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The Kumamoto Reporter #03 – Kumamoto: Birthplace of Manga Artist Legends

Chase Chase 22/12/2021 12 min read

Meet Kumamoto’s Manga Artist Legends with the Kumamoto Reporter!

Hello again SMA community! Last time we took a road trip around the captivating Kumamoto region and got to know a little about some of the manga artists that call it home. With stunning natural beauty, charming and quaint scenes of life in the countryside, and the lively Kumamoto City with its unique atmosphere, Kumamoto Prefecture is ripe with inspiration and the perfect storm for producing manga artists. Without further ado, let’s meet some of the most well-known manga artists of Kumamoto!

Eiichiro Oda

When manga fans hear Kumamoto, they think of “ONE PIECE” creator and legendary manga artist Eiichiro Oda! This is partly due to Oda being from Kumamoto City, but also due to his role in a huge project that started in 2018 called the “ONE PIECE Kumamoto Revival Project.” After the 2016 Kumamoto Earthquake, Oda gave an extremely generous donation of 800 million yen (about US $8 million) to build statues of the Straw Hat Pirates in areas that were badly hit by the earthquake. The newest statue to be completed will be Zoro, which will be unveiled on January 22nd in Ozu Town, and Jinbei will be the last statue to be completed. In addition to the statues, “ONE PIECE” aired the “Episode of Kumamoto” where Luffy and Buggy visit Kumamoto and Kumamon as part of the ONE PIECE Kumamoto Revival Project. All roads of ONE PIECE lead to and from Kumamoto, and it was clear that even from the young age of 4 that Oda wanted to become a manga artist so he wouldn’t have to get a “real job.” Who would have thought that Oda would grow up to be an incredibly hard worker and self-proclaimed perfectionist who only sleeps 3 hours a day on average! Despite his extreme work ethic, outside of work Oda has been called laidback and eccentric, and even lets his fans call him by his school nickname of “Odachi.”

Takehiko Inoue

Yet another manga artist legend with ties to Kumamoto: the creator of manga masterpieces “Slam Dunk,” “Vagabond,” and “Real”: Takehiko Inoue! Born in Kagoshima, Inoue participated in his school’s kendo (Japanese fencing) and basketball clubs, which greatly influenced his works. Art school was quite expensive, so after high school Inoue decided to go to Kumamoto University, the same university where the world-renowned Japanese novelist Sōseki Natsume taught at. At age 20 Inoue quit college and headed to Tokyo, where he started working as an assistant to none other than SMA Judge Tsukasa Hojo (who is from Kitakyushu, a city north of Kumamoto) before his own manga debut! It’s also worth noting the connection between the main character of Vagabond, Musashi Miyamoto, and Kumamoto. In his final days, Musashi stayed at a cave in Kumamoto called “Reigandō” and wrote “The Book of Five Rings” which details his philosophies and fighting techniques.

Hisashi Eguchi

Eguchi’s art “pops” right off the pages! Born in Minamata, a city in southern Kumamoto, Eguchi is called a pop art innovator of manga, citing influence from icons such as Roy Lichtenstein and Andy Warhol. Eguchi is renowned not only for his manga but also his illustrations, in particular his skill of drawing beautiful illustrations of female characters. He’s stated that he started drawing female characters in order to make himself stand out as a professional manga artist, and since then it’s become his signature style. This style, combined with Eguchi’s superb sense of humor, has resulted in vastly entertaining romantic comedies such as his manga “Stop!! Hibari-kun!” which has recently finished after a 27 year hiatus. In addition, Eguchi is an avid character designer, with his designs being used in the anime “Perfect Blue” from Satoshi Kon.

Kyosuke Usuta

Cue the laughter! Born in Aichi Prefecture but raised in Kumamoto, Kyosuke Usuta created the outrageously funny martial arts manga “Sexy Commando Gaiden.” The story follows Masaru, a new transfer student who defeats all of the school’s various martial arts clubs and starts the “Sexy Commando Club” after the karate club is cancelled due to lack of members. It has been praised for its wit and satire and is also known for its strangely unique art style from the Muromachi Period (1333-1573), which Usuta uses to highlight how the characters distract their opponents in order to defeat them.

Yuki Midorikawa

Born in Hitoyoshi, a region in southern Kumamoto, Yuki Midorikawa is most known for her fantasy shojo manga “Natsume’s Book of Friends.” The story follows Natsume, a high school student who can see “Yokai,” or Japanese spirits. His cheeky and powerful Yokai companion “Nyanko-sensei” is easily recognizable with his cute and iconic design. Midorikawa took inspiration from what was closest to her, often drawing real-life locations from her hometown of Hitoyoshi and Kumamoto Prefecture right on the pages of her manga. She’s maintained close ties with Kumamoto Prefecture, working closely on exhibition events, promotional posters, and even a video promoting tourism in the Hitoyoshi and Kuma region that features Natsume and Nyanko sensei. Yuki Midorikawa is also known for her manga one-shot and anime “Into the Forest of Fireflies’ Light” which includes Kamishikimi Kumanoimasu Shrine, a picturesque shrine close to our Artists Village in Takamori “Manga Town.”

Kenichi Muraeda

Kenichi Muraeda was born in the seaside town of Ashikita and created “Kamen Rider Spirits,” one of the manga series of the incredibly popular “Kamen Rider” franchise. The original Kamen Rider manga was created by Shōtarō Ishinomori, one of the iconic manga artists who lived in the legendary Tokiwa-sō apartment in Tokyo, which our Artists Village is based on. When Muraeda first became a manga artist he often drew Kamen Rider scenes and characters in his free time, which his editor noticed and pointed him in the direction of the production company of Kamen Rider. Kenichi pitched his proposal for “Kamen Rider Spirits,” but unfortunately Ishinomori passed away soon after and Muraeda was unable to meet his hero.

Who will be the next GREAT Kumamoto manga artist?

Now that you’ve met Kumamoto’s manga artist legends, how would you feel about joining the greats? Join SMA, enter the MasterClass, work hard, and you may have the chance to draw manga at our Artists Village in Takamori and break into the manga industry! The deadline for SMA17 is fast approaching; submit your manga by January 31st and take your first step towards your Japanese debut. The Kumamoto Reporter and the Artists Village Insider will be taking a short break over the holidays, but we’ll be back in January. Until then, check out the latest article from the Artists Village Insider to learn more about the manga magic that happens at our Artists Village’s Art Studio.