Monday, April 23, 2018
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I was in comic-con heaven with my favorite Japanese artists

To be You illustrator Rian Gonzales joins her fellow ‘mangaka’ in a live-drawing event
04:07 PM June 03, 2017

Meeting Shirahama Kamome with my boothmates, Derrick Chew, Eric Chen and Rachel Poon

I remember afternoons spent watching anime on local TV. I sat starry-eyed, mind filled with vivid imagery and heart jumping for joy every time Usagi transformed into the lovely Sailor Moon.

I’d be lying if I said Japanese animation wasn’t a big part of my influence map as an artist. I had once dreamt of going to the Land of the Rising Sun. But little did I know that this year, I’d be on a plane bound for Japan.

The invite to “Brave and Bold”— a two-day comic book convention and live-drawing event in Kawasaki City—came after my recent solo show in Singapore. Many times, I had to pinch myself to make sure I wasn’t hallucinating.


I’ve been very passionate about art, but realizing it would take me places was overwhelming. Attending an international comic book convention for the first time made me nervous.

Rian with a Japanese fan


I was at a table with Japanese mangaka—artists whose works I’ve seen only in print and on TV. One could feel so small when you’re seated beside Takeshi Miyazawa.

Junichi Hayama and Shirahama Kamomewere in the same hall. I offered a few of my prints to them and told them how much I loved their work.

“Wonder Woman” sketch commissioned by Shirahama Kamome

They were approachable and gave me some of their own books. It felt like I was in heaven that day—getting to meet the artists behind some of my favorite TV shows in my youth.

The best thing about going to comic cons is the opportunity to observe how such events are being organized. What I really liked about the Japanese is their punctuality. No need for reminders.

If you gave them the time you’d be finished with a sketch, they’d be there on the dot. They would patiently stand at a distance and wait for you to call them, so you wouldn’t feel uneasy.

All preordered commissioned works and art books were claimed during the event. Everything was orderly and organized. We packed up an hour before closing time and we did not worry about forgetting our belongings. No lockers or cabinets needed, your things were safe overnight.


I also appreciated that there was no language barrier. It was heartwarming to see people’s faces light up when they picked up my work. Some even gave simple but touching thank-you presents!

Somebody who knew that I was a diehard Hello Kitty fan came over to give me a Hello Kitty plush!

I was overjoyed by the thought that even through hard times, when I had self-doubt and insecurity about my work, someone out there was inspired by my drawings.

That is fuel enough for me to keep going. I hope this will be the first of many journeys to my becoming a better artist.—CONTRIBUTED

First day of Brave and Bold Con

The author doing on-the spot sketches for fans at the con

Surprising Japanese fans who pre-ordered the author’s art book with free sketches.

Brave and Bold event poster

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TAGS: artist, comic con, fan art, Japan, Junichi Hayama, Manga, Mangaka, Shirahama Kamomewere, Takeshi Miyazawa
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