Famed manga publisher and anime production company Coamix Co., Ltd. is branching out from its headquarters in Tokyo by building a sprawling multi-purpose facility in the mountains of Aso in Kumamoto Prefecture, Japan. The facility is closed to the public, but I was lucky enough to get invited to visit and take a look around.
Called the Artists Village Aso 096ku (pronounced “o’clock”), Coamix completely renovated what was once Takamori Onsen into a source of new manga and anime culture.
Currently, the Artists Village acts as the base of operations and practice space for Coamix’s new drama company, the 096k Kumamoto Drama Company. The all-female troupe is currently working on a stage adaptation of the Maeda Keiji Kabuki Tabi saga. Performances are planned to be held at the Wakuwakuza Castle Museum in Kumamoto City’s Josaien castle town complex, but COVID-19 has caused repeated cancellations and schedule changes as of September 2021. Regular performances will hopefully resume shortly.
“096ku” (096区) refers to the 096 area code of Kumamoto, which can be pronounced as “oh-ku-roku.” The区 (“ku”) part refers to the space itself and how it acts as a base for coamix in Aso.
An enormous calligraphic representation of kishotenketsu (meaning “introduction, development, twist, conclusion”), the basic structure of Japanese narrativesThe complex also acts as a manga studio, with desk space for artists and editors closely linked with Coamix’s offices in Tokyo. Part of this space is planned to be used in Coamix’s SMA MasterClass project. Coamix runs an annual Silent Manga Audition where entrants from all around the world submit dialogue-free manga. The submissions are judged by a panel that includes manga masters like Tsukasa Hojo (creator of City Hunter) and Tetsuo Hara (creator of Fist of the North Star). The creators of the very best selections can be selected to participate in the MasterClass program, where Coamix takes these skilled artists under its wing to teach them all that it takes to become a working manga artist. Some of these artists will be invited to work and learn at Aso 096ku and hopefully make their debut in one of Coamix’s publications!
The Artists Village also features an extensive library of manga and manga-related publications, a fully equipped YouTube studio, a theater (with karaoke!), on-site lodging for artists, practice rooms, and more! Once COVID stops putting a wrench in everyone’s plans, the Artists Village is set to become a center for new anime and manga culture not just for Japan, but for the entire world!
All kinds of new projects and collaborations are in the works at the Artists Village, including a manga education course at Takamori High School, the Kumamoto International Manga Festival, and much more! Although the Artists Village isn’t open to the public, visitors to Kumamoto can visit Coamix’s Manga Lab in downtown Kumamoto City to see artists at work and learn more about manga production. The Manga Lab is just a short walk from the Wakuwakuza Kumamoto Castle Museum where you can see Kabuki Tabi by the 096k Kumamoto Drama Company. More info on tickets and showtimes is available in Japanese here.