Okaeri! I hope you had a great week out in the cold (most of our southern hemisphere friends don't know what they're missing). Personally, since I discovered this website I couldn't have been better. This week we're welcoming an atypical artist since whisky and j-pop are on the menu. Forget everything you thought you knew about the Scottish living in Japan, James Grant will show you how it all fits together:
-James, it's great to have you on FML, why did you decide to contribute to FML's traditional illustrated Saturday?
-It's great to be here! I have been a fan of FML for quite some time, and after starting my own webcomic a few months ago I wanted to challenge myself with something different.
-Is FML different enough ?
-Of course! The situations and gags are already pre-written, but there was a lot of legroom to inject some of my craziness into the final strip. The best part was trying not to take the scenario too literally, and finding different angles to tell the same gag from, then just seeing what sticks.
-It ended up being quite awesome. Tell us more about you, how old are you?
-Pretty sure I'm 25 physically, with the mentality of a 12 year old. I'm currently living in Japan in order to improve my language skills and artwork. Oh, and I love drinking tea. My fastest record is about 26 seconds, hoho.
-In which city do you live?
-I currently live in Aomori, which is to the North of Japan. Aomori is home to Japan's, and possibly the world's, most delicious apples, the famous Nebuta Matsuri festival, and incredibly long, cold winters.
-Japan, what a crazy adventure. Where were you from?
-I'm from Scotland originally. People used to run in fear when I told them this, but it turns out we aren't all caber-tossing, foul mouthed, skirt wearing, knife-wielding carnivores. We're actually a pretty nice bunch of people. Aside from the language barrier, dealing with culture shock was also a big hurdle for me, as most of my Japanese coworkers are incredibly quiet and extremely polite. Quite the opposite of what I am used to back home, haha.
-What's your job in this crazy country?
-By day I teach English at two Japanese High Schools, and by night I draw comics! One of the schools I teach at majors in technology, so it's a lot of fun being able to interact with the children through topics that I'm really interested in myself. Though, it kind of sucks getting your ass kicked by a 15 year old when it comes to playing Street Fighter.
-(Sounds like GTO to me.) That's a pretty huge decision you made by moving to Japan. What's the lamest and coolest part?
-(I actually dress like GTO and occasionally try to run over kids on my motorbike) I literally had to drop my life and go when I received the phone call confirming the job offer, but it was a chance I was willing to take if it meant living the dream! Speaking of GTO, the coolest thing that has happened to me was probably visiting Tokyo the day after I got my first paycheck. It didn't last long, and with no import taxes or delivery charges, neither did the thousands of games, DVDs, or figures that I've wanted to own since I was a kid. Ka-ching. The lamest thing would probably be never getting to see my family whenever I like! Tickets home are incredibly expensive, the preparation and 20 hours it takes to travel are a massive downer when I all I want to do is cuddle my dog!
*Side-note: James and I then spent 30 minutes speaking about our dogs, so let's just skip that part*
-Speaking of dogs, have you had the chance to meet Godzilla yet?
-While Godzilla is still on my "Massive Things I Need to Meet" list, I've been introduced to a life-sized Totoro, Pikachu, Laputa Robot Soldier, and recently, Hirosaki Castle's famous Mascot Takamaru-kun!
-What are your inspirations?
-Insert the generic "Well Alice, I've been into video games, anime and manga since I was but a wee laddie" line here, and we're all set. I'll try to be specific. I'm a big fan of manga works by Kiyohiko Azuma, Keiichi Arawi, and many other talented 4koma artists that have the ability to capture humour and timing perfectly. As for art, I am a massive follower of anime companies such as Gainax, Production IG and Kyoani. In particular, the visual styles of popular series such as Panty & Stocking, FLCL, and Gurren Lagann are all really big inspirations. I am also a long-time SEGA fan and have been inspired by the character and enemy designs of Kazuyuki Hoshino (Sonic CD/Sonic Adventure 2) as well as the graffiti-like style used in the Jet Set Radio games. I am trying to make Crazy Sunshine into a mix of Japanese-styled 4koma humour suitable for a western audience, taking influences from Japanese anime and infusing them with American classics such as Dexter's Lab and the Powerpuff Girls.
-Oh it's my last question already: why did you choose this story?
-I always seem to imagine that inanimate objects are actually alive and have feelings. Just ask my car. Anyway, when I read about a vacuum cleaner eating up someone's valuables, I had no choice but to give the machine a little bit of a personality as I started to imagine it scoffing down the poor woman's dog. That, and I think it's important to look at both sides of a coin. What if the women who wrote the story was actually a massive bitch (no offense, uh, Lauren from Texas, was it?) with a grudge against a shy, weak-willed cleaning lady who was forced into feeding a demanding little vacuum cleaner? I think it's a neat idea reading FML stories from two different perspectives, try it out!
-That's an awesome answer, thank you very much James for your participation, and for being kind enough to answer my questions!
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