Date of Birth: May 26th, 1970
He went to school at Nagoka High School where he won the Pop Step Award for his creation Podmark while Shueisha was searching for new talent. For a time, Nobuhiro Watsuki was an assistant to Takeshi Obata and participated in the production of Arabian Lamp Lamp and Chikara Mito Denzetsu. In 1994, he included a 31 page excerpt in Shueisha for what seems to be a prelude to Rurouni Kenshin. This marked the beginning of Rurouni Kenshin, his very first own manga.
Watsuki has some interesting hobbies; he loves American comics like X-Men, Spiderman and Spawn. He even imports spawn figurines, and he also collects figurines of japanese anime characters. He likes to play fighting games like Samurai Showdown and Vampire Hunter, but he also enjoyes playing shojo games, like 'To Heart". He was a huge Eva fan, and he even based Tomoe Yukishiro's desing on Ayanami Rei. He's a huge fan of American action movies like Die Hard, or Midnight Runner.
After the Kenshin manga, he made a new one called Gunblaze West, about a young boy who roams the Wild West under the influence of his master. Ironically, taht manga ended after 3 volumes, around the 30 episodes that Watsuki thought that kenshin would be canceled. In Yune 2003, he started working at a new manga, Buso Renkin (Armored Alchemist) fo which I don't know much. It's being published in Shonen Jump, and the first volume was recently released.
Below, You can find a long interview with Watsuki that was published in the second Kenshin Guide Book, at the end of the series. I translated it from French, so if there's anything wrong, don't hesitate to contact me to correct it.
I'm going to ask you a lot of questions about your Kenshin manga, but first of all, how are you? Can you finally rest a bit now that the manga's finished?
Well, I still have tons of little things to do that concern Kenshin this year, so I think that I'll have to postpone my rest until after that.
I see, sorry about that! Let's talk about Kenshin. I believe you had quite a few difficulties in the beginning because it was your first series, right?
I wouldn't say that it were difficulties, but I've had it hard; From day to day, I worked on the manga with all my forces. Of course, I had a general idea of the story I was drawing, but I didn't thought about the details. I lived from episode to episode every week.
When you started working, did you think that it would take 28 volumes to finish?
Not at all! In the beginning, I thought that it would last for about thirty episodes. That's why I thought that I would never be able to finish the story I had in mind, because it would have been canceled long before that. And because I was a new mangaka, I couldn't even complain if they canceled it.
If the series would have only lasted for about thirty episodes, where would you have ended it?
I think that it would end around the seventh volume. I'd thought of an ending where Kenshin would quite the Kamiya Dojo and leave for Kyoto. That was the ending I would have used if they canceled it.
But we can find that scene in the manga, can't we?
No, in the version I thought of at that time, there wouldn't be a battle with Shishio, he wouldn't even exist, and the story would have skipped to something like the Jinchuu Arc. In that ending, a group in Kyoto that wanted to take revenge on Kenshin would send an assassin to the dojo. Kenshin would kill the assassin, and leave for Kyoto to fight alone with the group. I would have drawn Kenshin's departing scene, and after that a quick overview of what happened to the other characters.
And Kaoru ?
To be honest, Kenshin would have dumped her. Luckily, the series became a huge success! After they went so far during the Kyoto Arc, they just had to come together, because if Kenshin dumped her even after that, he would be a real bastard!
Could we say that the real theme of the series was to find an answer that would allow Kenshin to be released from his sins.
Yes, that was the plan from the beginning.
But doesn't that go a bit too deep for a shonen manga?
I have to confess that I haven't read much shonen manga when I was young. In Jump, I read most of the Shojo and Seinen manga. Maybe that's why I created a story like this. When I began to think about a story, I backed away a bit from a typical shonen manga.
Did you have that impression during the entire series?
No, only until the beginning of the Kyoto Arc. When I was drawing that phase, and while there were more and more fight, I had the feeling that I was drawing a real shonen manga.
But it's also different to se a clear line between right and wrong, as in most shonen manga, especially if the story takes place in a troubled period like the Meiji Era.
Yes, I've chosen that periode because I wanted to develop my story in a context where it was difficult to see what was right and wrong. Kenshin himself can't really be labeled as good, because of his past as an assassin. I think it's a "grey" series, you can't see the difference between black and white that well.
Why did you create such a complex main character; that would become difficult to develop?
It was an accident. When I realized it, it was already too late. His character came naturally to me, without questions.
Kenshin's main principle is his oath not to kill, as shown by his sakabato. How did you came up with this weapon?
It's an original idea, a weapon like that didn't exist at that time. Right before the beginning of the series, I told myself that it wasn't a good idea to have a main character who killed his opponent in every fight, but I also didn't want to give him a bokuto (wooden sword), or a takemitsu (sword with a normal hilt but a wooden blade). Then I got the idea to create a sword with a sharp back, so that it could be used effectively against opponent, but it wouldn't be lethal. And that's how the sakabato was born!
We're going to ask you some question about the Tokyo Arc. But first, when did you realize that the series would be longer than thirty episodes?
At the part of Aoshi and the Oniwaban Shu. But my contact at Jump, mister Sasaki, told me that he felt that the series would be longer after the fight between Sano and Kenshin, when Kenshin, Kaoru, Yahiko and Sano where introduced as the main characters of the story.
Is it true that you thought of making Sano the main character?
Yes, but I had the same thoughts for Aoshi and Saito, without really considering it. I didn't even know if I would use those two or not.
Can we say, that until episode eight, you were introducing characters, and that the real story began with the fight between Kenshin and Jinne?
The fight with Jinne is really an important event in the story.
Yes, It's the first episode where you can see the big lines of the story, the problem of Kenshin's oath. At that time, I was still afraid that the series would be canceled, and I decided to focus on that, so that I could say to myself that I developed the main character by showing Kenshin's different personalities. This has certainly influenced the rest of the series.
It's that that made the series different from other shonen manga, and you can also see that it's different to distinct right and wrong.
I think so.
Let's return to a subject from before. You told me that you realized that the series would be longer than you thought at the part of Aoshi and the Oniwaban Shu. But why did you think that?
Just because the reader polls didn't show a faltering interest. And after the arrival of megumi, it was easier to organize the story, and to hook the events together. But I have to say that the introduction of Aoshi wasn't that easy, I broke my head on developing his personality.
Was it your intention from the beginning to make Megumi one of the main characters?
No, I wanted to make her appear from time to time, because she has her job as a doctor in the story. And I didn't realize at the moment how well she was connected with the other characters.
Aoshi is one of the characters who shows the most human weaknesses, right?
Yes, he's very human. The fact that he didn't had a break down before Kenshin's depression, made it easier for me to use him during the Jinchuu Arc when Kenshin was depressed.
Ah, I see. In fact, it was around the same time that the CD-book appeared in Japan, wasn't it?
Yes, thank heavens. Because it was so quickly after the beginning of the series, I was quite surprised.
A CD-book uses only sound recording, so there's no image behind the voice actors. Didn't that make you feel awkward when you heard it for the first time?
No, because I never imagined the voices of the characters while I thought of them. So when I listened to it for the first time, I just thought of things like, ah, that's how he could sound, or the voice actors do an excellent job! I had nothing but positive comment about it. What's more, since I never was interested in that phenomenon before, I got the opportunity to discover a new world that I love now.
In short, when the manga was adapted to CD-book, you were relieved and you could focus entirely on the story?
No, even when I was relieved that the manga could continue, I had a lot of problems with the Raijuta part.
It's the part of the manga that didn't really follow the chronology of the manga like you wanted, no?
Right, it wasn't something really important. I tried to draw a strong character, but I failed miserably. Even now, I can't fully understand what went wrong. And what makes it even worse; the technique he uses is also terrible.
Are you talking about the Izuna?
Yes. After I finished drawing it, I realized that it would only be effective if Raijuta came close to Kenshin, so Kenshin could easily evade it without worrying. After that, I created the Tobi Izuna that looks like he launches flying objects at Kenshin. But during the battle against Zanza in the second volume, Kenshin had already stopped a bullet with the hilt of his sword, in the manga, fire weapons don't have such a great. So it couldn't be very effective against Kenshin. I totally messed that part up.
At the same time of the Raijuta part, the manga celebrated its first anniversary in the Jump magazine, right?
Yes. But when I talked to other mangakas, they told me that they also had trouble with there manga, even if they were already drawing it for a year. It looks like a mangaka is relieved if he's past the one year limit, and he loses his concentration for a moment, so he leaves openings like in the martial arts. When hearing that, I got the impression that the same thing had happened to me. But on the other hand, Yutaro had a bunch of fans, so it wasn't such a failure after all.
In the final episode of the series, we see Yutaro's name on one of the signs in the Kamiya Dojo, right?
Correct, He has returned from Germany. According to my idea, Yutaro managed to cure his arm thanks to the advanced medicines of Europe, but he hasn't really regained his thrust to practice the kenjutsu, that's why he learned to fence before returning to Japan. I also thought that he would have fun before returning, and that he had become quite a playboy.
Is he going to take away Tsubame from Yahiko?
It would be amusing to watch the confusions, wouldn't it?
Why did you decide to crate an extra story where Yahiko played the main role, and later for Sano?
Because Yahiko didn't have much to do in the fight against the Oniwaban Shu, I wanted to draw an episode where he could be the main character. Because I knew that it would be difficult to make it fit in the chronology of the story, I decided to make a special bonus episode for him. It wasn't really easy, but I think that the result was good.
And for Sanosuke?
Same thing. He didn't have much to do while Kenshin fought Raijuta, especially compared to the combat before, that's why I tried to compensate that with a bonus episode. But just like with Yahiko, it didn't really fit in the planning, and I had to cut a part of his story to start the Kyoto Arc with the arrival of Saito.
Let's talk about the Kyoto Arc that begins with the appearance of Hajime Saito, and end with the fight between Kenshin and Shishio. It's an arc that took quite some time to finish, right?
It was my contact at Jump, mister Sasaki, who advised me to write a longer story. In the beginning, I thought that I could wrap it up in about a year, but it took me a year and a half to finish it.
Could you tell us what the main characteristic, except for the length, is of this Arc?
That would be that after the failure of the Raijuta part, I told myself that I would give everything I got to make this one work. But to be honest, I thought that, after my slacking in the Oniwaban Shu part, I would take the time to make Kenshin even stronger, so that the series would become more like a real Shonen manga.
What do you mean with that?
Because one of the main characteristics of a shonen manga is that the main character gets stronger with the story, I had a problem with Kenshin, who was already strong from the start, so it was difficult to make him even stronger. I've always said that I wanted to avoid the clichés of a shonen manga, but not necessarily the good sides. So I wanted to introduce such a part in the manga to please the shonen manga fans. I've made Kenshin more mature, by making him overcome his problems and letting him learn the arcane. It's true that the part with the arcane took a while. Because it's an action manga, filled with combat, I felt like I had to introduce Kenshin's master, Seijuro Hiko.
When you thought of developing such a thing in the manga, did you experience any difficulties with it?
No, I found it rather amusing. I was as happy as a child when I thought that I could try, so that I could say later that I was capable of doing it. I've had a lot of fun while drawing the Kyoto Arc, just because the result came closer to a real shonen manga.
And how did the readers react to the changes?
I've got a lot more male readers. That's normal because it was after all published in Shonen jump, a magazine for boys. But Kenshin has always had more female readers than any other manga in Jump. There was even a period when others called it the Shojo manga of Jump! But during the Kyoto Arc, the number of female and male readers was the same as for other manga.
One of the most important events in the Kyoto Arc is the appearance of Hajime Saito, it was the first time that you introduced someone who had actually existed in the cast of main characters, right?
Yes. I've had a lot of trouble with him in the beginning, until I told myself that I wasn't drawing the historical Hajime Saito, but simply a character that was slightly based on an historical figure. After that, I had a lot of fun with drawing him. When I drew the Sekihotai for the first time, I tried to follow the real history. The Sekihotai were an important element in the Bakumatsu, and they were even erased from it. But even because that's true for the history fans, a manga reader didn't really care about it.
That's why an author has to add a personal touch, to reach the readers, instead of being afraid not to be historically correct. That's why I introduced Saito in the story; it was my personal interpretation of him, not historically correct. After all, I'm writing a manga instead of a history book. And I'm very happy that Saito became a popular character, even after all the trouble.
But in fact, Saito wasn't the only new character to appear during that phase, could you tell me who your favorites are?
First of all, Misao.
Out of all my characters, she came out the best, I think. She the only character
that made me experience a phenomenon that I heard from other writers, creating
a character that moves by herself, someone who acts as if she decides everything
spontaneously, without interference of the author. Thanks to Misao, I discovered
other joys of being a mangaka. What's more, when the readers wrote to me that
they also loved Misao, I was even happier.
My second favorite has to be Shishio, he was very easy to draw for me, because he was exactly the image of the typical evil villain I had in mind, and because of that, I was very happy when I drew him. It went so far that I didn't want him to die at the end, but I realized that I couldn't end the Arc by giving him a happy end, so I had to draw his death with tears in my eyes.
On the other hand, who were the characters that you didn't like to draw?
Even when it wasn't a new character, it has to be Kenshin, the more I drew him, the more difficulties I had with it.
What do you mean?
It's because Kenshin is my ideal of the strong and gentle man, but he also symbolizes what I hate the most of myself, being worried all the time, and getting depressed when someone insults me. That made it sometimes very difficult for me to draw him.
And what did you think about the new characters, like Sojiro Seta?
I also experienced difficulties with him. From an artistic point of view, he's easy, but I could develop his personality very well.
It's a difficult character, isn't it?
Exactly, mister Sasaki knew him better than I did. When I talked to him about the evolution for the story, He advised me how to do certain things and every time I realized that his point of view was perfect for a certain character. And for Sojiro, you're better of asking him for explanations in stead of me!
When did mister Oda and mister Takei began working with you?
Around the appearance
of the Juppon Gatana, I believe. They were Eichiro Oda (One Piece), Hiroyuki
Takei (Shaman King), Gin Shinga (Oni ga Kitarite), Mikio Ito and later Shinya
Suzuki. Because they did their job very good, and they were nice company,
it was a very positive collaboration, and they convinced me to trying other
graphical styles. Even today, I'm influenced by that time.
On the other hand, I had a lot of drawing problems at that time because that evolution and I had to hire several new assistants, because a lot of them decided to quit. I've had a lot of depressed feelings, and my troubles with drawing. After that, I had other worries because I didn't have any free time and all I wanted to do was drawing!
At the same time of the Kyoto there was also an anime series made, what did you thought of that?
I was really happy with it. I loved every storyboard, but when the Kyoto Arc was animated, I was really excited? The director told me that he was trilled with the idea of animating Hajime Saito, and I think that he really did a good job with him. The departure scene with Kenshin and Kaoru was also terrific. They have directed all the important story moments perfectly, that's why I could watch the anime without worrying. I was really happy with the adaptation.
Let's go back to the manga, it looks like you made a mix of fiction and history during the Kyoto Arc.
Yes, I've got the impression that I used a lot of historical facts, as motivations or as a background for certain characters, like the movement against Buddhism with Anji, for example.
Was it to develop the characters and their actions a bit more?
In some way, yes. Bt I personally think that in the phase before the Kyoto Arc, there was an even thinner line between history and fiction. Instead of using historical facts at some points of the story, I situated the story in history itself. A good example is the evolution of the Kenjutsu in the Raijuta part. When I started the series, the normal life in the Meiji Era was pretty average, but at the beginning of the Kyoto Arc, and especially around the ending, those thought didn't really come out very well.
Aoshi returns during the Kyoto Arc, but didn't you think of making him reappearing in an earlier, separate episode?
No, I wanted him to be with the others, because I thought of making the Kyoto Arc an "all star show". I wanted all of the characters to be together, so I couldn't leave him aside. When I thought of how to enter him in the storyline, I decided to do it at that moment, to make sure that most of the people would enjoy it.
Aoshi was Kenshin's most popular enemy in the polls, right?
No, that has to be Sojiro Seta. But it's also worth mentioning that of the Juppon Gata, Kamatai was also popular with the male public. It was Oda who gave me the idea to call him "Okama no Kama Tsukai". He has always loved word games like that.
A change of subject now, the theme of Kenshin's oath not to kill anyone became rather important in this part, right?
Yes, because the anxiety to become an assassin again is the source of Kenshin's problems.
Does that mean that Kenshin wants to punish himself by carrying the sakabato?
That's because he can't leave the kenjutsu. If he does that, he thinks that he's fleeing from his responsibilities. He can't just let his head down and say sorry. He has to continue to live with the sword without killing until his death.
Did you experience any trouble with the story because of this?
It was very difficult. Especially because the enemies weren't really defeated if they weren't killed. In a shonen manga, an evil villain appears. The hero has to fight him, and he kills him to win, to ensure safety. In Kenshin, it's impossible to do this, and that made a great difference.
I have to admit that I wandered about this during the fight between Shishio and Kenshin.
I bet you did. But I think that Kenshin couldn't defeat Shishio. It appeared as tough it was a draw, but somehow, it looks more like Shishio came out victorious. To be more concrete, it wasn't a defeat for Kenshin, but it's a good example of "Kagi Nige" (defeat someone and run away, giving the opponent no chance for revenge, humiliating him, or simply leaving like you were the strongest, without giving the opponent a chance to prove himself). I have to admit that Shishio was one of my personal favorites; I think that's why I made him the strongest character in the manga. And because I couldn't let him defeat Kenshin, I had trouble coming up with a better idea.
Right. And even after the end of the fight, the epilogue took five chapters to finish, isn't that a bit too much for a shonen manga?
Yes, it's strange. But I've thought a lot about it, and I couldn't do it any other way. I couldn't just leave the Juppon Gatana without saying something. That's another aspect of the manga, a character doesn't simply stop existing when the fight is over. The readers who think of it the same way and have fun, and the ones who don't like such a conclusion, just don't read it, I think.
Now that we've finished discussing the Kyoto Arc, I'll ask you some questions about the Jinchuu Arc. We also see a bit of a prologue when we see Iwanbo, or Ge'in in fact, sitting on the mountain, right?
It may have looked like I didn't end that part well, but in fact; I was already planning to let him reappear in the next phase.
Did you know from the start that Iwanbo was a puppet, controlled by someone inside of him?
No, at the start I created him as a character with an elastic skin so that swords wouldn't be very effective. But in the middle of the story, I got the funny idea to make him a puppet, so I changed him.
With this, Iwanbo could even spin his head around
Yes, at that moment, I decided to turn him into a puppet. When the Juppon Gatana met Aoshi in Kyoto, I hadn't even thought of that.
When we take a look at the enemies that fight Kenshin at Enishi's side, and when we compare them with the ones from the Kyoto Arc, it's difficult to identify himself with the, don't you think?
Exactly, that's because I wanted to draw real evil villains.
Real evil villains?
There's a difference between villains and evil villains. I think that most of the enemies in Kenshin are villains, but none of them can be called really evil. Even Shishio wasn't that evil. Up until that moment, there wasn't a single enemy in Kenshin that the readers hated him so much that they wanted to see him destroyed. When I realized that, I came up with the idea to draw real evil villains.
And have you succeeded in your attempt?
No, I failed miserably. I think I still have to learn to create that sort of character. But Akira Toriyama and Eichiro Oda do succeed in Dragonball and One Piece.
But what do you think of Jinne, doesn't he fit in the category of evil villains?
No, it was an enemy, but he wasn't really evil. A real villain doesn't show any mercy, like Freezer in Dragonball, or Piccolo, like he was in the beginning, later on he was just an enemy. It's that that makes the difference.
The Jinchuu Arc is the only one where you really got the chance to draw the past of Kenshin, right?
Yes, and to be honest, I planned to make that part shorter, but it ended up being really long! I didn't have a choice; I couldn't shorten such an important part of the story.
It's a very violent part, right?
Before I began writing it, I had already warned my contact at Jump, mister Sasaki, that it wasn't going to be typical shonen manga. So he knew what he could expect.
And what were the reactions of the readers?
They took it quite well, actually. Tomoe became, to my great relief quite popular.
That part finally explained the cause of Kenshin's cross scar. When did you think of giving the story that turn?
Even before beginning the series. Not everything was worked out, but I'd already thought of two people making the branches of the scar, Kenshin's love, and the person the woman loved before meeting Kenshin.
So it never came into your mind of making it a war scar?
No, even before the beginning, I had already decided that it wasn't caused by an enemy, a rival or someone like that.
In the end, Kaoru was still alive, although many people thought that she would be gone. Weren't the readers shocked by her death?
Yes, it was a huge shock for them.
Was it your intention from the beginning to let her live?
I've asked myself what to do with it. I wasn't really sure about the ending of the Kyoto Arc at that time. But even when I doubted, I thought that with Kaoru death, I couldn't come to a happy ending. Even if I made it so that Kenshin would find his answer, that he could finally rest, without Kaoru, it couldn't be a happy ending, so I decided to let her live. But that really gave me trouble. To be honest, if I hadn't drawn the Kyoto Arc, I would have killed Kaoru. But after having the feeling that I was drawing a real shonen manga at that time, I understood that I had to have a happy ending. Manga is supposed to leave us with a happy feeling, so I had no choice.
And didn't you think of that before drawing a shonen manga?
No, in fact, I've always liked manga with a sad ending. What I want to say is that manga has to have a happy end, especially shonen manga. Of course, this doesn't have to happen there are tons of interesting books with unhappy endings. But I tried to keep me at that, I would have regretted it otherwise.
I've heard that you had a lot of trouble with the ending, and especially on how to make it a good ending. When did you begin to think of ending the series?
I've talked about it with mister Sasaki during the summer of 1998 for the first time. He finally gave me permission at the end of the year, and in spring 1999, they accepted my decision, and the ending was imminent.
And why did you decide to end the series?
There were many reasons. First, of all, I didn't felt like drawing Kenshin anymore. I'm repeating myself here, but after discovering how much fun a shonen manga was during the Kyoto Arc, I had difficulties with drawing the Jinchuu Arc, who wasn't really shonen manga. That was difficult for me. It isn't so that I thought of stopping Kneshin when it became too boring, but it was just my way of thinking that changed.
Is that all?
No, to be honest, I was 29, and I wanted to pass on to my next manga. I don't know what it would be exactly, but because I didn't want Kenshin to be my only manga Shonen Jump had a lot of young authors at that time, and I thought of going to the next generation. Some part of me told me that if I simply kept drawing Kenshin, it would fail sooner or later, and that it would be too late for me. As an author, I wanted to start a new series I wanted to press the reset button!
It's certainly true that Kenshin isn't a typical shonen manga
That's just why I created the series!
The main theme in Kenshin is the search for an answer that allows him to atone for his sins, like you already told me. But in the final part, it looks more like it turns about the passing of generations
Viewed with that in mind, could you see that Yahiko becomes the main character in this part?
I agree, that's why I've chosen his genpukku as final episode. Because the Jinchuu Arc wasn't really a shonen manga, I compensated it by making it look like Yahiko was transforming to the main character.
It's true that Kenshin, who is the official main character of the series, has been depressed for quite a while during that phase.
Yes, but that doesn't look like a main character. Maybe I tried to hard on that. With a main character who suffers a lot, Yahiko had a lot of trouble. That hurt me. In fact, I wanted to draw Kenshin's resurrection quicker, but I felt like it should take more time.
Could you tell us something about Enishi, Kenshin's strongest opponent during the final part?
I failed a bit with his design. I wanted to make him much more depressed, and I thought of a villain who was very emotional, but in the end, because of Shishio's influence, it didn't worked out the way I wanted.
Shishio kind of ran away with the victory, with his death trough auto-combustion, without Kenshin being able to actually defeat him. Enshi resembles him a bit in that way, because he feels remorse at the end, right?
He didn't intend to show remorse. With Kenshin finding his answer, their fight didn't make so much sense anymore, so it was him who came out victorious.
The final fight takes place on an isle, was there a special meaning behind that?
Yes, there were two different reasons. I wanted a place that couldn't be found easily, and I wanted the final fight to take place under sunlight. Kenshin didn't have many fights under the sun, so I wanted to draw one more. I told my self that that wasn't really shonen, but I didn't care. Most of the time, in a shonen manga, the main character fights in open air, under the sunlight. I thought to make at least the final scene correct!
Your drawing style has also changed in the ending, right?
Yes, it became more fluent, didn't it? At that time, I thought that my drawings where a bit too irregular, my characters failed sometime. So I tried to improve myself.
So you did that by choice?
Yes. I also paid more attention to the proportions. For example, when Aoshi became hyper violent, He had a corps that was less that 10 times the size of his head. I'm exaggerating a bit, but I wanted the corpses to stay around 8 heads tall.
I see. What did you feel when the series ended?
I could barely rest and I was full of ideas and things I wanted to do, but I didn't begin, and it was a bit too late. I was also thinking as an author, about what I would do with my next manga. Drawing Kenshin was a good thing, and now I was thinking about what was good, and what I did wrong, to use them again in my next series, or to correct the bad things.
What did you decided after finishing Kenshin?
I think that the best weapon of a scenarist is his originality, so I wanted to let me be inspired by certain things. You have to take in that thing, and after having changed with some personal touches, you should give it to the reader so that he doesn't really see where you got you're inspiration from. Without that, a mangaka has no future, I think. That way of thinking gave me quite a bit of trouble.
And what were the things that you liked the most about the series?
The fact that the series lasted for five and a half years, and that I could finish it the way I wanted, I think. It isn't always an easy thing in a magazine like Jump, so I'm happy about it. Of course, not all of my readers were satisfied with the ending.
In the interview that was published in the first Kenshin Guide Book, You told us that you began drawing under the influence of your older brother; could you tell us something about it?
When my brother was still in the lower years, he began to draw things on his books, just with a pencil. I soon followed his example, but he quickly gave up while I didn't.
When did you send your first script to an editor?
I was sixteen. The responsible editor, who got my storyboards, was mister Sasaki. That's why we already know each other for more than 10 years
At that time, was he already so pressed on getting your storyboards?
No, in college, all I did was sending him my storyboards so that he could read them and give me advice on them. In the beginning, I sent him one every six months, and later on only one every year but that was mainly because I was still in college, and mister Sasaki told me that he was patient enough.
When did you really decided to become a mangaka?
At the end of the
college, I decided that I would try that road. Luckily, I was smart enough
to first finish my education, but that didn't get me very far, seeing on how
stupid I can be now.
Whit that said I had problems with my family and Well in short, I don't want to say anything bad about my parents, but let's just say that shortly after that, I quit school, and from that moment I tried to become a mangaka.
After school, you first started out as an assistant for other mangakas, right?
Yes, I worked for Mister Obata, who's currently drawing Hikaru no Go, who was drawing Rampou and Chikarabito Densetsu at that time.
Is he the only mangaka you worked for?
No, I've worked for several other mangaka, like Tsugihara Ryuji, Yoichi Takahashi and Obata but because Obato was my spiritual master, I did everything to wiork good under him. I succeeded, and I helped him with Rampu, and after that I worked under Haruto Umezawa on Hallelujah After that, I worked for several other persons, but I was still working on my own manga.
Why did you enjoy working under Takeshi Obata so much?
When I was sixteen, I was deciding to become a mangaka, and at the same time, mister Obata received the Tezuka Award. What's more, the jury described him as an exceptional talent, as only seen every ten years. At that moment, I decided that I had to follow him if I wanted to become a good mangaka, so I just had to be his assistant.
It was destiny!
Yes. The worst thing was that I saw him as a rival in the beginning, but when I read his "Cyborg Jii-Chan" manga, I realized that I shouldn't see him as a rival, but as a teacher. I was very excited when I could help him with his work on Rampou. With Tsugihara, I learned a lot about preparation, With Yoichi, I learned the basic techniques, and with Obata, I learned how to use all of that. I appreciate it a lot that I could see how the author I most admire works on his drawings.
Let's talk about the "Rurouni episode (first of the two Rurouni episodes, published in volume 3), where Kaoru, Megumi and Yahiko are family. Did you begin to draw this as your first work?
No, it took me quite some time, I drew it when I was 22 and I started the Kenshin series when I was 24. I've been told that my episode "Sengoku no Mikkazuki) was better, but that took me a while. The second "Rurouni" was published in Shonen Jump about a year before the start of Kenshin.
The episode where Shizuru appears is the one that resembles the series the most, so much that some people say that it was a part of the series before Kenshin met Kaoru.
It doesn't disturb me that people think that. To be honest, I wanted to make Chizuru appear in the series, but I forgot And it would have been complicated if there was another heroine in the series!
To sum up a bit, Kenshin is your first manga, and in the beginning you told me that you loved shojo manga, but during the Kyoto Arc, you discovered how interesting a shonen manga was. What genre are you going to draw next?
As I said earlier, I discovered the interesting world of shonen manga, so I'll try that genre next. Because Kenshin was a strong character from the start, I'm going to draw a character that still has to become stronger and mature in my next story. Of course he has to win the fights, but they also have to give him some trouble.
Does that mean that the hero in your next manga will be a young boy?
Nothing's decided yet, but it'll probably be a boy around 13 years. And I'm also going to introduce a character that I haven't used in Kenshin, a female fighter.
Don't Kaoru and Misao fit in that category?
More or less. I need someone who's strong, someone who can fight at the hero's side with the same force. I also want to create some of the more stupid characters, like Banjin or Cho, because I enjoy drawing them. This time, I want to use them as main characters. In Kenshin, the main characters are a bit too dark; they are having internal conflicts, a hidden side that they don't show to others. I want to draw characters that are easy to understand, without too much complications, maybe that better.
In what time will you situate the story? Our time?
Yes, I'll stop with the historic mangas for a while. If I feel I want to draw them somewhere in the future, I'll probably will but for now, I feel like drawing something in our time.
You have already drawn one called "Meteor Strike", right?
Yes, there's that one. I have drawn it when I took two weeks vacation on Kenshin, and the planning was screwed up. There are a lot of things in that manga that I wanted to change, and when I reread it I thought it was a stupid story,. Whatever I do, they are not going to let me draw a story where Kenshin gets a meteor in the head.
The bonus episode at the end of the Kaden Guide Book 2 officially ends the series, but do you have any regrets, or something you wanted to draw, but didn't?
Anyone who reads the end of the Kyoto Arc understands that Sojiro leaves for Hokkaido. At that time, I wanted to draw a new arc, situated in that region, where Sojiro would be at Kenshin's side.
Is that the Hokkaido Arc that everyone awaited?
Yes. I also wanted to introduce a new character, Shinpaci Nakgakura, the captain of the second division of the Shinsengumi (he was one of the strongest Miburo, alongside Soshi Okita and Hajime Saito). But I thought a lot about it, and I preferred to end the series at the end of the Jinchuu Arc, so the Hokkaido Arc just vanished into smoke.
Wuld the Hokkaido Arc be depressing and dark, or happy?
More to the happy side. I wanted to make it more like a western. The Meiji governmental army would be the cavalry, the new inhabitants of Hokkaido, the samurai-farmers and others would conquer the west as colonists, the people without a real goal would be the outlaws, and finally, the native people of Hokkaido would be the Indians. And Kenshin and his friends would arrive in the middle of this.
It looks different from the rest of the manga.
Bwah, you can't do the same thing all the time. What's more, at the end of the Jinchuu Arc, we finally arrive at the end of the main theme of Kenshin, that which characterizes Kenshin the most, his guilt and the search for an answer to help him atone for his sins. The next Arc would have to be completely different, or else it wouldn't make sense. That's why I wanted to make it like an American action movie. It would be very funny to surprise the readers by letting an American colonists chariot enter the scene.
Besides Sojiro, which other characters would have reappeared?
I wanted to re-use Fuji, because it would be interesting if he came to help Kenshin when he was in danger. I also thought that Fuji looked really cool when you see him as a lumberjack in Hokkaido.Anji's also imprisoned in Hokkaido, and I wanted to make him return? Because he's the only character who wasn't spiritually saved, I was a bit annoyed, and I wanted to offer him a chance at his return.
It seems that you have already thought a lot about the story; wouldn't the readers be happy if they could actually read it?
Yes, but no, I prefer re-using the ideas I had for that phase in my next manga.
Ok. When do you plan on beginning with your new manga?
I've only begun to think about the story, so I have no idea. I hope to begin at the middle of next year.
Will it be something completely different form Kenshin?
Yes, I want to make an interesting story, but completely different. With that said, I'm still the same author, and because of that I think that it will resemble it at some points. I'm planning on re-using some of the good things I learned from Kenshin.
Have you learned a lot because Kenshin was your first real manga?
Of course! There are some parts that were missed, but I still learned a lot with it. I think it can only be positive for me.
What has been the most important thing for you these past five years?
The support of my readers. Drawing manga is certainly my job, but the fact that I can draw what I like and to see that the public likes it, really makes me happy. Every time a reader lets me now what he finds funny or interesting in the manga, it boost my moral. Readers are everything for a mangaka.
Do you have a message for the readers who read until here?
Thank you all! It's especially that that I wanted to say. If they want to read my next manga, I would be very pleased. I'll do my best, so on to the next!
Thanks a lot for helping
us with such a long interview!