Asano Inio interview -

Aug 5th, 2017
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  1. Original Article:
  4. Translation notes: I wrote this late at night and sleepy, so there are a few things that need to be fixed. Spell check is also telling me that "relatable" is not a word, but I've used it too many times in this to back down now.
  6. Q = Question, A = Answer
  7. or
  8. Q = Questioner, A = Asano
  10. Part 1: You dated a girl like Meiko from "Solanin"!?
  13. Q: I'm so happy to be able to do this interview! "Solanin" is like my bible. I've read it a million times.
  14. A: Glad to hear it.
  16. Q: The dialogue, the characters, the plot, and, more than anything, the atmosphere were perfect. And it got me
  17. wondering what kind of life you lived to be able to create such a work.
  18. A: Up until "Solanin" I had only done short stories, so once I started on it, all I was thinking about was
  19. how much I could do with my first serialized story. I didn't have any money, so I couldn't hire any assistants,
  20. and I figured my limit would be about 1 or 2 volumes under those conditions.
  22. Q: It sounds like you were quite the realist with those kinds of thoughts.
  23. A: With the story for instance, I didn't have the means to get the resources for any large scale project, so
  24. I was forced to write a story drawing inspiration from the environment I was in. As a result of that, I used
  25. things like my girlfriend at the time, and the situations my friends were in as inspiration. And Taneda in
  26. the story was about the same age I was at the time.
  28. Q: Wow, so does that mean you were dating someone like Meiko back then!?
  29. A: Well, I wasn't as reliant on my girlfriend as Taneda was (laughs). But there was someone who she is based on.
  30. Q: I am so jealous!
  32. Q: I thought the way "Solanin" depicts the restless and isolated feeling of early adulthood was fantastic,
  33. and I take it that was based on your own feelings?
  34. A: At the time, while I had debuted and had published work as a manga artist, my future was still uncertain.
  35. The people I was hanging around with back then were all friends I had had from college, and after graduation,
  36. we were all in a sort of "creator without a clear future" state, which made things fun from day to day, but also
  37. brought on a lot of anxiety. I put those feelings directly onto the page.
  39. Q: Did you decide from the start that you were going to have the main character Taneda die?
  40. A: I did, and I had planned for it to be the climax of the story. In my mind, I felt like "since I'm a new
  41. manga artist, I've gotta do something like kill the main character or else" (laughs).
  43. Q: You said it so easily, but that's a pretty crazy thing to say, you know?
  44. A: That's true, but I was determined to make something that sold well. Also, the editor-in-chief of "Weekly Young Sunday",
  45. where I was being serialized, was once the editor for "Touch".
  47. Q: Oh, didn't Kacchan, one of the main characters in "Touch", die in the story...?
  48. A: Uh-huh. So when Taneda died, the editor-in-chief was mad at me, saying stuff like "Do you realize how serious
  49. it is to kill a main character!? The phone rang for days with people complaining back when we were doing Touch!"
  51. But I had already done it, and I remember him telling me "What's done is done, but you should at least make the
  52. next chapter more light-hearted" and "Don't do a funeral scene or anything like that".
  55. Part 2: How can creators on the internet survive in the long run?
  58. Q: There's something else I wanted to ask you, if that's alright. I've noticed a huge surge in recent years in creators,
  59. manga artists, etc. using social media to show their works. It seems to me like it's a sign of a shift in the manga
  60. industry, and I was wondering what your thoughts on it were.
  61. A: I think that the amount of manga artists and works being published have increased a ton thanks to the internet.
  62. And like with a lot of arists on places like pixiv, the quality of the work is really good. With it being much
  63. easier to get your stuff out there and have it noticed, it seems like debuting as an artist is at least much, much
  64. easier than in the past.
  66. Q: That's very true.
  67. A: Along with that, though, is it seems much harder to rise above the pack. The publishing industry still has a
  68. culture of treating content creators as artists, and that often leaves open possibilities of doing something
  69. different, whereas the internet has a bias towards things with an obvious entertainment value or strong impact.
  70. I personally think that there are cases where talent as an artist doesn't always equate to content with straight
  71. entertainment value.
  73. Q: Like with anonymous content creators, you focus more on the work they're doing rather than them as an artist,
  74. right? But it makes it hard to feel any assurance that "this person is going to last", doesn't it?
  75. A: That's right. When they release work that sells, I think that it depends on whether people are viewing the work
  76. as a product of the artist, or whether people are viewing it by itself will determine how well the creator will be
  77. able to manage to survive off their work in the long run.
  79. Especially with stuff shared online, people enjoying a particular work doesn't often translate to them
  80. actively watching out for the artist's next work. I think it's very hard for creators who have gained popularity
  81. on places like Twitter and other sites to maintain that popularity and generate future sales as an artist.
  83. Q: Well said. I wonder what would be the best way to rise above the pack once you've gained popularity through
  84. social media. Of course with the assumption they continue producing entertaining content. In your case, for example,
  85. "DeDeDeDe", the serialization you started after "Oyasumi Punpun", made it onto the 2016 "This manga is great!" ranking.
  86. What did you think when that happened?
  87. A: In the past I cared a lot about rankings and stuff like that, but this time not so much... We're in an era where
  88. even if you're high in the rankings, you don't necessarily see a noticeable increase in sales. When I was on "Hot-blooded
  89. Continent" they didn't increase that much, for example. These days, unless you're featured on "Ame Talk!", I feel like
  90. you're not going to see much of an effect.
  92. Q: Are you serious!?
  93. A: Of course there will be differences in effect depending on the author and the work. What sells these days are works
  94. that are "easy to understand that you can relate to", and the stuff you'd call "moe", but if that's all you focus on,
  95. I think it leads to a bias in the range of how things are expressed.
  97. In the past if I drew what I thought was good, it would sell, and I felt there were people out there that would
  98. understand it, but lately I don't feel that as much anymore. To put it in really simple terms, "Do what the market
  99. likes and you'll sell!" is the atmosphere that seems prevalent lately.
  101. Q: It does seem like there is a growing divide between "making something that sells" and "making something worthwhile".
  102. Especially since if you make something that is easy to understand, fans will more readily endorse it.
  103. A: Take Twitter, like we were just talking about, when I passed 100,000 followers, I realized I couldn't care less about
  104. that number anymore. What caused that realization was seeing how the sales for my newest volume were actually lower
  105. than my follower count.
  107. I joined Twitter mainly for my work as a manga artist, but once I realized that any announcements I made didn't really
  108. have much of an effect, my interest slowly waned. Most of my followers aren't so much interested in my work as a manga
  109. artist so much as stuff like my random drawings and my personal life. It's distanced from my main work, which has made me
  110. go "hmmm" at times.
  112. Q: I make full use of Twitter myself for my work as a writer, and have gotten more than 90,000 followers, which makes
  113. me a "social media personality" I suppose, but when creators try to make things with the goal of appealing to their
  114. followers, I feel like they begin to lose something important to themselves as artists.
  115. A: It may sound harsh, but things that are easy to understand, things that are simple and light-hearted are definitely
  116. easier to read and are perfect to pass time with. If you say that manga has its origins in being something to pass the
  117. time with, then you could say it's a perfectly reasonably path for those creators to take.
  119. To each their own, and if that's the type of stuff they want to do, that's great, but looking at a situation where
  120. people are creating light, simple content because they feel that's all they can do, I'd say that can be quite dangerous
  121. if you look at the long term.
  123. Q: If all you make is stuff that people can easily relate to, you start to worry about people getting tired of it,
  124. but it becomes harder to try something different, which is sort of the dilemma of creating "relatable" works.
  125. A: When "Attack on Titan" became a runaway hit, and you wonder why it garnered so much attention, setting aside the
  126. obvious condition of it being entertaining, back at that time there was a flood of moe manga, and it was a situation
  127. where there weren't many "big stories" being done.
  129. With "Attack on Titan" a young artist finally came up with an big story, which I think drew the attention of the
  130. higher ups in the industry. And if there aren't people out there who can create stuff like that, the industry is in
  131. trouble.
  133. Q: I know what you mean. "Attack on Titan" is definitely not something that everyone will find relatable, right?
  134. But because that was never the intention behind it in the first place, it became a major hit, even being turned into
  135. a movie. Keeping a distance between the work and the readers has become important I think.
  136. A: That's right.
  138. Q: Or for example, if you look at your works "DeDeDeDe", "Punpun", etc., and you consider if they're easily relatable,
  139. I really can't say they give off that feeling. The sense of "distance" I get when I read "DeDeDeDe", for instance,
  140. makes me personally think in some sense it was a sort of respect for the industry, or maybe a sort of rebellion
  141. against the current state of content creation.
  142. A: Right, right. It's true that I don't aim for relatability in the manga I create. I take credit as the author on the
  143. work of mine that gets published, and people can decide whether or not they want to buy it based on whether or not
  144. they're willing to following along with the author's(my) whims.
  146. So I'm different from the large amount of manga artists out there right now creating relatable content, and while I
  147. do try to expand my horizons by using stuff like CG, I ultimately continue to create things using mostly the same
  148. methods I always have. And I don't think that will change any time soon.
  150. Q: "No matter how treacherous the path, and no matter if it stretches to the ends of Earth (-Taneda)", right?
  153. Part 3: You said you're using CG in your art, but what made you want to do that???
  156. Q: A moment ago you said, "I do try to expand my horizons by using stuff like CG", and I'd like to talk about that a
  157. little bit. When it comes to your work, especially with "Oyasumi Punpun" and your newer stuff, it seems there is a
  158. much greater level of detail in it, including the backgrounds. Is that related to the "3DCG" you were talking about?
  159. A: Up until "Solanin" I usually focused more on the story rather than the characters themselves. I was never that
  160. skilled in the art I drew, but with "Punpun" I decided I definitely would not compromise with the art, including the
  161. backgrounds.
  163. Q: Punpun was a weekly serialization, wasn't it? It's amazing you were able to do such detailed drawings on a weekly
  164. basis for 6 and a half years.
  165. A: Right. It made me think long and hard that "if I'm going to do this without compromising on the art and the backgrounds,
  166. then where can I cut back?" And the answer that I came up with was "simplify the main character's design".
  168. Q: Aha! (laughs) So Punpun came to be from a process of elimination? Not something cool like "using a
  169. simple form makes it easier for readers to project themselves onto the main character"!? (laughs)
  170. A: More like if I can draw the main character in 5 seconds, I can spend more time on the other stuff, right? (laughs)
  171. That was the solution I found to do what I wanted to do.
  173. Q: I don't know whether you're a genius or just crazy...
  174. A: Actually, at the point in the story where it was turning towards the end, I had it all planned completely in my
  175. head, so as "Punpun" went into the latter half of the story, I focused a lot on the art. That was also the period
  176. where I thought to start using both digital and analog together in my work.
  178. I do my digital work in another room, would you like to see it?
  180. Q: Please!
  181. Q: Is that frog what I think it is!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!?
  182. Q: Wow! It's the one in front of the pharmacy in "Solanin"!! A real one!!
  183. A: Oh, yeah. They gave it to me after they used it in the "Solanin" movie (laughs).
  185. Q: I'm getting pumped up! Oh, oh! Can I take a picture with it before I leave!?
  186. A: Sure, go ahead. (laughs)
  188. Q: Sorry, but I can't help but being excited. Anyway, what kind of things can you do with "3DCG"?
  189. A: 3DCG stands for 3 dimensional computer graphics, right? Manga is of course flat and only 2 dimensional, so after
  190. I create something in 3D, I then convert it into 2D.
  192. Q: Huh? Why would you do that? Doesn't it take more time to make a 3D object when all you need is 2D?
  193. A: In the past, before I started using digital techniques, I used pictures for the backgrounds. One of the reasons
  194. for that is I felt if I left the backgrounds up to an assistant, it definitely wouldn't turn out how I wanted it to be.
  196. Q: Really? So there is a bit of a perfectionist in you?
  197. A: I'd say I'm simply not good at letting other people do things. And if the picture composition was perfect, I felt
  198. it was safe to leave the rest to an assistant.
  200. Although that meant I had to go out every week to take pictures, which I fell behind on. And when there was a scene
  201. I didn't get a chance to take a picture of, I went to draw it and then realized "this building doesn't have a back!".
  203. Q: It's hard to visualize every detail of a panel before you draw it, isn't it?
  204. A: From that, I thought if I create the entire thing in 3DCG to start with, then I can see whatever angle of the
  205. background I want at any time.
  207. Q: It seems like a very fine line between being a long detour and a shortcut...
  208. A: It's hard to pinpoint what the most efficient technique is, isn't it? But this method gives me a sense of security.
  210. I began using CG around a year and a half ago, and around a year ago I began using the program "3DS MAX".
  212. Q: You were able to learn it in only a year? When I think of CG, I think of Hiroya Oku of "GANTZ" fame, who is well-known
  213. as a manga artist who has mastered CG, but thinking about mastering CG to that level, it's hard to imagine it beating
  214. out the usual "manga artist and assistants" setup...
  215. A: That's true. However, I like to keep as few assistants as possible, and I wanted to be able to use CG and manage
  216. my projects by myself as much as possible, so I chose to learn it from the beginning with just me and my current
  217. assistants.
  219. Q: So does that mean you mostly taught yourself...?
  220. A: At first I bought a book about it and started from the beginning, but it didn't get me very far, so through
  221. Autodesk I was introduced to a 3DS MAX training program by the Too corporation, and I learned through that.
  223. Q: You were really dedicated, weren't you?
  224. A: My assistants and I all like video games, so maybe because of that interest in CG we were able to quickly learn
  225. the techniques. But we're still very much beginners.
  227. Take this for example. I wanted to have a scene where this big space ship collides and crashes, so I tried to create
  228. it here. With my old methods, I'd have to find a high spot somewhere to take a picture to achieve this perspective.
  230. Q: To get that perspective, wouldn't you have to be in a helicopter or something?
  231. A: Exactly. Take Hanazawa Kengo's "I am a Hero". In order to draw the scene where it goes from Odawara to Tokyo,
  232. he had to use a helicopter and record the scenes, but I don't have that kind of budget, so if I could make it in CG,
  233. I thought I could at least save myself that trouble.
  235. Q: That story is mindblowing.
  236. A: With CG, once you create something, you can use it as much as you want, and if you change its layout, you can make
  237. it look different easily, right? And since complexity helps tell the story, I'm grateful to have these techniques.
  239. Q: I get the feeling that in the near future you'll have created an entire city in CG.
  240. A: That's the idea. If we can create it all by ourselves, all that's left is to decide how much can be used in the
  241. story itself. Like, with this CG here, it was only used in about 5 or 6 pages. Since we went to all the trouble to
  242. make it, I wanted to at least use it for one chapter, you know?
  244. Q: Normally when someone spent all this time and effort to make something like this, they'd probably want to use it
  245. for 2 or 3 volumes, but to only use it for 5 or 6 pages!! Looking at it from a director's point of view makes it kind
  246. of scary.
  247. A: I genuinely enjoy making things. And when you're doing stuff that other people aren't doing, no matter what you
  248. make, it has newness, a freshness to it.
  250. Especially in regards to CG, there aren't a lot of manga artists using it, and a whole genre of "stories that are
  251. possible through CG" is basically untouched. So anything you create in that subtext will be new and fresh. And
  252. it's also great from the point of view of expanding the possibilities of what you can do with manga.
  254. Q: To see vast new possibilities in manga through the use of technology is quite impressive. To think that further
  255. evolutions in the field are yet to come is truly astonishing. Thank you very much!
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