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SMA8 Interview #14 – Amito Arai (Honorable Mention Award Winner)

Christopher Tordoff Christopher Tordoff 26/02/2018 16 min read

Approaching manga on his own terms, this Russian creative works to his own clock, flaring his creative muscles when inspiration bites. With his SMA8 entry Fair Fight earning him an Honourable Mention Award, Amito Arai is not resting on his laurels, with the top prize still very much in his sights!


  Hi Amito Arai! Hello   ABOUT YOU “I’m a huge fan of listening to audiobooks when creating manga, especially scary stories.”   Where did you grow up? City or Rural? Anything the world should know about it? I was born and live in Nizhny Tagil, a city amongst the Ural Mountains. It’s quite a small city, with around 400,000 people, but very well known in Russia due to it’s industrial heritage, not to mention being home to an amazing mix of famous people. We have artists, scientists, writers engineers, poets and a Nobel Laureate! For all it’s industrial importance, Nizhny Tagil is packed with many beautiful parks, monuments and architecture. I’m very proud of my city!   If a friend from the SMAC!ommunity visited you for a sightseeing trip, where would you take them? For all its beauty, Nizhny Tagil has a lot of industrial noise! I love peace and quiet, surrounded by nature. If a member of the SMAC!ommunity visited me here, I would show them the breath-taking beauty of the Urals! A firm favorite of river-rafting tourists is the Chusovaya River, which cascades through the Ural ridge.   What is a typical day in your life like? I live quite an uneventful life really. If I don’t have any work scheduled, I leisurely rise from my bed in the afternoon, have breakfast and check SNS. I’ll dutifully attend to any chores around the house, then maybe visit a friend, go shopping, sketch, though constantly thinking of manga ideas! My first love is drawing, and I can happily spend a whole day at it. My record is 36 hours straight of drawing! I don’t have a particular routine, preferring to work when I need to. Can easily go to bed at 9pm or 6am, depending on work or how I’m feeling. It works for me!   What is your favorite movie/music/games? Hmmm, that’s a tough question…though I love Science Fiction! I also watch a lot of anime, especially if the concept and narrative is unusual. Music? It varies, but the less lyrics, the better! I love original soundtracks, including anime, movies and games. Listening to OST’s are perfect to draw manga to, especially emotional pieces as they can be a great source of inspiration. I haven’t played games for a long time, but I when I did, Minecraft was a firm favorite. I loved the creative freedom it allowed me. I also loved town planning and strategy games such as Civilization. I ploughed through the entire Elder Scrolls, Half Life and Portal because of the amazing environments across wildly different genres.   What do you like to do when you’re not drawing manga? I’m a huge fan of listening to audiobooks when creating manga, especially scary stories. For SMA8, I must have listened to about 600 complete audiobooks! I also watch a lot of movies and anime, as they can be another amazing source of inspiration. And food! Eating delicious food!  

Amito on the hunt for manga! 

  ABOUT MANGA “…when I have [inspiration], I give everything I have to finish the work quickly.”   Why is manga important to you? For me, manga is an outlet for creative self-expression. I need to draw, giving life to the ideas in my head to weave a story is when I’m happiest. I recently vowed, that if I win SMA, I’ll reveal my inner world, my ideas and my thoughts in a very personal manga, for all to see!   Was there an artist or story that inspired you to become a manga creator? I’m constantly inspired by a great number of famous mangaka, including Asano Inio, Kohei Horikoshi, Inoue Takehiko, Masashi Kishimoto, Takeshi Obata, Hajime Isayama, Tetsuo Hara, Tsukasa Noah, Taito Kubo…the list goes on, and on! Though I admire these mangaka enormously, my manga journey actually began with anime. Back then, I didn’t even know manga existed! I was instantly hooked on Naruto and Death Note, that is, the works of Masashi Kishimoto and Takeshi Obata. They inspired me to pick up my pencil and try making manga myself!   Is manga popular in Russia? Manga isn’t very popular here, but that’s now starting to change…and quickly! Only about 10 years ago, people didn’t really know what manga was, but now I’m starting to see manga being sold in stores. Most people now know what manga, which is a huge change!   What kind of environment do you work in while you’re drawing manga? I currently use pencil, ink and paper, then bring it all together on the computer. I really want to embrace the digital side for making manga! Drawing materials are rare and very expensive in Russia, son it will be more economical, not to mention being easier and faster!   What challenges do you face creating manga? Well, locating affordable drawing material is a challenge! But the main challenge is finding inspiration or ideas for manga, especially when working with a theme. I find it hard to find inspiration, but when I have it, I give everything I have to finish the work quickly.  

Passing on his skills to a younger generation of manga creators 

  ABOUT YOUR WIN “…it wasn’t until I saw boxing on the screen, that the moment came. I had my idea!”   Talking about the themes, what was your reaction to “Fair Play”? I had a lot of different ideas, about chess, running, and even gaming, but I eventually settled on a story about boxing. Two opponents, facing off in the ring. I spent a lot of time pondering the idea of “fair play”, trying to get to the root of the concept and how to show it in manga. After watching a SMAC! video on the YouTube channel, where it explains the nuances of storytelling, I briefly spoke to Taiyo-san and explained my idea. Once I understood the feedback, I began drawing the manga in September.   What was the inspiration for your entry? I struggled to find inspiration for a long time. I thought music would give me the spark I needed to develop a story, but sadly not. The idea never came to me. I asked many people, both friends and other creators and it was suggested I watch sports based movies. I watched a lot, and it wasn’t until I saw boxing on the screen, that the moment came. I had my idea!   How long did it take you to complete Fair Fight? I spent about a month, all of September creating the manga. I had the odd day off, where I would sort out old works, but I was drawing a page a day, plus a couple of days for digital processing.   Did the experience fulfill your expectations? Well, I loved Sideburn004’s entry! I did not expect casting the personification of Death as the lead, but it worked so well. Elena Vitagliano’s entry was also amazing in capturing the essence of the theme. Also Monster Rally by Evig caught my attention, all well deserved prize winners!  


Amito’s hallowed work space 

  THE FUTURE “I want to say only one thing…DON’T GIVE UP!”   What are you working on at the moment? University starts again soon, so It’ll be a challenge to work on my manga with my studies! I’ll start searching for as much inspiration and ideas as possible for my entry into SMA9. For now? A rest!   Where do you see your future career in manga? Win Silent Manga Audition! A win will be my first step to creating manga professionally. I would love to work a publisher, either web of print, to create stories that show my inner world. I see SMA as the ideal training ground for this. By competing with other mangaka, and talking with editors, I hope to build up my strengths and improve my techniques. I would also love to design and deliver lectures on manga making, a kind of master class for both children and adults.   Anything you’d like to shout to the SMAC!ommunity? I want to say only one thing…DON’T GIVE UP! Even if the chances are slim, or even if you don’t get a result, do not give up trying to realize your dreams. Learn, develop and keep hopeful at all times. Don’t be afraid of being bold with your ideas. Take risks, because sometimes they can pay off when you least expect it. Good luck to all who enter the 9th round of Silent Manga Audition!   Thank you Amito Arai!!  



The evolution of a manga

  Inspiration can be an elusive beast, with no forewarning when it finally pops its head above the ground. At the same time, inspiration can be found everywhere! The trick is to be open to every and any idea, sparked from watching movies, listening to music, talking with friends or even taking a leisurely stroll. If you’re looking for it, inspiration will find you!   SMAC!ommunity, has inspiration found you? Are you overflowing with story ideas? If yes, then start drawing for 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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Christopher Tordoff

Christopher Tordoff