Nagumo is a Japanese mangaka of Let’s Eat Ramen (ラ-メンを食べよう). This is a title that is included in Gen’s monthly magazine. The first two chapters are included in issue 8. Being a foodie manga fan, I fell for reading this slice of life story of a girl exploring her passion for a food outside her comfort zone.
Recently I had a meeting and conversation that I won’t be forgetting anytime soon. I am grateful for Robert McGuire of Gen Manga to allow Anime Diet and myself an opportunity to interview Nagumo who was present during NYCC’s weekend.
Nagumo-sensei that day was dressed in a blue yukata top and a black hakama bottom, with the interpretive assistance of Lily Cernak. Later I also consulted with Monsieur La Moe for translation assistance, so here is the conversation that took place.
Linda: What led you into this industry? How did you get started?
Nagumo: Oh, the first time? When I was a little, maybe four or five years old, I liked drawing. I liked it for a long time, so I continued to draw. After I graduated from high school, I thought I wanted to become an animator who drew televised anime. However, since I have drawn seriously from childhood, I noticed that I was already a manga artist.
L: What was your inspiration for writing Let’s Eat Ramen? Now the ending was pretty open ended, do you plan for a follow up? (Robert McGuire mentioned earlier to me, that there was a third issue, so there is going to be a follow up to Let’s Eat Ramen.)
N: Currently in Japan, a manga I am right now working on: Water Girls is serialized in Manga Time Kirara Carat. I am friends with another artist from the same magazine. One time I was having a conversation with him, and he asked, “Hey Nagumo-san, you like eating, so why don’t you draw manga with an eating theme?” And that was the starting point.
The story of Let’s Eat Ramen will continue.
L: What inspired Saeki, in terms of drawing and personality? Any one individual did you base her of? Looking at her drawing at times, would it have been better if you done her hair shorter or without glasses?
N: Ummm. I didn’t base Saeki on a real person or at least of one person. One thing I had in mind, I thought a girl wearing a scarf was really cute, and maybe only that.
L: Were there any real life inspiration of experiencing ramen yourself that was reflected in this story?
N: Yes. A lot. My favorite ramen is miso.
L: Have you tried any ramen places in New York yet? Do they even compare to counterparts in Japan?
N: Not yet. Right now, only pizza. It’s just four days since I arrived in America, so I haven’t been able to try many foods yet, so I can’t compare.
(I mentioned Ippudo, Naruto Ramen as a possible ramen places for Nagumo-sensei to try out.)
N: Ippudou is everywhere in Japan. Naruto ramen, guruguruguru? (reference to the fish cake)
(A brief tangent ensues with me trying to explain where Naruto Ramen was located in New York City.)
L: What is the first thing that a person should look for when they’re trying out ramen places for themselves? Any customs/rituals should they be aware of? Or any interesting ritual you yourself practice when going to ramen places?
N: That’s a difficult question.
L: What are your thoughts on ramen being like an American version of burger or pizza?
N: Ramen is a Japanese version of hamburger? Well… a little different. American hamburger in Japanese way is more like nikuman (meat bun), gyuu-don (beef bowl). Ramen is a bit different. Come again? (So many kinds of American burger). This is a difficult question. Japan has a lot of hamburgers. In America, is noodle common? Oh, I see. But I think hamburger and ramen are difficult to compare.
L: Is your awkwardness for trying out French restaurants still the same as when you mentioned in your author column?
N: Yes, the same. It’s difficult to enter a luxurious high class restaurant by myself.
L: What is a typical day like for you when you are working on a project?
N: Personally? I work the whole day facing the desk. The entire time.
(I asked roughly how long, and threw in the example roughly about 12 hours?)
N: Is that Japanese?
(I mentioned that I heard it from Felipe Smith. Nagumo affirmed that it was the same and we moved on.)
L: There has been works like Bakuman, GA Geijutsuka Art Design Class, or Dojin Work, or even parts of Genshiken that speak about the process of creation for the manga business. Is your experience anything similar or different to what American readers can read about?
N: Well, it’s partly based on real life, not entirely, but it’s pretty true. There are parts that Bakuman and Genshiken draw true to life and partly not depicted. The part that is not depicted is probably where readers may find boring, and don’t want to know about.
L: For example?
N: Example? I think I better not say that, (laughs). Yet, how to make the boring part interesting is a manga artist’s skill. It’s hard to say in one sentence, but to sum it, ummm. Genshiken has its own theme they want to draw, and Bakuman has its own theme they want to write.
L: I wanted to see if there was a difference between Doujin writers and serialized manga.
N: The difference is that we don’t have editor for doujinshi.
L: What type of subject or genre do you usually prefer to draw?
N: Food and also romantic comedy.
L: What do you view as the most challenging manga/art subject or genre that you have worked on?
N: Is it about Ramen, or commercial publishing in general? I think is a challenge in general to work on something I have never written about before.
(I mentioned thoughts on the possibility of more of his works becoming available in English?)
N: My work? I don’t have any plan other than Ramen manga. But as for the doujin that I’m writing, I’m okay with asking if these be translated in English by Gen Manga. So it depends.
L: What is your research process like?
N: Well I search online, look at books. For example if it was Ramen, then I will go out to try Ramen. A few years ago, when I was writing Radio de Go, I went to visit a radio station for research.
L: What has been your favorite Anime or manga?
N: Aria by Kozue Amano for anime as well as manga. My favorite manga also is GA Geijutsuka Art Design Class.
L: What do you want to be remembered as?
N: The only thing I want is for readers who can enjoy my work. Only that.
L: What is a message you would love to say to American fans?
N: What? I never imagined that I had fans in America, so this is very surprising to me.
Directly after my interview with Nagumo-sensei, he began his signing session with patiently waiting fans. Due to being camera shy, I was allowed to take a photo of his hands as he drew and signed Japanese copies for Let’s Eat Ramen.
Also be sure to check out Anime Diet’s Flickr for photos of Gen Manga’s booth at NYCC 2012.