JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure X Assassination Classroom Hirohiko Araki & Yusei Matsui
Dream talk session
A chance meeting between Yusei Matsui, author of the popular Weekly Jump manga "Assassination Classroom", and Hirohiko Araki, who has built a unique world within his "JoJo's Bizarre Adventure". During this relaxed discussion, they raise the curtain on their work methods.
Even though I look like this, I'm an outdoors type of guy (laughs). -Araki
Thank you for coming today! Matsui-sensei ate Araki-sensei's cod roe spaghetti and chicken soup. Can you give us an impression?
Matsui: Really, I'm overwhelmed by being able to eat the food an artist I look up to made. The chicken soup had a really gentle flavor and I felt it was very invigorating. The spaghetti was good too!
Araki-sensei, you said you like to cook as a divergence from your work. Are making food and making manga similar in any way?
Araki: Well, not really (laughs). However, I make both manga and food in gratitude of many things, so I guess they spring from the same source.
You just ate together. Do you do anything special to keep up your health, and what are your favorite foods?
Matsui: I just eat stuff I buy at the convenience store. I take nutritional supplements and go out to eat some proper food every now and then, so I really don’t fuss over my health much yet.
Araki: I don’t eat anything after 6pm. I eat whatever I like in the morning and afternoon, but I don’t eat anything in the evening. If you eat while working in the evenings, you’ll definitely get fat. If you get fat, you won’t want to move and you’ll fall into a downwards spiral, so I’m careful about my health.
Matsui: You’re still very slim. Do you exercise regularly?
Araki: I do.
Matsui: When did you start?
Araki: I think that when people hit their 40s, they’ll want to take up running because they’re tense about their health. I used to like diving and mountaineering, so from there I started running. I actually like exercising. Even though I look like this, I’m an outdoors type of guy (laughs).
Matsui: I didn’t mind exercise before I started Assassination Classroom, but as soon as the serialisation started, my will to exercise disappeared. Moreover, I feel like muscles get in the way when I’m just sitting and letting my mind work at full force, so it can’t be helped. To draw manga you just need your head and hands. Anything else is unnecessary. Although I do think I should keep up my stamina while doing a serialisation, so it’d be bad if I kept going like this.
Manga artist can take a break whenever they want, but they don’t get any holidays. –Matsui'
How do you two gather data and materials?
Matsui: I’ve been relying on the internet a lot recently.
Araki: For me it’s still books. However, I have to buy them at a physical bookstore, or it won’t work. I want to choose a book from a bookstore that I like.
Matsui: Where do you buy them normally?
Araki: In Shinjuku or Aoyama. If I go there I’ll know what’s popular, or what the staff recommends. I want to see those things. If I look online I’ll just see the things I like. Without realising I’ll only look for the things I like, so bookstores and CD shops in which I can see what others recommend are an indispensable source of information for me.
I’d like to ask about your weekly schedules and how you work. Araki-sensei, has your work pace changed since you moved from Weekly Jump to Ultra Jump?
Araki: Weekly Jump was 19 pages per week, but that rhythm didn’t work for me. I really wanted to draw 21 pages per week. Since I’ve gone to Ultra Jump it’s become 45 pages per month. This matches my natural work rhythm better, so I can draw comfortably every month.
Matsui: That’s unusual! For me, 19 pages per week is a bit too much. Bringing that to 21 pages even… doesn’t it become a bit demanding? (laughs)
Araki: That’s true. But for JoJo I want the decisive panels to be big, so the page count goes up anyway.
Matsui: That’s typical of JoJo. If you put in “gogogogo” leading up to the decisive panels…. You’d have 21 pages very quickly.
Araki: Perhaps, yes. But what do you do when your manuscript ends at 17 pages?
Matsui: It’s not that hard to increase the amount. If I’m 2 pages short I’ll consult with my editor. He’ll generally say something like “let’s add these elements”, and when I incorporate those it usually turns out fine. That’s the easiest way.
Araki: I see.
Matsui: On the other hand, it’s much harder to take things out of the material I’ve already got. I take care not to waste too much time on that. I’ve already got my hands full just trying to get it done every week. How did you manage when you worked weekly?
Araki: On Sunday I’d do the manuscript. On Monday I got that checked by my editor, and from Tuesday to Thursday I’d draw with the assistants. On Thursday we’d also discuss the next chapter. Friday and Saturday were my days off.
Matsui: What an ideal week. For veterans like you or Akimoto-sensei* it’s okay, but there’s no one of my age that can pull that off.
- 1… Akimoto Osamu, the creator of Weekly Jump’s longest running manga, Kochikame. He’s looked up to by other manga artist for thoroughly keeping to his schedule and never missing a deadline in over 40 years of serialisation.
Photo caption: Matsui-sensei is giving his all for Assassination Classroom. He doesn’t have time to take a holiday at this point.
Araki: What does your weekly schedule look like?
Matsui: 3 days for the manuscript, 2 days for the sketches. Finishing up with the assistants also takes 2 days. Recently I’ve changed this to 4 days for the manuscript, 1 day for the sketches and 2 days for finishing up with the assistants. There isn’t a day where I can take the whole day off. However, I think the 4 days I take for the manuscript do include breaks of some kind. Manga artist can take a break whenever they want, but they don’t get any holidays. If you have some free time, you have to use every spare moment to make your story more interesting. It’s hard to take a proper holiday. In that sense, you veterans are good at relaxing. The better you get at work, the better you get at play.
Araki: Fujiko A-sensei* is amazing. I think it’s something personal, that exceeds technique, which brings forth that sort of appeal to a manga.
- 2…A veteran manga artist famous for works such as Pro Golfer Saru and The Laughing Salaryman. Also famous for associating with a wide variety of people, such as the actress Rie Miyazawa and the singer Inoshita Yousui.
Matsui: In my own generation there aren’t that many people that can relax like that. Myself especially, I can’t even say I have a hobby of any kind. That unrelenting energy and willpower, staying active as a manga artist until your 60s…. I can’t imagine it. Last year was JoJo’s 25th year, but you don’t draw it thinking “I should keep going” or anything do you?
Araki: I don’t.
Matsui: Your body moves naturally?
Araki: No. But 30 years pass in no time at all, you know. And I have examples like A-sensei and Akimoto-sensei.
Matsui: To me, you’re a great example as well!
Araki: Thank you. I’m already 53, but I think I should try to keep going until I’m about 60. I think you should take it easy and focus on making your current work interesting!
Next, I’d like to hear about your works. I’d like to talk about JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure first. How was it when your serialisation first started a quarter century ago?
Araki: When I debuted in the 80’s, Jump was full of people that emitted this intense power. I debuted amongst that, so in order to survive I had to emit a power strong enough to stand up to them. In other words, I had to show my own style. When I started JoJo, I think I finally managed to show something like that. I finally found my own direction. In the 7–8 years before that, I kept wandering, struggling to find my originality, my color. Those were my twenties.
Araki: Back then, I used to draw while looking at Shirato-sensei’s* works. I moved my pen, wondering what to do.
- 1…One of the pioneers of the “narrative comic” genre of manga in the 1960’s. He gained fame with his ninja works such as “Sasuke”, and managed to draw adults to manga with the philosophical elements of “The Legend of Kamui”.
Matsui: I get that. To me, you were my Shirato-sensei. When I was young, I tried really hard to get rid of your influence. I think I’ve finally managed to shed all of it recently.
Araki: ‘Hiding’ those things means you’ve finally found your own sense of direction. You can clearly draw whatever it is that you want to draw. You can’t have any doubts there.
Matsui: That’s right. But I think it’s too late to escape things I already know. For instance, if an enemy is slowly following someone and it’d be good to put in “gogogogogo”, I think to myself “If you put it in, you lose”, but I still end up putting it in. It’s like that. I mean to put in something original, but then when I look back at it later I often think “This was influenced by that work”.
Araki: For me, it’s the main characters’ thick eyebrows. It took me 10 years to get those thick boy’s magazine-style eyebrows back to thin eyebrows. Truth be told, I just can’t do it because thin eyebrows gross me out. Maybe it’s just bias, but without realising, this influence became deeply ingrained within me.
Matsui: Jotaro had some pretty thick ones too.
Matsui: Back then, there was that kind of formula where characters with thin eyebrows had weak emotions, so they were supporting characters.
Araki: But when you’re trying to follow your own path, you should break away from those formulas.
Matsui: That’s true! By the way, how old were you when you started JoJo?
Araki: I was about 26-27. You see, people who were at the top like Yudetamago-sensei* and Takahashi Youichi-sensei*already found their style in their teens. So I was really fretting. At the time it gave me a serious complex.
- 2…A famous manga duo known for the superhuman pro wrestling comic “Kinnikuman”. You can still read new episodes of Kinnikuman in Weekly Playboy Webcomic!
- 3…The manga artist of the immortal soccer manga “Captain Tsubasa”. His works gave rise to an immense soccer boom amongst primary school kids, and has influenced many J-leaguers and world-famous soccer players.
Matsui: Nowadays people are quite premature. I was quite late as well, debuting at 25, so I was pretty frantic until I became 30.
I think that even amongst all those other manga, JoJo is a particularly ambitious work. – Matsui.
Araki: Have you ever had your manuscript rejected by an editor before?
Matsui: Actually, it’s only been small comments like adjusting the dialogue in one panel. I haven’t really had any rejection, so I can say I’ve been allowed to draw freely. What’s rejection like?
Araki: I was once made to redraw all 19 pages! That’s how it was back then. New manga artist all had to undergo this kind of baptism. If you said “I only have two days left, do I really have to redraw everything?” they just replied with “Kurumada-sensei* does it too”.
- 4…Kurumada Masami-sensei of “Kojirou of the Fuuma” and “Saint Seiya” fame. One of Weekly Jump’s top runners, churning out hit series since the 70’s.
Matsui: That’s unfair! In those 2 precious days you could have thought of some valuable topics.
Araki: However, if I look back at it, my drawings were really kind of unstable. The faces on the first and last page are a little different.
Matsui: Couldn’t you have tried getting really angry to see if your editor would give in? (laughs)
Everyone bursts out laughing.
Araki: I tried to protest, but it was futile. Even my popular seniors redrew their work if the editor demanded it. A beginner like me had no margin to object, so I resigned to redrawing.
Matsui: Back then they had that style of training where rookies were burdened both mentally and physically.
Araki: That’s right. Something like the Showa[a] style. In any case, it was ridiculous! (laughs)
Matsui: I think that these days the editors don’t need to test them that much, since there are a lot of people who will draw without complaining or fighting. Even though it’s the same Weekly Jump, it really changes with the times.
Araki: Though I think the passion to bring interesting manga to the readers hasn’t changed.
Matsui: That’s right. I agree!
Matsui-sensei, you think that JoJo is the greatest masterpiece in history when it comes to drawing grotesque things. But what do you think is so greatly grotesque about JoJo?
Matsui: A lot of the grotesque things are in plain view, and it’s not as if these things can just be healed again. That’s impossible in other manga!
Araki: That’s why I got a lot of rejections. I couldn’t show erotica either. Even if I used stands to portray things, it was all rejected.
Matsui: I think they allowed a lot more than in other works though.
Araki: Well, there were many unprecedented things in JoJo, so the hurdle was pretty low. Still, there were a lot of topics that got rejected.
Matsui: Wow! I’m really curious!! But I’m sure they’re kind of embarrassing to say.
Araki: Yes (laughs).
Matsui: I think that even amongst all those other manga, JoJo is a particularly ambitious work. I’m really interested in the things you thought up that were too ambitious for your editor to understand. I wanted to see those things. It’s a real pity…… Ah, I also get the feeling that you’re alternating between drawing JoJo in a small and a large world setting. Were you aiming for that?
Araki: Maybe I was, yes. Thank you for noticing. When you’ve drawn a small world for a long time, don’t you feel like travelling? I’m just repeating that process.
Matsui: So Morioh, which also appears in JoJolion, is an example of that too?
Araki: Yes. I used my hometown of Sendai in Miyagi prefecture as a model for Morioh. I made it into a fictional place because I thought they might complain, but they were really happy I used it. I thought “The times sure have changed”.
Matsui: I was actually pretty surprised you drew such a familiar world for your manga.
Araki: Someone told me “I was surprised to see you do something Japanese”. Is it that surprising?
Matsui: Yes. Even when Morioh first appeared in part 4, it still had something foreign.
Araki: But in my personal life I don’t really get out of the neighborhood I live in. Before I drew part 5 I went to Italy every year though. Recently I haven’t gone out of the country for anything non-work related.
JoJo is currently up to part 8, but what has been the main cause for you to continue for over 25 years?
Araki: It’s accidental. I didn’t plan for it to be like this, nor did I expect it. I don’t even know what will happen next year.
Last time you said you wanted to continue drawing until you were 60, but what part is JoJo up to by then?
Araki: I’m really not thinking about that! I’m just giving JoJolion my all right now. We’ll know when we get there, won’t we (laughs).
Matsui: That reminds me….. you like zombie movies and horror-type things don’t you?
Araki: I love all zombie movies, from the masterpieces to the absolutely terrible ones.
Matsui: I really don’t have a hobby, so I’d like to have one. I don’t really like gaming either. If I had to say anything, it’d probably just be eating good food.
Araki: You don’t watch horror movies?
Matsui: I watch some every now and then, but I can’t say I watch them all or anything. I’m the type of person who decides what to use from a small number of good and bad movies, rather than learn from watching a lot of them.
Araki: Ah, I see….. I thought you must be a horror movie fan too though.
Matsui: Well, it’s true that I love horror movies. JoJo is like horror movies in that at a glance, it seems to be in a genre that people would avoid, but is loved by everyone anyway and does really well.
Araki: You’re too kind. But it’s good to be perverse too! It’s fine to be perverse as long as you keep it limited. If you get serious about it no one will like you.
Matsui: Yes. If it doesn’t have some kind of charm about it, people won’t like it in the end. Even the most inhumane character should have some kind of charm point. In that sense, don’t you think zombies are super charming?
Araki: Exactly! Zombie movies are really great. I think there’s something wrong with people who say “I can’t watch zombie movies because they’re scary”, even though they haven’t watched any (laughs). But I’ll go on forever if we keep talking about zombie movies, so let’s end it here.
Everyone bursts out laughing.
Araki: We’d need 2 hours if we had this conversation, so let’s talk about zombie movies another time.
As long as the starting point is controversial, it’s fine to be moral afterwards. -Matsui
Photo caption: Korosensei has many tentacles. The gap between his striking appearance and his personality as a humorous, ideal teacher has been reflected in the story since its beginning.
Araki-sensei, I’d like to hear your thoughts on Assassination Classroom.
Araki: It deals with a pretty risky theme, so if it was handled wrong there’d be a lot of complaints. Within that theme you’ve managed to draw about things like school life and friendship, while still keeping morality in mind. It thought that was splendid.
Matsui: I always take great care in making sure no one will copy the actions in my work. For that reason I also needed to create a teacher that isn’t human. The students also use fake knives for their assassinations, so I’m really careful.
Araki: I see. But that edge is what makes it charming. The title, “Assassination Classroom”, is pretty controversial too.
Matsui: It’s just that though. I make the start controversial and then play it safe on the rest.
Araki: But having “assassination” as a theme is still pretty controversial.
Matsui: Thank you! That reminds me. In JoJo, people would slip in the bath and look up at the ceiling…...at which point the battle starts. I don’t think there’s anyone else but you who could turn such an every-day scene into a dramatic, tense battle.
Araki: That’s thanks to working for Weekly Jump all those years. You simply have to draw battles. That’s a very unique working culture, isn’t it? But it’s also a curse that’s quite hard to get rid of.
Matsui: It makes me want to see you draw something that isn’t about battles. What would it be like if you drew a genuine story manga?
Araki: Wouldn’t that be pretty boring? (laughs) In the end, I think battles are the foundation of manga. There’s a main character, a villain and friends. I think my themes are pretty conventional, such as “Good and Evil” or “Conflict”. But even if you make it romance or gags, isn’t everything a battle in the end? Whether you’re deciding to have curry or ramen for lunch; every choice you make is a form of battle.
Matsui: I see! I’m also pretty conscious of what kinds of characters would appeal to kids these days. The kids niche might change and all. Maybe I dealt with it the wrong way, but when I drew this pretty bad character getting beaten up, some people still disapproved of that, even though I got a lot of votes.[b]
Araki: So you should have let them reconcile.
Matsui: No matter how bad the character is, if you just beat them up it’ll end up leaving a bad taste.
Araki: In JoJo they’re just beyond recovery though. When I think “I don’t need these guys anymore”.
Everyone bursts out laughing.
Matsui: “They put me through all that, so I can have my revenge”, right? I’m jealous that your unique worldview is so accepted by the readers.
I think Assassination Classroom’s story will progress rapidly from here on out, but will we be seeing any new characters?
Photo caption: The students keep developing through their time with Korosensei. The story will expand even further in the second semester!!
Matsui: I had a very solid structure for the first semester. Introducing the characters, introducing the world setting. By now I think everyone will remember the students’ names and faces, so I want to gradually expand the story through the second semester. I’m thinking I could show the kids using their assassination skills in the outside world a bit more.
We look forward to future developments! Finally, if you could give each other some words of encouragement, as well as a message to the Jump Live readers?
Matsui: I couldn’t say everything because I was so nervous, but since middle school, JoJo has been part of my youth. I can’t put it all in one word, but if I must say something it’s….. I love it!!
Araki: I don’t get many chances to meet artists from the new generation, so I was really glad to be able to do this. I’m honored to have been asked for this and I’m grateful we were able to have such a deep conversation. This time it was a video and a discussion, but next time I’d like to draw manga too. Thank you for everything today.
Matsui: Aw, you’ve said everything already.
Everyone bursts out laughing.
Matsui: Assassination Classroom is contributing to Jump Live in various ways, like mini-games and special drawings. Korosensei has a pretty simple form, so it’s easy to make him appear in all sorts of things. I’d like to have him use that light footwork and appear in Jump Live again sometime, so please keep supporting us!
And just like that, this bizarre special discussion comes to an end! Look forward to Araki-sensei and Matsui-sensei’s further activities!