Taiyo Matsumoto talks shop with one of his favorite artists, Fumiko Takano


This conversation was published December 2006, when the Tekkon Kinkreet movie came out in theaters and Matsumoto was in the early stages of Takemitsu Zamurai. The artist he’s talking to here, Fumiko Takano, is not a particularly well-known name in the English-speaking manga community, but she’s a huge deal — just look at how her name comes up repeatedly in the other interviews I’ve translated!

Matsumoto: So, what do you do, day to day? What does your life look like now?

Takano: Well… I go to the children’s section at the library, I make food and serve tea and work as an arts and crafts teacher at the local old folks’ home, and lately I’ve even been thinking about going to a kindergarten class nearby. (laugh) I’m kept so busy with stuff in my neighborhood that I tend not to ever go very far from home. I haven’t been to Shinjuku in forever.

Matsumoto: Yeah, I only ever come to Tokyo to go to the Shogakukan offices, although recently I’ve been going to places like the Edo-Tokyo Museum in Fukagawa, since I’m doing a manga set in the Edo era. It sounds like you’re quite active in your neighborhood.

Takano: It’s not something I have to do, but I do try to make an effort. I’ve been sort of off manga lately, so when I went back and read your work this week it was the first manga I’d read in quite a while.

Matsumoto: That’s very nice of you. I wouldn’t have expected you to have much interest in my work, though… Continue reading

A 2016 interview with Tsutomu Nihei

nih3Evening did an interview with Tsutomu Nihei earlier this month because he’s been roped into being the special guest judge for their newcomer awards. It’s a short one, but it ought to hit some of the main things you’d like to hear about from him — including why Knights of Sidonia is so different from his previous work.

–Was drawing manga something you liked to do as a child?

Nihei: I actually hadn’t ever really drawn manga until I was in my twenties. I liked the pictures, but I didn’t draw manga myself. My only connection with manga as a child was reading Shonen Jump, really.

–That’s surprising. How was it that you ended up becoming a manga artist, then?

Nihei: I started working for a construction company after graduating high school, but I wasn’t very good at working in a team, and I realized I wasn’t cut out for group work. So I figured the only way for me to make it in society was finding some sort of work I could do alone. The manga industry was at its peak at the time, and it seemed like you could make a lot of money at it, so I decided to quit my job and went to New York. Continue reading

Berserk artist Kentaro Miura interview: “I actually don’t think I could let such a long grim story end with a grim ending”

zoddThis one’s a Kentaro Miura interview by Yukari Fujimoto, a writer/professor of gender studies and shojo manga. It’s a pretty old conversation — originally published in September 2000, which in Berserk terms is just before volume 20 came out. Lots of good stuff in it though: he talks about the friend who was the inspiration behind Griffith, how little of the story he had planned out originally, and why the Berserk world is, at its core, Japan.

This isn’t the full interview — just what I thought were the more interesting chunks of it. It was really long and a true bitch to translate into intelligible English, so I just don’t have the energy/interest to do the thing in full, at least not right now.

–When I first started reading Berserk, I was like, hey, this is Violence Jack! And then I was like hey, this is Guin Saga! And then when I got to the part where the demons swarm around Guts and tell him he belongs to them I was like, hey, this is Dororo! That’s just what it reminded me of personally, though, so I’d like to start by asking whether you actually did have any works like that in mind when making Berserk.

Miura: I was a manga reader. There are things that I’ve consciously borrowed from, but there are also things that have sunk to the bottom of my consciousness and pop up out of nowhere later. They’ve become part of me. Violence Jack and Guin Saga are things I was obviously really into, and I do think that Guin Saga was the biggest source for this fantasy universe. That atmosphere it has just stuck with me and now I think of it as the standard to measure things against, so I suppose you’re right.

–I see. How about the sword, then? It’s one of Guts’s main features. Did it not come from Violence Jack?

Miura: That comes from Shinji Wada’s Pygmalio. Continue reading

The original Togashi crack-up

togashi coverYoshihiro Togashi himself was in attendance at the 1994 summer Comiket, not a full month since the last chapter of Yu Yu Hakusho‘s lopsided final arc ran in Shonen Jump, and he was giving out free copies of a dojinshi he’d made. In addition to a meta-manga in which the main cast of Yu Yu Hakusho turn out to be actors with completely different names and personalities, a Henshuou parody in which a sobbing Togashi begs in Yamagata dialect for people not to bother him about YYH anymore, and whatever the hell this is, the dojinshi also included a Q&A with Togashi and a two-page letter in which he explained why the manga had such a turbulent ending. Both are terrific and, thankfully, someone has already done a (good!) translation. The Q&A is here and here, and the letter, which I especially insist you read, is here and here.

I find the whole thing to be just delicious. I mean, there’s this:

There were several times throughout Yu Yu Hakusho that I finished chapters on my own. It was always whenever my stress level was hitting its peak. I don’t know if this will make any sense, but the way I relieved the stress of not being able to draw my manga satisfactorily was to draw it by myself. As a result, the chapter that week would be horrific. I was just dashing off the backgrounds and characters. The spinoff chapter “Two Shot”, Karasu versus Kurama, Yusuke versus Sensui, the chapter where Yusuke and Raizen meet: I drew them almost all on my own. As one letter correctly criticized me of, I did the latter two chapters just both before they were due, 19 pages in half a day each. Maybe that makes me unprofessional, but I felt satisfied with myself doing it. At that point I’d lost all reason to keep from acting on the urge to draw by myself, regardless of what people think or how awful it may come out looking.

Wow — half a day? Let’s remind ourselves what those parts look like, shall we? First, Yusuke versus Sensui:


Yikes. And then Yusuke and Raizen:


Good god.

And then there’s this:

Q: What was your favorite part?

A: Itsuki’s speech inside the Reverse Man [‘uraotoko’]. Itsuki’s parting line contains a cri de coeur of how I felt at the time. (laugh)

Here’s the line he’s talking about:


“The two of us are going to go spend our time in quiet; we’ve had enough. You go find some other enemy and continue fighting.” This would’ve been around the point where he’d supposedly talked the editors into letting him bring the series to an end.

Also worth noting: according to the Japanese Wikipedia page for Yu Yu Hakusho, the series ran almost entirely uninterrupted in Jump for its four-year run except for one single issue, which is sort of surprising if true. ♦

A short interview with Hitoshi Iwaaki (Historie, Parasyte)

kiseiju-01-024Here’s a short interview with Parasyte and Historie artist Hitoshi Iwaaki, conducted via fax in 2005, when Historie would still only have been two volumes in. I got it from the same magazine I took the Sakuishi/Eguchi conversation. Spoiler alert: Iwaaki is exactly the kind of man you would expect him to be.

–2005 marks your twentieth year as a manga artist since you first got published with “Sea of Trash” in ’85. Congratulations! I’d like to start by asking you to summarize what those twenty years have been like.

Iwaaki: I’m proud to have gotten this far. I’m pretty slow at drawing, though, so I suppose I don’t have that many works to my name, considering it’s been twenty years. I’ve always been busy, though.

–What was your childhood like? I’d love to hear about anything: your family, your hobbies, things you used to wonder about.

Iwaaki: I never once went to any cram schools. I used to doodle in my textbooks a lot. I would always hang around with the same friend, but sometimes I didn’t care to even spend time with him. I was a quiet child, one who didn’t stand out much, and yet I was also a self-centered child.

–I’ve read that you became an avid reader of manga when you were in your last year of high school, starting with the pocket editions of Osamu Tezuka’s work. You’ve mentioned learning a lot from Tezuka’s How to Draw Manga in an old interview, too. What is it that you find appealing about Osamu Tezuka?

Iwaaki: I believe he is someone who always made sure to put together the overall framework of a story before starting a manga. It’s not a method that everyone agrees with, but I consider myself to have made it through these twenty years thanks to his example.

–What manga or artists do you like, and does anything come to mind that they have in common? Continue reading

A tour through Inio Asano’s workspace

From a 2013 article from cakes.mu, a tour through Inio Asano’s workplace. I swear this is the last Asano thing I’ll do for a long time.

–So this is where you’re always drawing your manga.

Asano: Right.  It’s my workspace, as well as my personal room. This is where I spend most of the day.


–When you draw manga, what do you start with?

Asano: Making the story. I come up with the framework in the first thirty minutes or so.

–That’s really fast!

Asano: I don’t bother agonizing much over the story. What I think hard about is how to word the dialogue, and the nuance behind the dialogue. I write the dialogue out in a text editor. From here down to here is the rough outline and dialogue for one chapter.


–I see that it’s written in bullet form rather than full sentences.

Asano: I take about an hour to write out a rough outline of the story for a volume. If I’m doing it for Goodnight Punpun, then that’s eleven chapters per volume, so I divide it up into eleven parts in such a way that it balances out well. Then I write out all the dialogue to flesh out the chapter.

–What’s the next step after you’ve finished coming up with the story? Continue reading

Interview with Yotsuba&! artist Kiyohiko Azuma

ytbheadeerHere’s another really good one: from some manga/anime magazine, a 2014 interview with the guy who does Yotsuba&!. He talks about most of the things you probably hope he’ll talk about: lots on the creative process, inspiration for Yotsuba’s yotsubaisms, various things he’s “going for” with the manga overall, the reason progress on the series has slowed to a crawl, etc.

–The first volume of Yotsuba&! went on sale in 2003, making this the series’ eleventh year. Today I want to ask you about all the way back from when the series was just beginning. The manga you were doing before that, Azumanga Daioh, was the forerunner to the slice-of-life 4-koma genre as well as a major hit, so it came as a bit of a surprise when you drew Yotsuba&! with conventional manga paneling. Why was it you decided to do it in a normal manga format?

Azuma: I wanted to broaden myself professionally. There weren’t a lot of 4-koma manga magazines out there at the time like there is now. I was afraid I’d be thought of as a 4-koma artist if I did another 4-koma after Azumanga Daioh, and that wasn’t something I wanted to be, so I went with a normal manga format.

–Were you drawing manga in the typical format before you did Azumanga?

Azuma: No, I’d hardly ever tried it, but I went ahead with it anyway, which is why I consider Yotsuba&! to be pretty terribly done up until the third volume or so. I can’t even bear to look at it until maybe volume four, and even then just barely. Seeing the earlier stuff makes me want to go back and redraw it.

–Interesting. So: how it is that the manga Yotsuba&! came to be?

Azuma: I’d submitted the idea for Yotsuba&! before Azumanga Daioh even started, so I’d already come up with the idea of Yotsuba as a character. Then the magazine Dengeki Daioh asked me to do a 4-koma about high school girls, so I set the idea for Yotsuba&! aside, started work on Azumanga Daioh, then came back to it after I finished. Continue reading

Naoki Urasawa and Hisashi Eguchi talk about manga in the 70s and 80s, mostly Otomo


Two artists in conversation today about manga in the 70s and 80s. One is Naoki Urasawa, the big-deal artist who drew Monster and 20th Century Boys and Pluto. The other is Hisashi Eguchi, a one-time Shonen Jump comedy manga artist who simply could not cope with the breakneck pace of weekly manga and has since turned to doing pop art illustration work.

If the history of manga is at all something you’re interested in, you’re going to love this. Anecdotes abound. The conversation took place in 2009.

Eguchi: This was a while back, but I read in an interview somewhere that you were into Moebius and Hergé. Pretty much everyone says they like Moebius, but you’re the only one aside from myself who I’ve seen saying they like Hergé, so I thought we’d probably get along pretty well.

Urasawa: Come to think of it, not too many people mention Hergé.

Starlog, an American science fiction magazine that was brought over to Japan in 1978

Starlog, an American science fiction magazine that was brought over to Japan in 1978.

Eguchi: Exactly. I sort of found Hergé through Moebius, and I first found out about Moebius when I saw him in Starlog. Did you use to read Starlog?

Urasawa: I even clipped out his work from it. When I talked to Moebius during his visit to Japan, I brought a whole pile with me. (laugh)

Eguchi: Starlog eventually did a special issue devoted to Moebius [in 1981], but when I went back and took a look yesterday, his work was running in the magazine since issue #5. Just small illustrations at first, though. Otomo was in there from pretty early on too, and [Fumiko] Takano had illustrations in a readers’ column kind of section. I guess she would have still been doing dojinshi back at the time. I’d already gone pro and was doing a manga series at the time, but you’d have been, what — in high school? What’d you make of Moebius when you saw his work? Being a professional, I was fairly jealous of him, personally. (laugh)

Urasawa: I felt at the time that manga had become boring, so it was like I’d found this oasis in the desert — finally, a manga that has what I like! So I used to absolutely visually devour Moebius’s illustrations in Starlog.

Eguchi: Same here.

Urasawa: That reminds me: Go Nagai was saying the other day that it was already too late at that point to let himself be influenced by Moebius. It was really tempting, apparently, but he didn’t want to let himself be sucked into it. You started your career with Susume Pirates, but you really changed over time due to Moebius’s influence, didn’t you? That’s a pretty rare occurence in the history of manga. Continue reading

Three anecdotes about Ashita no Joe


A funeral service was held for Tooru Rikiishi in an auditorium at Shonen Magazine publisher Kodansha’s Tokyo headquarters on March 24, 1970, roughly a month after the character passed away in the magazine. Some 700 fans managed to attend, somehow, though it was held on a Tuesday afternoon, when most of them presumably had school or work. Staged by avant-garde theater troupe Tenjo Sajiki (“Ceiling Gallery”), the service was complete with a picture of the deceased overlooking a boxing ring brought in from Korakuen Hall, and included the standard reading of sutras and lighting of incense, as well as a somewhat less conventional KO count to ten on a gong. The eulogy was read by troupe leader Shuji Terayama, who described Rikiishi as “an illusionary force of the Establishment dreamed up by slum guerilla Joe Yabuki”.

He wasn’t the only one who was reading politics into the comic: when Japanese Red Army terrorists hijacked a passenger plane in order to defect to North Korea, they issued a statement declaring, “We are tomorrow’s Joe.” That was just a little over a week after the Rikiishi funeral, and one day before the first episode of the Ashita no Joe anime aired.

Joe was popular with Japan’s right-wing crazies as well. Late one summer night, Ashita no Joe fan and regular Nobel Prize nominee Yukio Mishima appeared at Kodansha’s Shonen Magazine department. A devout Magazine reader, he’d been busy shooting his film Black Lizard and hadn’t gotten a chance to pick up the issue that had come out that day, so he was looking to purchase one directly from Kodansha. They explained to him that they weren’t able to handle any financial transactions there in the magazine offices, but they would be happy to offer him a copy of the latest issue for free. Mishima gladly accepted and went on his way. ♦

Chiba Tetsuya at the 33 anniversary of Rikiishi's death, in 2002.

Chiba Tetsuya at the 32nd anniversary of Rikiishi’s death, in 2002.

Nobuyuki Fukumoto interview (Kaiji, Akagi )

news_xlarge_yuriika01Today, Nobuyuki Fukumoto in conversation with musician and manga fan Kenji Otsuki, in 2009.

Otsuki: I read Kaiji in preparation for this interview, although only halfway. It’s a manga that is guaranteed to be in every musician’s recording studio (laugh), so I’d already read it before, here and there. The thing is, it has a bunch of different series to it, right? So, reading it in a bunch of different places, I would get the volumes mixed up and not really know what’s going on – like, “Why is this happening now? What happened to the dice game?!” or, “Why’s he doing a burning kowtow?!” (laugh), so then I end up deciding to set the manga aside.

Fukumoto: Thank you. I’ve always thought you have an interesting take on things, so whenever I see you on TV or radio I find myself thinking, “It’d be really fun to meet this guy at a bar or somewhere, sit down together and shoot the breeze.” I’m glad to have this opportunity.

Otsuki: It was such a great read that I thought I might fall out of my seat sometimes – and at the same time, it made me feel sick. (laugh)

Fukumoto: Interesting. The chapters do often tend to have a lot of text, and I imagine that parts like the limited rock, paper, scissors arc make the reader use his brain a lot, so it would take a while to read through. I could see it being exhausting. (laugh) Continue reading