By high school I was going to movies. About once a month I'd get up at six in the morning and make the two-hour journey to Sendai to see a film. This coincided with the early 1970s and the zenith of New Cinema: the era of Easy Rider, Midnight Cowboy, and Bonnie and Clyde. New Cinema films were full of weird people, as opposed to heroes. This had an extraordinary impact on me.
Having decided there wasn't much point stagnating out there in the provinces, I headed for the capital to try my luck. I'd already eliminated the university option. It must've been about this time that my contrarian character came to the fore (laughs). New Cinema films were stories in which basically, the main characters are wanderers. Maybe I was attracted to that lifestyle; in any case, I wanted access to my beloved films whenever I felt like it; I wanted to get to know the crew that were drawing for COM, and I Wanted to see the world, so on graduating I moved straight to Tokyo.
Following graduation took his work to Futabasha and scored an exclusive contract, thus launching his career in manga.
I just had this vague idea that being a manga artist might be something I could just about manage ... (laughs).
Being so immersed in the COM way of doing things, at the time neither I nor any of my companions were setting our sights on the big magazines. In fact we weren't even aiming to draw manga that were interesting or enjoyable (laughs). Not overly concerned about plots or endings or suchlike. We were Quite enthusiastic about using manga simply to show our way of living, how we thought. These were the days of a genre of manga that I guess you'd liken to pure literature. Drawing manga is about expressing oneself, so back then both artists and their work were highly Idiosyncratic. In a sense, It was when the manga world was at its most robust.
Back then the Action editors were all oddballs who'd head off to bars at the first opportunity and discuss everything under the sun. There was no such thing as being compelled to draw something. Occasionally I'd be asked to do a piece with a Koshien (baseball championship) theme, so I'd come up with these bizarre tales of binge-drinking high school boys making it to the champs. I was never someone who'd just meekly draw what he was told (laughs).
After moving to the capital went from apartments in Nippori to Minami-U rawa and Kichijoji
Bars are where I learned the most, to be honest: meeting all sorts of odd people, having bizarre experiences.
For instance, a serious-looking student I got to know at a place I frequented in Shinjuku began in due course to carry himself a bit strangely and wear makeup. One day when I bumped in to him on the street he was in a skirt (laughs).
Among the regulars at a Kichijoji bar was a young gangster-looking guy who'd started getting his tattoos. Generally an interesting enough fellow. but a terror when he'd had a skinful. Drink and he'd tum nasty, walking around yelling "Hey, asshole!" and the like. Then some idiot would venture, "Now, now. there's no need to talk like that. .... and buy him a drink to placate him. Invariably resulting in a chaotic brawl.
I also had a feisty friend who cracked his head open in a bar fight, resulting in a bloodspattered race around clinics in the middle of the night seeking treatment.
My childhood was far from unhappy, and my idea of unhappiness totally divorced from reality. The lives of actual people still tend to play out in ways far beyond my imagining. All that felt so incredibly real. Although most of the time it was like watching a movie.
After my experiences in those bars, I never looked at people in a superficial way again. l started to think as I observed people that rich or poor, everyone's trying their hardest, dealing with all sorts of terrible things. I was drawn to people like that, decided I liked humans with all their foibles.
Once I started thinking in that way, stories fitting conventional patterns became too boring to draw. I decided I wanted to try drawing people that were truly real, beyond the limits of my own personal imaginings.
I prefer worlds with depth. Manga are drawn on paper, which makes them flat, two-dimensional, but a lot of my Illustrations have considerable depth. That's the kind of drawings I like.
Backgrounds and people, I'd like to draw them both with even greater depth. I want to draw not what is visible on the surface, but what is further in, things seen round the back.
Your first sci-fi manga Fireball (Action Deluxe) is a tale of computers and guerrillas battling in a city of the future. It was your fifty-ninth work.
Having intended to depict everyday, real people, I started to feel that I was drawing these solipsist, very similar stories, and became tired of it I think.
I decided not to allow my work to get into a rut. or to develop a particular style, but to keep doing new things. Perhaps influenced at the time by Star Wars. I had this desire to draw soaring, dynamic pictures, and thought maybe sci-fi would be the direction to take. Manga do have quite a lot of sci-fi elements to start with, and I began to think it might be interesting to redo my portraits of people in a sci-fi setting.
The hit work Domu: A Child's Dream awarded the fourth Japan Science Fiction Grand Prix was first published in Action Deluxe in January 1980.
That project was inspired by seeing The Exorcist, being intrigued by it, and declaring to friends at a bar that my next work would have an occult focus. The occult/creepy Western house scenario struck me as uninspiring ng, and just as I was thinking of setting the story in an unmistakably Japanese location, the series of suicides at Tokyo's Takashimadaira housi ng complex hit the news, so I went for a housing complex.
The question was how to embed sci-fi and occult elements in the everyday. I was confident I could produce some pretty lurid drawings even of something as familiar as a housing estate, find something spectacular in the everyday.
l started by slowly unfolding the narrative, then little by little picking up the pace, ending with a final surge, and quiet finish. With Domu l thought carefully about the composition: how I could pull the reader along and hold their interest.
Up to then I'd been just drawing what I personally enjoyed, without any sense of manga being entertainment. So I was keen to see if I too could draw something that was interesting to read. In brief, I suppose this was when my desire to be a writer began lo emerge. Nothing to do with wanting to become popular.
Copying the teacher
As to whether something is going to be popular, or sell, I suppose I've never really considered that my responsibility, and still don't think about it very much. All I can do is try my best to produce something close to the image in my head , and put it out there. That's all I'm concerned with. Plus even if someone says it's not interesting, it's not like I can change the way I draw.
Nevertheless the vast majority of new people do copy your style.
Even if they imitate me, in the end the work is their own. I too had various influences - lshinomori-sensei, Tezuka-sense.. etc.
I must say that drawing in the backgrounds was also very hard initially. It's something I grew accustomed to as time went on. Give it a proper go and you'll soon draw about as well as I do. It's just that people don't try. Concentrate, apply yourself and don't get disillusioned halfway through, and I think you'll find it'll happen somehow.
Sure. manga are tough, because they're a job you have to do all by yourself. The main thing, I suspect. is to be true to yourself. Because it's not only readers who see your work: you also have to look at It again later (laughs). It's an awful feeling to look at something at that point and think hmm, took my eye off the ball there. Because you know yourself whether you've done the best you can. Acclaim from others doesn't mean much; I don't draw manga with any prizes in mind.
If I could draw something exactly the way it is in my head, that I was 100 percent happy with, I might just quit being a manga artist.
Akira debuted as a serial in the December 1982 issue of Young Magazine.
People often say that Akira looks like Tetsujin 28 (laughs).
I'm constantly observirig the world thinking, why do things work out like this? People becoming boy racers, or yakuza, or at. war somewhere: it strikes me that things gradually just tip off-balance. I always imagine things will work out alright somehow. but they don't.
I was a serious-minded, sincere sort of child, and I think that really everyone possesses amazing powers, universal powers. In that vein, you could call AKira the fascinating, tragic tale of someone who loses his balance . . .
Money and popularity cannot be relied on, so I prefer to keep focusing on things of a more universal nature.