Interview with Dorohedoro artist Q Hayashida

UntitledI get the impression that there are exceedingly few interviews with Hayashida out there even in Japanese, so let us all treasure what few sweet morsels we have been blessed with. This comes from back in 2006, when Dorohedoro was only eight volumes in. She talks about the manga and games she’s into at the moment, her time majoring in painting in university, and the process that she goes through to produce every chapter.

— (Looking at Hayashida’s illustrations for a pamphlet back from her days at a fine arts prep school.) So the first time you had your artwork printed was a pamphlet at prep school. How’d you feel at the time?

Q Hayashida: Well… happy.

–Having your work printed is always something to be happy about. Did they just have you doing black-and-white drawings at this prep school?

Hayashida: Yes, and I was exceedingly awful at it. I remember having absolutely no interest in those sketches of plaster busts they make you do. The busts are too smooth. (laugh)

–Well, they are inorganic. (laugh) I take it from Dorohedoro that you prefer to draw things that are interestingly textured.

Hayashida: Another thing is that they make you draw lots to decide where you sit and draw the bust from, so you might end up drawing it from an angle that just can’t possibly produce anything good, no matter what you do… which is why I used to skip class a lot. Class did me no good anyway, I figured.

–And from there, you went on to university, where you majored in painting, right? Now, I should apologize now for not knowing the first thing about fine arts universities, but did you find that your thinking changed there in some way?

Hayashida: Not really. I was basically doing the same stuff that I’d been doing in high school, so I don’t think much changed. In fact, I’d already decided beforehand that I’d draw some manga and try sending it to a publisher once I got into university anyway.

–So it was in university that you started drawing manga for real.

Hayashida: Right. I was taking art seriously and I enjoyed it, but the audience size that manga gets is just so much larger that it seemed like a much tougher nut to crack, which appealed to me. Also, the harder you work at manga, the more money you get, which also seemed like it suited me better.

–Would you say you were approaching the manga industry with an optimistic outlook, then?

Hayashida: No, it scared me. (laugh) I had read a friend’s copies of Henshuoh, and it made me think that I should never become a manga artist.

–(laugh) Well, I guess you would think that after reading Henshuou.

Back in the 90s, when Bakuman was still but a twinkle in Obata and Ohba’s eyes, Henshuoh (“Editor King”) was teaching a generation of manga readers about the cartoonish evils of the magazine editors.

Hayashida: But then it turned out it wasn’t so bad after all. Everyone was really nice. It has some tough aspects to it, but I actually don’t mind competition so much.

–You had been in a really competitive place for a long time anyway.

Hayashida: That’s true. They had us submitting a picture for competition every day, and they’d rank us all. That was part of why I wanted to take a crack at commercial magazines, where the results are even more clear-cut.

–That might be the deciding factor in whether a person is cut out for creative work, be it manga or art: Can they handle being evaluated?

Hayashida: My mother likes art, so she’s always had some pretty harsh things to say about my drawings ever since I was a kid, which might’ve toughened me up a little compared to other people. I can be objective about it now. My mother used to say things to me like, “Wow, this really sucks! Are you going to get into university drawing like that?”

–Wow! One doesn’t get one’s art critically panned in everyday life too often. Art is made for showing other people, though, so learning to be objective about that sort of thing is super valuable.

Hayashida: Yes, it’s crucial that what I want to show is actually getting through to the reader, but I think that might be something you can only really figure out after having drawn a crazy amount of pages’ worth of manga. It’s one of those epiphanies that hit you every five or six years and are part of what makes this work so fun.

–That’d be hard to figure out without constantly showing your work to a lot of people. It’d be tough to just do it inside your head.

Hayashida: Right, I think it’s important to draw with the intention of showing it to people.

–Did you have friends who were trying to draw manga in university?

Hayashida: I didn’t. If you asked most of my friends back then if they even liked to doodle for fun, they’d tell you no, which was pretty surprising for me, because that’s all I ever used to do when I got back home. Maybe I just didn’t socialize with that many people. Oh, and also: Before going into university, I couldn’t copy the art in Dragon Ball to save my life, but then after I started university, all of a sudden I was able to draw the hell out of it for some reason! It was the weirdest thing – I saw it as proof that my brain had changed. (laugh)

–Being forced to draw those plaster busts turned out to be useful after all – for making doodles of Dragon Ball. (laugh)

Hayashida: It really did make me feel like it had paid off.

–If only more of those people who love art so much they study it in university would produce manga.

Hayashida: Agreed. I didn’t know too many at the time, but there really should be more of us.

–I mean, manga is such a great medium for experimenting with all sorts of methods. Even if they’re not looking to go pro or anything, it’d be great to have more people out there just doing their own thing, printing it off and putting it out there. I guess if they’re not interested, though, then they’re just not interested.

Hayashida: I do like to see variety in manga art. Personally, I feel like I’m pushed to try hard because I have no idea who’s looking at my work.

–Would you say that part of the reason you chose to do manga is that you like having your work made into a product?

Hayashida: Yes, that’s part of it. I used to rush to the store after school to buy my favorite manga and CDs on the day they were released, so I liked the idea that there might be people out there who would do the same for my manga.

–So in that sense, you can really put yourself in your reader’s shoes. Do you still have manga that you’re hooked on these days?

Hayashida: I’m obsessed with the Dynasty Warriors games right now, so I’ve been reading a lot of Romance of the Three Kingdoms manga. I’ve got Soten Koro sitting on the shelf in my studio, which is something I’d been meaning to buy for a long time because I like the art in it, but there are so many volumes of it that I kept putting it off for the longest time until I finally broke down and bought them all. (laugh)

King Gonta's

Soten Koro, King Gonta’s “Neo-Romance of the Three Kingdoms” manga, is certifiably great.

–(laugh) Now I don’t even have to bring up video games, because you just did it yourself. A Dynasty Warriors fan, are you?

Hayashida: To the point my PS2 actually broke. It’s dangerous stuff!

–(laugh) It is highly addictive.

Hayashida: Definitely. Just crazy. I’ll be playing Samurai Warriors until Dynasty Warriors 5: Empires comes out, which means that there’s some sort of Koei game in my PS2 at all times. There’s a lot of other games that I bought, but I’ll go for Warriors every time, because guns just don’t do it for me.

–Because they don’t use muscles, or what?

Hayashida: It just feels really good swinging weapons around, and I get a lot of mental pressure built up from work, so it’s good for relieving that quickly. Even if I just play it for ten minutes, it helps me forget all that pressure and go back to work. That’s why, while I obviously like manga, what sends me running to the stores right now is any game with “Warriors” in the title. (laugh)

–(laugh) It makes sense that games would be more helpful in forgetting about work and enjoying yourself, since manga is your job and all.

Hayashida: As you might expect, since becoming an artist myself, I’ve developed a habit of reading manga in terms of what I can learn from it, so now I can’t help but think about what the artist is doing well, wondering about how he might have gone about drawing it, etc. With things like Soten Koro, though, I’m able to get drawn into the story without getting distracted by all that. I also like Motofumi Kobayashi’s work. I simply adore his Omega series, although I’m not a military buff or anything.

–Jeez, what a pick. Yeah, Kobayashi is great, isn’t he? The abrupt feel to it, the level of detail. Very unique.

Hayashida: Often he’s just doing the same thing over and over again, but I really like him. Oh, and I’ve also been reading and rereading Puripuri-ken as I eat. Shameless, I know. (laugh)

Left: Puripuri-ken, the idiotic gag manga by idiotic gag mainstay Sensha Yoshida. Right: Cat Shit One artist Motofumi Kobayashi's Omega series

Left: Puripuri-ken, the idiotic gag manga by idiotic gag mainstay Sensha Yoshida.
Right: Cat Shit One artist and military buff Motofumi Kobayashi’s Omega series

–(laugh) Another hell of a pick. Commissioner Isamu’s love for names that end with “mu”, or the part with Shingen Takeda’s private onsen… What a great manga. So this is what you consume and draw inspiration from in creating Dorohedoro.

Hayashida: (laugh) Right. I see you really know your Puripuri-ken.

–Sorry. I’m actually married to someone who claims she wants to become a citizen of Puripuri-ken someday.

Hayashida: Well, it is a funny manga. I wish he’d kept the series going! Another manga I buy immediately after each volume comes out is Shigurui.

–Ooh, Shigurui. What a manga. That vaguely homosexual aesthetic…

Hayashida: (laugh) I also like Akira, and I own all of Junji Ito and Kazuo Umezu’s work. I just love Cat-Eyed Boy. There’s this part where he says, “What a psychedelic face this guy has!”, and I remember just cracking up at it. (laugh)

–There’s really nothing that Umezu won’t put in his manga. (laugh) I can’t help but notice that your taste in manga leans completely toward stuff aimed at boys.

Hayashida: It does. I’d like to buy stuff from all over the spectrum, but I just don’t find myself drawn to shojo stuff. Even the stuff that I respond to emotionally is generally shonen – although what I unwind to nowadays is, of course, Dynasty Warriors!

–(laugh) You’re obsessed! These were not the titles I was expecting to hear you to namedrop. Dynasty Warriors – who’d have thought? This sort of interview must be hard, though, isn’t it? You meet someone for the first time, and they start asking you what manga means to you and what music you’re listening to these days and all that, and they probably all have preconceived ideas of how you’re going to answer.

Hayashida: Exactly. Questions about music are the worst; I end up saying, “Well, I’m listening to a lot of things.”

–“Why do you guys need to print that kind of thing”, right? But anyway, I want to probe a little bit into how you make your manga, if that’s alright with you.

Hayashida: Certainly. Let’s see… What I still can’t figure out is where to place the speech bubbles.

–Ooh, deep stuff, right off the bat! I would guess everyone just figures that out intuitively, though.

Hayashida: I still don’t know how to find the right size and place for them. I think the talented artists out there know some sort of trick to it, but I feel like I’ll never figure it out till the day I die, unless someone comes out and tells me.

–I’ll bet there’s a real difference in how people with experience working as assistants approach things and how people without that experience approach things.

Hayashida: True. It seems like most people have done some time as an assistant somewhere.

–Also, with a series as intricate as Dorohedoro, I imagine the talks with your editor can be pretty rough.

Hayashida: They can. People have different ideas about what’s easy to understand for the reader, so I hash things out with my editor a lot and do a lot of agonizing over it.

–I can imagine. The original creation of the artist is probably going to be the most interesting product, but I suppose it’s important to take in your editor’s unbiased viewpoint and try to work at it together, as hard as I’m sure it is to find the right balance. After all, making yourself understood to the reader is the whole point. But then, at the same time, there’s that scary possibility that you’ll lean too hard in favor of understandability and bog down the story with too much explanation, or your manga might suffer in vitality.

Hayashida: Right. I want to make full use of my twenty-four pages without getting too bogged down in explanation, but it’s a tricky balance.

–So, to start, can I take a look at some of the rough drafts you make in your creative process?

Hayashida: Okay. I’ve got it all compiled together in scribblers.


–Ooh, wow. Character designs, plot background details. It’s so detailed.

Hayashida: I do ten pages just coming up with the story with every chapter.

–You start with producing that much every month?

Hayashida: Yeah. First I make a bullet-point list and take it in to do a meeting with my editor, then I come up with a more fleshed-out plan for the plot, decide how I’m going to distribute it over the pages, and then I draw a rough draft. I think it was around chapter three that I decided that I had to start double-checking the dialogue to make sure it all fit together properly, so I started writing that all out, too. I do so much work for the drafts these days… Ah, look at this, Johnson had eyes back when I did the rough of him.


–Whoa, look at that – his antennae are totally different! Johnson really does have a striking character design.

Hayashida: Well, I love insects except for cockroaches, but I don’t think it’s right that I single them out for discrimination, so that’s where I got the idea for him from.

–I seem to recall that you hate cockroaches, right?

Hayashida: They make me scream. (laugh) Ah, I totally scrapped my original plans for a chapter once. Chapter 48. I’d even decided on how I’d pace it over the pages, but then I scrapped it the last minute. I just barely kept a tiny bit of the ideas and dialogue in that chapter. I really ran out of time in the end, trying to get that one finished in time.

–Ah, that dream-like chapter. That was a great one – it’d been a while since you’d done a psychedelic one like that. I couldn’t tell that you’d struggled with it.

Hayashida: Also, when I’m making the background materials, I tend to do drawings of Caiman’s true form.

–Whoa! There it is, the answer to Dorohedoro’s greatest mystery. So you’re unraveling the manga’s riddles as you go along preparing for every chapter. I don’t think I could possibly put this stuff in the magazine article.

Hayashida: Here’s the background I used for one of the volume covers.


–Daaang. Look at the work you’ve put into it, despite the fact that there’s no way the printers could ever actually reproduce this on the covers. (laugh) Very cool. The relief on it is so well done.

Hayashida: When I put together the first volume, I made it a little too bumpy and they told me they couldn’t print it, so now I’ve been holding back and making it flatter. They also told me that I had to stop making it so glossy because it doesn’t photograph properly, but I just kept on doing it anyway and they’ve just given up on that front.

–So a designer somehow manages to take this and make those awesome volumes covers, huh? It’s very unique. Quite frankly, from a design perspective, your books are priced too low. Seriously — not too many people put this much work into this stuff.

Hayashida: But this work is important for me too. Only doing the manga would be too monotonous, so finding other kinds of work to do is necessary for me.

–I wonder if you couldn’t put on some sort of exhibit for this stuff. God – and these color pages are so layered.

Hayashida: Yes, I print the picture off on tracing paper and work on top of that.

–Yeah, the layers of paint and the textured paper are really something. That’s another thing that’s hard to reproduce in the printed books. (laugh) Look at how warped the paper is from the thickness of the paint!

Hayashida: Another thing is, when I’m doing the highlights, I don’t think at all about what direction the light ought to be coming from – I just draw it however I feel like drawing it, always. I’m really inconsistent about that stuff. And sometimes I might color with paint that’s supposed to be used for plastic models, stuff like that. I pretty much always use tracing paper, though — that’s one thing that doesn’t change.

–So: your drawing process. Has it remained unchanged the whole time?

Hayashida: Well, I’m actually the kind of person who would love to just ink a page right after I’m finished doing the sketches for it. I hate working at that assembly-line pace, doing the rough drafts for every single page, and then inking them all, and then doing the screentone… With that first manga I did for Afternoon’s seasonal award, I was literally drawing it one page at a time.

–Wait, so you drew the cover page, then went to the next page and drew that, and kept going like that?

Hayashida: Without even planning the layout, I just started drawing it from scratch, and then after a while I got to a point where I felt it was time to end it, so I did.

–So you had no idea what the overall shape of the story would look like?

Hayashida: Yeah, I guess I didn’t really have any overall story. I just went on drawing scenes that I wanted to draw.

–I can see how that would be the most enjoyable way for the artist to make a manga.

Hayashida: I think so. I’d say I was drawing page by page until Maken X.

–And to think that now you’re working with such an elaborately plotted-out method now! And the level of detail in your art, too – I really think it’s amazing how you can continue to produce this level of art every month for so long. You somehow never manage to lose your touch – in fact, it just keeps getting better and better!

Hayashida: Hmm. Everyone always says they’re impressed with how I’ve been working on the series for five years now. I feel like I need to start thinking about what I’m going to make next, though, because otherwise, one day Dorohedoro will finish, and I’ll be unemployed all of a sudden. (laugh) That’s the scary thing about this job: one day you’re a manga artist, the next day you’re a bum. It’s a terrifying thing!

–Oh, you’ll be just fine! Someone putting out as incredible work as you are isn’t going to suddenly find herself shut out. What you have to worry about is giving in to temptation once you’re an established artist and ending up getting tricked by people. Even that won’t happen with you, though. Please just keep on making whatever manga your heart desires.

Hayashida: I will. I’ve still got a ton to learn. ♦


8 thoughts on “Interview with Dorohedoro artist Q Hayashida

  1. She says that Motofumi Kobayashi often does the same thing over and over, but Dynasty warriors is literally the same thing over and over, so i don’t see why that would be a problem worth mentioning XD.

    Wonder what her next manga will be? any news on that?

  2. Pingback: Feedly Friday: October 3, 2014 - Manga Connection

  3. I just wish the print editions released by viz were better. More than that, I wish I could read and understand Japanese. SAY NO TO SOUND EFFECTS BEING TRANSLATED INTO ENGLISH!

  4. I fell in love with the lore in romance of the three kingdoms from dynasty warriors. Lol. I loved being able to read and get an idea from the author. I have a ton of questions, so it’s very nice to see interviews coming out with Q Hayashida.

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