Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Case Closed Volume 71 and 72 Review

The year is 2011. Conan has been running in Weekly Shounen Sunday for about 17 and a half years. When is this going to end? Will Conan ever beat the Black Org? Will he and Ran get together? Maybe?! BUT WHEN IS THIS SERIES GOING TO END?!! The answer is never, but at least we still have Viz's releases.

Hi everyone! It’s Jecka, semi-enthusiast of Detective Conan, here to bring a little something different to the table. So about six months ago, there was a poll asking if you’d like the English volumes to be covered and here I am!! Gonna be honest, this took me so long to write that I ended up waiting for volume 72 as well but that’s okay since we FINALLY got the London case. Let's get going.

What's the hardest thing about covering Detective Conan (or in this case, Case Closed) volume, you ask? For sure it'd be the continuous cases. Gosho Aoyama tends to make the cases 3-5 chapters and volumes typically contain 11 chapters so a case concluding on the final chapter of the volume is rare. The first case we get in volume 71 is “The VHS of Memories”, (continuing from volume 70), which is essentially a Chiba love story. This case is cute but Aoyama's tendency to use (or overuse) the “childhood friends” trope is a little tiring. Furthermore he doubles down with Chiba who doesn't recognize Naeko so it adds to the frustration.

Next is a warm welcome from Jolly ol’ London. I’ve never been to London, but I’m always down for a visit a city in a country I’ve never been to. Aoyama's artwork does a great job capturing the local landmarks; the London eye, Big Ben, and 221B Baker Street. However, if there’s one thing I never liked about this case from the several re-watches and this reread it'd be everyone’s obsession over Sherlock Holmes. He’s treated like he was a real hero although everyone knows he’s fictional. If you told me this was a fever dream Conan had one night, I’d believe it because that’s what this case feels like.
The English used in the Japanese version of this case is quite good with the exception of a few grammatical errors and some awkward phrasing. Viz does their best to keep the original while correcting some of the problems.

I can’t imagine Aoyama knows English well or at all really, but with this being only the third case he used English in (the first being the New York City case in volumes 34 and 35), I think he does a pretty decent job.

So, how about that case? The case is great. My favorite part is definitely the climax. Aoyama uses braille as a way to send messages similar to Morse code and I find that really creative. Most of the case is a scavenger hunt, and the story takes a different direction than most cases, but the obsession with Sherlock Holmes bugs me. Finally, yes, this is a big deal if you like the ShinRan ship. Aoyama teases us a little in this case, and it's not until recently (last year!) That he gives a follow up to these events. I won’t go into what happened, but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t at least a little excited for the two of them finally communicating to each other about their relationship. Considering this was drawn in 2011 and the “sequel” was nearly a decade later, I’m not sure how we as fans survived the wait.

Ahem, moving on. The next case in volume 72 follows Conan, now back in Japan, playing with the detective Boys in an abandoned building. It’s set to be demolished soon, but sure, go right ahead and play kick-the-can/hide-and-seek. This case I remember well; It was one of the first manga cases I skimmed though when I first started watching Conan back in 2011. I was curious to see how many chapters/episodes the series was up to and what was happening. The other thing I remember about it is the earthquake. Going back to the case, while the kids are wondering where Genta is hiding, an earthquake occurs. This was only months after the Tohoku earthquake so my memory of this case is how the case was edited in the anime. In the anime the disaster itself was completely removed as the actual earthquake was traumatizing with the tsunami and the damage to the Fukushima power plant. Otherwise, this case is your run of the mill Detective Boys case: No one dies, the kids are in minor peril, and they all go home and eat curry. Just a light snack after that big fish and chips meal.

The 2nd full case in this volume has to do with Kogoro giving a speech at his alma mater and a haunted house attraction. Believe it or not I never completed this one in the anime and the last time I saw this case was in 2011/2012. But hey, this is just in time for Halloween.

Ran and horror are never a good mix. Add in a bit of Conan, and it's a fine night for murder. I mostly enjoyed this case. It’s a simple revenge case, but I find it visually appealing. Conan’s inner commentary is actually pretty funny, and Sonoko is always a joy to see. Normally I’m not one for Halloween/horror stuff, but in this case I enjoyed it, and this is one of the best pages ever (kinda NSFW):

I love the way each panel is detailed and the angle Aoyama uses in the first. Conan isn’t typically a horror series (though I guess you could argue with all of the murder and mayhem it's almost one) but it never ceases to surprise its readers. Say what you want about his story telling, but Aoyama’s art and storyboarding is something else; the way the pages flow make each chapter an entertaining read even without dialog. Another thing I like about this is how Ran is using Conan as a shield. Unable to escape, he has to go along for the ride, although I’m not sure how comfortable being carried around by some jumpy girls could be. Likewise carrying a 40 pound kid around can’t be too comfortable either, you can't be picky in what weapons you use against the undead.

Final full case of volume 72 and it’s about Karuta. Before we continue here are three things you need to know about Gosho Aoyama:

1) he loves baseball (something he shares with his friend Mitsuru Adachi).
2) he enjoys video games (mostly Kancolle and Animal Crossing).
3) he loves Chihayafuru.

Looking back on this now that I know what karuta is I have more of an appreciation for this case. There isn't competitive karuta as you’d see in Chihayafuru, but as a first introduction it did make me curious about the game and how it’s played. As for the case, I don’t dislike the kids as much as some do and this case has them trying to solve a case since Conan is stuck in bed with a cold. Due to this, Haibara has to take care of the kids on her own and play detective in his place.

Volumes 71 and 72 don’t focus on the main plot of the series: Conan finding the Black Org. They do, however, continuously grow character relationships and we’re even taken to an entirely different country. I enjoy the character relationships and the twists and turns in the series. I read Conan for the adventures and these two volumes are no exception. I mentioned before I started watching the series in June 2011, and reading these volumes in particular was nostalgic as these are the cases I watched when I caught up to the series, and it was a pleasure to experience these chapters through this reread and appreciate them in new ways.

The last chapter in Volume 72 is the beginning of a new case, but I'll wait to cover that with volume 73 when it launches in January. Volume 73 is where we get some really fun mysteries and I'm looking forward to sharing them with you. I hope you enjoyed my unique take on Conan, and I very much hope that I'll have the chance to talk about the series again with everyone, and that's one truth that does prevail. Until then, thanks for reading!

Monday, October 28, 2019

Sunday Champions. (Editor in chief Ichihara and Takekawa interview pt1)

Sliding in at the end of the month is me, your tired translator and host! I've been sitting on this one for a really long time, but I finally got half of it done. (Half is better than none, trust me.) The interview is four "pages" long, but is quite wordy so I'm splitting it in half so folks can read some of it right away and keep the page from becoming too unwieldy. So what is this? It is as the title says --an interview with the head editor at Weekly Shounen Sunday --Takenori Ichihara and Shounen Champion's Shingo Takekawa. Champion recently celebrated it's 50th anniversary and to commemorate the event they took on the challenge of sitting down with their allies at Jump, Magazine, and of course Sunday. The interview was actually very informative and dare I say it, interesting! I'll have the second part out soon (I hope) but for now enjoy this first half.

(“The only four shounen manga magazines of their kind in the world. But we're not rivals –we're “companions”.)

“Sunday has the image of a 'Cool older brother' (Takekawa)

----You two meet on occasion and have drinks. During this time do you talk about manga? Or is it the opposite where you don't discuss work at all?

Ichihara: Manga is basically all we can talk about. (laughs). Our hobbies, and stuff like what cars we drive and whatnot never comes up.

Takekawa: If you take manga away from us there's nothing left, huh? (laughs).

---- As editors of Shounen Champion and Shounen Sunday, how much mutual awareness do you have of each other, if at all?

Takekawa: As the only four shounen manga magazines of their kind in the world, I'd like to say we're like allies. Each and every week we're thinking and feeling “What will they do now”as we read.

Ichihara: Champion is limitless in what it can do unlike other magazines, so it's not surprising that they get curious as to what it's up to. However what does it mean to have “awareness”? If one gets caught up in the thinking of “Oh so that's what those guys over there are planning” then it becomes more about rehashing their steps rather than something akin to “jealousy”.

Takekawa: Yeah, we're more about looking on at other magazines with a sense of pure reverence than jealousy.

Ichihara: If you mean awareness in that sense then there's nothing beyond professionalism, I think. After all we were reading all four magazines –including Jump and Magazine since we were kids.

Takekawa: Right? I want to say that for the most part manga editors have been reading and enjoying manga since they were children, and somehow ended up here. That's why it's not work to us, it's just expanding on what we already love.

---What are your impressions on each other's magazines?

Takekawa: My impression on Sunday now is the same as a long time ago. They're the “cooler older brother.” The series running Champion right now give the impression of being somewhat uneven I think –especially in comparison to the beautiful arrangement that Sunday has. Sunday exudes an aura of “Just relax and read”.

Ichihara: I'm not sure if having a beautiful arrangement is a good or bad thing. (laughs) For me, Champion's image is –well, it's more than a mere 'image', it feels like each magazine is on the level of a new civilization. It's incredibly rough, like concrete or gravel –a tough kind of feeling.

Takekawa: A rough feeling huh? (Laughs) Your praise makes me really happy.

Ichihara: You must have many difficulties in bringing about and maintaining that tough exterior, but it's a plus. The splitting image of Taizou Kabemura.
(Shounen manga's history is split between “Before Kabemura” and “After Kabemura”. --Ichihara).

---Champion's 2nd and 5th editorial chief was Taizou Kabemura. Champion went through impressive growth during his second stint in the 1970's especially –you could say that was it's first “Golden age”.

Ichihara: I love the history of shounen manga. During my first year as a new employee in Shogakukan, I read all of the documents between Sunday and Magazine. My impression at the time was even though Sunday and Magazine were born in 1959, they weren't really “Manga magazines” back then.

---Back then shounen magazines were way different than they are now. The covers featured baseball players like Sadaharu Oh and Shigeo Nagashima, and even ran novels. They're almost completely different than they are today.

Takekawa: The first issue of Shounen Champion featured the kick-boxer Tadashi Sawamura. It was a big deal to have stars from various circles featured in many magazines back then, huh?

Ichihara: The beginnings of Sunday and Magazine featured manga from the influential manga artists like Osamu Tezuka and Shotaro Ishinomori. In fact many amazing artists ran in these magazines, but it was an extremely slow build up for these magazines to feature manga exclusively. It's because the idea of a manga magazine was only beginning to form in the 1960's. Kiichi Toyoda who has since passed away was the first head editor of Shounen Sunday and he was said to have commented on the magazine that they didn't really know what they wanted to make at first. No one really had the know how to make a magazine directed to teenage boys after all. So the idea was to “somehow get together manga artists who seem like they'd make popular stuff”. They didn't have any particular quibbles with genre, since they didn't know what kind of manga would sell. --They just ran whatever they could for the first 10 to 15 years –gambling with trial or error.

---I see.

Ichihara: It was after that point that Magazine came out with “Kyoujin no Hoshi” and “Ashita no Joe”. “Joe” in particular was primarily read by folks in college. Which is why it's a misnomer to think that Magazine was only read by Elementary and middle school students. Ultimately it was Mr. Kabemura who made the distinction “This is what a magazine serializing manga for teenage boys should have”. For example –sports, action, occupational, comedy, and slightly perverted love comedies –it was Mr. Kabemura's personal aesthetic that all of these series run in one magazine. It was having all the things that middle and high schoolers like in one place like a kid's lunchbox that gave shape to how shounen magazines formed; especially as other magazines copied this format.

---Sunday and Magazine had already been around ten years by that time, but you're stating that it was Mr. Kabemura who gave birth to the current shape of Shounen magazines, then. It's true that in the 70's that we got manga like the baseball series “Dokaben” and the occupational manga “Black Jack”, as well as the slightly erotic “Cutie Honey”, school manga like “Yuuhi ga oka no Souridaijin” horror manga like “Ekoeko Azaraku”, gag manga like “Gaki deka” --famous works of various genres came one after another.

Takekawa: Mr. Kabemura has already passed way, but like Mr. Ichihara I've met many of the past editors in various get togethers. During the Champion 50th anniversary project, I was able to talk with the first head editor of Champion: Kyoumi Narita. Despite Narita being more senior than Mr. Kabemura, most of the talk was about Kabemura instead. (laughs) It truly does seem as if from it's roots on up that Champion is a product of Kabemura's influence. Of course Narita worked really hard to build Champion's foundations as a magazine –creating the first rails for the magazine to ride upon, and that alone deserves praise, but it was Kabemura's time as the second editorial chief that the roadmap to “what a shounen manga should be” really came into formation. Mr. Ichihara mentioned it earlier –it felt as if everything was lined up together in one place like a child's lunchbox. It's because of this that Jump, Magazine, Sunday all lined up to do the same and the age of shounan manga magazines began to take form at a thunderous pace and became the impressions we have of them now.

Ichihara: Shounen manga's history is split between “Before Kabemura” and “After Kabemura”

(Champion's forte is having many artists who put tropes into action. -Takekawa).

---Going back to your impressions, What is an element you'd say “I can't beat the opposition” in?

Takekawa: I try not to think too much about what I can't beat the opposition in. Rather than that I think it's more important to consider one's strengths and their individual characteristics. For example we talk about the creator's royal road, and how the editorial staff can get close to that person's style. That is how Champion has done things for a very long time. After all it is the creator who is coming up with the ideas. For example, the author of “Dokaben” Mr. Shinji Mizushima played grass lot baseball, the author of “Baki” Mr. Keisuke Itagaki was once in the self defense forces, and Mr. Wataru Watanabe who draws “Yowamushi pedal” rode bikes thousands of meters an entire year before starting the series. We have many authors in Champion who actually live on the front lines of what they draw and I believe that is the “knack” of Shounen magazine. Even now we've got some amazing talent –rather than thinking whether we can or can't outdo the opponent isn't important when there are other points to consider –Kentaro Satou said about the same thing when he appeared on “SASUKE” last year. Is that the same for you guys over at Sunday?

(TN- Kentaro Satou is the artist of “Magical girl site which runs in Monthly Champion.)

Ichihara: For Sunday manga, a good way to put it is that the series have a certain kind of refinement to them. It might be a slight bit of a depreciation to say this, but they're “adult-like”. Normally you'd expect a shounen manga protagonist to be full of energy and somewhat clumsy. The kind of character who would do anything to help out their friends and goes through many trials and tribulations to accomplish  their goals. However, that's actually a rare trait to have in Shounen Sunday manga. Rather you have many protagonists similar to those in “Detective Conan” who are smart city folk instead. Rather than our forte, I'd say it's in response to readers over several decades who like seeing this kind of character. It's the way culture has built up the magazine over a long time, I think. I'd say Sunday can't really beat Champion or Magazine when it comes to rougher, tougher manga, but that's not what Sunday stakes it's name upon anyway. For example, I think it's essential for a series like “Baki” to be in Champion. It's a culture where each magazine has staked out it's own territory –for example if an American were to say “This Miso soup is delicious, but how about I stick this wiener into it”? It'd be a thing where “Maybe it'd taste good, but is this culture?”

Takekawa: Hahahah.

--- That sense of “This suits this magazine” do you think that's the artists at work? Or the editors?

Ichihara: Hmm. I'd say both.

Takekawa: I don't think the artists or the editorial staff are conscious of it themselves. “This is a Champion manga, so it's in shounen champion” isn't something people really think about. Rather, it just feels like in the end that's how things work out. It's surprising but I believe that the right manga artists will gather to the right place on their own.

(I think it's wrong to say “That editorial department let that artist slip away” -Ichihara.)

---On the subject of “Fitting a magazine's type”. For the sake of argument –what would you do if a artist fitting Champion's profile came to Sunday?

Ichiahara: It'd depend on what the editor of that applicant would want to do. (laughs.)

---True. Some might even think “It's because we don't have someone with this narrative style here that I want to serialize them anyway”.

Ichihara: That's right. There are people like that. For example, I'm really not a fan of delinquent manga, but Mr. Hiroyuki Nishimori's manga “Kyou kara ore wa!!” is an excellent match for the magazine. In that case it'd be widening our culture. There's not a need be narrow minded and think at all times. “Oh this is Sunday” It's when borders and preconception are widened that you get innovative new works. Like for example when “Death Note” started in Jump, I'm sure many thought. “Oh so Jump does this now?”

Takekawa: That was really shocking.

Ichihara: Jump's objective is to appeal to the grade school demographic, but “Death Note” isn't the kind of series they'd gravitate toward. However, it's not as if serializing it was a purposeful effort to “widen our audience”, rather someone just thought it was interesting and let it run. The audience growing as a result was seen in hindsight. Though there are many stories where an editor has said “Oh that artist came to our department and we told them they don't fit our image. In the end they went to a different magazine and I couldn't have imagined they'd become this popular”. From every magazine.

---It's quite the infamous story that the author of “Attack on Titan” went to a different magazine at first.

Ichihara: I feel like every editor has at least 10 stories like this. When hearing those kinds of stories I'm sure there are folks that say “How could you let that artist slip away, you idiot?!” But I think that's wrong. That editor had their own aesthetic, and made the decision “This artist won't do here.” Due to that they went to another place and were able to blossom. Different cultures will give birth to different cultivation –and the possibility that growth won't happen in the wrong environment is there.

Takekawa: And it's the artist themselves that decides which magazine they want to go to. So “slipping away” is a misnomer anyway.

Ichihara: Right.

(There's something irritating about Beastars....Ichihara).

---The “rough” Champion and the “Cool older brother” have differing narrative what is a work you'd want Sunday fans to read in Champion, Mr. Takekawa?

Takekawa: A series I'd want anyone to read in Champion right now would have to be without a doubt “Beastars”. The setting is a world of animals where the herbivores and carnivores are in conflict. The artwork is lively, and the diversity reflected in today's society is represented well in the series. I can say with confidence that it's a series that's on the cutting edge of Shounen manga nowadays.

Ichihara: It's a splendid manga. I can't really describe in words how good it is. I think the representation of human life is so well crafted that it's not just a good manga but a good story overall. Though because it's drawn by a human there are all kinds of limitations. That being said, it would come off feeling artificial if it was some cute girl avatar instead. So as a humanistic work, “Beastars” presentation is second to none.

Takekawa: Thank you so much. Ms. Itagaki will be happy to hear that.

Ichihara: There's something irritating about Beastars. Uh, maybe “irritating” isn't the right word....(laughs).

Takekawa: Please by all means talk about what irritates you. (laughs).

Ichihara: It feels like we've lost when it comes to this genre so “irritated” may be the best way to put it. (laughs). For a period of time, personification was a big draw, so I got to thinking to myself “It's time for us to personify something in order to broaden or media reach.” So if it were a Sunday like romcom,  with personification as the core, then what I was thinking was a world where only the mens faces were dog-like, and then we'd have the female junior-high protagonist at a fast food place declaring “I'm so tired of shiba-inus!!” “For now on i'm all about Yorkshire terriers” as the serialization opens. The different breeds of dogs would have different personalities, so a world like that would have various means of presenting expressions and reactions, and would broaden horizons by quite a bit. However to create that world a real knack for expressiveness would be necessary as well as intelligence to get such a world to work. I was racking my brains to think of an artist with that kind of talent and then “Beastars” began. (laughs). It had already done what I wanted so now I couldn't. Character expressions, animal personification, all of them are covered so well in “Beastars”.

Takekawa: “Beastars” expressive techniques are in a field of their own, huh.

Ichihara: That's right. Moreover the art just continues to improve with each issue –it's truly surprising. From the first chapter until now the character's expressions and charm have become amazingly good!

Takekawa: The artwork was an impressive bloom from the very start.

Ichihara: Yes, the character artwork is powerful, like a picture of flowers. If there are flowers, then whether they're drawn well or not the design is there. If the design isn't well done then they're forgettable, so of course you want to make sure the design is on point. Well, it is our job to seek out these flowers and cultivate them.

Takekawa: Flowers huh? Artistic skill isn't an ability one is born with after all. There are different ranges and experiences. When I get in the bath and fall asleep after proofreading Beaststars thoughts of the next scene are all I can think of. It's incredible, it's flowers that leave a strong impression that you want to watch over.

Ichihara: Flowers take a lot of effort and skill to raise, so it's cruel when they don't live up to expectations.

Monday, October 7, 2019

Golden Sunday (Takahashi and Noda Interview) Part 2

Hey all! Been a little while, so I hope you've been keeping busy. I certainly have with this and that! The twitter is thriving, but the blog has been feeling a little lonely. How about I fix that up with another interview? That's right it's finally time for part two of the Takahashi and Noda talk! This was a lot of work and probably one of the toughest things I had to work on so needless to say I'm open to comments and (constructive) criticism. Noda and Takahashi are really a pair and this was fun despite being hard, so I hope you enjoy it.

“Golden Kamuy” volume 19 and Mao Volume 1 special project!!!

Satoru Noda x Rumiko Takahashi
The two artists who draw the “Meiji” and “Taishou” in the Reiwa era –Special Conversation!!
Mr. Noda, Ms. Takahashi, thanks so much for continuing this conversation. Ms. Takahashi what would you say is the charm of “Golden Kamuy”?
Takahashi (To be known as T): Hm, I guess I'd say how the realism is at a scary level. I think that's good, but perhaps the sudden appearance of the men getting into the sauna. It's like “Where did the tension go”? Though that too has it's charm, since people would probably wonder “How did they possibly get in there?”
Noda (To be known as N): It's just a bad habit of mine to fool around...
T: But that's still really interesting.
N: Conversely I get too embarrassed to draw naked girls acting all cute. Though with guys I have no problem.
T: Several pages before they were at each other's throats trying to kill one another, but then they're able to have a good enough affinity to mix together. It's kind of amazing, really.
N: I thought it was important to give them openings. It seems only Hijikata is tough as nails.
T: I understand. Deciding on who will be the tough one can be difficult, huh...Rarely do things go exactly as I plan them. I find it's often best to think of things as vaguely as possible as through doing that more interesting ideas that you weren't expecting can happen. Up until now I can say it's the things I wasn't planning for that ended up being the most fun to draw.
N: So you've never experienced writer's block?
T: Writer's block...of course I have? Though I don't acknowledge it. So let's just go with saying I've never experienced it.
N: I suppose for a weekly serialization one really doesn't have time to worry about writer's block. Though what would you say your reason is to keep drawing interesting manga in a weekly magazine?
T: It's embarrassing for me to say this, but I'd say it mostly has to do with me not wanting to back down from a challenge. If I find myself drawing a manuscript that's boring, then I'd rather stop than allow the quality to drop. It's because I keep this in mind that I can keep doing my best to draw an interesting manuscript. Even if you do have a high level manuscript ready, if you're able to think of something more fun in the meantime you should change it. In the end reviewing your work and reading it over is invaluable. If you're drawing something that you never want to see again then drawing manga is pretty difficult, no?
N: It is. That's why when I'm preparing for the collected volumes I make a lot of changes. Even when I get a week off from the magazine I'm basically using that to work.
T: Do you have any interesting anecdotes about that?
N: Well, it's kind of hard to talk about, but stuff like having enough pages and finding an easy means of tying events together, changing some of the lines, it's kind of like going back in time which I find somewhat fun. I even go back and fix Tanigaki's chest hairs.
T: Even Tanigaki's chest hairs, huh...(laughs).
T: Having enough pages to maintain momentum is quite important, probably just as much as Tanigaki's chest hairs.
N: When looking at the artwork it's easy to get overwhelmed by feelings isn't it? Especially when drawing something really difficult –you end up not realizing things until it's too late.
T: I get that. When there are gaps you end up feeling like an idiot....My debut work was a comedy, and when you saw it at a glance that's what it appeared to be. However when then drawing serious manga instead it gets to be a real trial to not have things looking foolish...
N: Is “MAO” any different?
T: “MAO” is quite restrained. Though I haven't thought of anything too silly for it either (laughs).
However there are times where there isn't a joke or straight man that are supposed to be funny. Without them saying so, where should one laugh? There are moments like these. Do you know Ranma ½?
N: Of course.
T: There were times where to me I'd have intended to draw a really sad scene, but when the editor read it they'd burst out laughing. Like for example when the guys who became a duck and pig went out on a journey...
N: Ryouga and Mousse, right?
T: Ah yes. So a lot had happened to them and they weren't able to return to themselves. So for that scene I had thought I'd drawn a really sad scene.
N: You had worked so hard on it but in the it was taken instead as a hilarious scene, despite the characters being dead serious about it. In Golden Kamuy there's a guy –Anehata who makes the utmost effort to stalk and have sex with animals. It's pretty deplorable, but because he's so serious about it, it almost feels like you should forgive him and cheer him on. Of course I can't go drawing that as is.
T: It was a somewhat moving scene. (laughs). I really like the story about the old guy and the princess. I laughed a lot at it –their pure love was really something else, wasn't it?
N: For that scene I asked my assistant to draw the clouds as a heart, and they were like “huh”?...
(Thinking of really charismatic characters...)
N: Do you think of the themes of the series from the first chapter?
T: For this series (Mao) I had had decided on just the major themes, but I hadn't quite figured out how I'd go about executing them. So each time I'd reach a highlight with the mindset “Okay this is how this should be.” So the highlights themselves were roughly decided on.
N: For me I'd have my editors asking me often “what's the theme for this week's chapter supposed to be?” It seems like they had totally forgotten...
T: I understand what it is to forget. It's not quite the same as when I have meetings with the editor, I'd remember the really interesting parts of the chapter the storyboard and Otoya –stuff like that.
N: I understand, but sometimes things go differently than my expectations, for example the character known as Henmi wasn't one I had developed very much and the editor even said that it'd be okay to kill him off...but I thought I should work on him some more and forcefully gave him some character development. After that I thought the manga needed something new, I decided why not make it a dog manga? Which meant bringing back Ryuu who had been popular before, so I strategically introduced him at a certain point. Ryuu allowed the story to expand even more so he's quite the convenient character.
T: Oh? Are there any others?
N: Kirawus and Kadokura are two characters I personally like a lot. They're quite a reliable duo. Oh and so I don't forget there was one charismatic evening where I was eating with my editors and they said “You should think of some incredible characters right now.” So I revealed to them “I'm thinking of a character who has sex with animals. What do you think?” The answer was “ that right?” And it was through that conversation that a character who probably shouldn't have been created was born. “He's a powerful medicine for the series, but where would you be able to introduce him naturally without it being forced within the nature of the Ainu?” Was the question, but because he's defiling animals I think that the Ainu have no choice but to get involved.” was my response. That's how that charismatic night went.
T: (Laughs) On the subject of powerful medicines, let's take the creation of the Edogai family. Of course Edogai is interesting but it's through how creepy he is.
N: Thank you. I found the idea of counterfeits to be extremely compelling. For that I even went to a taxidermist place for information and I got all kinds of information to keep things realistic from the workers there.
T: I see. On that note, what manga influenced you?
N: I'm a Jump reader. Of course things like “Kinniukman” and “Hana no Keiji” I picked up the beefy men chilling in a hot-spring scene from the reader's perspective from “Hana no Keiji” in particular, but it was meant to tie in with the previous scene. It's probably where I grew my sense of Machismo. When I was a kid, I had the naked poster of “Rambo 3” hanging over my bed. I was really a troublesome elementary school student. Ms. Takahashi, what's your ideal badass guy like?
T: Fundamentally I love the movie “Drunken fist” with Jackie Chan.
N: Jackie Chan is really cool, isn't he? I personally love “Drunken Fist” too.
T: Other than that I read “Ashita no Joe” and “Dororo” when I was a child. It seems my type is mostly made up of cool guys seen in shounen manga. However, since my debut was a comedy manga, I didn't really get to draw that type of character.
N: But Ranma is pretty cool, isn't he?
T: He is, but then there's “Ranma” within him. I wonder if drawing a guy like him was a good idea or not? (laughs).
(Note- Male Ranma is referred to using kanji, while female Ranma is written in hiragana. Noda uses the kanji here denoting the male Ranma, while Takahashi uses the hiragana denoting female.)
(A proper discussion of parents and results.)
T: Mr. Noda, when did you decide that you'd become a manga artist?
N: I'd say around the time of my high school graduation. Up until then I had only been reading (shounen) jump, and everyone in the magazine was amazing like faraway existences. I hadn't even drawn that much at the time either. Around that time I started reading Young Jump....I'm not sure how to put this but I saw that even though the newbies weren't the best they still did their best and that encouraged me. Certain manga there had a lot of zeal in them, but those are the kind of manga I love.
T: I get it, I do.
N: So I got to thinking that I'd try drawing something too. It's because this magazine in particular gaive me so much courage. Of courser the art quality in young jump is very high and you have to put your all into your work.
T: So what was your first work? Where did you submit it?
N: I won a prize at that magazine. I never said to my parents “I want to be a manga artist”. Though since I had results –a prize even, I thought that I should consult with them with what I wanted. “I said that I “Wanted to go to Tokyo”.
T: You got a prize for the very first manga you drew? That's amazing.
N: It was really crappy in all honesty. I didn't even use a G pen. Though before I knew it I was in Tokyo as Mitsurou Kubo's assistant. Kubo had also come from their homeland as a youngster full of dreams to pursue being a manga artist. If it weren't for that I wouldn't be in Tokyo so I took Kubo's invitation.
T: How old were you at that time?
N: I was over twenty. I got my start kind of late, but there had been some time that passed before I had really made my mind up to be a manga artist. While I was waiting for a serialization of my own I was still thinking about it, and from there I ended up at Yasuyuki Kunitomo's place as an assistant. Kunitomo had a great working schedule. I had 3 days to myself. It was afterwards that Kunimoto said to me “I'm glad that I gave you time to work on your own series.”
(I learned a lot from Kunitomo.)
T: Were you still using analog tools to draw while assisting Kunitomo?
N: Half of the time. Rather than say digital, we were using analog means to draw all kinds of scenery on the computer. Then we'd print out that data and attach it to the manuscript. So we'd draw backgrounds using analog scan those to the computer to build up stock, and it was my job to cut these and attach the various settings to the manuscript.
T: I see.
N: After I left there, I thought to go all digital, and thought“I'll start things from this age!”
T: I have a friend who appreciates the arts, so I knew of Kunitomo through them, but I didn't know they're a person who was advancing things in their own way.
N: Kunitomo is a very reasonable person.
T: It's through this that I can see in the near future that the staff of a series work from their indiviual homes, and I think it's incredible that this new method exists.
N: Right? Kunitomo knew computers better than I did when I was their assistant. They even taught me how to divide storyboards.
T: How to divide storyboards?
N: He taught me that since a chapter is 18 pages, that developments and scenes should change every six pages. If you show the same scenery for more than six pages it'll get boring. I learned all kinds of things there.
T: I understand what Kunitomo means about six pages. I spend about three days on the storyboard, and I spend a surprising amount of time chopping scenes up. After I get through page six ask myself if it's ready to show to the editor, if the point the story diverts should go here, if everything up until this point is okay, and so on. So I totally understand.
N: On that point, where do you get your ideas Ms. Takahashi? Movies? Books?
T: I wouldn't necessarily say I'm inspired by movies, but I do get a surprising amount of enjoyment from novels...
N: Why would you say that?
T: Obviously it's manga, if it's manga you can think of all kinds of foolish stuff and it's still fun. (laughs).
N: That is really fun isn't it?
(Do you have any routines you follow when drawing manga?)
T: It acts as a magic charm for me but when I'm drawing the storyboards I eat fish. I pray that the taurine I'm ingesting helps my brain work better.
N: You've always been doing that?
T: That's right. I always do it, I always find a way to. Any fish will do.
N: For me I don't have anything at all. When I'm drawing I don't move or do anything at all other than focusing on my artwork. I've even started correcting how I set my teeth. If I leave it be I can have them perfectly aligned. Do you not watch TV or anything either?
T: Eh? Of course I do.
N: Is that so? I don't even listen to the radio.
T: I have the TV on. I need the sound...Even during my meetings with the editor I have the TV on and sometimes words that I find interesting come up on the news. “Oh, that's a good one, that word is interesting” I'll think. On that note, have you already got a final scene for “Golden Kamuy” in mind?
N: Yes I do. Really making sure that the story is consistent with the finale I have in mind is difficult. I'll do my best to make sure the wrap up to the story is prepared well.
T: Lately that man –Tsurumi has been rather surprising. I hadn't noticed him.
N: That story has always been heating up. I'm glad that a certain scene that occurred in volume 18 happened. Typically I think of how a volume has ten chapters in it, but as that was the centerpiece of the volume, I made several adjustments.
T: Having that character on the cover, even changing the're quite considerate to keep folks from buying it by mistake. (Laughs)
N: There are times where you've made a mistake and bought something, huh.
T: I have three copies. (laughs) Up until now I haven't really thought too hard about the volumes I have, but it seems I'll have to for now on. I really look forward to when new volumes of Golden Kamuy come out so I can't help myself.
N: Thank you so much. Please take this complimentary volume.
T: No no, I still rather enjoy going to the bookstore myself and buying manga. Thank you very much for today. I'm quite glad we were able to meet each other.
N: It was an honor for me as well. Thank you so much!