Tetsuo Hara & Kentaro Miura, both known worldwide for their intense art in story telling. These two manga masters were brought together on the pages of Comic ZENON, for an epic double interview. When you bring two living legends face-to-face, what kind of dialogue will unfold? Today, SMAC! brings you a report of the results. Read on!
The discussion started from the topic of “influential works”. This double interview took place as result of Miura-sensei expressing a desire to “Meet the artist who had greatly influenced my work”.
So the interview begun, on the theme of “influences”
In the 1980s, when Miura-sensei first read Fist of the North Star, he was blown away that anyone could keep up a weekly serial with such a high level of detail.
Surprising reply comes from Hara-sensei, for his “influences”, He stated “Tensai Bakabon”, the surrealistic gag manga that took Japan by storm in the70’s, as the first manga that really had an influence on him. “Bakabon” is basically a slapstick gag comedy, but there were occasional moments done in Gekiga style, further enhancing the gag by contrasting with other scenes.
Hara sensei was then drawn to more realistic touches of Gekiga style. When drawing Fist of the North Star, one challenge for him was finding the right balance between humour and realistic depiction.
In his youth, Hara-sensei bought American comic books such as those by Neal Adams, and also books on anatomy. Sensei originally wanted to become a painter. He clearly saw great needs for realism in his art style since he was at school.
For the love of “Gekiga(Dramatic Depictions)”
Hara-sensei then becomes known for his “Gekiga touch”. He has previously stated that “I will protect Gekiga forever!”, showing his strong dedication to the style. When he started drawing Manga, “Gekiga boom” was fading, with “love-comedies” with much cuter characters becoming increasingly popular – a movement Hara sensei detested strongly at that time. His passion for “Gekiga” gave birth to “Fist of the North Star”, and basically resurrected the whole genre. And we are ever so thankful for that!
However, he also talks of his current attempt to please more female readers. In Japan number of female readers are increasing at a faster rate than that of male readers. It is quite incredible to hear someone like Hara sensei – a true manga legend; trying to entertain even broader audience. His passion for entertaining more readers is still burning brightly even after all those years.
He also expressed changes in his own taste over time. During his 20’s, he loved muscle-bound macho characters. But recently, he has grown to appreciate slim shonen characters who demonstrate “the future potential”.
Miura-sensei also praised Hara-sensei’s most recent work “Ikusa no Ko”, saying that female readers would definitely find that certain “glamour” in young male characters!
YOU CAN READ “IKUSA NO KO” for limited time on SMAC! WebMagazine:
“Fist of the North Star” Production Secrets:
Miura-sensei, discussing the appeal of Fist of the North Star, says that idea of “striking pressures points, to make the antagonists explode” is plainly incredible, and the fact whole story evolved around this single trick.
According to Hara-sensei, he got the idea from his editor at the time, Mr. Horie (Currently CEO of Coamix Inc.,). Hara-sensei loved Bruce Lee and Mad Max, so Mr. Horie searched for ideas that matched up.
Comparing “Manga creation” to “Weaving of a cloth”, Hara-sensei says that the job of a mangaka is to become a specialist in creating the “horizontal threads (characters and their charms)”. A mangaka may find difficulties in creating the vertical threads (events that progress the storyline). He explains that it was his editor, Mr. Horie, who contributed most of those vertical threads.
Despite being a shonen manga, “Fist of the North Star” is well-known for its brutal scenes. Violence was never the main subject of the series, but some moments were unavoidable and necessary to really display the protagonist’s amazing fighting power. However, Hara sensei did not want readers to feel the pain and the agony death inevitably implies.
Sensei’s love of Humour was then used to amazing effect.
To make the readers more focus on the brilliance of Ken (the protagonist) and not the gore, Sensei added “comical death throes” to scenes that can otherwise be “too serious/too much agony” – so that the readers feel less of the pain, or even laugh at the fact the bad guys received what they deserved!
Even after much consideration to make the series as “appropriate” as possible, those who only saw the visual depiction of violent scenes considered the series “too violent”. Criticisms arose from various angles.
To ensure that Hara-sensei could 100% focus on his work, it fell to his editor Mr. Horie to protect him from the outside criticism. Although there were still occasional issues, Hara-sensei says that production was able to continue smoothly, thanks to Mr. Horie, and the help of Buronson-sensei, who was brilliant at creating tearjerking scenarios.
“Leaping out from the page” – dramatic depiction
After discussing production secrets, the discussion finally turned to the actual drawing of manga. Miura-sensei enthusiastic says that it was almost like Kenshiro or Raoh’s fist was “flying out from the page”. When creating “Berserk”, Miura-sensei tried for the same effect, but wasn’t satisfied with the results. He felt that Guts’ sword just didn’t have the same feeling of “weight” as a fist. The senseis’ analysis is that “the depiction of Hokuto Shinken is like an extension of a readers physical sense, giving the readers real stimulation”.
When drawing Guts’ main weapon, the great sword “Dragonslayer”, Miura-sensei also wanted that “extension of reality” feel to it, so that the reader would believe “This might actually be possible!”
“Character Creation” and historical characters
Hara-sensei’s latest work “Ikusa no Ko” is the story of the youth of Japan’s most famous warlord, Oda Nobunaga. But Nobunaga’s most famous, well-known battles are so far not included. In focusing on Nobunaga’s relatively unknown youth, Hara-sensei had more freedom to create manga.
Hara-sensei has drawn many historical figures, such as Maeda Keiji, Shima Sakon or Tokugawa Ieyasu. When designing these characters, he imagines their “personalities”, “habits”, “the way they lived” and “how they would express emotion”, historical details will be the final touch to create the mesmerising characters that are signature of his manga creation.
When asked about “Bigaku (literary ‘Aesthetic consciousness’, the term is often used to describe unique personally traits that is defined by the character’s way of life)”, he replied while he likes all of those characters, he does not intentionally set them as he initially create the characters. “Bigaku” traits, the signature personality element develops as the result of intense stories that Mr. Horie or Buronson sensei creates.
Anime and spin-offs
The “Fist of the North Star” anime became massively popular around the world. However, when seeing the anime adaptation for the first time, Hara-sensei lamented the lack of details in the animated characters. Since the original manga had so much detail, the simplified depictions in the anime come across as somewhat lacking. Miura sensei reacts by saying “it’s a kind of tragedy that can happen only to a talented artist”.
Two sensei’s then talked about the effect of having an anime adaptation. While it’s seen as less lucrative than it once used to be, having an anime adaptation is still a strongly effective way to bring new readers to the original manga version. And that when done correctly, is still very much a viable business.
“Spin-off” works are also important in similar ways. It can be a way to bring new readers to existing worlds of his creations. Today Hara-sensei actively takes part in the creation of spin-off works such as the “Gifu-Do-Do” series. Sensei creates the ever-so-important “characters”, not just physical appearance and anatomy but also the “Personalities” that “animate” the characters, making them act like real human beings. Sensei then supervise the creation by young creators, reviewing story boards and making improvements where necessary.
Getting that much involved places a large workload on Sensei he sees it as a way to “Fill the gaps he couldn’t fill himself”. He also enjoys working with young creators because he enjoys “trying lots of new and exciting ideas”
Being drawn by somebody else but Hara-sensei’s input is visible in all of those spin-offs. He says he is happy to be working with young creators in this style, but said he had been infuriated in the past, by his young associates because they didn’t follow his request.
“Now that I’ve gotten a little older, people tend to listen to what I say. Thank goodness I turned 50!” He summarises his current situation with a charming smile.
“The Zone” and “Lifespan”
Hara-sensei is not only passionate, but also very strict about manga creation. He even considers it to be some form of “training”.
He says when one continue to draw manga for long enough, one enters “the zone” (a state of high concentration, like in sports), in which the thoughts of everything, including yourself, disappears from your mind – your mind then purely focus on the Manga and Manga only.
He says that euphoria-like feeling is the moment that one feels the joys of being a manga creator, but also says “coming out” of the zone is an unbearable exhaustion, so much that he even feared death on several occasions.
Yet it doesn’t stop him trying to “enter the zone” for every chapter that he creates. He has a unique philosophy about “using his life” for extremities:
“I always thought if mangaka get too worn out, and die young, then young people won’t want to do this job. Even if the mangaka is satisfied with this lifestyle, he’s got a responsibility to the next generation, and in that sense, it’s not good… However, coming as far as I have, I think I’ve come to understand the feelings of the sensei’s who have passed away young. Shortening your lifespan and dying young may be a virtue…”
Mr. Miura says “If I continue to age like this, I have a bad feeling that my pleasure could turn to pain. But I want to continue drawing until I’m 90 years old! I want to devote myself to my creations!”
Hara-sensei and Miura-sensei have both had long careers as mangaka. Do they ever lose motivation? According to Hara-sensei, “I’m always running out of ideas and subject matter. If I were alone, it would be really tough. But thankfully, I have Mr. Horie and everyone at the company supporting me.” In fact, sometimes his motivation is even fuelled by his “anger towards young people”! He says that “I’ve really worth it to get involved with many people. Working with many people is the way to raise Karma. That Karma, then will someday come back to help you and people around you”.
Hara-sensei’s message to Miura-sensei
At the end of the discussion, Hara-sensei had this message for Miura-sensei. “When you get past 50, your wisdom and experience goes up, so I want you to keep going at it! On the other hand, your body becomes more frail, so don’t think that you can do everything by yourself. Leave it to the guys in their twenties to power through things. Your role should be to guide them.” Miura-sensei has already been drawing Berserk for 27 years. Savouring this message from his idol, Hara-sensei, he felt renewed excitement!
Hara-sensei, Miura-sensei, thank you so much!
That was a rare dialogue, rich in insights.
He also talked of “We’ve gotta to find and raise new star mangaka” and I’m sure that he meant “the new star” is from every one of you entering SILENT MANGA AUDITION. ( He’s one of our judges and a mentor 😉 )
What makes great manga is always the same, great passion and dedication of the great creators!
Here at SMAC! the WEB MAGAZINE, we are passionate to find and support the manga stars of tomorrow. Do you draw manga, or know anyone who draw manga? Spread the word that manga masters in Japan are looking for YOU!
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