│ Project : Interviewing editors at MANGAPlus │

“The Making of a Jump Manga!”

vol.1 My Hero Academia

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Not stopping at Japan’s market, “Boku no Hero Academia” (My Hero Academia, hereafter called “BnHA”) is also making a splash in many countries. Just how was this captivating title made? We are having a surprise interview with the editors who have been supporting the author as his partners, and together, they’ve been producing the manga! This time, let us hear from Mr. Koike—the title’s first editor—and Mr. Monji, the title’s second editor!!

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With over 21 million copies sold, this famous hero manga written by Kohei Horikoshi is being serialized in Weekly Shonen Jump! The series is being actively dispersed across multiple representations, such as being recast as anime or game; in summer 2018, the anime movie “My Hero Academia: Two Heroes” made its way to the movie theaters. The movie was a blockbuster with an audience of 1.39 million and brought back over 1.72 billion yen in revenue! A new TV anime series will hit the screen in October 2019, and a second anime movie will also make its way into theaters this winter. This series, without a doubt, is one of the most notable titles on the current market!!

——The history behind “BnHA”’s serialization

Koike: After his (Kohei Horikoshi) second series ended, the name “Boku no Hero”—a completed one-shot story which remained in Horikoshi’s heart—came up when we were talking about what we should write for his third series. Having a soft spot for this story, Horikoshi felt a strong urge to turn it into a series, and that was our starting line. After some polishing, the story was finally serialized.

“My Hero” was the basis for “BnHA”
※Source: “Oumagadoki Zoo”, volume 5

——Was it Horikoshi’s love of “heroes” that inspired him to create the manga?

Koike: I heard that he really likes Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man. Though the first series revolved around zoological parks, the second series resembled a space opera. In terms of movies, the series gave off a Star Wars vibe, so I think that the theme of “heroes” was just one of Horikoshi’s favorite concepts. Of course, I believe the influence of American comics, and works such as Ultraman, or Kamen Rider contributed to his “love of heroes”.

——To some extent, was the general concept set from the beginning?

Koike: Of course, Horikoshi already had a concept in his mind. It’s just that, as written in various places such as the comic’s covers, there were many story patterns which got rejected... many were changed during our meetings, and Horikoshi also dismissed many ideas on his own. That’s how the story was built up. As an editor, in any case, I have to put the works “straight” on the “mainstream.” That being said, I believed with Horikoshi’s talent, it would be the funniest if he writes for the “mainstream!” Though it may be just my imagination, I believe Horikoshi also yearned to draw for the “mainstream” in his heart.

“BnHA”’s first character sheet which can be found by removing the comic’s covers.

——What kind of discussions did you have with Horikoshi while working on the general concept?

Koike: Sometimes it was just about the conversations, sometimes we talked about drawing the scenes, and sometimes we also talked about the characters’ designs. Many times we’ve gone on endlessly about the concepts, and sometimes, we worked on the concept while finishing the storyboards. This procedure varies depending on the titles and authors. With “BnHA,” although it’s based on a completed story, the series is closer to being a completely new work... The first episode took us the longest, and as we move on to the second and third episodes, the time needed got cut down gradually. It took over half a year to draw the first episode... about 8 or 9 months, while the second episode took us about 2 months, and the third episode took us about a week.

——Did series get approved on its first review?

Koike: Yes, the series got approved on its first review.

Monji: Opinions were divided. Although everyone agreed that the series was “interesting,” the opinions were divided into “the series needs corrections group” and “the series is good as it is group”. I believe no one said the series wasn’t any good but there were some who thought the series needed some work.

Koike: Ultimately, compared to what was presented at the review, not much has changed in the first three chapters, which were published in Jump. In the story, Deku—the main protagonist—only uses his “quirk” from the third episode. There were many opinions about this. Most of them believed it would be better for the main protagonist to use his abilities from the first episode. I believe the opinions were divided over the fact that All Might does not tell Deku about the inheritance of his quirk within the first chapter, so some felt it may have been better to make the first half more compact and easier to read. This idea had also been discussed between Horikoshi and I, and we wanted to do it had it been possible.
However, because of the number of pages, we had no choice but to leave the episodes as they are now. In our hearts, it’s really from the third episode that we would go in with full force, and Horikoshi said “I won’t change it.”

The last scene from the first episode.
The scene ended with All Might telling Deku the words he wanted to hear the most.

——Were Horikoshi and Mr. Koike’s opinions respected?

Koike: It’s not like that... at the conference we decided to start on it, at any rate. After that, we received the submitted storyboards and we were told to decide ourselves on exactly what to do. We decided to leave everything unchanged. Things like that often happen.

——What were the challenges, and what did you pay most attention to when creating the series?

Koike: Horikoshi has also talked about it during occasions such as interviews, but after his second series, he was depressed. As his second series didn’t go on for long, he was strongly under the impression that he wouldn’t have another chance. However, in all sincerity, I wanted to read Horikoshi’s next title, and had been encouraging him and telling him that wasn’t the case. Those weren’t just some lighthearted words, as I truly believed he could create a great title if he just had the motivation. Rather than throw together a lofty title and have him draw it, I knew it would better to have Horikoshi draw a title that would excite him and that he would feel confident enough about to say “Isn’t this interesting?!” I didn’t know how well things would turn out, but I was focused on upping his motivation.

——And just when the series was taking off, the editor in charge was changed. Were there any challenges?

Monji: I took over when the series’ storyboards for the first chapter were still in progress, and the series still hadn’t made its way into the magazine. I’m afraid that compared to me, Horikoshi was in an even more difficult situation... After overcoming such a psychologically difficult time, just as he finally got to start a new series, and as he was thinking “Alright! Let’s do this!”, he was suddenly forced to work with a stranger. I think he had a rough time. And knowing all of that, I thought to myself “Let’s give it my best to earn this person’s trust.”

——How about Mr. Koike?

Koike: Of course, I wanted to continue with the series. However, because of administrative problems I had to step down. When the person in charge changed, I glanced at Monji and thought “good”. Though everyone says this, I already had an idea of who the candidates for the position were. I thought it would be a relatively young person, with two or three years of experience. From that group, I thought there were many people who were good, but I was worried about finding someone that would be a good match for Horikoshi. When Monji was chosen, I was relieved. Admittedly I didn't think there was a high probability that he would be chosen, since he was already the backbone of the editorial department. The series took off in July, and the changes happened in early June. Though everything was decided in advanced, I found it hard to tell Horikoshi. I didn’t end up telling him until the last minute.

——At first, were you consulting with Mr. Koike?

Monji: Well yes, since the storyboards for the first three chapters were already completed.

Koike: We did have a meeting between the three of us for the fourth chapter.

Monji: And that was the only time for the three of us. I thought the timing of the changes must have caused Horikoshi a lot of trouble... But that too is fate, and sometimes we can’t do anything to change it.

Koike: I really caused trouble for both Monji and Horikoshi at that time. (sweat drop)

——After that, Mr. Monji took charge of the series until the 18th volume. Was there anything which you paid attention to?

Monji: Just like Koike, I also thought it would be better to push it more into the mainstream, and was quite persistently intervening. Aside from that, I also paid attention so that the grotesque details won’t become too much for the readers. After all, Horikoshi not only draws well but also has good design abilities, and he can just bang out those details. However, many readers may find the series hard to read if he overdoes it... I’ve never forced him to stop by saying something like “Draw this!” but instead, I would remind him here and there to be careful not to overdo it, or to not make the series too dark.

——Do you discuss with each other before introducing a new character?

Monji: We do sometimes. Before beginning on “BnHA,” Horikoshi had, to a certain extent, created a list and had almost completed the A class. Aside from that, we also drew from the settings that were discussed earlier. And of course, during our meetings there would also be conversations like “I want to put out a character like this…” and “So then why don’t we do this…”. Since Horikoshi is such an extraordinary character designer, I didn’t have to voice many opinions.

——What do you think is the source of Horikoshi’s extraordinary design?

Koike: I believe it’s the same for every author; it’s their entire life which becomes the source of their design abilities. I believe it’s everything one sees starting from childhood, from titles such as “Doraemon” or “Anpanman”, to various product posters they pass by in their areas, to the latest Hollywood movies.

Monji: I think of all the authors I’ve been in charge of until this point, Horikoshi doodles most. Although I believe every manga artist loves drawing, I really got the sense that Horikoshi has been drawing throughout his entire life.

——Do you have any memorable moments during your exchanges with Horikoshi?

Koike: For me, it’s our conversation right before the meeting that would decide the serialization. After the storyboards were completed, I confirmed with Horikoshi, “Is this what you want to bring to the table?” I didn’t want to force him to put out a title he wasn’t happy with, so I casually asked him if this was what he wanted. And to that he replied “Isn’t it obvious?” Though it might sound foolish, I was delighted to hear that from the same author who once lost his confidence, saying things like “I won’t be able to challenge Jump again.” He said, “There’s no way I'm not bringing it out. Are you dumb?” with such vigor. I don’t think Horikoshi even remembers that conversation. He’s probably thinking, “What is this guy talking about?” reading what I’m saying right now, but I was really happy at that moment.

——What about Mr. Monji?

Monji: The assistants’ names are written in the staff introduction in every comic. I was thrilled when Horikoshi noticed my name was added to the section halfway. After all, as I said before, we started from “Why did it suddenly change to this guy?”

The staff introduction section on the last page of the fifth volume The top left character is Monji as drawn by Horikoshi

——What do you think is it that made such a splash overseas?

Monji: I think it was just a good mix of elements that made it interesting... It was a new idea born by mixing the flair of Japan’s shonen manga with “heroes,” a concept that everyone understands. It’s easy to follow despite being new.

Koike: I can’t say anything other than Horikoshi’s talent. Especially the sense of design imbued in the visuals is fascinating. I believe with this sense as a basis, readers are also captivated by the characters’ charm. I think if it wasn’t for Horikoshi and if there hadn’t been such basis, the series wouldn’t have been able to cause such a sensation.

Monji: Though this is just what I heard, it seems that to the overseas audience, Horikoshi’s drawings are amazing. They contain come cartoon elements, and overall his style is just very cool. I was stunned hearing this from a senior who had spoke with fans overseas. Maybe this made the series stand out.

Koike: When I was shown the design, it was my first and last experience as an editor, feeling really excited despite not knowing the contents. The design and character sheets... I felt that the characters were somehow fascinating despite not having entered into the main story yet. Seeing Shiragaki’s design, I was amazed: “Just what is this!?” I think the same excitement was conveyed by the readers.

——What are the most notable points when reading “BnHA?”

Monji: I don’t wish for our readers to read the series seriously. It would be much better to have them casually read it and feel that the series is entertaining. But if I really have to pick a point, I would say it’s the design. It’s like, “This was drawn in a week!” (laughing). The characters move so well even with such intricate designs, and the manuscripts are furnished for a weekly series... to be frank, I think it’s just ridiculously amazing. There is a glamor in the designs, and even the small details are very well elaborated. Horikoshi just does it despite knowing how tiresome the task may be. All of that packed in a weekly series is just incredible!

Koike: I think there are various charms to the series. If readers are able to find different aspects which they like best, then as a creator it’s very fulfilling. In my opinion, it’s the oddity of the characters... Though the same can also be said for the flow of conversation, design and story, everything is a crystallization of author Horikoshi’s taste. There are flavors which readers cannot enjoy in any other manga. I believe this essential criterion applies not only to “BnHA,” but also to all good manga. Because “BnHA” has flavors which cannot be found in any other manga, enjoying them means enjoying the real charm of the author—Kohei Horikoshi.

——What kind of existence, do you think, should the editors be to Horikoshi? And what should they aim to become?

Koike: To be frank, I can’t know that without directly asking Horikoshi, and I believe it varies depending on the timing. What was expected from myself, what was expected from Monji, and now, what is expected from Yoritomi—the third editor in charge. However, I think the three of can agree on one thing. As Horikoshi is an author who displays extraordinary talents, the first thing to do is become his fan. That’s why we want to work with him, we want to support him... “I want to give this series my all!” That’s the kind of editor we become, or rather what we inevitably became. I believe this also benefits Horikoshi.

Monji: If you look at it from the outside, without a doubt, the word “talent” is just overwhelming. Horikoshi doesn’t have much confidence regarding this subject, he seems to think that he’s being elevated in a strange way. I believe it’s important to tell Horikoshi directly that “objectively speaking, it’s visually amazing and interesting.” Even though sales have been exploding, and the series has been becoming more and more popular, sometimes, Horikoshi still thinks something is not right. However, the series is just simply exciting. I don’t forcibly give it my all just to raise his motivation. Just as Koike said previously, we’ve all become his fans.

Koike: I think this is what amazing authors have in common.

——What does “BnHA” mean to both of you?

Koike: If I were to exaggerate it, I would say “this series was a dream come true.” Although I’m not directly in charge of the series currently, I feel very proud as an editor knowing how popular the anime is, or that over one million copies of the first volume were sold, etc. Looking at the series, I’m still honored knowing it will expand further even though I was taken off the project. It's truly been a dream. Although I believe it’s rough for both Horikoshi and the person in charge currently, watching the series from behind the curtain, I only feel unbelievably proud.

Monji: I’ve been in charge of both popular works and works which ended without becoming known; I have a lot of feelings for each of them. To me, each of these works is precious. However, simply because “BnHA” is the series I’ve worked on the longest, being able to stay alongside the series since the moment it just took off and see how it grew was an amazing experience; it felt wonderful. I was also delighted to see how rejoiced Horikoshi was; it was an extraordinary series. “BnHA” suddenly rose to fame, and the series was steadily rising before I knew it. It’s the first series I’ve felt to be just as impressive as a rising star; it’s simply amazing!

Koike: Though I believe Horikoshi is just being modest about it, the series has become so large that it became an inspiration for the artists of the younger generation. As an editor, when thinking of the magazine’s future, I believe there’s nothing more vital than the fact that an inspiring manga is currently being serialized in Jump. That’s because it will give birth to the next generation of famous authors. Though it’s the same for other distinguished series such as “ONE PIECE,” “BLEACH,” or “NARUTO,” I believe a large piece of the baton will be passed down from “BnHA” to the next generation. Horikoshi may think it’s nothing praiseworthy, or that I’m putting too much pressure on him with these words, so I just can’t say them to him face to face. (laughing)