MIRAI - WORST BIRTHDAY EVER!

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Many years ago I took a trip to Japan and bumped into a fan named Hamish. No. Wait a minute! I think I got something wrong there. I actually tripped on a man named Hamish and bumped into a fan of Japan. Yeah. That's it. The fan of Japan was waving in the air and I got distracted and ended up falling over both of them. Still, never mind. At least Hamish can write better than me, as seen in his new manga inspired comic book...


Mirai: Worst Birthday Ever!


1) What are your own origins, Hamish?   I’m the son of a preacher man and a science teacher, so I grew up surrounded by fantastical, spiritual stories, but grounded myself with a love of science. I was always drawn to animation, especially anime, like “Speed Racer” and “Astro Boy”. That love of anime eventually led me to the bright lights of Tokyo, where I lived for almost ten years (I’m now in Osaka). My first roommate here in Japan, Matt, got me onto comic books with his gigantic collection. I really loved Ultimate Spiderman, Daredevil, and X-Men. Basically anything Brian Michael Bendis wrote.

Hyakunin-isshu2) What inspired you to create, ‘Mirai: Worst Birthday Ever!’?   I was inspired by my early years in Japan as I was this real fish out of water. Mirai is always getting into hot water because of something innocent she does or says, and that was born out of my real life experience in Japan. I worked in the Japanese Public Elementary school system as an “Assistant Language Teacher”, so I got to witness some really interesting things about the culture first hand. One thing was the game, “Karuta”, which is a kind of matching game where the host reads out one of the Hyakunin-isshu (a collection of 100 great poems from the Heian Period), and the kids scramble to find the matching card. It’s incredibly intense, and often the kids will be able to pick the correct card within a couple of syllables.

The ‘worst birthday ever’ part of my book comes from the fact that as my father often needed to move jobs and states because of his work, our family often moved states on my birthday. Even today, I don’t think I’ve ever actually celebrated my birthday on the actual day! I’m always working! I actually used to have nightmares about it as a kid, and every time Mum cleaned out the kitchen, I thought we were going to move houses again. So, you can see where I got the idea of a girl having to work and move to a new country on her birthday.

Spirited Away
3) In your own words how would you describe this story?   It’s about a young Japanese-Australian girl, who happens to be the most famous girl in the world that has to move to Japan on her birthday and how she deals with it. It’s an origin story, and you get a hint of what happens to her at the end of the issue, but you have to stay tuned to the next issue to find out more! It’s very much inspired by the “Card-captor Sakura” series and the “Spirited Away” film, so that gives you a bit of a clue as to what happens in issue two. It’s all based around the Hyakunin-isshu, so I’ve got over 100 stories planned out, and I’ve already written up to issue 10. I just need to get the artwork done!

4) What song would you say best represents this comic and why?   You know, this comic was originally designed to be an anime series, so I actually had a theme song and end credits song already picked out when I pitched the idea. The theme song is called “Animal Ways” by world music diva, Robyn Loau. It touches on themes of humanity, animal instinct, and freedom, which will all be covered in the course of the series.




If you listen to the song lyrics, you’ll get an idea for what happens in issue #2.

Astro Boy
5) If you could get a celebrity – either living or dead – to promote your wares, who would you choose, and why would you want to choose this particular person?   It would be a toss up between Osamu Tezuka (creator of “Astro Boy”) and Hayao Miyazaki (creator of “My Neighbour Totoro”). I really love the way Osamu Tezuka’s stories are always such human stories, no matter how fantastical. But, my final choice would have to be Miyazaki. It would be an absolute dream come true to have Miyazaki even make a passing glance at any of my work, let alone promote it. He is so iconic and his work has been so inspirational to me, especially “Spirited Away” for this comic. I was lucky enough to have a short film I wrote and produced, “An American Piano”, open for his swan song film, “The Wind Rises”, in the arthouse cinema in my hometown, which was such an honor.

6) What have you learnt about yourself through this endeavour?   As I mentioned before, “Mirai” was something I wrote over 6 years ago to pitch as an Anime TV series. I got pretty close to getting it made, but after the Great East Japan Earthquake, it got shelved due to the lower budgets and increased focus on local productions. After that, “Mirai” basically sat on my computer collecting virtual dust. Luckily, one of my mentors had suggested creating a comic as part of the pitch package, and that comic is now what I’m able to release on Amazon and showcase to the world.

Kerry ArmstrongSo, I guess what I’m saying I learnt is, listen to your mentors, and opportunity never dies. The opportunity might change form, and you have to be flexible enough to go with the flow, but if you have a dream and passion to achieve something, it can and will happen if you never give up. As Steve Jobs said, stay hungry.

7) During your time in this field, what is the one thing that has kept you in good stead?   There are many lonely years of hard work and study before you start seeing any form of success. Back in Australia when I was pitching an earlier version of this comic to the different TV Networks, I sent out the script to different people I wanted to be in the series. One of those people was (at the time) the most sort after TV (and Film) actress, Kerry Armstrong (who was in the fantastic film, “Lantana”). She was at the height of her fame, and I sent the script to her agent. Unbeknownst to me, she had left the agency, but the agent sent her the script anyway. Then, a few days later, I got a call from her assistant saying that she loved the script and wanted to be a part of it. This one piece of knowledge, that my work was good enough, was the one thing that got me through almost a decade of setbacks.

Hamish Downie
8) If ‘Mirai’ had a motto, what would it be?   Mirai is always making mistakes, but she presses on and manages to turn things around. So, her motto would be the old chestnut, “if at first you don’t succeed, try, try again”.

And on that note, I'd like to thank Hamish for telling us about his comic book, Mirai: Worst Birthday Ever!, before directing you towards his website, twitter, and facebook pages. And while you're at it, don't forget to pick yourself up a copy via Amazon.

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