【Interview】 Bocchi the Rock Original author Aki Hamaji


「Interview」 Aki Hamaji Bocchi the Rock

What do you think of when you hear the word girl band manga?

Is it a daily life manga with a relaxed atmosphere like K-ON!

or a coming-of-age story filled with sparkles and excitement like the comic version of BanG Dream!

There is a completely new girls’ band manga that is different from any of these. It is Bocchi the Rock by Aki Hamaji.


Synopsis of Bocchi the Rock

Synopsis: Goto Hitori, aka Bocchi-chan, is a lonely girl who loves to play the guitar. She spends her days playing alone at home, but by chance, she joins the Band of Unity led by Nijika . Goto is not used to performing in front of others, but will she be able to become a great band member? This is the hottest music manga for all the lonely boys and girls in Japan right now! If you’re a shy kid, rock out!

The unique combination of “loneliness, high school girls, and a rock band” is attracting a lot of attention in Bocchi the Rock! To commemorate the release of the first volume, we requested an interview with the author, Ms. Aki Hamaji. If you’re a shady character, read this manga!

Origin of Bocchi the Rock 「HAMAJI Aki」

Bocchi the Rock The cover of the comic is so stylish and cool! In a good way, it doesn’t look like a Kirara (manga magazine) work.

HAMAJI Aki: Thank you very much! I really like it too. The Editor in charge of the book recommended another design, but Tomoyuki Uchikoga, the designer, and I both pushed for this design.

I had always loved Uchikoga-san’s working design, so I was sure that I would ask him to design the cover of the book. Then I found out that Uchikoga-san used to live in Shimokitazawa, where Bocchi the Rock is set, and that he once ran a music label there, so I feel a strange connection with him.

─ In the latest issue (April 2019) of Kirara MAX, she is also on the cover and front cover. It seems unusual for a magazine in the KIRARARA family to have a non-animated work on its cover.

Editor in Charge: Kirara MAX has not had a non-animated work on its cover since “Princess of Curry” (August 2012 issue). I think there will be more opportunities in the future for works we want to push to be on the cover.

The previous work, Kirari Books Lost! was a gag manga featuring a young lady who liked moe 4-koma. What made you decide to draw a band in this work?

HAMAJI: I don’t know if it was a trigger, but my only hobby other than manga is watching bands. So, I thought that if I were to draw a manga next, it would be about a band.

However, I had never played an instrument, only listened to music, so while I was wondering what to do and watching live videos of my favorite bands, I knew that this was the only way. From there, I started practicing bass and drums on my own, and that’s how I got here.

─ ─ With all due respect, when I think of a band manga work in 「Kirara」, the first thing that comes to mind is 「that work」. ……
Ms Majima, do you care about that work「 K-On!」?

Hamaji: I’d be lying if I said I didn’t care about K-ON at all.
When I decided to draw Bocchi the Rock , I heard from my contact that K-ON! would soon resume its serialization.

So, of course, we are not rivals, but that is why I thought that I would make sure that the content would not be similar to that of K-ON!

K-ON is a story about a band in a school club, and Bocchi the Rock is a story about a live house, so I drew the manga with this in mind.

The story is interesting to learn about the inner workings of a live music club, such as the fact that it is legally a “restaurant,” and that bands have a quota to attract customers.

HAMAJI: The that thing is based on what I researched in books and what I heard from acquaintances who are in bands. I also went to interview” a famous place called Shimokitazawa SHELTER” to take pictures of live houses.

Are there any particular things you are conscious of when drawing the band’s manga?

Hamaji: I try to keep a good balance between the Kirara manga style and the band manga style. Kirara readers would find it boring if I talked about music in a technical way, but if I didn’t draw at all, the people who play instruments wouldn’t enjoy it. It’s a balance between the two.

I am also conscious of not depicting lyrics or onomatopoeia in the performance scenes. I felt that if I included text, it would limit the imagery. I want readers to imagine what kind of music I am playing.

Editor in Charge: To be frank, you said that Miss Hamaji used BECK (band manga) as a reference, didn’t you?

Hamaji: My story was just now coming together in a nice, cool way, Please stop saying things you don’t want (laugh).

Bocchi the Rock wants to depict a place of relaxation outside of school.

The main character, Hitori Goto. I call her by the nickname ” Bocchi-chan ,” but what do you call her, Miss Majima?

Hamaji: My staff and I call her by her last name, Goto. In the initial setting, she was just a normal cute girl, but my supervisor told me that I should put more emphasis on her, so I made some modifications, and this is how the character turned out.

Editor in Charge: In terms of differentiating the manga from “K-ON!”, I felt that the initial setting lacked a little punch. In fact, when I had the storyboard cut with the current character, it was very interesting, so I felt that I had a good response that this would work.

─ The bright and positive Bocchi-chan ……. I can’t imagine it anymore now.

HAMAJI: As the characters change, so does the story, and if I had drawn with the characters in the initial setting, I think it would have been a completely different work.

Who is your favorite character in Bocchi the Rock

Hamaji: Visually, I like Yamada the best, but reader popularity is overwhelmingly concentrated on Goto. It’s strange because there should be a law that black-haired heroines are more popular. …… Is it because she doesn’t talk much that her popularity is not so good?

The first volume of the manga was mostly Goto’s main story, so from the second volume onward, I will do my best to focus on other characters and make people like other girls besides Goto. Especially Yamada!

I heard that the surnames of Bocchi-chan and the other girls (Goto, Ijichi, Yamada, Kita) are derived from the members of “ASIAN KUNG-FU GENERATION”. Are the characters’ personalities also based on the members of ASIAN KUNG-FU GENERATION?

Click on the image to go to the youtube video. ↓

Hamaji: No, I drew the members’ personalities rather according to the image associated with the word band. The drummer is bright and the bass player is dark and supernatural.

However, there were several times when the members’ favorite foods and taste in music were miraculously the same as that of “ASIAN KUNG-FU GENERATION. When our Yamada was eating curry, Mr. Takahiro’s favorite food was also curry, or Mr. Ijichi (Kiyoshi) used to listen to melodic hardcore. It may be that the image of the instrument you are playing and your personality often match.

The door picture in each episode of the manga is a tribute to an actual live music video. What criteria did you use to choose the door picture for each of them?

Hamaji: Sometimes I simply use the music video of the song I’m into at the time as a reference, and sometimes I find one that matches the content of the story at that time and draw it.

For example, in manga episode 5, the story is about Goto and Kita meeting at school, so I used Frederick’s “Odoloop” as a reference. Well, the ⅯV scene I used for the door picture only shows a few seconds.

Click on the image to go to the youtube video. ↓

The manga episode 13 is the last story in the first volume of the book, and it has a sense of youth, so I drew the door picture with reference to “All About Youth” by Fuji Fabric. This was not inspired by the music video, but by the image of the song itself.

Click on the image to go to the youtube video. ↓

What is Ms Hamaji‘s favorite scene in the first volume of Bocchi the Rock

HAMAJI: I personally think that the last scene in episode 13 was drawn well. I wanted to do a title recovery once. However, it was too neatly wrapped up, and readers were worried that it was the end of the series . (laugh).

Indeed, it would not have been out of place if I had written “Thank you very much for reading this story until now.

Editor in Charge: So I followed up with a comment at the end saying that it will continue in the future.

─ Where was the scene in the manga that received the greatest response from readers?

Hamaji:Many fans said the live scene (manga) in episode 12 was good, including the fact that it was not in a four-frame manga format, and it left a lasting impression on me.

Editor in Charge: Kirara is a monthly magazine specializing in four-frame comics, so we generally don’t publish works that mix four-frame and story comic panel layouts, but this scene was special. By daring to suddenly change to a normal panel layout, I was clearly aiming for the impact of the release from the four-frame layout.

This scene is particularly obvious, but is the theme of Bocchi-chan’s growth the theme of Bocchi the Rock

Hamaji: There is that, and I also feel that there is another theme of taking a step forward. When I talked to a friend of mine who was in a band in high school, I was really impressed when he said, “School was boring, but I enjoyed being in a band at a live music club after school.

Many of the works in Kirara (a monthly magazine) depict the fun of spending time at school, but I think it’s good to have a place to stay other than school. I would be happy if Goto’s courage in entering a place she didn’t know, a live music club, sticks in someone’s mind.

Transferred from another magazine to draw Bocchi the Rock ?

Please tell us about yourself. You were drawing for “Chao” before you started serializing your work in Kirara MAX (a monthly magazine), what kind of manga were you drawing?

Hamaji: Chao (monthly magazine) I mainly drew story manga under the pen name “Hayami Chiaki. My debut work for submission, “Swan★Complex,” is actually still on the Shogakukan website.

Editor in Charge: Hee…… (Editor in Charge to search for it on his phone as soon as possible).

Hamaji: Don’t read it now! (Laugh)

─ Did you originally want to be a shoujo manga artist when you submitted your work to Chao?

Hamaji: Sure, I did at first, but as I continued to submit to Chao several times, I started to think that I wanted to draw more moe manga than shoujo manga. So, although I was able to make my debut as a manga artist, my motivation didn’t last very long.

─ Was it because you wanted to draw moe manga that you transferred to Kirara?

Hamaji: Yes, that’s right. I thought that moe would be best suited for the monthly magazine Kirara, so I decided to bring in my own work. I think my work at the time was a four-panel club activity manga about Othello.

─ How did you feel when you read the manuscript that Ms Hamaji brought in to the magazine back then?

Editor in Charge: The drawings were very good, and the gags were well thought out. I thought, I definitely want this person to join our company and draw for us.

However, I also thought, Othello manga, huh? …… (laugh), so I asked him to come up with several ideas for publication in the magazine. I combined the lady works and Bookstore clerk works among those ideas, and “Kirari Books Straying! was born.

Please tell us if there is anything you keep in mind when you draw your four-frame manga.

Hamaji:Of course, I try to make a punchline, but I also try to draw other places to laugh or make a joke besides the end of the four-panel comic. When I was working on “Kirari Books,” I was praised for this by the person in charge of the comic, and I have been conscious of it ever since.

Editor in Charge: I really love Ms Mamaji’s manga because even in the most casual panels, there are many small jokes scattered throughout. I think four-panel comics should be funny.

My sister is Kiss and Cry Ms Higasa nozomi

─ What made Ms Majima decide to become a manga artist?

Hamaji: My hometown was in the countryside of Miyazaki and there was nowhere to play, so I had nothing to do but draw pictures. My sister also liked to draw, and we started drawing together in elementary school, and before I knew it, I was aspiring to be a manga artist.

Your sister is nozomi Higasa, the manga artist of Kiss and Cry, isn’t she?

Hamaji: Yes, that’s right. I went to a regular high school, but my sister went to an art high school, so she taught me how to draw.

Comispe! Edit: Our editorial board has talked about Kiss and Cry before. We also wrote a review of it in our editorial office.

Hamaji: Really? Glad to hear it, I’ll tell my sister!

I think it’s very rare for sisters to become manga artists, but do you and your sister often talk about manga?

Hamaji: My sister and I have a rule that we don’t interfere with each other’s creative activities, so we rarely talk about manga these days. In the first place, we don’t read each other’s manga.

Is that because reading each other’s manga would affect your own style?

Hamaji: Rather, we are not really interested in each other’s manga. …… (laugh). I do four-panel comics, and my sister does boys’ comics, so the genres are completely different. Of course we get along well. We often talk about the manga we like.

What manga did you read when you were a child?

Hamaji: Ms. Hiromu Arakawa’s “Fullmetal Alchemist” is a manga that I got into as a child with my sister, and it is still my favorite manga. I also fell in love with ASIAN KUNG-FU when I heard Rewrite, which was the theme song of the anime.

In terms of manga design and style, I think I was influenced by PEACH-PIT and Ms Toyama Ema, both of whom are Nakayoshi “Monthly Magazine” authors. Ms Toyama also worked for Houbunsha, so I was hoping that if I came to Kirara, the same affiliate, I would be in the same magazine. ……, but it was a different magazine.

─ What manga have you been recommending recently?

Hamaji: Right now, my favorite is Slow Loop, a shoujo manga by Ms Uchino Maiko, whose comics will be released next month. It has a warm and gentle worldview that is very comfortable.

However, recently I have been watching more movies than manga. I used to read only manga, so I’m starting to think that I should get my input from other sources as well. I often watch war movies such as The Pianist.

Do you have any other hobbies?

HAMAJI: It’s not a hobby, but I talk with my sister, and I don’t have any other hobbies at all. I relieve stress by talking nonsense and doing Jojo imitations.

Lastly, do you have a message for our readers?

HAMAJI: I try to make Bocchi the Rock a story that Kirara readers can enjoy. And I draw it so that people who don’t usually read manga can also enjoy it.

In fact, I have received feedback many times from people who are in bands or in the music industry. I would be happy if more people read this manga now that it has been published in book form.

Thank you for taking a look. See you soon. (*‘∀‘)b

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