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INTERVIEW BY TOMO KOSUGA, TRANSLATED BY LENA OISHI
Vice: I hear you only draw with ballpoint pens and permanent markers.
Shohei: Yes, because I like to draw in black. At first I was using pencils, but I didn’t like the way that the pencil lines shone silver. Then I realized that ballpoints are cheap, so I’ve been using them for a while now. I also like drawing bit by bit, and ballpoints are perfect for that. I like the way they bounce back on the paper too. I use ordinary ballpoints that you can buy anywhere for about 80 yen. It’s the cheapest tool that one could possibly use, I think. The permanent markers are for coloring.
You seem to draw quite a bit in freehand. Do you ever use computer graphics?
I don’t like CG. I feel that things drawn on the computer look best on a screen. Somehow they end up looking really weak outside of the computer. Plus, I’d much prefer handling a tangible piece of paper.
What sort of themes are you into right now?
I’ve been drawing illustrations of these stereotypical Japanese furyo delinquents for the cover of a magazine. I’ve liked the idea of delinquents for awhile. Their style is so uniquely Japanese—sometimes you have guys who are dressed really outrageously or have Hello Kitty motifs on their clothes or whatever. Japanese people can do the “uncool” thing really well. We have the originality of an insular country. Other than that, I like drawing dramatic scenes, like samurai fighting each other. I’m into bold things, so making an impact with my drawings is important for me.
Your illustrations often feature characters who almost look like they’re androids.
The reason that I tend to draw characters with their eyes covered by goggles and so on is simply because, if you show the eyes, the character’s presence overwhelms the picture. When I do draw a character’s face, it’s because I want to say something about the character. Like, if it’s an illustration that needs a manga-esque character in the center, there’s no point hiding their face.
You also do a series of one-frame mangas, where you draw a single manga frame rather than an entire story, which I find fascinating.
I did that series when I was thinking about manga a lot. When people see a picture that is structured like a frame in a manga, with speech bubbles, you immediately imagine the story before and after that particular frame. It’s the simplest way of getting people to imagine a narrative through pictures. You know how magazines sometimes have their manga issues and they feature a page randomly taken out of a multiple-page manga? You can usually tell whether it’s a good manga or not just by seeing that one page. So I did these one-frame mangas thinking that it might be cool to draw an even tinier section.
I also noticed that your illustrations are all black, white, and red.
That color combination really stands out. I was reading a book about makeup the other day, and it mentioned that in ancient Japan, the only colors used were red, black, and white: red lipstick, black teeth—Japanese women used to paint their teeth black—and white powder. It got me really excited.
So listen, I always want to ask artists this. Do you ever go and jerk off after you draw an erotic picture?
No! Besides, I can’t really draw erotic pictures like that. I’m sure people drawing adult manga do, though. Mine are more grotesque.
Huh. OK, now I feel like a dick.