On December 7th, 2018, Sora Tokui released her picture book “Panda no Oshigoto!”. She had previously been active as a voice actress, known for many popular roles including Nero Yuzurizaki in “Tantei Opera Milky Holmes” and Nico Yazawa in “Love Live!”, as well as a manga artist with her own monthly serialization “Makeruna!! Aku no Gundan!” (completed).

The multi-talented Tokui has thus embarked on her first picture book, about a protagonist who supports the panda idol “Dandan” and his wota life. Despite starting out with a burning passion, the character begins to run into obstacles as he fails to get concert tickets and feels further and further away from his idol. He goes to handshake events thinking it might be the last chance to see Dandan, and receives unexpected words from her…. Idol fans will undoubtedly relate to the scenes in this book, and be reminded of the joys of supporting their idols.
We spoke with Tokui about the beginnings of her picture book and the thoughts that went into its making.

Pandas are everyone’s idol!

– Congratulations on the release of first picture book “Panda no Oshigoto!”.
It’s a message to idol fans, so we want to know the meaning behind it. What made you decide to make this picture book?

Around spring this year I was invited to create a picture book using pandas as a subject by the publisher kraken.
Around the time the rough storyline was decided I had the image of pandas as popular figures, so I suggested a children’s story as well as another story about idol pandas and the people supporting them. From these two ideas, they decided to go with the latter.
The subject of idols and idol fans is one that I know well, so I thought it’d be good to write about a territory I have passion for. There were already plenty of picture books using pandas as the characters, so rather than being repetitive I wanted to do something where I could express myself more.

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Struggling through the story creation

– It’s the first picture book for you, but did the creation process move smoothly?

If I were to compress the story into something compact, I could probably fill a novel. I had never written a picture book and I didn’t know how much I should write, so it was difficult to fit the words within one picture book. It’s a picture book after all, so I believe it should be easy for the reader to digest. I struggled so much with that. I had lots of worries that I kept inside my head. I wondered what kind of story development would be suitable for a picture book and how I should show the conclusion. The first attempt received the green light, but till the very end I was still unsure if it was really acceptable.

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Relating to the reader with wota terminology

– You currently draw four-panel manga so we thought you might be used to putting short stories together, but it seems like it was still a struggle. On the contrary, did you enjoy the production?

I love drawing and storytelling, so as long as I had the words I was confident I had written something good. My favorite line in the book is “It’s an orusuta (all-standing live) but I’m zero-zure (right in front of her) so I have the chance of getting a resu (response) and one-chan (One-chance) from her.” I loved putting in all the wota terminology. Even though I heard these words all the time I never quite knew their exact definition or how to use them, so I looked them up as I wrote. I made it so that it would be familiar phrases to the reader, and let them feel close at heart to this book.

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Experiencing a rainy day waiting in line for goods

– It’s very relatable and right at home. The protagonist has very realistic episodes. Are they based on yourself?

I’ve never experienced chasing idols myself but I’m also an otaku who supports anime and games and comedians, so I reflected on those personal experiences. I recently went to “Dream Festival!”’s concert and waited in line for goods outside for 4 hours in the rain, but by the time I got there everything was sold out and I couldn’t get anything.
Lining up for goods surrounded by similar fans was a way for me to experience being on the supporting side, and I was able to use that in making my book. After listening to fans about the feelings behind their support, I could understand how happy the members would certainly feel. It was a great experience. The encouraging songs at “Dream Festival!” made me want to show my support, and I’m glad I could share those feelings.

Also, I experienced the struggle of not winning my favorite Evangelion’s limited goods despite buying boxes day after day. It’s not quite the same as the protagonist in my story, but I can certainly relate and I hope everyone else can too.

Real characters

– The protagonist’s friend “DD@Gachi Koi” is a pretty realistic character, isn’t he?

There are so many ways of showing your support and so many types of fans, so I thought this might be an interesting character to write about.

– That’s perfect naming. The contradiction between “DD” and “Gachi Koi” is so typical of wota, you’d really think such a person exists. It’s amazing how you can grasp the nuances of wota so well!

I thought it was a good name myself when I thought of it (laughs)
Because he’s a DD he soon move on, but before that he wholeheartedly give his support.
Despite being a DD he give serious love “Gachi koi” using his whole life.

Standing apart from other picture books

– It’s a simple story, but it goes all out with the wota terminology. That’s a real challenge that sets it apart from other picture books and idol-related books, but did you feel confident to take such a big swing at the idol fan market?

Hmm. Hmm. Honestly I wondered if it was okay from me to go all out. The production went by without much direction or revisions from the editors, so I wasn’t sure if it was okay like that. I was still nervous until I was able to directly hear the fans’ thoughts during the talk show and autograph event on December 9.
It was the editor’s advice to include explanations with the wota terminology. I received a comment from a reader that they never knew about the phrase “takai” until seeing it in the book, so it made me happy that the explanations were useful. I thought of them all myself, hoping I could make it both easy to understand and expressive of myself.

Delivering my gratitude!

– Please share the feelings you put into this book.

I received a letter from a fan who told me that when they had been stuck in a certain situation they were saved by a particular work. Even if I can somehow convey a thank you to him, there wasn’t a chance for me to deliver my own words of gratitude. At the end of a live on stage we tell everyone “thank you, I love you”, but those are just words anyone can say. So I wondered just how much I can actually convey to the fans.
I myself have been saved by the words of fans during tough times, and when I had to move to a new environment many people told me to do my best in a book compilation of messages. I really wanted a way to show my thanks and love. I’m more grateful than everyone can imagine, and I’m sure other idols have the same feelings towards their fans. I hope this book will help convey all that.

– The feelings and actions of fans towards their idols are amazing after all. At voice actors/actress’ events they receive flower stands. The celebratory flowers that decorate the event lobby are something unique to them, aren’t they?

The fans are always voluntarily gathering together and thinking of ideas to surprise and make me happy. Even though they’re doing all that for me, I really wonder if my own feelings are being conveyed back. I can write on my blog and Twitter, but I don’t know if it just sounds like trite words to them.
During events I’ve been told “I couldn’t say what I wanted well in such a short time”. We certainly feel the same way, like being sorry that we couldn’t listen properly or not being able to say our thanks from the other day. It’s the same. We get nervous trying to communicate fully in such a short amount of time. I hope the feelings that couldn’t be conveyed will come across through Dandan.

– The book has a scene where Dandan meets the protagonist at a handshake event and very passionately delivers her feelings of gratitude. I wondered if that line came from you yourself.

That line is just a short version of what it really is. But it wouldn’t all fit into a picture book, so I edited and cut out words until it became the line it is. I turned them into words that are simple but speak with so much spirit, and then put in Dandan’s own feelings.

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– Dandan’s expressions were also drawn with a lot of soul. I’m sure you did many illustrations, but what materials did you use?

I used many different materials from pencils to color pencils to watercolors to acrylics to pastels, in order to produce various nuances.
Usually I draw digitally, so it’d been a while since I did it analog-style. It’s different from digital because I can’t just change a mistake I made, so under that pressure I drew very cautiously and meticulously.
I thought hard over what kind of drawing to put in which page, what kind of composition I should turn it into. There are also pages with drawings of scenery and pages with a certain image; there was a variety of patterns that was fun to draw.

Support the person you like with confidence

– You have many fans overseas as well. Please give them a message too.

At events where I get to directly meet fans there are many who apologize for not being able to come often, or for taking a break to study for their exams, or tell me they came for the first time in two years. They feel obliged to come see me more often, but it’s all right to me if they can’t. There are also people who tell me they only just recently came to know me, but I feel equally happy about their support. For the overseas fans who can’t really come, I feel so happy that they support me by buying CDs and books, listening to the songs, sending messages to the radio program, and even coming all the way to our lives.

It’s not just for me, but I hope that everyone will continue to enjoy supporting their favorite idols, voice actors/actress, artistes and athletes. At sports tournaments, the power of cheering is really something. Unlike athletes, idols and voice actors/actress don’t have competitions or scoring and it may be hard to determine how effective the support is, but it doesn’t change the fact that everything is thanks to the support we receive. Please support the person you like with confidence from now on too.

Buy Item


Related Links

“Panda no Oshigoto!” Special site: https://krakenbooks.net/1278

Sora Tokui Official site: https://avex.jp/tokuisora/
Sora Tokui Official Twitter: https://twitter.com/tokui_sorangley
Sora Tokui Official Blog: https://lineblog.me/tokuisora/

Interviewed by TAKYU
Photos by Mayuko Yamaguchi
Translated by Sharuru


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