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.

Sute Neko no Ie
Amane no Uta

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.

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11 responses to “Spotlight: Inoue Nawo”

  1. mleonard1995 says :

    I hope you don’t mind my posting here… It’s quite coincidental that you said Inoue sensei’s style reminds you of Yumeka sensei’s – to me, I stumbled on sensei’s work on a website when I was there looking for Yumeka sensei’s oneshots.

    I’m waiting for sensei’s books licensed in English, though I don’t hold my breath for it – the publishers has been disappointed me no end with their declining quality, and even worse, they might not want to license the books at all. Since I started reading your posts, I’ve been thinking if I should just buy mangas and magazines in Japanese. It’s contradictory feeling: my Japanese is not that good like you – reading them just create more itches inside my heart; then from positive point of view, it might push me to enhance my reading ability, so…

    Perhaps one of these days, I should pay a visit to the Japanese bookstore here. The very last time I was there, I saw the store has reserved a corner especially for yaoi.

    • ふう子 says :

      I don’t mind at all! Thank you for your comment! /o/

      I understand your feelings toward English licensors—I know that they bring over what they think will be popular based on how they see the English-speaking BL market, but I think they play it much too safe most of the time, only bringing over manga that are already popular and being scanlated or manga by already-popular artists. It makes shopping for BL in English incredibly boring. And I think buying in Japanese is still an okay idea even if your Japanese isn’t amazing—to be honest, my Japanese isn’t really all that great either but I get by. :3

      A Japanese bookstore sounds fun! I wish we had one where I live.

      • mleonard1995 says :

        Yes, in a way, I’m lucky that there’s at least one Japanese bookstore here, and it’s started selling yaoi not long ago. I remember magazines are more than tankoubons there on the shelves, and the store uses daily exchange rate to calculate how much we pay in Canadian dollar. Quite reasonable – probably cheaper than online order + expensive delivery. (Have checked Amazon.jp already.) However, I need to go there to double check, since Japanese Yen has become more expensive again.

        I’d like to see if the store carries Canna – I’m quite interested by your posts about those artists in this magazines, especially Mita Homuro.

        • withe meat says :

          man you´re the luckiest person i can think of^^
          if i want to buy a magazine or tankoubon (especially the magazines) i have to work my ass of finding a oneline shop where they ship the books to europe…so go buy the whole store empty! XD

        • ふう子 says :

          You really are! We don’t have any stores like that where I live—not even if you go into the city. Even if they were to bump up the price with import fees it would probably be much cheaper than shipping 99% of the time.

          Yes, Canna is a really good magazine! I actually just read half of volume 7 today since our power was out, and I really enjoyed it as always. :3

  2. YuKaname says :

    AH! After I read this, I went and read some of the chapters online…and found out that you were absolutely right. The stories are high-quality, the storyline is rather simple, without unnecessary feelings, but is poignant, more so than other BL. And the fact that it’s well-organized doesn’t take away from the fact that the characters are absolutely lovable (including Seth! What is up with him? He’s so lovable!)

    This is an uncommonly good find! It’s rare to see something so well-done in BL category. The art is absolutely beautiful as well. It’s slightly reminiscent of CLAMP’s xxxholic, but is unique nontheless. Thank you for posting about this. It really was good. I think I’ll go buy it now.

  3. sillygrl1990 says :

    Thanks for introducing me to her.
    Her art immediately caught my attention, and after reading your article, I really want to read her stories. More “calming” types of stories like hers are a bit rarer to find, so I think I’ll go read some now!

  4. 7849 says :

    I’m so sorry to pester you.. Besides the song of rainfall and sute neko, what other tankobuns does inouesensei have :)? Manga updates says some of her stories go up to 3 or 4 chapters but nothing more.. Thank you!

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