This post is for The Beautiful World‘s Female Goth Mangaka Blog Carnival. Click through to read and participate!
It started with a pop-up.
You might not believe it, or if you’re young enough, understand it. Pop-ups are a practically archaic form of internet advertising: on certain sites, ads used to pop up in separate windows, instead of nestling into new tabs or the edge of the screen. But it’s true: I discovered Junko Mizuno via a pop-up ad.
I don’t remember the site I was on. I think it was a personal site, which are also kind of archaic in the days of social media platforms. Back in the day (circa 2002), people had to build their own websites if they wanted to talk about themselves. Nowadays we have multiple platforms that let us talk about ourselves in various ways (hi, WordPress!), but back then, we made our own, and to keep them free, we had to have ads.
The image in the pop-up was a girl in a red sailor uniform with a silhouetted face, her eyes glowing the same color as her skirt, and her pigtails flared upward, ending in fiery plumes. She looked evil as hell — and I loved it.
The pop-up linked to Viz Media’s (nee Communications) web site, and was advertising the beginning of the release of Junko Mizuno’s fairytale trilogy – Cinderalla, Princess Mermaid, and Hansel & Gretel. The girl on the banner was a character from Hansel & Gretel, and I think only Cinderalla was out at the time, but I was excited by the unusual manga art and vowed to buy it as soon as I could get back to Borders. (Yet another relic of the past.) I was a high school freshman at the time, so getting anywhere on my own was a trial.
Thankfully, my parents were used to me begging for trips to the bookstore to buy manga, so on my next one, I found Cinderalla and took her home. I was nervous due to the shrink wrap around the book – denoting adult content – but thankfully my dad didn’t look too hard at it, and the cashier didn’t question a grown man buying a shrink-wrapped book.
I got the book home and devoured it, pored and obsessed over it. I tried out the drawing style and read it again and again. I Googled Junko constantly to learn as much as I could, and kept checking Viz’s site for news of new releases. I debated heartily about what to do with the stickers in the back. Some of them were racy and/or goth-looking and I didn’t want to put them on anything that could be seen by my very Catholic school or my sort of Catholic mom. So I snuck it in where I could and put only a tiny sticker of Junko’s signature skull and cross-bones rabbit on the back of my student ID.
As mentioned, I was a high school freshman then and quickly finding out how crappy it was to be a teenager. My teachers were mean, my peers were assholes, and the self-loathing was settling in. I retreated into my own world to keep myself from losing my mind, and getting to see even a small daily reminder that the entire world wasn’t all uniform-wearing robots was unbelievably helpful. For the next four years, every student ID I got was christened with a bunny skull and crossbones sticker. It was a sort of talisman, and it helped keep me sane.
Remember those personal sites I mentioned? Another web site relic of internets past was the collective, a bunch of sites often hosted on a single domain, dedicated to things like fictional characters, real life celebrities, obscure movies, etc. They were hand-coded by fans, and really only served to help spread information and promote the things they liked. It was a labor of love if there ever was one. And some of the most popular versions of those sites were fanlistings, which strove to bring together all the different fans of a certain thing. Like a rudimentary Facebook fan page, fanlistings asked people to submit their names, emails, and web sites to be listed – pretty much what the name suggests. And of course, for years, I owned one for Junko Mizuno.
I talk about fanlistings as if they don’t exist anymore, but they do. Just click the link above and you’ll be shown tons. But I haven’t used them properly in years, in the same way I haven’t made hand-coded websites since college. But for a good six years (2002-2008, RIP) when I was still making them, I kept up the “approved” Junko Mizuno fanlisting, which I first called “Ideas from Hell” and then “Hellish.” I often had people contact me via the fanlisting, asking to speak to or book Junko, and I had to explain (sometimes very slowly) I did not represent her. The “fan” part was clearly lost on them. (Junko’s then-official site did link to my fanlisting for a little while though, which was kind of amazing!)
I closed my websites in 2009, and the fanlisting along with it. Very few people were keeping up their hand-coded sites by then, social media was becoming prevalent, and Tumblr’s star was just starting to rise. I joined right before I moved to Philadelphia to finish up college and not long after created Fuck Yeah Junko Mizuno, because I couldn’t stay away. Maybe I didn’t run her fanlisting anymore, but I still wanted to keep updated with her work, and what better way then running a multipurpose microblog that provided art and news?
(And if the name sounds weird, sorry, calling a fan Tumblr “fuck yeah [blank]” was pretty popular around the end of the 2000s. I just haven’t come up with a better name for it in the meantime. If you have any suggestions, I’m all ears.)
In 2012, as detailed in previous entries on this blog, I won a contest with the jewelry designer Morphik and received a free blue leather cuff bracelet with Junko’s piece “Wedding” on the inset. I plan to wear this during my wedding as my “something blue.” A few months later, I got to meet Junko herself at the Kid Robot store in San Francisco, where she signed the cuff and I told her I planned to wear it when I got married. According to the Morphik designer, she as “blown away” to hear that:
This is really special for me as the owner and designer of this bracelet. Thank you for honoring morphik by being selected as a item for such a special day. Junko told me you got to meet her in SF. She was really blown away that you pick her work to be in your wedding.
– a comment left on my wedding Pinterest board
When I met her, Junko recognized me as the person who won the cuff and we spoke briefly about the “essay” I wrote to win it. The theme of the contest was keeping art in your everyday life, and I wrote about how putting her bunny skull and crossbones stickers on my student IDs kept me sane throughout high school. She told me she did the same sort of thing when she was in school and hating it, and that looking at the work of her favorite artists made it bearable, too. I was touched to have something like that in common with her. I might have been out of high school for six years at the time, but I like to think learning that made my high school self feel retroactively better.
This entry is already pretty long, and I haven’t even talked about why I like Junko Mizuno’s art so much. But suffice to say I do. Maybe that’s a post for another time…