This interview originally appeared on GayGamer.net in June 2015. Interview questions and introductory text are by Rowan (@link6616), and I assisted with liaising with the Fantastic Boyfriends director in Japanese, which included translating Rowan’s questions into Japanese, and translating the director’s answers into English. (Full disclosure: I also translated prologue chapter of the game and Indiegogo promotional materials). I’m republishing this interview here with Rowan’s permission so it can remain available as an important discussion with an indie Japanese game developer on LGBTQ topics. Please note that I have an ongoing relationship with the developer, but I’m not able to answer any questions on their behalf. Enjoy!
After two and a half years, webcomic Hotblood! has finally come to a conclusion, and creator Toril Orlesky has launched a Kickstarter to celebrate! If successful, the Kickstarter will fund an omnibus release of all four chapters of the comic, including new a new prequel and epilogue. As of this post, it has already reached its $24,000 goal, but if you’re a fan of Hotblood!, centaurs, the wild west, or just great comics in general, you’ll want to get in now to grab some of the awesome Kickstarter-exclusive rewards!
Toril’s comic about centaurs in American the Old West takes inspiration from a variety of sources, including est em’s centaur manga, which happens to be the subject of my upcoming paper in New Voices in Japanese Studies. It goes without saying that I was immediately smitten with Hotblood!, and I’m honored to have been able to chat with Toril a little more in depth about est em and the centaur aspects of Hotblood!
A: I’d love to hear more about your inspirations for Hotblood!. What initially drew you to centaurs? Why did you include centaurs in your story and not other mythical characters?
T: I’ve loved horses since elementary school, so I think that’s a big part of it, haha! I still remember my neighbor showing me how to draw a horse in third grade– that was the first time I wanted to learn how to draw anything. I’ve also always been into Greek mythology, I saw Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron in theaters when it was released, Black Beauty was one of my favorite books growing up… when I started planning Hotblood! I was very into shows like Suits and Hannibal… that is to say, morally ambiguous stories with crime and homoerotic relationships that ultimately failed to deliver on the homoeroticism. I was particularly affected and annoyed by BBC’s Sherlock. At the risk of over-educating anyone, in Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s writing, James Moriarty has a right-hand man: the veteran sniper Sebastian Moran. He appears in only one story– The Empty House– but I became fascinated by the character. I started drawing him as I imagined he would be if he was written into contemporary London and, yes, shipping him with Moriarty. Other members of the Sherlock fandom had similar ideas, and to make a long story short I lost interest, but I still wanted to explore the boss-subordinate/romantic relationship dynamic between two morally ambiguous criminals. That’s where my protagonists, Asa and Rook come from, although Asa is nowhere near as clever as Moriarty.
As for the centaurs… I wanted to write historical fiction, not fantasy! I wasn’t interested at all in developing a system of magic or changing the rules of the world beyond the immediate infrastructure and social adjustments needed to accommodate a race of quadrupeds. I chose centaurs over werewolves, satyrs, dragons, or anything else because horses and Westerns go hand-in-hoof, as it were.
A: You mention in your FAQ that est em’s Hatarake, Kentaurosu! and equus were influential to Hotblood. Aside from the obvious fact that they also feature centaurs, what was appealing to you about these works?
T: I love est em’s style of storytelling– it’s slice of life, but more importantly: the vignettes in her books are about character relationships above anything else. Sometimes an entire chapter is just one conversation, and I really respect how much emotion she’s able to convey about her characters in a short amount of time! Of course, I also admire her technical skill and her use of negative space.
A: est em and a number of other recent manga artists (for example Kei Murayama’s A Centaur’s Life, Okayado’s Monster Musume: Everyday Life with Monster Girls) have written stories featuring centaurs in everyday and/or otherwise historically accurate settings. Hotblood! is very similar in this regard. Why do you think the juxtaposition of mythical centaurs in otherwise normal situations is so appealing?
T: The same reason stories like Spirited Away, Teen Wolf, JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure, and so on are wildly popular… people like fantasy, but it’s far more relatable when the fantasy elements are juxtaposed with a familiar setting. It’s one thing to read a myth about centaurs from ancient Greece, but quite another to read about how one might commute to work in present-day Tokyo! Centaurs are especially fun because they’re truly strange– it’s not just a matter of avoiding humans on a full moon, they’ve got to deal with being literally half-horse every day. You can’t hide that! The mundane details of how they would function in society– standing desks? Farriers? Can they fit in a subway car? Is it appropriate to ask a centaur for a ride?– that’s what interests me.
A: Do you plan to write further stories about centaurs after Hotblood!, or are you looking to move on to different types of projects?
T: Initially I was determined to leave centaurs behind after Hotblood!, but these days I’m open to the possibility that I might draw some short stories set in the same universe, either with the existing cast or brand new characters. I won’t make any promises, though– I’ve got a a queue of fan comics and other projects to take on first!
Well, I will always be ready for more centaurs! Thanks again to Toril for chatting with me and offering so many interesting insights into Hotblood!. You can read Hotblood! in its entirety for free online, but if you’d like to get a physical copy of the omnibus or the exclusive companion art book containing character material, world building, and more, be sure to back the Kickstarter before it concludes on May 15th!
Disclosure: I am a Hotblood! Kickstarter backer. I mean, homoerotic centaurs… How could I not?!
What a pleasant surprise! My great pal and podcast co-host Bryan of The Gay Gamer has nominated me for a Liebster Award, an act of kindness designed to spread warm fuzzies around the blogging community. Part of the award requires you to answer 11 questions about yourself and share 11 interesting facts before nominating a few other bloggers to do the same (kind of like a nice chain letter!). Since I don’t get too personal very often on Chic Pixel, I thought it’d be a great opportunity for you all to learn a little more about me! Here we go…
There are a lot of words in the title of this article that might not make a lot of sense when strung together, but I hope you paid special attention to the “Parappa minicomic” bit. When artist lottie pencheon announced on Twitter that she was going to publish (digitally! and for free!) a short Parappa the Rapper fan comic that deals with Parappa coming to terms with his sexual attraction to flowers, I was immediately intrigued. Not only do we not often see Parappa-related fan works these days, especially in English, but a potentially NSFW Parappa-related fan work? Sign me right up!
Funny Love, which culminates in Parappa masturbating to a bouquet of flowers, is probably not for everyone, but lottie’s depiction of the cute PlayStation mascot dealing with some of the difficulties of coming of age is surprisingly striking. It’s funny, sweet, and a little bit sad, and if you’re not scared away by the premise, head over to lottie’s site and give it a read!
lottie was kind enough to chat about Funny Love with me, and here’s what she had to say:
lottie: I love rhythm games, they’re so satisfying to me! I played the first Parappa the Rapper game when I was a kid, it was such a unique game and the songs are actually so so catchy. I played that game so hard that I can remember all the lyrics to this day, I often find myself singing the flea market song when I’m like, cleaning the house: ~all you ever need is to be nice and friendly~
lottie: When I was a little kid, I was like, “Why is this dog in love with a flower, that’s so strange to me” and recently, upon watching a playthrough of the whole game I was like, “Wait……THAT DOG WANTS TO HAVE SEX WITH THE FLOWER” sooo for fun I started doodling a confused and frustrated young dog that was like, trying to come to terms with his newfound sexual feelings. I posted some kinda x-rated illustrations on Twitter and I seemed to gather the support of some of my followers so like, I blame them entirely for encouraging me.
CP: Well I’m glad you got the encouragement you needed to flesh out the idea more! The comic kind of ends on a sad note, though…?
lottie: Well, Parappa is tortured by his sexual attraction to flowers and Sunny Funny is the ultimate object of his desire. He’s a teenage boy! His sexual urges are so strong that he simply must act upon them! But yeah, he feels very ashamed with himself after he jacks off into the stolen flowers.. He doesn’t want to be attracted to flowers! He never chose this life! He wants to be “normal!” Like everyone else! What’s wrong with him!!
CP: In the page where Parappa slams the door to his room, there’s a skunk in the bottom right corner. Is this a reference I’m missing?
lottie: Ya it’s from the flea market level with the frog!!
To be honest, I was kinda lazy and could have added more references in that panel. I was thinking of maybe having Um Jammer Lammy’s guitar hanging on the wall… But nah, I was lazy, and rushed! I planned, wrote and drew this comic in, like, 12 hours.
CP: Ah, of course! Is this your first fan comic?
lottie: Well, a couple of years ago I did a small three panel comic for the Animal Crosszine (an Animal Crossing fanzine curated by Justin Woo and Meghan Lands). I also did a small Tamagotchi comic a year or so ago but I’m planning on a bigger and better Tamagotchi/digital pets comic in collaboration with Carolinenooo for next year.
|lottie is definitely a PlayStation fan! look at this adorable Hohokum gif|
lottie: I literally just heard about this anniversary just now. That’ll explain why everyone was talking about a load of PlayStation stuff on Twitter.. Happy Birthday PlayStation! I can’t believe I was SIX when I first met you!
Thanks to lottie for taking the time to talk about Funny Love and other interesting things! She has recently opened a new online store where you can buy cards, stickers, comics, and even rings, so if you like her work, be sure to check it out. lotie pencheon’s Tamagotchi art is my favorite, so you can bet I’ll post again when her digital pets collaboration comic becomes a reality next year!
While most of the influential artists of my youth were undoubtedly Japanese, there is one non-Japanese illustrator I followed from a young age that stands apart from the others for her eerily beautiful style. I’m referring to none other than the Singaporean artist, Foo Swee Chin, who is an all-around amazing creator. I actually had the privilege of meeting her last year at a conference in Sydney, and she also happens to be one of the sweetest professional artists I’ve ever met!
|An example of FSc’s quirky, dark style (source)|
☆ When did your first start drawing? Have you always wanted to be a comic artist?
I have been drawing for as long as I can remember. Drawing is a substitute for friends. I wasn’t allowed to go outdoors besides school and the library. So drawing is like a friend. We travelled together. XD
The comic thing kind of happened gradually. I enjoyed making up stories and creating worlds so the best medium was comics. I submitted some drawings and short comic stripes to a student newspapers in my teens. They published them, so I continued to send them more. After that I uploaded some online and sent samples to Slave Labor only because I enjoyed reading the comics they published. I kind of never stopped making comics since.
☆ Many of your fans probably came to know you through your work on Nightmares and Fairy Tales by Serena Valentino. What was it like doing the art for someone else’s story?
You are right, majority of them came to know my drawings because of Nightmares and Fairytales.
Serena was very nice and straightforward. She gave me a lot of freedom so it was quite fun to work on NNF. I didn’t feel very stressed out.
She explained everything very clearly so it wasn’t very difficult.
The only difficult part was that… being used to Japanese comics I found it hard to fit a lot of panels and dialogues into one page. But I got used to it after awhile, and now it is difficult to not over fill a page.
|One of FSc’s character designs for Wayforward’s game, LIT|
☆ Is Wayforward’s LIT your only experience working on a video game? Is that something you’d like to do again in the future?
Kind of I guess. I did character designs for interactive games too but I guess that is different from video games.^^)>
☆ Interactive games still count! It’s really interesting that you’ve been able to work on projects in different mediums. You’ve also had the rare opportunity as a non-Japanese to work with a Japanese publisher and have your comics published in Japanese. What was that like?
It was… I was very honoured. I felt very lucky.
It wasn’t easy. Making Japanese manga is so different from making alternative comics. The editor and the manga artists have to work together as a team. I learned a lot from the experience. It made me humble.
|A couple volumes of FSc’s comic, MuZz, at Mandarake in Shibuya
(photo taken by me)
☆ Back in January 2013, you spoke at the Women’s Manga in Asia: Glocalizing Different Cultures and Identities conference about being a female comics artist with Japanese influences. However, your style is probably not considered very manga-like by some. Do you consider your art manga?
No. I don’t anymore. I used to, simply because everyone said my comics are very manga. When I went to Japan I was told that my art is very European.
I don’t know anymore. My brain is a mashed potato.
☆ I personally don’t think it matters how you define it… Just keep drawing in your own amazing style! As for the future, what do you hope to be doing in five years?
I hope to get more art related work, at least enough to pay the bills and feed my cats XD
I’m open to any art related work, be it illustrations, concept visualisations, comics or manga, clothes designs, merchandises… galleries (that is if anyone sane enough wants to see pages and pages of scribbly wiggly black and white line drawings LOL)
But my dream would be to have my own comic/manga series which can support my lifestyle and pay the bills someday. That dream is getting more and more difficult by the second.
|She also posts lots of comics about her life on her blog.
Keep at it, FSc!
A rather melancholy note to end on, but thanks so much to FSc for chatting with me about so many interesting topics! If you’d like to see what she’s up to, you can follow her on Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook. She always needs the support, so to read or, more importantly, purchase her work, please head over to her website!
First, congratulations on the successful funding of the Starfighter: Eclipse Kickstarter! What made you decide to turn your popular webcomic into a visual novel?
Thank you! I think Starfighter‘s set-up really compliments the visual novel format as far as the comic’s focus on character interaction.. it’s something I had been thinking on for some time now as I have been making the comic.
You’ve recently announced that chapter 4 is the last chapter of Starfighter. Do you view the game as a way for fans to get to stay in that world a little longer?
Oh yes, this is a whole game full of new Starfighter content, so hopefully this will be a nice big EU fanfic for everyone to enjoy.
Why did you choose to create Starfighter: Eclipse using Date Nighto’s VNengine instead of a more traditional visual novel software such as Ren’Py?
It was really important to me that the game be easily accessible to players and Date Nighto’s htmlVN was the perfect solution to deployment details we were considering when we were conceiving our vision for the game!
It’s clear from your webcomic that homosexual romance is a big theme. Are you inspired by yaoi/BL? Is there a reason you chose not to call Starfighter: Eclipse a “yaoi” VN?
Yes, I am very influenced by these genres; I love the combination of drama, emotional focus, and sexual content. While the Starfighter comic is in many ways a nod to these genres, I hope it’s also a bit of a personal departure from it as well. Starfighter: Eclipse isn’t directly referred to as yaoi for a few reasons, but also to avoid confusion – “yaoi” is still very much a niche term and not everyone knows what it means, saying something like, “male romance” is more clear about what the game is about!
While you mention in the Kickstarter description that there will be an emphasis on character interaction, there isn’t any indication of how many characters will be “pursuable.” Are you envisioning multiple endings and romantic possibilities, or is there a specific story you would like to tell?
Oh yes, there is a specific story to tell in Eclipse! I am envisioning multiple endings for different characters but I’m afraid I don’t want to spoil too much of the story! You can expect to interact with some of the familiar faces of the Starfighter comic plus some new ones.
Bryan Ochalla is by far one of my favorite people on the internet. He’s the voice behind the colorful gaming blog, The Gay Gamer (not to be mistaken with GayGamer.net), and is known for his quirky tastes in games and a penchant for collecting boxed retro titles in immaculate condition (sometimes just for their cover art). He covers all manner of games from the PC Engine right up to current-gen titles in his Great Gaymathon reviews, compares regional differences in game box art, and takes some incredibly sexy photos of his game collection. His newest series, Manual Stimulation, focuses on highlighting some of the best game manuals in his collection, reminding gamers how much care and attention used to be put into those few often-overlooked pieces of paper.
All of this is done with a down-to-earth yet cheeky pizzaz that makes The Gay Gamer a joy to read day after day. Bryan also fosters a great community of like-minded gamers who have some great discussions in the comments section of almost every single one of his posts (and he posts pretty much daily, mind you!). Rest assured, if you comment on one of his posts, he will always read and respond to you, making him one of the most easily-accessible and charismatic people I’ve ever had the pleasure of “meeting” online.
Bryan was kind enough to agree to answer a few questions via email, so I took the opportunity talk with him about his gaming history, interest in Japanese import titles, and a bit about what it’s like to maintain a blog. He gave some great responses, so please take the time to read through the whole interview, even though it’s a bit long!
|Japanese import Hello Kitty World|
|Bryan’s photos of his Pulse Line carts are just gorgeous!|
Apricotsushi: You’ve been writing at your blog, The Gay Gamer, for a couple of years now, right? Have you done any other game-related writing for other sites/publications?
|One of the many great manuals featured in Bryan’s Manual Stimulation series|