Interview with Akihito Tsukushi, Made in Abyss August 04, 2017


This is the fifth installment of our regular summer interview program, in which we meet and talk directly with the manga artists we admire. This time it’s Akihito Tsukushi, author of the popular manga “Made in Abyss” (~6 volumes, hereafter referred to as “Made in Abyss”), currently being serialized on Takeshobo’s web manga site “Comic Gamma” and currently airing an anime!

reference ねとらぼアンサー

Akihito Tsukushi (left) and Company President UK (right)

Why is the big hole full of unreasonableness? First interview with Akihito Tsukushi, author of “Made in Abyss

In this high fantasy film, Riko, a young girl living in an orphanage, and Reg, a boy robot with amnesia who was found in the Abyss, a mysterious large hole of unknown maximum depth, challenge the Abyss, from which they cannot come back alive once they dive deep enough.

Akihito Tsukushi is also heavily involved in animation. 

— First of all, congratulations on the animation. I’ve believed this would happen ever since you mentioned it on this blog!

 Thank you!

— The anime was very detailed from the first episode and had a great atmosphere of the original work. How much involvement did Tsukushi-sensei have in the anime?

I’m almost always involved (laughs). The animation staff who came to the meeting asked me about details like the staple food and fuel of the people in the town of Aus, and I discussed the settings.

Setting materials drawn by Tsukushi-sensei

I was very happy that they asked me about the setting like that, and I started to think about everything, including things I had not thought about before. Not only were they faithful to the original, but they expanded my view of the world to places I couldn’t see, such as cityscapes and livestock. Sometimes I am too busy writing to go to the recording sessions, but I really want to go to all of them.

— I was surprised to learn that this is your first commercial work, as the original work itself is very carefully crafted. I heard that you worked for a game company before becoming a manga artist.

After graduating from technical school, I joined Konami as a designer. For the first 3 years or so, I was pouring and adjusting motion, and after gaining experience, I was working on interface design.

It was not until five or six years later, with “Elebits” (2006), that I was given my first assignment to draw pictures as the main part of a game. Before that, you made an action game called “OZ” (2005).

“Elebits” (2006)

“OZ” (2005)

— So you were completely in the game field. What led you to become a manga artist from there?

When I turned 30 after working in the game industry for 10 years, I suddenly realized that I was in trouble. I only had half the time left to be active, and that time was passing at an accelerating pace. I suddenly became afraid that I only had half the time left to do what I wanted to do, and I quit.

— You started to draw manga in earnest after you left the company. Have you always drawn manga?

I used to draw little bits and pieces in the margins of my notebooks and then stop because I got bored. In fact, the first time I completed a work properly was in a coterie magazine called “From Starstrings” one year before Abyss. The person in charge at the time saw it and asked me to join the web magazine “Comic Gamma” when it was launched, which led to the serialization of my work.

“From Starstrings”


How did the world of elaborate large holes come into being?

— I would now like to ask you about the work “Made in Abyss”. Where did you get the idea for such a story?

I wrote a little about it at the end of the first volume, but I’m thinking of making a picture book with some unusual tricks as a coterie magazine.

— A trick, you say?

If I tell you the trick, you will completely know what happens next, but may I tell you?

— Ummm ……!!! I can’t help but be curious, but I want to keep the fun, so I’ll hold off: ……!

When I was thinking about creating a picture book with this idea, I told my friend from high school, who is now my assistant, that it would be interesting if I combined it with the setting of a cave exploration, and he said, “It would definitely be interesting,” so I thought I would do it.

— The scenes of each layer of the “Abyss,” which consists of more than seven layers of the deep world, the ecology of creatures, relics, and mysterious ancient letters written by someone, show extraordinary attention to detail in the setting.

Since the stage is not just a “hole,” rather than expanding the world, you have to think about how the small world inside the hole is detailed and particular, paying attention to what each leaf looks like, or else the story will probably become fluffy and grounded, and the story will become thin.

Even the map of the Abyss at the beginning of the first volume, “There’s no way this terrain could be like this. Well, it’s a fantasy,” I first drew it with a laugh, and then started drawing more and more, “But if it really existed, would it look like this?” and “How long ago did it take this shape?

Map of the big hole “Abyss”. The detail and drawing is amazing!

It’s interesting to see how your imagination expands as you look at it. I originally enjoyed playing “Wizardry” on the Game Boy, looking at the wireframes and imagining what the characters looked like.

There is a reason why the Abyss is divided into layers, like “Ghosts ‘n Goblins” or “OZ” or “Genie Hero on the world,” first there is the whole, and it’s fun to know that you are here now. I like to imagine what’s next when I can see it on a map. Like the next station in “Galaxy Express 999,” I get excited when I know that the main character is right here, right now.

— but even so, from the way the map was drawn, it must have taken a tremendous amount of time. ……

It was a lot of fun because the ideas came to me one after another.

Rico is Doraemon, Reg is Nobita, and “Nanachi, the beckoning cat” that brings happiness.

— So the main character is Reg? I somehow thought Rico was the main character. ……

In the picture book, the story was about diving into a hole alone, and I divided the main character’s personality into two parts, which is the two we have now. Since the main character in the picture book was a man, Riko is also a girl who retains her boyishness, and because of that, she is more forward to adventure than the other boys.

In “Doraemon,” Rico is like Doraemon and Reg is like Nobita. In terms of ability, they are opposite, but Rico can show his will in any situation, saying, “Just go this way. Reg is at a loss without Rico.

In the Abyss, Rico finds Reg.

At first, I wanted to start the story with Reg waking up in the third episode, so I drew the story from Reg’s point of view, so I believe he is the main character and the emotional destination for the reader.

I don’t think a sympathetic protagonist would stick a stick up a boy’s butt very often. The stories are usually from Reg’s point of view.

— When talking about characters, Nanachi from “narehate” is indispensable, isn’t it? Since its appearance, I feel that attention to the work has increased dramatically, even on the Internet.


I felt a little more responsive to storytelling after the battle with Ozen in volume 2. At the time, there was a big idea in my mind to make each volume a good read, something worth reading. But in volume 3, I had decided to bring out the thorough villain, Bondrudo, so Nanachi was born to complement him.

Actually, volume 2 did not sell very well, and in the middle of making volume 3, we talked about how we should end the story. But Nanachi had already appeared by then, so I decided to make her really interesting.

The response has mysteriously changed since those three volumes, so it is completely “Nanachi the beckoning cat.

Ornaments famous in Japan as lucky charms for prosperous business

— Nanachi’s appeal goes beyond mere attribute cuteness, such as her “nnaa” tone and appearance. The background she holds makes the character more attractive. ……

At first I told my editor that Nanachi might die. I thought that she would die in a fight with Bondrudo in order to let Rico and Reg go ahead of her. But as I continued to draw, I thought, “It looks like he might live. Also, my experience with “Oz” made me think that two people can support each other more solidly than one, and three people can support each other more solidly than two. On the package of “OZ,” it says, “Why three people in OZ? This game has deep roots in my mind.

Handwritten border

— The warm atmosphere of the paper is also impressive, with hand-drawn borders and drawing on paper that looks like drawing paper. Are these drawn in analog?

No, it is all digital. After the drawing is cleaned up, the shading is layered in the same way that watercolor is used for coloring, and finally highlights are added. The background is a scanned pattern of drawing paper.

— Are there any aspects of the manga that are more interesting because of this kind of expression?

When Reg and Ozen fight in volume 2, there is a scene where Ozen steps on Reg, and that’s where the frame is broken.

I started experimenting with hand-drawn panels in the second episode, and for the first time, I was glad I did. I learned from reading various manga that manga can be more free, so I also did some strange things, such as adding speed lines with speech balloons.

Dangerous creatures and rising loads Why is the Abyss unreasonable?

— Two and a half years ago, in this series, I wrote that “at first glance, the characters are often too cute and comical, but in fact there is a heavy reality of life and death in the characters. In the adventures that follow, you can still feel the unreasonableness, harshness, and lack of naivete that pervade the entire work.

I am glad to hear you say so. Rico is getting more and more scars, isn’t he? He is becoming more and more crippled, but only his eyes are still alive.

 Life shines only in darkness. Even the weakest light shines in total darkness. Rico was just an annoying, fidgety guy when he was on the ground, but I’m glad he was able to show his true potential when he entered the hole. He is an Abyss nerd, or rather, an Abyss fool. She’s probably having the best time in her life now that she’s not dreaming about something she’s never done before.

— The scene in which Rico asked for his arm to be deliberately broken instead of his elbow joint so that the poison would not circulate throughout his body showed his determination as a prospector.

There is a movie called “127 Hours” (2010). It’s based on the true story of a mountain climber who survived after his right arm was pinned by a rock and he was unable to move. For some reason, he did not cut off his arm at the joint when it was at the limit of its life activity. The reason was not mentioned in the film, but he later put on a prosthetic arm and began his adventure again.

I thought, “Yeah, anyone who doesn’t give up on adventure will go out of their way to choose the painful way.” So I thought all the explorers would do the same.

-The one-way concept that the deeper you dive, the greater the risk of returning (the Abyss curse) is also a unique setting. As for the Abyss, which is found in many game-like settings, it seems likely that an escape route of “dying and coming back to life” will be provided, though.

Actually, at first, there was no upward load, just that diving into a hole would upset my sense of time. But I thought it would be more interesting to make it harder and more critical. By bringing “certain death” to the load of returning from the seventh layer, we could create a world that no one had ever seen before.

— But still, isn’t it too heavy to die for sure on the seventh layer ……?

But, as I say, we all die in the middle of something. That’s why Rico chose, in that sense, an exciting suicide.

— Exciting Suicide……!

People who don’t do that and live on earth are going to have an unexciting daily life. They might die thinking, “Maybe I should have gone. …… But Liko went.

If something unreasonable does not happen, it is not interesting. If you make something unreasonable, readers will think, “What’s going to happen? I think so too (laughs). I think so too (laughs).The work itself is also drawn in a situation where there is no turning back.

Influenced not by “diving” but by “climbing

— As is customary in these interviews, do you have any favorite works or influences?

In creating this work, I used the book “Kamigami no Yamairei (Mountain Ridge of the Gods)” (5 volumes; original story by Baku Yumemakura, illustrations by Jiro Taniguchi).

From the Kindle edition of “Mountains of the Gods” The story of mountaineer Joji Hanyu’s unprecedented attempt to reach the summit of Mount Everest.

The main character, Hanyu, calls himself a “mountain man,” and he says, “A mountain man is just trash if he doesn’t do mountains. That is the only place he sees his value. No matter what kind of wounds he gets, he doesn’t want to quit the mountains.

It’s kind of like Made in Abyss.

The last boss takes on Everest, and it is very interesting. Also, in terms of manga drawing, masakazu Ishiguro’s “Soredemo Machi wa Mawatteiru” (16 volumes, published by Shonengahosha) has a basic panel layout and is complete stories, so I wondered why it was so interesting.

At the time, I too only had a shallow understanding of the work, and when I saw the timeline in the personal commentary that came with the final volume, I thought, “What the heck is this? I guess that sense of excitement oozed from the work. It was very interesting. Excitement is important.

— Finally, I’m sure there are many readers who will be exposed to the original work as a result of this anime adaptation, so if you have any highlights, please let us know.

Everything I want to say is drawn in the comic. There is nothing else to say. If you read it and say, “I don’t know what it’s about,” I’ve lost. Also, if you enjoyed the anime, you can read the rest of the story in the original.

— The original work has finally reached the sixth layer of the deep world, but how will the serialization progress in the future?

The difficulties are still there. After all, Rico and his friends are human beings, so they will eventually “end,” whether by senility or whatever. How will it end? ……. Aren’t you looking forward to it? (LOL)

Thank you for watching. Please take a look at the Made in Abyss manga as well. See you soon.

Made in Abyss (World’s largest number of translations)


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