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‘Fake-affair’ manga challenges creative boundaries

© Akiko Higashimura / YLAB JAPAN

Shoko and Jyobanhi become attracted to each other as they spend time together in Seoul. Jyobanhi says to Shoko, “So, how about having an affair with me?” in the top panel, and “Only during this trip, when you are in Seoul,” in the bottom panel.

By Naoko Kimura / Yomiuri Shimbun Staff WriterThe manga “Giso Furin” (Fake affair) by Akiko Higashimura is a romantic comedy about an unmarried woman who pretends to be married.

Published by Bungeishunju Ltd., the manga has grown in popularity following its serialization on the smartphone apps Line Manga in Japan and Naver Webtoon in South Korea. A TV adaptation of the work also started airing this week in Japan.

Higashimura is reputed for her realistic depictions of women aged about 30.

“I always wanted to make something about adultery, but society’s pretty unforgiving about such relationships these days. I wondered, ‘Is there an affair that wouldn’t be scorned?,’ which is how I got started,” she said of her inspiration for the story.

Higashimura said she struggled with creating a realistic setting for the protagonist to lie about being married.

Shoko is an average 30-year-old woman who is single and works as a temporary staffer, unlike her sister, an elite full-time employee. Tired of looking for a husband, she ventures to Seoul on a solo journey. During her flight, she meets Jyobanhi, a South Korean man five years her junior. Shoko is taken aback by his movie-star looks. Without thinking, she tells him out of vanity that she’s married.

“By telling a lie, Shoko is caught off guard and sucked into a chaotic sequence. Love can’t be born unless one messed-up person meets another,” Higashimura said.

Talking with Jyobanhi, who believes she is married, Shoko makes up cover stories, and the boundary between truth and falsehood becomes blurred, leading her to fall in love despite the differences in the language, culture and age.

A blameless affair

Higashimura won empathy and support from women in their 30s with “Tokyo Tarareba Musume” (Tokyo Tarareba Girls), which vividly depicted perspectives on romance by women of that age. The manga, published by Kodansha Ltd., was also adapted into a TV show.

The dramatic, international romance in “Giso Furin” appears less realistic, but Higashimura claims, “By no means am I drawing a fantasy.”

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  • © Akiko Higashimura / YLAB JAPAN

    A self-portrait by Akiko Higashimura

  • The covers of the first four volumes of “Giso Furin” that have been published

“I’m sure there are women out there who don’t have a boyfriend but have pretended they do, and then feel that they have reached a point of no return. Likewise, it’s possible to get together with a good-looking man who happens to sit next to you on an airplane,” she said.

Higashimura often models her protagonist’s personality, appearance and other features on women she knows to create a realistic character.

“Through this approach, I can get real information, such as what was in vogue when they were students and what books they read while growing up,” she said.

Taking on webtoon

“Giso Furin” has also attracted attention because it was released as a “webtoon,” a type of online manga originally from South Korea. Webtoon works are fully in color and designed to be read on a smartphone with a vertically scrolling display. They have fewer panels than traditional paper manga in Japan, which are read by turning pages from left to right.

“I built the work around the dialogue in an attempt to make it easier to read, even using pictures without a lot of movement,” Higashimura said. “I was trained to draw paper manga in which artistic compositions are frequently changed by using different perspectives, such as looking up from below or taking a bird’s eye view. However, I realized that the progress in equipment and tools can defy common sense at times,” she said.

Passionate South Korean fans

Higashimura decided to have a go at webtoons and change her familiar methods of expression, as she wanted young people in South Korea to read the work. Just as she wished, the work has received a great response from readers in both Japan and South Korea.

She feels that South Korean readers have the same mature attitude toward manga as their Japanese counterparts. Much of the fan mail she receives from South Korea is filled with passion and sometimes points out holes in her story.

Higashimura has been a fan of South Korean pop culture for years, so she drew the work hoping it would one day be adapted into a TV show there. Though it made the small screen in Japan first, the day when a Japanese webtoon manga is made into a South Korean TV show may be close.

“We tend to think we have completely different cultures and ways of thinking, but there’s not much difference in the age of the internet. This realization has been a big gain for me, and I’m thinking of working on another vertically read manga,” Higashimura said.Speech

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