For the 50th anniversary of Shonen Jump, the Arts Center Gallery on the 52nd floor of Mori Tower in Roppongi Hills hosted the exhibition “Shonen Jump Launching Exhibition Vol. 1 ~1980s, The Beginning of the Legend”. Starting 15 October 2017, visitors were able to see in person original artwork belonging to the legendary authors who signaled the beginning of a new age, but also even more special events.
On the 8th of September, 30 lucky ticket owners breathlessly followed the discussion between JoJo's Bizarre Adventure creator, Hirohiko Araki, and Fist of the North Star’s Tetsuo Hara. You can read a few fragments below.
Araki and Hara actually do meet from time to time for a meal, but they don’t really talk too much about manga. They are almost the same age (Araki, was born in 1960, while Hara was born in 1961) and they both sent their manuscripts to Jump when they were in their late teens, and debuted at around the same time – Araki with Cool Shock B.T. and Hara with Iron Don Quijote. The two look back on their beginnings, and inevitably on the relationship with their editor in charge.
Hara: Mine was incredibly kind. He looked like a bear wearing a pink polo shirt, but whenever I’d send my work late, which happened quite often, he would turn into an angry bear with Raoh's aura. He’d also get drunk at night and kick my desk while shouting “How much of the manuscript is done, huh?!” “Why did you only manage to work so little!”.
Araki: Now that you mention it, it really wasn’t all right at all (laughs). My editor demanded a lot of corrections. I always sent my manuscripts by post from Sendai, my hometown, but he would later call me and tell me to come over and fix them, so I ended drawing ten pages of the same manuscript all over again in Shueisha’s conference room in Tokyo. The reason was that the faces were different or something along those lines. I’d often hear exchanges like, “Yude, please lend me the dryer” from the neighboring room, and I realized artists like Yudetamago or Eguchi (Hisashi) had already gotten used to staying over.
Hara: I didn’t have such confined experiences. I used to live in Suginami back then, and my supervisor also lived along side the Chuou Line so I’d go get the manuscript on my way back home. Other manga artists lived on the same route, so everyone would gather at Kichijouji (laughs).
To add to this, the editors in charge of the two were Ryosuke Kabashima for Hirohiko Araki (High School! Kimengumi, Magical Taruruto, etc) and Nobuhiko Horie for Tetsuo Hara (City Hunter, etc), both legendary editors for numerous Shonen Jump hit titles. Also known for their ability to solve difficult tasks.
Hara: Kabashima is about 180cm tall and seriously intimidating, while you looked like a cute girl, so (our meetings) always ended with him looking like he was taking you away in his arms.
Araki: (laughs) Manga artists and their editors have very close relationships, and these include briefing sessions that can end up lasting the whole night. I, for one, wasn’t too fond of traveling, but Kabashima told me we should use our funds and go to Egypt. I reluctantly agreed but couldn’t help thinking what to do if we got food poisoning. The end result was Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure.
Hara: Huh, so this is how it went. I was also rewarded with a trip to Guatemala after we finished Fist of the North Star and ended up ruining my stomach because even the bottled water there was impure. I even had to sleep in the same hotel room as Horie. We stopped on the way to Los Angeles, where we had a pool directly connected to the hotel room. He jumped in there all naked, splashed everywhere, and after that went straight to sleep. That made me kind of uncomfortable, so I tried to warn him he’d catch a cold. It was an unpleasant trip (laughs).
“Abeshi” is not a misspelling! (Hara)
Shounen Jump’s editorial department of those times seems to have been a tough place, which brought about struggles hard to imagine nowadays. The editors were really passionate about releasing interesting manga, while fights powered by alcohol weren’t particularly rare either. On the other hand, Hara says that, compared to other manga magazines, Shonen Jump had the image of a newcomer-friendly publisher.
When high school student Hara Tetsuo submitted his first manuscript, an editor told him “Yudetamago is in high school and already being serialized. How can you still draw this kind of things at 17? It’s too late for you.”. It came as a shock. “It sounds like they were talking about an idol or something”, laughs Araki, but he also remembers feeling chills down his spine when the newcomer before him was told “I don’t want to see this kind of manuscript” and curtly sent back. Apparently there were also newcomers who would put their manuscripts through the shredder while crying. Manga artists had to go through a lot of hardships in order to receive their editor’s approval and present their work to the public.
Hara: I’m an idiot who’s only good at drawing, so I couldn’t even get past Horie at first. All editors were high school graduates, so they were all smart, and when I’d write something like “hidebu” or “abeshi”, he’d tell me my manuscript was full of misspellings (laughs). I had often think “No, you’re wrong! I spent a lot of time thinking about these. I know you think I’m an idiot!”.
Araki: You know, Kabashima would actually get mad at me if I drew the same type of manga as other artists, like you or Eguchi, for example, and would yell “Hey, you! You’re definitely not drawing this kind of thing!”. This is why I came up with ideas that would weave their way through other people’s artistic gaps.
My important manuscript vanished one day… (Hara)
Constantly polishing one’s skills over the years has perhaps led to the glory of the present. Manga artists always make countless efforts and gain experience in order to improve, and being the assistant of Shonen Jump’s great artists is still considered one of the best trainings you can get. High schooler Tetsuo Hara, who was quite confident in his drawing skills, dreamt of becoming the assistant of Buichi Terasawa, known for his work COBRA, but editor Horie told him to go to Takahashi Yoshihiro instead.
Hara: At first I thought “Wait, what?”, but Yoshihiro Takahashi was Jump’s most popular artist back then, so I agreed to train under him. Yoshihiro was a great person. He also got along with Terasawa, and he’d later ask me if I wanted to drop by his place.
Araki: That sounds so nice. I was in Sendai, which was too far away, but I wish I could have also gone to an assistant’s or someone’s place. Truth be told, I didn’t even know you could fix things using the correction fluid, so I drew everything by omitting the white parts (laughs); I kept doing this until I moved to Tokyo and started working on Baoh. Editors are very protective of their manga artists, so I wasn’t able to see other people’s manuscripts when I went to the editorial department. They wouldn’t show them even when I asked to, claiming it was a trade secret. I had absolutely no chance. That is why I used to take a peek at the manuscripts people left on their desks. I learnt a lot like that.
Hara: Is that why your style is so unique? That modus operandi does lead to good art though. Sometimes it’s better if you don’t know (laughs).
Araki: Ah, but I have actually seen one of your manuscripts. One of your assistants came to my workplace and brought the manuscript with him. He only showed me one page, but I think it was Fist of the North Star.
Hara: What. My important manuscript vanished one day… Could it have been __?
Araki: Well, I don’t know. No chance regarding names either (laughs).
I would like to make a comparison to current titles (Araki)
The discussion stretched further, including manga influences, the high points of illustration techniques, the number and color of their favorite pages from older Jump titles and many others. At the end, the two shared their feelings about the current exhibition.
Araki: The thing that comes to mind is that they’re so incredibly good. They have this sense of vitality that I wouldn’t call old, but just different. A different type of energy. I would like to compare their works to the titles currently serialized in Jump. I personally think that Jump’s paper quality and printing is… how do I put it, everyone who draws is aware of it, same with the readers. Everyone loves the smell. But I couldn’t help but think “Man, so cool” after seeing these original pictures in person. I feel like apologizing again, to Akira Miyashita for example (laughs).
Hara: Unfortunately, those were drawn by his assistant (laughs). That was done as a joke, but now I actually understand how Toyotomi Hideyoshi felt.
Araki: I’m afraid I don’t understand, please explain (laughs).
Hara: I was talking about Toyotomi Hideyoshi’s death poem. I am not dead yet, but thinking how the days I spent doing my best were nothing but vanishing dew and fleeting dreams makes me feel a little empty on the inside. Seeing you always act and look so youthful made me feel better though. Thank you very much (laughs).
Araki: Wait a minute, is this how we’re ending?
A talk which proved to be a far cry from what everyone had imagined. A relaxed and friendly mood, including even complaints, revelations and forbidden words. The two might be legendary authors, but we enjoyed their boke and tsukkomi conversation from start to finish.
[Translated by Dijeh]