Erica Friedman: Interview with a Manga Publishing Pioneer

Posted by Linda Yau on May 16, 2011 in Fandom |


Above: Rica ‘tte Kanji!? really proved to an American audience that manga didn’t have to be about magical girls or robots, but could tell personal stories about the real world. Currently an Rica ‘tte Kanji!? Omnibus is being produced.

When you are around manga and graphic novels a lot, one voice or genre might pop up, and that is the alternative press of gay and lesbian that is quite popular among readers and fans. You don’t have to even be a fan for this genre, but be open minded to know that it is there. Within the past couple of weeks, there has been an issue of censorship in graphic novels on Amazon Kindle. So this week we are happy to have an email interview with ALC Publishing and Yuricon founder Erica Friedman. Erica’s blog is called Okazu which are the wonderful Japanese bread with savory fillings.


What was your first anime title? Was it the same as your first manga title?

My first anime were Star Blazers and Speed Racer, back when I was in school. Of course they were called Japanimation and no one, including myself, had any idea that they’d be a *thing* one day. I have no idea what the first manga I read was, but the first manga I read a page in Japanese and actually knew what was being said was Card Captor Sakura.


What’s your favorite title and why?

Probably right up there at the top would be Sailor Moon, since that was the series that got me into anime.

Has there been a recent series that you would recommend people to check out?

Yes, Hourou Musuko/ Wandering Son, while it’s still on Crunchyroll. It’s beyond fantastic. [Wandering Son is about a teenager who discovers his desire to become the opposite sex. The series has transsexuality, gender identity issues.]

How do you feel about how the trend of anime and manga going?

Which trend? The spike in popularity or the drop in sales? I think everything has a lifecycle, and even sustainable industries have slumps. I also think that “fans,” whether because they are young and don’t know, are ignorant and don’t care, or just lazy, are actually killing what they love, because they aren’t being responsible in their actions.

Many anime and manga makers are struggling – after everyone goes out of business because they can’t make money, I wonder what will people sub/scan next to give “free publicity” to?

Do you feel that fans nowadays are more open to the GLBT publishing?

Yes. Even though I still don’t see fans liking Yuri or BL as equal to fans supporting LGBT rights, in general, both BL and Yuri have established presences in most fandoms.

Why did you decide to start social/media/blogging?

When I first entered the anime/manga fandom, it was through USENet. We were all talking about series we liked, and sharing fan art and fan fiction. Hardly anything was licensed, at the time, so conversation was all we had.

When I began my fanfic writer’s group (now known as the Fanfic Revolution) we told people on Mailing Lists and Usenet groups. When that sort of evolved into me creating AniLesboCon (now Yuricon) we just kept talking about it on groups, forums, USENet, mailing lists, etc.

Yuri has always been pretty niche area, so it made sense to get out there and talk with people, to tell people about what we were doing and why they might care. And, so, I did. Long before there was “Social Media,” Yuricon was out there talking about Yuri.

I started Okazu because in the early 2000’s almost all the blogs covering Yuri were by/for guys with a decidedly Beavis and Butthead attitude towards girls. So, I thought I’d bring a female perspective and, even more importantly, a lesbian perspective to Yuri. And I was planning a Yuri event, so I thought a blog was a good way to give people an idea of what it took to get things done. A glimpse behind the curtain, if you will.

Ultimately, Social Media became a thing unto itself, but it was always what we at Yuricon did to get the word out – we talked with people.

Do you have any opinions about the recent Amazon Kindle censorship situation with boys love titles?

Yes. In short – under no circumstances should readers allow hardware manufacturers to make content decisions for them. Stand up for your right to read whatever the hell you want. Tell them that you and ONLY you have the right to make the decision of what is appropriate for you or your children to read. If we do not do this, we will find ourselves living in a society of censorship.

Other than Okazu, what other projects have you been actively involved it?

We’re working on an omnibus volume of Rica ‘tte Kanji!? right now. It will include the original chapters, chapters and other stories by Rica Takashima published in the Yuri Monogatari volumes, previously unpublished stories and some new, original work.

I see that with one of your websites, that you are a social media enthusiast, how has that been? Has it been difficult or enlighten to figure out ways to navigate this developing industry that is social media? Do you feel that is has been useful for niche fans to get into?

I think Social Media is more natural for fandoms of any kind than any other kind of marketing communications. We’re fans – we like to talk about the things we’re fans of. Social Media isn’t complex – it’s talking with people. The emphasis is on “with.” Asking questions, answering them, chatting about things we care about and providing unique, relevant and authentic information – what else is a “fandom” other than a form of Social Media?

yuricon mascots

There has been a facebook indication that there is going to be an art contest soon for Yuri and Midori, mascots for Yuricon. What has been a favorite or unexpected look for them?

The art contest was announced officially last week. Unexpected looks? Everything’s unexpected, but I guess Menagi-chan‘s SD Yuriko as a rugby player for Yuricon 2003 was probably the most unexpected. My favorite? Seriously, I love all the pictures we’re sent of Yuriko and Midori, I don’t have a favorite! Yuri and Midori picked a few that *they* like best to inspire the folks who are planning on entering the contest.

Do you picture yourself as an anime/manga fan/blogger, ten years from now?

Well, I certainly didn’t picture myself as one ten years ago, so who knows what another decade of Yuricon will bring. I prefer to picture myself as a lesbian Hugh Hefner. ^_^

Linda Yau is a fan of Japanese culture, and various anime/manga titles. She is a freelance writer and editor under her own name or animemiz. Her main blog is here and she can be contacted by Twitter.

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