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Interview: Michael Stearns

The creator behind the story Shujimaru: the Ninja from space, Michael Stearns

Kamipress: What do you think about when making a Kamishibai story?

Michael: "All the fame and glory I will recieve upon completion.
No really, that's true. ^_^ While it's fun to make something for myself, it's even more fun to know that potentially millions of internet-goers could find themselves looking at it. Particularly during the final stretch of work on Shujimaru this summer. a lot of the time I spent not working on the kami (and some of the time working on it too!) I would sit and think about how cool it was that i was doing this and how everyone would want a piece of me and I would do interviews and licensing deals and all kinds of cool stuff. Of course, none of that happened except the interview (^_^), and I didn't even really expect that to happen! I was very excited when i found out that there really was a webpage that did that sort of thing. I'm really pathetic, whenever anybody praises my stuff I'm usually like, "Oh, it's not that good" or "now this guy, he's REALLY good, praise him" but on the inside I'm like, "Oh yeah, I am your GOD, worship me!!!" If you've seen Gainax's new "His & Her Circumstances", it's just like that. Except I would never work that hard to impress other people. ^_^"

Kamipress: What is the hardest part (for you) about making a Kamishibai story?
Michael: "Sitting down and working on it, for one thing. I found out quickly when I started work on Shujimaru that suddenly I had about a zillion other things I should be doing... That's why it took me so long to make it. ^_^ The other thing that's pretty hard for me is not exactly coming up with ideas, but stringing them all into something coherant.."

Kamipress: What's your favorite part of making a Kamishibai story?
Michael: "humm.. probably looking at it when it's done and seeing how it all came together. Having only made one, I can't really say for sure. Getting to do an interview about it is fun too. ^_^"<.font>

Kamipress: How did get into Kamishibai?
Michael: "I was puttering around OtakuWorld, it wasn't a site I visted a lot because that stupid frame at the bottom causes my broswer to crash when I leave the site. I use Nets 3.0, and I refuse to upgrade, the latest broswers displease me. ^_^ Anyway, I saw the kamishibais and thought it looked sort of neat, and when I watched Ika Takozushi, I was just filled with a NEED to make my own. I was at kami's mercy, and as soon as I looked at the code and breifly at the documentation, I was hard at work on my own."

Kamipress: What are some of the things that influenced Shujimaru: the Ninja from space?
Michael: "Well, my usual "influences," or so I would say, would be Masamune Shirow, that colored pencil stud who did the designs for Final Fantasy 7, Joe Madureira (if that's spelled right.... ^_^;;;). and Jen Seng. She was the first fan artist who totally blew me away, and made me think, "why can't I be that good?" On the other hand, I am a huge Sonic the hedgehog fan, so that has to figure in somewhere (I draw him CONSTANTLY) and Hajime Katoki's Virtual On designs must have some influence too. "

"But regarding Shujimaru directly, he was originally supposed to look like the ninja character from Sunsoft's Galaxy Fight (Waku Waku 7 is the sequel to that, btw ^_^). But because I didn't have a picture of him to base off of, and I probablu couldn't have drawn him anyway, he sortof degenerated into the MegaMan-ish figure we see today. "

"Shujimaru was originally an assignment I wrote for my french class, where I learned absolutely nothing but got an A anyway. The assignment was to write a story, so I decided to write "Shujimaru: le ninja d'espace," and I originally had plans to illustrate it (all 15 sentences, woo-woo) so I went ahead and developed the character.. That was about two years before I started the kamishibai though, which is basically the same story with a whole lot of stuff added."

Kamipress: Who are some of your favorite Kamishibai artists?
Michael: "s many as I like, eh? Well, first I have to say Root, because Mad Monkey Kung Fu not only made me laugh harder than any other kami out there, but technically i think it's the best I've seen, the animation and sounds and everything are all top notch. I'm realy envious of his ability to get the animation and sounds synched together so perfectly. Adam Dahlstrom's Kafka series is another favorite, I'd like to see more by him. Alexandra Wardh's Sweetland, surprisingly, is my other top favorite. It's hard to say why, but the mix of perfectly fitting music and downright bizzare text just hits the spot with me, I love it. Why can't I live in Sweetland, that's what I want to know? I'd also say Sheal Galick's TL-17g is pretty cool (I looooved the final episode!), and Quova Hime's got a lot of talent also, although I like Armagedon Machine Yari (It reminds me of Key: the Metal Idol) and The Legend of Quova more than Agile Heroes.. Even though both are so dreadfully incomplete. Skip in Hoioioioioi and The Trouble with Banshees also bring me joy, umm... As you can see, I could just keep going and going... Looking at my list of kamis, there's so many I'd like to mention that I'd better quit now, or I'll be up all night. ^_^ If I didn't mention you, I probably would have eventually. ^_^"

Kamipress: So what are some of the Kamishibai you're considering for the future?
Michael: "I've got ideas for more stories with Shujimaru, as well as a Gundam parody of some kind, and maybe something a little more serious. If anyone is interested to know, the red character in the credits of Shujimaru is Dai, Shujimaru's mysterious sidekick, who I created after the original story but before the kamishibai, so he's not in it. If I do any more stories though, he'll probably be involved in those"

Kamipress: What are your favorite animes?
Michael: "Oh, too many to name, if you thought my list of favoite kamis was long winded... ^_^ I'll spare you that, but right now I'm really diggin' (In no particular order) Escaflowne, Trigun, and His and Her Circumstances. And Cowboy Bebop. Yeah, dat's da schtuff...."

Kamipress: So do you have any additional comments, concerns, or thoughts for us?
Michael: "Hee hee... I dunno... Well, I'd like to see more people complete their stories instead of doing short little installments.. ESPECIALLY if you're just gonna intoduce some disturbing scenario and then quit.. I mean, come on, just give us the whole thing, or at least something substantial. I'd also like to recomend reducing color counts to at most 256 colors.. Even looking at Root's MMKF, most pages have only 16 colors, with keeps file size down even more! Kudos, Root!! I suppose those are usual gripes but hey, they could use being said again. ^_^ Thanks very much for listening to me and I hope Shujimaru inspires you as much as Ika Takozushi inspired me! "

Thanks for your time Michael.

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