Bonus Podcast: Ken Niimura talks "Spicy Tuna"

A special bonus interview with Ken Niimura, about the MSX exclusive new short story.

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Hey everybody! We’re wrapping up this week’s spotlight on Ken Niimura with some banger posts! In addition to the post we sent about 12 hours ago where Deb wrote a really wonderful comparison between Ken Niimura’s Never Open It and the Japanese folktales that inspired it, we’ve got TWO MORE posts today for you to enjoy!

First up, as you may have seen up top, there’s a video! Except it’s not quite a video, it’s actually an audio interview with a waveform, where Deb and Christopher (hi!) conduct a bonus mini-interview with mangaka Ken Niimura.

We decided to break it out of his bigger interview from last week, because it’s specifically about today’s comic and we think it adds a lot to reading and enjoying the comic. We will even have a few show notes at the bottom of this message, with some interesting tidbits mentioned in this little ‘mini’ podcast.

Speaking of the main event, in the next post (free for all subscribers!) will be this week’s comic, Spicy Tuna, by Ken Niimura (and don’t worry, Okinawa returns on April 1st). As Ken explains in the interview, this is one of his very first short-stories, in the vein of the work in Henshin. It’s about a group of Spanish and Japanese university students, reenacting a medieval Spanish University tradition, on the streets of Tokyo. It’s a really fun comic, and like I said, look for it in the next message (should be sent simultaneously).

So hit “play” on the video up there, and read along with these very short show notes, then click next in your email browser and go read some comics!


MSX Bonus Podcast #1: Ken Niimura talks ‘Spicy Tuna’
Show notes by Christopher Woodrow-Butcher and Deb Aoki
Audio editing by David Brothers

00:00: Just a reminder, you can read Spicy Tuna for free (until 03/29/2023) at https://mangasplaining.substack.com.

01:45: Ken is the artist and co-creator of I Kill Giants, with Joe Kelly. Available now from Image Comics. After finishing I Kill Giants, he had a chance meeting with Taiyo Matsumoto and decided to make a move to Tokyo and pursue making manga with IKKI magazine. You can find out more in our interview with Ken for the podcast.

02:50: La Tuna is a tradition of students who couldn’t afford to pay for their studies or for living in school, going out and ‘singing for their supper’, or performing music and busking, to earn money. Wikipedia has a pretty extensive article on it!

4:20: Ken mentions that the students will be playing songs like Clavelitos, and here’s an example of the type of traditional Spanish song he’s talking about.

07:30: Being stranded in the middle of nowhere and needing to get back home with no real resources reminds me a lot of the second season of Susunu! Denpa Shonen, a truly mid-altering Japanese reality show from the late 90s.

09:45: This was an interesting project to edit! Andrew Woodrow-Butcher adapted the English version from Ken’s translation, and indeed, we did need to take a comic written about a Spanish tradition for a Japanese audience, and work to make it intelligible and enjoyable for an English-reading audience. I’m pretty proud of the result, I know Ken is too, but it’ll be up to you guys to see how we did.

11:00: Unfortunately Ken couldn’t find the photo of him dressed as a Tuna. Perhaps if you all ‘encourage’ him on Twitter, he will dig a little harder for it and share it. :)

12:06: Ken DID find some great videos of his friend Miguel Ángel performing La Tuna in Tokyo! Which is just fantastic to see, love this. He’s allowed us to share them with all of you, please enjoy.

12:30: So about that, I couldn’t find the photos I knew I took, and it turns out that it was actually at Naka-Meguro Station… and the photos popped up. Please enjoy some renaissance Christmas performance photos from Naka-Meguro Station, December 2017.

Very similar vibes, in my mind, to the Spicy Tuna comic.

And that’s this mini-episode! I’d like to thank our good friend Ken Niimura for joining us for a short chat about Spicy Tuna. I’d also like to apologize for talking so much, by Deb was having pretty severe internet problems and then eventually it temporarily cut out entirely at the end, and we needed to reboot.

As always thanks to D.A.D.S. for composing such lovely music (and letting us use it for this semi-side-project). Follow D.A.D.S. on Spotify!

…and click here to read the comic!

And if you want to keep reading more cool comic projects like this, this is a reader-supported project we’re doing, and we appreciate both free and paid subscriptions. Thanks!