Five questions about nemu*nemu

Like Minus and the print manga Yotsuba&!, nemu*nemu blends cuteness and humor into a relaxing and often funny read. Creators Scott Yoshinaga and Audra Furuichi, who are based in Honolulu, draw the strip in a simple, manga-influenced style and often bring in references to Hawaiian and Japanese culture. In addition to running at its own site, nemu*nemu has recently joined the lineup at Sugary Serials. Yoshinaga and Furuichi expect to have the second print volume ready for this year’s Kawaii-Kon.

Digital Strips: Let’s start with the elevator pitch: Describe your comic in 25 words or less.

Audra Furuichi: A web comic featuring the adventures of Nemu and Anpan, two magical stuffed toy pups, and their owners Anise and Kana.

DS: Who are the main characters—the puppies or the girls?

AF: Each character is of equal importance. Although each comic does not include all 4 characters, the comic changes the focus depending on the story. Our goal is to explore different points of view in life. Be it from an “alien” pup who is experiencing things for the first time or a pre-teen girl who is finding her voice and place in society while being a teacher in her own right, they each are going through something that we have all experienced sometime in our lives. 

However, I like to focus more on the pups—they’re cute and people (including us!) love to see them get into strange predicaments. 

nemu*nemuDS: Why did you switch from black and white to color?

AF: At the time we started, we were following print models—published manga series. We felt at the time it was easier to manage and Scott was helping me with the workload—as he’s a much more experienced inker than I!  As we completed the content for Volume 1, we encountered some problems with the printing. Because we went through a digital press and our files had to be compressed, the digital screentones we used displayed moire patterns in print. (Disorienting “diamond” patterns instead of our intended gradients.) We had to go back in and convert everything to grayscale and even fix some of the original files. 

As we started the content for Volume 2, we sat down and discussed the situation. I had 3 choices:

1) Keep everything strictly in black and white.
2) Color everything in grayscale
3) Color the strip in full color.

I had started with the second choice for our very first original East Oahu Sun comic strip (a local newspaper that prints a special edition of nemu*nemu monthly)—it looked nice, but I thought if I’m going to be doing the work of flatting and shading, I may as well go whole-hog and do everything in full color. Thus Chapter 13 starts our color strips! It was very well received and helped the comic stand out on our page. However, it takes a lot more time to do than a regular black and white comic as you can imagine.

nemu*nemu sample stripDS: How have you improved your presentation, in terms of the website, navigation, etc., since you started?

Scott Yoshinaga: We’ve had many challenges when it comes to putting the comic on the website. The biggest challenge is the fact that the comic is situated vertically instead of horizontally like many other comics out there. With that in mind we tried our best to create a layout that didn’t make you think when you came to the site. We did a few different variations and then used some analytics to see what was important to our readers. The current layout as of January 2008 is what we’ve come up with to help readers get through the webcomic online easier and hopefully made the site more intuitive. It really is an art form to try and get a good looking site that’s also easy to understand yet gets the idea of what your site is about at a glance. 

That said, we’re still working on things and may switch to a horizontal layout in the future to be more flexible and creative not only in layout on the website but in the way nemu*nemu is drawn.
 
DS: You recently became involved in Sugary Serials. Can you explain what that is and why nemu*nemu is a good fit with their lineup?

AF: Sugary Serials is a series of original comics by various artist built like “episodes” during a Saturday morning cartoon lineup—complete with its own theme song and 80’s themed website. Stories are cut into 8 page installments—complete with cliffhangers, and posted online, one page a day to keep the reader coming back for more! At the end of the month three “episodes” are compiled into a comic book and sold via 01comics and the sugaryserials.com website.

When we were approached by Jerzy Drozd, the contributing editor of Sugary Serials early in 2007, we felt we had something to contribute to the group.  Everything about Sugary Serials really struck a chord with us—the collaboration was to be kid-friendly, reminiscent of 80’s Saturday morning cartoons, action-packed but not “violent.” We felt it embodied the idea behind nemu*nemu and it would be a comfortable fit for us.

We thought Henshin Rider, who is based on 70’s & 80’s tokusatsu and sentai hero shows, was a perfect plot candidate for the project and pitched the idea to Jerzy. He only gets cameo “TV” appearances in our tri-weekly comic, but this was a great opportunity to show what a great influence he has on our characters and how exciting his story can be as well. We introduced a new character as well – the “Crimson Scarab” – who actually had a cameo in our comic months before!

(For more about Scott and Audra, check out the interview I did with them for Comix Talk last May.)

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