Inspired by this year’s Chapin Book Fair theme, “Heroines: Confident & Courageous,” and in keeping with the School’s theme of the year, “Listen with Compassion, Act with Courage,” renowned Japanese artist and writer Misako Rocks illustrated a “Chapin Supergirl” and her pet gator “Kawaii” just for Chapin! This “Supergirl” will remain on the wall of the School’s main stairwell for the remainder of the year, serving as a visual representation of Chapin’s themes and values. As this writer quickly discovered, the artist behind the drawing is quite a “supergirl” herself!
Misako Takashima (aka “Misako Rocks”) grew up in Japan but began dreaming of living in America after watching “Back to the Future” at age 11. At age 19, her dream came true when she won a scholarship and moved to the United States as an exchange student.
A manga artist (a style of Japanese comics and graphic novels enjoyed by adults and children) and writer, her big break came when her illustrations were used in The Onion’s “Savage Love” column. Shortly after, Misako scored a two-book deal with Hyperion and a three-book deal with Henry Holt. Her autobiographical comic, Rock and Roll Love, was featured on the “Best Books for Teens” list by the New York Public Library.
Misako has also published four books in Japan, including her latest, How to Learn English Using Misako’s Method, which became a bestseller on Amazon. After being recognized as an outstanding Japanese artist, she was invited to meet the Prime Minister and First Lady of Japan, and has had multiple appearances on Japanese TV and radio shows. She was also featured in a BBC/NHK documentary about her comic book life.
Misako has taught manga drawing classes at The Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Botanical Gardens Cherry Blossom Festival in Brooklyn, and has given speeches at various schools around the U.S.
Currently, while working on several book projects, she teaches manga drawing for Chapin’s Clubhouse afterschool program. This writer was able to snag a few moments during Misako Rocks’ busy schedule to ask her some questions about her life and work.
How are you connected to Chapin? How did you end up teaching at Clubhouse?
I was teaching private manga drawing lessons in New York a few years ago and one of my first students was from Chapin. She was in Class 2 at the time but was already so great at expressing herself creatively. Her mother encouraged me to look into teaching at Clubhouse, so I put together a proposal, they loved it, and here I am! That student is in Class 5 now!
What inspired you as you created the Chapin “Supergirl?”
I was definitely inspired by my Clubhouse students. I’ve noticed that the girls at Chapin are so comfortable with expressing themselves, even at a young age. They just seem to know who they are. They have strong spirits… and lots of energy! They are great!
When you think of confident and courageous women, who comes to mind and why?
I think of my coach, Janna Morishima. She used to work at Scholastic Publishing, then had two children and left her job to manage her husband’s photography business. She discovered she had a passion for helping young artists to thrive, so she became a creative coach. She has helped me grow in my career so much. She is the first editor I’ve had who actually gives me advice and amazing critiques. Rather than just saying “no,” she tells me why. She is honest, caring, and compassionate, and has been with me through personal issues while also helping me get to the next level in my career.
What does “Listen with Compassion, Act with Courage” mean to you?
I believe that when you are an open-minded, non-judgmental person, everything comes together naturally and everything feels better. As a child in Japan, I didn’t fit in. Everyone expected me to follow strict rules and to behave like everyone around me. With the way I dressed and the way I spoke, I stood out, and that wasn’t celebrated. After I saw the movie “Back to the Future,” and developed a crush on Michael J. Fox, I knew I wanted to visit the United States. I started teaching myself conversational English and I eventually traveled to Missouri as an exchange student. In the U.S., it felt like everyone was different and that being unique was a good thing, and I loved that feeling! Children here have such unique and interesting ideas. It’s amazing what being open-minded can do.
Are you currently working on any other projects?
Yes! I am working on a children’s English-language manga book called “Bounce Back,” about a Japanese student who moves to Brooklyn with her family. It’s about friendship, being a teenager, and finding your spirit during tough times. I’m also working on a Japanese-language manga about strong women living in New York City, and I’m currently designing anime characters for a Japanese TV network.
In the spirit of the Chapin Book Fair, have you read any great manga books lately that you’d recommend to our students?
Students should definitely read “Kodocha” by Miho Obana. It’s about a 6th grade girl who is an actress but just wants to be a normal kid. It’s a crazy, fun story that students will love, but it also has great messages about friendship and being who you are.
Learn more about Misako by visiting www.misakorocks.com