Manga artist Yukichi Yamamatsu is as hilarious and direct as his graphic novel, Stupid Guy Goes to India. Excerpts from a conversation.
As funny, simple and uncomplicated as his Manga illustrations, Yukichi Yamamatsu is a delight! Having made his first-ever sojourn to India, Yukichi survived to tell the tale; and he decided, what better way to tell that interesting tale in an even more interesting way? A renowned Manga-ka (manga artist) for the last four decades, Yukichi has narrated his hilarious experiences in India through Manga in the graphic novel Stupid Guy Goes to India.
In 2004, never having left Japan before, 56-year Yukichi Yamamatsu travelled to India armed with little money, bare minimum English and absolutely no idea of what to expect! He did, however, bring with him his formidable art skills, a missionary zeal to spread Japanese comics' culture, and a keen pair of eyes through which he sought to narrate a hilarious brutally honest look at India as it appears to the foreign visitor. From playing marbles to searching for bathrooms, to betting on horses, to visiting a brothel – and last but not the least, to selling Hindi translations of samurai manga on the mean streets of Delhi, Yukichi did it all! Here's what he had to say about his amazingly novel experiences:
What made you decide to travel to India in 2004?
I wanted to travel with my Manga art to a country that was not familiar with it. Initially, I chose to go to Pakistan but the Pakistan government said they had rules against promoting Manga. I then contacted the Indian government and thankfully they had no such rules and I could freely promote Manga here. Thus I decided to make the leap and come here.
When you embarked on this journey, did you do so with a desire to write a book?
I always knew I wanted to pen a book. But, to be honest, my intention of travelling was to promote my first book, Chidaruma Kempo. It was only when I embarked on my journey that I realised I had gathered a lot of content with my personal experiences.
Your most memorable and not-so-memorable experiences during this journey?
Nothing nasty. However, there are a few things I could not comprehend about the Indians. I tried selling this machine I made to cut sello-tape. Usually people use scissors to cut sello-tape. But here I am – selling a machine which made it extremely easy and selling it as a combo – both the machine and sello-tape for Rs 10. It did not work! I still don't understand why it didn't sell!
Similarly, I tried selling a magic technique but didn't get any buyers for that either.
I also had my first fight since secondary school in India. Five or six young people started hurling stones at me and blamed each other for it. This really angered me.
You tried to explore India as it would look to a foreigner. What conclusions did you reach about the country?
Nobody buys magic and sello-tape machine here (chortles)! But overall I had an overwhelming experience in India.
What was the reason behind the graphic novel?
Before I started writing, I had a job at a factory that makes bicycle handles. As you can imagine, I got very bored. That's when I thought it would be so much more interesting to draw Manga. So at night when others were sleeping I would draw Manga. That's where it all started.
Manga usually has different forms but, for me, whenever I experience something, whatever I feel, I translate that into Manga. That's the most natural and obvious language to I express my innermost feelings. So when I decided to pen Stupid Guy Goes To India, there was no other way but Manga! I hope the art will be appreciated by Indians.