By Erica Friedman 

New York Comic Con 2018 welcomed Japanese manga artist Harold Sakuishi as a guest. Sakuishi, who is best known in North America for his indie rock-inspired bildungsroman, BECK. Sakuishi received the International Spotlight Harvey Award Friday night for his contributions to the world of manga in Japan. To celebrate BECK and Seven Shakespeares being published in English for the very first time by Kodansha Comics and ComiXology Originals Sakuishi is signing Beck pins as a NYCC exclusive. 

The moderators were Matt Kolasky, marketing for ComiXology and Kirstin Wing, ComiXology graphic designer. 

Panelists: Harold Sakuishi, Sakuishi’s editor at Kodansha, Yohei Takami, and Kodansha USA’s Misaki Kido as translator. 

Kolasky began the panel by talking about ComiXology’s mission to make it as easy as possible for people to read manga and comics. To celebrate Sakuishi’s time at NYCC, ComiXology is making Beck free to read on Amazon Prime this week. The panelists were introduced and Kolasky started in with a few questions, before opening up to the audience.  

Sakuishi speaks of manga that influenced him as a child, especially a martial arts title called Ichi Ni Sanshiro by Makoto Kobayashi (creator of What’s Michael?) that moved him emotionally. When asked if he had ever been able to meet Kobayashi, Sakuishi laughed and said that now they are hangout buddies. 

In response to a question about whether he prefers drawing or writing, Sakuishi spoke about how manga is made from various elements of life experience and, when those elements are balanced that makes great manga.  

Takami was asked to describe what makes Sakuishi’s work unique. He responded by saying that that was hard to answer with praise for both Sakuishi’s personality and his work ethic. “He’s really serious about work and never compromises because he put his whole souls into it.”

Sakuishi talked about how nervous he was in regard to winning the Harvey Awards. “I got to meet Dave Gibbons, who said congratulations… I wished I said that to him first.”   

He talked at length about his love of music. And how he realized there was so little manga about music, but then when he met “a really rare editor who told me, you love music, why not do a manga about music? He joked that the thought if he failed, he could blame it on the editor, so this must be his chance. 

In response to a question about how the characters interact, Sakuishi noted that even though characters are fictional, there has to be some reality to them that he enters into their world, and they are a “combination of things I observe and myself, that becomes the character.” 

The inspiration for Seven Shakespeares was a friend who was really into Shakespeare. Sakuishi felt their passion, and became interested. As he did he found lots of mystery surrounding the man and was inspired to draw the manga. He did a lot of research, visiting noted Japanese scholars and reading their books for hours.  

Editor Takami discussed the difficulty of expressing music in manga. Obviously there’s no sound, so in early volumes, they inserted the scores in the art, but the later volumes, they realized they didn’t need to do that, the the story was synchronized in reader’s mind. 

Sakuishi noted that individual characters in the manga were definitely inspired by real rock band members. Sakuishi still listens to a lot of music and spent a few minutes praising a Chance the Rapper show he saw recently. 

In regards to the anime, Sakuishi noted that the animation production company was one  of the best in Japan, so he left the anime almost entirely up to them. He liked that the experience from watching anime is different from the manga, so it was a good choice  to leave it to them, Takami replied that he was involved  and that everyone on team was a big fan of the series 

When discussing his process, he talked about creating touchpoints where characters will be, then moving quickly towards them, so if he makes to the plot he won’t got too far off track. Sakuishi discussed working in a serialized magazine, where the pace is impossible by one’s self, you have to trust people and he’s fortunate in that regard to have people he trusts. His assistants work in shifts, in a second room, whil her works in his office, so they can keep working while he takes naps. .When asked about his assistants, Sakuishi joke, “There are no normies in manga.” Sakuishi thinks about their strengths, to assign the right job to right person. Some of his assistants have gone on to creating their own manga. 

To end the panel, Sakuishi joked that his advice for his young self was “Don’t do it.” But said to aspiring artists in the audience that it was important to spend time getting passionate about hobbies and to cultivate curiosity about what you see, because that is important to creativity. 

And with that advice to all of us, one of the most entertaining panels of NYCC 2018 ended. 

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