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Enrico Croce Enrico Croce 17/08/2017 13 min read
A manga artist and her brother formed a manga creative team, which has been winning not only multiple international manga awards but also the heart of professional manga creators…! The winners of SMA7 judge’s special award from Tetsuo Hara comes from cold Russia with burning passion for manga creation. Hello Ann and Alex, aka Manga creative team “DZI”!

“Scandinavian Saga” cover, DZI

Could you please begin, by introducing yourselves “using only three words”? Ann – My friends say I am hardworking and responsible. Sorry, I can’t think another word… (⁄ ⁄•⁄ω⁄•⁄ ⁄) Alex – Amusing, accountable and thoughtful.   “Until 2006 we never heard about Manga.” How did you first encounter Manga? 
 Ann – I was 15 years old when I saw an Anime for the first time. We’d never heard or seen Manga culture before that moment. I used to enjoy drawing cute eyes with different emotions. I still remember that moment when I saw “Chobits” on a TV channel! I called my father and said, “Look, those characters have the same eyes I do every day!”. After that moment we started watching any Japanese Manga / Anime we could find. Did you begin creating manga around that time? Ann – Yes, at that time I spent a lot of time doing just that. Fast forward present day and I’m mostly doing the same, but now I create Manga on the train during my 90 mins daily commute. I do the sketch that way on my notebook, then inking and finishing is done at home in my room, just the same as when I was a kid. Alex – Now we are in our 20s and having separate lives. Anyway, when I come up with some good one idea during my midnight walks, I talk with my sister and develop it further. Creating a story is a living process.  
“Russia is a big country. There are 11 time zones here.” Anything you want to share about your country? Ann – Russia is a big country. There are 11 time zones here! When you wake up, there’s someone else who speaks the same language going to bed at the other end. This always struck me! Alex – We live in a city called Elektrostal, a very sunny place. Right now Russia is very hot in August. Personally, I am very pleased to see the interest of foreigners, it’s nice they get only positive emotions from visiting our country.

Elektrostal by night

  Are local comics popular among readers? 
 Ann – Yes! There is a lot of good artist and Mangaka here in Russia. I like SIDEBURN (“Pirozhki – Grandmother’s pies(SMA7)”), and I’m sure she will be famous very soon. The most famous Comic company here is “Bubble comics”; it produces monthly non-franchised comics with original characters. The comics genre is Superheroes.   Anything else you want to tell us about Russia? Ann – Russian history is vibrant, yet nobody talks about it. We want to change this situation. We have interesting epic characters like Baba Yaga, Zmey, Bogatyr, Koschei.
 All those characters are from the same set of Russian folklore tales. We are lucky to have such a great folklore story environment here in Russia. They are a great inspiration when we are creating characters for Manga.     “My art style was mostly influenced by Io Sakisaka sensei!”   Hara-sensei praised your SMA7 Award Winning piece, for its beautiful contrast of black and white. How do you feel about his comment? 
 Ann – Hara sensei’s words gave me even more motivation! My favourite Manga artist and my main influence is Io Sakisaka sensei. I wanted to learn and master her style, to make it the base of my style. I am a believer in Sakisaka sensei, and beautiful thing happened to me in 2015 when we got the third place in the “Japan International Manga Award”. I met the Japan ambassador in Russia, and when we talked about my passion for Sakisaka sensei’s works, he contacted her, and she kindly drew me a drawing!: “DZI sama OMEDETOU GOZAIMASU!!” 
I cried when I saw it.
 It’s incredible to have two amazing Japanese manga creators praising my works.

Io Sakisaka sensei original sketch for DZI!!!

  About the story – why Paris? 
 Ann – To us, Paris is the city of good cuisine. But during the World War a city of despair as well. I wanted to show how much war is terrible and contrary to human nature. It destroys social institutions and families. 
The protagonist loses his father during the war, and when he finally comes back, he believes the whole family is dead, by seeing the house destroyed. Paris is also the city of hope, in which a family reunion is possible. Any experiences that helped you in creating your entry? Ann – Everything I experienced in life, gave me the strength to win this competition! Also, as an academical art teacher, I have a source of new inspiration every day. Do you teach the black and white contrast also to your students? 
 Ann – When we do our daily real life sketches exercise I always say to them: “There are no human beings here in the room, just lines and shadows. Be sure to make a good contrast of black and white when you do your sketches”. From this year I started a Manga course with kids. Many of them say they want to join international Manga competitions. [Please guide them to SILENT MANGA AUDITION! – ed. ] You have been participating since SMA3. Do you have any tips to share, with Manga creators taking part in SMA? Ann – I kept trying for three years, but it was just thanks to my brother that I was able to win this round. When he called me I immediately understood the story possibilities because it had a strong plot construction from the beginning to the end. I can just tell to SMA-Community to never give up! Wait patiently and seek to find the right inspiration, before creating a new piece. Alex – Our favourite works are our inspiration. As Ann said, find the right inspiration and create what you love to become an example for other people.  
“We will join SMA again and release personal projects!” What do you plan to create from now on? Ann – We will continue to participate in SILENT MANGA AUDITION®! Alex – We will take part in more international Manga competitions including SMA8. Our priority is the release of my personal project called “Scandinavian Saga”, which is all about the great variety of legends we have in our country.

“Scandinavian Saga”, pages

Anything else you want to share with us? 
 Ann & Alex – We want to thank all COAMIX and SMAC! editorial team for organising such an incredible international Manga competition! We hope to keep creating Manga with you!  
Thank you too, DZI! 
SMAC! editorial team and Hara sensei are looking forward to reading your next Manga hit in SMA8! SMA-Community, keep on challenging yourself by creating Manga! Join SMA8 “Fair play” theme! You have time until September 30th to show the world your burning love for Manga! See you next time!
Enrico Croce

Enrico Croce