With the release of the Kickstarter for Unico: Awakening, we are delighted to be joined today; by writer Samuel Sattin.
Hi Samuel, it’s so wonderful to have you here with us.
Thank you for having me!
I’m Samuel Sattin, a writer who lives in Oakland, California. I talk to my cats a lot, but when I’m not doing that, I’m typically working on some kind of book-related project. I adapted the Cartoon Saloon film, WolfWalkers, to graphic novel format, and I’ll be adapting their other two films, Song of the Sea and The Secret of Kells, as well. I’m also the writer behind UNICO: AWAKENING, a Kickstarter campaign that’s live for just a couple more days. There’s more, but I think that covers most things happening right now. I also like to make dioramas. I’ve taken a hiatus for a few months since I’ve been a bit too busy to work on them, but hopefully I can resume later this year.
For anyone unfamiliar with Osamu Tezuka’s Unico, how would you describe Unico?
Unico has the natural ability to spread unrivaled love and kindness. The more he is cared for, the greater his powers grow, imbuing him with incredible magical abilities. Because of this, he draws the ire of the gods, in particular the goddess of love and beauty herself, Venus. Out of jealousy, she has him banished from the heavens, and dragged through space and time until he forgets everything he once was. The servitor tasked to do this, the West Wind, takes pity on Unico, thus saving him from being completely destroyed. To keep him safe, she brings him from place to place across time, erasing his memory whenever he grows too powerful, to keep him from being discovered by the gods. It’s a tragic, beautiful story about a character whose kindness is rewarded with a curse.
When did you first discover Osamu Tezuka’s Unico?
I saw the films when I was a kid, and like most, was traumatized accordingly as a result. I didn’t encounter the manga itself until I was an adult. I visited the Osamu Tezuka Museum in Takarazuka in 2017, and became fascinated with the character, whose presence was far more diffuse in Japan than in the US. I read and re-read the English translation that had been put out, and was hooked.
Unico: Awakening will be available in English and Japanese. Was making Unico: Awakening available to a large readership an important factor of this project?
Yes, and it was one of the main reasons why we approached the project through crowdfunding, but not just because we wanted to grow the size of the readership. We wanted Unico: Awakening to become a celebration of both the character and Osamu Tezuka’s work, and it was also very important to us that we made sure both the book and project overall would be accessible to a Japanese audience, as opposed to just a Western one. Osamu Tezuka himself believed that comics were a kind of international language, and I think the best thing we can do to recognize the brilliance of that idea is to try and follow in his footsteps.
You are collaborating with the Gurihiru artist team; what makes them the right team for Unico: Awakening?
For me, the question would have to be “what doesn’t make them right?” I say this because they are truly the perfect artist team and creative partner for this project. Not only are they fantastically talented, but they are able to blend Japanese and Western comics art styles in an incredibly novel fashion. They’re incredible visual storytellers, and they have a distinct vision for Unico: Awakening that I simply know readers will be delighted by.
You are reinventing Unico, a character created by Osamu Tezuka; does that add more pressure on you as a writer?
Absolutely! Though as I have mentioned to others who have asked, I think the pressure is more self-enforced, rather than something that’s been put upon me by others. Tezuka Productions has been wonderful to work with, and have been incredibly encouraging and supportive of the ideas I’ve brought forward. I was able to meet with members of the team in Tokyo recently, and was really thrilled to hear that, for them, doing a project like this was about taking the core ideas of the God of Manga, and building them out in new ways, for new generations to enjoy. Hearing this honestly made me emotional. I will do my very best to realize such a vision.
As you are crowdfunding Unico: Awakening and dealing directly with consumers, does that make Unico: Awakening more special for you?
Doing this project through crowdfunding has been wonderful because you do indeed get to interact directly with a wider community. It’s also wonderful because we get the opportunity to fold in an array of incredible rewards, like 16 x 24 inch prints from renowned international artists, and print items called Artifacts from talented American cartoonists. This turns the process of creating Unico: Awakening into a kind of celebration, which is exactly what we hoped it would become. I personally love seeing how everyone has reacted to this in real time. It feels like we’ve found and/or are building a community around this project, which is a special thing to behold.
What has it been like working with Tezuka Productions?
I touched on this a bit earlier, but it’s been a really wonderful experience. They’ve provided us a lot of room to express our own ideas, and have been great partners in bringing the campaign to life. Also, we’ve had the luck of working with Aki Yanagi, a comics professional who represents a good few Japanese artists working in American comics. He helped facilitate a great deal of this as well, and I’m grateful to him.
How would you describe Unico: Awakening?
Unico: Awakening draws from a story in the original manga called The Cat and the Broomstick. Without getting into too many details, The Cat and the Broomstick is about a young, abandoned cat that wants to become a human being. Unico grants her the (limited) ability to do so, and this leads to her catching the eye of a sadistic hunter with supernatural powers. It’s a story about identity, and the consequences of disrespecting nature. Unico: Awakening takes this story and builds upon it, creating larger roles for characters than they had originally, and providing a larger backdrop plot that expands upon the Unico universe. This is why we call it a reimagining, as opposed to an adaptation. Our hope is to bring the story of Unico to a new generation of readers.
Do you have a favourite Kickstarter reward?
Oh my, I can’t say that I do! But only because I truly have love for all of the rewards across the spectrum. Thankfully, we do offer a tier where you can receive everything, which includes 10 incredible prints, 5 Artifacts, the book, and t-shirt from Junko Mizuno. That’s the one I would choose.
Any message for the ComicBuzz readers?
Firstly, thank you so much for reading. It means a lot to me. And secondly, please support Unico: Awakening! There are so many wonderful rewards to nab that are exclusive to the Kickstarter, and near-every additional dollar goes to paying the artists, translators, and others who made this project remotely possible. Thank you again for your time.
We would like to say thank you to Samuel for talking to us about his manga. We would like to wish the whole team of Unico: Awakening the best of luck.
Feel free to check out the Kickstarter: Unico: Awakening