HomeAnimeOne-On-One: "Aspe-chan" Creator Kuro Akagi

One-On-One: "Aspe-chan" Creator Kuro Akagi

One-On-One: "Aspe-chan" Creator Kuro Akagi

In the world of pop culture, people with both Autism and Asperger Syndrome tend to get a bad rep. In movies and TV, writers tend to focus primarily on those on the lower Spectrum, causing those who are far higher to be judged solely on what others may see in a work of fiction. I say this because I've personally been through that form of judgement, and let me tell you: it's not fun having to constantly explain one's self in the slightest! Fortunately, over on the other side of the Pacific, there's an artist that is doing all that she can to shine a far better light on the Spectrum than most others, and she may be successful on her quest.

Meet Kuro Akagi, a well-renowned cosplayer with Asperger's who has managed to gain over 143,000 followers on her Instagram thanks to her amazing costumes. However, when she's not wowing her audience with her dress-up, she's putting pen-to-ink to tell her life story in the form of Aspe-chan. Since premiering her manga on Pixiv back in January, she has already gained the attention of such English-based news stations as Anime News Network, SoraNews24, and goboiano. Needless to say, her little manga may be just what this world needs to help the rest of the world better understand those living on the Spectrum.

With the aid of my friend Sawa Kato (who is known for her work in the band Sawas Phool and as a former contributor for No Borders No Race via her Nazo-Nazo Nihongo segments), I had the opportunity to chat with Kuro Akagi about Aspe-chan, her cosplay work, and living her life on the Spectrum. And for the first time ever on the B3 site, the interview has been presented both in English and Japanese!

Kuro Akagi Supergirl cosplay

First off, how are you doing today?

Nice to meet you. I am Kuro Akagi, Japanese cosplayer as well freelancer for doujinshi. I really appreciate this opportunity to be interviewed, and accept this chance to be known by more people. Thank you.

How did you first discover that you were on the Spectrum, and how did you take the news?

I had a friend with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), and we happened to find a lot in common through our conversations. Difficulties on relations with other people, sports and exercises, etc..., and I start learning about spectrum after hearing an advice from this friend who said, "Maybe you are also Asperger's." As I learned about Asperger's, I found there were so many symptoms that exactly matched to mine, and it helped me feel relieved rather than disappointed or depressed. Until I knew about Asperger's, I felt as if I was wondering in the darkness asking myself, "Why I can’t do the same like others or always behind everyone?" and "Maybe because I’m not trying good enough?" and so on. Knowing about the Spectrum was a key to start knowing about myself a little more regardless of comparing with others by the scale of superior or inferior, but accepting myself as I am.

Growing up, how did you overcome the obstacles that being on the Spectrum had when it came to living an average life?

People with Asperger's tend to provoke misunderstandings unintentionally. When I was a student, even though I was doing or saying things which I thought as "normal", parents, teachers and even my classmates kept telling me "You are not normal," and it made me think, "It’s all because I’m incompetent to what they think as 'normal'." I lost self-confidence, I was bullied, and I lost my own thought by thinking I’m always wrong and what others say is always the right. In short, I was always obeying others, because I couldn’t believe myself and my thought. Although, after knowing about Asperger Syndrome, I determined to start many things to broadening my horizon and get back my self-confidence.

I start taking my writings more seriously for manga and/or doujinshi, which I always liked. Sooner or later, I realized I’m good with work on something with continuous concentration, and it helped me get my confidence back. I start taking cosplay a little more actively and presented at different kind of events, and then I could have more followers, and even blessed by chances for working and it made me feel that I’ve got more confidence back. By knowing Asperger Syndrome, I could shift my characteristics in a positive way. Completely writing manga periodically with my strong concentration and working style, keep doing what I once determined to do, and attend Cosplay events. I can’t say I overcame it yet, but my life is way better than before and able to enjoy my life so much better today.

Aspe-chan 1 English

When did you first discover your love for manga & doujinshi, and what drew you into creating your own?

I love manga since I was a child, and it was influenced by my father. I was very lucky to have an environment surrounded by many different kinds of manga, movies, and animation contents because of my father's love toward manga contents and media. It was very natural for me to get into it, and I already loved it when I realized. I remember buying my first doujinshi when I was in junior high school. I wrote my first manga in my junior high school years as well, but I wasn’t writing much once I started cosplay. It was when my friend who mentioned me about Asperger's, praised my drawing, and told me to keep writing manga [when I started up again], and so I started writing Aspe-chan as well as doujinshi.

Where did the idea for Aspe-chan first come to you?

Back then, manga such as Comical Psychosomatic Medicine by Yu Yuuki and Utsunuke by Keiichi Tanaka -- which had emotional/heart problem themes -- were becoming popular, and when I start reading them I thought they were very interesting. At the same time, I start taking notes on story thinking to write a manga themed with Asperger Syndrome, through my experience in anime of social recognition on Asperger's. This is how Aspe-chan started.

How are people on the Spectrum usually portrayed in Japanese media and culture, and did it play a role into why you’ve made Aspe-chan?

I think it is very recent that the Spectrum is widely known and acknowledged by Japanese society, and more people are making it public these days. Until a few years ago, only someone who could succeed was called as "genius", and the rest were categorized as an "oddball". However, maybe because various Spectrum conditions are widely known more and more these days, talent and its uniqueness of each individuals are highlighted and accepted by Japanese society in favorable ways. However, from the news and books, there were quite a number of focused pieces on ADHD and Asperger's with an impression of a very delicate topic which requires extreme care, so I was scared to post the first episode to be honest. However, my desire and wish to spread the understanding toward people who have Asperger's had won.

Aspe-chan 2 English

What were some of the challenges faced when bringing your stories into the Aspe-chan lore?

The character and image of Aspe-chan came out easily. I intended to write a character from a picture book, because I wanted everyone from different generations to easily get into the story. The story itself came out naturally as well. The hardest part was to go over my fear of releasing the manga out into public with  "Asperger's" as the main theme, which seemed to be socially taboo. I was afraid to be criticised, but I made up my mind, and posted the very first episode of Aspe-chan on my Twitter account, as I hoped, "Maybe I can help others in similar situations by sharing my experience."

How’s writing Aspe-chan different from the other manga you create?

Aspe-chan is based on my experiences and structured as an essay type of manga. The difficult part is to make it easy to read, because it contains a lot of information. On the other hand, when I  write doujinshi "for men", I gather inspirations and ideas from cosplay and create stories to entertain the readers. I’m writing what I can enjoy for both, but for Aspe-chan I need to face with my past and it consumes a lot of energy.  Doujinshi is something that I write as I like, so it’s more like off-work writings. Apart from these two, I started writing manga to post for magazines, with an aim to become professional manga writer.

What are some of the harder things to bring to light in Aspe-chan, and how do you find yourself working around those moments?

I have once thought of posting Aspe-chan to magazines or making it into a paperback, but as I previously shared, many people advised me that it is difficult to have Aspe-chan published in Japan because socially it is very delicate topic. I once was depressed to know how difficult it is to have it published in Japan, but hey, we are living in 21st century where we can be connected by the internet and I can share it no matter where I am! So, I will be keep posting a new series of Aspe-chan with my hope that someday this may take shape. What’s most important is to spread and expand the people who understands Asperger's, and I will keep posting in pursuit of its realization.

Aspe-chan 3 English

Aspe-chan has been reported on via many international sites, from Anime News Network to SoraNews24. What goes through your mind knowing your creation is getting worldwide attention?

To be honest, it doesn’t feel real yet, but there are more people telling me that they've read Aspe-chan and I am genuinely happy to hear such feedbacks. If it is true that Aspe-chan is getting wider worldwide attention, that means more people are now aware or at least knowing about Asperger's. I wish such recognition spreads more.

We have seen a rise in autobiographical web manga being adapted into critically-acclaimed books, such as Chii's The Bride Was A Boy and Nagata Kabi’s My Lesbian Experience With Loneliness. Do you hope Aspe-chan also reaches that sort of level of attention?

If I’m allowed to hope for more, it would be great if Aspe-chan to be widely known and have attention from worldwide readers. I believe more understandings of Asperger's would help those who suffers or having hard time with the Spectrums. I hope there would be more people who could treat those in a nicer manner by knowing about the reality we’re feeling in our daily life. Such understandings doesn’t limit to Spectrums, but in extent to knowing the characteristics of others, as I believe knowing is the beginning of respect toward one another.

Outside of writing manga, you’re also known for your cosplay. Would you say doing cosplay helped in any way with breaking out of your shell?

Cosplay is sometimes a pure enjoyment of becoming my favorite character, and also a communication tool to enjoy being together with friends. Also, cosplay is giving me opportunities to work as a cosplayer, and I am amazed by the variation of possibilities, as well as thankful for providing chances to take an active role in my life. I personally think cosplay can make a person who saw it happy, as well as making the cosplayer happy, so I’m trying to insist on high quality. I am hoping to continue cosplaying as long as I can because I simply love it!

Aspe-chan 4 English

What are some of your favorite sorts of characters you like to dress up as, and are there any that you’ve yet to tackle that you hope to?

My favorite characters are Mary Rose from Dead or Alive and Rikka Takanashi from Love, Chunibyo & Other Delusions. In the future, I’d like to try some characters from Uma Musume, which I am watching today, and also some favorite characters from Marvel and DC Comics.

What’s next for Aspe-chan?

Through the difficulties how to cope with society, Aspe-chan will be finding out her own way and grow as the story goes hopefully, and this is what’s in my mind. It could take awhile because I still struggle with how to deal with my daily life, but together with its story, I am hoping to keep growing as well.

Finally, what sort of message would you like to extend to the worldwide fans of Aspe-chan and your various other works?

Thank you so much for reading Aspe-chan. By knowing that the story is being read by so many people, I am very happy and feel like my hard work has paid off. I truly believe if more people have a chance to know Aspe-chan, the understandings toward the Spectrum will spread. Your cheerful messages are always welcome, and if you could also help by spreading word to the people around you, then it would be a great encouragement for the further support. I’ll be wishing for your happiness, and would like to keep up with my future writing, as well as cosplay. Thank you so much!

Be sure to follow Kuro Akagi on her Facebook, Twitter, Pixiv, Instagram, and YouTube pages. Special thanks to Sawa Kato for translating our questions and her responses!

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ポップカルチャーの世界において、自閉症やアスペルガー症候群は良い印象をあまり与えない傾向にある。映画やテレビでは、そのネガティブな症状にフォーカスした描かれ方をされることが多く、作品や物語の中で周りの人たちが受ける印象のみに特化するのではなくもっと様々な角度で捉えられても良いのかもしれない。私がこのように考えるのには、個人的に型にはまったような捉えられ方を経験したことが幾度となくあるからだ。これを機に伝えさせてもらいたい。自分自身のほんの一部によって判断されたり、誤解されないよう説明し続けるということは決して楽しいことではないですよね!幸いにも、太平洋の向こう側に、ASD (自閉症スペクトラム) について、これまでにない新たな光をもたらし輝かせようとしている一人の女性がいる。そして彼女は、成功への道のりとも言えよう冒険の歩を進めている。

赤木クロさんは、素晴らしいコスチュームを着こなすコスプレイヤーとして、またアスペルガー症候群であることでも周知されていて、インスタグラムには143,000 以上のフォロワーがいる。一方で、彼女がコスチュームを着てオーディエンスたちを魅了していない時間は、ペンを握って自身のライフストーリーを『アスぺちゃん』という物語として綴っていることはご存知だろうか。彼女の描く自叙伝的な物語はPixivで初めて公開された今年の1月以降、Anime News Network、 SoraNews24 そして goboiano などの英語ニュースサイトでも既に注目を集めるようになっている。未だあまりよく知られていない ASD の視点から見た世界について、より多くの人たちに知ってもらうことができるマンガなのだ。

友人の Sawa Kato (バンド Sawas Phool や、以前 ラジオ/ポッドキャスト番組 No Borders No Race の中で Nazo-Nazo Nihongo コーナーを担当)にサポートしてもらい、赤木クロさんと、『アスぺちゃん』、コスプレのお仕事や、ASDと共に生きることなどについてお話を聞かせていただくことができた。そして B3サイト 始まって以来初となる、日本語と英語の両言語で今回はインタビューをお届けいたします!

Kuro Akagi Lolita Cosplay




きっかけは友人にADHDの方がいて、その方と話をしていた時に昔の対人関係の話や運動が苦手な事を話していたら「もしかしてアスペルガー症候群かもしれないよ?」と言われ調べてみた所からです。その後、色々とアスペルガーの事を調べて行くたびに自分の症状とぴったりだったので「そうだったのか!」と思いましが… 不思議と落ち込んだり絶望したりはしませんでした。むしろ自分の対人関係の上手くいかない理由がはっきりして少し安堵した感じです。いままで原因がわからなくて自分の能力が人より劣っているから自分が悪いと思い込んでいたのが、病気だったと分かった事でやっと自分という者が少し理解できたからかもしれません。それまでは暗闇を手探りで歩いてるかんじでした。




Aspe-chan 1 Japanese






日本で発達障害が話題になって認知されるようになって来たのは本当に最近なのですが、現在では多くの方々がカミングアウトするようになってきたと思います。ひと昔まえは成功すれば「天才」、そうでなければ「変わり者」扱いされていたような感じだったように思えます。いまは発達障害に対する認知が広まってきたおかげか発達障害の人の特殊な才能にスポットが当てられ以前より好意に見てもらえる様になったとは思います。ただニュースや書籍でもADHDに関する内容が多かった印象があり、アスペルガーの方はどちらかというと触れてはいけないようなデリケートな問題扱いされる感じがあったので 非難されるかもしれないけど自分で描いて世間にアスペルガーへの理解を広めたいなという気持ちはありました。

Aspe-chan 2 Japanese







Aspe-chan 3 Japanese







Aspe-chan 4 Japanese








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The J-POP king of America, Evan has been bringing the hottest sounds of the Land of the Rising Sun to the English-speaking public since his college radio days. He's also an expert in the gaming, anime, & manga realms, never afraid to get critical when the times call for it. Born & bred in Boston, he achieved his biggest dream yet by making the big move to Tokyo, Japan in Summer 2023! For personal inquiries, contact Evan at evan@b3crew.com. For press/band inquiries, write to us at thebastards@bostonbastardbrigade.com. (Drawing by AFLM of Wicked Anime)