A two-part interview published in June 2017, the same time as Volume 5 of Fire Punch. One part was published in Jump+ (here), and the other part was published in Jump SQ. They discuss each other’s manga, inspirations, art advice, writing, and their careers. They also drew two collaborative illustrations.
Fujimoto Tatsuki: Author of Fire Punch (2016-2018) and Chainsaw Man (2018-).
Samura Hiroaki: Author of Blade of the Immortal (1993-2013) and Wave, Listen to Me! (2014-)
Interview in Jump+ (Hero Part)
Fujimoto: This is the first time I’ve had an interview with another creator. Samura-sensei, you previously had an interview with Kishimoto-sensei, the author of Naruto, didn’t you? But for someone like me to… I’m just dressed like usual. I didn’t even shave.
Samura: You definitely have a busier schedule than me, so please don’t worry about it. For this interview, I think you wanted some advice as a rookie, but to be honest, I’ve only written monthly serialized manga in my career, while your manga career will be much harder than mine, so I don’t think I can really help, haha.
Fujimoto: Not at all! I’ve had to take so many shortcuts in drawing, but you don’t do that at all in Blade of the Immortal…there’s so much I want to ask you, Samura-sensei. You’re a legend to me. Ever since this interview was arranged, I’ve dreamed of it twice. Your house was in my dream too and it was huge.
Samura: Haha. My house isn’t actually huge though, haha.
Interviewer: This interview came about because of Fujimoto-sensei’s respect for Samura-sensei, but actually, Samura-sensei has also been buying copies of Fire Punch, and has read previous interviews with Fujimoto-sensei.
Samura: Ah yes, that’s right.
Fujimoto: What!? You didn’t have to go that far…
Samura: I remember the first chapter of Fire Punch made a big stir on the internet. So me or one of my assistants read it and thought it was interesting. Then I bought the first volume of Fire Punch to have my assistants read it, but I also started reading it and kept buying the volumes since then.
Fujimoto: Samura-sensei, you really… Please, say anything you want.
Samura: I really enjoy manga where you can’t tell what will happen next. And in Fire Punch, the developments after Togata appears aren’t something you would expect in shounen manga, haha. But I really like that kind of thing. It makes you go, “Wait, what happened to the premise?”. Some people like that while others think it lacks focus, but it’s the same idea either way. It depends on whether you enjoy the suspense of not knowing what will happen next, or if you want a more stable foundation. I don’t know about other people, but I like it. And on top of that, everything does come together around volume 4 into a solid direction.
Fujimoto: Wow, that makes me so happy!! I’ve always wanted to write a manga that’s like a Korean movie. There’s this movie called The Chaser where the main character chases after the villain. But thirty minutes into the movie, he catches him. This is supposed to happen at the end of the movie, so you keep wondering what will happen next. A lot of people say that in Korean movies they can’t tell what the director is thinking, but actually, if you watch until the end you’ll get it. I wanted to make something like that.
But wow, I’m so happy to hear you talk about Fire Punch, haha. It feels weird, coming from an author I’ve read since I was a student… It’s like I’m going to blank out.
Samura: I think there are plenty of pro authors who read Fire Punch.
Editor: The authors whose comments went on Fire Punch‘s paper bands (Ishida Sui-sensei [Tokyo Ghoul], Murata Yuusuke-sensei [artist of One Punch Man], ONE-sensei [author of One Punch Man] all read it. [Japanese books have an “obi” around the bottom that advertises the book.]
Fujimoto: I’m so grateful to everyone…
Samura: It’s great that it got popular on the internet. When you read it, it feels like the beginning of something amazing.
Fujimoto: Not at all…it’s just a product of the modern age. Samura-sensei, have you watched the live action film of Blade of the Immortal?
Samura: I saw the advanced screening. There were so many plans to adapt Blade of the Immortal as a film in the past, but they all fell through, so I thought it wasn’t meant to be. Then out of the blue, they told me they were going to make a movie with Kimura Takuya-san as the lead and to please look over the script. And that there wasn’t any time to mail it, so they were going to send it by motorcycle. It was the first I’d heard about it, so I was surprised that they were in such a hurry, haha. Apparently they rushed the decision through.
Fujimoto: Oh, so that’s what happened. That’s really something. What did you think after watching it?
Samura: The action scenes were 1.5 times longer than what I pictured. And Kimura Takuya-san put in a lot of effort. Well, I was watching a film adaptation of my manga, and in particular something I wrote when I was young, where I came up with the lines 20 years ago. Instead of the quality of the movie, I was thinking that nowadays I wouldn’t write something like that. I was too busy being embarrassed, so instead of having complaints for director Miike, I was just impressed that he did such a good job. If someone who didn’t read the manga watched the movie and thought it wasn’t good, I’d want them to read the manga. To show them that it came straight from there, haha.
Fujimoto: There’s so much more I want to ask… I don’t even want this interview to be published.
Editor: So you want to have it all to yourself, haha.
Fujimoto: Or else everyone would find out how to draw better.
Fujimoto: Samura-sensei, I want to draw like you. So I think that means I should aspire to the artists that you like. What can I do to become you?
Samura: Haha. There are a lot of manga artists that I like, but up through middle school it was Tezuka Osamu-sensei [Astro Boy], Takahashi Rumiko-sensei [Ranma 1/2], and Fujiko Fujio-sensei [Doraemon]. In high school I read Akira by Ootomo Katsuhiro-sensei, and thought he must be an incredible person. There’s also Yasuhiko Yoshikazu-sensei [character designer for early Gundam]. They’re both such good artists. Yasuhiko Yoshikazu-sensei is good at drawing hands, so that made me want to get good at drawing hands. Between classes, I would always draw my hands in my notebooks, so I was a creepy high schooler, haha.
Fujimoto: I’ll do that too from now on.
Samura: Haha. When I got to college, I read 2001 Nights by Hoshino Yukinobu-sensei, a series of short stories about space. It’s amazing how detailed it was. There’s no way that could have been serialized weekly, haha. Then when I went to art school, I was in the manga research club, and for better or worse, manga clubs at art schools have a lot of self-conscious people. They would read Garo [alternative manga magazine] instead of weekly manga magazines, and so on. That’s how I came across manga by niche authors and found out there are a lot of interesting people out there. Then after I graduated and Blade of the Immortal got serialized, I bought a volume of manga by Ichinoseki Kei-sensei. Nobody had told me about it, and I didn’t hear about it anywhere, I just happened to buy it at the bookstore. I was shocked that there was a woman who drew such realistic manga. If I had read it before being serialized, I think I would have been too embarrassed to finish the storyboards for Blade of the Immortal.
Fujimoto: I know what you mean, that feeling of “what if I had read this before being serialized.” I read the first volume of Wave, Listen to Me! when I was writing the first chapter of Fire Punch.
Samura: There are plenty of authors with better art than me. So If you look at a good artist’s works and try drawing it, you can pick up their quirks and end up drawing like them.
Fujimoto: No… I don’t think so… If there’s a secret to drawing better, please tell me.
Samura: What I mean by good art is, for example there’s Takano Fumiko-sensei. I think she’s the manga artist with the best art in Japan. She’s really good at conveying space. I think male artists tend to draw everything in accurate perspective. But in Takano-sensei’s manga, the vanishing point for the background doesn’t really match up. But you can still sense the space. In other words, conveying a sense of space isn’t the same thing as drawing the perspective accurately. You can also shift things to look better.
I also do that when drawing the horizon, for example say I’m drawing the ocean and there’s a dock. If I drew the dock in perspective, then its edges would meet at the horizon, but I would purposefully make the horizon higher than that. And then the ocean would seem bigger, or something like that. I think Takano-sensei does that with her drawings, without thinking about it.
Besides that, Takano-sensei’s manga have a vivid sense of life. It makes you go “oh, that kind of pose!” Like the pose you would make after going home, saying “I’m home”, then taking the mandarin oranges on the kotatsu and peeling them while looking at flyers, and then you spread out your favorite book on the floor and read it. She’s great at drawing mannerisms like that. Takano-sensei’s drawings have few lines. And they can express more than drawings from life. It’s amazing how much perceptive women notice.
Fujimoto: Women are more perceptive, aren’t they?
Samura: They might be better at remembering domestic scenes. Men think good drawings are about being true to life or the composition of action, and other technical skills. Well, that is pretty difficult too. But even if I think that’s what’s good, being able to pull it off is another question, haha.
Fujimoto: No, I think you do pull it off, Samura-sensei. That reminds me, In This Corner of the World is pretty popular these days. I think Kouno Fumiyo-sensei [the author] draws really sexy girls. Especially their legs. I realized it’s because they have expressive legs. They’re short like hobbits, but they have a strong presence and sense of reality. That’s because of their mannerisms. Also, when I was watching a skit by Bananaman-san [comedy duo], even in that short span of time, it really felt like their characters were alive. Some characters would touch their noses or stamp their feet. Those gestures gave the characters depth. I think artists who can convey that are really good, they’re observative.
Samura: When you have many characters, you can give them different ways of talking or verbal tics to distinguish them. That has its advantages, but that’s not what actually sets people apart. It’s the things someone always says, their gestures, what they tend to reply with when they get asked the same question. I think that’s what’s important. It’s something I think I should do, but I have no idea if I actually succeed. That’s my ideal, and I always wish I could spend time on that, but I’m always short on time, until finally I’m finished, haha.
Fujimoto: I’m exactly the same. I want to make the background characters expressive, but they end up just standing stiffly. I never have the time…
Samura: You have to get your assistants to help you with that. What I do when I want to draw background characters or crowds is, I tell one of my assistants “You can do it in your own style, but draw this crowd with natural, relaxed poses, ” and then I go over my assistant’s pencil drawings in pen. It takes time to do rough sketches, but it takes guts to just go freehand, so even a vague idea helps. When I change it to my style and pen it, it actually works. I think that’s a good way to add variety to a crowd scene.
Fujimoto: So even if you just pen part of it, it still comes together. That’s seriously useful.
Also, Samura-sensei, I really can’t tell if your backgrounds are traced or not. Is there some way to not make them look traced? Is it just about the composition?
Samura: Part of it is the way you fill in the blacks, but sometimes you can tell if the background is traced just by looking at the lines. And even for me, there’s a big gap between how convincing the parts I draw from imagination are compared to the parts I draw from a photo, haha. So about the blacks, instead of deciding where to place screentones based on the color, you should pick one spot to go bold with them, and as long as that holds the background together, then you don’t need it anywhere else. It’s different from photos. For art, you can color something black because it looks cooler that way. I’m not sure if that’s good or not. For example, if there are people talking and there’s a single light source somewhere, that determines where the shadows go. But depending on the panel, sometimes you might make a part black, even if it’s inconsistent, just because it would look that much cooler.
Fujimoto: Ah, so that’s how you think about it. The readers wouldn’t mind at all.
Samura: Some people do mind, but that’s fine too. You’re lying to make the panel look cooler. It’s manga, so you could say it’s alright as long as it looks cool. But not everyone agrees, so it isn’t necessarily a good thing, haha.
Fujimoto: I’ll do that too.
Interviewer: Both of you happened to be serialized at age 23.
Fujimoto: Oh, really? Before I got serialized, I would spend my time drawing storyboards for serialization, thinking about which direction to take the story, and I had no time to improve my art. Samura-sensei, what were you doing around chapter 1 of Blade of the Immortal?
Samura: In my fourth year of college, I called the editor in Afternoon that I would later work with and asked if I could bring in my manga. I skipped so many of my classes in college that in my fourth year I needed to take a ton of units. Between college and manga, I didn’t have any time to improve my art, haha. I would study at school, go home and work on my storyboards until March… or maybe April 1993. I had been working on it as a student, but only finished chapter 1 by the time I graduated, so in the time between submitting that and it getting published when I was paid 800,000 yen, I was a deadbeat.
Fujimoto: I was also a deadbeat after I graduated, and the rent where I lived was 20,000 yen [about $200]. It didn’t have AC, so that was tough.
Samura: That’s pretty cheap. Did you move to Tokyo after you got serialized?
Fujimoto: Yes. I moved when I got serialized, and I didn’t know anything so I just did what my editor told me to.
Samura: Haha. So you moved right when your serialization began.
Fujimoto: That’s right. At first, I was very worried because it felt like nobody read Jump+ then. And they said I would only get to write two volumes, or something like that.
Editor: Right, Jump SQ didn’t pick it up. But I didn’t give up and brought his manga to Jump+, and they okayed it.
Fujimoto: My editor secretly told me that I should be ok up to volume 4. I forget what that was about, haha.
Editor: I was saying that you should be able to write at least four volumes, haha.
Fujimoto: I planned to have the conclusion to the first part in volume 3, so I wanted to get to three volumes. I’m glad that I could go further.
Samura: Volume 3 is when you see hints of “the secrets of the world”, so I thought that it would keep going for quite a bit.
Fujimoto: I’ve been wondering, how much do you think about your reception, Samura-sensei? I don’t think about it that much, but maybe if you try to be unpopular, then you’ll actually become popular.
Samura: I have no idea what kind of demographic I’m appealing to, or what kind of readers would like the heroines I draw. I think the people who like my manga or are attracted to the characters must be weird.
Fujimoto: I think my readers have read a lot of manga and gotten bored.
Samura: Haha. That sounds about right, people who’ve gotten tired of orthodox manga.
Fujimoto: I think it might be the same for you, Samura-sensei, with the way you don’t restrain yourself. When I was reading Wave, Listen to Me!, I thought that people who haven’t read manga before might not get it. With my manga too, I think if someone who hadn’t read manga before read Fire Punch, they would be really confused.
Samura: With an orthodox plot you mostly know what to expect, but Fire Punch is interesting because it betrays those expectations. Even in volume 4, you can’t tell if Agni or Togata is the main character. They might even share the role. It feels like you’re mixing together completely different elements. And it all comes together in volume 4.
Fujimoto: I’m not sure, but it feels like Blade of the Immortal has multiple main characters.
Samura: It’s because the serialization went on too long. It felt like I had to show what all of these characters were doing, haha. If you introduce a lot of characters that can fight, then you’ll have to draw all of them fighting. In Fire Punch, there are all sorts of “blessed” characters, but not many of the main character’s allies can fight. He does get more allies in volume 4, but it’s still mostly Togata. You can have more characters as long as they don’t steal the spotlight from the main character. But even if they do, it should be ok as long as that minor character is interesting. More than half of the enemies in Blade of the Immortal were swordsmen, so it’s a shame that they had to take time from the main character, haha.
Fujimoto: That’s not true at all! Blade of the Immortal is my favorite. I loved how the final chapter ended things. Every one of the characters gets a conclusion. Normally, you wouldn’t be able to do that. It would be pretty hard. I’ve only thought out the conclusions for a few characters in Fire Punch, so when I was reading it, I thought it must be hard to think of endings for all of the main characters in Blade of the Immortal.
Samura: I was thinking that if by the end of the story, there were about ten important characters alive, then as long as I didn’t go into too much detail, I could take care of seven or eight of them in one chapter. For Blade of the Immortal‘s final chapter, I really wanted to take advantage of the main character’s immortality, and skip to the future for his part. So I had already decided on the final chapter.
Fujimoto: The main character had wanted to die, right? That ending was just… When did you come up with it?
Samura: Originally I wanted the main character to go through partners as the story progressed, but as I wrote more volumes, I thought there was no way to do that, haha. I thought that when Rin’s revenge was finished, then the serialization would be too. So sometime after ten volumes, I had the idea for the last episode. The details came later, though. There’s manga like Parasyte where everything is tied up neatly in the ending, but in the afterword he said that he changed the theme midway. That’s probably what happens. You get swept up by trends and fashions while you’re writing.
Fujimoto: The way you think changes too. I also have a plan for my ending, but I wonder if that might change… Do you think it should?
Samura: If you think it would be better that way, then sure.
Fujimoto: There’s the scene at the end of Blade of the Immortal where Rin says “Oh, it’s Manji-san.” It felt like that was the author’s regrets about ending the manga. That Rin was standing in for the author. And that we were seeing your desire to keep following Manji… It made me wonder if you write based on the people around you. I really liked your short story Shizuru Cinema in Sister Generator, and I thought it was about you and your editor. That made me wonder if you write about yourself or the people around you.
Samura: Actually, I don’t really do that. If anything, I would be embarrassed to use myself or my surroundings as a model for a story. It’s just how that short story was… When I was writing Shizuru Cinema, there was a certain editorial department where they told the artists who brought their manuscripts in things like “we can’t accept this unless you make it like this” or “that’s what’s selling now, so you have to do it”, and forced them to make it more stereotypical… They ignored their individual style and pushed them into a more conventional direction. And it’s not that young manga artists these days only write that sort of thing, it’s because of the editors, or so I heard.
Fujimoto: So that’s how it was! I thought it had to be about you. I see now.
Samura: I pretty much got to do what I wanted for Blade of the Immortal after all, haha.
Fujimoto: I thought you did what you wanted even after being told things like that, haha. Well, that’s pretty interesting. When I draw oneshots, I’m usually angry… You know, there’s a lot of angry people on the internet. And I think they can vent their anger on sites like Twitter, but I don’t really know how to. I put my anger into my manga.
Samura: Anger and resentment are valuable emotions. My editor lets me do what I want, so after becoming a manga artist there wasn’t anything for me to be mad at, haha. Even when I get angry at society, it doesn’t last very long, and first I’ll think “No, that’s not right,” or “That’s just…”, but by the next day, I’ll start to wonder if I was in the wrong, haha.
Fujimoto: After a day I’ll also think that it’s my fault for being ignorant, but before I sleep, I’ll write a storyboard. I’ll draw it quickly and not read through it, then send it to my editor.
Editor: For a while you used to send one every day, haha.
Fujimoto: I’ll send it while I’m still angry, so the day after I do that, I’ll wonder how it was… Since I’m ignorant, I write about my angry thoughts.
Samura: It’s good for young people to be angry.
Fujimoto: Where do you get inspiration from? I heard before that you read magazines you got from the trash… I was wondering if I should do that too, if I need that kind of attitude.
Samura: Haha. I haven’t really moved to digital. I’m always a few years behind the rest of society. When the internet went into full swing, I didn’t even have a flip phone. I didn’t know what society was thinking. For a while I would stay over at the Kodansha office every month to finish up my storyboards, and there would be issues of Shuukan Gendai [general-interest magazine targeted at male office workers] in the trash, so I would take those every month. Back then, Shuukan Gendai was the only thing connecting me to society, haha. The year I debuted, 1993, happened to be the International Year for the World’s Indigenous People. The idea was to think about indigenous people… Which for Japan are the Ainu. So there were a lot of books and news articles on the subject. I’ve been interested in the Ainu since college, so I cut out those news articles. And when I reread them, there were completely unrelated articles on the back. When I was drawing manga, I saw one about an experiment combining spinach and pig genes to make a spinach pig. I was pretty curious why they would do that, haha. When I was writing about high school girls for Ohta Publishing, I needed something for a joke, so I used that [in Seifuku wa Nugenai from Sister Generator].
Fujimoto: That’s pretty nice, I wish I could be like that too. With the internet, you can only find what you’re looking for. I like horror, so I look up things about horror, but that’s totally unnecessary. You have to stray from the path if you want to go anywhere.
Samura: Nowadays there are these aggregator sites, and they have all sorts of headlines laid out. You also see headlines that you don’t look for, so you could read those.
Fujimoto: I also listen to radio to hear about things that I’m not interested in, so when I notice some phrase everyone keeps saying, I turn on the radio to listen. But when I’m drawing manga, I don’t hear anything. I just think listening to stories is something I should do.
Samura: You do tend to ignore unrelated things when you’re drawing manga. But even so, I think it’s good to learn about all sorts of things… If it’s something that I might draw later, even when I’m working I’ll listen carefully. Even when it just passes through your head, sometimes you still remember.
Fujimoto: If you can draw well, your art looks more convincing, right? I won’t be able to convey what I want to with mediocre drawings, so I need to improve… And the better you get, the faster you can draw, so I want to be as good at drawing as you, Samura-sensei.
Samura: It’s true that if you can draw better, then you’ll have the skills to go faster, but your body might not keep up, haha. My eyes are starting to get tired too. If I were in my twenties or thirties, I think I could have drawn Wave, Listen to Me! better. I turned 47 this year, and my eyes tire really easily now. It’s almost funny how every five years past age 35, your body wears down a little more. But I guess there’s no helping it, haha, so you should draw the manga you want to while you’re young.
Fujimoto: How can I draw as well as you? That’s what I keep thinking about. If you have some secret that’s been passed down the generations, I hope you’ll pass it down to me. That’s why I’m here today.
Samura: Haha. Now that you mention it, you’re at an age where you could be my son. But I’m sorry to say, I don’t have anything like that, haha.
Fujimoto: When I see a good artist, it makes me think that they must be cheating somehow. Like they got to redo their life, or something. Or else it wouldn’t be possible to achieve that level of skill. There are a few people I think of like that, and you’re number one. Another one is Kim Jung Gi-sensei. I feel like they all must have sacrificed something in their lives to get more time to draw.
Samura: He’s crazy, haha. He can draw something, then suddenly move to a different part of the canvas and draw something else in correct perspective. That’s beyond being a good artist.
Fujimoto: I also count you as one of those people…
Samura: Oh, I’m nowhere near that, haha.
Fujimoto: I drew a lot since I was little, but were you good at drawing from a young age, Samura-sensei?
Samura: I can’t say if I was good or not, but in elementary school they put me in charge of drawing posters, anthology covers, and so on.
Fujimoto: Did you spend time practicing art? Like when you were at prep school?
Samura: My art improved the most at art prep school. A lot of aspiring manga artists want to go to art colleges to get better at drawing, but I want to tell them that art schools don’t teach drawing, so you should go to art prep school instead, haha.
Fujimoto: That makes sense. I also studied oil painting in college, and since I got in through the admissions office [as opposed to entrance exams], I didn’t do any drawings from life. Even now I’ve only done a few of those. With oil painting you mostly go by feel, so my skill at drawing didn’t really improve.
Samura: I see. Right, doing drawings should be more useful than oil paintings. In art school, you get one or two weeks to complete an assignment. But art prep schools have you do a piece everyday or every other day, and it’s really tough, haha. Art prep school was a war with time. Besides that, my improvement depended on how many good artists were around me. In art prep school there happened to be talented students there too, so that contributed. And the teachers helped, of course.
Fujimoto: That really is true. It’s frustrating when there are people who are better than you.
Samura: It is frustrating, but you can learn to draw like them.
Fujimoto: There weren’t any prep schools near me, so I went to an art class with a lot of old people, where I did oil paintings in the corner. There were good artists there, so I decided that if I didn’t get better than them in four years I would kill them, and since I didn’t want to go on the run if I was a good artist, I just kept drawing. After that, I didn’t improve from doing oil painting, so I holed up in the library and did these kind of gesture drawings… I really should have done life drawings. I really regret that I didn’t do any. Once I finish my serialization, I’ll do that.
Samura: Unless you drastically change your style, I don’t think you need to set aside time to draw.
Fujimoto: Really? I also considered becoming an animator after finishing my serialization. I was thinking that so many good artists I know are animators, so maybe I should become an animator, but people made fun of me after I said that… There’s the Japan Anima(tor)’s Exhibition, and I watched a lot of those shorts, and seeing really good animations made me wonder how they made it move. If I had that kind of skill, I could draw whatever I wanted. That’s why I wanted to be an animator, but everyone told me that it doesn’t work like that.
Samura: I think you need different skills as an animator and as a manga artist. When I read a short story collection by Yaguchi Takao, the author of Tsurikichi Sanbei, I thought he was really good at drawing the Japanese countryside. Of course, he doesn’t do it photographically. It’s just stunning. It’s like he knows exactly how to use a pen to depict what he wants to, and then uses that skill to portray the background. I get captivated by seeing that kind of skill. It makes me want to do something like that.
On the other hand, while it’s the result of tremendous effort and sacrifice, Miura Kentarou-sensei’s Berserk has so much detail that I want to puke, it’s just that good. Manga really has that kind of power.
Fujimoto: I have your manga near my desk, and when I’m drawing manga I usually look at them, but if I’m in a hurry I don’t have time to. I’m nowhere close to imitating them. I have trouble with composing the poses too. If you have a elaborate pose, that alone makes an impact when you’re reading, but it takes time with the sketches and everything, so I’m forced to give up… I really wish I could draw the snow with more detail too, but I don’t have time. And I want to draw vapor coming out of the characters’ mouths when they talk, but when the deadline’s in a day and it’s like I’m going to die, I end up thinking “never mind about drawing the vapor.” It’s awful. I hate how many compromises I have to make.
Samura: If you keep feeling like you want to do something but can’t, one day you’ll be able to. Once you finish your serialization and start a new one, your art will definitely evolve. It’s much better to have regrets than to become indifferent to everything.
Fujimoto: I’ll remember that. …I’m also worried about my art style.
Samura: You know, many of the manga artists in my generation have been influenced by Akira. After they went pro, they kept thinking about how to break free from Ootomo Katsuhiro’s [author of Akira] spell. Back when I drew doujinshi and used pen, it looked like a copy of Ootomo-sensei’s work. To try and break out of it, I purposefully used brush pen and pencil, and a different style from Akira for the first chapter of Blade of the Immortal. If you do something like that, eventually you won’t have to worry about your art style. And I don’t think your style has obvious influences at this point. Fujimoto-san, you’re also inspired by Nihei Tsutomu-san [Blame, Knights of Sidonia], aren’t you? You don’t draw very extreme facial expressions, and you draw horror more dryly.
Fujimoto: Yes, that’s something I’m conscious of. I like his level of detail in Abara the most.
Samura: You have all of these influences on your own unique style, so I think you’re doing fine. Like I said at the start, there’s no advice I can give you as a monthly manga artist to a weekly manga artist. And all of the art nitpicks I mentioned are things you should only worry about if you have time. I can’t even imagine having to write a chapter of a manga every week, haha.
Fujimoto: No, not at all, I’ve learned so much from you. Thank you very much. …I should pay you for this.
Interview in Jump SQ (Heroine Part)
Fujimoto: I’ve loved your manga since high school… And my friends in college also read your manga.
Samura: Thank you very much.
Fujimoto: I was drawing chapter 1 of Fire Punch right when volume 1 of Wave, Listen to Me! came out. It had so much presence that I wanted to imitate it.
Samura: For Wave, Listen to Me! I decided not to make the drawings too detailed, and to leave them a little rough. But looking back, it just looks messy, haha.
Fujimoto: I’m not sure how to describe it, but I thought it was meant to look like life drawings. Were you the one who filled in the blacks for the backgrounds?
Samura: That’s right.
Fujimoto: I thought it was amazing that I couldn’t tell how much of the backgrounds were done by your assistants, and how much you drew yourself.
Samura: I think that for example, even if you use a photo to help draw backgrounds, the important part is who places the blacks.
Fujimoto: Oh, yes. I thought that it must have been you who did the blacks. They look great. They really do.
Samura: If you put too much black then it catches the eye, so you’ll have to make the rest of the panel darker. And you’ll have to draw hatching too, and that’s a lot of work when you’re in a hurry. For my previous manga Blade of the Immortal, I finished the storyboard in a day and spent the rest of the time on drawing, and even now I’m impressed that I could draw lines like that. I think the art looks sloppy in Wave, Listen to Me! myself, but I have to spend a lot of time thinking about and writing the words.
Fujimoto: There’s so many words, but they don’t feel like explanations, so it’s easy to read. It’s just like real girl talk and you can breeze through it.
Samura: When you’re reading Fire Punch you think “I wonder if this will happen,” but that turns into “What’s even happening with this manga!?” I think that’s what makes Fire Punch interesting.
Fujimoto: I had the idea for Fire Punch for a long time. It’s based on Anpanman [where the hero tears off part of his head to feed people], and so I was very conscious about that. But later on I didn’t think too hard… Samura-sensei, did you write Wave, Listen to Me! because you like radio?
Samura: Actually, I wasn’t into radio at all. But my editor likes radio, and he said he wanted to see me write a manga with radio, romance, and women at work, so that’s how it happened. I liked the protagonist Minare so much that before I knew it, there wasn’t much time spent on the men, haha. So around Volume 3 I started going into the other characters as well.
Fujimoto: The minor characters also have romantic plots. I thought that was unusual when I read it.
Fujimoto: Samura-sensei, I have a serious question, are you a sadist? I’m a masochist. Reading your manga makes me think that you’re a sadist rather than a masochist.
Samura: I’m both. In different proportions, but I’m both of those. My old artbook does just have girls being tormented. But despite the tone in those illustrations, I also have the desire to serve a strong woman. When I watched Rozen Maiden with my assistants, that made me want to live with a domineering doll like that, haha.
Fujimoto: I also like domineering and irrational women. In college, there was a girl who was mean to me, and then one day at school my bicycle had fallen over. I was wondering what happened, when she said “I knocked your bike over, ha ha ha!” I was so happy.
Samura: Haha. She was into you, wasn’t she?
Fujimoto: Not at all. But I really like girls like that, and from reading your manga I thought you also like those kind of girls.
Samura: I like women who are mentally superior to men.
Fujimoto: Right, I want to have women in higher positions than men.
Samura: So that’s how you get a monster like Togata, haha.