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Yo all. Seeing how nobody has mentioned the recent interview with Eiichiro Oda and Masashi Kishimoto (creator of Naruto). I have decided to present the first half of the (long) interview to you all. Enjoy.
IN - Interviewer | O - Eiichiro Oda | K - Kishimoto
IN: When did you two first meet?
K: When... I think it was when I was still a newbie mangaka. In the Jump new year event.
O: Is that so?
K: Maybe. (laugh) At the time, my impression on him was like he's a great and famous sensei.
O: What are you saying... (wry smile) (Oda was saying 'you're making fun of me' friendly)
K: Nah... Because Oda-san started the serial run of his manga two years earlier than me. I really thought a super sugoi man had appeared. Later, I addressed him as Oda-sensei, but he said (like begging) that I must not use such a honorific.
O: I took that for granted because we're at the same age. Why would I listen to your sensei when you're talking to me...
K: Though we're not performers, I think people who stepped into an industry earlier are admirable. (laugh)
O: I was always aware of Kishimoto's presence when he was a newbie. He can draw very well. To some extent, I felt we may have the same style.
K: What style... (embarrassing smile)
O: It's like the feeling of why you also have the gi of Kamesenryu (Master Roshi from DB). (laugh) From the beginning I've always faced that with offensive state. (Oda wanted to win against Kishimoto.)
K: I see, you had that determination back then. (laugh)
O: Because we're both at the stance of manga, eventually there'll be a winner and a loser. However, after I've met with him personally, I found he's really a nice and kind man. It suddenly made me think the result didn't matter. I couldn't compete with a man like him. That's what I thought.
K: I think that's because we both understand each other's hard work.
O: Very pleasing to hear you say that. When you're working hard, it's important to know who said what about you and your work. I sense you, who has the same standpoint as me, really understand how I truly feel, good to know.
K: Yes I do. (laugh) But I think I'm the one who has less pressure. Oda-san, you're always at your peak. Your hard work and that pain must be abnormal (that normal people cannot bear). If I were you, I guess I would have gastrointestinal perforation due to huge pressure.
O: It's wonderful having Naruto as an opponent. The luckiest thing was you didn't let me get complete victory. Actually, I didn't have complete victory in weekly serialization, besides and most importantly, Naruto is more popular than One Piece in foreign countries. Though a part of me was not reconciled to that truth, at the same time, I'm grateful. Because the existence of such a piece of work, is one and only in the world.
K: Same goes for me. Instead of saying One Piece is my target, I'd rather say I always want to beat it. Seriously, I always think that.
IN: What did you think when you heard Naruto ended, Oda-sensei?
O: So it finally came. I sure felt lonely. Though I knew it beforehand, I didn't hope to see it end.
K: After the serialization, I sent a message to Oda-san. Because we often keep in touch, so it wasn't special. I would feel embarrassed if I exaggerated it. (laugh)
IN: Naruto ended in Jump issue #50/2014, One Piece's cover and other information that represented the element of Naruto has caused a big discussion.
O: After the serialization, Kishimoto-san's media editor was my editor before, so when Naruto ended, he and I had an idea of doing something for it.
K: Ah, that explains. I didn't know that.
O: But that editor didn't bring anything. (laugh) I just thought drawing everything about Naruto in it at that moment.
K: I see. It's not easy.
IN: On the cover, if we put all the first (second) letter of the menu together, we can get the message "ナルとおつカレ三でした". It means "Thank you for your hard work, Naruto!
O: I wanted to draw a ramen shop, and why not hide the info there. If no one found out, I'd tell Kishimoto-san myself, it turned out it'd been soon discovered. (laugh)
K: I didn't notice when first saw it. My brother called me and told me to read that menu carefully. And I did, wow. (laugh)
O: On the other hand, I thought I hid it well, surprised that people all found it.
IN: Readers seemed to notice it by seeing the 'salad of arugula'.
O: I looked for food that contains 'ru' (Lu in Luffy), but it's not common to see that in a small restaurant. (laugh)
K: Speaking of that cover, Luffy eating ramen and Naruto eating meat was really nice.
O: Hard to let Luffy share his meat. (laugh)
K: Besides, the title of that chapter is 'SMILE', it made me feel something. Though it caused a big discussion among readers, I think I'm the only one who understood that happiness.
O: Initially, not only on the cover, I planned to hide some Naruto stuff in the main story. However, at that time, it was a flashback about Corazon, Luffy wasn't in that. I thought about adding Naruto's mark in the background, and adding Naruto's cheek marks on Luffy's face. But the time when Naruto ended, the flashback hadn't ended.
K: Ah-ha. (laugh) When I saw that cover, I thought it'd be good if I could continue for a bit longer.
IN: In Naruto's final chapter, Kishimoto-sensei added the Straw Hats' mark on Naruto.
O: Oh that. Kishimoto contacted me and told me that (before publication). He asked if it's appropriate to draw Straw Hats' mark like a kid's doodle. Of course not a problem. But it's Naruto's final chapter after all, I was worried that Naruto's fans may be angry at that.
K: Not a problem. (laugh) It would definitely cause a big discussion if I put the mark there.
O: However, I didn't expect it to be that big. (laugh) People often think the relationship between different mangakas in the same magazine may not be good because of the competition, which isn't true at all, we're very good friends.
K: Right, in fact, everyone has a good relationship with each other. (laugh)
O: It's all Kishimoto-san's contribution to let Jump have two battle manga at the same time.
K: What're you saying. (wry smile)
O: Manga series that have the same setting and exist at the same time will easily fight for readers who have that preference. But Kishimoto-san avoided well that and did a good job not overlapping Naruto with One Piece.
IN: Have you been affected by other manga?
K: No doubt that Akira Toriyama-sensei has made a huge impact. Dragon Ball doesn't even need mentioning (it's too good), I like Dr. Slump as well. And I also like Katsuhiro Otomo-sensei's Akira.
O: When I first saw Kishimoto-san's drawing, it reminded me of Otomo-sensei's impactful coloring.
K: Oh, you noticed that. (laugh)
O: As a mangaka, it's easy to tell by looking at his style of drawing and story who has made the influence.
K: For myself, I've been affected by Dragon Ball in terms of story creation. Shonen style, exciting development. Things like Goku having a baby are my favorite. Also, Toriyama-sensei's drawing, its proportioning of black and white is exquisite.
O: Even when I look at it now, Toriyama-sensei's drawing isn't old-fashioned at all. Amazing that it has excellent design.
IN: Other than mangaka, who else has affected you?
K: Probably many animation designers.
O: When I'm with Kishimoto-san, I always get to know many animation designers' names who I haven't heard of. When Naruto got animated, Kishimoto-san named the animation producer himself, right?
K: Right. (laugh)
O: No other mangakas except Kishimoto-san who has great knowledge about animation is able to do that.
K: The producer I asked is a man who's been awarded several times in foreign countries like France. Actually, when I was still a newbie mangaka I already thought about asking him to be the producer if one day Naruto got animated. My personal interest is one reason, I thought foreign fans may also start liking Naruto if the producer is active overseas.
O: Naruto being popular worldwide was bound to happen.
K: Mah, although at that time, I was only thinking that 'if only it'd be real'.
O: Now that Kishimoto-san said it's an unthinkable thing, but at that time, Naruto only started serializing for 2-3 years, normally speaking, a mangaka wouldn't think this far. (Oda was saying it's an incredible thing.)
IN: It's great to have that dream come true, what about you, Oda-sensei?
O: If I really have to think of one, it'd be Hayao Miyazaki.
K: Oda-san has brilliant originality. It doesn't seem like he's been affected by others.
O: Probably that's because I was a normal kid who had read many manga. Now that I think about it, it's not bad. Besides, I was lucky to be born at a good time when Jump was in the middle of its golden age. I started reading it when I was at the age of being able to enjoy it.
K: Yeah, right in the middle. Story should develop in this way so that it'd be exciting. So it's really different from buying volumes reading the chapters altogether, if you buy Jump weekly and follow the serialization bit by bit, you can deeply feel it by doing so.
O: Our generation has enjoyed Jump's conceitedness the most. (laugh)
IN: Kishimoto-sensei, which character or story in One Piece that you like the most?
K: I'm saying this not because Oda-san is here, I like all of them. (laugh) As for character, I like Bellamy, both his personality and ability. But my favorite is Chopper. His meeting with Hiluluk and the sakura-snow when he went out to the sea were super touching.
O: I appreciate that.
K: However, though I like Chopper, he's rather timid, so he's weaker than Luffy in many aspects. Which is why I think Chopper is the 'real boss'. (laugh)
IN: What made you think that?
K: Hmm... let me see. Luffy is the protagonist, a beloved character, but that's because of Chopper's existence. I mean the two of them have generated strong multiplication effect. (In Straw Hats) there's sense of presence and atmosphere, actually Chopper plays a key role in the pirates. Though he's a cute one, he's also a monster.
O: Chopper is doing something evil behind everyone's back... Stop it, nonsense. (laugh) Let me tell you a secret. Chopper grew up in a painful environment, I was going to make him a prominent funny character, reindeer walking with 2 legs. But Luffy and his first few nakamas were too popular, I couldn't find a position for Chopper. If I designed him as I initially planned, he would be covered by other characters (people couldnt see his uniqueness), so eventually I made him smaller and cuter. (This is also illutrated in Databook Green. http://i.imgur.com/8PV0iDJ.png)
K: Really? For myself, I quite envy Chopper.
O: You told me that before. (laugh)
K: In fact, I once designed a mascot-like character, like a frog. I drew it on the cover of a volume and Jump issue... totally unpopular.
O: (laugh) To be honest, there's always something that's not in the plan happening. For me, Chopper is one of them.
IN: It happens a lot that how the story actually develops is different from what you thought it would be when first started serialization.
O: Of course. Speaking of which, those ideas came out when I was as young as 20, now what I have come up/will come up must be more interesting than that.
K: Yes, that's true anyway.
O: I can't lose to the past me. (laugh)
K: That's because you have a certain amount of accumulation in terms of ideas after years.
IN: By the way, is there any particular aspect that's not easy to draw for the two of you?
K: I'm not very good at drawing women. Oda-san seems to be good at everything.
O: Right, everything.
K: Mah, not much that I would find uneasy, but when the dealine of submission is approaching, I can't draw what has to be drawn in that short time because that will lack emotion, not to mention it already takes a lot of time to think about what to draw at the beginning...
O: Indeed. I only draw what I want to draw.
K: Because that's what we're interested in.
O: It's very wrong to think that we draw because that's our job.
IN: Kishimoto-sensei's new short series will start on April 27.
O: How many weeks is it gonna be?
K: What is it gonna be...
O: Are you kidding me?
K: Absolutely not. (laugh)
O: I mean you have 15 years of experience, short series must be much easier. People around you and Kishimoto-san yourself aren't paying enough attention to it. It'd be much harder that you thought to re-start a new series at this time.
K: Is that so?
O: It's way different from weekly serialization like I'm doing.
K: I did got away from weekly serialization for quite a while. I feel I'm a bit out of practice.
O: Also, this is the series people are looking forward to after Naruto ended, you cant loaf on the job.
K: You're right.
O: I reckon the blank period of taking rest would be obvious.
K: It's hard for mangaka to get back to work status even only after one day of break.
O: I rested a bit in the new year, it was just a few days, I felt my hands had become slower.
K: Indeed. (laugh) I couldn't really draw what I was thinking, and I used rubber more often.
O: (When my hands were slower) I couldn't draw as I used to be like one-take (finish it without second time of editing) ...ah, what happened. It may sound unbelievable that I draw better when I'm busy. (laugh) Humans will be in their best form when they are focused.
IN: What was the biggest crisis in serialization?
K: When I had backache.
O: That must be terrible. (laugh)
K: There was a time my lung didn't feel well, every time when I felt a bit tired, I would cough non-stop like I had pneumonia, and when I started to cough, my back hurt. It was so hard, I once serialized with pencil drawing in Jump for a while (because of the pain). And I also fell down the stairs once...
O: Eh? That happened before?
K: Yeah, about 3 years ago. When my family and I went for hot spring, I was sitting on rock stairs and in a daze, next you know...
O: That was dangerous.
IN: Was that because you were thinking about the story?
K: Nah, I was just tired.
O: No one thinks about the story on stairs. (laugh)
K: Though I didn't get really injured, I thought I was gonna die when I fell down. (laugh)
O: If you died there like that, you would definitely become a legend.
K: I don't want to be a legend like that. (laugh)
O: Hmm, I understand, legend isn't as good as it sounds. I may think 'I would become a legend if I died' when I'm about to die. I don't want to have that kind of testimonials.
K: Like Vincent van Gogh, however the praise and honor would be, it's meaningless after death, praise would be best when I'm still alive. (laugh)
The rest of the interview will be included in the Naruto Official Book 'Michi' coming out in May.