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SMAC! Web Magazine

MANGA INSIDER MAYU #21 – AUTOGRAPH SESSION WITH HOJO SENSEI!

Hello everyone!

After a 1 week break, Manga Insider is back with episode 21!

Today’s theme is… “Autograph sessions”!

On 25th July 2015, an autograph session by Hojo sensei was held in Shinjuku, Tokyo.

Autograph sessions are a special opportunity for the fans to meet their favorite manga artist face-to-face! For them, this is an once-in-a-lifetime chance, so we want everything to go perfectly!

What happens exactly? What role do the editors play?
Read on to find out!

The autograph session was held at a famous bookstore near Shinjuku station, which regularly plays host to these events.

Look at that full schedule!

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The 25th was Hojo-sensei’s event. The following day was an event for Abi Umeda, creator of ‘Kujira no Kora wa Sajou ni Utau’. In August, they’re hosting the BL artist Mariko Nekono, followed by the creators of ‘Trigger’, Toshiyuki Itakura (also a comedian & member of the comic duo “Impulse”) and Yuji Takemura. And finally, Ami Sugimoto, creator of ‘Fantasium’.

(By the way, Yuji Takemura also drew the 1st and 2nd episodes of Gifuu DouDou!!)

The arrangement is a team effort by the bookstore staff, the editors and the sales team. The last 30 minutes before the session is especially busy, with a flurry of activity to get everything ready!

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We can see many signs of consideration during the session.

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On the left is a piece of paper that’s inserted into the book after the artist signs it. This is so that the ink doesn’t stain any of the other pages. We call this “Ategami”.

On the right are postcards for the fans. There’s Ryo (City Hunter) and Xiang Ying (Angel Heart). These are a special thanks to the fans for buying the manga, and taking the time to come to the autograph session.

The walls and partitions are also covered in artwork so that the fans don’t get bored while they wait!

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These beautiful flowers were sent by Haruto Umeza-sensei, a former assistant of Hojo-sensei, who is currently drawing a serial for Grand Jump.

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There was also this table laid out.

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These are volumes 1 & 2 of the new CITY HUNTER XYZ Edition. We have to keep the fans up to date with the latest releases!

Take a peep outside… look how many people showed up!

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Among them, there was even a fan who came all the way from Singapore! There really are no international barriers when it comes to manga!

While waiting to meet Hojo-sensei, the fans filled in surveys, which will hopefully become valuable data for the marketing team!

These character cutouts and posters were also placed outside.

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They’re not only eye-catching, but also give the event a festive feel.

Of course, everyone wanted to take lots of photos, and these were a popular choice!

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We also had a nice selection of City Hunter goods for sale!

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Any City Hunter fan will definitely want to make a few purchases.

Finally, the event begins!

Japan is currently in the grip of a sweltering heatwave, with temperatures of up to 35℃. Even in the shade, that’s no joke!

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We’re making the fans wait in such harsh conditions… we’ve got to manage the queue real quick!

For ease of management, we divide them into small groups of 5-10 people, and call in each group, one at a time. But even with the air-con running at full-blast, with all these people crammed in the room, it’s hot!

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During an autograph session, the editors stay close to the artist, and assist him in any way they can. Today, Mr. Tanaka and Mr. Watanabe were on duty.

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To be specific, the editors take each fan’s book and ticket, insert the “Ategami” after Hojo-sensei has signed the book, and then pass the signed book and postcards back to the fan.

You might think that the artist could handle that himself, but we want the artist free to concentrate on signing and interacting with the fans. If the editors aren’t there to help, the desk might get very messy!

During the session, we received a surprise visit from Kazue Ikura, the voice actress who plays the role of Kaori in the City Hunter and Angel Heart anime! She came in hidden among the fans, carrying a large bouquet of flowers! Even Hojo-sensei was surprised!

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They seem truly glad to see each other!

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The editors were hard at work in the background!

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The writer in charge of doing an article on this autograph session, and Mr. Yamanaka from the ZENON editorial team were both snapping away, taking pictures to record the event.

As this year is also the 30th anniversary of City Hunter, there was a poster prepared for the fans to write messages of congratulations. 

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Several members of the editorial team encouraged the fans to leave messages for Hojo-sensei. Above, you can see Ms. Ikura writing a message on Kaori’s signature 100t hammer!

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Visitors from overseas, fans almost dropping from the heat, a mother with a baby car, Ms. Ikura’s surprise visit… you never know what’s going to happen, but everyone was on the ball, and the event was a resounding success! 

The autograph session ran for a total of 2 hours, during which Hojo-sensei was signing books the whole time! Thank you Sensei!

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Just like the setup, the cleanup is also a team effort by the bookstore staff, editors and sales team.

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They left everything neat and tidy, and ready for the next event! 

During the autograph session, the fans left lots of gifts!

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Don’t worry, they were safely delivered to Hojo-sensei!

This kind of autograph session isn’t limited to successful manga artists like Hojo-sensei. New artists also often hold them to promote their work.

Since we live in a time when the publication industry is said to be in decline, it’s important to have events which motivate people to buy books!

When I was small, I received an autographed copy of my favorite children’s book, and I still like to page through it from time to time. Having a book signed by the original author is definitely something special. If everyone who attended the autograph session left with a happy memory in their hearts, then it was definitely worth holding this event.

Finally, I’d like to show you the message left by Hojo-sensei on the event’s poster.

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“30 years have passed, but there are still people who are supporting me. I’m so grateful, and so glad that I drew this series.”

The artist loves his fans, and the fans love the artist… they both support each other. Isn’t it beautiful to have a relationship like this?

Have you ever been to an autograph session?
Do you have any ideas for a great event?

Keep those opinions and comments coming!

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Mayuna Mizutani