Talking To Yumi Sakugawa

By Rachel D.

yumi

Yumi Sakugawa is an American comic book artist and illustrator. She is an illustrator for the websites The Rumpus and Wonderhowto. Yumi also recently released the book I Think I Am In Friend Love With You. This book is incredibly sweet and its ending is as heartbreaking as it is relatable. I talked to Yumi about her own comic influences and the representation of different ethnicities in pop culture.

Rachel: Had you planned to publish “I Think I Am In Friend Love With You” as a book when you began drawing it?

Yumi: Definitely not. I was purely making it for myself as a sort of therapeutic diary comic to process my own unresolved feelings with certain people from the past, and then I decided to share it with Sadie Magazine, an online magazine for teen girls and young women I was making web comics for at the time. I remember thinking that I would be happy if at least 10 random strangers understood the nebulous feeling of friend-love, so I was shocked and very pleased when the web comic went viral all over Tumblr and the internet. 

R: Did you read comics as a kid? If so, what were your favourites?

Y: I read a lot of newspaper comics and some Japanese manga titles. Definitely a lot of Sailor Moon, which was probably my all-time favorite. 

R: Are there any comics that influence your work?

Y: My first exposure to independent comics was BLANKETS by Craig Thompson and SUMMER BLONDE by Adrian Tomine. Though they are both very different in terms of style, I remember being struck by their very strong black and white drawing styles and their distinctive narrative flow that have a very literary quality to them. I really loved (and still love) SKIM by Mariko Tamaki and Jillian Tamaki. Recently, I am finding myself revisiting short comic stories by Moto Hagio, an old-school Japanese manga artist who does these amazing magical realism stories but at the heart of it are so psychologically and emotionally arresting.  

R: Did you draw comics or make zines as a teen?

Y: I didn’t really make zines, but I definitely drew a lot of super-short comics. They were hardly anything elaborate and probably mostly one-strip or one-panel gags. I did draw a lot and write a lot though. 

R: What TV shows and movies did you watch as a teen? Do you think your interests have changed much since?

Y: I watched a lot of Evangelion and GHOST WORLD was my favorite indie movie as a teen. I think I’m still interested in the same type of stories and themes, but maybe now that I’m older and in a steady relationship, I’m not as concerned with love stories.

R: Do you prefer drawing your characters as creatures (like in I Think I Am In Friend Love With You) or as people? 

Y: Lately I’ve been really enjoying drawing non-human characters. I don’t know yet if it is a preference or a temporary phase.

R: Do you think your work, or at least how you work, would be a lot different without the internet? 

Y: I think how work would be different. It is exciting to be able to work on a self-contained, short web comic (like the work I do for The Rumpus) and know that it will be posted and seen by a lot of people within a matter of days. 

R: I love your comic about Claudia Kishi of The Babysitter’s Club, do you think ethnicities are more represented in pop culture now?

Y: Definitely much more than when I was a child of the 90’s reading The Babysitter’s Club, but representation of ethnic minorities is still embarrassingly low in mainstream media. 

R: Also regarding your comic about Claudia Kishi, do you idolize any fictional character now the way that you idolized Claudia Kishi then?

Y: I don’t think I’ve found a new fictional character that tops the fabulosity of Claudia Kishi. 

R: Did you keep a diary when you were a child/teen?

Y: Yes. Obsessively. I am actually sad that I’ve fallen off that journal-writing habit and I hope to get back onto it soon.  

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