Source: My Hero Academia Vol. Origin (Aug 03, 2018)
After 16 years, Kohei Horikoshi finally stands shoulder to shoulder with his idol, Eiichiro Oda, as a serialized artist. What does the discussion between them hold in store?
Born in 1975 in Kumamoto Prefecture. His series One Piece has been serialized in Weekly Shonen Jump since 1997. Now, in 2018, he continues to be one of the top manga creators around.
Born in 1986 in Aichi Prefecture. Made his serialized debut with Omagadoki Zoo in 2010. His current series My Hero Academia has been serialized in Weekly Shonen Jump since 2014.
An Intensely Formative Experience of Being Printed in Manga
The first time you two ever interacted was in One Piece Volume 23’s illustration corner, Usopp’s Pirate Gallery. Horikoshi-sensei, how did it feel to have your art featured?
Oda: You got published in a good volume. That was the last one in the Alabasta arc, with the famous “sign of friendship” scene.
Horikoshi: I was visibly shaken.
Horikoshi: Yeah. I remember I was a high school student when I turned the page and saw that that my art had been published in a tiny corner. I started shaking, cried out “Mom!”, and went to go show her.
Oda: You sure have a tight-knit family. [laughs]
How many drawings did you submit?
Horikoshi: Just the one.
That’s amazing! What made you decide to send it in?
Horikoshi: A friend who liked One Piece said to me, “Let’s try sending in our art!” We both drew something, but only mine got published.
Oda: Like a pop idol who passed their audition. [laughs]
Horikoshi: Were you the one who wrote that comment on the postcard, Oda-sensei?
Oda: Yup, that was me. I wrote it as Usopp. (TN: As seen below, Horikoshi drew Smoker, to which Oda commented, “A stubborn man.”)
Horikoshi: I’m so grateful… Wow. That made my day.
I’m impressed you got published on your first try. Did that experience affect your decision to become a manga artist?
Horikoshi: To be honest, that single piece of art was enough to satisfy me… [laughs]
Oda: Oh, did you not think “My art is good enough to be published!” or something along those lines?
Horikoshi: Well, simply knowing that my name would forever be etched into the annals of One Piece was enough for me. [laughs]
Oda: Maybe I should’ve given you something to be frustrated about instead. [laughs]
Perhaps you would’ve been more inspired had you been rejected.
Horikoshi: I don’t know about that… In due time, I was motivated to seriously pursue a career in manga.
So it was less of a confidence booster, and more of a reality check?
Horikoshi: That’s right.
Oda: Since social media wasn’t as widespread back then, people didn’t have many opportunities to display and share their art, which made the experience of being published in print especially joyous. Hence, I wanted to fit as many people’s artwork on those pages as possible.
A Confession Five Years After His Serialized Debut
By the time Horikoshi-sensei told Oda-sensei about your connection in person, it was already 2015…
Oda: We had met at New Year’s parties when his manga prior to HeroAca was being serialized. I wonder if he was waiting until his manga became a hit to tell me. (TN: Horikoshi’s manga prior to My Hero Academia was Barrage.)
Oda-sensei also wrote “You should have told me earlier!” in Volume 77. [laughs]
Oda: Yeah, you didn’t have to be so lowkey about it.
Horikoshi: I was too shy. Even though we had many opportunities to interact, I didn’t want to bring it up while I was still being published toward the back of the magazine…
Oda: I see, you made the right choice. The fact that your next serialized manga was praiseworthy gave you the push you needed, huh. [laughs] You gained some pride once your series got popular, didn’t you?
Shouldn’t you proudly puff out your chest? [laughs]
Horikoshi: That’d be embarrassing…
“Oda-isms” That Were a Big Influence
Horikoshi-sensei, did One Piece influence you in any way?
Horikoshi: How do I put this… I was influenced by how the characters just say what’s on their mind. It feels very natural.
Oda: But in the era when I was first serialized, things were different. Characters who said whatever they were thinking, like Luffy, were seen as disgraceful.
Horikoshi: Really? But every author from my generation writes characters that way.
Oda: Good to hear. When I was young, I was fixated on rebelling against the times. For example, it was popular for girls to have the tips of their hair curled inward, so I drew them curled outward.
Why were you intent on being such a contrarian?
Oda: I simply had to stand out. My art style used to be criticized as weird, so I never could’ve dreamed that people would later want to pursue a career in manga because of me.
Horikoshi: Oda-sensei also inspired me to draw my characters’ eyes smaller. Which was tough, because if I didn’t them clearly, the readers would be scratching their heads. So I’ve been drawing them bigger as of late. [laughs]
Oda: Same here. [laughs]
Horikoshi-sensei, besides the art style, what else about One Piece has influenced you?
Horikoshi: I love the Arlong arc. “Help…” “Okay!” The dialogue in that scene (TN: when Luffy puts his hat on Nami in Chapter 81) was so freaking cool, it made me want to draw a protagonist just like Luffy. By the way, this week’s One Piece chapter was insane! [flips through the latest issue of Jump]
Several characters from the past have shown up at the Reverie.
Oda: Isn’t it remarkable? [laughs] I could only bring these old characters back into the story because I’ve been serialized for this long. In fact, there are probably a lot of Jump readers who don’t fully get what’s going on. Readers who are up to date with the manga may be more engaged, but not everyone who reads Jump has read all of One Piece, so those blasts from the past tend to be unpopular among new fans.
Horikoshi: Wait, seriously?
Oda: Yeah. What surprises me most is when certain characters don’t receive that many votes in the polls. As I’m drawing them, I think, “This is a popular character who’ll please the readers!” But then the readers are like, “We don’t know this guy!” [laughs]
Horikoshi: Say whaaat?
Oda: That’s what I get for being serialized for so long.
The Easiest Person to Draw is None Other Than Myself
Oda-sensei, what’s your impression of Horikoshi-sensei?
Oda: He’s the next big superhero artist.
Horikoshi: I don’t deserve such high praise…
Oda: During one of my daughter’s school field trips, they riled up the kids by playing a song from the My Hero Academia anime on the bus. When she came home, she asked me in a worried tone, “Daddy, is your manga gonna be okay?”
Horikoshi: I’m flattered, but at the same time… [laughs]
Oda: I’m a little concerned about the number of characters in his series, though.
What do you mean by that?
Oda: Once you have that many characters, it becomes difficult to integrate them all into the story. I’m not sure if he’ll be able to fit everyone in. Luckily, Horikoshi-sensei’s characters tend to be both recognizable and popular, so I’m probably overthinking it. I’ve always thought that his volume covers are drawn especially well—they’re packed with emotion and style. It’s clear how much effort he puts into them.
Horikoshi: Thank you very much. I’m so happy to hear that…
Oda: What do you use to color them?
Oda: Oh, you color them on a computer.
Horikoshi: Yeah. It gets tedious at times, so I went back to the traditional method for Volume 18. That’s when I discovered how much more fun it is to color by hand.
Oda: You’re a fan of American comics, right? I can tell that your art style took inspiration from them.
Horikoshi: Yes, I’ve read everything from Spider-Man to Deadpool.
What about your characters’ personalities?
Horikoshi: I was mainly influenced by Oda-sensei on that front as well. At first, I wanted to draw a protagonist as free-spirited as Luffy, but I couldn’t seem to pull it off. Ultimately, I could only draw one who was similar to myself. So I took my social anxiety and tendency to overanalyze, sprinkled in some optimism, and ended up with Deku.
The Relationship Between Weekly Manga Artists and Movies
How involved were you with the new movie?
Horikoshi: I had already attended several meetings by the screenwriting phase, and I contributed the final character designs. If time allowed, I would’ve liked to be even more involved.
Oda: If I were to say that, [laughs] the work would never end. We really ought to prioritize our weekly serializations. As long as any extra work doesn’t interfere with those, we’re good.
Horikoshi: That’s true. Carelessly agreeing to take on more work was bad for my health…
How did you feel when this movie was green-lit?
Horikoshi: Ecstatic. I was so shocked when my dream of getting an anime adaptation came true that the thought of something more never even crossed my mind. When they told me they wanted to make a movie, I couldn’t believe my ears.
Oda: You should scope out a theater on the morning of the premiere. I bet you’ll get emotional once you see how many folks are in line for the movie.
Horikoshi: I’m not sure if anyone’ll buy tickets to see it…
Oda: It’s a rare opportunity to meet the fans.
Horikoshi: Guess I’ll have to go see for myself.
Lastly, please give a message to all the movie-going fans.
Horikoshi: I hope it’s enjoyable for those who haven’t read the manga, and even more enjoyable for those who have. There’s a movie-exclusive scene in which Deku and All Might fight side by side, so I urge you all not to miss out.
Now, how about some words of encouragement for each other?
Oda: Let’s keep fighting over the top spot in Jump.
Horikoshi: If you say so…
Oda: How many volumes did you originally plan to go up to?
Horikoshi: Around 30. In retrospect, that’s not nearly enough.
Oda: Then how about 50?
Horikoshi: I don’t know if I can last 10 years. [laughs]
Oda: It’s not about whether you can or can’t. Just keep drawing, and you’ll get there eventually.
Horikoshi: Did you also decide how many volumes One Piece would be before you started on it?
Oda: Of course. Except it’s already triple the intended length.
Horikoshi: The more you draw, the more content you want to add, right?
Oda: Not just more content, but also more details.
Horikoshi: I know. The Sports Festival arc somehow became 2.5 times as long as I intended it to be.
Oda: That’s what happens when a large cast is involved—you can’t fit everyone in if you stick to the original plan. Anyways, let’s continue to give it our all on the battlefield that is Jump.
Horikoshi: Sure thing…
Oda: Come on, say it with more confidence.
Horikoshi: …I’ll do my best to surpass One Piece!!
Oda: I won’t lose.
Horikoshi: I can’t believe I said that… [laughs] Thanks for everything.