Hasan al Lawati sits down with the first Omani manga author Fatma Al Lawati at her booth in the 968Gamez expo to learn what she is plotting new
Misuzu, the girl who has destructive powers, finds herself in conflict: whether to stay in an institute of magic or to escape to the world of demons. Like Misuzu, Omani artist Fatma Al Lawati is in a bit of confusion, but her problem has nothing to do with magic or demons.
It’s actually about manga and the language: Arabic or English. Meet Fatma, the first-ever Omani manga comics author. Misuzu is one of the characters in her manga series. The manga artist drew huge crowds to her booth at the recent 968Gamez at the Opera Galleria held earlier this month.
And like her characters who face demons and hurdles to achieve their goals, Fatma has been dealing with hurdles on her way forward. It was a few years ago that she published the first Omani manga work, with an Omani theme and characters. “It got rejected…few people are interested in these types of comics here,” she says. Fatma is now focused on publishing English-only manga.
“The Arabic version has not received much attention like the English version. However, there were people who were looking for Arabic copies due to their lack of understanding of English, especially readers from Saudi Arabia, but printing a huge number of copies in Arabic is just a waste. I’m not planning to publish the Arabic version again…I’m still studying this issue, though.”
In November 2017, the young Omani artist’s work won the first prize in a competition organised by a Manga production company in Riyadh, in cooperation with Toei animation (a leading animations company in Japan) and the Misk foundation. She was also nominated to meet Shimizu Shinjeko, the producer of Toei animation. Hasan al Lawati meets the Omani manga author, who is an IT graduate otherwise, to get the picture right.
Excerpts from the interview: So what made you take to manga? Drawing is a talent I was born with. I didn’t have the opportunity to study art, especially the art of manga, but my love for this kind of art and my passion kept burning inside me. I consider drawing as the air I breathe in.
How did the first manga work happen? In 2004. I loved writing stories and drawing them as comics. I was sharing my creations with my friends and posting them online, many of them wanted me to turn the comics into my own manga as I got this talent and have the ability to draw comics in Japanese style.
I wrote my first story in 2005 and then in 2008 made the drawings and in 2015 the first book was out. In the meantime, that’s before the publication of the book, I had been learning new manga styles and techniques.
That’s what I’m still doing. How did Oman welcome your work? Manga comics are relatively new to Omani reading culture. It still needs more chances and opportunity to be recognised by society as an art. With a little more support, we manga artists can achieve more success. Some people still think this type of art is childish, and that’s funny. How was the demand for your book at 968Gamez?
I was surprised to see people’s reaction when they came to know that I’m the first Omani manga artist who published the first manga in Oman. Most of them didn’t hesitate to buy my book right after reading the summary and taking a quick look inside the book. They appreciated my style.
However, the thing that made me happier was when my old customers and readers came to me to buy my next volume of work or asked for more copies of the first work to gift them to their friends. Also, many of them wanted signed copies, because they couldn’t get the signed ones when they bought from MEFCC 2017 Dubai or IGN Oman 2016.
They are waiting for the new volume to come out this year. What could spread the culture of manga and anime locally? Manga and anime need more support by having special events and exhibitions. It needs more recognition by the media and we have many Omani talented artists in this field but we lack support. Tell us a bit about the plot The story takes place in different worlds: MACIA (muman world), DŽEHENNA (demon world) and LYCHFIELD (witches world).
Misuzu, a girl who holds the destructive powers of Oruchi, finds herself in conflict: whether to stay in an institute of magic or to escape to DŽEHENNA to become a knight under the demons’ care, hence finding her freedom and true identity. Lots of developments in the characters happen in the next volume and more action is going to take place.
The genres of the manga are comedy, magic and supernatural. To read more about Fatma’s work, visit her Instagram page @peppojay