Interview with Mr. Sagawa
(a founder of “June, Sun Publication)
June 6, 2002.
The background of Mr. Sagawa and “June”
Mr. Sagawa was born in 1954. He was crazy about manga since he was little. Although he was a boy’s manga fan, he started to read girl‘s manga depicted by for example Takemiya, Hagio, Yamagishi, Ohshima nicknamed “24 year group (Shojo mangaka who were born around Showa 24 – equibarent 1949)” since their quality of manga reached the level of boy’s manga and they were very interesting in those days. (Those female mangaka are actually from Osamu Tezuka’s experimental manga magazine, “Com.” This was well known as a high-grade manga magazine with not only manga, but also critic and the research of manga historically.) When Tokyo comic Market was founded, he was one of the staff members as well as Mr. Yonezawa. He also participated in Tokyo comic market as a seller of an Oosaka region-based dojinshi group of “Channel Garo koubou (studio).” (The main mangaka of the group is a well-known 4 frame mangaka, Hisaichi Isii and a manga critic, Tomohiko Murakami). Mr. Sagawas was a college student of Waseda University. At the same time, he started to work in Sun Syuppan (publication company) – pornographic male manga/magazine general publication company - as a part timer. He quit University after 6 year’s study and he continued to work in Sun publication as a full timer.
As soon as he started to work in the company as a permanent worker, he planned to publish a new magazin for female and founded “Jun (later changed to “June”)” in 1978. The goal of “June (pronounced “Ju-nei” ) was for soft pornographic manga magazine for female. The reason was that he felt the needs since there was the arrival of boy’s love story in commercial manga by Keiko Takemiya, Moto Hagio, Yumiko Ohshima, and others and started be popular even in the major commercial publishing companies. This June was successful in responding to latent female needs which eager to create and read fantastic, romantic, and superior love. June became popular with the special issue of animation of Kaze to Ki no Uta (literally means “Poem of Wind and Tree,” originally published as serial weekly manga in Shojyo Comic in 1976). Also, June was founded against from an animation magazine of “Out,” which was published by Minori Shoboh (publication). (Minori Shoboh is a kind of rival company for Sun Syuppan. Out was a sub-cultural animation magazine which targeted youth. Out became popular with the special issue of “Yamato” of space opera.)
Mr. Sagawa said that June represented female’s ideal in which everything should be good-looking and beautiful. (In case of Japanese aesthetic, I believe that good-looking and beautiful mean “slender,” “fragile,” “sensitive,” and “delicate.” Japanese female never admit “macho” as beauty.) So, the bottom line of this manga magazine is that all characters should be nice-looking men.
For the question of how “June” has been changed last 25 years since 1978, he responded that the content of story changed from soft love to hard love like pornography. This was reflected the appearance of “Lady’s Comic” magazine after girl’s manga. (Lady’s Comic was developed in 1980s which targeted female around late 20s to 30s after graduating from Shojho manga readers of teen ages. The content of story of this was generally love story between man and woman with a taste of soft pornography. But later on, the story went to extreme like a hardcore porno and the main part of story was sex scenes. But even so, characters and sexual scenes are always depicted indirectly and beautifully. It’s never shown directly unlike American pornography.
The majority of “June” readers was originally teenage of high school. But, the age group of readers has been stretched out from junior high (early teenage) to 40th last 25 years, which means that the initial readers did not stop reading and/or come back after their marriage and/or rising their children. “June” was not a temporal phenomenon only for teenage girls.
Another significant phenomenon related to “June” magazine was that “Shousetsu (novel) June” was founded in October, 1982 to respond to writer’s request that they could create M/M love story although they could not draw in manga, but they would like to create such story. Regardless of different ways either manga or novel, their purpose was the same which was to create superior love between beautiful and idealistic M/M.
The publication number of the first issue was about 120,000 in 380 Japanese yen (about 3 US dollars) in 1978, which was a little more expensive than any other magazines in those days. The half number was returned. Although they reduced the number of publication, June was temporarily closed after publishing 8 issues. (The story is a little complicated that it was published bimonthly, but later changed to monthly. So 8 issues might be one and a half years later.) But soon after, “June” was back in responding to serious readers’ request and also publishers found that June was consistently sold in 20,000 to 30,000 issues as maniac magazine to core readers. Mr. Sagawa said that “June” was republished as a high-grade literary art magazine based on M/M love story. “June” was doubled in cost around 700 Japanese yen.
At this time, June emphasized the contribution for magazine. They created column in it called “Syousetsu-doujyou (literally means “novel excise hall”)” with an editor, Azusa Nakajima who is a well-known yaoi writer. Unlike the major publications, it is not the competition with awards, but it gave a grade (of black belt) depending on the quality of novel with comments and suggestions. Majority of yaoi writers who participate actively in commercial is originally from this excise hall. Mr. Sagawa said that he invited many talented writers from Comic markets.
*“Oekaki Kyoshitsu (literally means “drawing school”)” for amateur mangaka was created with the support of professional mangaka, Keiko Takemiya. Those two schools are still continued through June. (I need to ask Keiko the process of creating this school and the reason.)
Prior to present, 99% of June readers are female.
The reason for popurality of June might have a couple of reasons.
First of all, when June was founded, publishers including Mr. Sagawa predicted to contravasial issues for the content of June, which was the love story of M/M. To be ready for the ideological/theoretical dispute, June was founded as a pornographic magazine for literature. June is the female magazine for female who are not good at communicating with others and in society. June is a place of shelter for those women. June is a place of therapistic rehabilitation for those women who had experiences of mental and physical abuses as a female. Mr. Sagawa said that he cannot ignore that there are not a few readers who had such experiences during their childhood. Some of they have experiences which they never been loved by people (e.g. parents, friends, opposite sex, and others). Finally, June became popular since the story of June encouraged those female to visualize a supreme love of M/M and it heal their wound and struggle as women who are not existed in this society equally to men.
The arrival of Yaoi and the meaning of Yaoi based on Mr’ Sagawa’s point of view
The category of Yaoi in Comic Markets became popular with the big hit of an animation of “Captain Tsubasa (around 1980s?). Before the yaoi, there were groups of “June” and “Tanbi (literally means “aesthetic” which are fondness fro an obsession with works of beautiful things).”
The origin of term of Yaoi was from the manifesto of Kanazawa region-based group (e.g. Rinko Hatsu and Yasuko Sakata) that they ironically called the content of their dojinshi were “Yamanashi, Ochinashi, and Iminashi. (I omit the explanation since we already discussed it a lot.) Actually, the meaning is totally opposite according to Mr. Sagawa, there are only “Ochi, Yama, and Imi “ which only has highlight scene of sexual relationship for M/M without any transitional connections among them. Anyways, the term which was initially manifested by them started to look out for oneself and changed to be used as a parody which has low quality with only sexual scenes of M/M. Especially, the parody was produced by dojinshi groups and spread through comic markets with the movement of “Captain Tsubasa.” Now the term is meant to be any kinds of love story of M/M which is not necessary of parody. Under the category of Yaoi, there are “June,” “Tanbi,” and “Boy’s Love.” (By the way, M/M is indicated MXM in Japan. And the first “M” means “Seme” and the second “M” is “Uke,” according to Mr. Sagawa.)
The characteristics of Yaoi parody is, for example, to exchange “friendship” to “love” between boy and boy in the soccer team in the story of “Captain Tsubasa.” And the love needs to have sex. The words of “I can die for you” as a symbol of extreme friendship of fellow love can be replaceble as a symbol of superior love. Yaoi parody is a story of combination good points from both of female and male, which are the combination between sensitivity, gentle and strength.
If so, Why do those of characters have to be M/M instead of M/W or W/W? If it is the love between M/W, the story does not exist as a superior love due to the reality after love is accomplished. Also, the Yaoi story is developed based on fellow-love of friendship between M/M, the love story of W/W never be a extreme love since there are no friendship between W and W. (Seemingly, Yaoi mangaka/writiers believe that even the slushy situation with gelous never be obstacle for the relationship of M/M love. This is also an example that they are not guy since they don’t know the reality of guy couples relationship. It will be the same as the relationship of M/W.)