Thursday Lab Report #27: Interview With Tony Yao From Manga Therapy

Manga Therapy

Should I say that Thursday Lab Report is back for good, or shall I call it back if I have an interview next week? Well, either way, I do have an interview with you all for this week, and for this Thursday Lab Report, the guest this time has combined his love for Japanese Pop Culture with another thing he loved: Psychology! Tony Yao shares how Manga Therapy was created, his thoughts on blogging consistently, and what he thinks of Weekly Shonen Jump.

Justin: So talk about yourself a little bit and how Manga Therapy was conceived.

Tony Yao: Manga Therapy mostly started out of a desire to talk about how manga can be used to motivate people mentally. Back in late 2009, I was given a book called “Crush It!” by famous social media entrepreneur, Gary Vaynerchuk, on my birthday. I didn’t read it right away, but when I did, I decided to start Manga Therapy since the book convinced me that the Internet & blogging will definitely get you to where you want to be. I’ve always credited Japanese pop culture for saving my life, so why not share my experiences, you know? I’ve had a history of psychological issues and felt that I should share some insights on how anime/manga/video game characters are similar to us.

What have been the challenges of maintaining a blog mostly devoted to Japanese pop culture and Psychology?

The biggest challenge has been keeping up with everything that’s happening in the world of Japanese pop culture. Back when I first started, I just played things by Twitter only. Then I started using Google Reader and put so many sites on it. I later realized there’s way too much noise out there. You need to learn how to filter out information that doesn’t sound useful to you. Another challenge I have is that I wasn’t a psychology major in college and that I only minored in it. I was afraid that I wouldn’t be considered to be credible. Basing things off of my personal experiences doesn’t always mean a successful blog. I do read psychology news and blogs and have gotten inspiration from them though.

You’ve maintained Manga Therapy for a good while, but it seems you have branched out to other fandom sites (like Goboiano). Did you think you would get this deep into the fandom, or did you expect this to be the case?

Before Manga Therapy, I used to work on a multimedia project called Samurai Beat Radio and was involved with anime fandom as early as 2008. I still do stuff for them, as was the case when I interviewed Yu Asakawa back at New York Comic-Con 2012. I knew that I was going to get deep into fandom, but I still get flustered from those who consider my blog to be awesome. Forgive me for being Asian and not being able to take compliments well. I’m sort of tsundere to a certain degree.

Do you have a schedule on when you decide to write? Do you take notes when you get ideas and then try and form a post out of it?

For the most part, I wing it. I write when I know that and feel like I can devote my resources to it. It’s a terrible process to most people, I know, but I’m currently working on a more disciplined structure. I do save certain articles I read on Evernote, Twitter, Reader, & Prismatic when I see something that makes me go, “I think I know a series that focuses on this theme!”.

Do you have any advice on how to stay motivated to blog on a consistent basis?

I actually would like to ask that question myself! (laughs) Now that I’m getting older and more responsibilities begin to creep around me, I’m afraid of what will happen if I don’t blog. Yet as a friend once said to me, I seemed to be more focused on my blog than anything else. All I can say to someone who wants to blog consistently is to always surround yourself and interact with people who love and think critically about the same interests as you and be around areas that promote those very same interests. I’ve always credited places like Kinokuniya Bookstore for keeping me motivated. Plus, keep an open mind about all kinds of series out there.

How did you get interested in anime and also manga?

For anime, three words: Dragon Ball Z. When I was 10, I watched Chinese-dubbed episodes of the Freeza saga. This was before DBZ became big in America. I literally became a Vegeta fanboy and collected so much merchandise with his character.

For manga, I remember reading an issue of Wizard Magazine back in junior high school where they discussed censorship in manga. They talked about Ghost in the Shell and its infamous cybersex scene. So yeah, interpret that however you see it. (laughs) It wasn’t until I got my first computer where I discovered more about DBZ and became interested in the manga version.

After high school, it was Rurouni Kenshin and Great Teacher Onizuka that made me prefer manga over anime. I visited fansites for both series and learned a whole bunch of manga spoilers. That piqued my curiosity even more. I wanted the true story since the anime adaptations of both series left me unsatisfied. As a result, I officially became a manga addict.

Has blogging changed your views of anime and manga, or has it reinforced your love for both mediums?

For the most part, it’s reinforced why I love both mediums. The Internet is truly the guiding force to making communities happen and the world a smaller place for fans to get along.

What are your thoughts on Shonen Jump Alpha going simultaneous?

If you ask me, this should have been done 2 years ago. The problem with doing it now is the fact that both Naruto and BLEACH are going to end in the near future. One Piece can’t save the magazine, since pirates don’t sound all that exotic to North American fans. I know this isn’t entirely VIZ Media’s fault, but Shueisha has to think of something since you can’t always go back to the well with old series one too many times. Sooner or later, that water will run out. I do like Onepunch-Man, but I don’t see it attracting very casual fans because of its offbeat humor.

Do you think both industries (anime and manga) are heading in a good direction or bad direction? Even so, any suggestions or concerns you can share for both?

I think both industries just “exist”. We’re always going to be there. That’s good for now, but things have a great chance in becoming better because of how much overseas fans love the mediums. Communities are gifts that should be accepted and embraced.

As much as people say that there might never be another mainstream hit that captivates the world, the possibility that a hit will happen is still there. I’m sure that certain Japanese people’s creativity have unlocked after the events of the Tohoku earthquake. Also, Rob Salkowitz, author of “Comic Con & the Business of Pop Culture”, believes that the next big manga hit could come from places like Latin America, North Africa, & South Asia. I think Japan as a whole needs to be more accepting towards foreigners who really love manga and wish to create it, and not just schools like Kyoto Seika University. Those folks could be the ones who can enhance BOTH the manga and anime industries.

With regards to anime, I think the Kick Heart project could be the start of something big. I think it’s a wonderful idea since it has brought fans from all over the world together for a common cause. In a sense, it is the “official start” of Japan embracing globalization with regards to anime.

Finally, I’m interested to see how popular the fujoshi get in the next 5 years. We’re slowly seeing more fujoshi characters in anime series and fanservice catered to them. Danny Choo did say that women have all the spending power. Plus, they totally dominate the doujin scene in Japan. It will be interesting to see if a “otaku vs. fujoshi” war breaks out.

Finally, what anime have you been keeping up with over the Fall and Winter seasons?

As of right now, I am watching Gintama, Zetsuen no Tempest, Rock Lee and his Ninja Pals, Shirokuma Cafe, Magi, Ixion Saga DT, Cuticle Detective Inaba, Senyu, AMNESIA, and Initial D: Fifth Stage. This is actually the most anime I have watched at one time ever. I’m mostly reading manga, but I’m starting to enjoy anime more, thanks to the Crunchyroll app I have on my PlayStation 3. You don’t know what you’re missing until you witness the glory of seeing actual anime currently showing in Japan on a HDTV.  I am planning to watch K and Psycho Pass soon.

You can check out Manga Therapy, and also give him a follow on Twitter.

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Justin is the Editor-in-Chief, or overseer of 90% of what goes out, of this site. He might insert a sports reference in a post every now and then.

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