Shades of Nemesis: A Kia Asamiya/Studio TRON Shrine

Who the heck is Kia Asamiya?

Kia Asamiya is a chameleon. He is the primary author and artist for several popular and commercially successful manga series, almost all of which have spawned anime. Published throughout North American and Western Europe in addition to East Asia, his work can be found in most of the major languages of those regions. Always keyed into to the latest trends in audience taste and interests, he has incorporated a wide variety of elements and themes into his stories. This broad palette of story ideas holds something of interest to readers from diverse backgrounds, virtually ensuring continued popularity and marketability.

Despite the wide availability of the work, surprisingly little is known about the author. Many fans of the anime series derived from Asamiya's work have no idea that source manga exists, much less who wrote them. Readers of one manga series are hard pressed to come up with other titles by Asamiya. Even self-proclaimed anime gurus often head off in the wrong direction in the 'Asamiya zone', making generalizations based only on his more well-known works, and offering wild theories about his connection to fellow manga artist and Studio TRON co-founder, Michitaka Kikuchi.

At the root of all the confusion is Kia Asamiya himself. A private man in a public business, Asamiya supports and encourages the rumors and mystery that surround his career. He never allows photos of himself to be published and makes public appearances only rarely, even in Japan. This means that even his fans must envision him in terms of his frustruating, though hilarious, self-portraits. In lieu of a photo, the 'Now Printing' frame, normally used in pre-production by publishers as a stand-in for images, is attached to various caricatures of the author's body.

What probably started as a joke has become a sort of trademark, in that the 'Now Printing'-Asamiya is found in every magazine article, biography, and self-parody/omake (author's free talk) that Kia Asamiya is featured in. The stand-ins have surpassed the original, with all manner of ink & paint and computer-graphic enhancements used in place of conventional photography.

Kia Asamiya's method of self-promotion through enigma isn't truly unique (J.D. Salinger, American author of "Catcher in the Rye" has been doing that for years, for example) but it keeps the audience intrigued anyway, much like his manga. Most of his stories share superficial similarities with other works in the same genre. This nagging sense of deja vu tends to dissuade potential fans from discovering the Asamiya stories. 'The devil's in the details' though, and there are striking differences between each of Asamiya's works and their often well-known counterparts. Time taken to become familiar with Asamiya's universe is well-spent, even if it seems like you've been there before.

A few other interesting details complete this introduction to Kia Asamiya. For one thing, this shrine is also dedicated to Studio TRON, the artist's studio co-founded by Mr. Asamiya. Included in that organizaton is the often-misrepresented co-founder, Michitaka Kikuchi, who produces much of TRON's characteristic computer-graphics work in addition to his own manga series. For another, some of Asamiya's recent works have had a younger audience and a simpler artistic style. At first, I was apprehensive about this apparently commercially-motivated change, and my concerns were shared by fellow Asamiya fans (met at Animazement 2000, one of Asamiya's rare guest appearances). The backstory gleaned from interviews and articles points to a more personal motivation: Asamiya's own children.

Like some of the American actors and writers who've recently been making less adult-oriented work for their own children's benefit, Mr. Asamiya put out the story that he made "Corrector Yui" to suit his daughter's tastes, and followed with "Ebiru-kun" (aka. Evil-kun) for his son to balance the scales. "Steam Detectives" seems to bridge the old & new audience, with its homage to classic American detective stories and its special brand of steampunk.

Fans of adult-oriented, sex-aware (one might even say obsessed) Asamiya stories need not fret however. His latest series, "Duplex Divine", looks like a cross between Hagiwara Kazushi's "Bastard!!" and the X-Men universe with its scantily-clad, tight-muscled group of good and evil mutants. From my perspective, it looks like the world of Asamiya-fandom has plenty to look forward to and nothing to worry about.

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