The year 2022 starts strong at Ki-oon with the publication this Thursday, January 6 of Leviathan. A new sci-fi manga as captivating as it is superbly illustrated by Shiro Kuroi, whom CNEWS was able to interview.
An author who is not a professional manga artist but a web designer. Used to producing works via his fanzines, he signs his first work with impressive care and maturity, developing a chilling narrative that is reminiscent of the Emported School, a masterpiece by Kazuo Umezu (currently reissued at Glénat), to which he adds the claustrophobic atmosphere of Alien (1979) by Ridley Scott.
Leviathan is the story of a class trip through space that turns into drama when the space freighter carrying the students is struck by what looks like a meteor shower. A catastrophe which leaves an entire class as sole survivors. Everyone’s existence is then in danger …
When reading Leviathan for the first time, one inevitably thinks of William Golding’s His Majesty of the Flies but also of Kazuo Umezu’s L’Ecole Taken. Are these works that influenced this survivalist story?
Shiro Kuroi: I read The Away School a long time ago, it undoubtedly had an impact on my work indeed. Apart from that, I may have been influenced by the Magnetic rose episode in the animated film Memories by Katsuhiro Otomo, or by Rashomon by Akira Kurosawa.
© Shiro Kuroi / Ki-oon
Why did you choose the space to stage it?
I’m not particularly attached to SF, and I don’t have a deep culture in it, but it’s a genre that easily allows you to stage extreme situations. From this point of view, it seemed to me appropriate for this story.
How do you work?
I have never had an assistant, I work alone. I have a pretty slow pace, it takes me about two months to finish a 32 page chapter. My drawing technique is not frozen, I try to find a good balance between the drawing by hand and the digital tool. Both have their advantages. I make the main line with a G-pen, a brush pen or a ballpoint pen, as needed. It all depends on the rendering I want to give to the line. Then, I scan my board and I do the finishing touches in Photoshop.
Some boards are quasi-photorealistic with very expressive looks. Why this choice in your style?
Photo-realistic manga such as Gantz or I am a hero make it possible to convey the emotions of the characters in a raw way. That’s why I try to stay as close as possible to human expressions.
For me, comics are part of the domain of the gods. I didn’t think I could one day be published by a French publisher.Shiro Kuroi
How was your collaboration with Ki-oon and did you think this story for foreign readers from the start?
The Ki-oon editor approached me on my stand at Comitia, an original creation fanzine convention. The pilot episode of Leviathan is one of the fanzines I sold there. I did not imagine this story with a view to presenting it abroad, and some points may only be understandable to Japanese people. However, sci-fi is a universal genre, and the problems of adolescence are the same all over the world. These common points allow the creation of a bridge between cultures.
Do you know France and the comics of our country? Did you think you would one day produce a work that would be read with us?
I have never been to France, but for me this country has an image of a land of traditions and culture. Seen from Japan, France is synonymous with elegance. I am a fan of comics, for example the works of Moebius, François Schuiten or Nicolas de Crécy, and I am inspired by them for my creations. In Leviathan, I try somehow to get closer to the rendering of the feature of the Dark Cities.
On the film side, I also appreciate certain French productions such as Nikita or Le Grand bleu by Luc Besson, or Trois couleurs by Krzysztof Kieslowski. For me, comics are part of the domain of the gods, I never thought I could one day be published by a French publisher. It’s like a dream come true.
Leviathan, by Shiro Kuroi, ed. Ki-oon, volume 1 available January 6. Full story planned in three volumes.