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Katsuya Shirai

When did you first get to know Rumiko Takahashi?

Well, let's see. Ever since Urusei Yatsura started in Shonen Sunday, I guess. The largest project we worked on together was Maison Ikkoku, a work which of course is also among her most representative works.

What was your first impression of her, as an artist?

She's soft-spoken and gentle, of course... but she's also very strong, and she's just brimming with passion for manga. As far as I know, she's been like that ever since she first became a manga artist. She has the kind of passion you find only once every ten or twenty years.

How so?

(Takahashi) knows what her readers are thinking; like any good manga artist, she appreciates her readers and tries to give them equal value for the time and money they spend on her work. Her readers come first with her; if we as her publisher don't keep that in mind; she'll scold us of it. That she has all the celebrity, fame, and acclaim in the world right now and still makes it a point to put her readers first is something to be respected, I think.

So fame hasn't changed Rumiko Takahashi?

No. She's a big star in the comic industry, but her love of manga, and her love of her readers both here in Japan and abroad, is the same as when she first debuted back in the late '70's. I think that's great.

But her art style has changed since her debut.

Well, it's become more polished, that's true. her panel layouts have become more sophisticated. And the characters have, overall, become much more attractive... her female characters especially. her art has become more refined. There was a certain tendency to pack too many ideas into a single story, for example. Maison Ikkoku is definitely one of her more mature works, I'd say; you could say Ranma is the next step in her artistic development.

Which, according to what Takahashi said in a previous interview, seems to be more popular among girls than boys in Japan.

I'd say the appeal is universal. Male or female, young or old- Takahashi isn't an artist whose work is difficult to read. She's not an esoteric artist, not a... what do you say, obsessive? Not an obsessive artist, who has a special world which appeals to a select few readers and not to a larger audience. I'd say boys in Japan probably see (the character of) Ranma as an ideal female figure.

Speaking of Ranma... how long do you think the series will go on? I've heard rumors that it might surpass Urusei Yatsura in terms of volumes published.

Urusei Yatsura ran for thirty-four volumes. At the moment there are twenty-six volumes of Ranma . I'd say it's a safe bet Ranma will catch up. In fact, Ranma may actually go a little farther...

So tell us... how will the story end?

[LAUGHS] However it ends, I don't think the conclusion should be stretched out too long. A really satisfying ending is so difficult to create for a long series. In most series, there's usually a first climax around the twentieth volume, with another story arc concluding around the thirty-sixth or thrity-eighth volume. Takahashi's not the type of artist who'd just stretch it out for the sake of filler, though; she's always up for new challenges. I think it's possible that she may already be preparing a final chapter to Ranma.

As an artist, is she easy to work with? Or is she... dare I say it? Difficult?

Well, what can I say? [LAUGHS] As her editor it's fun to work with her; she loves everything about manga. Her favorite editors are probably those who talk manga with her. So long as you remember that, you'll get along fine.

How about the "D" word? How about deadlines?

Well... she isn't particularly punctual, but by the same token she never makes her editors nervous that they'll miss their absolute last-minute deadlines. She's the type who delivers... in due time.

In manga parodiees especially we see scenes where editors go right up to the artist's front door and say that's that there's only two hours left to make the deadline. Takahashi's not that kind of artist, you say?

Oh no, she's never gone that far.

Even though she's usually working on 100+ pages a month?

That's right. She never goes that far. She's got the self-discipline to pace her time. She'll be the first to tell you outright if she can't don something. She'll say, "Oh that won't be possible" in her soft-spoken way. And since she's one of our most important artists, we try not to push her too hard with too hectic a schedule. All of our manga magazines would like to have a story by her... Right now, she's got a serial in Sunday only, but Spirits would like one too, as well as several other Shogakukan publications. Naturally, she has an affinity for Shonen Sunday, where she first made it big, so she's got an interest in continuing to publish stories there. Also, heaven forbid she should fall ill from the pressure of carrying two continuing serials- she's an important asset in the manga industry; we need to take care of her and not let our egos get in the way.

We've talked about the workday Takahashi- are there any interesting anecdotes or behind-the-scenes stories abouther you'd be willing to share with us?

Hmm, what might be an interesting story? She's involved in any number of different things, and she's full of curiosity... well, she does like to go to sumo matches, and she also likes to go to the beach.

Takahashi likes sumo?

Takahashi likes sumo. She'd attend every single tournament, if she could.

I don't think it would surprise you if I told you that her English-speaking fans would love to see her in person at an overseas convention. How likely do you think that is?

I think it's a great idea. I think she should definitely go to America as soon as her schedule allows it. I'd enjoy setting up something like that in the near future.

Is there anything you'd like to say to the English-speaking fans of Ranma and Urusei Yatsura? As an editor, I mean.

Let's see. I hope that you are reading Japanese manga not only for the novelty or because it's something exotic but rather, to experience the excitement of youth, or to relive the feeling of falling in love... those feelings are universal, after all. Keep reading the stories, and keep supporting your favorite artists. As an editor, it's my dream that the number of manga fans in Japan and the number of manga fans in America are someday in number.

Interview conducted by Toshifumi Yoshida

Originally Published in:
Animerica Vol 1. No. 10


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