Hi, I’m Arina Tanemura, A Freelance Mangaka (Industry Interview)

We sat down with the mangaka of Full Moon o Sagashite, Phantom Thief Jeanne, and The Gentlemen's Alliance Cross!

Arina Tanemura

If you’re a fan of shoujo manga, then you’re no stranger to Tanemura’s works. Tanemura is the Japanese manga artist of several popular shoujo manga hits, such as Full Moon o Sagashite, Phantom Thief Jeanne, and The Gentlemen’s Alliance Cross! We were given the opportunity to interview this fantastic artist and find out more of what she has been up to.

Don’t mind what anybody else says. Draw what you want to draw. Believe in what you draw–continue to do so and you will get there.

Are there any series concepts you came up with that you really wanted to do, but they got rejected by editors?

There were some that I wanted to draw more classical or set in historic times when there was more of a caste system, or a gender inequality system, in place. They said no to that because it did not quite fit with the current audience, so it would not have appealed to them.

Do you ever hold on to some of those ideas and want to introduce them later when the audience has changed?

Not so much this particular classical one, but I have always wanted to work in the mystery genre, like the detective genre. However, because it does not quite fit with the magazine I’m with right now, with their subscriptions, they will not let me do it just yet, but I still have the desire to do it.

What is your favorite manga from another mangaka?

There are a lot! So, right now I’m following Attack on Titan. I read a lot of manga, but my number one favorite manga artist is Rumiko Takahashi.

Idol Dreams by Arina Tanemura
31 Idol Dreams by Arina Tanemura | Source: Viz Media

What inspired you to make 31 Idol Dreams? Do you have any regrets similar to your protagonist’s regrets?

No regrets. Not so much as a mangaka, but my own personal desires. It is my personal desires of what I want to do for Idol Dreams. It’s not so much as a mangaka, but it’s my own personal aspirations that I put into the work. I always draw at home and can’t really go out much, so might as well just put it in the work!

How do you feel that shoujo manga has changed over the years? Have any of these changes influenced your own manga in any way?

So, in the shoujo manga world, there hasn’t been much that has changed in storytelling, but the style has changed a bit from before I debuted. It had been more extravagant and now it’s changed to more toned down and focused on real life. It isn’t so much the current style of shoujo that has influenced me, but it was more like what I have experienced through the manga that I have read as a child that influenced me the most.

Your drawing style is very unique. How long did it take for you to refine your technique?

I started drawing when I was around 5 years old, and since then, most of my influence has been the shoujo manga of that time. So my aim was to draw shoujo manga the normal way, or what I thought was the normal way because everybody else was drawing that way. So, I continued doing what I believed was normal. Also, in the shoujo manga community (or the otaku shoujo manga community), they believed that style looked very “cool” or fashionable, but then when I started drawing manga everybody started telling me, “It’s very unique; it’s very different!  I’ve never seen this before,” and I was like, “What? I thought this was normal!” So even though I thought it was normal, it’s become my own style now. I debuted when I was 18 years old, so it’s taken me about 13 years to really refine everything and then they told me about this.

You mentioned previously that your daily routine is to start drawing, fall asleep, wake up, and repeat.  Do you have a go-to meal that you eat when you have a time crunch?

Onigiri. When I was drawing by hand, I couldn’t eat anything at the desk because it would drop all over my work. But now that I’ve switched over to digital work, I can eat with one hand and draw with the other hand. And it’s okay if I drop it all over because I can just wipe it off!

What do you do when you feel discouraged that would cheer you up?

I talk to my cats. I lay my head down and listen to the noises their stomachs make, and it calms me down. It’s very soothing.

You mentioned in a previous interview that you watched the American drama “24.”  What are you watching now while you work?

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.  I really like it!

The Gentlemen's Alliance Cross by Arina Tanemura
The Gentlemen’s Alliance Cross by Arina Tanemura

What is your favorite project you’ve worked on during the course of your career?

My favorite manga that I’ve made was The Gentlemen’s Alliance Cross. I am also very happy to have worked on Idolish 7 and do the character designs for them.

Are there any projects that you would do differently if given the chance?

I would like to redraw Time Stranger Kyoko. I didn’t get to draw it the way I wanted to at the very end. In the middle, they were really rushed and I had to quickly finish the story and end it.

Do you think the anime adaptations of your work have captured the feel of what you were trying to achieve in your manga?

Not really, no. But on the other hand, I can’t mimic the expressions in anime either. Since they are both so variable you can’t really mix them together, it’s better for them to stay separate. They each have their own values and benefits.

Are you working on any current manga?

The 31 Idol Dreams and Idolish 7 comics. I am currently working on the original work Shunkan Lyle, too.

How do you stay organized?

I work in the order of the deadline. My people help me. They do set the deadline, but I kind of stretch it out to the last second so that when I’m done, it’s done.

What advice would you give to aspiring artists?

Don’t mind what anybody else says. Draw what you want to draw. Believe in what you draw–continue to do so and you will get there.

Most of your main characters are around their early teenage years; have you thought of making a story with older protagonists?

Actually, in my current work, 31 Idol Dreams, the protagonist is 31 years old. She’s close to my age. It’s easier to draw and I don’t have to work so hard to draw the character out.

What is it that draws you to shoujo manga?

I love drawing. When I was growing up, I thought, “I want to do work where I can live at home and draw forever!”

Do you think there are constraints to drawing shoujo manga?

There’s more rated R18+ [Japanese rating system indicating media is for those 18 years or older] kind of things. You can’t go too far from… You have to keep it more… You can’t draw it too seductively or show too much. You can’t be too sexy. Characters can’t be too exposed. There would be insinuation though. We’d have a panel of a guy going into a room and the next panel it would be the morning sun with the birds chirping. I got pretty good at doing that–using that technique to insinuate things happening.

Out of all the countries that you have visited, which one was your favorite?  Do you have a favorite food dish from your travels?

They’re all pretty good but the Maldives is one of my favorites. I like the ocean and the bright beach. Each country has their own cooking specialties. My favorite dish was in Turkey, and it was a dish was called Cappadocia, as well as the honey from Turkey.  There is a vinegar made from honey that you can eat or add to food.

Could you please name 3 people who inspired you?

Hayao Miyazaki, Rumiko Takahashi, and Kei Kusunoki, mangaka of Ogre Slayer. He was working at Ribon [monthly shoujo manga magazine], too, and he influenced me while I was there.


Thank you to Arina Tanemura and AnimeFest for the opportunity.

Thank you to those who submitted interview questions: Astra W., Cindy C., Ashley C., calico197, Jasmyn Ritchie, Dawn, Cecilia Rose, & Maryam

Translated by Gina Chou (AnimeFest volunteer translators) & Transcribed by Ashley Contreras (Laurelin) 


In the “Hi, I’m…” series, we sit down with fantastic folks who influence the world of Japanese culture, from AniTubers to experts & industry celebs. Every other month, we’ll present a new interview with insight on their daily life, their thoughts on the Japanese Culture industry and tips for those wanting to debut in the same field as them.

Have someone you want to see featured or questions you think we should ask? Send us an email: YattaTachi[at]gmail.com

Editor’s Note: This interview was edited slightly for clarity. 

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About the Author

Katy Castillo

Teresa (Katy) Castillo. Owner & Editor-in-Chief of Yatta-Tachi! Hispanic. Puro 956. Queer AF. Femme. She/Her. You can find me discussing anime/manga, yelling about the importance of accessibility / inclusiveness / diversity, UX / Visual Design, and stress baking / cooking on Mastodon, Twitter, and Instagram.

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