Earlier this year, Glacier Bay Books released Glaeolia, an ambitious risograph-printed collection of dōjin manga: comics from Japan's lively small-press and self-publishing scene, which are distributed through websites, mail-order, and specialty festivals like Tokyo's Comitia. The first edition of Glaeolia sold through its 300-copy print run in less than two months, and now a sequel has arrived; the page count is larger, the print run is bigger, and the lineup mixes new and returning contributors, all of whom were paid for their participation. You can pre-order the book here.
Previously, I'd conducted an interview with the Glaeolia editors, Emuh Ruh and zhuchka. They are again the editors for Glaeolia 2, as well as the translators -- along with Anna Schnell and 'rkp' -- and even the typesetters, with letterer Tim Sun. What follows is a sampling of art from the book's 12 contributors, accompanied by commentaries by the editors, whom I interviewed via Discord on November 6, 2020; the transcript was assembled by me, and later reviewed and amended by the interviewees, who are candid as to the struggles, compromises, and pleasures of putting together so large a project with contributors an ocean away. At one point, the fate of the book hinges on a secret vote by the heirs of Flannery O'Connor, which sounds like something out of a Urasawa Naoki serial, but is just another day in the life of Glaeolia. Here are scenes from that life, and an introduction to a dozen noteworthy artists.
JOE MCCULLOCH: I'm thinking that you guys were emboldened by the success of the first one-- and I'm going to assume the first one was a success, in that you sold literally every copy. But this is a way bigger project. It has a bigger print run-- I think it's 500 instead of 300. And it's almost 80 pages longer, and some of the authors have really long pieces, and some of the authors have multiple pieces. So was this always the plan, or did you take a look at the first one and be like, “oh we're going to do more, we're going to blow it up”?
EMUH RUH: Yeah, no, you're dead-on with all of the assertions about, you know, 80 pages, and the first one being totally sold out-- definitely what I would consider a success in that regard. I would say that at first we were thinking to keep the same size of a project, and part of it telescoped from just wanting to add more authors? [Laughter] At some point it became kind of like “well, you know, something between 300 and 350 pages is nice, and it shouldn't be too much more to add in.”
EMUH RUH: And it probably helps that-- I might not be correctly characterizing the history of this, but I think it progressed from “oh, we'll do a volume 2; we sold all the copies, we should just do volume 2, if we can,” and then it's like “let's have more people.” And then, as we got further along, then it turned into “well, the last one sold out really quickly, so it would be good if we could print more copies,” because it's turned into a situation where like-- as the awareness goes up, I think more people wanted it. So there's all these factors like, “oh, if we want to send it international, we need to somehow get the costs a little lower per book.” Plus, we also want more books to sell to people.
Anyhow, so all that means printing more books, which is an adventure.
Yeah, you're actually working with Cold Cube again on this. I presume it's going smoother this time, in that they're not in the midst of a lockdown, and you have some experience with them?
EMUH RUH: Yeah, definitely a lot of things went smoother, in some ways. There are a lot of unique difficulties with this kind of project, which I guess could be summarized by, like: this is a really big book in terms of the physical restrictions of printing it on the risograph. It's not a complicated book to print, because the internal pages are just one layer, so they don't really have to worry about a lot of alignment issues, or color mixing, but there's just the physical difficulty of printing and collating and preparing all the books, because they do that by hand, and then send it off to be bound.
With Glaeolia 1, basically what happened was that they under-quoted us for the amount of work, because they didn't realize how much work it would be. I think I'm correct in saying I don't think they'd ever done a book this big, and so they were a little overwhelmed in that regard, in terms of the workload disparity. And so with this one it was asking them to basically do it all again, but like-- more. [Laughter] But yeah, a lot of the stuff got streamlined, got worked out. There were like a few specific quirks that came up, but like-- the stuff with the cover was mostly a lot easier, in terms of setting up files for them to do well on the riso. Really, there was more of an overall delay because they had all these deadlines coming up. So basically what happened is that all their projects were converging on this end-of-October deadline to finish printing, and they ended up kind of overbooking, which is why our planned release in November has turned into 'finish printing during November,' and maybe I'll be able to go get the books out in November, and it will still work out somehow.
But I think a lot of the print-related complexity from Glaeolia 1 was smoothed out, and we just exchanged some of the COVID-related delays with-- not having lockdowns, but instead having other delays.
In the introductory essay to this book, you write about how the COVID pandemic has wreaked havoc on the Japanese small press comic scene, and-- I'm presuming they're not having festivals yet, right?
EMUH RUH: Maybe zhuchka can correct me on this-- I'm not sure if they said “Air Comitia” or “Comitia”-- I though I was reading that the next Comitia would be in-person. Do you know?
ZHUCHKA: Comitia 134 is supposed to be happening towards the end of [November], like the 23rd? And that's going to be at the usual place, the Tokyo Big Sight.
ZHUCHKA: Yeah, so I know that like-- Japan hasn't had been having as many conventions. I saw some screenshots of conventions going on - lots of conventions going on in Taiwan, and probably China. They're pretty packed. But then they showed some some pictures from other small conventions that had still opened in Japan, and it was super-sparse. So I think Comitia 134 was probably was pretty popular in terms of people who applied to get in, because you have a selection process for how many people can show up. They have limited space.
ZHUCHKA: Maybe it was super-popular because of the funding and stuff, or people maybe had a renewed interest in it. “Air Comitia” is the sort of like 'online hashtag' event, where people who didn't make it into 134 can advertise their stuff.
ZHUCHKA: They're there. They're doing both.
[NOTE: Photos from Comitia 134 can be viewed here.]
Before we get into going down the list of artists-- I'd like you to just check me on something. Because I noticed, throughout the book, you use they/them pronouns a lot, and I think there's a slightly different usage here in reference to the Japanese artists. Typically, in the western sense, this is an expression of gender identity. But my understanding is that they/them is often used in regards to Japanese artists as a means of preserving their anonymity, keeping the artistic and private lives separate. And so, it's a means of disguising who they are. Is that accurate?
EMUH RUH: I understand this question to be referring to statements in the introduction--
And in the artist biographies, yeah.
EMUH RUH: Okay, not in the [comics]. Essentially, yeah-- it's not really a prescriptive use of the word, like you're saying. It's to refer to the author without trying to give any particular gender information about them. I mean, to be clear, in a casual sense, [I have] some understanding of this information from [the authors'] use of pronouns in conversation, but I generally try to avoid explicitly writing this out in a way that would be interpreted as a statement of gender identity by western readers. I wouldn't necessarily feel comfortable asserting this information without confirming it. The biggest roadblock there is when you're communicating with 12+ authors, you quickly realize the more you can smooth it out and minimize the back-and-forth really helps. So, there's some mundane, self-interested reasons to want to avoid that. But yeah, it does play into that aspect of just trying to present the author in kind of a nonspecific, or more-- I guess anonymous approach, that definitely feeds into the choice of pronouns, or the choice of the names to refer to them.
ZHUCHKA: Also, something that's not just a decision on our side-- most of [the authors] are working under a pseudonym, and they might not always give you information about their personal lives. Just a language thing for the most of the Japanese authors-- like, they aren't putting their pronouns in their information, like you might see with most western authors. I mean, that's also got to be influenced by how Japanese is a language where you often don't need the pronoun.
Mori Masayuki - "A Dream of Snow" & "From Far Away" & "Absence" & "Dancing Spirits" (A child lost in a snowstorm; an empty house; an indescribable breeze; a ghost in a tower. Four vignettes of young people.)
To start things off, we have Mori Masayuki, who was the cover artist of Glaeolia 1, and is now doing some interior pieces. I'm interested-- their first story in here ["A Dream of Snow"] was actually from the famous Garo magazine in the 1990s. All the stories are very slice-of-life, I'd say. Observational, poetic looks at someone's perceptions, and I'm wondering: was this typical of what Garo was like in the '90s? I think the understanding of what Garo magazine is in the west is very much controlled by the '60s and '70s material that's available in translation.
ZHUCHKA: It's hard to give a clear answer to that, because that's actually also the case in Japan. Like, if you refer to “Garo magazine” in Japan, people are going to assume that you're talking about the '60s and '70s generation of Garo. Usually the '90s, and even AX magazine [an alternative manga anthology founded in 1998, often considered the successor to Garo], is not regarded in the same way, with the same sort of-- I guess importance. People might say 'quality' or something like that. It's interesting to see something that's sort of more low-key being from Garo, but I don't think it's totally out of the ordinary, even for stuff in the '60s and '70s. Not everything in Garo in the '60s and '70s is super avant-garde. A lot of the content is also pretty pretty chill sometimes.
Was Masayuki somebody you were planning to have do some interiors, even when they were doing the cover for the first one? Like, were they kind of on the short list?
ZHUCHKA: Not exactly! We contacted them for the cover, because we found a picture that they drew that would make for a pretty good cover picture for the first issue. And I guess they saw what we were doing, and were pretty interested, and, like, asked if they could give us something for the second issue. So it sort of just ended up working out. They weren't somebody originally that we had in mind, but their stuff is along the lines of something that we would want to include.
EMUH RUH: Yeah, that's exactly how it went after we reached out to them about the first issue. They basically asked if they could submit some stories for a future issue, if we ran one. There was a lot of time in between when we did active work on Glaeolia 1 and when it was printed, and I think we actively started working on Glaeolia 2 sometime around-ish the printing of Glaeolia 1. I don't know. But anyhow, in between then, I actually acquired several volumes of [Masayuki's] self-published collections, and kind of looked through those. So by the time we were looking at Glaeolia 2, a combination of having picked out several works that I was interested in using, and then their explicit interest in participating, made it kind of an obvious choice to follow up with stories for Glaeolia 2.
Kawakatsu Tokushige - "Telephone, Sleep, Music" (A woman naps, wakes up, visits a club, and emerges into the morning.)
The next one is another returning fan-favorite, Kawakatsu Tokushige, and I'd like you to explain this one, because-- I've seen an advance PDF of the book, and at this point you actually ask the reader to turn the book upside down, because this story is moving left-to-right, rather than right-to-left. Do you know why the story is formatted that way?
EMUH RUH: There's so much interesting stuff to talk about with the Kawakatsu piece. I'm trying to remember back to the [Japanese-language] book that [the comic] is taken from, but my not-to-be-taken-as-100% factual understanding is that this was actually commissioned by Torch [the 'indie' manga label of LEED Publishing, an offshoot of Saitō Production, the studio of gekiga impresario and Golgo 13 creator Saitō Takao] as a special new piece, separate from what [Kawakatsu] had been serializing with them, for this collection that they published, Telephone, Sleep, Music. This was the piece that [the collected book] was named after, and my impression is that [the orientation] is kind of a combination of Kawakatsu's own interests, as well as the publisher's interests in kind of making it more accessible for western readers, or like publishing outside of Japan.
Kawakatsu is also a comics critic. They're a writer-about-comics as well as an artist. So, they're pretty aware of the history and the different styles.
ZHUCHKA: My impression of [the story] is also that [Kawakatsu] had it in mind that it might be translated, and I think Torch also had that in mind. I think maybe they were looking at the European market? I had actually done a translation of this particular work a long time ago, I think when they first released it?
ZHUCHKA: [Kawakatsu] didn't like ask me for it or anything. But I was just sort of like, you know-- “I read it, it's really good, if you need a translation, I typed one up for you,” and I think they were like, “oh, yeah, maybe Torch can use it and credit you and stuff.” And so, I think there was some plan going on there, but it probably didn't turn out, because they didn't use it. [Laughter] It's pretty old, like, when it first-- I think it's maybe a year old already? It happened like a year ago. I think Torch definitely had stuff in mind, but I don't know-- maybe it didn't really go through.
EMUH RUH: Yeah, yeah. Actually, really quick, before I forget: there's something connected to this idea. I want to kind of set the record straight on something in the introductory essay. I maybe committed an act of sanitizing or simplifying history, because at some point I say that there were translations for some works that were commissioned by oratnir [the cover illustrator for Glaeolia 2] and nerunodaisuki - and that was maybe an oversimplification on my part, just because I was trying to think of the simplest way to describe it. But actually, those were both examples where zhuchka actually translated the stories of their own volition, and then contacted the authors, so maybe I've mischaracterized the history of how those works came out. If so, I would say it's almost certainly not the only mistake in that essay. [Laughter] It's very easy to make mistakes.
So what was the thinking behind picking this particular story? Because I have to say, it's quite a lengthy story. It's 51 pages, so that that's a lot of real estate. What was the the idea behind grabbing this one? It's a really striking piece.
ZHUCHKA: There's a really long story behind it. [Laughter]
SIDEBAR: Saga of the Missing Comic
ZHUCHKA: Originally we had a piece lined up from Kawakatsu's magazine, which is called Kakū. Kawakatsu is friends with another author, whose name is Toyoda Tetsuya. That author might be known to some American readers, but he's probably most famous outside of Japan in France, because the translation of his comic Undercurrent actually won an award there [the Association des Critiques et des journalistes de Bande Dessinée's "Prix Asie" in 2009]. Kawakatsu is real-life friends with him because-- basically, Kawakatsu said [Toyoda] doesn't have a computer. He doesn't have an online presence, and his last work by a major publisher, series-wise, was probably like 10 years ago. He'd sort of been pretty quiet since then. And Kawakatsu had gotten a manuscript version of one of his works that he was bringing in to his publisher to see if they would be interested, and [Kawakatsu] published it in Kakū. It was an adaptation of an American story by the author-- who's the author?
EMUH RUH: I think it was Flannery O'Connor, right?
ZHUCHKA: Yeah, it was Flannery O'Connor, “The Life You Save May Be Your Own”. It's a manga adaptation, but it was a manuscript version [i.e. a preliminary draft, which you might show to an editor to secure a publishing deal] - it wasn't very super-finished up, but the sketches for it were actually to a high degree of completion. And we wanted to-- or, not we, I think it was mostly me. [Laughter] *I* wanted to put it in the second issue, because I really like this author's stuff, and I was pretty sad that he wasn't getting published. When I was talking to Kawakatsu about it, Kawakatsu said “he's been working this entire time.” Like, [Toyoda] wasn't not working, it was just not making it out. And so I had wanted to put this piece in, but because it was an adaptation of an American short story, we had to go and try to get permission to print it.
EMUH RUH: Yep. [Laughter]
ZHUCHKA: Emuh, you wanna jump in?
EMUH RUH: Yeah, let me jump in, because this is such an interesting story. So, I was able to look up who the agent is for [Flannery O'Connor] and their estate, and reach out to them. And our conversation started with me describing our interest, and the work we wanted to do. Their follow-up was “we're not aware of this work, please give us the details so we can check that it was licensed properly.”
EMUH RUH: So then, you know, I gave them-- describing explicitly what work we were talking about, and then I had to go and let Kawakatsu know that there seemed to be some complexity. And it turns out, basically, the copyright law changed in the year after [Kakū] published the work in Japan, so after that point, they would need to get permission from-- I don't want to say for sure, but maybe the American branch of the literary estate, but before that it was fine to just contact the O'Connor Society in Japan. So there was all this background stuff getting sorted out.
And in the meantime, we'd set up this scanned manuscript we had got, which didn't really have text, but we were able to refer to the original short story, and then like do some simple translation for sfx and stuff. So we basically had it quasi-ready to run, you know-- we would need a little more prep work, but we had a basic functional piece set. And then it turned into a waiting game because COVID erupted, and the literary agent had to get in contact with the three-- I don't know, executors-- people that make decisions. And they needed some unanimous or at least majority vote on whether to allow it. [McCulloch laughs] And it came out to like-- he got in contact with two [of the executors], and the third one did not have a computer, and they hadn't been able to contact him during COVID. And of the two, one was like “nah,” and the other was like “eh, maybe not, but if the third person says yes, then yes.” And so, literally, we got a final decision, like-- I don't know, a day or two before we announced the book on social media, saying that it couldn't work out, because they decided that there were some very technical requirements related to exact dialogue-- like quotations not altering any words.
ZHUCHKA: So basically, if the the text said “he said” you actually need to keep the “he said.” You can't just have a character speak the line.
EMUH RUH: Yeah, exactly.
ZHUCHKA: Pretty silly stuff like that.
EMUH RUH: So yeah, it's really disappointing, because honestly, I thought it was really great. And I was really looking forward to running it. I like Toyoda's work, and I like O'Connor's short stories, and it was a really cool glimpse at early manuscript-like drawing.
EMUH RUH: It was really disappointing, but what came out of it was, after that-- I let Kawakatsu know the decision, because they kind of had facilitated our talking to [Toyoda], since we know [Kawakatsu], and are on good terms with them, and they know the author, who's otherwise hard to reach. And how it worked out was, when I let them know-- obviously they were also disappointed, but they basically said “don't worry, if you need a story, you can have one my stories to run.” They'd also said earlier that they wanted submit a piece for [Glaeolia 2], but at the time we had a long list [of potential contributors]. We're trying to bring in new names as well.
But Kawakatsu basically said we could use “Telephone, Sleep, Music”, which I was super-excited about, because, actually, that was one of the ones that I'd wanted to pick out to use in Glaeolia 1. At the time, it was not possible, because the situation with the rights was slightly different, because [the story] had been specifically commissioned by Torch. But what happened was, we sent over Glaeolia 1, and-- Torch editorial had a copy or two, I don't remember exactly. And what I heard was that the editorial office was kind of passing the book around and liked it a lot, and [after that] they were just fine with us using “Telephone...” for Glaeolia 2.
I'm imagining a copy of Glaeolia 1 in the Golgo 13 closet at the Saitō Production office. [Laughter] So, where does this story fit into Kawakatsu's body of work? It's a departure from the story they had in the first one. This one is much more-- the art style kind of shifts as the events of the night depicted in the story go on, where it becomes more, I suppose, expressionistic as [the protagonist is] spending more time in the club and drinking a lot. This seems a lot more mark-making-ish than Kawakatsu's work in Glaeolia 1. Is this something they were building towards, or-- you had mentioned this was a slightly earlier work.
ZHUCHKA: I can maybe answer that a little bit. Kawakatsu's stuff usually has a couple of styles. One is maybe this more modern style, and then the other one is sort of-- because they're a manga critic, they specifically have this kind of Garo image in their mind, and when they're drawing it, a lot of that kind of influence comes up. But I definitely feel like this story is a little bit more personal. The club that the main character is going to is a club that Kawakatsu goes to, and some of the background characters are supposed to be people that they know. And, like, there's references to stuff that they've been involved with. So, I think [this story is] a little bit more personal. The other ones are often a little bit story-oriented.
ZHUCHKA: For example, the person who wrote some of the introductory text to this story on the website is a guy named Konishi Yasuharu, who's a member of the band Pizzicato Five. I don't know if you know Pizzicato Five, but--
They're a pop group, right?
ZHUCHKA: They're like a pretty legendary pop group for a specific kind of genre. The Shibuya-kei, Shibuya-style genre. So the story takes place in Shibuya-- most of it does, anyway. And this club that it takes place in is one of the clubs that Konishi is known to DJ at and stuff. So there's this more personal connection, where [Kawakatsu is] writing something about people that they personally are friends with, and have a relationship with, and the club that they go to - whereas, I don't think see they've actually been to Hell or anything like that. [Laughter] So it's a little bit different from the first story [in Glaeolia 1].
EMUH RUH: Yeah, it was like a stylistic difference, and then the whole topic is kind of based on self-expression. It's about this person who's kind of looking at themselves, literally and figuratively, and kind of representing where they are at a certain time in their life. There's a whole meditation on their self, kind of like when they're looking in the mirror and thinking-- I guess they don't explicitly think it then, but later [in the story] they think “I'm 34 now” or something. Just such a topical and stylistic departure from Kawakatsu's other works, which are more narrative, like the morality play for the last one.
ZHUCHKA: I don't think they're actually even in their thirties yet. [Laughs] I think they're still in their twenties.
EMUH RUH: Yeah, that's a good point. They are not in their thirties, if I remember correctly. [Laughter]
Mishima Yoshiharu - "Atom Bomb Notes" & "Computer Graphics These Days" (Conflict rages in the mind, as a girl runs nuclear simulations in the dreamspace of her school, and a pair of students ponder the unknowability of others.)
So moving on to the next one-- I was taking notes on all of the comics as I was reading them, and my first note I have for Mishima is “very ideas.” And I think what I mean for that is-- the two comics Mishima has in here are very idea-driven, and I guess that leads me to a question: Glaeolia 2 is structured kind of thematically, so that the first half of the book is very heavy with characters having altered perceptions or dreams or hallucinations. And going from the Kawakatsu story, which is very experiential and very subjective, we have this dialogue-heavy and very science fiction-ish story that Mishima does ["Atom Bomb Notes"], and I'm thinking: are you structuring this book to have the stories respond to each other, or even to complement each other, so that a long kind of 'wash' of scenes is followed by something that has lots and lots of ideas?
EMUH RUH: Yeah, so, as with Glaeolia 1, a lot of thought went into how to set up the stories. Maybe even more thought, because there's more stories, and you have to juggle all these moving parts. The overarching principle, I think, was wanting to set up four kind of--
ZHUCHKA: We had four stories from the first author [Masayuki]. I remember you said that you wanted to sort of have those four stories split the book into parts, and that's why those four stories are spread out where they are.
Like, they're almost chapter headings.
ZHUCHKA: Yeah, exactly.
EMUH RUH: Yeah, those stories kind of set the tone in a subtle way for the kind of topic or the kind of feeling [to follow], and then the main idea after that was-- like, in each 'chapter', I want to have a balance of long and short works, and I want to also make sure there's a smooth progression, back and forward, of ideas versus the emotional trajectory of the story. So, “Telephone, Sleep, Music” is a very smooth parabola, if you will, of bending back around. The day-- we start at the evening, and reach all the way back around to the morning, and it's more of a meditative piece. There's not a lot of dialogue, like you said. To me, a lot of it's about representing a kind of a feeling, and that's why there's all this experimental artwork to represent the different times.
And then when you transition to “Atom Bomb Notes”, it was important to branch from there into a different feeling for the reader. As you reach that point, you want to preserve the topic, this idea of dreaming, but interpret it in a new way, so that their palate is kind of fresh. The other aspect of it is also to juggle the thematic ideas. You don't necessarily want to have too many stories with similar motifs-- when I say 'you' don't want to, I mean *I* didn't want to. [Laughter] I felt it might suggest a comparison where there wasn't necessarily one intended, or to be had. It was really kind of an overall idea of what I wanted, to have readers go through it, and have a smooth reading trajectory, at each point introducing something new. If you read a long story, then follow up with a fresh shorter story, that will intersperse or break up the reading.
When I look at Mishima's stuff, their work-- it strikes me as very “indie comics”, like stylish indie comics. It kind of reminded me of Ueda Hajime, the guy who did the FLCL official manga, where it's-- there's a little more visual clarity, but the very squat characters, and the dashed-off drawings. Mishima is part of a dōjin circle, right? They just do the stuff at shows, right?
ZHUCHKA: They've been in some magazines together with-- for example, they were in a magazine with [Glaeolia 1 contributor] mogcom. But they usually are solo. They also have a series with Torch, which is called Maria Kodama Literature Collection. That one's pretty similar to some of the stories that we have in here. They're very focused around ideas-- it's supposed to have a literature girl character. So there's a lot of chapters that are focused on literary devices, like most of the chapter titles are like “Metaphor” or like “Simile”, or something like that. And the story will focus around that, but also the dialogue will often play with what exactly that device does, and you get to see how it affects the characters, and how [Mishima] uses this character to describe what that literary device might be. Their comics are really sort of conceptual--
Very cerebral stuff.
ZHUCHKA: And I think it's really interesting, because not only is it conceptual-- at the same time, a lot of their comics are very oriented around, like, high school romance? So it's something that's highbrow, but also something that's really normal and everyday. And the drawings are super-- not plain, but they're not as detailed as some people might expect to go with something that's sort of more high-concept. At the same time, they're not simple either. They do everything by hand, and it's like ink wash-- it's really interesting.
Nozomu Nakayama - "Moondog" (She said she was a princess from the moon... but where is she now?)
That leads us to Nozomu Nakayama, who is actually the editor of a dōjin magazine, Suika Toka no Tane. We've never encountered this magazine before, so could you explain a little bit of what that's about, because-- I think Nakayama's work reminds me a little of the kind of '90s French comics you'd occasionally run into, like Lewis Trondheim, with the animal characters getting into relationship situations, and there's a lot of observational stuff. What's the magazine like?
EMUH RUH: So, I guess some background is, if I remember correctly-- this is a magazine that he started with some friends, basically, during college. I think it's been around for five years, six years-- probably six issues, six years. And there's kind of a mix of stuff that's going into these; aside from the core group, they invite other authors, but you get some really indie/alternative-looking stuff. There's one book that they're publishing just this year that collects one of the authors' contributions. Um--
ZHUCHKA: The Karman Line [by Kotaro Mitsuhashi] I think is the one you're thinking of?
EMUH RUH: Yes, Karman Line. It's very different from the typical manga style. It's kind of dreamy, atmospheric. They've been putting out stories like these in different issues, but at the same time they had a story from INA-- we have one of their stories [in Glaeolia 2], but it's super different: topical and stylistic. They [also] have stories that are definitely more of a mainstream kind of manga style or topic. I think they had a kendo club story. So there's a lot of variety. It's really got the feeling of Utopia Grass or USCA [two other small-press magazines], where it's-- maybe not USCA, that's a slightly bigger scale, but it's got this feeling of a more organized or structured kind of dōjin circle.
ZHUCHKA: Right. I was reading an essay or some article -- maybe it was an interview with [Nakayama] -- where he actually does say that, you know, he was seeing magazines like USCA, and he wanted to make something like that. So that's part of the reason why he has this magazine.
EMUH RUH: One of the things that I was originally planning or hoping to do, was to kind of describe in the [introductory] essay some more of the background for many of the different magazines, like USCA and the precursor magazine for that, and then like Utopia Grass and Suika, to kind of give it a little more context. I would say it fell victim to getting things done and deadlines.
Yes, yes. [Laughs]
EMUH RUH: I don't think any of the [Suika] works have been made accessible to western readers through really any means, because it's a pretty small publication, but it's got the feeling of a more organized or larger dōjinshi collection, as opposed to even like Lumbar Roll or USCA, which are similar, but more high-profile, because the contributors are bigger names, and the organization of the individuals involved is kind of bigger-budget and more experienced. So you end up seeing a more commercially-polished, maybe-- I'm not trying to denigrate Suika, it definitely has more of a feeling of a younger alt magazine.
nerunodaisuki - "M1" (The hottest television event of the year is a race between giant bugs!)
Next up we have nerunodaisuki, whom I always consider the gem of whatever they show up in; they've been in a bunch of stuff. They were in the Popocomi English edition. They were in the kuš! Japanese anthology [š! #32]. And every time-- I think I should remember them, but every time I look at their work, I'm amazed again. I'm like, “oh my God, this looks like Hanawa Kazuichi,” you know? Maybe closer to Man☆Gatarō, I don't know. But it's this mix of like really, really, really, really detailed and grotesque creatures and grotesque human drawing that's peppered with these little animal characters that are just contour lines running around. I think zhuchka did some translation for them before on their tumblr? Is that correct?
ZHUCHKA: Yeah, that was something where I read one of their comics while back and really liked it, so I whipped up a quick translation and sent it to them. I told them “you know, you can use this if you are interested in getting some English readers,” and they uploaded it. So yeah, I've been friendly with them for I think maybe four or five years, or something like that. Their stuff is really cool.
Is that how you had the contact with them, to put them in this particular volume?
EMUH RUH: I don't think so. I think I just reached out to them and described the project, that we were interested in including--
ZHUCHKA: I think they did know, eventually, because I remember telling them.
EMUH RUH: Okay.
ZHUCHKA: They were like “oh, you're with that.” [Laughter]
This is all self-published stuff; are they with a publisher, or--
ZHUCHKA: I don't think they are. They do a strip for a magazine. It's like a business magazine, or something. [McCulloch laughs] Yeah, it's something like that. I think maybe they don't really want to-- they might be one of those people who doesn't really want to do something with a major publisher. They were commissioned after they won an award [a 2015 Japan Media Arts Festival New Face award]-- I think they did a comic for the shōjo demographic. Maybe it was for Feel Young [a monthly comic magazine from Shōdensha], where it was a small comic, maybe about winning [the award]? So it's not exactly like one of their typical comics, it's a little bit more like a reflection sort of comic. But yeah, other than that, I don't think they've had anything with a larger publisher. They published a book with a small publisher [Hyou Hyou; Atashisya, 2019], like the tankōbon collection. But I think that's basically a [professionally] published version of their older [self-published] collected works book. Not really any different.
Maiko Dake - "Late Night Travelogue" & "Earthly Stars in the Palm of Your Hand" (An imagined garden, captured in a photo; a glimmering cityscape housed in a box. People just can't keep what they catch.)
I'm in kind of a similar situation with the next author, Maiko Dake, in that they were also in the English Popocomi, but I don't really know anything about them. It seems like all of their stories that I've seen in English fit together: the Popocomi one and the two they have in Glaeolia 2, because they're all about characters who realize some form of escape through, basically, reading something or using some medium to realize the means. And sometimes it's a good thing, or sometimes-- like, one of my favorite stories in the book is the one about the guy who has this little city in a box, and it just makes him completely sad. I was wondering-- I suppose this is another artist who does self-published stuff? I think they work in children's books or picture books. Is that right?
EMUH RUH: Yeah, they work as an illustrator, and they also have done illustrations for children's books. I think they have [a comic] that's being serialized right now, though. The problem is, I don't remember what.
ZHUCHKA: It's maybe in Kiss [a monthly comic magazine from Kōdansha]. I remember seeing that, and it's in a josei magazine or something like that. Definitely that kind of style.
EMUH RUH: But yeah, they definitely do a lot more illustration work. And then, of course, like you mentioned, they were also in Popocomi. Their collection that we drew these stories from [On Ordinary Nights; Shōdensha, 2016] features a lot of different situations. The stories aren't all necessarily dreamy like [the stories in Glaeolia 2]. They all have the same kind of illustration sensibility, but you get some stories that are more conversational or humor-driven. Like, there's one about this guy who gets a personal assistant doll, who then overworks him to try and improve his life.
EMUH RUH: There's like all kinds of fantastic-but-ordinary stories, which is what the title is [referring to] for that collection. But the reason behind picking out these two-- maybe they're feeding into my proclivity for certain kinds of stories. “Earthly Stars...” with the suitcase was chosen because I liked the ironic twist, and “Late Night Travelogue” was chosen because it reminded me of my cat. [Laughter] Beyond just liking both of those stories and thinking they had a really technical aspect. Maybe feeding into more of the editorial side.
It was interesting to contact Maiko, because I've been a fan of their work for a while. Popocomi-- before the English edition came out, they were in the Japanese issues, but they also had self-published illustration works. They had a zine called Dream House, and then The Star Catcher, a kind of riso art book. You can kind of imagine it. They've got, to my eyes, a really lovely style. So I was really excited to contact them, and they were really excited to work on Glaeolia 2, so it was just like a dream come true.
EMUH RUH: I don't remember if I answered the actual question you were asking at this point.
Morita Rui - "Haunted" (A young woman makes an appointment to meet with a ghost... or does she?)
It's interesting that you brought up that [Maiko Dake] is contributing to Kiss, because there's gonna be three authors in a row here that have been working for Kōdansha [one of the biggest publishers of Japanese comics]. The next one is Morita Rui, another returning favorite from Glaeolia 1, who had some work for a while in Afternoon [a monthly comic magazine aimed at men], though she also contributes to the dōjin magazine Utopia Grass. So, what's the story behind Morita Rui reappearing in this one?
ZHUCHKA: Uh-- I just really like this story. [Laughter] I did want to include some of their other stories, like the one that got them discovered by Kōdansha-- you know, [authors] submit stories for a prize. Their prize-winning story was really good, but those stories are more difficult to get, so I felt like this story is a little bit similar in feel, because it has to do with the relationship with the girl characters, where the second one is not around anymore, and the first one is going through some of the memories that she has of this character, and you're not really super-sure of what their relationship is. There's this sort of attraction, or a little bit of a romance atmosphere between those characters, but it delves more into the topic of loss, and what happens after. And so, I wanted to put the story in, because of how it's related to [Morita's] debut story, and I couldn't get the debut story, so-- [Laughter] So it's just one I had to do.
Let me ask you something. In the Glaeolia 1 feature we did, you had mentioned an interest in doing more of the horror stuff that's out there. Manga [horror] is kind of limited now to either Itō Junji, who's a kind of overnight-sensation-decades-in-the-making in English translation, or it's edgy stuff like Kago Shintarō. This story is kind of horror-ish, or horror-tinged. Is this an example of the sort of thing you were interested in?
ZHUCHKA: I'd say the stuff that I personally was wanting to do is a little bit more explicitly 'horror'. But yeah, the horror aspect of this-- or not horror, maybe it's more 'creepy'.
EMUH RUH: Even with Morita's [body of] work having a fair amount of stories that are at least partially gated, because they're involving a larger publisher-- there's all this other work that they've put out self-published, or through Utopia Grass. But looking through those, there were some qualities about this one that stood out, which is really tying into what you're saying about the unsettling or creepy atmosphere: the sub-textual yuri [love-between-girls] element, but then the motif of unfinished business, and how the ending merges the external world and the internal world. It feels like when I read through this work specifically, there's a lot of really subtle, ambiguous stuff that's being echoed beyond just the relationship. When we were working on it, and then when we were doing the pre-press, every time I reread the story there was something more coming out of it, that I'm picking up on. It's really interesting, thoughtful work to me. Like zhuchka, I was just super-thrilled to have another Morita story.
Miki Yamamoto - "Family Restaurant" (A troubled child escapes into the wilds of a busy diner to find a new and better mom.)
The next author is somebody I have quite a lot to ask about. This is somebody who is both a comics artist and an academic [at the University of Tsukuba] - and, as you mention in the introductory essay, she's actually had a comic published in English in the University of Houston's literary journal, Gulf Coast. I think Jocelyne Allen translated that. Do you know how that even happened? Because that seems like-- is this an academic circle thing, or--
ZHUCHKA: I think Jocelyne contacted her about it. I would expect that was something where Jocelyne wanted to put something of hers into it.
EMUH RUH: Probably. Yeah, there may have been a connection between Jocelyne and the journal. It's vaguely possible that maybe [Gulf Coast] reached out to [Allen], or through a network of translators, looking for proposals. I could see Jocelyne proposing this because she wanted to work on it.
ZHUCHKA: I know Sunny Sunny Ann! and How Are You? [the book excerpted in Gulf Coast] are both pretty critically highly-regarded. I think they recently published Sunny Sunny Ann! in Spanish.
Well, let me let me move on to that, actually, because-- this story in Glaeolia 2 is an excerpt from Sunny Sunny Ann!, right?
EMUH RUH: Yes. This is an excerpt, it's like one of the chapters from-- I'll call it the early-middle of the book.
And this is pretty high-powered stuff. [Sunny Sunny Ann!] won the Tezuka Osamu Cultural Prize [specifically, it won Yamamoto the New Artist Award in 2013]. It has a French translation that was in competition at Angoulême [in 2019]. And it's a Kōdansha book. So, was there difficulty in getting this excerpt into Glaeolia?
EMUH RUH: Surprisingly, from our side, it was a little more streamlined. How the process worked was: I contacted Miki and introduced us and the project -- and Glaeolia 1, to give some context -- and then basically asked if she had some work that we could consider. I was kind of emboldened in doing this because of the fact that she'd been able to arrange to publish an excerpt in some other smaller venues. So it's like: okay, maybe this is feasible. There was kind of a big delay, where on her end she went and contacted-- I think I'd asked if there was something recent or unpublished that she could use, but it didn't seem like there was anything that would work very well, from what I remember. And so, she went “well, let me see what I can work out,” and basically contacted the publisher, and was able to arrange for us to use this, given suitable restrictions regarding the size of the publication [i.e. the print run] or rights therein, and that kind of thing.
So she hooked you up with Kōdansha in Japan, then.
EMUH RUH: Basically. And arranged it so, from our perspective, it was actually pretty streamlined. Like, I talked to her, and we kind of got an idea of what kind of [story] I'd like, and then she did all the legwork of figuring out what would be possible, and then just said “you could use this story, subject to these restrictions.” We were pretty happy with the outcome.
SIDEBAR: Call Me by My Name
There's an interesting thing I noticed here. Yamamoto and some of the other authors have their names presented [in the text of Glaeolia 2] in the western naming order, where the given name is first, and the family name is later. Whereas, the other authors have their names in the Japanese naming order, with the family name first, and the given name later. Is that the author's preference?
EMUH RUH: Um, yeah. This is probably something that should be explained better in the book. [Laughs] But how this process works is, we arrange for the stories and start working on them, and then we start getting ready to prepare the author bios, and I reach out and ask all the authors-- I ask them two questions. “Is there specific information that you want in your bio?” Like, do you have a bio that you want us to use? Typically, the biographic information or the professional information they provide, we end up augmenting, because we want to introduce the authors to English readers, who aren't going to know anything about the author except what they read. And then: “how do you want your English name to be presented?”
So, for example, from Glaeolia 1, “mogcom”, you know-- that's the English version of their Japanese pseudonym. There are situations where we have contributors that are using a pseudonym, like oratnir in this one-- they're just maintaining their pseudonym. And then there are other instances where the author might have a preferred format, like [Shinnosuke] Saika from Glaeolia 1. I'm pretty sure they write their name in reverse, compared to the conventional way of writing it. Our format default is that we're writing it [in English] in the same manner as it's written in Japanese. But if Maiko Dake already uses “Maiko Dake” [which reverses the naming order of the Japanese 嶽まいこ], then we'll use Maiko Dake instead of Dake Maiko.
EMUH RUH: The authors can specify exactly how they want their name to be presented. And, if they don't specify, or they're just fine with the default, then we preserve however it is written in Japanese, just anglicizing the characters. And then there's Kenya Oba, for instance, where the way it's written in English doesn't really specify the pronunciation, like how in Japanese there's a long o sound. So maybe in this case there's an argument that we should provide that information [i.e. “Kenya Ōba”, with a macron over the O], but we're just following how their name has been written in English before, and how they want it written. So we're writing it “first” in the family name order and exact English characters, as opposed to a phonetic way of writing it. It makes for a somewhat inconsistent experience, because each time is how the author wanted it presented, which means they're not all written in the same format or order, or anything like that.
INA - "Days" (The world is small, until it is big.)
The next artist is INA, and you made note that this is an original story they made for Glaeolia 2. Is that correct?
EMUH RUH: Yes.
Is this the only world premiere in Glaeolia, or were there any other ones in there?
EMUH RUH: I'm 100% certain this is the only brand-new work created for Glaeolia at this point. All the other ones are existing works.
Okay. It's interesting, because it's almost like a series of gag strips, that sort of build to something a little more atmospheric, like with the accrual of them. Is this characteristic of their work? I think they're [online with] Torch, but I don't know if they've published very widely.
ZHUCHKA: This story that we have from them is actually a side-story to their ongoing [webcomic] series [Making Do] with Torch right now. If you look at the series on Torch, you'll see it's a continuation of the same characters. I haven't read the entire thing, but I don't think it's a standard family. Like, the child is actually his niece or something. A lot of the story has to do with this main character caring for this girl, and hoping that he's doing a good job.
The other book that they published was actually-- Torch was running a contest, like all the other magazines, that sort of puts you on the fast track to getting a publishing deal and becoming a mangaka. [INA] was writing books on their own before, but they entered this story called “Delivery Manga” which they wrote while working as a milk delivery person. At that time, I guess they just decided 'I want to start to draw manga' and sort of chronicled both of these things going on, like [INA's] job as well as their process of what they did to develop their manga talent.
EMUH RUH: They were [also] putting out these seasonal little zine-like minicomic issues, like a small staple-bound monthly diary. They have also done some individual illustration stuff, and then they also did something else, which I'm basically mentioning just because I really like it - it's called Escape Journey. It's interesting because they self-published the first issue, and it's got a rough English translation, and it comes back to the style of this piece that we're publishing in Glaeolia 2, where it's structured as small kinds of vignette chapters, which are maybe a couple pages long, drawn in color. It's like an accumulation of mundane daily strips, except it's much more fantastical. Like, the first page is this person who's living in a town, and a skeleton figure sees him and tells him that he needs him to go do this task, take this beam weapon and go and slay someone, and the person's like “I don't want to do that, no thanks.” And so the skeleton curses him and he turns into a frog or toad person, and from that point on he's perpetually cursed in the city, and he's always just trying to escape, and there's people running around wearing bunny masks, like children that will bully strangers if they catch them, so he hides in a trash can. He eventually sells his beam weapon that the skeleton gave him; he sells it to this passerby merchant, who gives him a half-functional flashlight so he can travel through the overpass tunnels that are super-dark, and so the character flicks the light on and off to make it last, to get through. The ending of the issue is super-atmospheric, but I don't want to say anything about it, because I feel like you need to have read up to that point to really get the impact.
That wasn't that long ago, it was when they were doing “Delivery Manga”, and so, kind of emboldened by seeing a couple pages of that, and seeing it was bilingual, I connected with them and asked about picking up some issues for myself. And since I really liked that, I kept in touch with them. So, even though they're putting out a current serialization, and they just had this big book release with Milk Delivery Diary [a 2020 collection of milk-delivery strips] with Torch-- since they'd kind of been involved with Suika and other magazines, and I'd talked to them personally, I had that connection. I felt like maybe there was a chance they'd be willing to contribute work. So that's what led to [my] reaching out, and they were actually the one that suggested creating a new work. So it was really cool.
Shino Ura - "Flower Petals" & "Prologue Epilogue" (How it is when petals fall; what it's like to die all the time.)
The next author, Shino Ura-- this stuff is very strange, and I enjoy strange things. It's very, very writerly, almost essayistic. I think they had some stuff that either was in Kadokawa's Comic Beam [a monthly magazine aimed at connoisseurs of comics], or at least came out under the auspices of Comic Beam in book format.
ZHUCHKA: Yes, yes.
What's Shino's work generally like? They seem to have published in a bunch of different areas, and this is pretty unique stuff - the first story is this lengthy narrative about observations and sensations, and then we have the second story about ghosts, and people existing in a haunted state without necessarily being completely aware of that. So, is this kind of what their work is like? I'm just fascinated.
ZHUCHKA: Well, I can tell you that a lot of their stories are a bit more like the second story. They're a little bit concerned with weird situations or weird characters-- but at the same time, there's a lot of them that also have the larger questions that the first story has. In that way, I think Shino Ura is pretty similar to Mishima Yoshiharu. The stories are often pretty heady in a way. They're so high-concept. They're a pretty interesting person. Actually, I forgot to mention-- nerunodaisuki, I got to know on Tumblr. And Shino Ura was somebody else that I found on Tumblr, and at first I didn't know this person was a mangaka. But sometimes they would post pictures from some of the works they were doing. And I saw they had this website of all of their comics, and I don't think they did any conventions or anything. Like, they had just been doing this online comic thing by themselves for years. Eventually they got on Twitter, and one of their stories got retweeted-- I think it was 50k or something. It was a lot, and that's how they ended up in Comic Beam, because Beam contacted them afterwards. But the stories that you see in the books that Beam put out-- like, only one of them per book is actually an original. All the other stories in those books are old webcomics that you could have read online before.
So yeah, they're really cool. Their stories are-- I don't think 'cold' is the right word, maybe 'mystical' is better? Some of it is concerned with the writing of the mythology of certain things, like the God of roads or mountain people. [Laughs] It's really interesting. I know Kadakowa was trying to see if any English publishers were interested, but I think it's a little bit too weird for the western market. The art style is also very particular, so-- you can't just sell it based on looking pretty.
Yeah, it's a mix of photographs and the kind of very, very gestural drawing that I associate with '90s American comics that were sort of influenced by manga, but not actually manga, you know?
ZHUCHKA: It does have that look, because the faces are not conventional. It's a real mix, because it has that sort of simple face, but then the [background] details are also quite developed. You have to be a little bit more open-minded about what manga looks like before you can actually get into the story, and if you aren't willing to accept that the look may not be what you normally expect from manga, then you might end up missing out on something that's pretty cool.
EMUH RUH: And other thing is, you know-- if you're looking through the stories on their site, there's a lot of juxtaposition of the ordinary and extraordinary elements, and just letting those interplay without eliciting anything unusual. It's just a facet of the world, and you have to able to take it in stride, kind of like the characters. But also, as you read it, it's commenting on the aspect of taking it in stride. I'm getting too specific, but these works-- I'm not trying to say all of their works have this feeling, or are like this, but it's if you took a slice-of-life kind of feeling comic, but took it in a totally different, 180 direction, versus the kind of slice-of-life manga that are usually presented in the west.
ZHUCHKA: [Shino] was doing a lot of interesting stuff in their comics online. Like, they would not only juxtapose real photos with the art, but they're doing stuff that you can only really do with images online, like moving GIFs and also like-- I remember there's one comic where one of the characters puts on some sort of goggles, and the left side is different than the right side. So [Shino] was formatting the comic so that it was a two-page display, and the left and the right were different. They're doing a lot of stuff that you really couldn't make an equivalent to when you're actually going to print the book. [Laughter] It was interesting to see some of that get adapted. But yeah, they're doing a lot of that kind of experimenting as well. There still is a large amount of their work online, so if people are interested, they can always go to the website before they get taken down. Like, half of it's up there, but if it's in a book then you're supposed to go to get the book.
Actually, one thing about the work that we included: originally, I wanted to put in a different comic, but that was one of the ones we couldn't get, even though it's not published yet. I think that will be in their next [Japanese] collection. It was a story that I was interested in for a really long time, and I'd contacted them before about translating it, and they were sort of like “yeah, sure, as long as the Japanese publisher doesn't hear about it.” That was before Glaeolia, so I ended up not going through with it but-- really, we were looking at a series of their stories. The total was like a hundred-something pages. It was really big.
EMUH RUH: Even before then, I actually did try reaching out when we were organizing Glaeolia 1, because there was a work of theirs that I liked, and at the time it was available on the website. But eventually [the request] got redirected into contacting the publishers, probably because I didn't realize it was about to be included in [a Japanese collection]. I think I ended up hearing after we had printed [Glaeolia 1] that the final decision was no, we couldn't use it. [Laughter]
ZHUCHKA: They've done pretty well getting discovered on Twitter, from basically being this person that only certain people would know about online. The first [collected] book got 10th place on the 2020 This Manga is Amazing! list [an annual guidebook from the publisher Takarajimasha, which highlights noteworthy manga from the past year]. It's done well, which is good, because the casual barrier to entry is a little bit high for some of this stuff. But once you read it, it's not something that people wouldn't be able to follow. It's just the art style and the stories are not very normal. [Laughter]
Kenya Oba - "Lisa's Left Hand" (A lonely girl befriends the new boy in town: a travelling performer with the ability to read minds.)
The next author is Kenya Oba, and-- not that there aren't other long stories, but this is the only other 40+ page story in Glaeolia 2. You mention in the essay that this was a dōjin work. Was this just a book that they put out at a show, or--
EMUH RUH: I don't know the specific original publication. I'm guessing probably they presented it as just that story by itself. How I was introduced to it, was through the Comitia Chronicles [aka Comitia 30th Chronicle] anniversary book, where it was included as one story of many.
Is this a book that Comitia itself puts together?
ZHUCHKA: Yeah, it was put out by Comitia [in 2014] to celebrate its 30th anniversary. The Chronicles collection was three books. The lineup they put together was pretty much all authors that are commercially active now, and it's sort of a “hey, look at all our alumni” thing. Not anything totally comprehensive.
EMUH RUH: I would say out of all of the pieces involved, that one was definitely by far the most difficult to set up. I don't even remember how I found it-- maybe it was listed somewhere in [Chronicles], but I tracked down the author's website, which is very old, and I was kind of surprised it was still up. And, from there, I found a contact email for them, and I actually heard back, which kind of blew my mind because I thought I was throwing a note in the sea. They got in touch, and, basically, I found out that the rights to the story had transferred from the original publisher to a new publisher, maybe on a temporary basis, so they reached out and found someone there - and then, after all that happened, I still had to explain everything and come to some usage agreement that would work. It was definitely very long and drawn out. I don't mean it as a bad thing, but it was definitely the hardest story to set up, compared to all the other ones. We got the final files pretty last-minute.
ZHUCHKA: I think a lot of people will find that one to be pretty enjoyable. There's a lot of mainstream appeal to it.
[Oba's] art style is-- I think they're another one who works in picture books and illustration. It's very detailed in that kind of semi-European way you would associate with, I suppose, Studio Ghibli or Miyazaki [Hayao] or something. That kind of agrarian Europe sort of feel.
EMUH RUH: Yeah, I know what you mean. Ghibli-esque is the casual adjective that would spring to mind when we were working on this. I don't know for sure, but I believe that [the initial printing] was done by hand-- or at least the final product. They only kept the physical manuscript, because when [the story] was included in later publications, all the publisher had was the scanned manuscript page. And that was all [Oba's] files were, actually.
ZHUCHKA: I'd say that it's not just their art style that is Ghibli-esque, but also the content of the story-- the feel of it is super-Ghibli.
The very 'emotional youth' kind of stuff. [Laughter]
ZHUCHKA: Yeah, I think most of their art definitely gives that sort of magical Disney vibe. [Laughter]
Masami Kuroki - "China" (When you die, they smash your pots and plates, and they throw the pieces into the lake, and the pieces are worn down until they are beautiful, and thus you are commended to the earth.)
The final artist we have in Glaeolia 2 is Masami Kuroki. In these two volumes, we've had many contributors from Utopia Grass, but this is the founder of that magazine, and I guess I was wondering-- this is kind of an idyllic scene at the sea. Is this representative of regionalism? Like, is this very reminiscent of the Kansai area, which is I think where Utopia Grass comes from?
ZHUCHKA: Is it “representative”?
Is it depicting the area, or--
ZHUCHKA: I did talk to [Kuroki] a while ago about this story, because-- actually, I had to contact him when I was trying to find issues of Utopia Grass. He had them on his personal site, but the personal site didn't take international credit cards. So I was trying to figure out some way to buy [the magazines], and I was talking to him about this story, and he said that it was inspired by a practice that is actually done. But I don't know where it is. It definitely has that more 'outdoors' feel as opposed to the city, but it's not like Kansai is all countryside or anything like that. [Laughs] I remember wanting to end with these pieces [i.e. this story and Shino Ura's “Prologue Epilogue”, which are the final stories in Glaeolia 2], because this story has to do with a custom [for] when somebody passes. I thought it would be good to end on this one, as well as the Shino Ura one with the ghost. You asked a little bit about the Halloween stuff earlier-- I mean, it's horror-related related, but not horror itself.
EMUH RUH: This is actually one of his first works.
EMUH RUH: Yeah, when I talked to him, I asked if there were any pieces he would be particularly interested in, and he suggested three pieces. I kind of liked all three of them. [“China”] and another one I thought were particularly strong, but even the third one I liked a lot - it had some pretty cool art. Some sections made me think of Antoine Cossé, some of his loose, brushy-like inking. But we kind of reached consensus, and I was like “yeah, how about we do 'China', this one looks really cool.” And he was like “oh, that's my first work.” I dunno, it's just a cool tidbit.
BONUS: Three more artists!
Well, that's a lot of statements about the authors of Glaeolia 2. Do we want to quickly talk about some of the other artists working with Glacier Bay Books?
EMUH RUH: Yeah, that sounds nice.
Hagiwara Rei - Ripples
I'm fascinated by Ripples, because you're doing two separate versions. You have the standard, black & white version, and then you worked in conjunction with the artist on an alternate, risograph-printed version, which actually has color in it. I'm wondering-- was that a particular interest of the author?
EMUH RUH: I think how it came about was back at the stage of originally deciding how I wanted to print it. I had a certain price point in mind that I wanted to hit, because one of my goals was to try and make it more accessible, in the sense that it [would be] easier to wholesale and distribute. To do that, I need to be able to hit a certain production price point where I can sell it, and there's enough of a margin that I can sell it to stores, and they can sell it. So there's all these considerations in the background, and then I have a budget of what we have to have set aside for the Glaeolia project, and all these other things.
So I was talking to Cold Cube, to get a sense of what it might cost to print Ripples-- I wanted to make it with them, because I liked how the other books came out. But we weren't able to hit that price point that I felt I needed to hit in order to be able to wholesale it comfortably. And so, I kind of pivoted, and I was like “all right, I'll figure something else out,” like print it somewhere else that's maybe more efficient in terms of cost. We were still able to do a bunch of nice things [with a different printer], like soft cover paper and all that stuff. There's still some deluxe aspect to [the b&w edition], but at the same time, I was also talking to [Cold Cube] about Glaeolia, and for some reason or another I had an idea in mind that-- you know, I've already figured out printing Ripples, but Cold Cube makes pretty nice books. So, what if I could make a short run edition of Ripples, and just have a lot of fun with the printing of it, because it wasn't the main one? Maybe we could try printing in color. Though I hadn't talked to the author yet, I felt that even if they were attached to doing black & white specifically, since it was kind of like a small-number side project, they might be flexible about trying something different.
What I did is, I contacted Cold Cube, and I was like “okay, I know we talked this through before, and we had a certain price point and it didn't quite work out, but what if we printed less books so that each book cost more, but I just sell them for more money?” I don't have to worry about wholesaling and all that stuff as long as it breaks even. And so, we figured it out: even if each book costs twice as much, if you're only printing 50 or 100, you're saving a lot of money-- versus the print run for the [b&w] Ripples, which is actually pretty large.
Was the Japanese version of Ripples in black and white?
EMUH RUH: Yes, I've actually seen pictures of it, but my copy is currently held up in Japan. Basically, [a color version] started as this extra idea. So I suggested it to [Hagiwara], and they were like “that sounds awesome.” So, at that point, we were like okay, we'll print it in teal, instead of black, and we'll do a soft touch cover, because I really like that. I think a lot of people really like that. I'd commissioned new artwork to serve as the endpapers for the standard version, but then I took that, and used it to create the cover of the riso version. And then I talked to Cold Cube, and I was like “what if we did spot color, what would that cost?” [McCulloch laughs] And I figured out, it's no big deal if I want to spot color a couple pages - we're still within budget.
And that's when it got interesting, because, obviously, to do the spot color, you need to have separate files for your color layers. As you can probably surmise just from reading it, [Ripples] is mostly drawn like watercolors, like a painted manuscript. Maybe there's a couple layers for the SFX or the speech bubbles.
Yeah, it's washy.
EMUH RUH: Effectively, I'm working with flat files for everything. So, I had to spend a bit of time with the author picking out what pages we wanted to do the red spot color on, like which would have like a big impact, and then [I spent] a bunch of time trying to manually separate the different layers, and create those from scratch. That was kind of fun and exciting, but also a little difficult, and I was definitely nervous about the final product-- even after I sent the files to Cold Cube, I was worried they'd write back and be like “alright, this doesn't look like it's usable.” I was excited when they said “yeah, this looks good, I don't even think we need to tweak anything.” Then I got the test prints, and realized it was gonna look pretty fantastic.
It's basically a totally new incarnation of the work.
EMUH RUH: It was this kernel of an idea that I was pretty excited about, I when I told the author, they were really excited about it too. They basically said it was so cool to see a really nicely-printed version of [their] book, with all this special stuff that that [they] wouldn't necessarily see with two-color printing and stuff. This is definitely a bit of an experiment, but when you're just printing a small run of things, you can take more risks, because you don't have to sell as many. You don't have like 300 copies of Glaeolia, and you're not sure if they'll sell in two years. It was kind of just this passion project-- we had a bit of budget flexibility at the time, so it's like “let's do this right, let's make something new and exciting and see what we can do with it.”
Ayumu Arisaka - En chan
Stepping away from print entirely, you also have work from Ayumu Arisaka coming out. I think En chan is your second digital release after the Mississippi collection you did a while back [Tsukiko and the Satellite and other stories]?
EMUH RUH: Yeah, that would be correct. There's just so many things we could talk about with respect to this, huh? The original idea with doing a digital release with the Mississippi story collection was facilitated by two things: one was COVID happening; and [second] wanting to streamline the book-making process and reduce costs from printing, so that I could like put out something really quick as an experiment, to see if that was a good way to help support authors. And, I mean, it was good in the sense of paying authors, because I paid them up front, you know-- a manuscript fee or an 'advance' or whatever. I payed them some upfront money. But, what I found was - it's kind of difficult to convince people to buy digital books. [Laughter] I know I'm breaking headlines here. If that had done well, then I probably would have tried to do a bunch of things. Basically, the end product of that was it makes more sense to do things in print, but doing them digitally is also nice in terms of accessibility-- for a lot of reasons.
So that's the context for when we approached Saigo no Shudan [the video collective of which Arisaka is a member] about En chan. And what happened with that was-- you probably know [En chan] was digitally serialized on this website called Manba, and it has a lot of features that make it really digital-oriented. Like, if you were to scroll through the website and read through the chapters, you'd see there's pages that have animations. There are pages that have different sizes-- I mean, you can chunk them apart into individual pages, but effectively they're presented as a long scrolling three-page-tall page of action that has panels moving in and out, but is basically one continuous flow of of movement.
It's like a Korean webtoon, almost.
EMUH RUH: Yeah. Part of that almost certainly comes from [Arisaka's] background, where they do a lot of animation work and collaborative work. I think I follow them on Instagram-- I don't really use Instagram very much, but I happened to catch one of their chapter updates, and scrolling through I was just like “wow this comic is blowing my mind, it's really cool.” I really wanted to work with them, so I reached out, and basically what I proposed is that we'd serialize it digitally, kind of based on the way they've been putting out a chapter each time. So, we could put out the English version of each chapter, and just release it as they're ready, and then at the end we can compile it into-- there's ten chapters, so probably compile it into two books, or one long book maybe. And just do it digitally first, because that makes sense based on their current format.
Part of this is an experiment to see if we [should] break digital works down into more of a chapter experience, or use more natively-digital content, like with color, where it's like more difficult to do it in print.
Is this going to be a pay-per-chapter thing, or--
EMUH RUH: I think it's going to be something like where you pay per chapter, but I think it would be kind of nice to have a bundling feature.
Like a subscription.
EMUH RUH: Yeah, or like pay for three chapters once they're all available, or something like that. It's an experiment - and, to be honest, I'm still figuring out exactly the best way of doing it. Like, is the best way to have people buy an individual chapter and download the file, or maybe it's better to try and embed it in a private web page that they can access-- kind of to mimic how Manba is set up, with each chapter being a web page, if I want to keep the [animated] GIFs? If I release this digitally, as a serialized thing, it lets me slowly put it out and layer a lot of different pieces together, which works better timing-wise, because-- timing of releases is a really tricky thing to work out, especially when it includes print. With Glaeolia 2, because we're doing 500 copies, the cost was above what I'd estimated. So I had set aside some money, and then it was like “oh, we're gonna need more than this.” And that impacted, like-- basically, I had Glaeolia 2, and F at the beginning of next year, because I want to release it in time for the ten-year anniversary [of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster, about which the book is concerned]. So I need to have this much money set aside to print this book, and have this much by then, and so-- basically, some of the money that I thought would be available for certain projects got partially absorbed into other ones.
So it's really nice to have something like En chan, where I don't have to worry about printing costs for a while.
Imai Arata - F
So what about F, the Imai Arata book that you're doing with [translator] Ryan Holmberg?
EMUH RUH: Actually, I don't know if I announced this anywhere, but zhuchka is doing all the typesetting, and we're going to get Tim [Sun], who did sfx with Glaeolia 1 and 2 to do that on the F release as well. It's going to be a whole group project.
This is going to be a print book?
EMUH RUH: Yes it is. I should touch base with with Ryan soon about revisions and stuff, but he has an essay that he's going to contribute, which is-- what his releases are known for. [Laughter] Not to be too crass, but if I go on forums, I'll find posts by people who are like “I'm gonna buy that book for the Holmberg essay!”
It's the personal touch.
EMUH RUH: It's the personal touch! You don't put out a Holmberg-translated book without an essay. We haven't published too much in the way of details or preview pages or anything, just because we're busy, and there's all this other stuff that we want to nail down first, but-- ideally, we want to get it out by the 10th anniversary. This maybe sounds kind of funny, but-- this is motivated by actually seeing people contact Ryan about this, like “I want to use this in my class, will it be available?” It's a very interesting work. You see a lot of cinematic influence in it, I feel like.
And this is a very small-press book. I think it had a print run in just the hundreds in Japan.
EMUH RUH: Yeah, if I remember correctly, like 200 [copies] or something. It was pretty much unknown. I actually hadn't heard of the author before-- what happened is, Holmberg kind of reached out. We'd been in touch for various things, because he knows Kawakatsu [Tokushige], and so he knew about Glaeolia from him before. So we were kind of talking about that, and [Holmberg] basically mentioned that he was interested in this work, would it be the kind of thing we'd like to do? And I hadn't even heard of the author before then, so I was looking into it, and-- you might remember, but it was presented at these kind of avant-garde art shows? Like in addition to, or even maybe as part of the installation? I mean, to give you context, after I announced [the translation], my contact from TACO ché [a Japanese retailer of indie media] actually reached out and asked about getting copies there. [Laughter] Normally that goes the other way. It's pretty underground.
EMUH RUH: It's a pretty exciting project, because it's a contemporary work, but in a totally different direction than a lot of the other stuff we've worked on. The topic is really interesting - there's a lot of imagery that is targeted at the government response [to the Fukushima disaster], and the radicalized forces kind of aspect. I may be reaching a little too far with this, but from what I remember, there's this certain character-- I think Holmberg describes it as like a Pennywise character, who's leading one of the more radical, violent factions that's taking over. This imagery-- a scratchy, straggly, kind of scribbled clownish face, conveys this uncertain manic energy. And it gets repeated, almost echoed over the main character, because-- not to give out plot spoilers, but when [the main character] encounters this character, he eventually has to, in a sense, confront external and internal demons. So there's a lot of darkness and reckoning, you know-- this kind of scraggly art is juxtaposed with still images of the countryside, and you can kind of see the environmental fallout of the tragedy, but also [the fallout] of the policies that were then adopted, I think. Obviously, this is a fictional work, but the effect of the policies that are being recorded in this fictional work-- there's almost a quasi-documentary aspect, where it travels through the countryside, and you see maybe a full-page spread of the wreckage that's left.
Anyhow, I'm probably spending too much time on stuff I shouldn't give spoilers about, but it's going to be pretty exciting, and I'm really looking forward to it. So, hopefully early 2021.
Is there anything else you'd like to mention?
EMUH RUH: We're planning on doing a print version of Tsukiko, the Mississippi story collection. It's going to be an expansion of the digital version, so we're adding a bunch of new stories-- taking some stories that already exist in out-of-print stuff they've done, but also some new stories that they're drawing now, or have just recently created. It's on a flexible timeline, because they're still drawing some stories, and we have to figure out what time works best.
I have something else, but I'm going to keep it in the back pocket for a while.