Spotlight: Inoue Nawo
Actually, I don’t really remember where I first heard about Inoue Nawo. I don’t remember how I stumbled across the first story I read by her—if maybe it was a recommendation or just a coincidence. But I do remember the first story of hers that I read (Sute Neko no Ie) and I remember being so struck by her artwork and her storytelling and her everything that I instantly sat down and wrote a livejournal post about how amazing she is. But now I have this blog. So I guess I should write it here instead.
She has also illustrated one novel: Neko no Tameiki by Asaoka Modoru. Her first tankoubon, Sute Neko no Ie, was also made into a CD drama. Her blog can be found here and she also has a pixiv where she posts Hetalia fanart of the Nordic nations, but she doesn’t link her pixiv anywhere on her blog and also never names herself specifically in her pixiv so I won’t link it here. As for her popularity, it’s hard to say. On Chill Chill her books have a fairly good reception, and I do believe her latest release was in the top ranking for a while. In English fandom she seems fairly well-known among certain circles but is nowhere near as popular as most other mangaka. One scanlation group seems to have claimed and released a fair amount of her manga chapters, but that’s about it. She is most often published in CRAFT, but I’ve seen her name in at least a couple other publications.
Part of what makes Inoue Nawo so special is her story style. The way she writes is somewhat rare for BL fandom—very subtle and understated. Her stories tend to lack extreme drama and flow with a calm, vaguely melancholy atmosphere. Even when she writes plots that seem like they’d invite melodrama, the way she handles them keeps them on a fine, direct line to the finish without allowing too many unnecessary emotions. Her characters are the same way—a good balance of characteristics. You won’t see any outright stereotypes in her work because they’re too black and white. And she doesn’t base her character personalities on the way they’re drawn—instead of falling for stereotypes like the mean, serious megane-type seme when she draws an older man with glasses, she keeps him realistic and human. Even her outgoing, fun characters have an odd sense of calm to them and are more thoughtful. This makes them seem much more three-dimensional than your average fictional character and makes for an interesting read. If I had to compare her to any other mangaka, I’d say her story style is like a less dreamy version of Yumeka Sumomo.
As for her art, it is absolutely stunning and goes well with her writing. It’s incredibly rare (I’d even go so far to say nonexistent) to see her use screentone—everything is black and white and done by her hand with a pen or marker. There are often either no shadows or there are dark shadows, making it almost clash against her subtle, balanced story style. But like I said, she somehow makes it all work perfectly. Her characters’ faces and clothing are plain, so she seems to rely most on facial expressions or body language to get the mood across. The way she panels her manga is also quite lovely—subtle and keeps with the gentle flow of her stories. It’s really beautiful.
Because of this atmosphere in her stories, sex scenes are kept to a minimum. Really, any type of overtly physical passion is kept to a minimum. But when it does happen, it doesn’t destroy the mood of her stories; instead of the sex being hot and steamy, it’s generally much more loving and gentle and added to show the passionate, beautiful climax of the relationship and less about titillating the reader. She tends to stick with stories that end in an embrace or with a kiss, though—only her longer stories seem to have sex scenes. The way she writes is more about emotional attachments and less about physical lust. The sex seems to just be included to show the feelings of the two characters finally becoming one.
While I don’t seek her out as often as some of the other mangaka I love, whenever I’m in the mood to read something subtle she’s the first person I turn to. I appreciate that she sticks with the way she wants to write manga—she doesn’t seem to cave to any pressure to make her stories more sexy or dramatic. Her and her manga style help fill some of the gaps that people often complain exist in BL fandom—deeper characters and relationships, subtle art, stories that aren’t just pointless sex. While I don’t necessarily agree that that’s a huge problem in BL fandom, I nonetheless am glad Inoue Nawo is around to share her own personal version of BL with the world. I look forward to what she has to keep offering in the future.