- Hajime Isayama It all started in this man’s brain.
- The earliest memories of my childhood that I could see surrounded by green walls.
- Boyhood in a luxurious natural setting that nurtured his imagination
- The budding of the ego and the room away from home Junior high school years when I was awakened to subculture.
- First time drawing and submitting a comic book I believed the world would change.
- The feeling of being connected to the internet changed my perspective on life.
- The dream of becoming a manga artist is as unlikely to come true as winning the lottery.
- At the age of 19, he came up with the plot of “The Progressive Titan”.
- I’m more attracted to unfinished demo recordings than clear sounds.
- Every month is a series of shuraku, and then “food scraps”.
- I’m envisioning the last one, which is diffusing and heading into contraction.
- Generational sense of searching for something unique while objectively self-evaluating
- I want to depict the emotional flow of a character changing.
Hajime Isayama It all started in this man’s brain.
The earliest memories of my childhood that I could see surrounded by green walls.
In the summer of 1986, Hajime Isayama was born in Hita City, Oita Prefecture. It is a town with a population of about 70,000, adjacent to Fukuoka and Kumamoto, and has a typical basin climate with hot summers and cold winters, with the number of extremely hot days in a year recorded as the highest in Japan. Isayama’s family has been running a ume (Japanese apricot) farm here for generations. We asked Isayama about his childhood memories to find out the origin of his business.
My earliest childhood memory is that the view from the window of my house was like a wall of green. I was so young that I didn’t know where I was in Kyushu in terms of a map, and I vaguely felt that I was surrounded by a wall of green. But since I didn’t know about the rest of the world, I thought that was normal.
Your family is a plum farmer. What was your childhood like?
My parents worked together, so my grandmother took care of me. While my grandmother was working in the fields, I would lay out a goza (straw mat) next to her and stay there. I remember I had to watch the moss all the time because I wasn’t allowed to move. I used to look at the tiny centipedes crawling on the moss with great amusement.
When you were a child, you liked to draw dinosaurs.
The first thing I drew that could be called a picture was a Tyrannosaurus. I drew a Godzilla-like crest and wondered if it was a dinosaur or a monster. For some reason, I was oddly obsessed with the wrinkles on his neck. My kindergarten teacher praised me for my wrinkles, and I still have a drawing from that time hanging in my parents’ bedroom. It was like a mural of a giant robot and a monster fighting, with lots of missiles being fired.
Incidentally, in addition to the dinosaurs he drew in his childhood, the story “The Mystery of the Man-Eating Mona Lisa” from “Jigoku Sensei Nube” (*1), serialized in Weekly Shonen Jump, and the depiction of aliens preying on humans in an erotic game are also cited as the origin of the giant. It is likely that the image of the Titans was created not by any one of these, but by the combined influence of various memories.
(1) Serialized from 1993 to 1999. (1) Serialized from 1979 to 1999. Isayama says that he was influenced by the horror of being preyed upon by a human-like being in episode 34, “The Mystery of the Man-Eating Mona Lisa,” which depicts a bizarre nighttime movement of a painting of the Mona Lisa.
Boyhood in a luxurious natural setting that nurtured his imagination
However, it is clear that the feelings of admiration and awe toward giant things are fundamental to Isayama.
He says, “If my parents allowed me to rent videos, I would definitely go to the special effects section and rent ‘Godzilla,’ ‘Mothra,’ and ‘Gamera. The Godzilla toy that came with the snacks was my favorite, and if it was a mountain, I would imagine its face poking out from here.
What attracted you to “Godzilla”, which has two aspects: one is as a painful entertainment, and the other is as a serious threat created by nuclear testing?
I was just a kid, so I didn’t know anything about the theme, and I just felt that it would definitely be interesting to see big guys beating each other up in the street. Once, I tried to figure out why I was so attracted to big things like dinosaurs. In Japan, it is Godzilla, and in the West, dragons. Although they are from different cultures, there is a common feeling that dinosaur-like beings are cool. I think it is because humans were predatory creatures. It’s like a runner’s high. If you don’t secrete pleasure chemicals in your brain when you run away, you can’t stay calm and you can’t run with your legs down. In order to survive, we need to turn fear into pleasure, and I think our genes from when we were in the position of being predators may have influenced us to feel cool and in awe of huge predators.”
From the first volume of the comics. Terror comes to Eren and his friends in their childhood from outside the great wall.
Isayama, when he was in elementary school, liked to be alone. What kind of boy was he?
I used to read “Zukkoke Sannin Gumi” (*2) by myself. When I read my school essays from that time, I was described as “dark” by everyone. They also said I was funny, but it seemed that only one of my cheeks was upturned, and I didn’t know what I was thinking. But I was also used to play outside with everyone, and in the summer I swam in the river every day. When I think about it now, it was a luxurious childhood.
(*2) A series of children’s literature featuring three sixth-grade students by Masamiki Nasu.
The budding of the ego and the room away from home Junior high school years when I was awakened to subculture.
Gradually, Isayama boys begin to become aware of themselves in the group. He was at an age when physical superiority or inferiority in terms of athletic ability or physical size was a serious problem.
I played soccer until I was in the sixth grade, but I had to endure it,” he says. I was known as the funny one in class, but when it came time to play, I was useless, and I began to feel that I was seen as inferior in the group. I wanted to quit, but as a child being fed by his parents, he had no right to make decisions. But in retrospect, I wish I had enjoyed it more, and I think even the parts I didn’t like were good experiences. If I had grown up without going through the unreasonable feelings, I probably would not have had the capacity, and I would have become someone for whom the unpleasant things were even more unbearable.”
Hajime Isayama, 0 years and 11 months old, nibbling on a potato
Isayama drew a picture of a monster when he was 7 years old.
Then, we enter the middle school years, which can be considered the starting point for Isayama, who is still aware of his “Chu-2 disease.
Everyone told me that I was no longer interesting. My ego started to sprout, and I began to think about “what I am,” which I had never thought about before. It was painful because I felt like I was out of control. When I think about it now, I have the feeling that I will probably carry that pain with me for the rest of my life.
When the ego grows up and there is no place for it in reality, people often turn to subcultures as a place to escape.
You ran into video games and erotic novels. One of my friends was obsessed with video games, and he was my otaku master. Otaku moe pictures were a concept I first learned about through erotic novels. At that time, moe pictures were booming in my mind. But gradually, I began to dislike moe pictures and thought, “I don’t have this kind of school uniform! I started to think that it would be better to draw something that looked more normal.
A dramatic change in Isayama’s environment during his junior high school years was when he got his own room away from home.
It was like a library of erotic books. My friends would bring erotic books to my room and trade them with each other, which was a well-designed system so as not to waste resources like a rental store.”
First time drawing and submitting a comic book I believed the world would change.
It was around this time that he left his parents and began drawing manga for the first time.
But I could never tell anyone. I hid my work from my friends, but they saw it, and their reaction was so unusual that they didn’t want to pry any further into my work.
Why didn’t you want to be seen?
I was very shy to express myself. For example, even in the world of acting, amateurs are first too embarrassed to act. I think I was at that stage too. When I was in high school, I rode a motorcycle to school, and I still remember feeling hopeless in my helmet on the way home, thinking, “If I’m going to be so embarrassed, I can’t be a professional.
You say you were dark in middle school, how about in high school?
“I was in an even worse state of mid-life than when I was in middle school. It was the peak of my pain, and I don’t think I’ll ever get past that point again.”
But it sounds like you had a lot of friends, like the ones who brought you erotic books.
We are from the countryside, so we have been together since we were in kindergarten. We were all separated in high school, but our homes were close.
Like Eren, Mikasa, and Armin have been together since childhood?
Yes, that’s right. That was a normal feeling for me.”
When he was in high school, Isayama took an express bus to Fukuoka to buy manga drawing materials in order to draw manga in earnest. However, he did not even know how to use a G-pen, and was drawing manga with a lot of effort.
Looking back on it now, it was terrible, but during the summer vacation of his junior year in high school, he finished drawing a transforming hero story. I was quite conceited at the time, and I was in a class that was very busy. I was quite egotistical at the time, and I told my classmates that they would be surprised when they saw the next issue of Jump that would come out (laugh). I thought that as long as I submitted the article, it would change the world. But in reality, it didn’t matter. I didn’t want to admit it, so I tried to convince myself that it didn’t reach them because of a mistake in the mail. Looking back now, I’m scared to death that I’m going to be okay like that! I am afraid to think about it now. I was so naive.
The feeling of being connected to the internet changed my perspective on life.
If we were to describe Isayama in his junior and senior high school years in “Shinkage no Kyojin,” he might have been like Eren at the beginning of the story, longing for freedom but unaware of the outside world. Isayama’s first encounter with the outside world came when he left his hometown and entered a vocational school in Fukuoka.
I still clearly remember the moment I got my laptop as the moment that changed my outlook on life. Until then, I thought that what was reported on TV was the correct thing to do, but that was the moment when my perception clearly changed.
Even in “The Titans of Progress,” people have different needs and different ways of thinking, and there is a sense that it is hard to separate which is the right choice for each person.
I don’t know anything. I have the feeling that I am definitely not virtuous enough to present this as the correct answer. That is why I feel that it would be good if I could just make a quiz. I really like the works of Mr. Tsutomu Nibei (*3). Even though the characters don’t speak and nothing is explained except the situation, the quiz makes you think that there must be a proper answer, and it really draws you in.
What other manga have influenced you?
When I was in elementary school, I was a Jump fan. It was around the time that Eiichiro Oda’s “ROMANCE DAWN” was published, and it was serialized into “ONE PIECE. It was like, “I’ve known about this since the very early stage (laugh). In junior high school, I read “ARMS”by Ryoji Minagawa and began to seriously want to be a manga artist. In high school, I was reading “GANTZ” and “BERSERK”around the class.
The dream of becoming a manga artist is as unlikely to come true as winning the lottery.
When you entered the vocational school, you first belonged to the design department, but soon after that you transferred to the manga department.
I thought I would never make it. By going to a vocational school, I learned that there were people who could draw manga better than me, and I realized that it was a world for the chosen ones. In a fashion magazine my sister was buying, Moyoco Anno was serializing “Jelly Beans” The main character aspires to be a fashion designer, but along the way, she says that there is no way she can become one. He describes how there are a huge number of stone walls, and he says that he is just one of them, and there is no way he can make it to the top. It was very convincing and I was convinced.”
However, you continued to draw manga, didn’t you?
I thought it was better than not drawing it and regretting it. I didn’t think it would come true, so I felt like I was buying a lottery ticket. Other people were studying hard and going to college, but what was I doing? I was always in a hurry.
The late teens is a time when people are worrying about their future.
“I had a sense of inability or …… great complex about being fed by my parents. I was worried about my ability to make a living without the support of my parents. I think it was a kind of rite of passage that has existed since primitive times, to see if you could become an adult or not.”
Still, you were able to become the manga artist you had always wanted to be, right?
I don’t think my decision to become a manga artist was correct. If someone in my family wanted to become a manga artist, I might discourage them to wait a bit. It’s even harsher than the image of a stone wall that Moyoco Anno drew, or it’s more like a gamble of probability, so if I were their parent, I would tell them to stop.”
Did your parents know you wanted to be a manga artist?
I think they knew when I transferred to the Manga Department, but they didn’t dare to say anything. I didn’t say anything until I won the award, and then I told them that I wanted to become a manga artist.
(*8) Serialized in “CUTiE” from 1998 to 1999. It is the story of a junior high school student who dreams of becoming a fashion designer, but if we replace “clothes” with “manga,” it can be read as a story about Moyoco Anno’s feelings before her debut.
At the age of 19, he came up with the plot of “The Progressive Titan”.
Although you had no confidence that you could become a manga artist, did you have a faint confidence somewhere in your heart?
When I was 19 years old, I was doodling on the Internet in a small room in my dorm room when I came up with the plot of “The Progressive Titans. I thought it would be interesting to create a world where humanity is on the verge of extinction due to man-eating Titans. I think I was confident about that plot. But the most difficult thing was whether or not I could be objective. Even though I thought so, I had the feeling that it should be interesting, and I was willing to give it a try, even though it might be impossible.
As part of a class at the Manga Department, there was a project in which students were required to make a trip to a Tokyo publishing company to bring their work to the company. At that time, Isayama brought his work to three editorial offices. One of them was Shintaro Kawakubo of the Weekly Shonen Magazine editorial department, who is currently his editor. For the first time in his life, the 19-year-old Isayama received a call from the publisher.
The publisher said, “Now “Shogun no Kyojin” has become big, but until then it had received zero recognition, so in terms of the degree of progress, that was the most outrageous time for us. For the first time, I could think to myself, ‘Now I can become a manga artist.
Is it the feeling that all the things you fantasized about in your dorm room are now coming closer to reality all at once?
It was more like reality was far away. I thought it was impossible that my manga would be published in a magazine and lined up in a convenience store, so I felt like I was entering an unbelievable world, and the reality of the situation was disappearing.
I’m more attracted to unfinished demo recordings than clear sounds.
When I first saw “Shinkage no Kyojin” I was shocked by the graphic depiction of the Titans. Did you aim for that unique touch in your drawings?
It was not a dare. I thought it would be better to make it easier to see, but I did my best to make it look like that. But I think I could have drawn it more “beautifully. I just don’t have that sense. For example, people who like classical music find value in a work that is technically advanced and musically complete, but for me, a work that is not too complete is more familiar or comfortable. Even in a band, I prefer unfinished demo recordings to CD recordings with clear sound.
He said that when he was a teenager, he was embarrassed to have people look at his manga, but now he checks the online ratings quite a bit.
I’ve changed drastically since I was in high school, when I was ultimately self-absorbed. I’ve found that the more people who read my work, the worse the opinions they have about me, so I’ve found it helpful to refer to their opinions. Since I have the feeling that I’m not that perfect to begin with, I can look for what’s wrong with it, like, “I knew it. If I had the feeling that I had put my whole life on the line to draw something perfect, I might not be able to look at it the other way. There are times when I don’t feel good about it, but more than that, I don’t think it’s good to listen to only good opinions because it makes me lose sight of my own footing.”
Levi is very popular among women, how do you feel as an author?
I like to draw Levi. However, it is difficult. I am not a great person, so I feel that I cannot draw such a great person. I try not to say too much, although I hope to discover a great aspect of the character in each reader, but that is not limited to Levi.
I was surprised to learn that the plot of “The Progress of the Titans” was being formulated when you were 19 years old. Did you have some idea of what would happen after that?
I had an idea of how I wanted the last scene to turn out in the beginning, but it was pretty vague. But that was a rather vague idea, and once I started drawing, more and more details were created, so I had to think about the development on the spot.
Every month is a series of shuraku, and then “food scraps”.
I think in part because it is a serialized monthly magazine, you are able to develop a detailed storyline, but what is your monthly schedule like?
“I spend one week on the name, two weeks on the drawing, and the rest of the week is like ‘garbage. I don’t even feel like picking up trash on the floor and putting it in the trash. Whenever I am writing a name, I feel unstable, thinking, “There is no way I can do this. After I get the name done for whatever reason, I feel relieved and start drawing …… that I have connected with life again this month, but before the deadline I am quite cornered, so I switch off every time as a reaction to that. I’m considerably lazier than other people, so I do things every month that I would never have thought possible.”
Nevertheless, he says he checks out new video works during that “garbage” period. Recently, he was hooked on watching “Knights of Sidonia” and “Aoi Honoo” (10). Aoi Honoo,” which depicts a pure young man who aspires to become a manga artist, overlaps with Isayama’s teenage years.
He said, “It’s a universal creator thing (laugh). There is a scene in the original work that I really like. I was exactly like that when I was 19 years old.
As readers’ expectations grow, won’t the pressure grow as well?
I think I have a responsibility after all. Now that I am able to make it as a manga artist thanks to you, my next goal is to finish it in a good way so that people will say they enjoyed it to the end. On the other hand, I also have a desire to ruin myself. That everything is messed up and it’s so bad that I can’t even look at it. ……”
I’m envisioning the last one, which is diffusing and heading into contraction.
We heard that you were moved by the devastating ending of “The World is Mine” . The more a work becomes a masterpiece, the more controversial the ending becomes, but do you still have no hesitation about it?
I have a vague idea in my mind that it would be interesting to have a story that expands and then shrinks. kiseiju” was exactly like that. The same is true of “koenokatachi”, which is serialized in Weekly Shonen Magazine. I like the cinematic structure of the story, and I think it is interesting to see the story contract at the end of the book.
In the case of “Shinkage no Kyojin,” readers are reading with the expectation that the foreshadowing will be recovered toward the end of the story.
Of course, that’s what I’m trying to foreshadow, but it’s difficult because, unlike movies, where you decide on the ending before starting production, with manga you have to do that while still meeting monthly deadlines. When it becomes a long-term serialization, it’s like giving myself a long pass in the hopes that I’ll be around in a few years and kick it into that area. Once I draw foreshadowing, I can’t abandon it. I have to draw it out even if people say it’s boring. In fact, I feel like I don’t know if I’ll be able to trap the ball well until the moment it falls (I made the pass a few years ago), and I’m a little nervous until then.”
From volume 13. The secret of Eren’s father and the basement still remains unrevealed. And another mystery emerges.
In our last interview, when the editorial board called you, you expressed the feeling that reality was far away. That is now 40 million copies. How do you feel now?
I think the basic idea is that reality is far away, but on the other hand, it doesn’t feel real and it feels realistic. There are a lot of really good and interesting manga out there, but for a manga that isn’t as good as this one to get a number like this, it doesn’t sit well with me.
That’s how you feel when you’re a party to it.
That’s part of the reason why I have it in my head that I would like to draw a moratorium one day. In terms of works, I would like to work on “Aoi Honoo,” Tatsuhiko Takimoto’s “Welcome to NHK! and “Mamoruamu Tamako” starring Atsuko Maeda. I would like to draw myself in a period of stagnation in my life, when I was just sleeping around and doing nothing. I could be a manga artist now, but I feel that the me that didn’t become one is like 99% of my true self, and I feel that I cannot attain Buddhahood unless I give shape to that. I don’t know if I’ll ever really draw it (laugh).”
Generational sense of searching for something unique while objectively self-evaluating
When he moved to Tokyo at the age of 20, Isayama assumed that he would live part-time while drawing manga until he was about 30, and that there was more than a 90% chance that he would eventually return to his parents’ house. Perhaps it is too much.
I think it’s a generational thing. Today’s junior high and high school students are strangely calm and look very mature. I think that’s because they can see the pattern of failure before it happens. If you listen only to the stories of successful people who were totally unsuccessful at the time but went on to become big, it makes you think that someday you too can be like them, but today you can get the stories of the 99% who didn’t make it on the Internet. I think that has an impact on me.
Isayama, on the other hand, refers to himself as the “sampling generation. It is a sense of converting various precedents into one’s own original expression.
Quentin Tarantino was working in a video store when he was in his twenties, and he put the movie nerd feeling he had at the time directly into a major motion picture. He dared to use expressions that sounded like overused claptrap, or retro music mixed with noise, and Tarantino sampled what he liked, didn’t he? In a major sense, he takes the noise and makes it clear, but I think Tarantino is someone who understands that there is something creative in the noise and expresseson it with convicti.
Hip-hop is the music that has been influencing Isayama in recent years. Manga and rap music, two things that don’t seem to go together, reverberate in Isayama’s mind.
Hip-hop is a way of using and sampling music that already exists. You put your own words on top of it. Even the words are taken directly from what someone else has said. In the worldview of “Shinkage no Kyojin,” I think it is a common worldview that a giant monster is attacking and mankind is in danger of destruction. However, I think that by adding something unique to the world, something different can be created. I think everything is like that. For example, the Japanese arabesque pattern can be traced along the Silk Road to the Greek Parthenon, where it was used as a botanical pattern. Everything is born from imitation, but there is something unique to me in it, and I think the accumulation of such things is what continues to be renewed.
I want to depict the emotional flow of a character changing.
Attack on Titan” is being read with enthusiasm in countries such as South Korea, Taiwan, and China. While Japanese may read “Attack on Titan” as a metaphor for earthquakes and the Self-Defense Forces, people overseas may be reading it with a different threat in mind.
I believe that this is a universal threat that is present in every country at every time. I was interviewed by a Hong Kong newspaper once, and the way the Hong Kong people took it was very sincere. The Chinese government came in after Hong Kong was returned from Britain, and they compared it to the giants. Some people try to get around on the side of the Titans, while others want independence. The reporter seemed to be reading the book by superimposing himself on the Scout Regiment.”
From volume 12. Eren and Mikasa confront each other’s emotions in a critical situation with the Titans looming just around the corner.
The Scout Regiment was supposed to be a symbol of hope for humanity. In the recent issue, they are facing a new development that puts them in a difficult situation. Isayama says that he wanted to depict three types of people through the Garrison Regiment, Military Police, and the Scout Regiment in his work on “The Giants of the Advancing Forces.
He says, “I have always liked to categorize and look at things in a different way. One of my favorite RHYMESTER (*17) songs is “Prisoner No. 1, 2, 3,” and it sings the ideas of three prisoners in order, which is the same as the Garrisoned Corps, Military Police, and Scout Regiment. It would not be an exaggeration to say that this song is already an expression of “The Progressive Titans. There are two sides: the side that cunningly tries to take advantage of the system and the anti-establishment side. The most common are the opportunists who are on neither side.”
In watching movies, he finds opportunistic characters more interesting than heroes. When we interviewed Isayama about three years ago, he said that he could not fully empathize with Eren’s desire to “go outside the wall. How about now?
He said, “In the beginning, there was a time when I wondered if I was a bit of a symbolic protagonist ……, but after having voice actor Yuki Kaji do Eren’s voice in the anime, I came to think that this is the feeling I had. The slight weakness in his voice, or the nuance of being forced to be strong, was put into his performance, and I felt that he was brave, but in fact, he was doing his best. I felt that I was also putting on my best airs, and I think my understanding of Eren deepened as I portrayed him.”
In “Marching Titans,” the reason for the Titans’ existence, the surprising development that the Titans are actually friends, and the fact that Eren’s father holds the key to a secret are just a few of the mysteries that follow the beginning and continue to the end of the work. There is no other work whose end is as intriguing as this one, so where are we at now?
I would like to think that I have reached the middle of the book. Initially, I planned to complete the book in about 16 volumes, but I felt that it would not work as a book unless I at least depicted the emotional flow of the characters, and since there are so many characters, the book has become longer. From a cinematic point of view, I want to depict the moment when each character changes, because I think it is meaningless unless each character changes from the beginning to the end. In my case, I have about three more years to ……. I want to complete the film as soon as possible, so I want to develop it tightly and fold it in each time. But I can’t help but come up with a “but.” That’s all for now.
Thank you for watching.