Mysterious Pirates of the Sunday Seas (Eiichiro Oda and Gosho Aoyama interview part 1)

Greetings everyone! It's your favorite ass backwards webmaster Sakaki with the part one of two that you've all been waiting for! Though no, if you've already read part two here then here's the first part. This was already posted by WSJ_manga (who you should really be following) and while we helped with some context the work is 99% theirs. Still in good faith of preservation, we're posting it here as well. 

It's a great interview the likes of which we'll likely never see again, so bask in it's glory, and be sure to ask before posting it elsewhere.

Now then, shall we deduct the stormy winds of the seven seas?

Eiichiro Oda x Gosho Aoyama OVER 100 Miracle Talk - Part 1

Last year, both ONE PIECE and Detective Conan surpassed 100 volumes. A miraculous dialogue between the two mangaka who have been at the forefront of the manga industry for many years has finally come to fruition!!

‘Jump’ and ‘Sunday’ Back Then…

– In a previous interview, Aoyama-sensei said that “it’d be interesting to have a talk with Oda-kun. As comrades who will reach 100 volumes simultaneously, I would like to talk about various things”. Oda-sensei answered in a comment that he “had never met him, but feels like a comrade in arms. I know how tough getting to 100 volumes is, Aoyama-san! Congrats on 100 volumes of Conan!”. This legendary talk is now finally coming true.

Aoyama: Oda-kun doesn’t really show his face much, so it’s an honor to actually see it haha.

Oda: Aoyama-san does show his face in a lot of places, though. But I’m really happy. I didn’t think I’d ever met you.

Aoyama: Me neither haha. I always thought there wouldn’t ever be a future in which I met you.

Oda: I was pretty impressed earlier because I got a business card from Weekly Shonen Sunday’s Editor-in-Chief. “I got a Sunday business card! This kind of stuff actually happens!”, haha.

– I have been looking for something you have in common, and it seems Oda-sensei was born in 1975 while Aoyama-sensei was born in 1963. You both share the same zodiac sign having been born in the Year of the Rabbit.

Aoyama: That’s right. Do you know about that Year of the Rabbit legend? Tetsuya Chiba-sensei was born in 1939, and Mitsuru Adachi-sensei was born in 1951. Both of them were also born in the Year of the Rabbit, separated by 12 years. I was also born 12 years after Mitsuru Adachi-sensei, and you were born 12 years exactly after me. We got no one after that.

Oda: I wish we could fit Akira Toriyama-sensei somewhere, but he doesn’t belong to the Year of the Rabbit haha. …I do have to recognize I have only known much about Weekly Shonen Jump. Do you have knowledge on other magazines, Aoyama-san?

Aoyama: Not really. At first, I brought my work to Weekly Shonen Magazine, and I was told “it didn’t really fit with them, so take it to a different publication”. That’s when I brought my work to Sunday, and that’s where I have been since then. 

Oda: You made your debut in 1986, right? What hits were there back before you debuted?

Aoyama: Well, I was a ‘Magazine Kid’, so it’s not like I read much of Jump, but I still enjoyed works like ‘1·2 no Sanshirou’ by Makoto Kobayashi and ‘Ore wa Teppei’ by Tetsuya Chiba. When it comes to Sunday, it was Mitsuru Adachi’s ‘Touch’.

Oda: I did read ‘Touch’, and also Mitsuru Adachi’s ‘Rough’.

Aoyama: I also remember watching Rumiko Takahashi’s ‘Urusei Yatsura’ TV Anime.

Oda: After debuting, you serialized ‘Magic Kaito’, ‘YAIBA’ and ‘3rd Base 4th’, being ‘Detective Conan’ your fourth work.

Aoyama: Right. Meanwhile, Oda-kun hasn’t drawn any series other than ONE PIECE?

Oda: Indeed. I’m a one-hit wonder.

Aoyama: A one-hit wonder! With a way-too-big one-hit haha.

Oda: What other series were serializing on Sunday when you started ‘Detective Conan’?

Aoyama: Well, it was a truly amazing time back then. Rumiko Takahashi’s ‘Ranma ½’, Kazuhiro Fujita’s ‘Ushio to Tora’, Mitsuru Adachi’s ‘H2’, Nishimori Hiroyuki’s ‘Kyou Kara Ore Wa!!’... The line-up was absolutely terrifying.

Oda: I did read ‘Ranma ½’, it was really fun! Just reading different magazines, no matter how much time you spend on it, what you end up reading or seeing is completely different too. Back when ‘Detective Conan’ started, Jump had Akira Toriyama’s ‘Dragon Ball’ and Takehiko Inoue’s ‘SLAM DUNK’. 

Aoyama: I read ‘Dragon Ball’! I love Toriyama-sensei’s art.

Oda: I was a ‘jumper’ at that time, but this is something I wanted to ask you if we could ever meet: how did you view Jump back then? Jump sales were incredibly overwhelming during that time, but a bit of conflict came later when Weekly Shonen Magazine surpassed its circulation numbers.

Aoyama: I have to apologize, but I didn’t care at all about that haha.

Oda: Ah, so you didn’t even bother with it haha.

– I would like to ask about your thoughts and memories back when your series started. When you both published your very first chapter, what was it like?

Oda: I started serializing ‘ONE PIECE’ in 1997, two years after ‘Dragon Ball’ ended in 1995. It was a shock for all of us newcomers who came to the magazine to claim the series’ abandoned throne. At that time, the fight for the place ‘Dragon Ball’ left would begin, and for 2 years everyone would get their series compared and completely crushed, until I finally survived.

Aoyama: Amazing haha.

Oda: It was a time in which both ‘Dragon Ball’ and ‘SLAM DUNK’ ended right after the other, and lots of people thought Jump would be in huge trouble. I remember the cover of the Jump issue in which my series started appeared on the front page of a newspaper, showing the cover of ‘ONE PIECE’ next to the headline ‘Jump is overtaken by Magazine’. And it’s not like I had any responsibility over it at all haha, but I still remember feeling really frustrated.

Aoyama: As for me, when the first chapter of ‘Detective Conan’ was going to be published, I was supposedly going to appear at the center of the cover of the magazine. Thing is, during the World Cup Preliminaries, Masashi Nakayama scored a really great goal and my cover was replaced with him… That’s why Conan’s cover, which was supposed to appear with the first chapter of the series, had the bad luck to appear with the second chapter instead haha.

The Competitive Spirit Created by Jump

– What do you two think of each other and other mangaka who also have successful works?

Oda: After ‘Dragon Ball’ ended, the world of shonen manga was dominated by two works, ‘Detective Conan’ and ‘The Kindaichi Case Files’. Conan was always winning.

Aoyama: Ah… Seriously? Haha.

Oda: That was indeed my perspective. Jump’s supporting hit work back then was ‘Rurouni Kenshin’ by Nobuhiro Watsuki. I was one of Watsuki-sensei’s assistants. I won’t really hesitate saying this, we were proud our seniors led the shonen manga world with battle-focused manga, so we honestly thought “mystery manga shouldn’t be at the top of shonen manga” haha. Watsuki-sensei himself had the stance that “if a series wasn’t always performing like his, it couldn’t be at the top of Jump”. That’s why I always considered ‘Detective Conan’ an enemy to me and thus didn’t read it. I even had thoughts such as “I’ll drag you down, haha…”. Not joking, I used to think of you as an enemy until now haha!

Aoyama: No way, an enemy!? Oh my haha!

Oda: Looking at your reply, it seems it was only me who thought we had some sort of rivalry haha. Please, say something like “that’s how Jump should be”! Have you ever looked at someone as a rival?

Aoyama: Not really. When it comes to Kanari Yozaburo, Seimaru Amagi and Satou Fumiya’s ‘The Kindaichi Case Files’, I used to have this “I won’t lose” feeling, but they’re still series with pretty different genres.

Oda: When I looked at the whole manga industry and glanced at the top, ‘Detective Conan’ was always there. I was pretty aware of it all when I was nothing more than a newbie, but it is true that when you reach the top, you stop seeing it.

Aoyama: But I was overtaken right away, right? Or am I wrong? Haha.

Oda: I was pretty desperate back then, so I’m not entirely sure how it all went. Since I started this series I've been trying to do my best for myself, so I stopped looking at my surroundings.

Aoyama: That’s amazing, but it was really hard for me too. Doing a detective series on my own requires me to always think about my story and art, which leaves me no time to think about any other series.

Oda: Basically, the moment you start a serialization, you stop looking at what’s around you! I have a lot of respect for you, being able to still continue during all this time.

– Have you ever thought of rookie mangaka as your rivals?

Aoyama: Rivals… I wonder. I guess others are others, and I am myself haha.

Oda: You’re pretty peaceful. When did you build that kind of mentality?

Aoyama: I would say from the very beginning.

Oda: For real!? Didn’t it feel like a competition when you were younger?

Aoyama: When I was younger, other detective works started to appear on Sunday since ‘Detective Conan’ was performing well, so I did have that feeling of ‘not wanting to lose’, but that’s about it. It may sound weird, but I don’t think I ever felt like I had any enemy. As I mentioned earlier, ‘The Kindaichi Case Files’ was there, but it was a different work.

Oda: I see your enemy scope are mystery series.

Aoyama: Yep. But still, there weren’t many mangaka drawing detective series back then, so I felt it was something I was doing on my own. That’s how I concluded others are others, and I am myself.

Oda: For me, it has been during these past few years that I have been able to keep a similar state of mind. Until now, I have been aware readers often get disappointed if ‘ONE PIECE’ doesn’t publish a new chapter, and I felt responsible for that. It has all changed lately thanks to new, younger writers that have grown up in Jump and rather support me even when I’m on a break, taking a lot of weight off my shoulders. This is also why I have stopped caring about fighting with other manga series. It truly feels like I have finally the freedom to face my fans at my own pace.

Aoyama: Ooh! It seems you have been pretty busy until now.

Oda: I wonder why, though? Is Jump’s system that bad? Haha. It’s a fierce competition. If what you draw is not good enough, it will obviously get canceled. Is it the same for Sunday?

Aoyama: Yes it is. But on that Sunday from the old days, editors wouldn’t tell mangaka their series’ rankings. After ‘Detective Conan’ reached Chapter 10, I had to ask them to give the rankings to me and started to follow them secretly.

Oda: Perhaps Jump shows the rankings and questionnaires deliberately to their mangaka in order to fuel their inner fighting spirit. That’s something anyone, even I, worries about when starting a series, since you always want to know if you can survive or not.

– ‘YAIBA’, your serialization before ‘Detective Conan’, managed to reach 1st place in the rankings 2 times during its final chapters, right?

Aoyama: Yes! I was so happy to finally reach 1st place I asked the editorial department to put it in my coffin, since I was sure I’d die from overwork haha.

Oda: I see you had some attachment to numbers! Don’t you feel some frustration if you lose those placements, then?

Aoyama: Yeah, but ‘Detective Conan’ has been in 1st place since the series pretty much started… It’s a bit odious to say that, so I’ll stop haha.

Oda: Haha, I understand that feeling too.

– How much pressure have you both felt carrying the flagship of the magazine for so long?

Aoyama: Pressure? Zero haha.

Oda: That’s the same for me!

Aoyama: I mean, I thought it was Shogakukan’s fault for letting me draw this series haha.

Oda: I have always been conscious of my own selfishness, so the more my fighting spirit grew, the more I thought it was my whole fault if the series had to end or fell in popularity.

– That’s really hard to imagine.

Aoyama: Honestly, if I had felt pressure, I wouldn’t have been able to draw.

Oda: Yeah. If you stop to think about it for a second, it’s kinda scary how much stuff I sometimes have to carry. I think only people with our kind of personality can survive through all of this.

Aoyama: I think so too.

– What do you think of each other’s art?

Oda: It’s appealing. It’s super appealing! Even when my only knowledge was about art, I thought it was really unique. Honestly, distinct and unusual art styles are the ones who can survive in this manga world. And it wasn't only that, but when I read the series I felt a mysterious appeal. Kids, adult men and women can all feel that same charm and become fond of the series, which is why I always thought it would become a success.

Aoyama: I was really surprised when I saw there wasn’t a scene of Luffy eating the Gomu Gomu no Mi! If it had been me, I would have drawn a “Dokkun” SFX after he ate it haha. In ‘Detective Conan’, the main character also changes his body after consuming a drug, but even if I try to draw those same sensations, I think ‘ONE PIECE’ expressions feel way fresher. Also, those elder designs from the Gorosei who appear in the Levely Arc are amazing! I honestly don’t know how to draw those.

Oda: I think that was something good from my younger self. I made them appear a long time ago, but when I look back into it now, I don’t think their designs were bad at all. Still, those characters haven’t really shown their actual value yet.

Team ‘Detective Conan’, Team ‘ONE PIECE’

– When it comes to TV Anime adaptations, many voices end up overlapping. Yamaguchi Kappei voices Shinichi Kudo, Kaito Kid and Usopp; Ikeda Shuichi voices Akai and Shanks; Furuya Toru voices Amuro and Sabo; Ootani Ikue voices Mitsuhiko and Chopper…

Aoyama: No wonder they do overlap considering both anime have been going on for a quarter of a century.

Oda: When I watched ‘Detective Conan: The Bride of Halloween’, I was surprised at how many voices I did recognize. Yuriko Yamaguchi, who voices Nico Robin, appears (as Christine Richard). In the Dressrosa Arc, there were a lot of voice actors from ‘Detective Conan’! Megumi Hayashibara, who voices Ai Haibara, played the role of Rebecca.

Aoyama: Furuya Toru, who voices Amuro, also appears as Sabo, a pretty good role! And Ikeda Shuichi voices Shanks in your upcoming FILM RED, right Oda-kun? He also voices Akai Shuichi in ‘Detective Conan’, which is a pretty popular role.

Oda: He didn’t appear in your last movie, did he?

Aoyama: In ‘The Bride of Halloween’... Fufufu, haha.

Oda: But in ‘Detective Conan’ he does appear more frequently, right? In ‘ONE PIECE’ many times the members of the crew have to separate, so there’s a lot of examples of regular characters who take holidays quite often. “Sanji came to dub for the first time after 3 years”, haha.

Aoyama: It took 7 years since Akai left and appeared again, and I even thought of spoiling it after 2 years had passed. Vermouth also took 5 years to appear once again in the TV Anime since her last appearance.

Oda: I didn’t expect for the TV Anime to continue for so long, many of the voice actors are getting old. Some time ago, Mayumi Tanaka, who voices Luffy, asked us with worry what would happen if she died, so Masako Nozawa, who voices Kureha, told her “If you die, I’ll take your role” haha. I hope they all stay as healthy as possible. Aoyama-san, do you usually talk to the voice actors?

Aoyama: Before Coronavirus happened, we had ‘movie launch parties’, so we used to talk a lot. Some time ago, I saw a fireworks display from my living room, so I called all the voice actors and improvised a huge banquet in my house. It was really fun, even though it was still a lot of work haha. You keep doing it, right Oda-kun? That’s amazing.

Oda: We usually just do self-service, and I tell them I’m doing a takoyaki party! Then I cook it all without asking the others haha!

– Oda-sensei, you said in an old interview that you are “glad to be close with all the anime staff”, and all of this really does give the impression you get along with animation and production staff.

Oda: Yeah, it’s always been that way. The TV Anime started a really long time ago. All of them have become my relatives at this point. Even my children have known them since they were small, so it’s almost like a family relationship.

Aoyama: Mine’s not that far of a relationship, but I have stated many times with determination that “this actor should voice this character”. For example, Koichi Yamadera, who voiced Tsutomu Akai, a character that recently appeared in the anime, was chosen by me. I sometimes also change the characters in the manga after listening to the voices of their voice actors, thinking to myself “so this is their voice”.

Oda: I shifted Chopper’s role to a mascot character after hearing his voice in the TV Anime, even when I had a policy of not drawing mascot characters, but Ootani Ikue’s voice was too cute haha.

Aoyama: It’s the same for me! When I heard Ootani’s voice as Mitsuhiko, I thought it was so cute I started to draw his character cuter. 

Oda: Aoyama-san, you also overlap voice actor names with their roles, right? Like Takagi-san or Furuya-san.

Aoyama: Wataru Takagi-san had an unnamed role back then, but when his character appeared in the TV Anime he became Detective Takagi because he introduced himself saying “Please call me Takagi”. I made him take responsibility and even appear in the series with his real name haha. Furuya Toru’s case is, in fact, a homage to Gundam’s Amuro Rei, a name I separated to give birth to two names: Furuya Rei and Amuro Toru. I hope ‘Gundam’ fans will be pleased with this. Did you watch ‘Gundam’, Oda-kun?

Oda: I did see ‘Gundam’, and I liked it. But I think the experiences we had with it are pretty different.

Aoyama: I see, then you didn’t watch the ‘First Gundam’ (Mobile Suit Gundam)?

Oda: No, it was indeed the ‘First Gundam’. The boom of the series happened back during your teen times, Aoyama-san, and after that, when I was a little kid, a second boom came. I was under the impression that those rebroadcasts were already a big hit.

– How are you two usually involved with your series’ movies?

Aoyama: I involve myself since the very beginning of the movie. From scenarios to the content, up to getting too involved and frowned upon haha.

Oda: Also, ‘Detective Conan’ releases a movie every year, right? I wonder if the disconnected nature of the stories in the series is what makes it work so well, since in my case every chapter is connected to each other. I have to continuously think about the story in the weekly serialization, so I can’t really think about different stories. I guess our brains work differently.

Aoyama: Usually, one case lasts about 3 to 6 chapters in ‘Detective Conan’, which makes it easier to plan for a movie. But in ‘ONE PIECE’, any case lasts too long haha. That length may be what makes it difficult to make more movies for the series. It seems pretty hard to handle some sort of side-trip to a different island when all the characters are already on their journey to find the One Piece.

Oda: Not only that, but the crewmates onboard keep increasing so with anything that happens there is not only one reaction, which just makes the story keep getting extended. Let’s put it this way, if the number of detectives in ‘Detective Conan’ increased, wouldn’t that give you trouble?

Aoyama: I really don’t want to increase the detective team… Hahaha, I’ll definitely not increase it.

– What was your experience watching each other’s movies?

Oda: ‘The Bride of Halloween’ was really cool!! I was surprised when I heard ‘Detective Conan’ was increasing its female readership since I have always thought it was just a shonen series in which a bunch of little kids resolve cases. I wondered why that was, and completely understood it when I saw the movie. “Ah, so they really like the police characters and all these handsome grown men”.

Aoyama: Out of all of Oda-kun’s movies, the one I like the most is ‘ONE PIECE FILM GOLD’. It was fun since I have always liked sparkling places like Las Vegas haha. I want to go to that Casino Ship, Gran Tesoro!

Oda: Seriously!? Thank you!

Aoyama: If I had to mention something all of our movies have in common, is that in ‘ONE PIECE’ and ‘Detective Conan’ there’s always an ‘expansion’ in the ending.

Oda: That’s the right and classic way of royal-road shonen manga, isn’t it?

Aoyama: Oh no, I’m not referring to the narrative with ‘expansion’. In ‘Detective Conan’ we expand soccer balls, and in ‘ONE PIECE’ Luffy can expand his whole body. The bigger they are, the more exciting it is!

Oda: So that’s what you meant haha. Big is always justice, I guess it’s pretty clear we’re both from Ultraman’s era.

Aoyama: I remember that in ‘FILM GOLD’, there were turtles moving cars at the Turtle Car Race. Are you the one that comes up with these ideas?

Oda: I usually leave all the ideas to the scriptwriter, and I only check the contents of the movie and fix whatever needs to be fixed. Movies belong to directors so that’s something I shouldn’t be doing, but if I don’t do that, I can’t really take responsibility. You draw key frames for your movies, right?

Aoyama: I’ve been fulfilling that role since the very first movie, ‘The Time-Bombed Skyscraper’, and it has been increasing steadily. This year I have drawn around 20 key frames.

Oda: I’m pretty sure fans can easily notice which are drawn by you!

Aoyama: You could draw movie key frames too, Oda-kun.

Oda: If I were to put too much work into the movies, then I wouldn’t be able to continue regularly with the weekly series, so it’s difficult to handle. I do know that in order to maintain the series popularity I have to attract new fans and generate more worldwide buzz with a movie at least once every three years, but it’s honestly really hard! I know if I have to do it I’ll be pretty picky, I’m aware of my own personality even if at first I didn’t really like it haha. In the end, I end up meddled even in advertisement processes, I check the booklets handled at theaters and their production deadlines, and just supervise everything. I also keep an eye on posters’ layouts and design.

Aoyama: You seriously love this hahaha.

Oda: Still, I feel bad for my junior mangaka. I created a culture at Jump in which the movie would be a success if the original author gets involved, so everyone has started to be borrowed to work on them. To my surprise though, these youngsters are really enjoying it.

Aoyama: Not at all, I think it’s really good! Everyone seems to be enjoying it!

– What do you think of your protagonists?

Aoyama: Conan is everyone’s organizer.

Oda: To me, Luffy is the easiest character to draw. I always knew that he would be the character that would stay the longest with me.

– If that’s so, what character do you think you’re the only person that can write them?

Oda: I think that’s still Luffy. Many scriptwriters try to deal with him but I have to fix his sentences all the time, otherwise people wouldn’t accept him as the Luffy they know. Does ‘Detective Conan’ have a character like that? A character that always needs to have their lines fixed?

Aoyama: In my series it would be Gin! Everyone always tries to make him say “I’ll kill everyone” and I have to tell them “No, he wouldn’t ever say that” hahaha.

Oda: I understand that, the character we always must fix in any movie is the same character only we can write. It’s a pretty weird relationship, isn’t it? From a reader’s perspective you can notice small details if the character acts differently, but as scriptwriters it feels like a completely different character.

Aoyama: I always have to 100% fix Gin. Lately, scriptwriters just hand me the script so I directly fix him hahaha. Sometimes it’s written as some sort of love-comedy scene, like “Aoyama-sensei, save me”, and I’m like “Eeeh? Seriously?” hahaha.

Oda: Then you immediately fix it, the work becomes a success and they keep relying on you.

Aoyama: Exactly haha. But it does make me happy they rely on me!

‘Detective Conan’ and ‘ONE PIECE’ Decisive Points

– If you look back at the more than 100 volumes you both have published, which would you say was your most decisive point in the series?

Aoyama: That’s hard to say, but if I had to choose some point, it would be the chapter I wrote back when I was discharged from the hospital after taking a break due to a sudden illness. That chapter started with Akai and Amuro pointing their pistols at each other (Volume 95, Chapter 1009).

Oda: That sounds so cool! When was that chapter released?

Aoyama: Four years ago. I took a long break, so for my comeback I had to draw something popular, which pushed me to make that cool scene. Although until then I hadn’t really been writing anything in the series aiming at that moment.

Oda: I feel the exact same as you, but my decisive point would be something more recent. Luffy got a new power-up called ‘Gear 5th’, which is something I have wanted to draw for a long time.

– It’s surprising you both chose such relatively recent chapters. In ‘ONE PIECE’ Chapter 1044, the real name of the Gomu Gomu no Mi is revealed, and Gear 5th appears letting Luffy fight changing his whole body.

Oda: I drew this because I really want to have fun, and I think that it’s okay if people don't like it. I just want to play around with my battles. Since I was an assistant, I have felt that silly expressions that were so characteristic in manga have been gradually lost. Putting a light bulb in a character’s head when they come up with some idea, or making the character’s legs go in circles when they’re running, for example.

Aoyama: Right, also those eyes popping out.

Oda: I have always loved those symbolic expressions, but they keep disappearing. Nobody draws them anymore even though they’re our predecessors' creations who also left many formulae we still use. Battle manga has to keep getting more and more serious to keep up with readers’ expectations and I honestly hate that. I definitely don’t want my work to become a serious manga like that. I want and have decided to have fun, and I feel like I’m finally able to do that. When I was drawing this, I actually had fun.

Aoyama: (Looks at Gear 5th pictures) Woah, amazing! I really like the design, it’s excellent. I’m also impressed that you are able to draw these kinds of faces.

Oda: Thank you. When thinking about its concept, you can think of it as if it suddenly became ‘Tom & Jerry’.

Aoyama: Yep yep. I liked ‘Tom & Jerry’. I just can’t forgive Jerry, hahaha.

Oda: Jerry? Oh no, I supported Jerry!

Aoyama: Really? Tom always tried really hard, but Jerry was too sneaky. I hate Jerry a lot. Although if I had to compare one of them to Conan, he would probably be Jerry haha.

Oda: When I tried to draw it for the first time, it was pretty difficult. The world of ‘Tom & Jerry’ works because of both characters, so I struggled a lot looking at the difference in attitude between Luffy, who was making pranks in the middle of the battle, and his serious opponent. But in the end, I feel like I actually pulled it off. The older you get, the harder and more tiring it is to draw battles, isn’t it?

Aoyama: Well, there aren’t many action or battle scenes in ‘Detective Conan’, so when I have to draw them I do it in high spirits. Still, it usually ends pretty fast considering it’s just shooting soccer balls. A long time ago though, I did get tired of it while drawing ‘YAIBA’. When the Japanese Archipelago became a dragon, it was hard for me and my assistants to pull off those drawings. Even with that, drawing action is a fun experience. 

Eiichiro Oda x Gosho Aoyama OVER 100 Miracle Talk - Part 2

Changes During Serialization

– ‘Detective Conan’ has been in serialization since 1994, and ‘ONE PIECE’ since 1997. Since those days to today, what has changed?

Aoyama: Back when I was serializing ‘YAIBA’, I was addressed as “Aoyama-san”. But the moment I started serializing ‘Detective Conan’, everybody addressed me as “Aoyama-sensei” haha. My editor kept addressing me with the “-san”, but for people from TV stations or magazines I started being “Aoyama-sensei”.

Oda: I’m always addressed as “Oda-san”. When I have to deal with younger editors, they all usually use honorifics and so do I, since it’s a hierarchical relationship between us and I cannot complain in such situations. Still, I don’t like it because I’m not a “-sensei”, I’m “Oda-san”.

– What has changed the most from then until now when it comes to the serialization itself?

Oda: My weight has indeed changed. When it comes to mangaka, there are those who lose weight and those who gain it. From the moment I started the series, I started to get fat. It was common for me not to eat for 2-3 days, and I didn’t even have time to eat because I felt sleepy while at it. That’s why I usually don’t eat as much as other people, because otherwise I can eat a lot. Your body starts to feel weak and threatened, so it absorbs anything you ingest. Still, I don’t eat, I gain weight and I just lose at everything. …I really don’t enjoy talking about this hahaha.

Aoyama: Haha, I used to be quite fat. Due to it I got pretty sick and the doctor told me I had to lose weight, which I did, but I think I’m slowly gaining it again.

Oda: Now talking seriously, it’s like you unconsciously and unwillingly gain some sort of mysterious power. Anything you say can become some kind of big deal. “Is people really doing this because I said it?”, and stuff like that.

Aoyama: Yeah… I was honestly thinking the same, haha. I can’t really say many bad things.

Oda: I have started to feel the responsibility of being careful with whatever I say because my name has grown a lot. Even if I myself haven’t changed, it feels like my surroundings and people around me constantly are. Many times my editors are already fans of the series and tell me “I have been reading your work for a really long time”, which makes it hard for me to be harsher, and I become way kinder.

Aoyama:  We also have many assistants or animation staff who are long-time fans of our work.

Oda: But in the end it’s all people who do a really good job, because they really love the series.

– If you were allowed to leave your current position and draw anything you wanted, what would it be?

Aoyama: I want to draw a ‘Journey to the West’. As a battle story. I have always loved Goku. He’s the strongest character ever, isn’t he?

Oda: It’d be great if I were to answer “a mystery series” here, haha. But I could never pull off such a series, I don’t have a brain for that.

Aoyama: Hahaha.

Oda: I have already drawn everything I wanted to draw. I did want to draw robots in the future, but I decided and have already done that in the series. Everything I have ever wanted to draw is already packed into ‘ONE PIECE’, so if I was asked to draw one more time, I would draw ‘ONE PIECE’ again.

Aoyama: Aah, that’s really great. If I was asked to draw another ‘Detective Conan’... I don’t know… Hahaha, I do have lots of things I would like to draw in the series too, so I might do that.

“Love Comedy”, “Friendship” and Character’s Charm!

– What do you two think is your manga’s power?

Oda: I think the most important feature of manga is for it to be “a tool to make friends”. I know it’s a pretty common topic, but in fact I did make many friends when I was a child through it.

Aoyama: I hope ‘Detective Conan’ helps people with their love relationships haha, that way readers can fall in love like the characters from the series. But well, those mostly end up as “murder love comedies” hahaha.

Oda: It’s all a dream world, so I always strive to draw beautiful scenes. 

– Speaking of love comedies, Aoyama-sensei previously said that “romcoms”, “adventure” and “friendship” are the “3 elements of shonen manga hits”, and it is clear Aoyama-sensei is good at “love comedy and adventure”, and Oda-sensei is good at “adventure and friendship”.

Aoyama: Love comedies… You haven’t drawn anything like that, right Oda-kun?

Oda: I haven’t. There’s a tradition in Jump that states love comedies are love comedies, battles are battles. They’re two separated genres and totally different works.

Aoyama: Oh well, I guess love comedy developments while battling are not for Jump.

Oda: I haven’t read many of those either, but ‘Detective Conan’ integrates those elements properly! I think you make a really good use of those settings.

Aoyama: Well, I do enjoy love comedies, but I guess you’re not really interested in them, Oda-kun.

Oda: I’m not confident I could draw those, it’s a bit embarrassing haha.

Aoyama: On the other hand, friendship is a tough theme for me. It’s not impossible for me to draw, but I don’t really come up with stuff I think “Oh, this is cool”. I think the only characters I can picture that topic on are the police academy members.

Oda: ‘Detective Conan’ actually has a lot of romantic relationships, right? It’s full of bidirectional feelings. But I also know that if I draw romance, some of my fans leave. I think it’s fine when they’re one-sided feelings, but if it goes both ways, both characters lose fans. 

Aoyama: I won’t leave haha.

Oda: Ah, seriously!?

Aoyama: On the contrary, I think it’s exciting. Most of my characters have couples. It’s quite rare to find one without a partner.

Oda: People seem so supportive of couples! That’s something I didn’t really read when I was a kid. During the old days of Jump, there were mangaka that wouldn't even draw women. That’s why I’m one of those that sent submissions with female characters. I did want to draw strong women, and I think characters like Nami were quite rare back in those days.

– Nami’s popularity was reflected all over the world in the Popularity Poll commemorating ‘ONE PIECE’ reaching Chapter 1000.

Oda: Yeah, we did a worldwide popularity poll. When it comes to the two main female characters, Nami proved to be overwhelmingly popular in Japan, while adult women like Nico Robin seem to be more popular in the rest of the world. Feelings and tastes are entirely different from one country to another.

Aoyama: I know ‘Detective Conan’ is pretty popular in China, but I don’t think that makes much of a difference. Still, Ai Haibara is pretty popular, especially overseas.

– Ai Haibara got 1st Place in the “Major Female Character Popularity Vote” that ‘Detective Conan’ held to commemorate the screening of ‘The Bride of Halloween’, getting an illustration drawn by Aoyama-sensei. Still, it’s amazing to look at the number of characters that appear in both works’ popularity polls.

Aoyama: And the number keeps increasing. Even in ‘Detective Conan’ there are characters such as Chihaya Hagiwara, who have only recently appeared.

Oda: Aoyama-san, how do you execute your characters’ appearances?

Aoyama: By pure intuition. If I think I need some sort of new character, or that it’s missing in the series, I just draw it. How do you decide the name of your characters, Oda-kun?

Oda: I take them from various places.

Aoyama: There was a pretty funny one. Sanji, Niji, Ichiji. “For real?”.

Oda: I had been thinking of drawing Sanji’s childhood for some time already, and also had thought of setting up him having one brother, but my daughter was really into ‘Osomatsu-san’ back when I was serializing that part of the story. I want my daughter to like my work, so I tried to compete with the sextuplets by making quadruplets hahaha.

How are Readers’ Impressions Dealt With?

– I’m sure you both receive lots of fan letters from readers every week, but what kind of feedback are you most pleased to receive?

Oda: I appreciate any kind of feedback, but I’m especially happy with people who write what they liked about that week’s chapter specifically. “So that’s what you paid attention to”.

Aoyama: When I read those comments, I go back to the manga and read those parts. I start to grin and read it over and over while thinking “Oh yeah, that was good”.

Oda: Ah! Have you thought of sending your own fan letters, or have you ever sent one already?

Aoyama: Not at all. I think it actually takes a lot of work, but it sounds amazing.

Oda: Thank you for that.

– Every time ‘ONE PIECE’ and ‘Detective Conan’ publish a new chapter, fans are really excited to talk about them. Do you two read your readers’ discussions?

Oda: I wanted to talk about this with Aoyama-san, too. It seems that there are a lot of discussion groups recently, right?

Aoyama: Ah yes, on the Internet. Like with Youtubers.

Oda: Many people in my series’ discussion groups try to predict future developments of the series. Some of them get stuff right haha, which is why I try not to read many of them hahaha. Do they get stuff right too in a detective series like ‘Detective Conan’?

Aoyama: They do guess stuff. They’re sometimes pretty quick figuring out things. In the end, it’s just 1 person against millions of people. If they united their knowledge, cases could be solved in less than a day. 

Oda: Against millions of people! That’s truly impossible hahaha!

Aoyama: Detective lovers like to guess and think a lot. Many readers guessed Renya Karasuma was the boss of the Black Organization. 

Oda: What do you do in a situation like that? Is it troublesome?

Aoyama: No, rather I just say “People guessed it, so I’ll reveal it”, and I just reveal it haha. There are still more secrets beyond that, actually. Do you read your readers’ predictions and overturn them, Oda-kun?

Oda: Well… There are some things I can change and things I cannot. When reveals are too big, my readers can guess them since I have foreshadowed them all. Due to this I try to come up with the most interesting developments and always go beyond readers’ imaginations. When I started the serialization, my only way to connect with fans was through fan letters. I never thought the world would become the way it is now, with everyone talking about everything on the Internet. If I had known times like this would come, I would have never given hints in the series haha!

Aoyama: I see.

Oda: However, I’m sometimes asked if many outside-the-box theories are true or not, and I kind of feel bad for those who come up with them when I inadvertently give some answer. I probably have destroyed lots of ideas everyone was thinking about without knowing what would happen in the future with just a single word. I feel bad about it, so I recently came up with the best answer: “Yes, that’s right”. I think it’s an answer that can be taken either way haha.

Aoyama: That’s indeed one way to settle it hahaha.

– Foreshadowing moments that are recovered after many years is a common trait of both of your works.

Oda: When I read ‘Detective Conan’, I was surprised at how tight and solid all the settings were. My approach is a little bit different, since there’s some obvious foreshadowing, but at the same time I have created a lot of voids in the series. This method of leaving various blanks lets me think like, “this point could be connected to this other one this way or that way”. Aside from the exaggerated foreshadowing that happens every few decades, you can also take your time to pick up plot points that have been left pending. If you create reasonings and threads for everything like in ‘Detective Conan’, it will be harder to execute later on!

Aoyama: Back when I was working on ‘YAIBA’, I used to draw in the same way you describe. People would be really surprised when later on the series I connected parts I left open in the story.

Oda: Yeah, but you work differently now, Aoyama-san.

Aoyama: Now I work with everything firmly in place. ‘Detective Conan’ is a big mystery as a whole.

– Aoyama-san, when did you start telling your editors about the identity of the Black Organization boss?

Aoyama: Well, I’m currently with my 13th editor, but I have been telling them about that since I had my 8th editor.

What’s the Secret to Reaching 100 Volumes?

– When drawing your series, how are you able to change your mood if you get stuck? Oda-sensei answered previously like this: “I don’t change my mind. I want to keep drawing, so I put myself under a lot of pressure by calling my staff and telling them to wait for me”.

Oda: Isn’t that an interview from a long time ago? Nowadays I need to take way more breaks and I have become quite health-conscious. How do you clear up your mind, Aoyama-san?

Aoyama: I play video games and watch movies. But playing is playing, and work is work. I can’t do anything if I don’t separate those two. I have never been able to do two things at the same time.

Oda: What games do you play?

Aoyama: ‘Kantai Collection’ and ‘Animal Crossing’. Easy and simple games.

Oda: Don’t you do any physical exercise?

Aoyama: Nowadays I don’t, but I used to play baseball.

Oda: Before Coronavirus, I used to gather some friends to play soccer together, but with time I have realized it’s a little too tough of a sport for my body. I also used to be in the soccer club, but I’m so out of shape now I have completely abandoned that career hahaha.

Aoyama: I was in the kendo club, but I don’t move my body as much now. I only go out to buy lunch.

Oda: We’re a bit unhealthy, aren’t we? I also go out to walk and play ‘Pok√©mon GO’.

Aoyama: Maybe I should start walking too