Interview with TOKYOPOP Editor Hope Donovan

March 31st, 2008

In 2005, when Shoujocon and Yuricon teamed up to run Onna!, the focus of the event was women in the comics and animation industries. We wanted attendees to meet these women and see what kind of advice they could impart about breaking into and making a life in these notoriously competitive (and male-dominated) fields.

Recently, I have been able to talk with other women who are working on Yuri manga titles in one way or another and, just as with Onna!, I wanted you to meet them, learn from them and support their work. :-) Over the next several weeks, I’ll be posting interviews to give you, the readers of Okazu, insight into the industry and introduce you to some of the women who work on the Yuri we love.

I’d like to open this week with an interview with fabulous editor Hope Donovan of TOKYOPOP. I met Hope at last year’s New York Anime Festival, where I learned that Hope is working on the TP edition of Kannazuki no Miko.

1) So let’s start with the most obvious question – tell us a little bit about yourself.

Hope Donovan here. I’m an editor at TOKYOPOP and have spent the entirety of my professional life there.

2) Are you a manga reader yourself? Did that lead you into working in the manga industry? Or do you just do it for the fame, glory and chicks? ;-)

My path into manga is backwards. I liked the sexual freedom and alternative gender roles in manga, but until I began interning at TOKYOPOP, I didn’t know I liked manga for anything other than straight-up porn. I’ve since been touched by many manga stories, and have come to appreciate the diversity, heart and earnestness of the medium.

As for the internship itself, I had some experience as the editor of my college’s satire magazine, DUIN, and couldn’t bear the thought of another summer at home. I applied online and was accepted for an editorial internship during the summer of 2004. TOKYOPOP ran on the power of slave-labor interns at the time, so I was thrust into a real job situation. I learned a lot. Fortunately, I was hired as a copyeditor after I finished school.

3) Tell us, in general terms, what you do – where does your job fall in the process of producing a translated manga?

An editor of licensed manga oversees the translation, English adaptation, proofreading, layout and quality control of a book. To a certain degree they prompt the marketing of the book and write all kinds of various copy. They are the point person responsible for a book. But editors don’t translate the manga themselves, and most of the editorial staff at TOKYOPOP does not speak a word of Japanese. What’s important to the job is a love of comics.

4) Are you a fan of Yuri manga? Did you know it existed before you started working on a title? What were your thoughts upon seeing your first Yuri job?

For me, getting to edit a Yuri title was the golden prize. Many of my friends from high school and college have gone on to more illustrious careers in science, but I sincerely hoped that through manga I could help show young queer teenagers representations of other people with common experiences and feelings. We’re woefully underrepresented in the media and every little bit counts. Knowing that I finally got to make a contribution was very meaningful for me, even if the subject matter was something rather exploitive, like Kannazuki no Miko. Even that can make a difference.

5) Not every Yuri series is equal. What, if any, thoughts do you have about the series you’ve worked on?

The title I’ve worked on is Kannazuki no Miko. Kannazuki no Miko shows what happens when the earnest desire of two women to be in love is twisted by the circumstances of their world. In the case of Kannazuki no Miko, the circumstances are extreme. Chikane and Himeko are reincarnated priestesses hounded by a squadron of mecha as well as an annoyingly irrepressible hero. Chikane is also a deeply scarred individual, who truly believes the only way she can ever be with Himeko is by raping her. For her part, Himeko’s just a confused teenage girl. Twisted as it may be, I bought the pain at the core of the story, even while recognizing that Kannazuki no Miko offers, at best, an impossible ideal of a relationship that literally cannot exist at the same time as the world.

6) Have you gotten any fan feedback? Anything you want to share?

I’d sure like to get some. Go buy it, starting May 2008! It has color pages~

7) Any Yuri titles you’d like to see make it over here? Anything you’d like to get to work on?

Honestly I’m not as versed in Yuri manga as I should be. But I get to read Yuri Hime magazine for free at work. I really like “Tokimeki Mononoke Gakuen.” It’s weird, and I feel like it has more to offer than “two girls fall in love.”

8) What’s your favorite and least favorite thing about your job?

Favorite things: would I be off topic if I said the Rising Stars of Manga? I love getting to see new artist’s work. Niki Smith, who was featured in Yuri Monogatari 5, was a finalist this year. Besides RSOM, I’d say being in a workplace environment where the office decor is manga posters and everyone has dozens of volumes of manga on their desk is pretty sweet.

The least favorite part would have to be that there are limitations. You can’t license every title you want. You can’t make every correction you see. You can’t afford to work with every artist you want.

9) Anything else you want to tell our audience?

There’s a lot of manga out there that isn’t worth your time. Find the titles that matter to you and love them. Buy them.

Hope, thank you so much for your time and your insight. I know many folks, including myself, are looking forward to seeing Kannazuki on the shelves. :-)

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4 Responses

  1. Anonymous says:

    New question:How can you be a Yuri fan when none of the manga you review/bash never get higher than a 6?

    I know you bash them because you can’t be funny otherwise, but sheesh some Yuri fan you are.

  2. Well over half of what I review here gets more than a 6. Perhaps you only like things I consider crap?

    Most of the series listed on the right sidebar get high scores. You can try those. (I say “most” because there’s a lot of series I like or which are noteworthy that I give low scores to because they are crap. lol)

  3. Anonymous says:

    An exciting interview to read! I’ve been waiting and waiting for this series to be released in the states, and it’s a big relief to know that the people involved in bringing it over are really fond of it and don’t see it as just ‘girl porn’. Now I can’t wait to have volume one in my hands!

  4. interestingname says:

    You have to keep in mind this isn’t a /u/-esque definition of Yuri. Art, characters, and story have just as much an impact than whether it has two girls together. Take a look at the latest review, Lesbian Shoujo Ai. Art – 6, Story – 5, Yuri – 9, LFB, 9, Overall – 6. Just because something has Yuri in it doesn’t mean it’s great, and liking something doesn’t mean you have to like every instance of it and overlook its flaws.

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