Mac on Tokyo: Yoshimichi Majima
Yoshimichi Majima is the showrunner for Brave and Bold, Tokyo’s premier artist alley event. Maction Planet talked to him about his love of amecomi, Brave and Bold Volume 2 and future plans for changing the face of Tokyo’s American comic book scene.
Maction Planet: Hi Yoshi, Thanks for taking the time to talk to Maction Planet! How are things with you currently? You must be extremely busy working on the second volume of Brave and Bold?
Yoshimichi Majima: Hi Mac. Thanks for interviewing me and wanting to discuss my brainchild, Brave and Bold. Things have been extremely overwhelming for both my professional work and my event, but at least I’m still breathing.
MP: That is good to hear. Otsukare! I think American comic, or amecomi, fans in Japan are extremely appreciative of all your efforts. You are one of the people who has transformed the scene here in Tokyo. Maybe we should start at the beginning. Where and when did your love of amecomi start?
YM: I started with a Japanese-translated edition of Jim Lee’s X-Men in the 90s. Back in the day, X-Men had ‘super cool’ status amongst Japanese sub-culture fans. A lot of manga artists, video game creators and animation artists fell in love with Jim Lee’s style. I, at that time, was 11, and loved every single page Jim drew. So, that’s how I discovered my love for comics. I then started to learn more English at grade school and shifted to US imported comics.
MP: That is quite a beginning. I know Jim Lee is venerated here. I was lucky enough to attend his appearances at Kotobukiya, Kaigai Manga Matsuri and Meiji University in 2014. There were some fans who were in tears in the signing lines, so overwhelmed were they at the opportunity to meet him! Did you find that comics were a motivation to learn English faster and study harder?
YM: Somewhat, yes! Lol. Well, it was a school requirement…
MP: What were your favourite books when you were younger, other than X-Men?
YM: Following Jim Lee’s works, I really liked Image books. Wildcats, Spawn, Savage Dragon, Cyberforce. As well as Jim Lee, I liked Marc Silvestri’s art. So I frequently bought lots of Top Cow Studio books.
MP: Your love of the medium really began at an important time in comics, as artists and fans started looking outside the big two of Marvel and DC. Where were you buying your books in Japan?
YM: I had been buying books from Kinokuniya back when they were still importing floppies. I moved to California to study abroad in 2000, and then I started my regular visits to comic shops.
MP: Is that when you visited your first US Comic-Con?
YM: My first comic con came a bit later. I always looked at ads in Wizard Magazine, so I knew there were events where you could meet comic pros. But I waited until 2006. I definitely should have started to visit conventions earlier but I was late to pull the trigger. Back then, sketches and original art were much cheaper!
MP: I think all fans feel like that. My first NYCC was 2012, and things feel so much cheaper even then compared to now! But really, it’s more that the art was undervalued back then and is only now getting the recognition it deserves.
YM: I must agree with you on that point. Many people did not know you could actually buy art used for comic books at conventions. And that it had been going on since early 70s. You even could have asked Jack Kirby to draw exclusive sketch. Those kinds of legendary tales kinda make me nuts. I missed the golden time
MP: I’m sure people who start collecting in 10 years time will also feel they missed out on ‘now’, which to them will seem like ‘the golden time’! So, how did you move from collector to being involved in “the business”?
YM: It started at the first annual Kaigai Manga Festa in 2012. At that point, Japan still did not have an event similar to those western-style comic conventions. Kaigai was not exactly the same as a comic convention, but its artist alley carried the same spirit as those comic-cons. At the same time as I learnt that there was going to be a festival which featured foreign artists in the alley, comic artist Peter Nguyen was coincidentally traveling to Japan during the same period. I decided to convince him to attend that show and I got him a table and helped him with getting commissions and selling goods at the table. Peter and I were not really expecting anything big from the show since there were no other American comic artists attending the show and we never thought actual comic fans would show up. But my friends really helped me out as they knew it was going to be a very rare opportunity to meet a comic artist in Tokyo at that point of time. They bought commissions to help Peter pay for his trip, and bought prints and books at the table. So that’s how I started this thing. It happened in 2012.
I still owe a lot of gratitude toward my friends for their support at Kaigai in 2012. Without them, there would probably be no artist alley or “Brave and Bold” today. At the Kaigai in 2012, Peter was successful enough to decide he would come back to Japan the following year, along with friends Clay Mann, Ryan Benjamin and Sean Galloway. I then started to work with artists from Indonesia and so on. Then, I started my event Brave and Bold last year. I will continue to host this event, with Volume 2 happening in May 2017.
MP: Like I said before, Tokyo’s comic fans truly owe you a debt of gratitude. The first Brave and Bold was held in October 2016 and it was a great success, with an interesting mix of Japanese and International artists. When you are inviting international artists, clearly part of the attraction is they will get a chance to come to Tokyo?
YM: Yes, a lot of artists who ultimately decide to come join us seems to be very interested in seeing Tokyo, which they have seen from Movies and Animes. They are particularly interested in seeing Ghibli museum.
MP: That’s something that we also see with guests. It’s a popular site so people so we recommend that you book in advance for the Ghibli museum.
What was your motivation for doing your own event, given we have Kaigai, and also Tokyo Comic-Con was coming up in December 2016?
YM: I had a plan to do pre-opening night event before Kaigai since Kaigai is only one day fest. So last year in 2016, I decided to include well known artists from the manga/anime industries to make a bigger event than I have been doing. Artist alley at Kaigai usually only has foreign artists, so having Japanese artists at B&B was a fresh idea
MP: It certainly worked! I was stoked to meet Godzilla artist Shinji Nishikawa. You also held some live drawing events which were fantastic! Great to see some large scale artworks drawn live by some real greats,
YM: Thanks. A lot of fans including both Comics and Manga/Anime fans came to see those guys drawing at the day of the event, So yes, I am happy that we had very positive feedback.
MP: How will Brave and Bold Vol 2 differ from volume one?
YM: It is now a 2 day event! It’s the first time I will be doing this event independently from kaigai or other event.
MP: Can you tease any special guests for us?
YM: Bronze Age legend of comics, Michael Golden, will be headlining. Stephanie Hans from France, Ariela Kristantina from Indonesia will be featured guests. They all worked with DC and Marvel so they have quite good following here. There will be other foreign artists such as Rian Gonzales from Philippines, and Derrick Chew from Singapore. We will once again have Nishikawa-sensei in the alley and will have an extended live drawing session.
MP: I’m already excited! Now, we have an important announcement to make, from Maction Planet and Brave and Bold, don’t we?
YM: That’s right Mac. I am very pleased to announce that I have appointed Maction Planet as Official Hospitality Partner to Brave and Bold.
As Brave and Bold expands, I need to work with a company to help take care of our guests who have come from far and wide, and for many of them this is their first visit to Tokyo. Maction Planet, with your range of custom travel experiences spanning such a wide variety of areas, seems like the perfect fit. You want to transform the custom travel experience in Tokyo, and I want to change the amecomi scene.
MP: Yoshi, it is a true honour to be chosen for this role, out of all the travel providers in Tokyo.
YM: It was a pretty easy decision. Just look at your TripAdvisor reviews! Plus, you know your Amecomi, Mac, and have personally had experience looking after visiting artists to Tokyo who have come to Japan for previous events, such as Ken Lashley, Andrew Griffith and Livio Ramondelli! Their feedback has been outstanding, to say the least.
MP: Thanks again. We’ll be providing fully-customised experiences to visiting artists at Brave and Bold, and their families. We will also be helping overseas visitors to Japan acquire tickets to the event. Ticket purchasers for Brave and Bold will benefit from discounts on Maction Planet Travel Experiences and our fast-expanding apparel range – we have some new designs coming very soon which American Comic Book fans will definitely enjoy.
Yoshi, it’s been a pleasure talking to you. Any closing comments?
YM: Brave and Bold is fast growing fan favorite event in Tokyo. I plan to make bigger and bigger each time we hold this event. Partnering with Maction Planet is part of that growth. In 5 years I target to make this event the largest artist friendly event which invites both Western Comic creators and Japanese manga/anime creators. Be the first ones to witness this – come check it out!
MP: Watching this growth is going to be a pleasure. I’m really glad Maction Planet and BandB are working together. Thanks Yoshi again, and Ganbare!
Maction Planet can incorporate ‘Otaku’ experiences into your fully-customised Tokyo itinerary – visits to the largest manga and anime stores in the city, Maid Cafe experiences, cosplay photography, secret bars with incredible figure collections… and much more. For further information, contact firstname.lastname@example.org