A direct interview with Mr. Hajime Isayama of the popular serialization “Shinkage no Kyojin”! Mr. Isayama’s tips for his rookie days, the process up to his debut in serialization, and the character techniques he used to create many extremely popular characters are all on display! This is a special publication from Weekly Shonen Magazine’s popular project “Hanamichi to Manga-ka”!
A direct interview with Mr. Hajime Isayama! In the first half of the interview, we ask him about his path to winning the serialization, and in the second half, we ask him about his characterization techniques.
- Hajime Isayama Let’s show it to the editor! 〜Bringing and Submission
- Newcomer’s Manga Award
- Go to Serials!
- Recommendations for Newcomers
- The first rule is to create a character that is easy to remember.
- The second rule is to create characters with the “future” in mind.
- Third point.” You have to create a “flaw.
- Point #4: “Don’t let the character lie.
- Isayama-sensei talks about the characters of “Shinkage no Kyojin”!
- Message of support
Hajime Isayama Let’s show it to the editor! 〜Bringing and Submission
I think that the first step to becoming a manga artist often starts with “bringing in” your work to the editorial department or “submitting” it for a manga award. Could you tell us about the situation at that time when you brought your work to the editorial department of Weekly Shonen Magazine?
I was 19 years old when I came to Tokyo for a group meeting at the vocational school I was attending at the time.
I brought my work to several shonen magazine editors, and at the last one I brought it to, the magazine editorial department praised my “strong drawings” and assigned me to their editorial department.
The editor praised the work, saying, “The picture has power.”
How did you feel when you actually brought it in and had the editor look at it?
I remember I was so nervous that my stomach hurt (laugh).
For an aspiring manga artist, submitting a manuscript is like a job interview, so naturally I was nervous.
However, I brought in my manuscript with a “hit and burn” spirit.
My dream of becoming a manga artist had been a dream since elementary school, so I brought in my manuscript because I felt that I would not give up unless I was told “no” once, and because I wanted my manuscript to be seen at least once by an editor, a professional manga artist.
Why did you want an editor to look at it instead of a school teacher?
I wanted to incorporate the objective viewpoint of the editor, who is the “reader’s representative,” into my work.
I believe that by incorporating objective opinions, I can bring my “what I want to draw” closer to the needs of as many readers as possible.
Whether or not what I want to draw matches the needs of the public is a matter of luck.
However, I believe that an objective viewpoint is a great weapon for attracting that luck, even if only a little.
I chose the “bring your own work” method as a way to do this, but whether it is “bring your own work” or “submission,” I think it is best for newcomers to have a professional editor look at their work anyway.
Therefore, I think that the “Newcomer Manga Award,” where editors select the winners, is a good opportunity for them to take the first step toward becoming a manga artist.
So, how did you feel when the “professional” editor evaluated the prototype of “The Progressing Titan” that you brought in for publication?
I had a strong feeling that it was a commemorative exam, so when Weekly Shonen Magazine evaluated my work and said, “We would like to submit it for the monthly award,” I said, “What? I was filled with a sense of wonder.
If anything, the “poor work” that I had been pointed out by editors other than the magazine when I brought in my work was a more satisfactory evaluation.
But it was the first time for me to experience someone else’s recognition of my manga, so I was very happy.
Looking back now, I feel that my desire to draw interesting manga was conveyed and that the person in charge of my work bought into that.
You mentioned that there were some areas that were lacking, but what specific issues did you face?
All the basics, but especially the painting.
I don’t think I was at a level where I could aspire to be a professional.
But even though I was aware of the level of my painting, I had no intention of trying to get better.
Thinking about it now, that is definitely not a good attitude (laugh).
. Because at the time, I thought that as long as the names were interesting, that was all that mattered.
Even when I was a vocational school student, I spent all my time working on my name while other students were practicing their drawings.
However, when I was working as an assistant for Mr. Tomoo Sato after winning the Encouragement Award, I realized that drawing skills are just as important as names after I had the bitter experience of not only not being able to do anything but also having to add extra work for him if I did something.
Newcomer’s Manga Award
You received an honorable mention for the work you submitted to MGP (Magazine Grand Prix) after bringing it in for the first time.
Yes, I was.
I was in Fukuoka when I received a phone call from the person in charge of the project and was surprised to hear that I had won an honorable mention.
It was the moment when my dream of becoming a manga artist, which I had been vaguely thinking about until then, turned into a clear goal.
After graduating from vocational school, I immediately used the prize money to move to Tokyo.
When I called my supervisor and told him that I had already moved to Tokyo, he was very surprised (laugh).
What was your life like when you were aiming for the New Comic Book Award?
I started making a name for the Rookie of the Year Award after I moved to Tokyo, and I had many meetings with the person in charge while working part-time.
I don’t remember how many meetings we had to have to make the name, but it wasn’t a one-shot OK.
When I was working on a story for the Rookie of the Year Award, I also trained in copying, as instructed by the person in charge, in order to improve my drawing ability.
I had already copied pictures in high school, but at that time I copied only the pictures I liked, whereas the practice method instructed by my supervisor was to copy page by page.
By copying page by page, I learned a lot about panel layout and the position of lines and sound effects.
I mainly copied “Kimi no iru machi” by Kouji Seo and “Hajime no ippo” by George Morikawa, which still influence me today.
I was able to win the 80th New Comic Book Award Special Encouragement Prize for “HEART BREAK ONE,” which I drew while leading such a life, and the 81st New Comic Book Award Honorable Mention for “orz,” which I drew after reflecting on “HEART BREAK ONE.
Received the 80th Newcomer Manga Award Special Encouragement Prize for “HEARTBREAK ONE,” in which training in copying gave the pictures even more strength.
What were the failures in HEART BREAK ONE?
It is about the characters.
At the time, I was obsessed with the idea that I had to draw the “right manga.
All I could think about was that I had to make a good story or a good panel layout.
But after drawing “Heart Break One,” I realized that was not the case.
I thought it was better to joke around more, and that it was more interesting to have characters who were not quite right.
I realized that a correct manga is not necessarily an attractive manga.
Since then, I have been drawing manga with the idea of goofing around.
I believe that joking around freely leads to the individuality and charm of the artist.
I believe that this led to the selection of “orz” for the contest.
He won an Honorable Mention at the 81st Rookie Manga Awards for “orz,” a work in which he was more conscious of “joking” than of “being good.
Go to Serials!
After winning an Honorable Mention Award for “orz,” what was the process that led to the serialization of your first series, “Attack on Titan”?
It took about six months from the time I won the award until the society decided to serialize my work, and during that time I drew three new plots.
As we had more meetings, the person in charge asked me if I would like to serialize “Attack on Titan,” which I had drawn a long time ago and which was not included in the three plots. And so the serialization of “Attack on Titan” began.
What kind of manga do you expect from new artists as the chairman of the Special Jury for the Newcomer’s Manga Award?
I want you to express your “perversity” in yourself without hiding it.
When you want to draw manga, I wonder about you as a person (laugh).
I have a thing for such “crazy people.
I think you should try to do something that would not be allowed in ordinary society.
If you have a proclivity that would be impossible to live with if society knew about it, I think that’s exactly what you should draw!
Recommendations for Newcomers
Do you think it is better to have experience as an assistant?
Yes, I think you should be an assistant.
I think you should be an assistant because you can see professional work and manuscripts up close, which is not only a great way to improve your drawing skills, but also a good place to learn about work flow and how to run a workplace.
The “Shinkage no Kyojin” is also run based on Tomoo Sato’s experience as an assistant.
What kind of person do you think is suited to be a manga artist?
I think he is a person who is not afraid of harsh opinions or failure.
For example, a person who likes muscle training feels happy about muscle pain.
This is because, although it hurts, they can feel that their muscles are growing just now.
In the same way, I think it is a talent to be able to rejoice when you fail and are beaten up or denied, because it is food for growth.
What do you like about being on the editorial board of Weekly Shonen Magazine?
I used to draw stories all the time at the editorial office, and it is a place where I meet the same writers and get to know them, and where I can be very stimulated by the strong horizontal connections among writers.
Next, we asked him about the four secrets to creating appealing characters for the many extremely popular characters of “The Progress of the Titans”!
The first rule is to create a character that is easy to remember.
When you create a character, which elements do you decide on first?
I start with character design.
First, I think about how interesting it would be to have a character with this kind of face, or how prominent these physical characteristics would be.
Once the character has been sculpted, I imagine the character’s personality based on his or her appearance.
For example, if the character has bad eyes, I would expect him to be cynical.
Is there anything else you keep in mind when creating a character?
When I watch foreign dramas and movies, I feel that the actors who appear in them tend to be cast with an emphasis on “memorable faces” rather than “well-formed faces.
Some are so-called “good-looking,” while others are more like “What’s with the eyebrows? or “I feel like my chin is sticking out ……” (laugh).
When making characters, I am conscious of how to create such “memorable characters.
The second rule is to create characters with the “future” in mind.
Specifically, how were the characters in “The Progress of the Titans” created?
We decided on the development of the story first, and then created the characters according to that development.
For example, when deciding on the design of Bertolt’s face, we had already established that “Bertolt = Colossal Titan,” so we thought about what the face of a Colossal Titan would look like if it were a human face.
The fact that Bertolt is tall is also an influence of this setting.
Bertolt’s design was chosen as the humanoid form of the “Colossal Titan.”
You mentioned that you “decided on the development of the story first and created characters according to the development of the story.” Conversely, were there any characters that changed significantly from the character image that you had in mind?
My name is Krista.
When I first started working on “Attack on Titan” I thought that it would be easier to move the story along if I had a lot of characters in the early stages.
At that time, I thought that readers would be more pleased if there was at least one cute “moe” character, but it turned out to be an empty character who was just “cute” (laugh).
So, at first, I didn’t enjoy drawing Krista at all.
But as the story unfolded, on the contrary, being empty became Krista’s personality. She is superficially good on the outside, but in reality, she is empty, without any substance of her own.
As a result of her departure from her initial “demand-response” existence, her personality helped me to think about the development of the story, and she has become one of my favorite characters.
The moment I broke away from the “empty” character.
You mentioned that you gradually fell in love with Krista, who is your favorite character in “Attack on Titan”? Who is your favorite character in “Attack on Titan” and why?
My favorite character changes from time to time, but right now I like Reiner the best.
Reiner is “a character who bears my own reflection.
What I mean is that just as Reiner is the “perpetrator” in the world of “The Advancing Titan,” I am also the “perpetrator” who, like Reiner, causes the characters in the manga to suffer. So I draw with a great deal of empathy (laugh).
Dr. Isayama empathizes with Rainer as the “perpetrator” of the story.
Third point.” You have to create a “flaw.
When you read “Shogeki no Kyojin” and see the characters living in this hopeless world, you may think to yourself, “They really exist! If I were put in this situation, I would feel this way! I sometimes think, “If I were in such a situation, I would feel like this! I feel a sense of “reality” in the characters living in this hopeless world.
I think this “realism” is one of the main attractions of “Attack on Titan. Is there anything you are conscious of in order to portray “living characters” with this “realism”?
Since manga is “fantasy,” you can create your own ideal character in any way you like.
For example, you can create a perfect character, a beautiful man and woman with no faults whatsoever.
However, such a character would inevitably feel fanciful and fake.
Therefore, I believe that characters with some “flaws” are more attractive.
For example, they may have a character problem or a physical complex, such as a strange nose.
This can lead to sympathy from readers who share the same flaws, or to the character’s appeal in the eyes of readers as a person who can understand people’s pain.
Even when trying to portray a villain, if you portray the character as a villain, you will not create a “sense of existence.
Instead, I think it is better to portray the character as “not trying to play the bad guy, but believing himself to be the righteous one,” which will add depth to the character as a villain.
Point #4: “Don’t let the character lie.
What is the ideal image of a character for Isayama-sensei?
A character who does not lie.
To lie is to twist the character’s original will for the sake of the story.
Characters who are motivated by their own will or characters who defy the world (manga) in a metafictional sense are the ones who are attractive.
On the other hand, characters who are puppets of the story are not attractive.
In many cases, the protagonist tends to disdain his own will for the convenience of the story, so I often find characters who stand in the contrasting positions attractive.
Isayama-sensei talks about the characters of “Shinkage no Kyojin”!
In the character of “The Progress of the Colossus,” do you feel that Mr. Isayama’s intended aim has been well received by the public?
As for Levi’s popularity, I think we were able to get along well with the fact that although he is strong and scruffy, his small size “gives him a comical air no matter how chic he is”.
I think I was able to create a sense of coolness and intimacy at the same time.
Conversely, who is the character with the biggest gap between public popularity and your impression of Isayama-sensei?
Ellen is a character that seems to exist for the sake of this story, so it’s hard to move her around anyway. He is a slave to the story, so to speak.
I personally feel that I have not been able to portray him as a very lively character, so I feel there is a gap between him and the public’s popularity.
Who is the ideal character for Mr. Isayama in Attack on Titan?
Yumir. Personally, this is the character that I have been able to depict the most vividly.
I also really like Yumir in his Titan form.
One of the things I wanted to do through the manga was to change his form from human to an ugly deformity, like in “Humanoid Monster Bem,” and I feel that I was able to achieve this by drawing Yumir in the form of a giant, which is rather ugly.
Isayama feels strongly about Yumir, saying, “I was able to build the character.
Message of support
Finally, a message to all the new writers out there!
If you don’t think your work is interesting, it will never be interesting.
So, please find your own “interesting” first.
Fortunately, there are so many masterpieces of movies, books, mangas, and music in the world that it would take a lifetime to discover them all.
Since you were born in this age, please enjoy such entertainment and accumulate the feelings of “fun.
And if you enjoy it so much that you can’t help but want to draw manga and express yourself, I hope you will put that enjoyment into your manuscripts and present to the world the “fun” that only you can create.
That’s the kind of work I want to read!
Thank you for watching.