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40-year veteran of ecchi manga Go Nagai says brains more fun than boobs

Weekly Playboy (April 9)
Weekly Playboy (April 9)

Go Nagai, the originator of "ecchi" sexy manga, is about to start his 40th year in the business, according to Weekly Playboy (4/9).

Nagai started drawing dirty comics for mainstream manga with "Harenchi Gakuen (Scandal School)" in the inaugural issue of Shukan Shonen Jump magazine way back in 1968 and has since drawn other classic hits like "Cutey Honey" and "Maboroshi Panty."

"We started ("Harenchi Gakuen") with the idea of making a comic based on messing around at a school. I liked the word 'harenchi' (scandal), which was always being used in advertising copy for adult movies. Scandal and school are like oil and water, so I thought mixing them would be fun and easily came up with the name," Nagai tells Weekly Playboy. "We didn't have any stories at first, but my assistant at the time was boasting about how he had been able to peep on the girls during their physical examinations from a hole in the roof of his school and that got us underway."

Developments were quick.

"We took the concept of boys peeping on a physical examination from a hole in the roof and a teacher knocking them down with a spear, but figured that using that all the time wouldn't be much fun. So I made the teacher naked from the waist down and dressed them wearing fishnet stockings and suspenders. It was so grotesque, I laughed my head off," Nagai says.

Until "Harenchi Gakuen" Japanese manga had been relatively tame affairs, but things soon changed.

"Sex didn't come into things at all when we first started. It's not like you're nude when you go through a physical examination, and even in those scenes all you could see was pictures from the shoulders up. But, just because there were so many girls in the comic, it became really popular and people really praised the pictures of the girls. I must admit that I really like pictures of nude girls and that influenced the way I drew," Nagai says. "It was fun drawing the strip. I found myself always getting an unexpected thrill out of it. It really picked me up when I was working overnight on it; it was sort of like letting instinct go to work while I went to sleep. And because the strip was so popular, the editor pushed me to go further and I liked what I was doing, so I did go as far as I could."

"Harenchi Gakuen" may have been popular, but it wasn't without its critics. School PTAs across Japan campaigned strongly against it and Shonen Jump for carrying it.

"When I first heard about the opposition, I didn't think it was directed toward me. I kept wondering what the bad stuff in Shonen Jump was that would make everybody complain. I'd always known exactly when to draw the line and was well aware of the standards movies and stuff applied when it came to the under-18 audience," Nagai says with a laugh. "I made it a point to never draw sex scenes, avoid pictures of the genitals and make nudes cute rather than sexy."

Nagai's salvation came from his fans.

"I didn't think the media assault on me needed to be as strong as it was," he says. "Just as the scandal was reaching its peak, support from the kids reading the comic reached its zenith, too. I was getting letters from kids telling me how they were fully aware that the adults cracking down on them were reading much raunchier stuff than I was producing."

Nagai says the West inspired him to come up with his dirty manga.

"I really love foreign movies. I used to read Playboy magazine and, unlike the Japanese women of that time, the women in it used to have these gorgeous, well-balanced bodies," Nagai tells Weekly Playboy. "For boobs, I took particular inspiration from the Venus de Milo."

The veteran dirty manga artist scoffs at suggestions his depictions of women were demeaning.

"My heroines were types who would hide themselves behind the idea of masculine sexuality. That's why I drew them as incredibly strong characters," he says. "What I drew was not eroticism. It was all about Japan's culture of shame. The characters want to show what they've got, but they're too embarrassed to do so. It's all about the tug of war between men and women. I wanted that embarrassment to be the eroticism of the stories."

Nagai says that 40 years down the track he remains as enthusiastic for ecchi manga as he has always been, with "Harenchi Gakuen: The Company" running in Business Jump weekly comic magazine.

"Times have changed with society getting strict on things like sexual harassment. With men not allowed to do whatever they want anymore, I've made the main character, Hige Godzilla, more of a hero type," Nagai tells Weekly Playboy. "I'd like this comic to serve as a brake for all those university professors struggling to keep control over themselves so they can read it and be satisfied instead of taking matters into their own hands. It's not much fun if you show everything, or if you give too much information. I prefer to let loose with a little bit and let the imagination do the rest." (By Ryann Connell)

(Mainichi Japan) March 30, 2007


WaiWai stories are transcriptions of articles that originally appeared in Japanese language publications. The Mainichi Daily News cannot be held responsible for the contents of the original articles, nor does it guarantee their accuracy. Views expressed in the WaiWai column are not necessarily those held by the Mainichi Daily News or the Mainichi Newspapers Co. WaiWai © Mainichi Newspapers Co. 1989-2007.

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