Interview with manga writer Ebine Yamaji

By Yuki Keiser July 2007


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3. My work fits with American aesthetics

Profile: Ebine Yamaji
Manga writer Ebine Yamaji lives in Tokyo. Her novels, which include Sweet Lovin' Baby, Indigo Blue and Free Soul, are known for their rich portrayals of the lives of young women, and several have been serialized in Feel Young magazine, as well as published by Shodensha. In 2006, her manga story "Love My Life" was made into a well-known movie of the same title starring Asami Imajuku.

Readers interested in purchasing her books (Japanese text only) should visit www.s-book.com.

-- Have you ever gone to the gay district in Tokyo or any lesbian events, in order to research for your work?

Not at all. When I was writing "Love My Life" I didn't have any gay friends or acquaintances, so I simply took information that I had heard and seen through the course of my everyday life and used that as a base. Then I would steer the story using just my own personal sense, allowing myself to create something of a fantasy piece. When I was interviewed by the lesbian magazine Anise about "Love My Life", that was the first time I had ever met an out lesbian!

-- What was your interview with Anise like?

It seems that everybody was convinced I wrote my stories based on my own experiences, so when I explained that that wasn't the case, they acted so surprised. Like, "How could that be?!" (laughs)

-- Do you ever go out and explore the lesbian scene in Tokyo?

Later I became friends with some people who I'd hit the scene with sometimes, but we don't go out too frequently.

-- What do you think of conditions surrounding the lives of lesbian women in Japan today?

Well, I really don't know enough about anything to give my opinion. But I do think it's sad that no other commercial magazines for lesbians have been released since Anise left the market.

-- Out of your publications, which do you think was best received by readers?

Probably "Love My Life".

-- Why do you think that was?

"Love My Life" was not only a love story, but I think it incorporated a lot of characters and themes, like family relations and feelings of friendship, that were appealing to readers on a number of levels. And judging by the number of elderly readers we had, it seems that ordinary manga fans showed a universal interest in the story. My subsequent works tended to include fewer characters interacting in a less broadly sculpted world, and I kind of surmise that that probably resulted in limiting my reader base. However, female readers in their 30s tend to tell me that Indigo Blue was a big hit with them.

-- What is your own personal favorite?

Well, I like all of them (laughs). I put so much of myself into each of them!

-- In many of your works, Soul, R& B and funk are often set somewhere in the background. In real life, what sorts of music do you really gravitate towards? Do you listen to music when you are writing?

My favorites are soul, R & B and funk. And there is not a moment that I am not listening to music when I am writing (laughs).


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copyright Ebine Yamaji 'Free Soul'/Shodensha Feel Comics


-- You mentioned earlier that you listened to rock in high school - which bands did you like?

Ah, I loved Todd Rundgren. And I listened to XTC a lot. Right through my early-20's I was hooked on the new wave, punk and prog rock bands of the time. Pretty much all of my pocket money went into buying albums.

-- Do you listen to these bands even now?

No, I stopped listening to them a while back. Oh, but the one exception is that I do still buy CDs by David Sylvian.

-- Hey, he's the vocalist from the band, Japan! He's quite stylish!

Ohhh yeah! Though I don't listen to rock anymore, David Sylvian for whatever reason is the one guy that I continue to listen to.

-- As far as I can tell from reading your stories, it seems that you are drawn to American culture. Is that the case?

I guess you could say that, but it's not so much an interest as it is a sense that the design of my manga fits well with American culture. And I only mean American culture in the context of the sort of taste that it represents, you know.

-- In what way do they suit each other?

Well, in my manga I want to convey a light and optimistic feeling to the reader. And I personally feel that illustrations drawn with clean lines to show form visually lend more of a perfect American sensibility to the pages. In addition, I'm a real fan of novels in other countries and when I read stories by American writers, I get the sense that their works have the same feeling to them.

-- Who are your favorite fiction writers?

I haven't been reading much fiction lately, but I do like the American author Block - who I mentioned earlier - as well as Raymond Carver. Out of French writers I like A P de Mandiargues, and from among the British I like Tanith Lee. That would about sum it up.

-- Have you ever been to the US?

No, never (laughs).

-- Do you plan to?

I have no plans at this point, though I would like to go someday. Also, I'd like to go see Europe. I'm very attracted to the mood captured in French movies. Currently I'm working on a piece titled "Ai no Jikan" ("Time for Love") which I've been drawing with an entirely different flair - one more reminiscent of Europe.

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translated by rayna