Newcomer manga artist Rutaro Hina on their career, works, and LGBTQ identities in Japan

By: Chiaki Hirai March 6, 20190 Comments
A student in male student attire with long black hair

Editor’s Note: Though Hina does not necessarily identify as genderqueer, they have declined to state what their gender is and requested Anime Feminist use they/them pronouns.

添書:陽名先生はX ジェンダーではないが、Anime Feministのインタビューに対しては性別を公開せず、英語版では代名詞をThey/Themを使っております。

Rutaro Hina, 21, is a newcomer manga artist from Tokyo who now resides in Chiba Prefecture. They first debuted as a manga artist with a fantasy one-shot entitled “Flowers for Lonely Witch” which ran on Weekly Shonen JUMP’s “Jump+” website two years ago, though they had published under an older penname “Ryutaro Hina” at the time.

Under their current penname, Rutaro Hina won honorable mention for “Planet Lapis Lazuli” (CW: sexual assault) during the Seventh “The Gate” newcomer awards by Morning, which was published October of 2018. They followed up soon after with “My Girlfriend is a Boy” in November, which also won honorable mention in Morning’s newcomer showcase, “Morning Zero.”

陽名 ルタロウ、21歳は東京出身、千葉住まいの漫画家。デビュー作は二年前週刊少年ジャンプのwebサイト 「ジャンプ+」にて「孤独な魔女に花束を」という読み切りファンタジー漫画、だが当時は旧ペンネーム「日名 龍太郎(Ryutaro Hina)」で発表。

陽名ルタロウとして去年の10月モーニング新人賞の第7回 THE GATEで奨励賞し、「惑星ラピスラズリ」(警告: 性的暴行有り)を掲載。続き11月にモーニングゼロにて新人奨励賞を得て「私の彼女は男の子」を掲載。

AF: What got you to start drawing manga?


RH: There’s… really nothing that particularly inspired me (laughs). I liked making things since I was young. Aside from manga, I was in a band and I studied cooking as well.

Basically… of all the things I did, I only really succeeded with manga.

きっかけ…は特にありません(笑) 子どもの頃から物を作るのが好きで、漫画の他にもバンドを組んだり料理の勉強をしたりしました。


A colorful alien landscape featuring lush vegetation and jewel like fruits. An old radio squaks out news as two people with witches hats sleep on giant mushrooms

Manga Translation: Due to the continued effects of the magnetic storm bzz… there is planet wide… radio interr…the missing…magic…

AF: Do you look up to any manga artists or authors?


RH: Miyazaki Hayao, Satoshi Kon, and Katsuhiro Otomo.

I feel I’ve been particularly influenced by these three masters. One of the things they all have in common is that they have worked both in manga and anime. I’d like to one day make an anime just as these three have.

宮崎駿 ・ 今 敏 ・ 大友克洋


AF: You had published your second work (with Kodansha) only a month after publishing “Lapis Lazuli Planet,” which received an honorable mention award. How do you feel about that?


RH: I actually didn’t feel anything when “Planet Lapis Lazuli” won an award (laughs).

To tell you the truth, I had finished working on that in May and didn’t hear back on it until August. In the three months between, I had forgotten all about it.

To break down the production schedule for my work, it’s kind of like this:

Planet Lapis Lazuli April15 ~ May 31, 2018 Production time 46 days Publication Date Oct. 23 My Girlfriend is a Boy June 15 ~ Sep. 15, 2018 Production time 92 days Publication date Nov. 8

I’ve finished working on a piece long before a publisher announces anything and by then I’m working on a different piece of work.

So, I don’t feel particularly excited when a publisher announces it … (laughs)

If anything, what I truly enjoy is receiving fan letters for my works.




惑星ラピスラズリ2018年4月15日~5月31日 制作日数46日作品の発表時期10月23日私の彼女は男の子2018年6月15日~9月15日制作日数92日作品の発表時期11月8日




AF: Since beginning to work in manga, do you have any concerns or any particular reflections?


RH: I’m really concerned about how small my income is (laughs). Aside from that, I’m having fun every day and think this is an incredible profession.

収入が低いというのが大きな悩みです(笑) それ以外では毎日楽しくて、最高の職業だなと思います。

AF: I would like to go a bit more in depth on “My Girlfriend is a Boy.” What inspired you to work on this title in particular?


RH: I was first inspired to work on it after seeing a TV show featuring LGBT couples.

This program didn’t feature Q, or “Questioning,”  couples, so I wanted to draw a couple featuring this kind of relationship.



A blonde lectures a brunette girl

Manga Translation:
Yuko: I’m what people call X gender*. I’m agender and Makoto is bigender. It’s not like being bisexual. This has nothing to do with who I like or not.
Miki: What?

*Someone who identifies neither as male nor female regardless of their birth sex.

AF: You said, “Q, or ‘Questioning,’  couples,” but I wanted to confirm about that Q here. In English I meant it to refer to “Queer.” Did you really mean Questioning, as in “someone undecided on their gender and sexuality,” or did you want to change that to Queer? And if you meant questioning, can you elaborate how this comes into play with “My Girlfriend is a Boy”?

「Q=Questioningのカップル」と言いましたが、ここのQですが、LGBTQの「Q]は英語では[Queer」、又は「クィア」をさします。ここは本当にQuestioning、「性的指向を探している状態の人々」ですか?それとも「Queer」ですか?Questioning のまま残す場合はどのように「私の彼女は男の子」にそれを描きこんだのかを説明していただけるでしょうか?

RH: Please change that Q=Queer.

As an aside, let me explain why I used the term “Questioning.” For one, I wrote this story on the theme of “not knowing/Questioning.” The other theme I incorporated into this story is that this is something “that can’t be put into words.”

Yuko and Makoto are X-gender, they say they are agender and bigender, but they themselves don’t feel they are 100 percent like that either. When Yuko explains what their gender is, she’s consciously trying to find words that others will be able to understand.


余談として、「Questioning」という言葉を使った理由も説明致します。理由としては、この作品のテーマが「分からない / Questioning」だからです。もう一つのテーマが「言葉にできない」というものでした。


Yuko sits at a table contemplating. Yuko stands with wind rushing past her. She looks serious.

Manga Translation:
How can I convey this?
“Just to say, it’s not like I don’t have a gender. It’s just that there are no words to describe people like me. Gender’s got nothing to do with who I fall in love with.”

Furthermore, the supporting characters in this story (Miki and the teacher from middle school) don’t understand who Yuko and Makoto are. They believe that there are only two genders and are trying to fit them into those categories.


Panel 1: Miki sits with Makoto in a classroom laughing. Panel 2: Miki yells at Makoto and Yuko

Manga Translation:
“But Ms. Kamizaki looks just like a girl. What if she’s just a regular kid after all!”
“You didn’t say you have a gender, but at the end of the day you’re a girl! If you don’t have a gender, don’t bother falling in love!!”

This answers to the theme of “not knowing” and “something that can’t be put into words.” What I wanted to convey the most was what Yuko thought after fighting with Miki.

There are many things in the world that can’t be described with words. They can be genders, your own feelings, and many other things. But just because you don’t have any words for it doesn’t mean they don’t exist. I wanted to give strength to the many people who cannot convey their feelings with words through my piece.



Panel 1: A downpour douses a suburb. Panel 2: A hand extends a towel to a drenched Makoto. Panel 3: A shot of Yuko and Makoto drying off in Yuko's room. Panel 4: Yuko watches Makoto and Miki argue. Panel 5: Yuko blushing with an arm held up to their chest Panel 6: black box with text. Panel 7: Yuko's face back in the present

Manga Translation:
Yuko: Here.
Makoto: Thanks.
What does it mean to fall in love?
Makoto: Sorry I got your room wet.
Yuko: It’s fine.
My mind went blank with happiness and relief when I saw Makoto reject that girl.
I like Makoto. I adore them. I love them so much.
I can’t explain it well. Feelings. Gender. Things that do not want to be defined by words.
But it doesn’t have to be conveyed as long as it exists between two people.
Makoto: Hey, Yuko…

AF: I feel I’ve come to see a lot of LGBTQ activisits and characters recently in Japanese media (whether it be news, comic essays, dramas, or other works). However, the characters in your comic generally have failed to understand who X-gender people are. Do you feel that Japanese people are getting closer to understanding LGBTQ people, especially X-gender people? Or is such a day still far from being realized?


RH: I believe there is growing understanding for “LGBT” people. With that said, I think we’re far from the day when Japanese people will understand the “Q.” To explain why, the media often reports it as “LGBT,” not “LGBTQ.”

It seems like Japanese people are still far from understanding what it means to “not have or have an undefined gender.”

「L G B T」に対する理解は進んでいると思います。ですが、日本人が『Q』を理解する日はかなり遠いでしょう。何故なら、メディアの報道でも『L G B T Q』では無く、『L G B T』のみを表記することが多いからです。

日本人はまだまだ「性別が無い or 分からない」という人がいる事を理解できないようですね。

Panel 1: A hand rests on a piece of paper containing a speech. Panel 2: An older an sits in front of a young Yuko and Makoto. Panel 3: Yuko looks deeply concerned. Panel 4: Makoto and Yuko look at the teacher sitting at his desk.

Manga Translation:
Teacher: No one’s going to be convinced hearing “I’m both a boy and a girl.” This SOGI and X gender business is also hard to understand. No one is going to bother trying to listen to that.
Yuko: B-But Makoto is re—
Teacher: Hey Kamizaki. You might be too young to understand this, but…

AF: Do you yourself identify as x-gender? If so, since when?


RH: While I’m not x-gender, I am bisexual. I realized when I was in middle school.


AF: Creators who make LGBTQ content often become labeled as “LGBTQ creators,” but how do you feel about that? Are you seeking such a label or do you wish to not be labeled as such?

LGBTQ関係の作品を作るクリエーターはよく代表的に「LGBTQのクリエイター」として認識されてしまう恐れもありますが、それに対して陽名先生はどう思っていますか? そのようなラベルを望んでいますか、それとも気にしていますか?

RH: I’m not particularly wishing for it, but I’m not really concerned about it either. It’s because I don’t think a creator’s SOGI (sexual orientation, gender identity) has anything to do with a piece of work.

特に望みもしないし、気にもしていません。クリエイターのSOGI は作品に関係ないと思うからです。

Panel 1: Close up of two grotesque unwashed and blindfolded men adorned in trinkets; Pane 2: The which jumps away from the man; Panel 3: A hand reaches out for the woman, she looks terrified; Panel 4: A pair of booted feet quickly turning heel to run away

Manga Translation:
The black market jewelers!!!
Woman: I knew that you were also….!!
Man: Calm down. You got it all wrong!!
Man: I’m you all—!!
Woman: Eek!
Woman: No!

AF: Moving forward, what kind of work do you want to create? And within it, do you feel there is a place for LGBTQ characters?


RH: I’m currently hoping to serialize a battle manga. I plan on introducing various monsters and gods, but there are a number of gendered monster characters. For example, a “yuki-onna” (literally “snow woman”) is by its very name a woman, but it’s perhaps not that weird to have a transgender yuki-onna. Aside from this manga, I do tend to put considerable thought into the gender and sexual orientation of my characters and hope to continue creating LGBTQ characters in the future.


Interview and manga translations by Chiaki Hirai.

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