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SMA8 Interview #12 – Harihtaroon (Excellence Award Winner)

Christopher Tordoff Christopher Tordoff 19/02/2018 18 min read

Deadlines mean money…and Malaysian manga creator Harihtaroon knows all about deadlines. Whether it’s feverishly burning the midnight oil to meet commission deadlines, or ensuring her small army of stray cats are fed on time, Harihtaroon learned early on to live by the clock. After all, that’s a lot of feline mouths to fill!



Hello Harihtaroon!




“…the only way to combat [‘artist’s block’], is to watch Manben by Naoki Urasawa-sensei.”


Where did you grow up? City or Rural? Anything the world should know about it? 

I grew up in Kampar, a small town located in the state of Perak in Malaysia. The town is getting bigger every day though! Living here is paradise for a manga creators looking for inspiration, as  Malaysia is a multi-ethnic, multi-cultural and multilingual society, with every type of food imaginable! Come visit Malaysia!!


If a friend from the SMAC visited you for a sightseeing trip, where would you take them?

To be honest, I’m not the world’s biggest traveller. I hardly knowing what’s going on in my state, never mind the country! The only time I really ‘sightsee’ is when I stare through the window during work or family trips. If a friend from the SMAC!ommunity came to stay, I’d have to do some serious Googling to find things to do! 😂😂😂


What is a typical day in your life like?

I’m a full-time freelance illustrator/comic artist and still live with my big family and cats, so a typical day revolves around deadlines and house work! Did I mention the cats? We are surrounded by hundreds of stray cats, enough to keep me busy 24/7!


What is your favorite movie/music/games? 

I’m a HUGE fan of movies, mostly anime. I love every masterpiece by Mamoru Hosoda, including The Girl Who Leapt Through Time, Summer Wars, Wolf Children and The Boy and the Beast. I cannot wait for his next film! I also adore Studio Ghibli! When Marnie Was There is the film that lingers the most in my mind. Everything about the movie is mysterious and touching, from the story to the music.

The movie that I can watch again and again is Hinata no Aoshigure (Sonny Boy & Dewdrop Girl), by Studio Colorido. It’s a short animation but very enjoyable to watch, filled with hilarious moments, cute characters and beautifully shot animation, dripping with gorgeous colors!

I have a very eclectic taste in music, from old classics to the latest chart tunes. I also love music in many languages, including Japanese, Korean, English and Chinese. I’m currently listening to Russian singer Vitas. His vocals are awesome, you have to try it!!


What do you like to do when you’re not drawing manga?

Sketching, playing with stray cats and sleeping! There are times when I suffer from “artist’s block”, and the only way to combat this horrible disease is to watch Manben by Naoki Urusawa-sensei. It’s always fascinating to see the professional mangaka’s life on screen, the sound of paper and pen fills me with joy! I cannot recommend this show enough, you’ll see how much effort goes into making manga!


Malaysia may be a paradise for manga creators, whereas Perak is just a plain, old paradise – Flickr/musimpanas



“I’m a digital girl…”


Why is manga important to you? 

It’s incredibly important to me, because I learned how to read with the help of manga. Though there were words I didn’t understand, I could still follow the story due to the nature of sequential art. I strongly believe that this is what Silent Manga is all about! Telling exciting stories through pictures alone.


When did you start becoming interested in manga?

I first started reading manga when I was 9, mainly Doraemon. As I got older, I started to read Dragonball, Sailormoon, Dragon Quest and One Piece which opened up a huge world to me. Hungry for heavier stories, I discovered Hikaru no go, Hajime Kindaichi, Detective Q, Psychometrer Eiji, Shibatora and Tokyo Ghoul. I love to read every type of story, as long it’s entertaining! 


Was there an artist or story that inspired you to become a manga creator? 

There are a lot of mangaka that inspire me, such as Katsura Hoshino, Mitsuro Kubo, Sui Ishida, Hiromu Arakawa, Haruichi Furudate and many more! I’ve read every manga they created and adore every one, but there is one mangaka that sparks me to draw every time I read his works, and that is Takeshi Obata. Hikaru no Go had a huge impact me, inspiring me to chase my dream of becoming a professional mangaka!


Is manga popular in Malaysia?

YES! Well, very popular amongst the younger generation. Unfortunately, printed Japanese manga is very hard to find, especially in a small town like mine. Also, quite a few publishing houses have closed down, making Malaysian editions of manga even more difficult to find. We do have English translations of manga in the Malaysian branch of Kinokuniya, but they are way too expensive! The most exciting thing here is the growth of locally produced manga, which is becoming very popular. Hopefully, Malaysian manga will be know worldwide!


What kind of environment do you work in while you’re drawing manga?

I’m a digital girl, making all my manga on a Wacom Intuos Pen Tablet. “Ctrl-z” is my best friend 😂😂😂!! I can’t remember the last time I actually drew with pen and paper! The best time to draw manga is at night, when everyone has gone to bed. I like to think my room has two seasons, every 24 hours. Cold, quiet and peaceful Winter during the night and a hot, loud, Summer festival during the day.


What challenges do you face creating manga? 

Everything can be a challenge, from start to finish! Thinking up the idea, the storyline, dialogue, thumbnails, paneling, line-art, screentone, all require precision work.

I always take a lot of time when it come to deciding the expressions of character in my manga, especially silent manga! I always pretend to be the character itself to decide what the best reaction when facing some sort of situation. The final, and biggest challenge is the deadline! To even enter SMA, I have steal time from my other projects, ensuring deadlines can still be met. Even if I draw one panel a day, little by little, I finish in time.


She’s a digital girl! 



“…I’ve strived to enter every [SMA] round without fail!”


How did you find out about SMA? 

I first learned about SMA from one of my favorite artists, Masterclass student and SMA award winner, dee Juusan. At the time, I lacked the courage to enter the competition but then I saw the work of fellow Malaysian mangaka, and SMA Masterclass winner Hyrohiku. He encouraged me to enter, and ever since then, I’ve strived to enter every round without fail!


What were your thoughts on the “Fair Play” theme? 

It was a challenging theme. I had several ideas, but most of them seemed unfair! I don’t believe my manga fully embraced the theme though. For me, the best example of “fair play” in manga was Pumped up Kicks by Ichirou. Everything is perfect!


What was the inspiration for My Rival?

My childhood. When I was a kid, I entered a coloring contest with a cheap, colored pencil. The person next to me had tons of coloring material and I felt very envious and angry at how unfair it was. Thinking about it now, I didn’t even know how to use those colored pencils properly! It was a very childish reaction! 😂😂😂


How long did it take you to complete?

I don’t actually count the days as I only work on SMA entries when I have the time. I guess it was about a month.


Did the entry fulfill your expectations? 

Not really. I kinda lost the feeling of fair play from my original concept idea. I made a lot of mistakes while drawing this manga, accidentally drawing left to right being the biggest! I simply flipped certain parts, which looked awkward. I didn’t have enough time to repair it, but at least I won’t make the same mistake again for future SMA entries!


“Put down the pen and open the cat food!” 



“Since joining the competition, I’ve seen my technique improve day by day…”


What are you working on at the moment? 

Right now, I’m working on my SMA9 entry, when I’m not working on freelance projects. I’m also developing a proposal for my very own manga called “Bullseye”! A 10 page pilot manga centered around archery. I conceived the idea for a local, online Malaysian manga competition called CKOM (Cabaran Komik Online Malaysia).


Where do you see your future career in manga? 

Like everyone who joins SMAC!, my goal is to become a professional, world renowned mangaka! As a self-taught artist, I’m prepared for a long journey ahead, but with hard work and dedication, I  will improve enough to make my dream a reality.


Anything you’d like to shout out to the SMAC!ommunity?

I wish to thank everyone at SMAC!, for your never-ending, tireless work in making this competition a success. It’s such an incredible honor to have my work judged by legendary mangaka! Since joining the competition, I’ve seen my technique improve day by day, so thank you very much!


Thank you Harihtaroon!


Harihtaroon’s toughest audience 


With a seemingly endless workload on the horizon, the ability to respect, endear and embrace the deadline is vital for busy mangaka like Harihtaroon. Combined with the ability to overcome the ‘horrible disease’ this is artists block, it makes for a winning formula! With Harihtaroon’s dedication and light look on life, we’re sure we’ll be seeing you on “Manben” in the near future!


To follow Harihtaroon’s progress in Malaysian comic competition, CKOM, please follow these links:

CKOM2017 entry: 

CKOM2016 entry:


SMAC!ommunity, do you have a creative itch you’re dying to scratch? Are you overflowing with story ideas? If yes, then start drawing for SMA9 round TODAY!!

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…



Twitter – @chris_smac

Facebook – Chris Smac

Banner photo by IQRemix
Christopher Tordoff

Christopher Tordoff