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June 24, 2004

{     Interview : Junko Mizuno     }    

Viewing Junko Mizuno's work is like getting your ass kicked five different ways. At first you think it's fuzzy and adorable, kind of like Precious Moments meets typical anime mascot cuteness- then you notice the blood, the nudity, the black magic. Junko's girls don't just pull at your heart-strings, they pull out your guts. This is what would happen if all those cute, mute icons that little girls are supposed to love and emulate suddenly woke up and went on a murderous, self-empowered rampage. Realizing their sexuality, their physical power and their individuality, they carve a path for themselves right through your expectations. What results is the perfect mixture of not-quite-right and deliciously wrong.

Adam: People seem to have a hard time defining your work, settling for phrases like "kawaii-grotesque or "ultra-violent, ultra-cute. How do you refer to your style?
Junko: I think it is interesting to "define" my work, and I certainly understand that different people express their impressions (about my work) in various ways, but it is hard for me to express in words what my style is. It is a natural progression of my work to go through change, and I am certainly ever-changing, so in short, I think it may be meaningless to categorize my work.

Contradictions seem to be inherent to what you do. Your images are at once attractive and repulsive, sexy and scary. Your stories always start with a very traditional idea and then warp into something completely different. Are you a rebel at heart?
I don't think my work has contradictions, and I am not consciously trying to put them in my work. I think it is totally natural for both attractive and repulsive things to coexist in my work because those things coexist in real life. In contrast, I view the work that only depicts one aspect of life to be much more contradictory. Therefore, I am not trying to destroy or change the tradition or go against the world for that matter; I simply want people to enjoy my work.

I am impressed with your ability to overcome many of the stereotypes inherent in manga. You have made a name for yourself in manga and illustration by doing your own thing, and doing something completely different and unique from the rest of the field. Has it been hard to find an audience for your work, and have you faced many struggles in bringing your work to the public?
Like I said earlier, there were times in the past when, even though I was thinking that I was drawing completely natural things, some people thought that I was intending to shock people or somehow trying to create a controversial work. Some people also think that my work is stylish but lacks substance. However, on the other hand I've also found a larger audience than I expected to, who have an understanding of my work, so I don't think I have faced many struggles in bringing my work to the public.

Your main characters tend to be strong women, capable of independent action and full of their own will. Are you that type of person? How much of you ends up in the characters you create?
Basically, I am drawing ideal women that I want to be or aspire to be, and although I think I am making an effort to be as close to them as possible in real life, I can not make an objective judgment as to how close I am to the characters that I create. I just aspire to be close to them..... Comparatively speaking, I think I am independent and have a strong will for a Japanese woman. Because of that, many people tell me that I am "scary".

Do you find more women reading your manga, or more men?
The fans in Japan who come to an event like my autograph-signing sessions are overwhelmingly women, but those who respond to the questionnaire cards that are attached to my manga books are both men and women in equal proportion. It is difficult to have a grasp of what is the exact proportion of men and women among my fans.

Were you surprised at all by the success of your manga work in the US and abroad?
I was genuinely surprised and I am glad by the response.

I understand that you have been closely involved with the transition of your work from its original format to a colorized "flopped" English version. How happy are you with the way the US versions of your work have turned out?

I am almost completely satisfied with the English versions of my work since all my requests have been taken as they are, and are reflected in these versions. They even overcame the parts that I didn't like in the Japanese versions, and they are much improved to my satisfaction.

You also got to do a book tour in the US- how did that go and what did you think of the audience and the US in general?
I can honestly say that the tour was a huge success, and I was really surprised to see more crowds of fans at the autograph-signing session in the US than such event in Japan. Many of the Japanese fans are much too shy to break out a natural conversion with me, but it was refreshing to find many American fans naturally expressing their feelings and opinions to me, and it was great.

Are your fans obsessive (otaku-style) or generally more laid back and chilled out?
Judging from the fans who came to my autograph-signing, there were truly many types of fans. They were mainly young men and women though, but I sometimes met fans like mothers with children or older men. It is hard to tell by just meeting fans at the autograph signing that they were obsessive or not, but I had an impression that obviously otaku looking people were generally scarce.

You've illustrated some album covers for techno compilations in Japan, and I was wondering what type of music you listen to?
I listen to many different types of music. If I have to pick my favorites, I would pick Ministry and White Zombie, but I listen to 70's Japanese pop music, and of course, I listen to techno as well. I even listen to Madonna or Christina Aguillera sometimes. When I listen to music and my ears find it good, I will often buy the CD- doesn't matter new or old, in any genre. It's a waste to not enjoy it.

What are you listening to right now?
I am listening to "The Mars Volta" album.

How important is music to you as an influence or inspiration?
I think it's very important. For illustrations or manga ideas, they usually creep up in my head when I am listening to music while taking a walk.

Are you still working with clothing label Fine?
Yes. Just now, a new T-shirt is being created.

Is clothing design something you want to do more of?
I think so. As long as there are people who enjoy them, I want to continue.

Your Miznotic Fantasy vinyl figures are amazing! Do you have plans for more toys and dolls?
Yes, this one is also moving along. When something solid comes out, I will announce them on my website - www.MIZUNO-JUNKO.com - so check it out.

Do you collect toys? If so, what do you like?
Yes I do, and rather than collecting dolls like Barbie dolls, I prefer those toys that also express the world in which these dolls live. For example, I like Polly Pocket, Strawberry Shortcake, My Little Pony, Liddle Kiddle, and the Japanese doll "Kodae-chan". However, I've already collected them all- so these days, it is becoming my new hobby to discover favorites among the old toys that were unknown or were not so popular.

Would you like to see your characters and designs animated? Is that something you're working towards?
I don't have anything concrete at this time, but anime is certainly an attractive media. With enough time and money, it is one of the projects that I want to take on.

What are you working on right now, and what can we look forward to from Junko Mizuno?
I am little by little creating a new illustration book. Because I have monthly manga publication work that keeps me occupied, the progress on this new illustration book is slow, but I think it will be a great work, so please stay tuned. Also, an English version of other manga is slated to be published soon.

Thank you very much.

    » Junko's official site
    » Buy Junko merch
    » Visit Fine

Comments

I love this sheeeeeeettt! :-P

Posted by: Darren at July 15, 2004 10:32 AM

I love what this girl can do!!!!!

Posted by: Narjeisse at September 13, 2005 9:20 AM

Hello! I LOVE your work! It is sooo inspiring! I am an artist as well, from Brazil, Sao Paulo and I`m going to Tokyo in October, I would love to meet you!

Good luck with all the work you have been doing! *~,~*

Posted by: Waleska at September 13, 2005 11:01 AM

Wow, this work is amazing and SO original.

Posted by: Emma at September 20, 2005 12:29 AM

i see u & i see my way thanks

Posted by: ampi8 at October 7, 2005 11:48 AM

Junko Mizuno is a lady.

Her work is definitely ORIGINAL. I have to say that some people in my home country, are pillaging her style. And sadly some of them just forget to hold her up as an example.
Just to re-establish.


Cl?©mence fro:m Paris.

Posted by: Cl?©m at November 14, 2005 6:40 PM

Kawaii deshou?

We think so.

But more importantly, does the bizarre juxtaposition of zombiesque violence and gore throw the simple adorable attractiveness of this woman's work off balance?

I think not. Indeed, if anything, it only highlights it. The ability to be both gruesome and gorgeous is a trait that more women should strive for. You shouldn't be afraid of killing a few people; after all, you can always fix your makeup afterwards. If your boyfriend cheats on you, castrate him with a pair of hedgeclippers- wile wearing a cute fuzzy skirt and platforms, and listening to Utada Hikaru. Disturbing? Perhaps. Strange? Definitely.

Worth reading?
Every time.

Posted by: Kalia at January 6, 2006 3:18 AM

Empowered? By what, inner childhood? When I watch her cartoons, I see something inside me. The part that's still a sheltered happy child who would love to watch Carebears. Yet awoken and baffled by the sinister unforgiving world around me.

Junko Mizuno's artwork is the world my inner child lives in.

Her artwork takes the edge off of evil. Thank God for her what she's done.

Posted by: Joshua at January 12, 2008 1:19 PM
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