Crunchyroll launches Originals line with 'HYPERSONIC music club'

Crunchyroll, which rose to prominence as a streaming anime site and added digital manga last year, is launching a new line of original webcomics called Crunchyroll Originals, which will feature Japanese creators. The debut comic will be HYPERSONIC music club, a collaboration between writer Patrick Macias and artist Hiroyuki Takahashi. Here's the pitch:

In the world of tomorrow… when technology has reached it limits… a group of young cyborgs must battle the extra-dimensional monster girls for final control of the enigmatic force known only as…The Mystery Frequency!

The free comic will be updated with two pages a month. There's an interview with Takahashi at the Crunchyroll, and we asked Macias to talk a bit more about this comic and the Crunchyroll Originals line.

Robot 6: Will all the Crunchyroll Originals comics be collaborations between a Japanese and a non-Japanese creator, or is yours unique?

Patrick Macias: Right now, we have several projects in active development. Some of them are collaborations between Japan and U.S. staff, and others are coming purely from Japanese creators. The main thing is that we’re open to pretty much anything right now, including other formats besides webcomics, as long as it is a project that seems interesting and has creative potential.

What was the inspiration for the story, and who came up with the idea — you or Takahashi?

The story and characters for HYPERSONIC music club come from me, but all the inspiration comes from Takahashi and his artwork. When I first saw his illustrations a few years back, I would see his amazing cyber characters and wonder, “Who are these people? What kind of world do they live in? How would they behave in a group?” so I held onto that. When I approached Takahashi about the idea of doing an original work for Crunchyroll last year, he said he would prefer doing something collaborative, rather than something purely on his own. So I came up with the proposal for HYPERSONIC music club, and we here are today.

How did you develop the characters and make them unique?

Takahashi has a really amazing circle of friends that are active in the art, fashion and music scenes in Japan. When I was in Tokyo, he introduced me to people in his inner circle and invited me to a lot of live events I wouldn’t have otherwise known about. I was really struck by how strongly Japanese club goers and DJs (especially in the anison or “anime song” club scene) presented themselves; both how they looked and how they had developed their personas as characters. So while the characters in HYPERSONIC are not directly based on real people or places, that scene is definitely the point of departure.

For the next step, I sent Takahashi short biographies of each character and some background on the world they live in. He sent back thumbnail sketches of how they looked based on the descriptions and we would tweak things over and over until we settled on what we have now, which boils down to: cyborg DJs vs. monster girls.

How did the two of you collaborate — are you in the same place at the same time or working remotely?

Takahashi lives in Japan, and I’m in San Francisco most of the time. We communicate mainly through email, but I’ve been doing a lot of extended work stays in Tokyo recently, so we’ve spent a good deal of time now face to face talking about the story and characters and the overall ideas for HYPERSONIC.

Most people are familiar with your work as a critic and observer of anime and manga culture. Is this your first comic? What did you bring to it from your years as a fan/critic, and what was new and challenging about it?

I’ve been writing about Japanese pop culture for quite a while now, and there are a lot of short stories and fragments of things that have appeared on my blog containing ideas that definitely pop up in HYPERSONIC.

Last year, I launched my first webcomic, PARANOIA GIRLS, which is a collaboration with a Japanese artist named Yunico Uchiyama. That’s been a great learning experience as far as figuring out how to cross the language, distance, and culture barriers to try and create something. It’s been challenging, but a lot of fun.

But for me, the mission is not really to present myself as a creator so much as trying to find ways to introduce amazing talents like Hiroyuki Takahashi to audiences outside of Japan. HYPERSONIC music club is the first step in that regard and the Crunchyroll Originals will expand on it.

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