Manga artist draws on his troubles with truancy for inspiration
Manga writer Shoichi Tanazono works on a comic book in Nagoya that depicts his troubles with attending school as a child. | CHUNICHI SHIMBUN
A manga artist named Shoichi Tanazono has published a book about his experiences skipping most of elementary and junior high school.
Growing up, he was haunted by the feeling that he “couldn’t be normal.” But he found solace in the words of another comic writer and began carving his own path.
Tanazono, whose real name is Masatomo Tanahashi, began skipping classes in first grade after he was smacked by his homeroom teacher.
He did not know why the teacher hit him, but he remembered being “terrified of getting scolded.”
He started to imagine seeing “a dark old guy” in the streets heading straight toward him, causing him to tremble in fear. This continued for a few years and is featured prominently in his manga book, the title of which is loosely translated as “A boy who couldn’t go to school and his nine teachers.”
Some days, Tanazono would stand in front of the school gates for hours, unable to step in. On other s, he would hide in the science lab next to his classroom.
He escaped into drawing comics at home, spending hours drawing characters in the “Dragon Ball” comic series created by Akira Toriyama, a native of Aichi Prefecture.
The situation changed in his first year at junior high school.
Through an acquaintance, Tanazono had a chance to meet Toriyama, who attended the same elementary school as Tanazono’s mother.
“Can I still become a comic writer even if I do not attend school?” Tanazono asked.
Toriyama replied: “Yes, I think you can. But it’s better to attend because you will be able to draw about school life as well.”
Toriyama also praised the young man after looking at Tanazono’s manga.
“You have created your own world and that’s the most important thing,” Toriyama said.
Tanazono recalls feeling “like a huge burden had been lifted off my shoulders, to realize that it wasn’t a big deal.”
Although he continued to miss school, he was no longer as troubled by it. After graduating from junior high school, he studied art at a vocational school and college. When Tanazono was 19, he received the Best Newcomer Award from a monthly comic publication.
The characters in his book were taken from his real-life experiences, and the plot depicts his interactions with his teachers and tutors as a boy. The ninth teacher is Toriyama.
“I’m not saying it’s OK to skip school, but you need to know that not going to school is an option,” Tanazono said.
This section, featuring exclusive coverage from the Chubu region by the Chunichi Shimbun, until now a Saturday feature, will appear on Tuesdays in future. The original article was published on April 11