Hagio Moto Interview

      Hagio Moto Interview

Image: copyright Hagio Moto/Shogakkan. All rights reserved

H: Hagio Moto

B: Avia Belle Moon

B: At the age of 16 you said Tezuka Osamu influenced you to be a comic book writer. Was there one comic in particular that especially  influenced you?

H: At 17, after I had read Tezuka Osamu’s The New Choice Group, I was extremely impressed that in comics there was such deep sadness, that one could write about such things in comics, and so I thought I would also like to try and write about deep human emotions, and I resolved to be a professional comic book writer.

B: How do you feel upon learning of Tezuka Osamu’s death?

H: Tezuka Sensei the year before he died, in the summer, I met him at a cafe near Shogakukan. Uh, at that time he was very thin, and I heard that he was getting worse, I thought, “Oh, it’s bad,” and I prepared myself for the worst. Then Sensei died, and I went to his funeral but somehow, I couldn’t believe it. When he was alive, about once a year we’d meet at a party or some other meeting place, Even now I can still feel his presence sometimes…

B: From 1967-1969, you debuted with Lulu and Mimi.  From then, you associated with the Ooizumi salon, associating with other writers.  It seems that there was a gap between the comics you wanted to write and the comics the publisher wanted you to write. Would you mind commenting on this?

H: Yes. Uh, First, at the age of 20 I debuted withLulu and Mimi in a magazine for elementary school girls called Close Friends. I wanted to write for more adolescent readers, but in those days there weren’t many books like that. So the editor wanted me to write easy to understand children’s books but I wanted to write comics in which I could express somewhat psychological, complicated feelings. We didn’t…Gosh, How I can say it?…Well, it didn’t go well(laughing.) At that time, um…oh right, I really suffered. I thought, “Even if I become a manga writer, if I can’t write the things I want to write, what shall I do?” My feelings of the things I thought I wanted to write were out of step with everyone else’s, I thought                                                                          

“Am I wrong?” I thought about it, and well, I wanted to write about things I liked, so if they said that I couldn’t, I would write for amateur comic publications, not turn professional and stay amateur. I become acquainted with other comic writers who were born in the same year,  Keiko Takimiya,Sasaya Nanae, Mineko Yamada, Ryoko Yamgishi…They were  people who wanted to write their own comics, and so I was very encouraged.

B: And those people were the Oozumi Salon Group?                           

H: Uh, let me see. (laughing.) I don’t know whose salon that was, but that was a small boarding house.

B: Ooizumi is the name of the boarding house?

H: It’s the name of the town. In the beginning, I lived in Kyushu. When I told my parents that I wanted to go to Tokyoand write comics, they said, “You can’t go there alone,” and wouldn’t allow it.  Just then, an acquaintance at the publisher where I worked, Keiko Takemiya said “Would you like to live together?”, and then if we could split the rent, etc.. I was glad, and said OK. The apartment we were renting was located in a place called Ooizomi, and we became friends with other comic writers, and they would come to over to our apartment.

B: And from that time did girl’s comics really change, from the time you formed the so-called Ooizomi salon?

H: Um, let me see. Well, girl’s comics changed bit by bit. One thing, the age of the readers gradually went up. In short, although people said that only elementary school students read comics or at most junior high school students, even when they became high school or university students they were still reading comics. The period determines what genre of comics is in vogue.  At about the time of the TokyoOlympics sports comics were very popular. Also, love comics. There were many romance comics with a foreign setting. A little before that there was something called a mother and child comic.

B: Is there any rivalry between the members of the 24 year group? Feelings of jealousy or rivalry?

H: Um, I have liked comics since I was in elementary school, reading and writing comics was very pleasurable for me, but my parents and teachers said that I must not read comics and was scolded quite a bit. When a group was created for other comic writers I was happy, everyone was writing interesting things and I wanted to read them.  There weren’t any feelings of jealousy or rivalry. The genres that I wanted to write about, SF, complexes, psychological things, how can I say it, the feeling of competition didn’t exist.

B:In Lulu and Mimi, you introduce the twin motif, which is ubiquitous in your works,  (Sera Hill, One more voice, Half Body half spirit…. and the twins are always separating,  dying….. Why are you so interested in twins?

H: When I was a first year student in elementary school, there was a set of twin girls in my class. They were the same height, had the same face and wore the same clothes. I never spoke to them but I thought if I had

something like that, a friend who looked just like me, we could be happy or sad together, if there was a something to discuss, we could think about it together, I thought it was great, without a doubt. I just really yearned for that…For a long time, this relationship of twins was my ideal. My mother was a real education mama, she would say “girls mustn’t do that” or “children mustn’t do this”…I had many dreams and ideals, but was ordered to do things every day. Even if I said, “I want to do this,” my feelings were not understood. And so I wanted, even for a short time, someone who could understand my feelings.

B: Sound and color seem to stand out in your comics; You also mentioned sound in color in a short discussion of dreams in an interview on NHK TV. Any comments?

H:Hmm, let me see…More than color, ideas come from sound. Changing scenes in the comic, the timing, the rhythm, is a rather musical

thing…When you watch a movie, there is sound and music.  Depending on the music, you heart may rise and fall, feel downcast and uplifted…The comic writer expresses himself through his work, and we also feel  

                                                                                               

moved…When you watch a movie, through the sound your heart and mind changes…Likewise, Through the art and story of the comic, your heart experiences change… Even though you read other people’s comics, you experience the rise and fall of the heart through the eyes.

B: In 1972 you wrote The Poe Clan, said to be your greatest work. In the beginning you state, “In the shadow an endless beauty and infinite life…” Would you say this is the theme of this comic?

H: The theme of this manga is there are people in this world, who aren’t supposed to exist, but since they have already been born into this world, how can or should they live? That is the theme or motif of this comic. The vampire is hated by God, they aren’t allowed to live…therefore, how in earth can they love this world? How can they have something to do with other people and live? Will God look after me? What is their raison d'etre?

B:In November Gymnasium you introduce the theme of boy’s love. Sexual ambiguity, androgyny and cross-dressing are universal in girls' comics. Can you please comment on this phenomenon?

H: Well, I don’t really understand myself as well.. except when I began to draw main characters, boys were easy to draw. Rather, when I drew boys, I could express my deepest feelings, rather than with girls. I could say things clearly, and the things I wanted to express came easier. Therefore, rather when I drew female characters I felt I had to make them

cute…my parents influenced me in their idea of how girls should be or behave and so I felt uneasy when I drew boys. I felt my feelings were

freed…it was fun…it fit me perfectly. I was totally entranced and absorbed in it.

B: One interpretation traces the roots of this phenomenon to the idea of shudou in the Heian Period. Another interpretation is that girls' comics allow Japanese girls to vicariously experience privileges denied to them by men.  Do you agree with this interpretation?                                                                                                                                                                       

H:Well, yes I think so…Especially, in Japan, from the Meiji period to the end of the Showa period, the status of women was oppressed. There wasn’t a place for a woman to be up front, always in the back of men. The social standing of women was extremely low and they couldn’t keep wealth or property and weren’t pushed to attend school. Marriage was decided by the parents, a woman couldn’t say if she wanted a divorce,

only the man could decide…a man’s sensibility, in short, was thought of as a higher grade than a woman’s.

B: Do you agree with the interpretation of the characters in girls' comics  as being asexual?

H: Yes, yes I think so. Even if I draw a male character, it isn’t in reality a man. It’s a character that isn’t a woman…or a man…from that image is where I create from. In Takarazuka I think there is male sexuality in woman and vice versa, and so on that stage, in Takarazuka, women are liberating the male side of their sexuality, and in Kabuki men are liberating the female side of their sexuality, and so that’s maybe why they are so popular. Socially speaking, there is an image of  how men and women should be, but I think that we should look at men and women in a more detailed, delicate way, more than the way society decides how men and women should be, and I think that discrepancy appears in comics..

There are men who are like women, shy…there are men who like cooking or raising children. There are also many women who like to climb mountains and these women are praised from society, but these types of men are said to be weaklings.  In truth, human beings have these characteristics. We should be allow them to be free.

B: I think I understand…you’re saying that gender should be free from social constraints…And do you think if  we free ourselves society will naturally become better?

H: Yes, I think so.

B: I think so too.  That’s really interesting. Do you write stories from these roots?

                                                                                                          
:Yes. It’s only been recently that I’ve become to think this way. From  a long way back, I’ve wondered why I can write so freely when I draw boys.                                                                                                           

B: If you could choose, would you like to be a man or woman in your next life time?

H: I think I’d like to have the experience ofbeing a man.

B: Why?

H: I think that men are an enigma and have many secrets that they don’t want to tell…if I were a man I could learn their secrets(laughter…)

B: Religion is also a common theme in your comics. The Heart of Thomas contains many Christian elements, (temptation, sin, forgiveness, angels, etc.) Ten thousand million  days and 100 thousand million nights also deals with Christianity and Buddhism.  Are you very interested in religion?

H: Well, I’m Buddhist..That was the religion I was brought up with, it’s rather old, except I don’t know that much about Buddhism… except at funerals, I think that’s the only time it’s used…

B: What kind of sutra do you read? The Nirvana, the Lotus?

H: Oh I’m not so knowledgeable about that. About God…Why were human beings born?,  why did we receive  a mind? If we think about it, there must be a type of universal existence. The creation of the universe, the creation of the earth, life on earth, might be a coincidence, or it might have been made by God.

B: Do you like Buddhism?

H: More than Buddhism, I like Christianity. Why? Because  as you study Buddhism…in the end it becomes nothingness, empty…it’s very sad. I’d like to find something, a meaning. If you think about it, Christianity has power for living, except it’s a very old religion. There are many things not understood by the people living today. I don’t know, it just seems better than Buddhism(laughing.)

B: Do you often create psychological profiles of your characters before creating them?

H: First, I create the story and the personality of the characters, and then sometimes reconsider them to fit psychological beliefs. After I began

to study psychology, I realized I can check things quicker. Before that it took many hours, since I did all the thinking by myself, it took many days. For example, say there is a character that is betrayed by his friend, he gets angry and thinks he wants to kill him…how long or to what degree was he betrayed? To what extent was he betrayed so that it would

incite a feeling of murder within him? To what degree did the trust in their relationship crumble, break down? To what degree was the relationship torn so that he would want to commit murder? Before I

studied psychology it took much time to identify this period. At what point does B want to kill A? I thought myself, intuitively, the only thing B can do is kill A, but I had to make the readers understand. How could I do that? Should I go a little further, is this too strong?, I thought about it for a long time. I read various case examples, I came to understand things I didn’t before, to what point should I end the story, and the characters.

Everyone’s particular about different things, they have different complexes…there are people who get angry when complimented, there are some who become happy when complimented, some are totally unfazed when you notice them, others flare up in anger…an acquaintance of mine told me about a mother was having problems with her child, scolding him. The people around her started complimenting her and she subsequently stopped scolding the child…

B:Have you ever written for Garo?(avant garde comic)

H: No, I haven’t. However, when I was in high school, I went to a used bookstore and found a copy of Garo and there was a story called “Kamuiden” written by Shirato, and I bought it.  It was so interesting that I bought much them.

B:You weren’t interested in writing for other genres of comics?

H: No, that’s not true. At one time I wrote, 10 thousand million days and 100 thousand million nights.., for a magazine called Sports Champion.  At that time, I drew the lines fairly thick, and thought I would like to write for boys' comics, and then I found myself drawing extremely feminine and

masculine images and scenes in these boys' magazines. I was very surprised. I thought it would be better to write for a magazine with a more ambiguous gender(laughter). So, in the past there was a  magazine called SF magazine a rather genderless magazine, and I wrote a story called The Silver Triangle..and that was easy to write.

B: Where do you get your ideas?

H:Basically, I think of human existence. I can’t help wondering why we exist. Human beings make up a society. Within that society, we decide and live by various rules. We help each other, and then are spiteful and mean to each other. There is war, discrimination, all different things…for me, that is really interesting. I read the newspaper and think about these things, and wonder why they happen, and then various ideas come to mind.

B: For example,  where do you get the idea forHalf Body, Half Spirit?

H: I wrote a fantasy comic called Mosaic Lassen. There was a king who forced a pair of twin brothers to use magic. There was an older brother

and a younger brother who was very handsome but not very clever. The older brother loved the younger one and although he didn’t want to he obeyed the king. After drawing the scene of them in a cell, and observing it, they looked so close together, as they were connected.  When I was in elementary school, I read about some Siamese twins who underwent an operation to separate them. At that time, I wondered at that…I don’t know how but I got a hold of this book about deformed people, freaks, and I saw a picture…there were different types of twins…When I was drawing the picture, I suddenly remembered that book, and I thought. “Let’s make them Siamese twins.  While I was looking at Mosaic Lassen, and creating these characters, I thought I’d like to draw one more comic about Siamese twins.

B: have you ever been subject to the kanzume process?

                                                                                                         
: Yes, well, putting a writer in a hotel, this is called kanzume.  It’s been done for a long time by publishers. If you have to make a deadline, they put you in a room, bring you food, call a maid to help, you can’t watch TV, you can read the newspaper, anyway you can’t  move until you complete the manuscript, there isn’t any time. The longest for me has been three days but my friends have been in hotels for a week, two weeks. In the past, Tadatsu Yoko, and Miuchi Suzue were in the same hotel as me doingkanzume. When I visited Yoko in her room, she said it was the first week. She said she was only sleeping an hour a day.(laughter) The rest of the time she was writing. She wrote an 80-100 page work. I said, “That’s hard isn’t it?” She replied, “It will take many days to complete.” I asked, “How do you know how long it will take to finish?” and she said, “It takes about two hours a page, and so I can write many pages in one day. And I sleep for an hour and then write again. This is the same pace and so I can figure out the needed for time for completion.” When I  heard this I was very surprised. (laughter)

B:Working as a comic book artist  must be very stressful. How do you cope with the pressure?

H: Well, I watch movies, sing karoke, read books, pet my cat. I get some inflammation of my tendon sheath…stiff shoulder, stiff neck…

B: How many pages a day do you write?

H:These days, I only write about five pages a day. If I write more than five pages, my neck starts to hurt, and my head starts to hurt. I make a rough sketch and then start to write.

About how long does it take from the conception of an idea to the birth of a comic?

H: I think about the idea for a long time. there have been several ideas that I’ve thought about for a long time. From the conception of an idea until the time of publishing takes about two months. Independent volumes are separate though.  There is a request to write something. Next comes the deadline. For example, the other day, I completed 9 pages. I was

                                                                                          
requested to do that by the end of April. I completed it in the beginning of June. It will be published at the beginning of next month.

B: And so you write about 150 pages a month?

H: No, every day I write about 5 pages, After about ten days my arm starts to hurt. Therefore, I write about 60 pages at one time. That takes about 12 to 15 days…and then I usually take a rest. In takes about 2 weeks to write 60 pages. Before that I usually spend a while thinking about the story. It takes about 10 days for to get the idea in shape.

B: Do you get any ideas from movies and travel?

H: I am really entranced with Al Pacino and have seen all of his movies. Dog Day Afternoon is my favorite. He always plays characters that are a

bother to people, always asserting himself. That kind of character I’d like to create, and have done so in the past.

B: Do you know how many comics you have sold until now?

H:I think my editor would know that.  Maybe about 5 million, with The Poe Clan selling the most. 

B: Do you think Seiki  Tsuchida’s  Henshu-O is an accurate portrayal of the relationships between editors and comic artists?

H: Well, this is written by a comic book writer, so I think it’s a writer’s experience…There are many people with different experiences…I don’t  think ALL of it is true, or accurate.  I think the editor wanted to make it more dramatic, to arouse the public and so he put in a lot of unhappy people.

B:What are your three favorite movies?

H: The movie I saw in high school,  Gone with the Wind I really liked…and I also liked  A Clockwork Orange...Oh and let’s see one more, How about Bladerunner?

B: How about books?

:Well, I like Issac Asimov. People of the Lake by Richard Leakey and     Children of the Holocaust.

B:Your comics contain many different time periods and countries, galaxies, planets…If you could live in a time and place, what  would you choose?

H: Well, I like Leonardo Da Vinci and  Galleo, maybe the Renaissance period.  Also, it’s a little scary I would have liked to live in the period of Nero. I’m really interested in King Nero. That’s very strange isn’t it? (laughter) He burned Rome, but in the end he was killed wasn’t he. He made money with his face on it. Furthermore, as a poet, was he a poet? I’m not sure?. He liked poetry. And then at 15 or 16 he killed his mother. What kind of person was he? What kind of period was that? I would like to know.

B:What person has influenced you most in life?

H: Well, that would have  be Tezuka Osama. Atom Boy read him in elementary school. The story was very easy to understand, and was constructed very well. In the beginning the last episode appears and then

all of a sudden it returns to the beginning. As a narrator, Tezuka Osamu was entertaining. In the same work, different episodes were changed or shifted. In the end they would become one episode. He knew

how to create various stories, he knew the state of the heart of the human being…people who were misunderstood, people who, although they made efforts were doubted. Tezuka Osamu wrote about all of these emotions. I was very impressed.

B: The new breed of female comic artists today deal with such themes as incest(Shungicu Uchida’s Father Fucker, ) New York drug and Mafia scene, (Akimi Yoshida’s Banana Fish) that differ considerably from the flowery innocent comics of the past. Do you have to constantly keep up with the new trends in girls' comics? What do you think the future holds for girls' comics?

H: Well, I do not think about competition so much. Why?…Maybe because persons think they have to keep their position. I don’t really have a competitive spirit. For me the most important thing is to write the things

I want to write correctly Did I express myself? Did I not express myself?  I am my own rival. That’s the feeling I have…Girl’s comics are very easy to write. Unlike a novel you don’t need to refine or forge the sentences. The scope is broad.

B:You also write plays and a few of your comics have been adapted for the stage(Half Body/Half Spirit, The Heart of Thomas.  Is there any possibility of you retiring as a comic artist and concentrating solely on plays?

H: Well, my body isn’t in such good condition.. stiff shoulders, headaches… writing comics is difficult, so when I reach 60 or 70 it might be impossible, so I might have to change jobs halfway.

B: A few comic artists have turned to writing novels, such as Amy Yamada, Shungicu Uchida and Tatsuhiko Yamagami. Do you have any plans to write a novel someday?

H: Well, I think that drawing pictures really suits me. Drawing pictures is like playing for my fingers, it's really fun. I don’t get that pleasure from writing.

B:Do you like poetry?

H: Yes, I really like poetry. When I was in elementary school I would learn the poems in our textbooks by heart.

B:Who’s your favorite poet?

H: Well…at one time I really liked Tachihara Masaaki.

B:Yumiko Igarashi’s Candy Candy is very popular in Italy, as well as erotic comics in France. Have you had any comics published abroad?

H: Yes. I think some were published in Hong Kong and Taiwan, and in America.

B: What do you think of American comics?

H:Well, I don’t really know that much about American comics..except when I was in elementary school, I don’t know why, There was a Walt Disney comic called, Disney Friends that was translated into Japanese. I bought it in secrecy from parents. It had Donald Duck, Mickey Mouse… it was really interesting. Recently I haven’t been reading any American comics. The times that I did I read Superman. I don’t know anything about                                                                      

recent American comics. However, the times that I did read them, I found that they weren’t rhythmical, or I would rather say…um…After I’ve seen the frame and read the entire dialogue only then I could move to the next frame, so I found it to be slow reading…and so to read a verrrrrrrry very long dialogue while I am looking at one frame is very difficult feel it is very hard to read a verrrrrrrrry long long dialogue while I am looking at one frame. Japanese comics are easy to read. The amount of Chinese characters is just right for the frames,  and as I thought they are extremely rhythmical..

B:Congratulations on receiving the Tezuka Osamu Culture Award. In an article in The

Asahi Newspaperyou stated that you wanted to save victims of child abuse. Have you received many letters from children who have suffered from child abuse?

H: Let me see…In the past, I did receive a letter from someone who had such an experience in their childhood. In that person’s letter, they hadn’t talked to anyone about their experience. I think that speaking others is the first step to recovery, and so I think it’s  very good to read and receive these kinds of letters.

B:In the same article you stated that you decided to become a comic artist after reading Tezuka Osamu’s New Choice Group, and that you were shocked by its tension and power.Would you mind commenting on this in further detail?

H:In this story there is a person called Okajuro, who is the main character. A person called Daisaku is his best friend. It’s set in the last days of the Tokugawa Shogunate. Daisaku was found to be a spy of the enemy side. That fact was revealed andeven though Okajuro didn’t want to do so it happened that he was forced to kill Daisaku with a sword.

In the end, they have a duel. Until then they were best friends and talked about many things. Although they were friends  Okajuro had to kill Daisaku because he betrayed the group. The New Choice Group is the group that Okajuro belongs to and which he has pledged his  loyalty.

                                                                                               
The conflict between Okajuro’s loyalty and his feeling for Daisaku continues throughout the whole book. Daisaku knows they have to kill

him, so he says, “let’s have a duel,” It ends up with him saying, “In my next life I want to be born in a world without strife…” and dying…

As for the question of what Okajuro did after he killed Daisaku, he realized he couldn’t pledge his loyalty to the group anymore and so he left, gave up being a samurai, went to America and the story ends there. The world that he believed and lived in totally collapsed…he couldn’t find his way. After he killed Daisaku he regrets it. Therefore he clung to his best friend’s corpse The group destroyed his humanity to the point where little by little he disbelieved them…I thought that was a great ending. In most cases the story ends where the spy is killed, the killer returns to the group and is praised by the members. The suffering that Okajuro had in his heart at that time was one that could never be solved, and so he was shocked by that. Okajuro was a young person and his way of grasping the world, was for one thing, narrow. This is common to the Japanese view of the world. For example Okajuro has various acquaintances and friends, and they say to him, “Turn your eyes to the world with a broader mind and heart for the world is spacious and broad”…“you are a samurai, killing people, but such days will fade away someday.” He replies to them, “No, that’s not true. We believe in the justice of The New Choice Group.”  But they pocketed money and did wrong things here and there..Even so he

believes that it’s a good group and keeps on believing it…but little by little  he was driven to the wall…and so he has no answer and the world that he believes in collapses and crumbles to the ground and he has nowhere to go He is in such a state. Among children’s stories I have never read such a story in which the main character was at such a loss to this extent, so I was really shocked.

If I try to put it into words, aren’t we also constantly in a state that we are at a loss, daily, in everyday life, we are at a loss…so at that time, I was told from my parents and teacher at school to study and get good scores on tests, find a good job and find employment in a good company. I

couldn’t believe that would create a good world, and so I was discontent in my mind. The place that Japanese people have lived after the war is a competitive society. To compete with others and beat them, and to win a victory. This is what we have been told since we were little children. But  this was very painful for me, since my childhood, so I got really exhausted of hearing it by the time I entered junior high school. I didn’t want to compete anymore. I thought I wanted to go to a world of no competition. At that time I liked drawing comics very much. I thought if I drew comics I could enter into a world where there is no competition and so I became a comic artist. (laughing) So when you ask me “What do you think of your rivals?”  of being top in my genre, I really don’t like to compete with others. I have had that feeling since way back. I don’t feel anything about those matters. The Japanese educational system doesn’t teach children to do their best or to help others.

B:Many characters in your comics suffer from child abuse, inferiority complexes, (The Iguana’s daughter, Mesh, A Cruel God Reigns),Can some of these experiences be traced back to your own childhood.

H:Yes they can.  Especially in The Iguana’s daughter, there are many things from my childhood experience. My mother was very fervent about my education. She had an elder sister who was especially bright and favored over her parents. Her parents would say, “your sister is OK but you can’t do well in school” and she was looked down upon. My mother wished for her own daughters to do well in school and so she was very strict with us. I think she forced her own inferiority complex on her children. I couldn’t enjoy studying.  She’d say, “If you don’t get good grades I will get angry.” It became increasingly painful for me. She’d say,  “You mustn’t play with children who get worse grades than you,” and I’d say, “but she’s very nice,” and she’d say “but she doesn’t do well in school.” it was always something like this. I thought I should associate with my friends heart to heart. But when I told this to my mother she didn’t understand. I have been wondering for a long time why she didn’t

understand me and that feeling has appeared in various works of mine. So now I can explain very logically but usually you can’t explain yourself in childhood because you don’t have the power of expression.

B:Many of your stories have foreign settings, rather than Japanese settings. Why is that?

H: If I explain, one of the reasons, is that in our generation we were very influenced by American culture after the war. Whenever we turned on the TV there were only American TV shows, The Patty Duke Show, Dennis the Menace, Cute Alice,  westerns, these American dramas were very interesting…there was also  Lassie, Well, when it comes to Japanese dramas, these are very relaxing. In a small town an old lady usually appears and asks directions, very warm and nice people, but in the town where I was brought up there weren’t any Japanese historical things at all. American dramas were more interesting and dramatic, more appealing. Everyone had their own opinion and asserted themselves. Those people who asserted themselves were usually looked at as villains. (laughter) Adults listened to children or they exchanged their opinions among friends and they solved their problems. There were many situations like that in American dramas. I thought they were interesting as a culture of self expression. Japan is a culture of endurance and extremely strong conservative elements run very deep. Even if people have something they want to say, they feel they shouldn’t say it. I tried to create some comics that were set in Japan but they weren’t interesting. I found it much easier to write when I made a boy a hero of the story. Likewise..I found it very easy to write comics set in foreign countries.

 B:Do you spend much time researching for your comics?

H: Yes I do. I found a lot of material for Boston. At that time I found a friend who just happened to be going to Boston. I asked them to buy some material about Boston, the atmosphere of the town, the people and son on, but even so I still had many things I didn’t know…so those parts I created myself(laughter.)                                                      

                                                                                              
B:You have written a lot of science  fiction. Do you have any specific influences?

H: Let me see. Yes, I was influenced by Isaac Asimov’s FoundationSeries. In that story two huge kingdoms of robots and galaxy empires are destroyed and rebuilt. That story is set on a grand scale. I read Ray Bradbury when I was around  twenty. I was very charmed by the delicate and poetic worlds which he created…I was deeply moved when I discovered that such beautiful worlds can be drawn in science fiction…

B: In Medicine to go to school, you describe a young boy’s disillusionment with society. Would you say his viewpoint is a fairly common one among junior high and high school students in Japan?

      H: Yes, it’s a big problem. School children have problems like not wanting to go school, bullying, and it originates from a feeling of hopelessness for the future. They wonder what will become of them after

they graduate from school. In the story the boy wants to communicate with this friend’s parents as a human being, but they don’t relate to him as a human being, so he in turn can’t see them as human beings. His father is a “Salaryman” and so a word processor replaces his face. His mother is a housewife and so her face is replaced by a rice cooker. She isn’t taken seriously by her husband. She feels, “Am I the housekeeper of this house?”.

B:In Jennifer’s love partner you describe a scenario in which a character only has thirteen days to live. If you were character, how would you spend your last thirteen days on earth?

H: (laughing.) Oh I thought this was a great question, very original.    Thirteen days.hmmm…I’d like to go to England with a friend of mine, who knows England very well and stay in a different bed and breakfast every day in the English countryside…there are houses from Shakespeare’s  period that I’d like to see.

Copyright 1998 Avia Belle Moon. All rights reserved.

           The author would like to thank Matt Thorn, Akiko Hatsu, and an army of students and friends who helped in the production of this article. Thank you so much!                                     

 

 

 

 

 

 Image: copyright Hagio Moto/Shogakkan. All rights reserved

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