Meet the Mangaka: Guilt|Pleasure

Digital Manga is VERY excited to bring Guilt|Pleasure’s In These Words, a chilling story of murder and twisted affection, to retailer shelves everywhere this summer. A long-time favorite amongst fujoshi both in the USA and abroad, Guilt|Pleasure has been bringing their gorgeous art and writing to fans for some time now! We got the chance to ask TogaQ and K. Neko a few questions about their work!

Excited to get your hands on In These Words? You can place a regular pre-order for the book here! G|P fans who are headed to Fanime can preorder the book here for at-con pick-up AND have the chance to get their copy signed by TogaQ and K. Neko while they’re there! You can pick up your book in the Fanime Dealer’s Hall at the B-tables here!

And now, without further ado, Guilt|Pleasure!:

“In These Words” is a far cry from your stereotypical yaoi story. What made you guys want to try something so dark and so different?
TogaQ: I’ve always wanted to do something dark and…well, different. I want to do what most people aren’t doing. It’s challenging to make it work. And I also enjoy the reaction from people who are going to be a little shocked when we deliver the unexpected.I suppose I can’t say doing something like ITW shocked too many people. When I premiered ITW in Taiwan, a place where I had my manga start and I didn’t do BL at all – the reaction’s more on the “it’s about time” than surprise. A lot of fans agreed that my style favored the dark themes anyway. It was only a matter of time when I committed to it officially.

K. Neko: ITW is the norm for me, as far as the theme. I tend to lean toward the darker side of things. Occasionally, I’ll do moe and romance to break up the pace. I’m just glad that TogaQ’s game for the random I do. Well, most of time anyway.

Congrats on being published in BeBoy Gold last year! What are your thoughts on making in it the “BL big time”? Has it changed how you approach your work?
TogaQ: Nothing much changed for me, except that now there’s an additional deadline for me. It’s still work, but it’s work that I truly enjoy. I don’t feel that we’ve made it ‘big time’. That wasn’t our initial goal, to go commercial. It’s great having this opportunity and we didn’t let it slip by when we were offered it – but definitely, nothing changed.

K. Neko: For me, GP’d been a side fun project I enjoy doing with people I like. A way for me to socialize with artistic, talented people who does this for a living. And as TogaQ said, the only thing that exists now is this additional awareness of deadlines. We lose the luxury to goof off and take our time. It’s stressful, even in face of current obligations and other deadlines – but it’s good kind of stress. The kind I look forward to and ok with losing sleep over.

What got you guys interested in BL in the first place?
TogaQ: A friend showed me her artwork when we were in grade school, I was 13. She was a big yaoi fan. She had drawn Ronin Warrior yaoi. At first I was confused by what I saw. Then I remember getting kind of angry, in the way that I felt it was wrong to do that. Eventually, I became more curious and interested in the romance and friendship of that dynamic. I got into it when I finally ‘got it’. However this is a personal interest. I love yaoi but I’ve always felt uneasy drawing it for public consumption. I guess I’d describe it as being caught looking at porn or ‘engaging’ with the porn. It took me about 20 plus years to get over it altogether. I always feel a bit exposed when I publish Yaoi. Even now.

This question reminded me of how Joss Whedon officially out’ed me at San Diego ComiCon at his panel last year. Although it’s an open secret that I did BL and a lot of publishers I worked with also knew I did BL under my handle, it’s not something I want to advertise. Comfort level and also, I don’t want kids to google “Jo Chen” and end up looking at smut.

I actually didn’t know he out’ed me until Neko told me, a week after SDCC, “you know he out’ed you as a Yaoi fangirl at his panel. It’s kind impressive that he pronounced “yaoi” right.” She’d seen it on Youtube. So, suddenly it made sense why Joss asked to see “In These Words” since I had disclosed to him in the Green Room that the title is being published commercially. I thought he was kidding. Then days after the show, my editor from Dark Horse PLEADED for the doujins to be sent. Joss was serious. Eventually, I gave and had it sent. But I must say, it was super embarrassing. Yaoi is such a personal thing to me. Still is. And now Joss looked at it. I think he got Chapter 1-4.

Anyway, I’m glad this was during his busy away-from-office time directing Avengers. I just hope he forgot completely about it and the doujins go MIA somehow. I’ve not heard back from Joss about it, which is a mild relief for me.

K. Neko: I don’t really recall when I had my start in BL. I was born in Taiwan. I had learned how to read early, so I read manga when I was 3-4 years old. I have fond memories of a shoddy but well stocked bookstore at end of the block where I had lived in Taichung. I’d read manga there. Genres like BL, although nothing like the graphic stuff now, were part of the Shoujo genre. I didn’t see much difference between pretty men kissing and pretty man and woman kissing then. I still don’t.

Then when my family came and settled in America when I was 7. I wouldn’t see anime or manga until I was 17, and then I did realize that I prefer BL over the usual romance. I enjoy seeing a good looking guy angsting over another guy. It made reading more exciting.

Speaking of interest: what writers and artists are you inspired by?
TogaQ: I like Ichiko Ima (artist and writer), Sakae Kusama (artists). They are my favorites. There are a lot more – too much to list.

K. Neko: I used to read a lot of manga and BL novels but I don’t have a particular favorite to be honest. I suppose I like a lot of mangaka and writers but I’ve not developed an intense love for any particular one. For the past couple of years, I’ve not read very much. Manga or anything else. I sound like a recluse, huh? Pretty soon I will start collecting cats and throwing rocks at people from my porch.

Do you have any “at-work” rituals? Like music that you have to listen to, drinks you have to have, or a certain work space set up?
TogaQ: I like to work at night and I like to have hot tea as I work. I prefer to work at night because schedule wise, it is challenging because of obligations during the day that starts at 7AM with kids, etc. At night, I’m left alone to do my own thing. Though I tend to stay up for too long and pay for it.

K. Neko: I do most of my thinking and laying out storylines when I am driving. I love driving. I seriously can drive for hours without music and just entertain myself that way. When I write, I prefer night also and in absolute silence. But that is because I worked mids-swings for years and have become more nocturnal. I think I am only at 50% capacity during daytime.

What are some other titles you’re working on, or planning on starting? Give the fans a teaser!
K. Neko: We are releasing “New York Minute” – which is a prequel for In These Words. A look at Katsuya’s life in NY before his return to Japan – and into ITW timeline. It’s a title we had planned for Summer Comiket this year but we want to do it now for Fanime release along side the ITW1 manga!

We are always working on something new. We don’t want to rest our laurels on ITW. We have at least 3 open projects at the time and we’d like to publish at least one stand-alone manga by Yaoi-Con, with another installment of ITW.

TogaQ: I am looking forward to storyboarding ITW7 next! I love NYM and drawing something new. But ITW’s the husband I adore. It’s exciting to slip away and be with David on the side for a while. You do start to miss the husband though.

Say something to your fans! Anything you want! :)
TogaQ: I am very happy to have been part of this and continuing to work on it. I’m very lucky to have the career field I’ve wanted to be in since I was doodling as a tot. I can’t begin to imagine doing something else. Well, I can’t will myself to be in a different career even if my life depended on it. And now doing BL is the sweet icing on top of the cake. I don’t feel doing G|P is work. It is the reward I give myself AFTER I finish the commercial obligations. And knowing there’s people who love what we create and support us so that we can continue to do it, is the best feeling in the world.

K. Neko: I couldn’t have said it better myself. Except for the drawing part. Just replace that with writing but omit the part about writing commercially. The fans who continued to write to us and encourage us, thank you. I love talking to each and every one of you. I hope to meet you all in person one day.

One Response to “Meet the Mangaka: Guilt|Pleasure”

  1. Aria Says:

    That is so cool! I always wanted to get my manga/ art published by DMP/June/801 Media. A BL artist is my absolute dream job. I just don’t know when I can start doing so and fulfilling this dream. To see artists like TogaQ and Kichiku Neko make it into Be x Boy GOLD makes me both proud and a little jealous. I hope one day I can go pro as a BL mangaka too! Congrats.

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