One day, as I was walking around Tama Plaza, I heard some commotion. That sound was coming from a college campus. I was walking near Kokugakuin University’s Tama Plaza Campus, which was where the freshman and sophomore students in the humanities department attended class. Today, the entire humanities department is housed in the Shibuya campus. When I peeked in the campus from the gate, students were recruiting incoming freshman for club activities. They were playing instruments, shouting to get everyone’s attention, and handing out flyers. I never paid attention to the passing seasons. It was the first time I realized: “Oh. It’s entrance season.”
There were many cherry blossom trees around the campus. The wind was gently blowing, and the cherry blossom petals were flying under the blue April sky. It was a beautiful scene. The sounds were ambient, and the faces of the incoming freshmen were all filled with hope. I envied them. At the same time, I had a sense of regret. Right in front of me, was the sight of brilliant adolescence. My adolescence couldn’t be further from what I was observing. I was feeling a tremendous amount of regret. That beautiful picturesque scene was something that would leave a lasting impression in my heart.
Since then, I started a habit of visiting bookstores and idling around the study books section. One day, I finally bought a reference book. I started studying at my home on that day. But I didn’t go to high school; I barely even attended junior high. On top of that, it had been years since the material was covered in class, so my proficiency level was figuring out what a “be-verb” was. At this stage, I hadn’t yet decided which college I wanted to attend; I just began studying because I couldn’t keep still. But I needed a goal for the foreseeable future. A few months later, it seemed like I would be able to pass the exam, so I registered.
(*High school graduate certification exam - an exam administered to those who did not graduate high school to certify that the person has the skills and knowledge equivalent to those of those who graduated high school. The Japanese equivalent of the GED)
The high school graduate certification exam
The exam was administered at Hitotsubashi University. The experience itself was quite interesting. On the day of the exam, as I was walking on the sidewalk lined with trees around Kunitachi station, a lot of examinees were gathered around the school gate. However, the group of people that was there was quite different from those that usually sit for similar exams. The first thing that came into sight was a group of people who clearly look like they were hosts at a club.
(*Hosts…In Japan, host clubs are venues where handsome gentlemen, called hosts, entertain female clients and serve alcohol)
They dressed up like TV personalities and wore white suits. They even spiked their blonde hair like hedgehogs. I left a humorous note to myself: “They didn’t have to dress up like they were coming to work…”
The next person that came into sight was a boy who clearly looked like he dropped out of school. He had brown hair and wore baggy pants that stood out and a short-sleeved shirt. I watched this young man’s back as he entered the gates of the school. At the entrance, there were many vocational school students handing out flyers to the examinees. The young man in front of me gently bowed as he declined to receive the flyers. I’ve never seen someone so gentle before, and the gap between his appearance and his attitude left a lasting impression. This young man might not be that intimidating after all.
After that, a group of people who appeared to be in a bike gang entered the school. They intimidated those that were around them, as they walked in a bad-boy fashion. During the lunch break, I observed these boys squatting in the courtyard smoking cigarettes. The leader gently hopped onto a table and squatted there as he smoked. He was basically the big fish in the small pond. I also remember the security guard in the school looking confused as to how to handle the matter. The students of Hitotsubashi University would never do such a thing, which probably added to his confusion. However, when I looked closely, that area was a designated smoking area. I thought, “Maybe they’re actually following the rules.” This also felt humorous to me. I suppose if they broke the rules and failed the exam for doing so, it would be a waste. The host club boys and the bike gang boys all said the same things to one another: “If we fail this, we’re screwed.” I imagined they all decided to take the exam together. Thinking about that makes it hard for me to hate them.
Of course, it’s not just the delinquents who come to sit for the exam. There were those who looked like they were bullied, those that looked physically and mentally drained, the elderly, those whose occupations were unknown, shady middle-aged men and women, (maybe they’re associated with the underground). I sat for the exam in a room filled with this variety of people. I thought to myself. “This room is filled with people of various age ranges, and each person has his/her own background and history. Shouldn’t this be the ideal school environment?” I imagined this being an actual class at school. What would happen if the delinquents bullied those that looked weak? The elderly would probably scold them. I’m pretty sure even the delinquents wouldn’t dare to stand up against the elders. Isn’t gathering students of the same age in one place one of the causes of bullying?
The current school system may seem like a very efficient method of education but gathering those who are of the same age all in one place is just too unnatural. My scores for the exam on all subjects were well above my expectations, and I was able to pass the exam. Passing the exam was my ticket to sit for the college entrance exam.
The college entrance exam
For a few years after that, I became very busy with my work, so I was unable to sit for the college entrance exam. However, when my work was not busy, I always felt like I wanted to sit for the exam. But I didn’t narrow my choice down to Kokugakuin University. The reason was because I knew nothing about these exams. I knew nothing about college, and to me, it felt like all colleges were all the same. To me, all of them were brilliant. I didn’t know anything about the deviation scores on the entrance exam.
(*Deviation score…In Japan, this number is often used to indicate the difficulty of a particular school’s entrance exam. In general, a higher standard score means that a higher grade on the entrance exam is needed to gain admission to that school.)
I only understood the different college names from watching the Hakone Ekiden on TV. As you can see, my knowledge on college itself was quite limited. As a result, I really had no preference as to which college I would attend. However, commuting to school would become a problem, so I wanted to attend a college that was close to my house. Kokugakuin University’s freshman and sophomores would be at Tama Plaza, which is far from my house, so I determined that it would be hard for me to commute every day to attend class. Then, I decided to attend the open campus of the college that was the closest to my house.
Open campus is where the entrance process is explained to prospective students. I sat for session along with many prospective students and their parents. The first words out of the panelist’s mouth were “You’re all 18 years-old but….” I was slightly surprised. “Most of the people in college are young, but aren’t there any adults that come to hang out?” I felt my dreams of going to college slightly shatter. However, I didn’t think too much of it at the time and decided to just let it go.
The information session involved mailing application documents home. On the sheet of paper was a space to write your name, address, and for some reason, your age. I filled the form out. As we exit the room, we hand the paper to one of several people near the entrance. I was about to just hand my paper in and leave, just like the rest of the crowd. I felt a presence behind my back, so I turned around. For some reason, the people were looking at my paper and laughed together.
I thought, “Hm? There’s nothing wrong with my name or address…Oh. Right. They’re laughing at my age.” There is a possibility of them laughing about last night’s comedy show that aired on TV. But it didn’t seem like that to me. They were laughing as they looked at the paper, and then at me. The moment I entered my house, I felt a tremendous amount of frustration boiling inside me. I thought, “This college isn’t for adults. Isn’t there a college that accepts adults, where I won’t be made fun of? Let me search!” That was the moment I began to seriously compare the different colleges.
(*Regarding adult students in Japan….In Japan, the number of adult students who enter college is extremely small compared to other countries. There are many reasons for this, but the primary reason is that human resource departments in Japanese companies believe that what is taught at colleges won’t be useful once you enter the workforce. As a result, there are almost no people who come to college to learn and further their education and career. I personally think this is a major problem in Japanese society. If this continues, Japanese students will be seen as less engaged in their studies compared to other countries. From here on out, it’s crucial to think about how education in Japanese colleges ought to be, in order to teach classes that provide skills and knowledge that will be useful at the workplace, so that those in the human resource departments will listen. )
*Those 25 and above who enter a bachelor’s degree program (international comparison)
After much research, I found out that there were many adults studying at the former Second Department of Letters at Waseda University. Although the department itself no longer exists, maybe the culture of Waseda University still accepts adults as students. It also looked commutable from my house. It was then that I decided to apply to Waseda University. The problem was that the entrance exam of Waseda University was astronomically harder when compared to that of the college right near my house.
(*Waseda University … a prestigious university that is well known in places like Japan and China)
Although I passed the high school graduated equivalency examination, for someone who has never attended cram school or prep school, this would be an uphill battle. For the second time, I went to the bookstore to buy reference materials. I chose to study on my own, without attending prep school. It was a decision I made after thinking about the possible consequences of being intimidated or made fun of. Time that was not spent working was spent entirely on studying. On the days I did have work, I spent the time from when I woke up until the work began, as well as the time after work until I slept, all on studying. On days I didn’t have work like Sundays, holidays, Obon, and New Year’s, I spent all day studying. I never kept track of the time, but I believe I studied for three years before finally passing Waseda University’s notorious entrance exam.
The reason I applied with the fresh high school graduates instead of with the other adults on a separate track was because I wasn’t famous. I’m not an influencer or a professional sports player. I’m a middle-school graduate, so I felt that the college would never accept someone like me even if I had applied as an adult. According to what I heard after entering the school, there’s no evidence that supports my claim, but I always thought that the general examination was my only hope, so I had never even thought about applying on the adult track.
(* Regarding adult entrance and general entrance …. The adult entrance exam takes into account the examinee’s experience in society and in the workforce. The problems on the exam are rather simple, but the scores are combined with the results of the interview an essay, which are then holistically evaluated to determine admission. Some schools have no exam and instead evaluate based on the personal statements or interviews and essays. The general examination, on the other hand, only takes into account the test scores and essays, interviews, and personal statements are usually not taken into account. Prestigious universities in Japan are known for their notoriously difficult entrance exams, which require a tremendous amount of preparation time.)
*A statue dedicated to Shigenobu Okuma, the founder of Waseda University.
Graduating college until the present
Drawing manga once again
During college, I had the opportunity to share my story up until now. That person asked me if I wanted to begin drawing manga again. I replied, “I kind of feel like starting again.” He asked, “How many years ago was it that you aspired to become a manga artist?” I said, “Probably 20 years ago,” and the person laughed.
In March of my senior year, a month before I graduate, I sent in my work to the Weekly Shōnen Jump magazine. Although I wasn’t selected for the rookie award, the person in charge called me to tell me that the content was great, and that I would get my own editor. I made it my goal to debut within a year. I don’t mean to be self-deprecating, but 20 years has passed since I aspired to become a manga artist. My drawings under current standards would probably place me on the bottom in terms of quality. The style of drawing is quite different, but I got a call on my first try with the Jump magazine. I thought to myself, “Not bad.”
But my excitement was short-lived. About half a year later, the person who called me was transferred to a different department. I was confused. If I was unable to become a manga artist in two or three years after drawing from dawn ‘til dusk, I was at the age where I needed to seriously consider my future. I felt like my life would be destroyed if I kept aspiring to become a manga artist. I gave up once again.
The work that got me that phone call is recorded in “Para’s Gag Comic” (Volume 2) and is called “Awake! Offshore Chicken Island Military Academy.” “Manga isn’t about the appearance. It’s about the content.” That motto has kept me from drawing well. (I was bad at drawing to begin with, but I kept drawing anyways. To this day, I dislike masking bad content with good drawings.”
* “Awake! Offshore Chicken Island Military Academy.” 2016.
Now, I’ve collected the manga I’ve created thus far. They’re being distributed on Amazon, Apple, Rakuten, and KADOKAWA under the title “Para’s Gag Comic.” I think you’ll understand if you search it up on Amazon or Apple iBooks. As I’ve mentioned before, the ratings regarding my work are split. For example, “Kuro-cho! What a joke.” is the same manga that the assistant chief editor of a major comic magazine company praised, the chief editor of a comic magazine that I brought it in for viewing at the summer camp criticized, and the two manga artists who praised it afterward. I would like you to take a look at the product, since it has such mixed reviews.
It also includes the Parasaurolophus (Para) manga (Volume 1). Maybe those who are accustomed to reading modern manga don’t pay attention to the drawing and will receive a culture shock at Para drawn using ballpoint pen and won’t accept it. But that’s how works I’ve been drawing since I was a child are drawn. Manga is not about how well the drawing looks; manga with boring content will be boring no matter how well the drawings are. Manga can be written by anyone, regardless of their drawing skills. Plus, some people can create manga as interesting as professionals if not better. I sometimes even think that the better the drawing skill of the manga, the less interesting it gets. Furthermore, there are no basics when it comes to drawing the contents of the manga. If works were drawn under such rules, imagine just how boring they would be…
People might think, “Why did you change your style after becoming a professional?” That’s because I gave up on manga editors, who were unwilling to accept anything other than manga drawn with common sense. But if you’re not aiming to publish in a weekly or monthly periodical, then you don’t need to worry about such things. That’s why I began drawing using my original style for the first time in a while in 2007. That's the manga with Para. I drew Para with the intentions of showing people that manga can be drawn by anyone and that it’s really fun.
* “Manga with Para” 2007.
Not only me but also many manga artists have suffered from working with manga editors. There was a manga artist who committed suicide after suffering due to the manga editor’s interference and there was also a very talented manga artist who punched a manga editor after the editor continuously forced the artist to make unwilling changes to their works, leading the artist to give up on their career with tears. However, I believe there will be a time when anyone can create manga however they want and share them with many readers through the internet.
I created this website in the hope that this will be the opportunity for people to start reading my manga after getting to know me.
The Kindle version can be read on Windows, Mac, Android, and iPhone. (You need to download and install the app first.)
The Kindle version and the Kobo version combines the first and second volumes into one comic book.
The revised edition of “PARA’S GAG COMIC” is now on sale. If you purchased the book on Amazon before July 2019, it is not possible to renew it unless you request Amazon to do so. For iBooks, you can renew it by deleting the existing data and re-downloading it.