Her designs take tropes we know and love and turn them into something visually arresting. From her technicolor glitch art to creepy-cute original characters to the bold capital letters she uses to spell her name, OMOCAT‘s subversive take on anime, games, and manga aims to shock the senses.
I first discovered the OMOCAT clothing line during my yearly trip to San Francisco Japantown, where it was laid out at New People, a shop for up-and-coming subculture artists. Now her apparel has spread outside of California as far as Harajuku.
The artist behind the clothing is a bit of an enigma herself—she wouldn’t tell me her name or many personal details besides the fact that she absolutely loved this summer’s Monthly Girls’ Nozaki-kun. When it came to her oeuvre, however, she was happy to chat. I sent her my questions through email, and this is how she replied.
What came first: your interest in art or your interest in anime?
I have memories of myself drawing when I was four. I also remember around that time that my parents would play me a lot of Ghibli movies, so I’m not sure which came first. In elementary school, I watched a variety of cartoons but was especially into Sailor Moon, Pokémon, and DBZ and a variety of shows they would play on Toonami and Adult Swim (Gundam Wing, Yu Yu Hakusho, FLCL), but it wasn’t until around 7th or 8th grade that I started recognizing these cartoons as “anime”.
When and why did you start combining the two?
Well I was always into drawing comics. I remember I would frequently make a comic of my friends and I in silly situations—like we would have weird special powers, or we were all stuck on a deserted island. I didn’t feel like I could openly like anime without being made fun of, so I always pushed “my own style” in an effort to hide my anime influence. Consequently, throughout high school, I went through a variety of style changes to find something that would sit right with me (but I never really found it).
I ended up going to art college because I couldn’t imagine being anything but an artist. There was a huge stigma around drawing anime there because it wasn’t considered “real art.” It wasn’t so much the teachers, but mostly the other students. At some point, I realized that if no one else was willing to draw anime at school, I would stand out by doing just that… so I guess that’s when I really started combining the two!
Where does the inspiration for your clothing line come from?
Growing up, there wasn’t really clothing that I felt could represent me and how I wanted to dress, so my clothing line is basically “what I want to wear.” I actually go online shopping a lot, and I of the time I never buy anything because I don’t like it enough; but through doing that research, I realize what I want so I make it myself.
Your mini-comic, Pretty Boy, took off in a big way. Why do you think that small story resonated with so many people?
Yeah! I was really surprised about that. I came up with the comic idea and finished all the drawings for it in one day. I wanted to capture a very big story in as least pages as possible (I actually cried drawing the last few pages of the comic myself). I have a lot of friends who like to read boy-love manga, but I could never really get into it. I’m not much for any type of smut myself (I think it’s distracting), so I wanted to make a story that would really be the bare-bones of any type of romance but have the characters be people who wouldn’t normally be accepted as a couple. I think Pretty Boy is about acceptance, and the idea of being accepted for who you are (for your entire life) really resonates with a lot of people.
You’ve had an extremely prolific career as an artist, between your anime quote posters, book, clothing line, and OMORI video game. But which of your accomplishments do you consider to be your “big break” and why?
I would say my “big break” is definitely my clothing line. The clothing really started as a hobby, so it’s the most fun to do; and right now, it’s become what most people know me for. I really love drawing fan art, but always having someone else’s work attached to my own became a little tiring. As an artist I wanted to create my own universe, and the clothing line helped me achieve that. In that way, it is definitely the most fulfilling part of my career right now (at least until my video game comes out); there’s nothing like randomly seeing people on the street wearing clothing that you’ve designed.
What is your advice to artists who are just starting out? Do you think it’s especially important to get a degree or make friends with the right people or start a blog?
I think ideally, it’s best to make friends with the right people, but I was never good at making friends… My whole career really started out through the internet. I wasn’t good at talking to people in real life, so I used the internet as an outlet to build up my career because that was the only way I knew how to do it. A degree isn’t important, but experience in the art world definitely is. I may not have liked going to art school, but because I have that experience, I know what I like and what I don’t like, and that is definitely an important part of my creative process. For me the most important part is to start was to start a blog—and to basically let people know that you exist.
What’s next on the OMOCAT horizon?
For the next year, I will be working full time on my game OMORI. After that, I plan on having an OMORI fashion line and other merchandise… and after that, I plan on collaborating with a lot of artists and bringing other indie artist’s lines into the OMOCAT shop. As for original work after OMORI, I want to release my DONUT GIRLS merch line (a group of 8 girls based off donut flavors), and HAMBURGER-CHAN (a girl who eats hamburgers) merch line. And of course, I will create some other clothing for the OMOCAT collection in the process!
Read more interviews with anime fans on Otaku Journalist: