Welcome to what is the first in (hopefully) a long line of interviews with interesting people in and around the Manga Fandom. I hope you enjoy reading this interview as much as I did chatting with MommaLuvsManga! We talk about all of the great Shojo series out there and touch on a few more serious topics like representation. I hope you agree that you couldn’t find a more perfect interviewee!
Aisha Soleil, also known as MommaLuvsManga, is a content creator who I first found on Instagram. From there, I discovered that not only is Aisha a prolific Instergramer; she also has an active blog, Twitter and Youtube channel. Aisha also was lovely enough to share her thoughts in the 2019 Holiday Manga Gift Guide. It seems like every day I’m watching a new first impressions video or liking a post. I didn’t want to keep this enjoyment to myself, so why not share it with the world outside!
For the Luv of Manga!
Hi Aisha, thanks for taking the time to do this interview. Let us get started with an easy one. How’s your day going?
Hey Stevie! Thank you for inviting me to do this. I’m honored! It’s going well, thank you for asking! The kids are holed up in their rooms playing video games, so I’m enjoying a break. Ha!
So how did you first get into manga?
It was completely by accident! Back in 2006 I walked into a Waldenbooks intending to pick up the next instalment of “Gossip Girl” (yes, I loved that series) but I left with the first couple volumes of “Fruits Basket” by Natsuki Takaya instead. I had never heard of manga before that. I grew up playing JRPGs like Dragon Warrior (later renamed Dragon Quest) and of course Final Fantasy, and I knew about Japanese animation. So when I stumbled upon manga, I was excited to see my love of Japanese illustrations and reading combined!
And do you think it would still hold up today?
Absolutely! I reread it earlier this year and was surprised at how well it aged. The themes are still relevant today. The fact that the reboot of the anime adaptation has been well-received is a good sign as well!
One of my favorite series to recommend to newbies is “Girls’ Last Tour” by Tsukumizu. The quirky, sketch-like art style lends balance to a story that could otherwise be quite heavy given the themes it tackles. It’s sweetly melancholic… and it’s wonderful.
You’ve said in the past that you live a minimalist life, I imagine that must be difficult as a manga collector?
It’s definitely annoying at times! But it keeps me in check. I’m forced to be more mindful of my preferences which actually ends up being nice for my bank account as well. Still, there have been times when I’ve walked into a local comic shop or used bookstore and lost my entire mind. The worst was this summer during a Half Price Books adventure. (We love second-hand manga too!)
So let’s take minimalism to it’s extreme! If you were stranded on a Desert Island, what manga series would you want with you?
Ooooh, great question. Just one? I think I would take “Ooku: The Inner Chambers” by Fumi Yoshinaga. It has all the things I love in a manga: beautiful art, drama, romance, adventure… and it’s meant to be read at a leisurely pace so I would be entertained for a good while. Also, it’s strong in the re-readability department!
While you’re picking series, what has been your favourite three manga series released in 2019?
“Little Miss P” by Ken Koyama is the first one that comes to mind. It’s a hilarious and inciteful anthology about… periods. Everyone should read it!
“The Way of the Househusband” is another favorite new release. I’m excited to see how the mangaka keeps up the humor… and I hope to see more of Tatsu’s back.
Gah! There are so many good ones that have released this year, but I think my third favorite is “Yuri Life” by Kurukuruhime. It’s another anthology, and it features love stories between grown women. I love yuri manga, but a lot of it is set in high school. It’s nice to have one featuring adults that still maintains the sweetness that a lot of the yuri geared toward younger folks does.
In the content you create, I love your concise impressions of books. With that knowledge of manga in your brain. Can you give me an elevator pitch for reading manga to someone unaware of the artform and what manga series would you recommend to them?
Manga blends unique, often breathtaking illustration together with the sort of storytelling often reserved for traditional novels. One of my favorite series to recommend to newbies is “Girls’ Last Tour” by Tsukumizu. The quirky, sketch-like art style lends balance to a story that could otherwise be quite heavy given the themes it tackles. It’s sweetly melancholic… and it’s wonderful.
If you could pick any western property to be made into a manga, what would it be and who would you choose as the mangaka?
I would LOVE to see Anne Rice’s “Vampire Chronicles” adapted into a manga series by either Moto Hagio or CLAMP.
We all know that plenty of women love manga. We all know that plenty of Black people love manga. But it makes a huge difference when you actually see someone who fits into those categories creating content around manga. Representation really does matter!
So how did you get into content creation?
Well, several years back, I was heavy into wearing wigs and watching wig reviews on YouTube. I decided I wanted to try doing wig reviews as well in hopes of getting free stuff, to be honest. But over time, I fell in love with the act of creating content in general. I played around with different types of content on that channel, including daily vlogs, fashion/beauty videos and even manga reviews! Eventually, though, I realized that my true passion was talking about manga. So I started MommaLuvsManga as a secondary channel that quickly became my main focus. That first channel did well, but I have no regrets about letting it go. MommaLuvsManga is my baby!
What was your impetus for content creating around manga and starting MommaLuvsManga?
I mentioned that I had occasionally posted manga reviews on my first channel, but I did take me a bit of time to finally decide to focus solely on manga. I think what pushed me to do it was two things:
I loved having a space to gush about my passion to my heart’s content.
There weren’t a lot of women, especially Black women, and also women over 30, talking about manga on YouTube specifically.
I know a lot of people cringe or roll their eyes when race or gender is mentioned. Lol. Still, it really is an important part of my story. We all know that plenty of women love manga. We all know that plenty of Black people love manga. But it makes a huge difference when you actually see someone who fits into those categories creating content around manga. Representation really does matter!
Have there been any series that you had a preconception of and it surprised you positively or negatively?
Oh gosh. So many! But a recent series that surprised me in a bit of a negative way is “Ran and the Gray World” by Aki Irie. The first volume was SO GOOD! The art style left me speechless, and the story grabbed me. I was still in love with it after reading volume two. However, volume three took the story into a direction I was hoping it wouldn’t. I’m still collecting and reading it because I’m invested enough in the story, but I’m cautious. I’ve been told that it doesn’t end up going in the way I’m fearful it will. I’m holding out hope!
And finally what’s your favourite thing about being a content creator?
Having an audience that doesn’t mind my shenanigans and will happily engage! I love connecting with other manga lovers. I’ve met amazing people from around the world because of this hobby. I’m so appreciative of everyone who takes the time to consume my content!
I’d like to thank MommaLuvsManga for taking the time to chat with us at MangaWorth Reading. I’d like to recommend that everyone checks out Aisha on her blog and various social media channels!