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35th Anniversary Interview
Taken from Comics Natalie May 20, 2013
Q: Congratulations on your 35th anniversary. How do you feel after drawing manga for 35 years?
A: Hmm... 35 years have gone by in an instant.
Q: Will you go back and re-read some of your older work?
A: Well, I rarely ever do. I don't reread my work after I finish it. While I'm working on something I'll read back in order to check the flow of the storyline I'm serializing. When I was young though I could read a tankoubon over and over.
Q: Do you mean when Maison Ikkoku and Urusei Yatsura were coming out?
A: That's right. It was fun reading along with the other readers (laughs).
Q: The All-Star special boxset that is being released includes an encyclopedia that covers items, characters and locations. Were there some characters you hadn't seen in a long time?
A: Yes, but I never forget them even after not reading them for some time. They're my creations afterall. All-Star really became a major volume. Reading through it was like reading a novel.
Q: The Show-Time artbook summarizes your color illustrations and is gorgeous!
A: It was a lot of work, even if I do say so myself. When Urusei Yatsura was being published I was also drawing three or four color illustrations for the mook (magazine book) Shonen Sunday Graphic Urusei Yatsura that came out four or five times a year in addition to the manga. And now... hey I was young then, but it seems impossible now (laughs).
Q: At the time a lot of readers followed both Urusei and Maison at the same time. It's great that they both still feel so current even after all these years.
A: I wonder if thats really true? At the beginning of Urusei there are places and the wording of dialogue that makes me think "this sounds so old". In those days comedies had certain buzzwords that were often used. Disco for example, do today's readers even know what a disco is?
Q: Well certain phrases may have gone out of style but the tension and sense of pacing are not old at all.
A:You think that even though its old it works well, but I wish I could write tsukkomi (the straight man in a comedy routine) properly. At the time that word existed but I didn't even know it (laughs).
Q: When you were starting out did you feel like you were changing the way manga was done?
A: In any event the first reason I make manga is because it's fun. My thinking that is if you read it and find it fun, then that's the most important aspect. That's the beginning. It's not just a joy of life, but that feeling of childhood. I've always kept in mind that its fun when you're reading it, and that is what manga is to me. So I kept in mind that everyone enjoys happy characters but sometimes things have to get serious... for example, when a character dies, I want to make an escape for the reader and I always go into it thinking like that.
Q: Even in comedies like Urusei Yatsura and Ranma 1/2, stories where big things happen, the way of life of the characters is also presented.
A: In the case of Ranma 1/2 I was told by the editor to make it more dramatic at the beginning. But that was just not something I could do (laughs). I started to put some of that into it towards the end though.
Q: Was Inuyasha born from a similar request from your editor?
A: Oh that was something else. Inuyasha started from my desire to do a serious action-adventure manga.
Q: Had you had that idea for a long time?
A: No, I'm not like that. I don't think about the next series while I'm serializing the current one. After doing the one chapter short stories from Urusei Yatsura and Ranma 1/2 the next thing I was interested in was a large scale saga. When Inuyasha was complete I thought 'well let's go back to where I began and try comedy again' and so I started Kyokai no Rinne.
Q: I think Kyokai no Rinne feels initially serious, because Rinne is just so unbearably poor.
A: I really like writing poor characters (laughs). Godai in Maison Ikkoku and Ryunosuke in Urusei Yatsura. They're fun to draw!
Q: I hear manga artists sometimes keep a notebook of story ideas to prepare for a new series.
A: That's not how I work. I know how easily ideas evolve as I start drawing the series the idea would become unusuable if you planned it all out. For example Maison was exactly like that. Before I started drawing the series, I made the story and the character design, I could have gotten the okay from the editor, but when I started drawing one storyline everything else disappeared. If you don't allow yourself to see another route you won't have any choices.
Q: What kind of story was it going to be originally?
A: It was going to be a more sculptured ensemble piece about the people who live in the apartment building. But as soon as I drew the first chapter I knew... it was going to be a love story; that would be the strongest element.
Q: I think that's called "character drifting."
A: I thought about the characters the first time I drew their faces on the paper and I would ask myself, "Oh, what is this man like?" What are they feeling and that sort of thing. (?) I know each character is at stake at the beginning. I wonder if such a thing can even be completed when you first introduce a character. They talk to the other characters they've met and they may become more assertive. In a way, they persuade me, and the direction of the story also evolves.
Q: Who was a character that spoke out to the point of affecting the story?
A: Well an example of someone I would draw was Kuno from Ranma 1/2. I would wonder why he was doing what he was doing, and why he didn't keep up.
Q: However you always have unique, new characters appearing one after the other in your works.
A: Because my works are serialized I have to think on the fly. It isn't planned but I do think things like "it would be interesting to have a new character appear here." I have to think of a type of character that hasn't been done before, that's what I keep trying to do. I have a lot of affection for any of my characters, but some appear less often.
Q: Is there a common denominator that has made your characters go together for such a long time?
A: Well each character is intertwined with each other. Each one has a role to carry out....and a compatability with the others. The characters who live longest are the ones that mesh well. I don't simply measure them by means of a personality that stands out. If they interact in the story they stay, and those that don't you don't use.
Q: Which character happened to had the most unexpectedly long life?
A: Well Lum. Initially Lum was only going to appear once. After her first appearance she didn't appear in the second chapter. I was desperate and couldn't keep her out for a third (laughs).
Q: I'm very surprised that Lum wasn't going to be the main character!
A: Urusei Yatsura was originally only going to be a five chapter series when it began, and would feature Ataru meeting one strange person after another. But the story of Lum hit right away. When I put Lum in again somehow that... settled the viewpoint of that world.
Q: So it was originally only going to be five chapters? And it became a long-term series because it was so popular.
A: That's right. But I don't know if its popularity was all thanks to just Lum. I would get letters from readers asking "what about Ataru and Shinobu?"
Q: Simply because of the appearance of Lum, people became worried about Ataru's relationship with Shinobu.
A: I learned that was what the readers were interested in.
Q: With Maison Ikkoku and Urusei Yatsura its possible that different readers have different favorite characters. They might request more Benten or more Kozue and Godai moments.
A: Yes, that always made me happy. The readers really cared about the characters and felt empathy towards them.
Q: Are there any of your past characters that you have especially deep feelings for?
A: Well... I can't say. I like them all. I always get in trouble with this question.
Q: I was asking about the supporting cast being more important than the main characters earlier. Is there a character that you feel has taken over in that sense?
A: Well Ryunosuke in Urusei Yatsura. And after awhile Sesshomaru in Inuyasha. I think that as the series went on those were characters who moved the story forward more and more.
Q: Currently, in Kyokai no Rinne which is serialized in Weekly Shonen Sunday the heroine, Sakura, seems quite refereshing and cool.
A: To be honest, Sakura is still a mystery to me. I agree with what you're thinking and I wonder we'll gradually learn more about her from here on out.
Q: The characters inner life and history is revealed as the story progresses, and that makes it fun for readers who follow it in their daily life.
A: Sometimes when I'm drawing I wonder how a character develops the personality they have, and I wonder where it comes from. But when you are looking for a reason for it, you can find it by going back and reading previous chapters.
Q: You draw in both a seinen magazine and a shonen magazine. How is drawing for these different?
A: I'm not sure there is a difference. Once a year I draw a "Takahashi Rumiko Theater" in Big Comic Original which is a seinen magazine and these stories talk about social conditions with my editor and that shapes the story gradually. They are aimed at adults and the day-to-day concerns of the reader, what's going on in the world right now, those sorts of situations. But because I know the real world is hard I usually write about the fantasies and dreams of the characters.
Q: There is a core that is common to all your works. Even in Urusei Yatsura and Maison Ikkoku that were running at the same time you didn't feel like you needed to change how your art style?
A: When you're drawing two different works at the same time you have to be prepared. Sometimes I felt like I was drawing Maison Ikkoku when I was drawing Urusei Yatsura and vice versa. It was like a fight. I was drawing one manga to escape from drawing the other (laughs).
Q: You're known for being very fast in drawing manuscripts.
A: On average I can do an 18 page name ("nah-may" the rough layout) in three days and then ink them in two.
Q: Do you write the plot and scenario before you draw the name?
A: I'll start doing panel layouts immediately, without a name. So at stage I'm thinking about the name for awhile... because it's important anyway.
Q: And then it needs to be redrawn.
A: When I start a new series I'll redraw things considerably. I would redraw things about seven times when I started Urusei Yatsura. Nearly as often with Ranma 1/2 too...
Q: Does the editor tell you when its not good?
A: My editor says that I'm my harshest critic. And if he liked it and I didn't, and he thought I should continue I'm the kind of person who would convince him that I shouldn't. Its not interesting if you have to look at it that critically. Just to put out something okay and do a boring name? That makes my hand stall when I try to draw. That hesitation shouldn't happen when you're drawing.
Q: What do you do when your hand freezes up like that?
A: I redraw everything from the name when that happens. There have been times when I don't realize it's not working until I've done the name and started inking the pages. "Now that you mention it," I'll say as I think about my editor's tacit smile (laughs). If I would not want to re-read a manga, then that means I need to redraw it. I don't want to have to do this, redraw something, its hard.
Q: Since your debut you have almost entirely, without interruption, worked in the shonen manga field, did you enjoy shonen manga growing up?
A: I did. When I was a child I also read shojo manga but was most devoted to shonen manga.
Q: Which series in particular did you love?
A: When I was little "Osomatsu-kun" (Fujio Akatsuka), "Obake no Q-taro" (Fujiko Fujio), and "Dororo" and "W3" by Osamu Tezuka-sensei. I was introduced to the works of Ryuichi Ikegami in junior high school and was shocked. I used to go to a used bookstore to look for Ikegami-sensei's "Spider-Man"...... I was reading "Ashita no Joe" (Ikki Kajiwara/Tetsuya Chiba) and "Yakyuu kyo no Uta" (Shinji Mizushima) and others by the time I was in high school. I didn't just read mainstream shonen manga magazines but I was crazy about Garo as well.
Q: Did those works effect the way you draw?
A: I think all of the works I mentioned influenced me a great deal, but one person more than the others was Go Nagai-sensei. I was hooked on his work since Devil Man and at the time Harenchi Gakuen (Shameless School) had a really big influence on me. At the time it was really quite a divergence to do both a gag manga and a story manga at the same time. For example, when the same artist does both typically they would completely change their style. But after seeing Nagai-sensei use the same style with both his comedy and serious stories I thought "I could do it as well".
Q: So you think he influenced your style of drawing?
A: His designs are top-notch, so it's possible they influenced me. I thought the smooth lines of the girl's bodies in "Harenchi Gakuen" was a real innovation.
Q: Indeed, your female characters are thought of not only as glamorous but sexy as well, ever since the beginning. Is there a real woman that they were based on?
A: No. Ah, well, I thought of Lum's name when I was thinking about how nice Agnes Lum's bustline was.
Q: She was a pioneering idol of the 1970s. What do you think of the breast enlargement of the gravure idols today?
A: I was surprised when I saw the Kano sister's busts. I had been wondering if watermelon sized breasts only existed in manga, but they actually do exist (laughs)! On the other hand I think my characters breasts have been getting smaller and smaller.
Q: Do you have a particular series or scene that you enjoyed drawing the most?
A: The Mermaid Saga is a serious one. I really felt like I was one of the readers on that one. When I drew it I was completely absorbed by the story.
Q: Did Mermaid Saga influence Inuyasha?
A: With Mermaid Saga there was this eerie, muddled feeling, and with Inuyasha it was more of a bizzare, fantastic vision. I did a little research about Japanese demons when I started Inuyasha. But they seemed so peaceful, they never ate anyone (laughs). I wanted to draw more Odoroodoroshii's and monsters and that's another way that Inuyasha is original. I felt freer with it, that I could just let it go where it took me.
Q: Your demons are quite ominous and odd, sometimes they are huge, but at times the can be cute as well. You must have felt a great deal of freedom when you were drawing it.
A: Oh, speaking of fun to draw- the fight scenes from Ranma 1/2. I like kung-fu comedies. I especially loved Jackie Chan's Drunken Master. I wanted to draw the action; it was such fun!
Q: Your works range from slapstick to drama, but they are all collectively referred to as Rumic World, how did that happen?
A: It was a slogan that had been attached to Urusei Yatsura originally. In the beginning "roars of laughter monster gag" was the tag line, and I liked it, but...(laughs), the editor came up with "Rumic World". By the way he was also my editor when I launched Maison Ikkoku.
Q: It just came about by chance.
A: I don't think there was anything that particularly triggered it, it was just by chance, I think it was a desire to come up with something original for the readers. I was glad when I first heard it. And my name is a part of that, so I think it helps the readers and everyone remember me.
Q: I don't think that the "world" of Urusei can only be summed up as a sci-fi comedy, just as Maison is more than just a love drama. "Rumic World" wound up being a very insightful way to brand your future works.
A: Right, it's a generic name that really encompasses everything. For example the office worker protagonists of Rumiko Takahashi Theater have some elements of fantasy that come into play in their stories. They might be referred to as Rumic World too.
Q: On the contrary though, do you feel like you have to write within the vein of that "Rumic World" style?
A: No, not really. It's all what one person draws, I don't feel the need to limit my work to fit into that label.
Q: If there is one thing that flows continuously throught the Rumic World its comedy, I think that is the root of all your work.
A: I grew up watching "Taisho TV Vaudeville" and suddenly a comedian or comic storyteller would come on. So I like going along with a joke and then pointing out its ridiculousness.
Q: Speaking of comedic scenes in your works, there's something I wanted to ask you about today, and thats a hand pose that is often appears in your series...the ring finger and middle finger of both hands are tucked while the rest are sticking out. I think its something that only appears in your works, but wanted to ask if it had a special meaning.
A: (Doing the pose) This. I drew it without thinking about it too much but....I think it mostly came out of someone getting wolloped during a slapstick scene? It always has had the meaning of "painful" or "awful". When someone is in a painful situation the hand signal shows that its not serious at all (laughs). I think on some level it captures the feeling I was going for.
Q: Which series was it originally drawn in?
A: If I recall, it was in Urusei Yatsura. Come to think of it, a letter a reader sent later said it was a hand sign that meant "I love you". I didn't know that at all. I guess its not such a good pose.
Q: No, no, I think that pose is a symbol of Rumic World. Also the Onomatopoeia of your sound effects! "Chu-dooon" is really funny after a slapstick scene.
A: Oh I've said this in many places but that wasn't my invention. The "Chu-doon" effect was in Dekin Boy in Shonen Sunday around the same time as Urusei Yatsura. Makoto Tamura-sensei created it. Tamura-sensei is great! I bet Sunday readers back then knew it from there.
Q: Do you have any strong feelings about how your works are animated?
A: It is regarded as something like a reward. I've had good luck and the anime of my works makes me happy.
Q: The movie content isn't always related to your original work, but a topic of debate for many years among fans of the original Urusei Yatsura who liked Beautiful Dreamer.
A: The original work of Mamoru Oshii made it fun.
Q: How does Rumic World figure into it?
A: Anime has many people involved in it. It comes from multiple directors and viewpoints of different people. Regarding anime, I don't give any input expect at the beginning of each series. Each time its really fun to look at and see it air each week on TV.
Q: A lot of what's made your series popular are the roles that seiyuu have played.
A: I've been very lucky with the work of the seiyuu and really appreciate them. In terms of Urusei Yatsura I was so happy with what Toshio Furukawa did with the role. I had been a fan of his when he dubbed Paunch on the American drama CHiPs and I couldn't believe he was playing one of my characters! Another terrific one is Akira Kamiya as Mendo. And I was really thrilled when Sumi Shimamoto, who played Nausicaa got the part of Maison Ikkoku's Kyoko.
Q: When you are drawing the characters do you hear their voice?
A: I don't hear them in my head when I'm drawing the name. But when Maison Ikkoku and Ranma 1/2 came out I was allowed to participate in the auditions of the seiyuu and I would determine if the character had more of this kind of voice or that and would try to help match them.
Q: What were some of the casting opinions in particular that you contributed to?
A: Initially Ranma male and Ranma female were going to be portrayed by the same actor. The actor would have of course been a woman, and there are a lot of females who can do cool male voices, but I wanted the voices to be separate for male and female if that was possible I said. I think Kappei Yamaguchi was really great as male Ranma.
Q: This is your 35th anniversary as an artist, do you have any future goals?
A: I'm focused on drawing Kyokai no Rinne now. I want to continue to draw as long as possible... staying with shonen manga is my goal.
Q: Do you have a philosophy for shonen manga?
A: It should be basic and bright. The goal is not to hurt the dignity of the characters even if they die in battle scenes. I want even an enemy character to be redeemable.
Q: I'm really drawn to the affection you have for all of the characters.
A: There is some good even in an unpleasant person if you want to find it. In the first place I don't feel like drawing someone if they are a character who has no redeeming qualities. When I read other people's manga I enjoy their wicked characters but I can't seem to draw those on my own for some reason...
Q: Is that because of an awareness for your younger readers?
A: That's not the case. I just can't draw it. The hurdle is too big for me (laughs).
Q: Boys are the audience for shonen manga, what do you want to convey to them in your works?
A: I don't think I'm trying to convey a message through my manga. However if you read my manga and you see people being made fun of or facing something difficult... I would hope it would make you feel better.
Q: Just like as a kid, looking forward the realease of the week's manga magazine.
A: I still do (laughs). When you're reading manga its nothing but fun. I want to draw works that will make people feel happiness. Because I think thats the role of manga!
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