Yumio Katsumata is a Japanese screenwriter, who immigrated to United States from Japan. I met him on Twitter, where he shares the kind of food he likes to cook, and an occasional story which he wrote. Both of us talked a lot with each other, for we both shared several common interests: video games, anime, and of course, writing.
I was personally delighted to meet him, for he is the first person from Japan with whom I have spoken, over the internet or otherwise. Now, without further waiting…
Here is the interview!
Me: First, let me welcome you to the Muse of Eagle. Really excited to ask you questions. I like to start with a simple question, so tell us a little about your self?
Yumio: Thank you, Tanish! I was born in Yokohama-City, Kanagawa Prefecture, next to Tokyo. I got a B.A. degree from Obirin University, English Literature Department, in Tokyo back in 1999. I then worked full-time. But, decided to immigrate to America. Since July 2002, here I am, in a city close to Los Angeles, California.
Me: When did you begin to write, and what attracted you to screen writing?
Yumio: “Cobra-Kai” back in fall 2020. I wanted to write a screenplay for a long but wasn’t serious after I finished school days years ago. I was quite bored with my medical translation gigs and as an online English teacher for Japanese customers. Then, “Cobra-Kai” heavily shook my heart. I want to write stories, create characters, and mix my cultural background.
Me: What are the challenges you faced at the start of your career?
Yumio: When I received rejections from the contests I challenged before July 2021, some judges pointed out I had grammatical errors. I installed Grammarly and reviewed my ESL textbooks such as “Rules for Writers.” When I started my current Twitter account, my major purpose was to see if my writing reach English-speaking people. Now, it’s totally working.
Me: Any projects you have worked on, about which you can tell us here?
Yumio: No writing project at this point. I’m thinking of applying for writing gigs for those who crave Japanese animation info.
Me: How is screen writing different from writing a book?
Yumio: I must be cautious about what words to employ in every single paragraph. No line can be wasted. It took months to learn “never to use narratives and novelistic language.”
Me: A lot of English speakers find Japanese to be hard. But what about from other side? You must have learned English since you settled outside of Japan. So do Japanese speakers find English hard as well?
Yumio: One major problem most Japanese people encounter when learning English is “fill in the blank.” Even I submit logical answers, if teachers cannot match those with answer sheets, they mark my answers wrong. The Japanese English education deprives flexibility and creativity.
Me: You mention that you like anime pretty boldly. But I have heard that in Japan, people don’t like to discuss that. Is that true?
Yumio: Regular Japanese people (who can effectively communicate with others) consider anime “childish.” Unfortunately, the majority of anime fans in Japan struggle with verbal communication issues; yet, they turn abusive online mostly on Twitter. That kinds of problems had alienated regular people since the 80s.
Me: have you used anime as an inspiration for your screen writing?
Yumio: Huge. Without anime, I couldn’t come up with unique characters and stories that native English speakers hardly generate. If I have to compete with other seasoned writers under American characters, I don’t think I can win over them.
Me: Any western show which perfectly captured the anime style in your opinion?
Yumio: “Cobra-Kai” is doing an excellent job so far since the series often incorporates the essence of Japanese cultures in deep-rooted ways. “The Suicide Squad”(James Gunn’s 2021 version) displays quite giggling moments that resemble Showa period (1926-1989) animes.
Me: Do adults watch anime in Japan? I’ve heard that the likes of Shin-Chan are actually made for adults, yet are marketed to kids outside of Japan.
Yumio: Most adults watch anime because their children ask them to do so. Why “Kimetsu no Yaiba(Demon Slayer)” got such a social trend and surpassed “Spirited Away”‘s box office record was simply because “If I don’t watch together with my kids, others alienate our family.” Like my parents, they prefer reading manga for a mature audience instead. Shin-chan started as a manga version that contained tons of jokes for adults(contraception, affairs, drinking parties…).
Me: When you settled outside of Japan, what were the things which baffled you?
Yumio: In America, everyone talks in a loud manner. If I shut up, then no one recognizes me. So, I had to change myself a lot. Oh, and those unfriendly over-the-phone customer services. And, people in DMV.
Me: Now that you have settled outside of Japan, is there anything which makes you think, “Oh, that is strange about my home country.”?
Yumio: I believe less than 20% of the population in current Japan recognizes the importance of Japanese culture. Lots of Japanese people nowadays turn abusive over Twitter. Many of them are unconscious and careless when dealing online.
Me: Do you miss Japan sometimes?
Yumio: The last time I went back was October 2004 when my younger brother conducted his wedding ceremony. He married quite young compared to me(I married in 2016). I miss beautiful sceneries in rural prefectures, but I don’t like metropolitan areas like Tokyo, Chiba, or Osaka. Too condensed.
Me: Any final words for the aspiring writers?
Yumio: Just don’t give up, believe in yourself, and ABC(Always Be Creative). Start your Twitter account if you haven’t, follow writers, Tweet something interesting, and keep writing. And, read a lot. Screenplays, novels, poems, stage plays, books, magazines, or even nutritional facts printed on the back of food products.
Me: Thanks for giving me your valuable time! I had fun talking to you, Yumio Katsumata.
Yumio: Me, too. Thanks for generating a lot of Qs that I joyously answer.