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Embracing Youka Nitta

This story originally appeared in PW Comics Week on May 9, 2006 Sign up now!

by Kai-Ming Cha, PW Comics Week -- Publishers Weekly, 5/9/2006

Youka Nitta (l.) and CPM's Masumi O'Donnell
Youka Nitta is one of Japan's foremost manga-ka (comics writer and artist) in the yaoi (boys' love) genre—stories featuring impossibly beautiful boys obsessed with other beautiful boys. Her most famous series, Embracing Love (Central Park Media), started in 1997 and continues today. Embracing Love is a romantic comedy about the adult film industry. Her newest book, Boku No Koe (Sound of My Voice), about anime voice actors, is due out this month, also from CPM. PWCW sat down with Nitta and translator/yaoi expert Emi Chiusano during the New York Comic-con for a boys' love-in.

PW Comics Week: How did you get introduced to this genre?

Youka Nitta: I learned about yaoi from an older girl, a neighbor. She liked those types of things. I was in fifth grade and had always liked manga. She showed me a doujinshi [amateur or self-published comic] and told me that there was something like this out there.

PWCW: What was your reaction?

YN: It was more of the June-type yaoi, it was more realistic and the drawings were very pretty.

Emi Chiusano: June is a boys' love magazine that started in the 1970s, the first to specialize in this genre. They tried to be more artistic. It was more about aestheticism. They were concerned about beauty and the stories tended to be tragic. A movie like Brokeback Mountain would fall more in the June line.

PWCW: Did your parents know you were reading it?

YN: Once I started writing it, I would often leave it lying around, to see what they would say. They avoided the entire subject.

PWCW: What do they think now?

YN: In the last few years, with the success of Embracing Love, they realize that I'm working hard and that my work is recognized by fans. I have about four series now. I'm busy. I never sleep. I stay up all night.

EC: She was working on the airplane coming here. She's been faxing her work to Japan while she's here.

YN: I leave my house maybe 30 days net. Otherwise, I don't leave my room.

EC: Ms. Nitta told me a story: she went out once during the summer, so she wore shorts. Then next time she went out again, she also wore shorts. But by then, so much time had passed that it was already well into fall. She didn't know what season it was.

PWCW: What made you want to make yaoi comics?

YN: I naturally fell into it. It allows for a certain freedom. Within boys' love [genre] I can write whatever I want. I mean, isn't it fun as a woman to see two beautiful men together?

PWCW: For Embracing Love, why did you choose porn stars as your main characters?

YN: I heard about adult video stars and thought that it could be something that I could use. The porn industry in Japan is hidden and not talked about. Much in the way that shojo and shonen manga is out in the open, but boys' love is underground. There's a parallel drawn from that.

PWCW: Do you receive feedback from your fans?

YN: I do read fan feedback but I'm not influenced by it. Most readers want happy endings, but I can't build a story on happy incidents. I have to have things happen. I like working on Embracing Love because I'm able to draw both pretty and not-so-pretty things in the series. As a human drama, it has balance.

PWCW: Do you also work on stories outside of the boys' love genre?

YN: Yes. I'm starting a new series that's somewhere between shojo (girls') and shonen (boys') manga. It will be serialized in Wings, a magazine that appeals to both demographics. It's very progressive.

PWCW: What would you say to American parents who are worried about this sort of content?

YN: Even in Japan, reading boys' love isn't something that parents encourage. One fan (in Japan) told me that her parents found her boys' love books and gave her a lecture. Later, her parents apologized because they had read [her books] and found there was a real story and actual romance. If young people like to read boys' love, maybe more parents should read it. I don't feel that there's something wrong or bad about boys' love. I want to communicate to parents that I'm not trying to write erotic stories, but stories that show human love and emotion.

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