Interview: Otaku Artist Shoko Nakagawa [1/2]

Japan’s otaku culture is becoming a culture with worldwide popularity that doesn’t distinguish between age, gender, or nationality. Through permeating widely into the world, otaku culture has rid itself of its once insular and negative connotations. Otaku today aren’t all seen as negative. Many are seen as positive as well.

There are representatives of otaku culture who are positive thinking and have no hesitation in declaring their love of anime. One such person is talent Shoko Nakagawa (Shokotan) who we have introduced here on Tokyo Otaku Mode several times before. In this interview, we sat down with Shokotan, who knows how to keep busy and is currently starring in a TV program while also doing gravure modelling, to ask her about the thoughts she puts into her activities as an otaku and an artist.

Shokotan’s Profile:
Shokotan is a Japanese singer and talent. She is active in both TV and radio and has gained a worldwide fanbase due to her abundant knowledge of anime and manga and her sincere personality. She is highly regarded as a singer as well, and was in charge of the opening theme to the anime Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann. Her best-of album Shokotan☆Best--(°∀°)--!! ranked at No. 1 on the Hong Kong HMV chart under the JK-pop category. In 2012, she held a successful 4-city, 5-stop Asia tour. She is also regarded for her drawing ability and debuted in a commercial magazine as a manga artist in 2007.

”Otaku” is a Magical Word

TOM: What do you think about otaku?
Shokotan: Otaku didn’t used to have such a bright image as it does now. Until the 1990s, it was deeply believed that otaku had a negative image, like, “You’re an otaku?!” However, I get the feeling that now it’s become a cool word, a magical word known the world over that overcomes language and national borders and that denotes people who are passionate about what they like, whether that’s anime, manga, or something else. I even think that I have to get more fired up about various things since I’m a diligent otaku. But I’m pressed for time, and there’s no way I can watch every anime. Even still, I have a strong thought of wanting to truly like each thing on a deep level.

I feel that it’s a shame for people not to have any hobbies or interests in this generation. I think out of the universe’s 13.7 billion year history, now is a lucky time for humans in which we can dream, make those dreams come true, and have fun. We’ve overcome the Ice Age and destructive events to evolve into humans, and within the culture that we humans have created we can enjoy manga and anime. For me, I especially like anime songs (anison). It’s because of anime songs that I was able to do what I love. I was able to live for living’s sake.

When I perform concerts overseas, I feel moments where we transcend national boundaries, language, society, and gender. Even though we may shy away from others in our normal lives, I feel that I am closely connected to the fans at concerts through the magic of smiles. The current age of otaku culture is like this kind of righteous magic and is truly a lucky time. So I think it would be a waste not to fully enjoy it.

However, there are many recent anime that are over in one to two seasons (three months to half a year), so I haven’t been keeping up at all. So now there’s a bit of hesitation when I answer “I’m an otaku” because it’s an insult to all those who are true otaku.

I become interested in many anime after hearing the anime’s music. I often listen to Anison Academy on NHK Radio-FM which is a program that plays full-length anison from Showa-era 1 series up to new series. The anison that I have most interest in are anison of the 1980s. Even in Japan during this time, many anime were broadcast during golden time (the time slot around 8:00 p.m.) because this was when most kids watched TV. Due to many passing their childhood during this time, it was a generation filled with heroes and heroines, so that is why I like anison from that time. Even now, I have around 20,000 anison in my iTunes. Not having anison is not living. I spend my days sleeping, eating, and listening to anison.

TOM: What anime and manga do you like?
Shokotan: My favorite manga is JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure. I can’t wait for the new TV anime series to begin broadcasting this spring. Because the story is set in Italy (Part 5) I think it’s also easy for those overseas to get into. It also has a spirit inherited from the previous generation of work with themes we can all share, such as friendship and courage. JoJo is living proof of his ancestors and their blood flows within him. Because of this, I live as fully as I can and have changed my view of life. In the past, I went through a time when I was depressed and I had a personality that clung to negative things, but after I came across JoJo, I realized that I am living proof of my ancestors and my parents who loved every single cell of my being and this encouraged me to live with all my might. I often think that I am not doing my job just for me, but for the sake of my descendants someday in the future so that even when I die the things I want to tell them and the things I want to entrust to them will remain. JoJo changed my view on work that much; it is an amazing series. Just being able to see the TV anime beginning in April makes me look forward to living. I think through it I will also be able to overcome adversity.

TOM: What’s your favorite Stand 2?
Shokotan: Stand… That’s a tough one! If I was able to use one, I would say Harvest 3. I want them to find money and bring it back to me (haha). After that would be Emerald Splash 4 because it seems like it would feel good. After that, Tonio’s Stand 5 who can cure illness with his cooking. I sometimes mimic Tonio and make pasta, but I’m a pretty lousy cook so I can’t make it well. I’m jealous of his Stand that enters the body through food and cures it. I have a weak stomach, so I always think of how wonderful it would be to eat delicious food and be cured when I have a stomach flu.

TOM: Has illustrating and cosplaying also increased your love of anison?
Shokotan: I came to like drawing more and more. In order to become a manga artist, I read lesson books, attended correspondence courses, and submitted my works. Even now I draw illustrations using a LCD tablet for both recreation and work and I publish my works on submission sites. However, I haven’t had time lately to draw. I was once told by a fortune teller that “drawing will elevate my fortune,” so I try to draw whenever I can.

I enjoy drawing girls and older men. In the past, I tended to normally draw splatter paintings like those of Kazuo Umezu 6. However, after finding Sailor Moon, I started drawing girls in that 8-head-length proportion style. After that, I found out about Noizi Ito who worked on the illustrations for the light novel series The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya and began practicing using Photoshop and a tablet, which made me enjoy drawing even more. I was even able to make alterations and paint my album jacket myself using a computer. I feel that the more hobbies someone has, the more useful they will be to that person’s life.

TOM: By the way, what types of things do you cosplay?
Shokotan: I haven’t cosplayed at all lately. But when I do concerts overseas, I dress up as easy-to-recognize characters that the fans will enjoy. Last year at a concert in Peking, I cosplayed as Hatsune Miku and Sailor Moon. When I was on my Asia tour and asked the audience “What cosplay is this?” I was surprised that they immediate knew and shouted back “Hatsune Miku!” or “Sailor Moon!” Before doing my first overseas concert at Anime Expo 2008, I asked for advice from voice actress Aya Hirano who has experience performing and she said, “How you will attack a 1-hour concert is important, so be prepared.” The venue of the concert, Nokia Theater (located in Los Angeles, California), is certainly a big place, and I didn’t have any decorations on the stage or backup dancers, so whether I succeeded or not was really up to my solo performance. Keeping the audience fired up for a 1-hour overseas concert is also a tall hurdle. So, I brought 10 of my own cosplay outfits with me to America including Gurren Lagann, Rei Ayanami, and Sailor Moon. I changed into them while performing, but the outfits were all for recreational use, not concert use, so changing into them and sweating during performing was difficult. While I was singing a song in an Evangelion cosplay, my wig slipped off because I was sweating so much, and the plugsuit was stuffy and clinging to my skin. It was really hard.

But, the audience was happy each time I changed outfits and they understood it was because I’m an anison singer, so I was happy. Before the concert began I was nervous that no one would even come. But, in the end, the Nokia Theater was packed with 7,000 people. I had never performed in front of that many people, even in Japan, so I felt that I was saved by the otaku cosplay culture, and I was glad that everyone gathered and liked it. So, possibly as a result of wearing my favorite cosplay outfits, I remember that I was overflowing with confidence and I was able to sing during the concert without any nervousness.

Shoko Nakagawa’s Official Site, Shokotan Net

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^1^ An era in Japan that lasted from Dec. 25, 1926 to Jan. 7, 1989.

^2^ Supernatural powers that characters were able to use beginning in Part 3 of JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure. Those able to use Stands were called “Stand Users,” and they each had different abilities.

^3^ A Stand introduced in Part 4 of JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure that allows the user to manipulate a countless number of bugs. The Stand User for this Stand was a second year middle school student named Shigekiyo Yangu who in Part 4 helped main character Josuke Higashikata by using his Stand to collect money.

^4^ A technique of Noriaki Kakyoin’s Stand, Hierophant Green, in which the Stand’s attack energy is focused into emerald shapes and fired at the enemy. These were depicted as emeralds of infinite shimmer.

^5^ A stand called “Pearl Jam” that appears in Part 4. The user of this Stand is Italian chef Tonio Trussardi.

^6^ A Japanese manga artist born in 1936. Since his debut in 1955, he has gained fan support for his horror-inspired literary style. His best known works are Orochi, The Drifting Classroom, and Makoto-chan. He is also active as a talent.

This is a Tokyo Otaku Mode original article.

Interview: Otaku Artist Shoko Nakagawa [1/2] 1
Interview: Otaku Artist Shoko Nakagawa [1/2] 2
Interview: Otaku Artist Shoko Nakagawa [1/2] 3
Interview: Otaku Artist Shoko Nakagawa [1/2] 4
Interview: Otaku Artist Shoko Nakagawa [1/2] 5
Interview: Otaku Artist Shoko Nakagawa [1/2] 6

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