Artist Feature: Takaya Miou 高屋 未央
If your interested in checking out Takaya Miou’s work I’ve been able to purchase many of her works from Alice-Books, a Japanese Doujinshi Site that ships internationally at good prices. Please also check out more of her work on her social media sites as well as her website Miou.in
She also recently had an exhibition called “Visions of Gothic Angels: Japanese Manga by Takaya Miou” at the Honolulu Museum of Art in Hawaii which you can also check out at their website.
Takaya Miou is a Japanese Manga-ka (comic artist) blending parts of surrealism, eroticism, fantasy, horror and sensitive topics to create “pen-and ink poetry and surrealistic picture-fables” (Lehmann, 9). While not the most famous in Japanese manga she has carved her own respective niche in the self published and commercial comic scenes of Japan. Through exploring her individual history, her career history, the creative development of her role as an artist and analyzing her historical and sociological impact on other artists and the Japanese comic industry.
Takaya Miou was born in Nagoya Japan, her exact age is unknown but she is believed to be in her late 20s, early 30s. She continues to work and live in Nagoya in an industrial style apartment and a small work station surrounded by a variety of books, religious paraphernalia, and items from her Mother’s shop. She attended University as a Philosophy major for two years before dropping out. She was originally interested in studying it because “I think I liked to think and was interested in what-does-it-mean-to-be-human?-type questions.” (Lehmann, 172) Although she was always interested in writing and creating stories she began working professionally while she was in college until “I simply went to classes less and less until I stopped going completely.” (Lehmann, 172). The reason she described was “… When I’m in a group of people I tend to change myself to fit my surroundings. So I thought that I would have to eliminate everything around me to really find out who I was. So it was a little abrupt, but I tried to eliminate everything around me, and the university got in the way of this process.” (Lehmann, 173) This can also be related to her own print label entitled Neurone Konzentrationslager (abbreviated Newm;Kz), a German phrase meaning “the self-imposed isolation she needs to create”(Lehmann). This contrasts with her commercial work published by a variety of companies in Japan including Bijutsu Shuppan-Sha, Taiyo Tosho, and Tokuma Bunko. Like most other Japanese manga artists her personal life is relatively unknown to the public but she said “My goal was never to become a manga artist. What I’m doing lately is drawing manga and pictures so that’s my job — but I’ve been drawing pictures and writing stories ever since I was a kid. So I don’t know where the hobby ends and the work starts.” (Lehmann, 172)
Her comic career began in self publishing in 1991 under her Newm;Kz label entitled Sei Shojo Yugi which allowed her in 1993 to land her first commercial work as a cover artist for Kaifu Shito Enbuwritten by Fuji Minaki and published by Tokuma Novels. Her career continued through self publishing in the 1990s. Including (az)Pg(1996), Muyoku Tenshi Rui Sei Shonen Ka (Department of Non-Wing Angels, 1998) and Eroticize Intelligence (1998) under her Newm;Kz label.Eroticize Intelligence seems to be a more fantasy story of a deceased kitten, but it falls much darker involving human suicides. It was also featured in Seisyo-Zu in 2001. It was not until Kikaijikake no Ousama (King of Mechanics) a 2 volume series published by Taiyo Tosho in 2000 that kick started her professional career in Japan. After that she did another cover illustration for Muma no Tabibito written by Shinoda Mayumi and published by Hakusensha in 2001 leading toTengoku Kyo (Crazy Heaven) and Seisho-Zu (Map of Sacred Pain)published by Bijutsu Shuppan-Sha also in 2001. She continues with commercial works until 2002 where she self publishes Metafisica (Metaphysics) and Uranomania (Metaphysica 2, 2003)under her Newm;Kz label.(Lehmann, 183) Her most recent work is one of her most major as well entitled Kikaijikake no Ousama (King of Mechanics), a series that began in 2000 and is still ongoing under the publisher Taiyo Tosho. Also translated as The Mechanical King, it’s a historical, shoujo, shounen ai manga and involves androids and dolls in a beautifully constructed and extensive narrative. The world embodies fragile dolls with hurt, deformed, or crippled bodies. These creatures are brought to life with Takaya Miou’s delicate and precise line art coupled with sharp black and white contrast and illustrative page compositions. Another of her major works is listed above is Tengoku-Kyo (Crazy Heaven), published by Bijutsu Shuppan-Sha in 2001 is her first volume of her collective illustrated works. This includes the illustration: Heliogabalus, the Brutal Boy Emperor of Rome, embodying the bishonen style of beautiful androgynous men. Bishounen, not having any equivalent in western comic books is one of the main attractions to her readers which she believes “are 90 percent women; most seem[ing] to be in their 20s.” (Lehmann, 176)
She has not had many works on record in recent years(online); however she is active on Tumblr, Instagram, and her personal portfolio and blog website (in Japanese). She also has two personal online stores that sell illustrative merchandise, art collectives, and illustrative prints. As a self publisher she is also a frequent artist at Comiket (Comic Market) a gigantic festival of Doujinshi(amateur manga) which attracts over 500,000 people in 3 days in Japan. However she states “…what I’m doing is a little different from others at Comic Market, so I actually can’t speak for Doujinshi” (Lehmann). Usually not labeling her own work she makes the distinction in a 2005 interview with Timothy R. Lehmann, “I actually don’t like to be categorized as a “Doujinshi Artist” “Doujinshi” right now refers to manga that uses existing anime characters or characters from novels for parodies.” Which is true, every one of Takaya Miou’s stories contains original surreal characters in odd worlds reflecting some of the darkest aspects of reality.
Takaya Miou’s creative development as an artist has been subtle and self reflective since her debut in Japan. Her artistic experimentation developed mostly through her self-publishing label sold at places like Comiket in Japan (Magazine, Comickers). Her inspirations come from a variety of sources in her life both personally and visually. “When she was a child, Takaya says, her mother told her stories over an elaborately prepared dinner that sometimes took hours. This was such a regular occurrence that, when Takaya first went to grade school, she had a problem eating her lunch in the short time provided. She thinks her mother may well be her greatest influence” (Lehmann, 171). Dreams are also a part of her biggest influences. Her self-published work az(PG) was based on a dream and is also one of her favorite completed works, “I like (az)Pg and Mikaeru (Michael)fairly well. I like bizarre things. Even if the pictures themselves weren’t done perfectly, I can live with it if other parts are good.” The story envelops many themes common to her work over the years including obsession, love, violent fantasy, fetishism, and bondage. When asked what the major themes of her work were she stated “People. I don’t think there is anything else…The way I think now, I believe the most important thing is to feel and think” (Lehmann). Although not formally trained in art she stated in the beginning that she did not “think I understood what it meant to draw and have people look at it” (Lehmann).
Over the years she has fine-tuned her style after self-teaching and subsequently dropping any unnecessary techniques. “When you start, there are rules in manga, expression techniques… that I don’t use now.” (Lehmann, 174) She describes examples of how she began using concentration lines and cross hatching but no longer implements them in her work, “…if you don’t know that that kind of technique exists, you don’t know what you need and what you don’t need. So there was a process [of my development] when I eliminated such techniques” (Lehmann, 174). Her work process begins with brainstorming in a notebook until collecting it into a fully typed script. The script becomes a guide for her e-conte (script with thumbnails) and then to a rough draft at a much smaller size. The rough draft is sent to her editor (if it is a commercial work) and then she redraws the pages on standard B4 manuscript (Magazine, Comickers). For such whimsical and bizarre worlds she also has a treasure of other influences and inspirations. Inspiring artists to her include Mobius, Enki Bilal, Audrey Beardsley, Guido Crepax, and Maruo Suehiro (Magazine, Comickers). Her writing influences include Jean Genet and American author Dennis Cooper. Her room is filled with visual imagery and inspiration, such as skeletons dolls from her mother’s shop, symbolism, religious myths, cultural myths, and the macabre. Although religious symbolism can be seen throughout her work she is not particularly religious and says she sees it’s symbolism without the religious connection. Over the years the erotic element prevalent in her work can be attributed to her being “…drawn to the extremes like life or death, black or white. I think I lack the ability to understand what is in the middle, the gray zone. When I portray the extremes it inevitably becomes erotic. In life or death there is always an erotic element” (Lehman, 177).
Her historical and cultural impact may not be as global as other Japanese manga-ka (comic artist) such as the creators of Naruto or One Piece, who pushed Manga into becoming a global phenomenon, but has carved out a specific niche through the surreal. She represents turning comics from an entertainment art form into a fine art form as she bridges the gaps between commercialism and self-publishing. Through her interviews with Comickers Magazine and Manga: Masters of the Art, the international market has finally gotten a glimpse at this incredibly detailed illustrative comic artist. Slowly she has begun influencing new comic artists, especially women in their 20s including Katie Brown an award winning independent comic artist. “In terms of being a fan, I also love Miou Takaya’s work… so spectacular… I’ve got a couple of her artbooks. I’ve got this shitting incredible one that’s printed with gold and black… I don’t know what the title is because I can’t read Japanese, but it’s the one with Az(Pg) in it. She’s phenomenal. I’ve had that book years and I still gasp when I open it” (“INTERVIEW…”). The level of detail Takaya Miou brings to comics brings a whole new style of pacing, layouts, and order to sequential art. In terms of impacting her industry, Takaya Miou as listed early is a great example of bridging self-publishing and commercial comics together. This bridge pushes the indie publishers into the main stream creating the beginnings of a path bridging the two tiers of the Japanese comic industry.
Now that she now has Instagram, Tumblr, and a published portfolio site online, Takaya Miou has started to garner fans and become inspiration to artists around the world introducing her pieces of surrealism and eroticism to western cultures who have no genre equivalent in indie or mainstream comics. While western comic markets, culturally may not be prepared for her comics, she is one of the first introductions to the world of surrealism and eroticism from Japan. Takaya Miou’s individual story, development, and style leave a large impact on her audience and new comic artists, especially women, across the world.
“INTERVIEW: 10(ISH) QUESTIONS WITH COMIC CREATOR, KATE BROWN..“ . Fanboy Confidential, 7 May 2012. Web. 15 July 2014. <http://www.fanboy-confidential.com/articles/interview-10ish-questions-with-comic-creator-kate-brown/>.
Lehmann, Timothy R.. “Takaya Miou.” Manga: masters of the art. New York: Collins Design, 2005. . Print.
Magazine, Comickers. “Takaya Miou.” Comickers Art 3: Write Amazing Manga Stories. New York: Collins Design, 2008. . Print.
Miou, Takaya. “天國狂.” [HEAVEN CAN WAIT.] Takaya Miou Official Website. Takaya Miou, 1 Jan. 2014. Web. 16 July 2014. <http://www.miou.in/>.
Miou, Takaya. ”[[ miou’s works]] Tumblr Portfolio.“ [[ miou’s works]]. Takaya Miou, 1 Jan. 2014. Web. 16 July 2014. <http://acudepict.tumblr.com/>.
“Miou Takaya.” lambiek.net. Lambiek: Comiclopedia, 1 Jan. 2014. Web. 16 July 2014. <http://www.lambiek.net/artists/t/takaya_miou.htm>