It is modeled after a new residential development built close to where I grew up. Back then, I was looking at these new buildings and felt a sort of anxiety as opposed to admiration. “Was everything really going well [in there]?”
Looking from the outside, you see all these warm lights in the houses, but you have no idea what people are doing inside. These houses that looked the same were being built and they all looked pristine and happy. Doesn’t that sort of make you feel like a Kira might be [lurking] there? (laughter)
With ‘Diamond is Unbreakable’ my theme was to build out a town. I wanted to draw the humor and spookiness that might be lurking the peripheries of everyday life. Even myself now, there might be bizarre things going on if I just change my point of view.
I was also very influenced by the novels of Stephen King. I was reading them a lot in the 80’s and 90’s, but I especially liked ‘Misery’. The stage is fixed and you just keep delving deeper and deeper within it. Back then I read a lot of King novels.
Also with Part 4, I got to bring in a lot of my own tastes into the work so that was fun. Games, shops, Italian restaurants! With Tonio's store, I paid a lot of attention to what I was drawing down to the ornaments. It was great bringing that into the fold too… Research was also really easy—I just had to go home to Sendai (laughter) I would just go back, take a few pictures at a souvenir shop and draw them in—all within the realm of not being scolded [for frivolous travel] of course!
Also, Josuke's hairstyle, even my editor pushed back being like ‘Please draw a main character suited for the era’. But I thought it was good because he wasn’t. The way he cares about his hairstyle, it’s very ‘70’s~80’s delinquent’-like isn’t it? But when you go to the countryside, you occasionally see people like that (laughter) When I was a student, I would stay away from people like that because they scared me, but now there’s almost something endearing about them.
So it seems that when we remixed the comics, there were 7 volumes just dedicated to episodes related to Kira. I myself was like ‘Wow, did I really draw that much of him?’
One of the themes of ‘Diamond is Unbreakable’ is that Horror may be lying right behind our everyday lives. The reason for that is because I liked reading books on serial killers back in the 80’s—this is right before ‘Silence of the Lambs’ would be published and that became a trend—and I wanted to understand what the motivation of serial killers were. Why would you be born a human and do things like this? Those types of questions really interested me and the actions of these people I found really spooky.
So when I started drawing out ‘everyday life’, I had an initial assumption that a serial killer would be the enemy. A sort of different enemy from ‘Stardust Crusaders’, one that lies in wait. The ‘Stardust Crusader’ enemies came rushing in, but [I was thinking of] an enemy that would sort of lure you in… Eventually I was thinking of drawing something like that, but I wasn’t imagining Yoshikage Kira as a specific character from the start.
The first enemies were student-level enemies like Okuyasu and Keicho, also the guitarist Akira Otoishi—at first I was thinking of student level, delinquent level enemies. The reason for that being that I didn’t want to make a sort of ‘Greatest enemy’. When you create a ‘Greatest enemy’ to be overcome, to be the goal, the readers can’t focus on anything besides that. I didn’t want that to become a weakness in the work. For every story I wrote, I wanted the attention to be on what’s happening right now.
But it seems ‘Jojo’ readers really wanted a ‘greatest enemy’ of some sort, I guess DIO gave off too strong an impact…. so when it seemed like the end was in sight, I thought up of Kira.
The name Kira is of course from ‘Killer’—so a murderer. Its very simple (laughter) The name ‘Yoshikage’… I wanted the first kanji of both names to be the same. Same with Jojo right? So it might be easy to remember if I aligned it around the letter ‘吉’. That's all. But it sounded right.
I drew from Kira's point of view in his first appearance. I wanted to draw something from the point of view of the antagonist. Up until this point, I only wrote the villains from the point of view of the protagonists—the villains as seen by the protagonists. But antagonist has a point of view as well, and I wanted to draw what their mental state might be. Why does Kira commit murders? And I wanted to draw that in a fashion where he stays an antagonist and doesn’t become a protagonist.
So I didn’t want to make him a very sympathetic character. When you read about the young lives of these serial killers, you often see that they lived unhappy childhoods. But if you start drawing that out, they become useless as antagonists. So I took care to cut out those parts as best I could when building his character. That took a bit of work.
For DIO, he had a thing about becoming a pinnacle over humanity right? But Kira is pursuing true human happiness. That’s why he hates trouble. He just wants to live in a world of his own interests, and that’s what makes him dangerous (laughter) But he might have an philosophy of his own… The enemies up until that point like DIO and Kars were all aiming for the top—it might have been symbolic of the Japanese economy up until that point, like the bubble economy (laughter). Back in those days, DIO's might have been the more natural mindset and you might unconsciously sympathize more with that.
When I was drawing Kira, what people were looking for was tranquility. The idea that happiness is not about standing on top of others. Kira’s awards since he was a middle schooler were all for the #3 spot. Not #1 or #2, but #3. Not conspicuous, but still respectful. He himself has the talent to become #1. But standing out, making enemies, being chased, feeling pressure, feeling expectations he can’t handle that at all. There might be a lot of adults who think like that, but it’ll be creepy if someone was thinking that when they’re a kid right? It’s much cuter for kids to be like ‘I’m going to become #1!’ That sort of abnormality was what I wanted to draw, that sort of odd genius.
Killing Reimi Sugimoto when he was 18, that was Kira’s first murder. It’s around the same time Jotaro and his companions fought DIO. Maybe that was a sort of year when the stars aligned. A year of destiny. Josuke was saved by the man with the pompadour that year too, so a lot of things went on.
His first murder, it was probably by impulse. By chance, he saw Reimi and snuck into her house… and that changed his fate. If not for that incident, he might not have lived a happy life without killing, but the stars steered him wrong. And from there, you can’t shake fate. His first murder went a long time without being uncovered. You read about serial killers and how they have dozens of bodies buried under the floor. You wonder how that happens without being uncovered, but that’s really scary right? Maybe its driven by the apathy of the neighbors… With that first murder, Kira became destined to kill 48 people.
Kira’s background of bottling up his nails… that was inspired from a real life story of someone who preserved his nails to monitor his own condition and stress levels. That person is not a serial killer (laughter) That nail story was interesting, and I remembered it. It seemed like something Kira might do… ‘When my nails have grown x millimeters, I’m doing great!’ ‘This is when I can never be caught!’ I feel like I do something similar… I measure my blood pressure and read from it my condition. Sometimes I feel invincible when the readings are good. There might be athletes who do that too… not with nails of course. Kira just does a sorta-creepy version of that (laughter)
Now for Kira’s family, do you remember that scene where you see a picture of Kira’s family, I put a lot of thought into drawing that. It’s not a fun-looking family, but it also looks sort of peaceful… and that’s creepy. The father and mother appears close to each other, but also distant. They probably haven’t ever really had a major fight either. When you read about a serial killer’s life, you feel chills when you come across a picture of them as a child. I wanted to imbue that picture with a bit of that feeling.
Now Kira’s father, he was a strange person. Not quite a criminal, but considered odd. He probably knew his son was a murderer and went ahead hiding his crimes. Of course, Kira’s father went to Egypt and obtained the bow and arrow from Enya to protect his son. Right around then, DIO was looking for allies around the world and Kira’s father was one of those accepted as having potential by him. The same for Okuyasu's father. People who had been scouted by DIO were all around the world, and even among them, Kira’s father and Okuyasu's father may have had extra attention paid to them as they were in Japan along with Jotaro. For the mother, I haven’t drawn anything about her at all, but I think she may have done a sort of ‘abusive coddling’ towards Kira. That’ll be scary right?
Even now, I wonder if I should have drawn out Kira's relationship with his parents in more depth. But I had to cut it out with much reluctance… or maybe I should say that I didn’t have the courage to draw that out. Like I said before, I didn’t want to detail Kira’s past too much. I didn’t want the readers to look at Kira and his father and think ‘these are actually very sad characters’. I drew out Kira’s mental state when killing, but if I started delving into the fundamental reason why he kills, Kira becomes a sort of sympathetic character… if you start emphasizing with Kira that’s not really appropriate for a Shonen manga. I didn’t want readers to feel sympathy. That may be the hardest thing about drawing out Kira. Although I think I might have been able to add another two or three volume if I started delving into Kira’s mental state, his motivations and his relationship with his parents.
I’m really interested in familial relations… the Joestar bloodline is about families too after all. When I draw a character, I start wondering about their parents or siblings. It might be because I was influenced by my parents and sisters a lot. When follow that trail, when you draw out an antagonist I start wondering what influences he got from his family. But if you start delving into that person’s background, you start straying from the theme. There’s so much you could draw out. Even DIO had a lot of influence from his father. But because this is a weekly serial manga, its always difficult to decide how to cut that out. I mean, you only have 19 pages to draw on a week. That’s no space at all. You basically just have to take one idea and run with it. But even then it won’t fit, so I have to think hard about how I might condense two pages down to one…
Kira was cornered once and had to flee. Some people thought that might be the end of Part 4, but I was always planning on reviving him. His flight is equivalent to DIO's resurrection. You think he’s lost, but then he surges back… around there was I really felt a sort of vitality from him. A different sort of vitality from DIO. DIO's is merely a biological vitality, but Kira was able to tap into the world of a sort of spiritual or mental strength. At that point, Kira trumped Josuke and his friends in spiritual strength. It’s because he had that resurrection that Kira became such a great antagonist. If he had given up then, he would have been a no-go.
I didn’t think at all about using Cinderella to change his appearance. When he was cornered and I was thinking hard about how Kira might escape, lightning struck me and I realized ‘hey I could just use Cinderella which I wrote about last episode!’ I’m basically thinking at a week-by-week interval and never about what happens after that. I don’t know about Jump manga these days, but it’s all about how I make this week interesting for me.
I also like that part after this where Kira becomes a ‘father’ as Kosaku Kawajiri. There’s a P.K. Dick novel about an alien masquerading as a father in a family; I wanted to draw something like that. Only the son knows that he’s an alien… those types of stories are fun. Those episodes are written from the point of view of the son Hayato Kawajiri, and I think it was good as it changed up the pace. After that you had a few Kira point of view stories and you saw that wife falling in love with Kira. I guess it’s plausible that you might grow to love someone if they’ve actually changed, but falling in love with a serial killer, that’s sort of abnormal too and good.
At the end, the son discovers his secret and Kira discovers a new ability. That’s an extension of his resurrection. It’s impossible to stick around in Jojo with the same ability, you have to power up. The youngling who develops into something greater is a common archetype in Shonen. It’s one of the things I feel are a ‘must have’ in a story. Josuke and Jotaro are sort of ‘completed’ characters so it’s difficult to draw a development scene for them, but Koichi-kun and Hayato Kawajiri fit that type. To see Kira also grow in parallel to them is an atypical way of fulfilling a Shonen stereotype.
On ‘Bites the dust’ ability. When you start thinking around the theme of time or rather time travel there’s a lot of variations you can delve into like stopping time, rewinding time… So its sort of like me passing on ideas I wasn’t able to use for DIO. I like the idea of time manipulation. I did something like that with ‘Golden Wind’ and ‘Stone Ocean’.
Writing the ‘Bites the Dust’ episodes were fun. It felt like I was assembling a puzzle or building a game. But because the same time was incremented so many times, I became concerned with whether the readers would follow along. I said this before too, but given that I only have 19 pages a week, I started wondering if this was appropriate for a Weekly manga. A weekly serial has build up story tension within those 19 minutes then pass it along to the next week. It’s a lot of work, but I see those as the rules I have to work within.
In the end, Kira dies after having been run over by an ambulance, and his face was obliterated and nobody could tell who he is.
With ‘Diamond is Unbreakable’ … with the town of Morioh, I wanted to trap it into a world of ‘eternity’. Like would the wife have been happy if she knew that her husband was no longer the same person? If she realized it, it would be a bit boring right? So I was fine with that state continuing forever and no answer being resolved. Within myself, Morioh will forever be in that state. What happened to Josuke after the series? I don’t think about that at all. Morioh is ‘eternal’.
I drew Kira also in a spinoff called ‘Deadman’s Q’. Being trapped in an ‘eternal’ world with his soul being unable to go to heaven or hell, I thought that might be a form of suffering or punishment too. The same thing with Diavolo in ‘Golden Wind’, but it might be a punishment to be trapped within eternity. In the commentary for the short story collection [‘Under Execution, Under Jailbreak’] I wrote that I was tearing up as I drew the story (laughter) I was very invested in Kira. I almost understood his feelings, if only he hadn’t committed murder… I didn’t draw it at the time, but thinking back on it I feel that he might have been person with the burden of sadness too.
Out of all the villains I’ve drawn so far, Kira is my favorite. I like DIO too… but more than DIO. Because he was seeking a quiet life and wasn’t a character you would see often in a shonen manga, I was very invested.
[Translated by ???]