Natsume Ono was a special guest at this year’s Toronto Comic Arts Fest and on Saturday there was a special interview session hosted by About.com’s Manga Specialist Deb Aoki. While no recording was allowed, I did take some notes and I’ve done my best to put the neat facts and information together here for the Natsume Ono curious. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to provide any quotes because of the recording rule so apologies for the choppy paragraphing. Those disclaimers aside – enjoy!
“Natsume Ono made her professional debut in 2003 with the webcomic La Quinta Camera. Her subsequent worksnot simple, Ristorante Paradiso, and Gente (a continuation of Ristorante Paradiso) met with both critical and popular acclaim. In 2009 Ristorante Paradiso was adapted into a TV anime series. Her current series House of Five Leaves(Saraiya Goyou), also adapted into a TV anime series in 2010, is running in IKKI magazine.” (Creator Bio from SigIkki.com)
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Prior to becoming a manga artist, Natsume Ono was an office worker at a parts factory. She had no formal art training before persuing her new career.
Living ten months in Italy provided her with the inspiration for several of her manga series (notably Ristorante Paradiso) and she attributes the anatomy of her characters, with features such as high noses, to the Italians she observed there. While in Italy, Natsume Ono attended comic-making classes and enjoyed the chance to socialize and see how large the pool of talent and publishers in the country was.
When asked if the characters of her Ristorante Paradiso and Gente stories were based on actual people she’d met while there, Natsume Ono said no. However her series Quinto Camera had characters based on a teacher in Italy and a fellow art student. Interestingly, this series originated as a webcomic.
Some of Natsume Ono’s earliest work is collected in the anthology-style book, Tesoro. She wrote half of the stories prior to living in Italy and the second half upon returning. This one-shot book is due out from Viz Media later this summer.
Natsume Ono always wished she could travel to different countries but recently has wanted to travel around Japan more to learn about her own country. Her trip to TCAF is not only her first time in Canada but also her first public speaking event.
When asked if she enjoys writing about older characters specifically, Natsume Ono answered that she finds it very fun. She likes that when writing about older characters there’s a lot more history to reveal and life experiences the characters have to draw on.
A number of her series were shown on a projector during the presentation including two series based on the subject of police in New York city: Danza and Coppers. The series’ focus is more on the friendship between the officers and their relationships with their family while the crime solving aspects of police work plays out in the background. Neither of these series have been licensed in English.
In regards to inspiration for her police officer dramas, Natsume Ono has never lived in New York but did visit it to research the manga. She really enjoys American crime dramas however and was inspired predominantly by these. Though the series were finished at one volume, she would like to go back and create a “season two” someday after doing more extensive research to show New York city more accurately.
Her work not simple was drawn prior to her time in Italy. Her friends had questioned her choice to expand the story past it’s original one chapter but her editor at the time wanted more of the story. Natsume Ono says she rarely gets feedback or criticism from readers but does often hear from friends close to her.
When working on House of Five Leaves, Natsume Ono was inspired by period dramas she liked watching on TV. In hindsight she regrets having a samurai story with so little movement and sword usage. She liked doing another story about male friendship however and it’s her preferred theme for stories. She enjoys that friendship between men is different from friendship between females and writes about it “longingly”, liking the strong camedry that can form between two men.
Her newest series is done in a story-telling style similar to not simple but has a setting closer to that of House of Five Leaves. This currently on-going series – Tsuratsura Waragi – is less romanticized than House of Five Leaves with more research done and more accurate representations of the era. Natsume Ono said House of Five Leaves came predomiantly from her imagination in terms of characters’ ranks and society.
In terms of creating her artwork, Natsume Ono works alone with no assistants. She currently draws her characters on paper then scans them into the computer where she digitally draws the backgrounds and text bubbles. She’s not sure how long it takes her to do a single page but estimates she completes around one chapters’ worth a week.
When asked what kind of genre she’d like to make a manga about, Natsume Ono answered fantasy (Lissa note: which would be great to see!). In follow-up someone asked if she played video games to which Natsume Ono said she was too bad at playing video games to get past any levels.
An attendee asked if there was the possibility of her doing boys’ love work in the future. Natsume Ono said if she felt like it someday it could happen but currently she has no plans for it. If she did, she would definitely use another name though. Fun fact: Natsume Ono has actually already created a few boys’ love series under the name basso. You can read about those works in an informative post over at the Manga Curmudgeon.
Natsume Ono said she loved seeing her characters moving in the anime versions of Ristorate Paradiso and House of Five Leaves with the latter being her favourite. Currently she says there are no plans to adapt her other works.
When asked if she read manga as a kid, she said her Father read a lot and in turn bought it for her. She admits she didn’t read much age-appropriate material though and some of her favourites included the cooking manga Oishinbo (which has had some compilation versions published by Viz Media) and Cooking Papa.
And that was about it! It was nice being able to attend the event and hear Natsume Ono share the info about herself and her works. She was shy but answered the questions honestly and seemed very kind – my thanks to her for attending and I hope she enjoyed herself!