Jiraiya (児雷也- Child of thunder – in Japanese traditional culture, the name of an imaginary benevolent picaroon who uses magic) is the pseudonym of a white-collar worker and artist of the Japanese new generation. Born in 1967 (April 28th), in his 20’s he wanted to be a cartoonist and  was given some chances to put his cartoon on general comics. However, it was uncongenial for him to draw cartoon in weekly or biweekly basis, so he once gave up becoming a cartoonist.

Unfortunatly, working for commercial illustration, he had very few chances to draw his favourite type of guy (big and well-muscled); so, he  posted his illustration  to G-Men magazine and in 1994 he began to cooperate with the monthly magazine, drawing all the covers from 2001 to 2006 (the previous cover artist of the magazine was Gengoroh Tagame).

G-Man is an old Japanese code for Gay Man. This led to G-Men magazine being published in Tokyo to celebrate the stocky, muscle side of being a gay man.  A G-Man is usually smooth(ish), bear(ish), muscled, stocky (but not too chubby) and Asian (but not always). It is a look that rejoices in everything from strong, sporty types to wrestling, power-lifting, big boys.

Actually, using Illustrator, QuarkXPress and Photoshop, Jiraiya’s illustrations are realistic and delicate descriptions of Japanese men, seen through an aesthetic  taste near to the western “bear” genre.

The majority show men in various states of undress, looking happy and often staring at the reader, with a friendly expression on their face. They might look very fit and strong, but they don’t look dangerous. Jiraiya has attracted a great amount of fans,  because his models are common and very masculine. He always draws policemen, fishermen, agriculturists, sportsmen, musicians, salesmen, appropriating Japan’s cultural history as a way to explore homosexuality.

Jiraiya is also author of many well known “bara” manga (a Japanese jargon term for a genre of art and fictional media that focuses on male same-sex love and desire, usually created by and for gay men),  periodically published on G-Men magazine; if you can’t read  japanese, you can find a few of them published in english or spanish, and many  translated in english on-line. Even if, coherently with the characteristics of the genre, they usually contain scenes  featuring adult content (sometimes violent or exploitative) and gay romanticism, they often have more realistic or autobiographical themes.

With a less photographic, more cartoony style (but not less elegant at all) than the one used for his covers and illustrations, they often paint simple situations and atmospheres similar to me, for example, to those of the Japanese Oscar winner movie “The departures”: personages are complex and well characterized and sex is just a component (maybe not renounceable) of intimate, well told, short stories.

You can see a collection of his works (mostly covers for G-Men) in the monographs  The Art of Jiraiya (2007), published by French “H&O Editions”.

If you want to contact the artist (it’s not easy, considering he prefers to maintain anonymity not to compromise his main-stream work) you can try trough his blog  linked below, that unfortunately is in Japanese language.