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Taken from Petit Comic.com March 13, 2011
Note: The following interview was published by Petit Comic magazine in 2010 and takes place between Rumiko Takahashi and Akiko Higashimura.
Takahashi: Himawari ~Kenichi Legend~ has some great scenes, but the funniest was the last scene. Kenichi (the protagonist Akiko's boyfriend), shows Akiko the flower of from the dragonfruit and says "We'll plant a garden like this one day when we live together"
I thought "Oh good," it was very honest. I liked it.
(Note: Himawari -Kenichi Legend- had published 13 volumes when this interview took place)
Higashimura: Actually, back home in Miyazaki, my father used to grow dragonfruit but a typhoon destroyed hit. Eventually only one flower bloomed. But I had really wanted to see them bloom. Because I had such a strong desire to see it, I drew that scene.
Takahashi: You associate dragonfruit with your father?
Higashimura: Yes. When he was transferred to Okinawa for his work he came back with one.
Takahashi: And then it passes into the manga...
(Note: Himawari ~Kenichi Legend~ is a fictional manga that mixes elements of Higashimura-sensei's actual experiences as an office lady. Kenichi is the name of the protagonists father, and is modeled on Himawari-sensei's actual father. Himawari's boyfriend is also named Kenichi, but to distinguish him from her father he is referred to as Kenichi #2)
I heard that your father was the one that suggested the title "Himawari"...
Higashimura: Yes he did.
I said, "I think I'd like to do a manga about you, but... what will it be called?" and he immediately responded, "Himawari".
I didn't care for the name at all, but when I talked it over with my editor and explained,
"my father suggested it." When I called my father later to ask why he picked it, it was like he couldn't remember.
And I told him, "I used it because you were so certain about it!"
he then told me,
"It's probably after the Italian film Sunflower (Himawari in Japanese)!" I was so angry!!!
Higashimura: The last time I said "my dragonfruit are so short lived, so I think that should be the last scene of the manga, a dragonfruit in bloom" and my father responded, "meh"...he's like a spoiled child.
Takahashi: Does your father get upset?
Higashimura: Well, I drew that last scene as I had planned, but instead of appreciating it, my father said "a dragonfruit in full bloom is really beautiful, but this looks amateur!"After five years of serialization I get to the conclusion and that's what he says... (laughs)
Takahashi: Hahaha!!! That's-
Higashimura: But the manga is a watered down version.
Higashimura: Yes. Well, well he's worked hard to send my siblings and I to college, and I grew-up with a very comfortable childhood though.
One night I was getting ready to go to work and my father woke up, "Heeey, Akiko...", then he said, "today was a really tough day," I suppose he wanted me to appreciate him more. And he said, "I guess I succeeded!"
Higashimura: "A big success! I didn't expect my life to go this well!"
From there his chronology becomes a little revisionist.
"The first turning point, was when I joined my middle school's newspaper club.
That was when I began to hone my writing abilities! And then when I entered the company that was really useful!"
I could go on and on about this stuff forever!!
And from there my work became the basis for my series! (laughs)
Takahashi: (Laughter) Oh, wow, interesting!!
Higashimura: What was your home life like? Did your parents influence you?
Takahashi: My father loved drawing. He liked to buy little things; small figurines of tanuki or kappas and I would draw them. There would be a wall with all of our drawings. My father was a pretty regular guy (laughs).
When you decided to become a mangaka, what your parents think?
Takahashi: It was fine. I had gotten my degree in history while I was in college, and met many aspiring artists while I was in the manga club there too! Looking back now it... feels like a different world altogether. Then I had to get 70,000 yen to attend Kazuo Koike's Gekika Sonjuku. My parents gave me the money and said, "when this money runs out you have to come back." But I debuted while I was in college, so they told me "your college fees are still an issue but you can do it as long as you manage your living expenses."
Higashimura-sensei, did you always wish to become a mangaka?
Higashimura: Well I wasn't an otaku to begin with and saying you wanted to be a mangaka wasn't really cool at the time, so it wasn't something I thought about. I didn't have anyone my age who was into comics I don't think, although I'm sure there were many around me. So that you had a lot of mangaka around you was great, and I'm really envious.
Moreover, Takahashi you have comrades like Mitsuru Adachi! The collaboration you both did for the 50th anniversary of Weekly Shonen Sunday, is like the bible for me!
Takahashi: Do you have friends in the manga industry?
Higashimura: I don't now. When I debuted it was during the depression and we've all gone on to other magazines to draw. I don't know how many pages of shojo manga I was putting out.
So before long the manga industry rapidly pushed out all my contemporaries and there weren't many of my generation left..... A relationship like yours and Adachi's is what I yearn for.
Takahashi: Well, I'm seven years behind Adachi-sensei, but I've become better with a teacher like Adachi.
I was a cheeky child but he encouraged me.
Why did you begin to draw comedy?
Takahashi: I've always been a fan of comedy - and still am. Yasutaka Tsutsui's works are a huge influence. After reading "Osomatsu-kun" and "Obake no Q-Taro" as a kid I enjoyed the gags and that influenced me as well. No one ever got hurt, they were just simple, enjoyable stories.
Can you reflect on the opinions of the readers of your manga? Do they ask about what you're going to do?
Higashimura: Not really. But readers will sometimes ask,
"Please don't let those two break up." Quite the contrary other times. (laughs). Takahashi-sensei, do you often have such requests?
Takahashi: For example, in "Inuyasha" Kagome and Kikyo are rivals and I got a letter from a girl in elementary school that said, "Please kill Kikyo."It's come to this... so I thought "What do I say to that!?" I was surprised to get a letter like that.
Higashimura: It takes a lot of effort to write and mail a letter.
Takahashi: That's the trend lately. But I've heard for years, "Ah, don't listen to the readers," but I'm gradually starting to understand it. The death of Kikyo was absolutely indespensible, but you hope you're not making a huge group of children upset at the same time.
Higashimura: It's a strange sort of thing. I'd love to hear what other mangaka say about that. Maybe only one reader in a hundred are even interested in my manga. That's not a bad thing, but naturally what I draw and what a reader takes an interest in will differ. There's a variety. We're not going to have the same opinion as our readers. They'll meddle and say "why'd you do that?" and I'll say "eh, I don't know." It's surprising.
Takahashi: It's like, "Oh, what is this?" (laughs).
How much manga do you buy? What do you read?
Takahashi: There are several series I buy in tankobon format on a regular basis. Then occasionally, I buy things on impulse or that are recommended at the bookstore. I'm just buying or continue to buy what's interesting.
Higashimura: I get sent samples of a lot of books that I end up reading. After that, there is a bookstore in the Kanda district that I go to where I buy a ton of old shojo manga ... goodness.
Otherwise I buy manga with interesting covers.
A recent interesting manga I've read is Haruko Ichikawa's "Mushi no Uta". What a great impact it has.
And Wataru Watanabe's "Yowamushi Pedal"...
Some friends recommend manga, and my assistants.
Takahashi: Kaoru Kuriizawa's Kremlin was an impulse buy, and I'm glad I picked it up.
Higashimura: I imagine hearing that you go to the bookstore and buy manga on your own is very exciting to the fans!
Takahashi: When I go to a bookstore, I end up buying a lot more than most adults. I bought an armfull of manga and when I was leaving the store , "I get angry thinking that I can't buy manga as an adult" ... instead I am really grateful. I was not doing it just because I'm a mangaka. I'm hopeless. (laughs).
Messages and advice for each other at the end of the interview!
Takahashi: I'm awful at giving advice!
As a reader I look forward to your work Higashimura-sensei, I won't request anything, please do whatever you want!
Higashimura: Takahashi-sensei for me this has been very powerful.
There's been so many of your works that I've brought home, that have made me love manga. When I was in high school,
it was the art club, in the art room after school, "Read this? Will you read this?" It feels wonderful to be able to speak with a master like you and share my views.
It was great to meet you!
Thank you both!!
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