Today we are pleased to have with us artist and author Alex A. Akira, who sheds light on the inspiration behind his stunning digital art work and his exciting yaoi ebook series Dojo Boys, the first 3 volumes of which were recently re-published.
I’ve attached his intriguing bio, and hear he’d a bit of a recluse so I’m excited to meet the man behind the “pretty boy” artwork and the romantic tales of boys loving boys.
Alex A. Akira spent a number of years as a jack of all trades in wide array of creative fields: theatre, martial arts, metaphysics, yoga, weightlifting, and product design, to name a few. A consummate artist, Alex currently crafts and illustrates racy tales of young gay men struggling with personal demons as they navigate the tricky path of love, trust and life.
No pets, just a husband, an iMac, an art studio and a dojo full of boys.
Welcome to Divine Magazine, Alex. It’s lovely to have here with us.
I first spied images of your wonderful character illustrations online and just love them. For those of you who haven’t had occasion to view his works, Alex creates vibrant images of exquisite young men with arresting sensitivity. His subject’s beauty fairly leaps from his works and you truly sense the pathos and spirit behind each character. Alex I understand you are inspired by the “bishounen,” the epitome of male beauty in Japanese culture. A figure featured prominently in Japan’s anime and manga genre, Yaoi. Can you tell us a bit more about Yaoi, how you became interested in it, and how it inspires your creativity?
Sue – Readers, here’s a little ‘cough’ instructional video featuring ‘bishounen’ or beautiful youths…
Hi Sue, thank you for this opportunity to share my thoughts and work with you and your readers. I am both flattered and nervous, so apologize up front should I prove a less than exciting interviewee.
Um, in its simplest definition, Yaoi is an sexually explicit form of Japanese manga (comic book) or anime, (animated film) which focuses upon beautiful, troubled young men having sex with each other. Generally it features a seme, the pursuer or “top” and an uke, a shy or reluctant bottom who is the object of the chase. The narratives of these stories can vary from contemporary to the fantastic, including the paranormal, with the characters being schoolboys, salarymen, crimefighters, actors, dancers, spies, demon hunters, well pretty much anyone. I wrote a series of posts for my current blog hop on the hidden depths of yaoi and its origin: Japan’s historical fascination and adulation of the bishounen. I invite your readers to follow those posts, should their curiosity be peaked by this interview; Japanese history reveals yaoi may not be the simple raunch it initially appears.
I first became interested in the genre when I stumbled across what came to be my favorite yaoi anime, Boku no Sekusharu,“My Sexual Harassment.” I fell in love with that story and afterwards discovered yaoi manga, then slash and yaoi fan fiction. From there it was a short jump from reading yaoi to writing it.
I’ve always had a passion for the Asian aesthetic and as I became more interested in the yaoi, my art took a turn in that direction. Rather than the sexually explicit imagery that most yaoi-entranced artists capture, I was drawn to the beauty and emotional nuances behind these angst-ridden young men. What I strive to capture in my character illustrations is the genuine emotion behind the yaoi bishounen figure.
After delving into Japan’s vast history of male/male romanticized sex, I have come to believe that the bishounen is desirable because he is the personification of “potential”. His beauty and charm capture that moment in time that all humans experience when youth, innocence, physicality and intellect spring upon us and anything is possible. That moment before the burden of life turns us into a creature with too much knowledge, but also too little. The beauty of the bishounen allows one to again experience that potential if but for a moment. That is the thing about potential, eventually it must “become,” or be lost. In becoming the eyes see things it was once blind to. Once seen there is no unseeing. Purity becomes tainted by consciousness. In losing potential, there is the pain of regret. So the seme chasing the uke in a sense represents a person chasing that moment in his life when all things were possible, when he or she felt the hand of immortality. Apologies, you can tell I am passionate about this topic, no?
You’ve trained in martial arts; and love to run. So, a sporty person then and so not like me who couldn’t kick-box a toad without a personal trainer and a thousand years of fitness training. Do you find these activities soothing, do you use the time running to think about things? And what type of martial art/s do you do?
The challenge, emotional fulfilment and thrill that I find in creating art, martial arts, running and sex bring to me physically. I view my physical body as a vehicle. “I” ride inside my body. I want an exciting ride, a ride that won’t break down, a high performance vehicle, : ) So I am motivated to care for my ride. Anyone who has ever had a leg injury will identify with what I mean. To experience the loss of mobility … to drive a broken vehicle, that you yourself have been careless enough to break … humbles deeply. That said I would go a little nuts without the grounding martial arts and meditation give me. I practice Shotokan karate, but other martial skills as well. Running, hai, that is also a meditation of a kind. A commune with Mother Nature possibly?
You also say you have a thing for crows. I do too, in the lithe, sexy form of Brandon Lee in The Crow *winks*What is it about these birds that fascinates you? There are so many legends around them and fairy tales- is this the aspect that intrigues you?
Ah, Brandon Lee was definitely bishounen; I too, am an admirer of Mr. Lee and his mystical series, The Crow. But well, ever since I was a tot I have greeted crows. Perhaps it is my imagination, but I feel strongly that they have appeared to me at times when I was about to make a grievous error in my life. I have avoided physical conflicts and many things that bode ill as a result of a crow’s appearance. Not simply appearing … but swooping in and cawing in groups to gain my attention. So yes, I have an affinity for this trickster above all other birds.
I am myself intrigued by your description of having a ‘weird childhood’. If it doesn’t get too personal, can you share something about that statement with us?
Ah, my “weird childhood.” I am a product of abusive alcoholic parents and was placed in to the foster care system at the age of four where I was promptly and thoroughly molested. I did not speak for a number of years and then learned to read. Between my fascination with books and my awe of the beauty of the world, well it took me some time to get my bearings so really did not speak… I drew.
At eleven I fell in love with my best friend and tagged along to a karate class. My best friend was thirteen and fell in love with our sensei, who was more interested in me. I had no idea what was happening. When my friend found out where our sensei lived, we would walk my dog and end up at his house well past the time that was considered decent, where he would invite us inside. It ended up with my sensei getting jailed for a short time and my friend moving away.
I became a rebellious latch key kid and took to stealing things … big thing like cars. I escaped juvie and miraculously finished high school and received a full scholarship to RISD, which I attended at age seventeen. I was finally free, no parents, no relatives, just me. I smoked a lot of weed, continued my rebellion through flagrant sex, erotic dancing and just plain idiotic behavior, like driving with friends to strange rural towns and picking fights with much larger men… yes a Fight Club.
Eventually I realized that no one was going stop me on my self-destructive path but me. I realized that was terrified by my own potential and had no idea how to become what society said I should be. I was twenty-one terrified and bored with life, yet without the courage to kill myself.
I decided to get back into martial arts and met a wonderful sensei who taught me that I could stop the voices in my head that told me I was an inferior being. He was merciless and I was much disciplined. Sometimes I thought that joining the armed forces would have been better, but stuck with it and began to see the light. I practiced metaphysics and meditated and was embraced by my instructors at my sensei’s dojo, my first real “family”. I fell in love with my sensei’s number one student who was my teacher. My sensei fell in love with me. Eventually, I realized I really loved my sensei, who became my mate and is now my husband. Yeah… a little weird huh?
Your books have been described as Native American Japanese romance – you yourself are Native American. Does your own life experiences and Native American culture find their way into your books? And you obviously love the Japanese influences – how did this come about?
For me, being an indigenous person means I put being human above all else. Before I am a male … I am human. Before I am gay… I am human. Before I am the color of my skin, I am human. To be human to me is to be “spirit captured in flesh.” I am the blade of grass, I am the bee, I am the deer and I am each person on the planet. The pain, joy and knowledge of every living thing and being … is the sum of me, because I hold the spark of life and it holds me. Yeah, it probably sounds corny, but truly this is my experience. Whenever my ego traps me in other than this place, when I become involved with the injustice and unfairness of mankind and experience the rage and fury… I find my way back to being “human” and find compassion for my self and the human race.
Asian cultures intrigue me because their aesthetics and ideas fascinate me more than that of the European. Immersed in the Western culture, we Americans are more exposed to the European culture than that of our Eastern brethren. I speak of public schooling. I pursued knowledge of the East to fulfill my curiosity and came to love the rich and diverse culture that I discovered. I still cringe when I dwell on the Japanese and Korean characters I have placed in my books, uncertain, despite my studies, if I have understood Asian nuance enough that I have not offended anyone of that origin.
Mmmm, I’d say the Dojo Boy series, most especially, Dragon & Crow, reflects upon portions of my life, the life of my dojo brothers, my love of yaoi and the Asian culture, combined with my love of a good story and my vivid imagination.
Now for some silly questions 🙂
Ha-ha I already know you love Sashimi and dark chocolate so I’m going to throw this one in the mix – when you’re pigging out, is it a hamburger or hotdog, or neither?
On the rare occasion that I eat meat, lean hamburger, grass fed, no hormones or steroids please. My pig out food of choice is vegetable tempura.
Do you like beards or clean-shaven?
I prefer a close beard or clean shaven. A full out beard, I’ve yet to experience, so I guess it’s not my thing.
If you could be a character from the past, who would you be?
Leonardo da Vinci. I so badly want to say Michelangelo, but that damn ceiling… I couldn’t suffer like that.
If you could change one event in time, what would it be?
I would get rid of Hitler if it would stop the Holocaust; I want to say abolish slavery, but there have always been conquerors and the conquered so I don’t think that is realistic.
Beach or Mountain holiday?
Favorite super hero?
Jeez, this is going to sound cheesy, but I’d have to go with Robin … of Batman &… He is helpful but in the safety zone… Hey, he can do stuff. Plus well … Joseph Gordon-Leavitt … need I say more?
Least favorite thing to do as housework?
Everything but cleaning my desk, doing the dishes and laundry.
On a scale of 1-10 how funny do you think you are? (1 being not at all and 10 being side splitting)
I’m going with 5 because I think I find myself funnier than anyone else does.
Heh heh, you don’t have to answer this one but I hope you do…have you ever been skinny dipping?
Yes and encourage everyone to go to a nude beach at least once in his or her life. It really makes you realize that humans are a herd, like other animals on the planet and honestly, all of us are extraordinarily beautiful in our natural state … clothing screws up reality and unfulfillment makes a person ugly.
Do you sing in the shower?
Yeah, I’ve been known to sing in the shower, but the car is where I really shine. : )
Alex, thanks so much for visiting Divine today and being part of this zany routine we call Susan’s Interviews. Of course we’re also taking part in your blog tour on the 2nd July so we’ll be seeing you again soon. I hope that goes well for you!
Thank you for having me, Sue. It has been a delight and an honor.
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