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Monday, Dec. 17, 2012

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Drawing duo: Manga artists Yukina Hirano (right) and Megumi Suzuki exhibit their illustrations at Design Festa at Tokyo Big Sight in Koto Ward on Nov. 10. KYODO

'Kawaii' culture inspires manga duo


Up-and-coming manga duo Yukina Hirano and Megumi Suzuki, both 19, aim to conquer the world by spreading "kawaii" (cute) culture through their work.

Hirano specializes in retro-chic drawings featuring girls in sailor-themed school uniforms or kimono who all look somewhat melancholic and never smile. Hirano said she tries to convey the loneliness, jealousy and other complex emotions many girls around her age experience.

"By depicting girls who look a little vicious, I think my work can deeply touch people's hearts at a time in their life when many are experiencing a hard time," the sophomore design major at Nihon University College of Art in Tokyo said.

She also said the girls she's drawn might represent "my other self."

Hirano and Suzuki, dubbed the "Sekai Seifuku Shojo Chitai" ("World Conquering Girls Zone"), exhibited their illustrations during last month's Design Festa at Tokyo Big Sight in Koto Ward, drawing considerable attention among the more than 10,000 artists featured at the show — the largest of its kind in Japan and one of the biggest in Asia.

Suzuki portrays sweet girls with large round eyes, long curly hair and short lacy skirts, a common style in manga.

"Since I love large shining eyes, I can't help depicting girls in such a way," she said.

Suzuki, who attends Kyoto Seika University's Faculty of Manga, said she aspires to become a professional cartoonist and to produce work that will encourage a sense of happiness among young female readers.

Another teenage manga artist, who goes by the nom de plume Tina, is combining her passion for cartoons and fashion.

Tina, 17, started drawing manga in the fifth grade and debuted as a "dokusha model" (reader-turned-model) in the monthly girls' magazine Bessatsu Magaretto Sister as a new high school student.

She said that when depicting pretty girls, she focuses on the eyes and adds eyelash extensions to her characters in the same way she does her own makeup.

"I want to write stories that can hearten girls of my generation," she said.

Kawaii culture for a long time has been a significant driving force among girls pursuing various dreams.

Established illustrator Setsuko Tamura, whose drawings are featured in major girls' comic books as well as classic titles such as "Anne of Green Gables," said whenever she depicts a girl, she always hopes the character will grow strong and never lose her smile even amid hardships.

"The girl may be someone from somewhere, but she may actually be myself," she said.

As a child, Tamura said, she repeatedly drew the profile of a princess in her notebook. "Back then, I was hungry for cute things since we were running out of supplies after the end of World War II. I imagined and then drew long eyelashes, curly hair and frilly skirts, wishing I might be able to find them somewhere.

"Kawaii culture saved my life, and it continues to enrich my heart."

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