RESPECT”, didn’t take you so long?
It took me a while to get started but, once I put pen to paper, I was finished after about a month.
Is that your usual speed, or does manga creation normally take you longer?
Usually 1-2 months I would say… It always take me a while to get started though! Drawing a manga is a real “all or nothing” kinda thing for me so, if I make a big error when drawing the final draft, I know I’ll instantly lose interest in what I’m doing. That’s why I’m always a little apprehensive about putting pen to paper – I need to build up my courage! Hahah! When I get started though, I go full steam ahead. It’s just getting started that always takes me time!
Saying that, one month is a pretty quick! Do you create other one-shots?
No, but I feel this manga is the first one I’ve drawn that has a definite message that I want to share with the reader.
And look at how it turned out! You won an award!
Tell me about it, I was overjoyed! I’ve entered countless contests over the years and never won a thing then BOOM! I get selected for an award by SMAC! I’m still on cloud nine just thinking about it!
After all those attempts, you never gave up and here you are! Where did you get your inspiration from anyway?
I drew inspiration from my daily meals!
I can certainly relate to that! Delving deeper into “RESPECT”, I noticed that whenever the protagonist or beast move, the outlines of each characters are blurred. Why did you decide to draw it in this way?
It was probably because it was my first time using a G-Pen! Haha! In truth though, I wanted to create a lot of action in my manga, so the blurred outlines were done like that to make them look like they were really get into it!
One other thing that caught my eye was the beast that the protagonist was fighting against. It’s not clear if it’s a bear or a wolf which is interesting, but it also has a human-like face! Why did you opt to draw it like this?
I was kinda conscious of giving away the plot by drawing the beast as an easily distinguishable animal, so instead opted for creating a showdown between a hunter and something that resembles a monster or Yokai. I gave the beast a human-like face to help accentuate the point that like its human adversary, it also has a family to provide for. I also wanted to give the beast’s orphaned offspring a clear facial expression, as well as portray the beast with a normal expression, showing no intent to fight, when the hunter offers a prayer of gratitude to him
I really loved how you did that! Are you into Yokai or creepy stuff like that at all? (I’m a huge Yokai fan by the way!)
Yeah, I like Yokai too! I love titles like Gegege no Kitaro and Ushio and Tora. I’ve always had a blast drawing and creating my own beasts and monsters!
Being from Okinawa, you must like Kijimuna (a cute looking Yokai found in that area)
Of course! I’ve drawn quite a few of those in my time! Haha!
Sorry, but I have to ask; did you model the protagonist in “RESPECT” on yourself?
Yes, I did. I’m always grateful for my daily meals after all!
What was the hardest part of the manga to draw?
Drawing the facial expressions on the offspring orphaned by the battle was a real challenge. At first I drew them with angry faces, but I changed that to one of understanding. Life goes on and I wanted to depict them accepting what happens in their own way.
I see! Well you certainly pulled it off nicely since the expressions on their faces were so telling!
They were? I’m really pleased to hear that!
I noticed that you didn’t use any kakimoji. Do you plan to make use of them in the future?
Well, it’s Silent Manga Audition® so I really wanted my entry to keep in line with the spirit of the contest. I was also conscious of there being a language barrier in using them. If I wrote kakimoji in English, maybe the Japanese readers wouldn’t understand, and if I had done the same in Japanese, maybe the overseas community wouldn’t get the meaning either so I wanted to avoid that. I’m sure my entry would have had more impact if I had included kakimoji, but I decided to keep it silent throughout. In fact, you may have noticed that the protagonist keeps his mouth closed for the entire story until right at the end when he offers a prayer of gratitude for his meal!
He’s talking from heart for sure! Which of the other SMA9 entries did you like?
Oh! What did you like about it?
I liked how the students tried bullying the teacher but were unsuccessful. The final scene when he writes on the board using his foot was really cool too!
ABOUT THE FUTURE
“I hope to connect with the rest of the world“
Looking ahead, is there any kind of work you’d like to draw next?
Actually, I’m currently working on a manga that combines all three themes of “Effort”, “Friendship”, and “Victory” to create a story of “Growth” for SMA10!
Oh wow! I look forward to reading it! Now that you’re here, what do you hope to achieve by being part of the SMAC! community?
I hope to connect with the rest of the world. If I’m gonna enter these contests, I wanna do it for the global community!
In closing, is there anything you wish to share with the SMAC! community?
I’ve drawn manga for most of my life and feel so happy to connect with people all over the world who share a common love for these stories. It feels great to come this far after all these years, and just the fact that I’m sitting here and chatting with you now kinda blows my mind! Thank you so much for creating the Silent Manga Audition®, and giving us all a place to celebrate our passion!
You’re more than welcome Shu! Thank you so much for your time, and keep up the great work! Your tenacity is an example to us all!
And with that, we leave our first ever Japanese SMA award winning interviewee to bask in the beautiful Okinawan sun, and revel in his new found glory. We can only imagine what thought provoking work he will come up with with next, but one thing we know for sure, is that Shu Ashimine not only wears his heart on his sleeve, he wears it on the page too…
So, what are you waiting for? Make manga your language too by taking your first step into the world of manga creation by joining SMA X! You have until September 30th, 2018 to say “HELLO” to your new friends! Click the banner for more details on how to enter…
Lastly, don’t forget to pay Shu’s official site a visit for an even closer look into his world! (http://ashimine.com/)