COMICS PLUS! by Akasan

How a Los Angeles Native Juggles Several Jobs in Japan.

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September 7, 2020

Who are you and what kind of content do you create?

Everyone knows me as “Akasan”. I’m originally a Los Angeles native, but I’ve been living in Japan for over ten years. Tokyo is where I call my home! I’ve been doing YouTube seriously for about five or six years now. It certainly is part of my home while the other dedication is towards English teaching for the fashion and entertainment industry, among other projects in Japan. Overall daily, my impersonal job is full-time, and I fit YouTube, Twitch, and any other influencer type stuff wherever I can. It feels like I’m juggling several full-time jobs at the same time! For the most part, I am a one-person army. However, any good general knows they can’t do it alone, so when things are a little bit more streamlined outside of this pandemic, every week, I outsource help from other people to help me. I do have co-hosts that come in and help with the entertainment side of things.

The ComicsPlus! brand was just something I came up with as an extension to the Akasan name. I noticed when it comes to search engines, nobody can spell my name correctly, or when autocorrect comes in, it makes things even harder. Furthermore, the genre has changed, and I felt like it was an excellent time to include my friends that are also creators of the more prominent brands. I figured that out of the core, we will always be talking on the comic-related things, and if anything else additional comes in, that’s a plus!

Let's go down memory lane, tell us your backstory! 

Well, with regards to YouTube, like many things of all sorts, it starts as a fluke. I was bored, and I used to upload lots of videos to Facebook and MySpace, but copyright got in the way. Fourteen or fifteen years ago, I opened a YouTube account but wasn’t using it, so for this Batman fan community I was part of, I decided to upload my experiences with comics living in Japan and my trailer reactions. I didn’t know what it meant to make those types of videos public. More people started liking them, and the rest is history. Like Myspace and Facebook, YouTube has been no stranger to copyright material and copyright claims, so it’s challenging for any creator to keep doing what they were doing six years ago when claims and copyright disable that. So aside from YouTube, I’ve looked at other venues like Twitch, TikTok, or IGTV. I think the overall key point for me is as long as I can continue staying connected to my fans and talking about pop-culture, I will be fine, regardless of funding or fandom.

Some of the inspirational quotes that I have cherished since the start are

Stay hungry, stay foolish
I am vengeance, I am the night, and I am up Batman
This is the fight of our lives, and we’re going to win, whatever it takes

Most of my influences have stopped uploading. Others have surpassed in some form or fashion. But, Boogie2988 has always been there. I’ve always admired how he can simply start recording and have some good topic discussions by himself yet, really cultivate several sets of opinions. Although his time and popularity has dwindled in some aspects, he still has a strong fanbase that supports him, and I hope one day to be on that level. Similar to Boogie2988, I’ve always admired Unrested on how well he articulates himself on different subjects. And given that I first started making videos about my time in Japan, he was still a big inspiration about that. If you can’t tell by now, I primarily have always been inspired by commentators/bloggers. The way Kingsley did his draw on my life story, I thought it is always very inspiring. I’ve always admired how The Black Hokage keeps it real, yet still, gives reliable reviews and makes good points.

My strongest motivation was to get 100,000 subscribers on YouTube, which earns you the silver plaque. That was my goal, and I surpassed that about four years ago. I honestly never really was interested in having over 1 million subscribers, because I noticed so many people that I met within the YouTube world who reached that sort of “success” and just looked and acted miserably. That, and they had to resolve to scummy low blows and scandals or online beef with someone else. My channel has always been a little closer to my heart. I could never really separate the channel from my own life, so I always felt like the more attention it would get, the more it would affect my personal life. Again, I didn’t start a YouTube channel to make money. I start at one just to have a sense of community and enjoy talking pop-culture. So I suppose one of the problems is my lack of motivation now, as it’s not as strong as it once was because I’ve achieved everything I wanted. Now is an exciting time. Always be challenged into technology and how to grow, not by subscriber numbers, but as a creator.

How do you brainstorm ideas for your content and your advice in getting the creative juice flowing?

Interestingly enough, some of my best ideas usually come from my time in the toilet or walking. The only other time I get inspiration is after watching some pop culture that affects me. For example, after watching La La Land, almost immediately, I started writing a script for Netflix based on the reaction genre and what it would be like to see the behind-the-scenes struggles for certain people.

I do not use third-party software for brainstorming, but I sometimes bounce ideas off my friends or fans, and based upon their reactions, I will either get a little more serious about it or drop it altogether. I either need just to keep working through it on other projects and hopefully return to it later, or take a break entirely and work on something else. Feeling things out is usually the best way to brainstorm. If something doesn’t seem quite right to you, try to bounce it off of other people familiar with the subject matter and could have creative input, because, when you turn yourself to the mass media, negativity will usually follow.

What are the tools and platforms you use to help with your brand?

I use Adobe Premiere for my desktop computer even though I hate it, and it’s blocking when it comes to creativity and flow. When I’m on the go or at the full-time job, I use Final Cut Pro on my MacBook Pro, which my favorite when it comes to editing. There’s just something adorable about using a trackpad or a magic mouse, and for me, it’s some form of painting in a sense. So many ideas will come to my mind while being in the editing process. And because it doesn’t take too long to implement said ideas, I’m always able to do something now. I am on YouTube, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Tiktok, Snapchat, and Discord. Siri is my best friend, pretty much all my ideas and videos are all on my iPhone. Without that, I would be so lost. I certainly wish there was more storage space or a way to pull files on the fly, but I don’t trust putting things in the Cloud. That would be the next scandal I’d be in trouble with.

What were your fears starting out? How did you handle it? 

I don’t care what other people think. I believe that you sort of getting used to the idea that not everybody will share the same opinion you do. In the beginning, I made the very foolish attempt to try to have a conversation with some of the people that would leave negative comments. But then I just realized that most people are not looking to have a conversation, they’re just looking to say why (they think) you’re wrong. So it just gets pointless after a while, and I thought I had better things to do than to argue or converse with someone I don’t even know. And that certainly isn’t to say that it will illuminate all problems. There are so many demotivating comments every time you will post a new video. You need to have strong skin about it because it will let you down. Not a month goes by that I don’t sometimes think I’d be better off if I just stop making videos, but I always get back into the right frame of mind.

I didn’t necessarily have fears, but I always feel nervous right before live streaming or hitting record. There’s still a bit of a nauseous feeling, but someone told me that it means I am doing it right. I also speak a lot slower in most of my videos because of my accent, and essentially, when you live in Japan for so long, you need to talk relatively slower so everybody can hear and understand you. Some of the DJs influenced me when I was a kid and started to put more of that personality in my speaking style on camera.

How did you build your brand to where it is now, take us through your process.

In the beginning, I was posting anywhere from 2 to 3 videos a day. However, things are slowing down now, and I haven’t wanted to react to anything. It would’ve been better for my channel, but it would’ve been terrible for me and what I want in the future. I’ve never considered the channel to be purely a reaction channel. I’ve always wanted to still focus on other videos regardless of how popular they may be. Mentally, it keeps my creativity fresh. I will always be appreciative of my fanbase because they are the ones that always help set me up with equipment and ideas of what types of stuff in Japan they would like to see. There was never really any arguing, and there’s always positivity throughout. 

I did not get any outside help in building my brand. The most formidable challenges are probably the same sort of things I’m dealing with no:e the time zone ane balancing work life and private life. The biggest elephant in the room is even the people closest to you will not support you because social media and things like YouTube and Twitch are such unknown factors to many people, that people close to you will tolerate it. Still, they don’t necessarily expect it as a “real job.” It’s understandable because so many people out there are doing it as a hobby. It’s hazardous in terms of support. There’s no health or life insurance. There’’s nothing you can cush yourself for. Once I started interviewing pretty interesting people like Jessica Nigri or collaborating with other J Vloggers, I think that’s when many people began to support me. Those were the happiest times in making videos for fun. When reaction videos took off, things exploded, but as I mentioned earlier, there was a more vital form of negativity that came with that.

I rent a three-bedroom apartment in Tokyo, and I dedicate the two of the rooms purely to my production. One is the office, and the other one is the studio for recording. I have a few mobile cameras, a few mobile phones, one main Lumix camera, six monitors, two different computers, one for editing and one for streaming games of all sorts, microphones and a very patient girlfriend. A lot of unboxing videos oddly enough created a lot of traction for my channel. I noticed there was a fluke for a lot of these things. Very interesting, though, for sure. I have tried to do more to keep bringing those types of people in, but it does not always work.

For someone who wants to get into content creation, what is your advice?

In all likelihood, I probably wouldn’t have moved to Japan if I want to be fully committed and serious to YouTube. The database and the time zones ironically make me late to cover things other people in the US. It’s also harder to collaborate with the same type of people as we are so far away. There are Japanese YouTubers, but we don’t attract the same audience, so it generally doesn’t work the same way, especially with the language barrier. You certainly could say, “We’ll make YouTube videos for Japanese people,” but unfortunately, that tracks a good number of my core audience that I have now even on Twitter. Suppose I retweet something that’s in Japanese, there are enough ignorant people that will get mad seeing another language they can’t read, which I always thought ironic considering how popular anime is. 

There once was a time I just bought my new camera, and I thought I recorded two or three episodes of something, only to go back and realize nothing had been recorded. Since we live in an age of transparency, I couldn’t re-record things and fake my reaction. It was annoying. I suppose if I were struggling to get to the next big thing, I just have to ask myself how much of sacrifice do I want to make? Do I want to change my content? Do I want to be transparent with my audience? Do I want to give up? The most significant rule of thumb is that nothing lasts forever, so if you’re going to become even more popular, things have to change, and you always must keep challenging yourself to do something new. Always do a mental checklist before recording to make sure you record everything. And also, create a system of how you edit things to save time in the future.

How did you finally commit to X platform rather than your regular day job?

So the exciting thing about my situation is that I can’t quit my regular job anyways. To stay in Japan, I have to have a working visa. Even after passing 100,000 subscribers which used to be the milestone for quitting my job and doing YouTube full-time, I knew that wasn’t going to be an option for me. As I knew I couldn’t stay in Japan after that. Given the way, AdSense is now, and how everybody struggles for the hustle, I think it was the best move not to quit.

Tell us your best milestones in being a content creator.

One of the best milestones is happening right now! Work is terrible for everyone, but thanks to all the support I’ve gotten through Patreon. My life is a little less of a struggle right now. It certainly has provided me the time to get back to my audience, given the time zones. I’m able to stream so much more on Twitch when that wasn’t a thing that I could do previously. When things get back to normal, it’ll be fascinating to see how I can balance out long streams again.

What are your marketing strategies to grow your brand?

Well, I started uploading videos and continually do it. I noticed which ones are doing okay sort of holding on, will be doing that more and more, but try not to lose sight of what videos that make me happy. I did not do anything unethical. That was one of the biggest irritants I had with the reaction genre, as it started to blow up and get oversaturated. It went from being about fans reacting and showcasing their love of things to essentially stealing content from other YouTubers or companies that were not cool with reactions.  So, while newer people would come in and do the unethical situations and their channels would take off immediately, it annoys me that I would spend time directly contacting these fellow creators.

Still, never those steps are not really acknowledged. But morally, I feel better about it, but it did turn me off from the genre that was once a community. I was part of a network, and they attempted to do a few things, but since all of this New Age stuff is so new, there isn’t a perfect marketing formula. But I am interested in hiring a new manager or promotions team that could help me get to the next level. Some people generally share my content, and it is interesting because sometimes the compilation videos that I am featured get far more views than my original video. It’s also OK for the most part, considering the amount of extra exposure I could get.

Collabs are the best way to keep working with things and to get traction. You need to be careful with the type of people you choose, though, as unfortunately over the years, I have put my trust in certain people I thought were my peers and later backstabbed/thrown under a bus for clout. Posting to groups/blogs is something that would help in the future as a way of exposure. Furthermore, the one thing that Twitch has an advantage of is making clips that you can circulate in different places.

How do you handle brand deals and sponsorships? 

I generally just tell them what I’m about, what type of audience I have, and what I’m trying to do most of the time. It works! Many of these brands are willing to reach out and do something if you have the numbers you can work with.  The biggest problem I’ve had is most of my audience is English-speaking, and these brands would love to work with me, but they live outside of Japan, so shipping would be too expensive for them to send me something. It has happened several times already. I could’ve had maybe five gamer chairs by now. LOL!

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