Naoki Urasawa is one of Japan’s leading manga artists, producing popular titles such as “20th Century Boys” and “Monster.”
At 56, Urasawa hasn’t lost his playful spirit as he released his second music album titled “Mannon.”
“Any job that comes with the word ‘man,’ whether it is ‘manga-ka’ (cartoonist), ‘manzai-shi’ (standup comedian) or ‘mandan-shi’ (comic storyteller), is meant to entertain people. I hope my music would also come with ‘man,’” said Urasawa, explaining why he chose the title.
The critically acclaimed artist, who has also twice received a U.S. prestigious Eisner Award, is a music enthusiast. He started playing the guitar when he was in junior high school after he was enthralled by folk rock singer-songwriter Takuro Yoshida. Urasawa was thunderstruck when he heard Bob Dylan’s “Like A Rolling Stone.”
“I usually play the guitar or drop the needle on records during a work break,” Urasawa said. He has always been busy throughout his career, with the cartoonist meeting “one deadline after another for the past 33 years.”
However, Urasawa has a stack of songs he has created over the years.
His previous music album, released in 2008, “Hanseiki no Otoko” (the man of half-century), was dogged by criticism that it wasn’t as good as his manga works.
“It made me feel like I wanted to go beyond their preconceived opinions,” Urasawa explained.
Urasawa provided his vocal talent and played the guitar on his latest and first self-produced album, which contains 12 songs written and composed by himself.
“Because I am a self-confessed fan of Dylan and (the late manga giant) Osamu Tezuka, I can’t make something pathetic,” Urasawa said. “The first thing I need to think about is whether it strikes the right note with Urasawa as a junior high school boy who used to admire these guys. The Urasawa boy is strongly averse to uncool adults, so I must keep making every effort or he will laugh at me.”