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Interview in Italy
from Kappa Magazine Issue 5, Star Comics November, 1992 Translated
by: Dylan Acres
Question: Give us a quick overview of your career.
Takahashi: I have held my current job for approximately 14 years,
but I wouldn't be able to pin down the exact day in which I made my debut
in this field... The only thing that I can say with certainty, is that
I didn't keep my "pen name" very long.
Question: Where were you born?
Takahashi: I was born and grew up in Niigata where I attended the
local grammar school; after that, I transferred to Tokyo for university.
Then, during my third year, I participated in a new comic artist competition
organized by Shogakukan. I succeeded in earning one of the prizes for
the best works in the competition, and it was then that my career began,
at the age of twenty.
Question: What pushed you into participating in the competition
in the first place, and then launching yourself into the world of comics?
Takahashi: It was a dream that I chased since I was a child...
Then, living in Tokyo and seeing all those big houses around me, I thought
about being able to make it and I enrolled myself in the competition with
Question: Had you designed comic strips since you were a child?
Takahashi: Yes and it was always my passion. In the beginning I
limited myself to writing small four panel strips. Then, in grammar school,
I participated in my first competition... and it was truly a disaster!
Question: Did the fact that you decided to enroll in a university
in Tokyo have something do to with your ambitions to be a cartoonist?
Takahashi: No, that choice had nothing to do with my career ambitions.
Seeing the failure of my first competition, I decided to renounce it all
and enroll myself at the university in my hometown. But my parents had
other ideas. They convinced to me to transfer to Tokyo, so that I could
create my own, independent, life.
Question: As far as your professional techniques, did you develop
them alone or with the aid of some master?
Takahashi: I learned the necessary techniques imitating my favorite
artists, and learned to trace lines by roughly estimating. During my college
years I took a course in manga illustration from master Kazuo Koike. Over
the course of the six month class I was pushed to devise no less than
one story per week. Then they made me excercise my ability to create vignettes
and entire pages, and these pages had to be based on the scenarios that
had been written throughout the course. To be among so many people who
had the same ambitions as I did was a stimulating experience and it encouraged
me to continue on my path. The disciplines that were taught there were
all high quality: in fact some of them I have only been able to understand
and appreciate after working in the business for many years.
Question:Which authors have influenced you?
Takahashi:There have been many. In the beginning my favorite one
was the great Osamu Tezuka, and then I fell in love with the works of
Fujio Akatsuka (Doraemon). While I attended middle school I was huge fan
of Spider-Man from Marvel Comics: the Japanese version was written by
Kosei Ono and illustrated by Ryoichi Ikegami; after that I became interested
in the works of Kazumasa Hirai, but the designs of Ikegami continued to
appeal a lot to me. His art was what pushed me to become a cartoonist.
Question:What manga are you currently interested in?
Takahashi:Right now, the most interesting manga to me is Parasyte
(by Hitoshi Iwaki), published in Afternoon by Kodansha.
Question:What do you like about it?
Takahashi:The story is very difficult to describe, because if it
were not for the extraordinary ability of the author, the work would almost
be grotesque. Iwaki succeeds in portraying tears and love truthfully but
with a humanity that's uncommon.
Question:Which foriegn authors do you like?
Takahashi:I do not know many, but at times I find American comic
strips appealing, they have very beautiful designs.
Question:Do you think it is better for an author who writes and
designs their works alone, or is it better to have a subdivision in tasks
such as writing and illustration between two people?
Takahashi:It all depends on the author: in my case I prefer to
work alone, therefore I am totally responsible for the work. But in the
case of an author who has a large-capacity for artistic design, but is
insufficiently endowed when it comes to inventing stories, then it would
be easier to work from comics written by others. In this case, however,
discordance between the two authors can arise, so it's not an easy task.
people think that if one's manga is turned into an animated series, then
that is the true measure of success. What is your opinion on that?
Takahashi:This also depends on various authors points of view.
Personally I am content that my job can be transposed to animation and
appear in videos. I realize the propagandist power of the TV, even if
the cartoons don't always stimulate the content of the work. Recently
a lot of works have been converted from paper to screen, but unfortunately
they are not always faithful to the stories they originated from... In
some of these cases I'm a bit disappointed.
Question:Your manga are well loved in Italy, and you have many
admirers here. That being said, how do you account for your fans all over
the world when your stories so closely follow the legacies of Japanese
Takahashi:Perhaps it is out of curiosity. What is astonishing to
me is the interest of foriegn readers in a series like Urusei Yatsura.
In fact, this type of comic is pure fantasy, therefore in order to render
it as realistically as possible, it is necessary to describle the daily
life of the Japanese well. Perhaps the foreign readers are curious about
this as opposed to the typical folklore of Japan.
Question:Reading your work it is obvious that Japanese traditions,
such as popular fables and stories, often find themselves in your writing.
How did you become interested in these stories?
Takahashi:For me, fables represent a shared knowledge, in the sense
that the great mass of Japanese readers remember the stories, and are
therefore easy for them to understand. The popularity of fables are important
and helpful in comics, in that they are easily understood by the mass
it true that Maison Ikkoku relects some of your personal experiences?
Takahashi:Yes and no...its my perspective on life. Naturally, in
Maison Ikkoku, my way of thinking is reflected, but my life does not have
a happy ending yet...
Question:How would you define what "kind" of manga it is?
Takahashi:For the most part, its a romantic comedy.
Question:Evidently this type of story really appeals to you. What
other genre's do you like?
Takahashi:Honestly, I love all comics, from sports to drama. Though
my work reflects other aspects of my personality; in fact when I read
novels or see a film, I prefer comedies. Even if I try to write sports
or dramatic works, in the end they always become comedies. That's what
I'm naturally inclined to do.
Question:Usually manga that are produced by women are serious,
dramatic works. However yours are completely varied...did you purposefully
choose to go this route at the beginning of your career?
Takahashi:With Urusei Yatsura it was my intention to create a science-fiction/fantasy
story as the background of the series, and it nearly became a farce. Up
to that point there were not many manga of its kind, so I wanted to begin
a new tradition. But soon after the series began its publication, readers
would send letters and I learned that their interest was mostly concentrated
on the relationship between Lum and Ataru. At the beginning this astonished
me, but then I became convinced that that would be a natural direction
to go in.
do you draw the inspiration in order to create manga like Urusei Yatsura,
Maison Ikkoku, Ranma ½, Mermaid Forest, Dust Spot and Rumic World?
Takahashi:As far as Urusei Yatsura goes, it's like I've said before.
In the case of Maison Ikkoku, when I was a student, behind the building
I lived in there was an apartment house full of strange people. The place
was rather suspicious, and I recall this happening a lot: there was a
boy wearing a hat and a blonde man, and a kendo mask was always hung in
a window. This apartment wasn't far away from the road, and every so often
I saw someone come out to the street and use a two-way radio to communicate
with someone in the building.....I came to realize that it was natural
to expect strange things from this apartment building. But the story had
to be a drama with realistic implications, and I decided without a particular
reason that the main protagonist had to be the caretaker of the building.
And then the appearance of the student who is ready to move out until
he meets her, and is busy preparing for the college entrance exam. The
comic element, the romance between the two, came into the story as it
moved along, and soon, without me noticing it, became the main story.
With Ranma ½, I had thought a lot of doing a series with a male/female
like protagonist, and since in the greater part of my previous stories
the main character had been a woman, I planned to use a man this time.
I was worried about writing a male main character because of the hundreds
and hundreds of male readers, therefore I decided on the character being
half man and half woman. In Mermaid Forest I have not illustrated my personal
world. I wanted the reader to feel the atmosphere of a typical small Japanese
village. One of those places that everyone of us visited when we were
little and on which which an infinite number of fables and legends were
based. With Dust Spot I had already had it in mind before my debut. When
I was young and played with my friends we would invent and design characters:
it was then that the inspiration for the story came to me. Dust Spot however,
although it is very old and only ran for five chapters, is one of those
stories which people have become very attached to. In the series Rumic
World I have put the reader into various single stories, some are in the
same vein as Mermaid, others are comedies. Also the capacity for comedy
can be found in people's everyday lives. Every so often I would want to
be able to write a story with a normal person, an individual who behaves
seriously from the beginning of the story to the end. With regard to the
slapstick manga, I can say that they are truly my forte...they come to
me more easily.
Question:When you prepare new stories, do the ideas come rapid-fire,
one after the other?
Takahashi:I have always needed to go to my deepest thoughts, trying
to understand the best thing to make in that moment. With dramatic stories
I strain myself to come up with ideas, because that type of manga is more
difficult for me. Instead with comedies, especially those that are conclusive,
I have to invent many situations and I can try different things. This
means that I have to have lots of new ideas, therefore I might need to
consult with the editor.
Question:How do you decide to end a series?
Takahashi:In the case of Maison Ikkoku, practically since the beginning
I had decided to finish it with the wedding of the protagonists, and then
the story would move along in whatever way you could imagine. At the same
time I was also ending Urusei Yatsura, which I could have continued, but
it had lasted for a long time and I chose to dedicate myself to completely
starting a new story.
there any special instruments or technical particulars that you use in
Takahashi:No, nothing special, which the exception of some authors
who use excessive amounts of adhesive films and screen tones, my methods
Question:Do you have assistants who help you in your work?
Takahashi:Today there are five of us, while earlier in my career,
when I published Urusei Yatsura and Maison Ikkoku there were three of
us, including myself. They were very fast with their designs and so we
were more than sufficient with just the three of us. And I don't use male
assistants so that the girls will work more seriously if they aren't worried
Question:Their job consists of drawing the backgrounds?
Takahashi:Yes, I sketch them and they finish them.
Question:About how much time is necessary for you to layout a chapter?
Takahashi:Before I do anything I make the sequence of the story
out on paper, and that takes about nine to twelve hours for a sixteen
page story. The longer the story the longer the amount of time necessary
to complete it.
Question:About how much time does it take from the creation of
a story until the finished product?
Takahashi:If I've started laying things out in the evening, then
I will have finished by dawn. After I have rested for about a day I call
my assistants and in the course of two or three nights we finish the job.
If we strain ourselves we can finish the whole thing in four days, but
usually five days are necessary.
Question:So you don't have a certain day to rest duing the week?
Takahashi: If I have something truly interesting to do then I take
a day off.
Question: Then you cannot take a vacation for a long period of
Takahashi: Exactly. In fact, in the last five or six years I have
not taken a single vacation. (She finally took one after the end of Ranma
½, in 1996.)
Question:What advice would you give to aspiring cartoonists?
Takahashi:First, try to focus on stories that will come to you
in the easiest and funniest way possible. When an interesting thought
comes to mind, think of the readers and how many people will truly be
able to appreciate it. The last bit of advice is that you can't do a story
if it doesn't appeal to you, because the most important thing is that
you make yourself happy: only after this can you strain yourself enough
to amuse others as well.
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