Interview with Hajime Isayama, creator of Attack on Titan: “Better to have memorable art, even memorably bad art, and stand out.”

81IAG7cUoiLMen’s culture magazine Brutus recently did a special issue on Attack on Titan that included a lengthy interview with the manga’s creator, Hajime Isayama, in which he talks about such topics as how it feels to have produced an ultramega hit, how he came to be interested in manga, his inspiration behind the characters he’s created, and his thoughts on recent kaiju films, among a lot of other things. You may notice that the interviewer talks to Isayama almost like a psychologist; this is because he, in fact, is.

The magazine went on sale in November 2014, so the interview presumably took place sometime not long after volume 14 went on sale.


–Pleasure to make your acquaintance. I’ve been reading Attack on Titan since the first volume came out, but it’s since become such a smash hit that now you can find it at convenience stores. Do you ever feel pressure knowing that?

Hajime Isayama: Not really, I guess.

–The reality of it hasn’t hit you yet?

Isayama: It feels like reality is getting farther and father away. People say things say things like my dreams have become reality, but ever since I won that first prize back when I was nineteen, it’s felt more like reality has been growing distant.

–Did you not dream about finding this kind of success back before starting out as a manga artist?

Isayama: I knew that making a living from drawing manga is extremely tough, so my dream back then was just to make enough to feed myself with my manga, even if it never became a big hit — let alone the idea of becoming a millionaire.

–I’ve read in a previous interview that you didn’t originally think the idea for Attack on Titan would make for a popular manga.

Isayama: I thought it was great personally, but I figured that most aspiring manga artists must feel that way, and that I was just another kid underestimating how tough the industry really is. Continue reading

A conversation between Katsuhiro Otomo and Takehiko Inoue

o1Men’s culture magazine Brutus did a special issue on Katsuhiro Otomo back in April 2012, when Otomo was doing his giant exhibition where he displayed the original handdrawn pictures of every page of Akira. (There was also talk about him starting a new series, but that has still yet to materialize, two and a half years since.) The Brutus special included a conversation between Otomo and fellow supertitan Takehiko Inoue, which has somehow gone untranslated into English… until now.


Inoue: This is where they’re going to hold the exhibition?

Otomo: This is it. I thought it was too big at first, but I found that once you set everything up it’ll actually get pretty full. You never know until you actually try, I suppose.

Inoue: So if you’re doing this exhibit with Akira in its entirety, how many pages does that work out to?

Otomo: Should add up to be about 2300, I think. Continue reading

Harold Sakuishi (Beck, etc.) with Hisashi Eguchi

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Another conversation between two artists today.

One is Harold Sakuishi, the artist who you hopefully know as the guy who made Beck, among other great manga. The other is Hisashi Eguchi, a well-known figure among Japanese manga buffs who is basically unknown in the English-speaking internets. Eguchi has two manga that he’s mostly known for: One is his first and by far longest work, Susume!! Pirates, a silly 11-volume baseball comedy that ran in Shonen Jump in the late 70s; the other is Stop!! Hibari-kun!, a manga about the cross-dressing son of a yakuza boss which famously simply vanished from Shonen Jump after ending a chapter with a character crying tears of blood and declaring, “Shonen manga is dead”. Since then, Eguchi doesn’t seem to have been able to keep himself working on a series for more than a volume, instead putting out mostly short gag pieces, although that isn’t to say he’s been altogether idle since Hibari-kun: In 1994 he founded Comic Cue, a now-defunct yearly anthology of one-shots from various artists, and he has also gone on to become a pretty successful pop-art illustrator.

This conversation is from a 2005 issue of the pop culture magazine Quick Japan, back when Beck was 21 volumes in and was kind of a big deal, having just gotten its anime adaptation.


Sakuishi: I was pretty pleased to hear that you’ve praised my work, because I had absolutely no idea that you even knew about my manga. I used to read Susume!! Pirates back in elementary school, you know. Artists like you and Katsuhiro Otomo are what paved the way for my generation, so you’re a living legend for me.

Eguchi: Oh, please. (embarrassed laugh) I really like Beck, though, and I have a lot of things I want to ask you, so to start off: What was the first manga you ever read?

Sakuishi: I started from Shinji Mizushima’s Dokaben. I liked old school manga — Osamu Tezuka’s The Amazing Three, or Shotaro Ishinomori’s stuff. My friends in elementary school used to ask me to draw things like Kawai from Ring ni Kakero, but I didn’t even know who that was. I didn’t like those series that were falling all over themselves trying to be popular every week; I was into stuff with real storytelling that you could take your time reading, like Tezuka and Ishinomori used to make. Continue reading

A conversation between Inio Asano and Usamaru Furuya

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Now here’s a good one: a conversation between Inio Asano and Usamaru Furuya that ran alongside the last chapter of Girl by the Sea in Manga Erotics F, which means it would’ve been around the time Asano was working on volume 12 of Good Night Punpun.

Thanks go out to Vito for providing me with the relevant pages out of the magazine!


Furuya: Thanks for having me over. It’s a comfy workplace you have here.asanofuruya

Asano: I tried my best to tidy up.

Furuya: Ah, I see you were in the middle of work.

Asano: You do your color work digitally, don’t you?

Furuya: I’ve been going analog for color stuff lately too. I’ve started using Copic marker pens — it’s faster. How do you color your stuff, Asano? Continue reading

Takehiko Inoue: The Vagabond hiatus interviews

news_xlarge_morning16In August 2010, Vagabond went on hiatus because of creator Takehiko Inoue’s physical health, but then remained on hiatus even after he recovered and continued working on his other ongoing series, Real. Vagabond remained untouched for over a year and a half, finally resuming in March 2012 with chapters on a monthly basis instead of the weekly or biweekly schedules the manga had been following before.

The following is an abridged version of one interviewer’s series of conversations with Inoue just before, and then during, that 19-month gap. Continue reading

Hiroya Oku on Gantz

Because I recently did a marathon reread of Gantz and I’m still riding the high from it, here are some highlights from an interview with Hiroya Oku back in 2010, when he was getting started with the final arc.


gantzOn his relationship with American cinema: “I came up with the idea for the final arc about three years into the series. I wanted to end with a global-scale armageddon, my own attempt at Independence Day [the 1996 film]. The sheer scale of the giant UFO in that movie, the way Earth was just helpless to the aliens’ attack — no Hollywood movie has managed to surpass that image yet. I wanted to take that and try to make it something more aggressive, though. Scarier. More like they’ve really invaded the place. Like, here are these giant bizarre objects in the sky that just show up and shoot down onto Earth, and then they turn out to be war machines that come to life. I felt pretty sure that it was an image that nobody’d seen before, so that’s what I did. Manga doesn’t pack the same punch that movies can, but I’d like to think that if I manage to draw something that people haven’t seen before, the impact on the reader at least comes somewhere close to that of film. Hit them with a striking image, then suck them into the story. Another thing is how in manga you can do these pages of small panels and then really surprise the reader with a giant two-page picture, almost like when the music in movies suddenly strikes a note really loudly. The panel thing is something film can’t do, so I try to make the most of that technique. Continue reading

Inio Asano interview — “Reality is tough, so read this manga about cute girls and feel better”

Warning: This interview contains serious spoilers to Goodnight Punpun, is very long, and will answer an alarming amount of the questions you had about that fucking manga. Also, if you like this interview, might I also recommend Matt Thorn’s debunking of the myth that Asano is transgender?


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–Congratulations on finishing Goodnight Punpun. How does it feel?

Inio Asano: It’s good to be finished, at long last.

–It’s your longest work yet. A kid could have entered elementary school and graduated by the time you’d finished.

Asano: Almost seven years. I’d had the outline of Goodnight Punpun laid out from the start and I’ve known for years now how it would all end, so it’s felt like it’s been finished for a long time, for me. But I couldn’t let myself slack off. I had to see it through to the end, or else I wouldn’t be satisfied with myself. So I stuck with it, and in the end it came out as double the length I’d planned it to be (7 volumes). So, yeah, it really is good to be done, at long last.

–I interviewed you back when volume 3 came out, and you said at the time that you made up the overall plot of the whole manga in about 30 minutes. What was the story that you’d come up with at that point?

Asano: What I had planned at the time I’d finished the first chapter was that it’d tell the story of this boy named Punpun as he grew up, spanning roughly ten years.

–I see.

Asano: The heroine was Aiko, and if you were to label it by genre, it’d be a love manga. A romance. The turning point of the story was to be some sort of incident that happens partway through, after which Punpun and Aiko go on the run, and then the second half of the story was supposed to be like a road movie.

–So the gentle tone of the story back when the characters were in elementary school was always going to be violated.

Asano: I’d known from the start that an incident would happen later on, and I wanted to make it as absolutely shocking as possible, so I decided I would take the time to fully draw out their silly childhood. Continue reading

“I believe in female supremacism”: A Hiroaki Samura interview

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The following interview is from an issue of the newly defunct magazine Manga Erotics F a little over a year old, a few months after Blade of the Immortal ended. Samura also started a new manga series in the same Erotics F issue: Harukaze no Sunegurachika (“Snegurochka of the Spring Wind”), a single-volume story set in the Soviet Union that goes on sale in Japan in July, and which they refer to in the interview.

So, are you ready to see Samura say some strange, sometimes troubling things about the fairer sex? Great! Here we go:


–Your history as a manga artist has been discussed elsewhere quite a few times already, so this time I want to stick to a narrower, more specific theme—girls. So, first, let’s talk about how you do women in your manga. Visually speaking, what is it you pay attention to when you’re drawing a woman? Continue reading

Taiyo Matsumoto with Inio Asano and Keigo Shinzo

So, today I bring you a recent conversation between Taiyo Matsumoto, Inio Asano and Keigo Shinzo that ran in Monthly Spirits. The first two names should be familiar to everyone, but I don’t think anything of Shinzo’s has been translated into English, so I don’t suppose anyone knows anything about him. He came out with a pretty good first book that generated mild buzz among cool manga readers back in 2010, and he’s put out a few things since then that I mostly haven’t read yet. Here’s a sample of what his stuff looks like.

But anyway, here’s the conversation. Don’t say I never do anything for you, internets.


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Keigo Shinzo: Okay, right off the bat, the question I most want to ask you, Taiyo, is how did you feel about your manga when you were 27 years old? I think it would’ve been right around the time you’d finished Tekkon Kinkreet.

Taiyo Matsumoto: How old are you, Shinzo?

Shinzo: 27.

Matsumoto: I’ve almost got two decades on you, then — I’m 46. What about you, Inio?

Inio Asano: I’m 33.

Matsumoto: You guys are so young. You wouldn’t know it reading your manga. These days, they sometimes put your age in brackets next to your name when you get interviewed for something — “Taiyo Matsumoto (46)”. It always gets me. Like, “They can’t mean me, can they?”

Shinzo/Asano: (laugh)

Matsumoto: Okay, when I was 27… Let’s see. Tekkon Kinkreet was a total flop, so I took my editor’s advice for my next work and went with a sports manga — Ping Pong. It was after finishing Ping Pong (at age 30) that I decided I wouldn’t do weekly magazine serializations anymore. I would wake up, sit at a desk stacked with CalorieMate bars, start drawing, and the next thing I knew it’d be evening. It was no way to live.

Continue reading

Taiyo Matsumoto and Daisuke Igarashi

Here’s a conversation between Igarashi Daisuke and Taiyou Matsumoto that ran in the magazine Brutus in early 2012.

Picture of Matsumoto and Igarashi, from the relevant issue of Brutus.

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Taiyo Matsumoto: I feel like you kind of came out of nowhere. I’ve been drawing manga for about 25 years, but you really blew me away. I first heard your name around the time Witches came out, and at first I thought you were still new to the scene. This guy is just incredible, I thought—it was so polished and everything. I was a little worried for myself.

Daisuke Igarashi: I found out about you when I was a student. Your work was being featured in a magazine or something, and seeing your manga cover designs I thought to myself, “This is really good, this is my kind of art”, but I figured I would probably be influenced by it if I read it, though. That fear kind of trumped everything else, so I avoided your work for a long time. (laugh) Nowadays I actually read your work just to steal from it, though.

Matsumoto: I find I can’t tell who you’ve been influenced by when I look at your work. With most manga artists you can see that, Oh, this artist’s a Katsuhiro Otomo fan, this one’s a Yumi Tada fan.  With your art, though, I can’t tell; you leave me wondering, “What artist is this guy into?” You’re original, I guess is what I’m saying. Hmmm… it feels kind of like you’ve come to manga via painting.

Continue reading