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MANGA: Ken Niimura's 'The Making of HENSHIN'
How Ken Niimura made his first original manga in Japan
Welcome to our unofficial “Ken Niimura Week” here on MSX: Mangasplaining Extra! We’re thrilled to be bringing you the work of manga-ka Ken Niimura, who has been a great friend of Deb, Andrew, and Christopher for many years, and is an amazing creator to boot. Because we want to take this opportunity to spotlight a creator we love and support, we’re making all content this week free for both paid and free subscribers to the newsletter. Everyone gets a little treat!
Today, we’re going to share with you a special comic that Ken made about his artistic process, in the creation of his short story collection Henshin. ‘Henshin means, in Japanese, to change, or to transform. It’s what the Riders shout just before they power-up in Kamen Rider, and the concept of Henshin/transformation is a big theme in works like Matsumoto’s Ping Pong, which we’ll cover on the podcast in April.
The short stories in Henshin, which are all set in Tokyo, run the gamut from gritty crime to strange superheroes, cat-focused slice-of-life comics, and much more. They were created for and originally published in Japanese in Shogakukan’s manga web magazine Hibana/IKKI, as part of their Big Comics group of magazines. Ken published this “making-of” as a zine (or dojinshi) back in 2014, and sold copies at Japanese comics events like Comitia. We think it’s a great introduction to Ken’s artistic sensibilities. While you’ll get even more out of it if you’ve read Henshin (available now, in English, print & digital from Image Comics), on it’s own, this is a fun peek behind the scenes of the process of an unique manga-ka.
Continuing this special week, we’ll have some more on Ken including:
Tuesday: Mangasplaining Episode 54: Listen to Me! with Ken Niimura - We talk about Ken’s career in Spain and Tokyo, and about his newest book Never Open It: The Taboo Trilogy, recently released from Yen Press. You can listen to this from the Mangasplaining website or from your favorite podcast app. As always, our podcasts are FREE for everyone!
Friday: MANGA: Spicy Tuna, by Ken Niimura. An original short story by Ken blending his Spanish and Japanese heritage, as a group of rapscallion university students run amok in Tokyo. This too is free, and will be delivered to all MSX subscribers or available from the Mangasplaining Extra website.
Sunday: BONUS: Deb Aoki explores the original Japanese myths that inspired Ken’s stories in his new work Never Open It. FREE for all Mangasplaining Extra subscribers, both free and paid, and through our MSX website.
So without any further ado, let’s enjoy The Making of HENSHIN!
This comic is best viewed on the website, or in the Substack App.
By Ken Niimura. Originally written in 2014.
Hi, my name is Ken Niimura, and I write and draw comics. I was born in Madrid in 1989.
In 2009, I released I Kill Giants, a comic I created with Joe Kelly.
We were nominated for an Eisner Award, and won the Gold Medal in The Japanese Foreign Affairs Ministry’s International Manga Award. Needless to say, we’re very proud of that comic.
After living in cities like Brussels, Paris, Montreal, and Madrid, I moved to Tokyo three years ago.
Life is nice here: I ride my bicycle, swim and do yoga, and eat a lot of vegetables, so I’m doing fine, thank you.
I also published my first original comic in Japanese, Henshin, and it’s coming out soon in English.
Here are some notes on how I made it!
About Ken Niimura
At the crossroads of Japanese, European, and American comics, Ken Niimura has developed a dynamic, vibrant, and humourous style all his own.
His breakthrough in the industry came with the publication of the acclaimed graphic novel I Kill Giants (Image Comics) earning co-creators Niimura and writer Joe Kelly a nomination for an Eisner Award, and the win for the International Manga Award in 2012. I Kill Giants was adapted as a feature film staring Madison Wolfe and Zoe Saldaña in 2017.
Also with Image Comics, Niimura published a collection of artwork and illustrations, Zero JM Ken Niimura Illustrations in 2011, and the short-story collection Henshin in 2015.
Most recently, Niimura has created the digital comic Umami (winner of the Eisner Award for best digital comic) for Panel Syndicate, and in 2021 he released his newest collection Never Open It: The Taboo Trilogy, a series of three thematically linked manga based on Japanese folktales, from Yen Press. You can also find his work across various projects, including an adaptation of Tezuka’s Black Jack (with Joe Kelly), Gotham Academy for DC Comics, and even your friendly neighbourhood Spider-Man.
He can be found online at KenNiimura.com.
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