Ghost Mikawa, author of the light novel Days With My Stepsister, talked with Anime Corner’s Marcel about his work and his love for stepsisters. The project behind the novel itself started with a YouTube channel in 2020 featuring character illustrations by Hiten. In 2021 the first books were introduced under the name Gimai Seikatsu. The latest announcement includes an anime project, which will be released next year.
Q: What are your favorite romance novels, manga or anime?
Ghost Mikawa: As for romance novels, I like Josee, the Tiger and the Fish by Seiko Tanabe. As for light novels, I like Toradora!, Oreimo, The Pet Girl of Sakurasou, etc. So I basically like the same works that many anime fans like. As for manga, I like Honey and Clover and Sing “Yesterday” for Me. As for anime, I especially enjoyed Kaguya-sama: Love Is War and Your Name.
Q: What inspired you to start the Days With My Stepsister project? How did you end up writing this story?
Ghost Mikawa: When I create a work of art, I formulate a theme based on my observations, guesswork, and sometimes by confronting myself to find out what kind of problems people in society are facing, what kind of issues they are feeling, and what kind of values they are living under.
Looking at Japan’s social networking sites, we can see that there are many conflicts between men and women, and even outside of the Internet, we can see that society as a whole is suffering from late marriages and domestic problems, and that many individuals are suffocating from problems in love and social interaction. The idea was to depict two ideal people who can overcome such relationship problems firmly and powerfully.
Q: How does Japanese culture influence your writing?
Ghost Mikawa: I think it is the rhythm in literature that has been passed down from generation to generation in Japan, and the spirit of pursuing the beauty of expression. The craftsmanship and attention to detail are not personal to me but may be an influence of Japanese culture.
Q: You started with a very unique approach in the light novel industry by creating a YouTube channel for your story Days With My Stepsister. I think that is such an exciting and cool way to learn more about the story and its characters. How did you come up with that idea and create the concept?
Ghost Mikawa: Having studied sociology and behavioral economics, I have always been vaguely aware of the “flow” of people’s behavior. I had sensed that people’s behavior was changing with the spread of smartphones and that readers of novels and light novels were also changing their behavior. The most significant change is the change in the process of liking a work.
In the past, a huge number of readers bought works through the process of “looking at the cover at a bookstore and intuitively buying the work,” “reading the story and finding it interesting and liking it,” and “buying the next volume,” and then liking the work after it was bought. Recently, however, the trend has changed to “like the work → buy the work.”
There is much content that can be played basically for free, such as web novels and smartphone games, and more people are paying to purchase something after liking it. Another purchasing pattern is “see good word-of-mouth, learn about the topic → buy the work,” but in this case, “good word-of-mouth” occurs when “someone likes the work,” so in the end, “getting people to like the work” is the first thing that is needed.
Therefore, I thought of some way to get people to like the characters before the novels. Web novels were an option, but there were many authors out there, competition was fierce, and readers did not seem to have enough time to fall deeply in love with any one piece of content. Therefore, I set up a channel on YouTube, where there was still relatively little competition at the time, not for the purpose of generating buzz, but purely to get people to like the characters.
Q: When reading the story I felt like you wanted to highlight the romance more than anything else (for example, fan service). Was that the plan all along?
Ghost Mikawa: Yes, I wrote it that way intentionally. Maybe it’s because I’m not the type of person who gets too excited about romance, but I didn’t feel that anything too “lovey-dovey” was very realistic. This work is a story of two people dealing with real-life relationship issues, so I wanted to avoid elements that would make the story feel “fake” as much as possible.
Q: In most other sister-related light novels, manga, or anime a quite big focus is on fan service. However, Days With My Stepsister is not one such work- why did you decide to do it like that?
Ghost Mikawa: This question overlaps with the answer to the previous one, but it is because I try to portray the characters in a realistic manner. The characters in this work don’t exist. However, I want the viewer to feel as if they were real. I want to write about their life-size lives. I personally like the fan service scenes because they are fun and cute. I think such works are also wonderful and precious as entertainment works.
However, I do not recognize Days With My Stepsister as a work that entertains through the fan service of individual scenes. I am aiming for a reading experience in which you can enjoy and immerse yourself in the overall atmosphere of the work. I want people to enjoy the entire atmosphere, as if they were enjoying sunbathing or forest bathing, or being enveloped by the aroma of aromas. To achieve this, it was necessary to refrain from fan service that would maximize the fun of the moment.
Q: Are you excited and proud of the upcoming anime series?
Ghost Mikawa: Absolutely. I have already had several meetings with the production staff. Everyone, including the director, was very motivated and committed to the project. As a novelist, I alone cannot make an animated film. I am very much looking forward to seeing Days With My Stepsister become an anime with the work of many professionals.
Q: Do you include some of your own character traits or people you know in your stories?
Ghost Mikawa: I sometimes take parts from my own personality and impart them to my characters. Often I create character settings based on people I know. There are many characters in real life who have interesting experiences that would be hard to find in a story. Their unique stories are all interesting and I am always on the lookout to incorporate them into my work someday.
Q: Do you have a favorite sis-con story?
Ghost Mikawa: Oreimo is a masterpiece. It might be my favorite.
Q: What makes or breaks a good story in your opinion? Do you try to “experiment“ with them?
Ghost Mikawa: Is it whether the characters have souls or not? No matter how good a plot you have, if the characters are not lovable as human beings, it will not feel like a good story. If you are so preoccupied with technique that you neglect the most important characters, readers will not be pleased with your work.
Q: What advice do you have for new writers in creating stories?
Ghost Mikawa: Don’t rush for results. Don’t rush. The rush to get results quickly takes away the freedom from the story, and what should be a fun creation becomes just a “work in progress.” Making money from a story is hard work. It is a miracle that so many readers enjoy your work. With that in mind, take your time to hone your skills and focus on creating a better work of art.
There are people in the world who are evaluated younger than you. It may sometimes seem that your rivals become successful before you and get further. But it is just that your turn has not come yet. If you become impatient or depressed, that is when you will lose your turn. While continuing to make the necessary efforts and, of course, fixing and improving what is not working, do not be in too much of a hurry, but enjoy and create with your soul.
Check out author Ghost Mikawa’s Twitter / X for the latest updates.
Featured image: © Ghost Mikawa, MF Bunko/Kadokawa