Interview with Sachiko Takeuchi

By Yuki Keiser 2007.March


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1. Love isn't easy - for anyone!

Profile: Sachiko Takeuchi
Native of Tokyo, Japan. Winner of the DaVinci (Literary Review Magazine) Petit-Grand Prize for Comic Essays. Her work was carried as a serial in the Media Factory's 'Comic Essay Gekijo'. Takeuchi's two published collections - Honey & Honey and Honey & Honey Deluxe are now on sale.
Related websites (Japanese):www.comic-essay.com/; sachinock.gooside.com/

★For an off-the-record chat with Sachiko Takeuchi, follow the link here.
★For more on Sachiko Takeuchi's latest manga, see here.

Still a young college student, Sachiko Takeuchi has already seen two of her comic essays released in print by a renowned Japanese publishing company. Made available in 2006 and 2007, her two graphic novels articulate - in the outspoken manner which has become her signature - her own experiences as a lesbian living with her girlfriend in Tokyo. Her work embodies the first time that a manga published by a mainstream press in Japan describes so openly the contemporary lifestyles of average lesbians. Her primary audiences are both lesbian and straight women. With her groundbreaking work, she has joined the ranks of Yamaji Ebine, another famous lesbian manga writer, in pushing for the discovery of a very new Japanese lesbian generation.

―First of all, I wanted to ask how your manga made it to print.

Takeuchi(T):
As a matter of fact, I've always loved drawing manga, and I had hoped that there'd be a way I could actually apply that in my life. Well, one day, I just happened to be reading DaVinci (Media Factory) and the words 'Comic Essay Petit-Grand Prize' caught my eye. I thought I could surely manage coming up with something in an essay format. And then, the topic of 'Love' was included in the themes given - so, it very well seemed that I had a unique kind of love that I could write about and share (laughs). I thought, "This is IT!" and submitted my work, which ended up receiving an award. Afterwards, they had me continue the strip as a series on the web, and eventually that went out for publication.

―When you submitted your first piece, were you apprehensive at all that your work would be scrapped because of the lesbian theme?

T:
To the contrary, I had figured that because of that theme, I was a shoe-in. I sent it in oozing with confidence (laughs).

―That's confidence to the nth degree! (laughs) What made you so sure it would work?

T:
Well, since most books on lesbian topics are so serious and place so much emphasis on the sexual aspect of it, I thought that surely a lot of people were eager to read something a little more frank.

―Since your editor is also here with us today I'd like to ask, was there any hesitancy on the part of the publishing house?

Editor(E):
Honey & Honey features illustrations that are simple yet really adorable - and at the same time it is chock full of a lot of different elements. The form that the love itself took just happened to be between two women, and this sweet imagery of the two together was well represented - like in how they are shown in conversation. Also, the theme was quite novel, and really conveyed to us a sense of something new, so on our end we were immediately bowled over by the feeling that, "We found IT!"

T:
Sure. And anyhow, if I had been cut at that point, I would've still walked away thinking, "You don't know what you're missing!" (laughs) That's just how strongly I felt about it (laughs).

―(laughs) When I first found about this manga, I was actually pretty shocked. I had never before come across a manga that represents our lives with such realism.

T:
I'm glad to hear that! (laughs)

―What kind of reaction did you get from readers?

E:
On the sash across the book cover we had "Love isn't easy - for anyone". And, sure, while two women in love are going to have a hard time, everyone has a hard time in love. It seems like people have been able to really relate and sympathize with the fact that we all go through the same sad and exciting aspects of a relationship.

sachiko takeuchi
※"Love isn't easy - for anyone" (「恋愛は、みんな大変」)

T:
A majority of readers who share their impressions with me are women. And I'd say about half of those women are straight, and half are gay. From lesbian readers, I've actually gotten a number of emails saying, "Reading your book brought out my courage - and I've come out to my parents!" And it's incredibly moving for me to read that. It makes me think, "No way! That's amazing! Tell me more!" (laughs)

E:
Also, there are quite a high number of gay male readers as well.

T:
Yes, gay men also. And some straight men. But not so many.

―The creator of The L Word said the same thing. That she received backing from straight women as well.

T:
Yeah, a lot of women write how happy it makes them to have someone show that they understand how a woman really feels. I even get a lot of feedback from women saying, "It makes me almost envious to think that all the things my boyfriend doesn't understand about me could be understood (if I was with a woman). (laughs)

―Was there any one theme that proved to be especially popular?

E:
Oddly enough, 'Women Who Can't Clean' was quite a hit (laughs). There wasn't anything about it that particularly related to the theme of love, so we didn't expect that it would be received so well. A lot of women responded with confessions like, "I can't clean either!" (laughs) Or "Actually it's my boyfriend that always has to tidy up, and he gets so angry at me because I can't clean!" It was interesting for me to realize that we had connected with the audience in that respect.

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① Boyfriend: "Man, this place is filthy". Can't you even clean up around here...you ARE a woman after all.
② Look who's talking?! YOU don't clean!
③ This would piss me off normally.
④ But to hear it from my girlfriend...
⑤ What a sty! Can't you clean this place up?! You ARE a woman, you know.
⑥ I get REALLY pissed off
⑦ ...And frustrated...!
⑧ Because it's coming from another woman.


―Have you had any negative reactions?

T:
When this material first went out, I was actually preparing myself for getting responses like, "Your work is worthless!" or "What incomprehensible crap!" But that didn't happen - not a single time. Rather, readers were quite happy.

E:
But what we got was, "I'd been waiting for this!" or "I'm glad someone's finally telling it like it is!" (laughs)

―I also saw the interview with you in the Japanese magazine Fujin Koron (July 22, 2006) which surprised me since it's such a famous - and remarkably 'straight' - magazine. Can you tell me how that came about?

T:
Fujin Koron actually saw my book in a bookshop and contacted me saying that they were doing a special issue on the theme of 'What is sex?' and they wanted to interview me. They said, "We want to look at a diversity of loves without getting hung up on heterosexuality; please share your experiences with us." And so I agreed to the interview.

―Going back to the book, were there any parts of your comic essay that you were kind of heedful about when illustrating them?

T:
Well, as a lesbian, I've never dated a man. Therefore, I have no idea of what is different (about lesbian love) from heterosexual love. And because of that, I’d be asking people and actually taking care to see that I was always looking for elements of what was different between these two, and what makes those differences interesting. In fact, during my interview with Fujin Koron, I was made aware of something new. The editor was asked, "Do lesbian couples celebrate anniversaries?" and when I responded, "How could we not" my editor said, "Straight couples really don't get into that so often." And, for once, it was my turn to react with an "Oh, really?! Is that how it is?!" (laughs)

―Have you ever felt that straight people misunderstand certain qualities in lesbian women?

T:
It's surprising but a lot of people think that lesbians are afraid of men. And so they seem to think that we would be disgusted or turned off by hearing about sex with a man and all. Personally, it's not like I harbor an interest in the subject, but I certainly don't hate or fear men. But maybe there are a lot of lesbians who do...? Umm, there are probably a lot of ways in which we are misunderstood (laughs).


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translated by rayna rusenko