Spotlight: Minazuki Akira
In honor of her third tankoubon being released in just a couple days’ time I figured it wouldn’t hurt to write a proper comprehensive post about a mangaka I really love yet for some reason don’t talk about quite as much: Minazuki Akira. I initially discovered Minazuki’s work in HertZ and also added her tankoubon for Konya wa Take-Out nite to my wishlist even though I hadn’t realized at the time that the artist I was seeing in my anthology was the same as the mangaka whose gorgeous cover had completely taken me in. It wasn’t until a while later that I really took notice of Minazuki’s name, and then my love for her was locked in when her debut book was released as a scanlation and I was able to stop feeling overwhelmed by her incredibly unusual art and just enjoy her works wholeheartedly.
She also has two of her books officially released in English by DMP’s ‘June’ line, Tonight’s Take-Out Night! and This Night’s Everything. I have yet to read any reviews for her books in English fandom, but Japanese fandom seems to have accepted Minazuki’s works with open arms. Though the initial response to her debut book was lukewarm in some ways, her follow-up received fairly wide-spread attention and even placed for a while in Chill Chill’s top five ranking for BL manga. She seems to run stories most frequently in HertZ—the anthology that has so far run enough of her work to publish three completed comics—but a little over a year ago she also started releasing stories in Lynx. Canna also seems to have established a partnership with her. However, I haven’t seen her name on the cover of many other publications quite yet.
As for her stories, she doesn’t often go the ‘deep and powerful’ route but she has a very good variety of stories that range from angsty to fluffy, from humorous and fun to serious and dramatic. Personally, my favorites from her are her stories about average men who seem to get caught up in uncomfortable situations, such as the first story from Konya and also a fairly big part of the plot for her newest release. She can write stories that very much fill all the regular cliches of BL as a genre (she writes a great high school romance between childhood friends, as seen in Shiranu), but she’s also capable of writing darker plots and themes as shown in Kono Yo. Her characters have good range from very serious and irritable to very cutesy and always haunted by gags and jokes being played on them. She knows very well where to place her humor and where to keep her scenes serious, and it’s the same way with her characters.
In my opinion, even more so than her stories it’s Minazuki Akira’s art that really sets her apart from the rest. While it could be noted that Minazuki’s art is a turn-off for some, it leaves me a little breathless. The way she draws is all about lines and shapes and the contrast of dark space versus empty space. Similar to artists like Inoue Nawo, Minazuki’s pages have a very ‘black and white’ feel—though, unlike Inoue, Minazuki also uses a fair amount of screentone which she uses to her advantage. Her shadows are either very obvious or non-existent. Another thing I just love about her art is the way she draws bodies and faces—they aren’t too hard and don’t seem forced or tedious, but are still so perfectly proportioned and detailed. It’s really just beautiful to sit and stare at her characters, and her panels in general. Also, it helps that Minazuki is very adept when it comes to perfectly matching her stories and art. I’ve seen some say that Minazuki’s art pigeonholes her stories with a darker atmosphere, but I have to disagree; Minazuki knows how to shift her characters’ expressions to make them lighter and more carefree.
Not to mention that even throughout the years she’s been professionally releasing manga, her art has stayed incredibly consistent. Sometimes when an artists has been releasing for anything over a year, you can see an incredibly obvious difference in their art. But Minazuki’s has stayed almost the same aside from maybe a little fine-tuning here or there. Also, can we talk about her coloring? Because while her coloring really only alludes to what her actual inside manga beholds, it’s completely brilliant even on its own. Usually I prefer bright colors to dull ones, but somehow she really makes subdued colors shine.
Overall, I think she’s a really brilliant mangaka. I don’t know what it is, but there’s just something about the way she draws that really just pulls me in. While she’s not the only mangaka who has such an art style (Komizu Kiyo’s is fairly similar, for example), she’s definitely my favorite. I love the way she draws her characters’ expressions, whether it’s a happy face or a flustered face or an aroused face. I love the way she handles eroticism in her manga. I love how even her more cheesy stories feel like they have that little something special that sets them apart. Everything that I have read by her so far, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed.
I hope with the fairly recent releases of her comics in English, she’ll be able to obtain a pretty good amount of popularity with overseas BL fans. And hopefully she’ll keep running fairly regularly in both HertZ and Lynx (next issue is a full color spread, which only means good things!) for many years to come—and maybe even pick up a new magazine or two to run in? Only time will tell, but it never hurts to hope!