Source: My Hero Academia: Ultra Analysis (Oct 04, 2019)
To commemorate the release of the second My Hero Academia character databook, here’s an exclusive conversation between Kubo-sensei and Horikoshi-sensei! All sorts of secrets will now be revealed!
Born on June 26, 1977. Creator of the Weekly Shonen Jump series Bleach. His stylish designs have earned him a massive fanbase overseas.
Born on November 20, 1986. Creator of the Weekly Shonen Jump series My Hero Academia, which won the 2019 Harvey Award for Best Manga.
Their First Meeting and Opinions of Each Other’s Work
When was first time you two met in person?
Horikoshi: I believe we were introduced to each other at a celebratory dinner shortly after my first series ended. (TN: Horikoshi’s first series, Omagadoki Zoo, ran from July 2010 to April 2011.)
Kubo: That’s not what I remember. [laughs] I seem to recall it was at a party over at Matsui-kun’s house. (TN: That’s Yusei Matsui, creator of Assassination Classroom.)
Horikoshi: Being surrounded by all those people made me nervous back then, so I hid in a corner of the room all night… This must have been around the time my second series ended. (TN: Horikoshi’s second series, Barrage, ran from May 2012 to September 2012.)
Kubo: Yeah, I have no memory of chatting with you that night. [laughs] But we did eat together recently. I didn’t keep up with Jump while my series was running, but when I picked it back up after my series was over, HeroAca caught my attention. That’s why I wanted to grab a meal with Horikoshi-kun, who took the opportunity to invite me here.
Please tell us what impressed you about the other person’s work.
Kubo: I’m constantly blown away by the amount of detail it has for a weekly serialization. In fact, I think the biggest difference between our manga is the intricacy of the backgrounds.
Horikoshi: Well, Kubo-sensei’s characters can fill a page with their presence alone. Since I don’t have the artistry to pull that off, I put a lot of detail into my backgrounds to compensate. For me, attention to detail is the key to success.
Kubo: The characters in HeroAca are also more than capable of holding their own. What stood out to me in particular were the fight scenes in that pipe-filled abandoned factory during the Joint Battle Training. They were spectacular. As I was reading, I kept thinking to myself, “There’s no way I could draw something like this…” [laughs]
Horikoshi: Every week of that arc, my assistants would ask me, “How long is this gonna last?” [laughs] I needed a space in which every character could flaunt their skills, and that was my solution.
Kubo: If I were in your shoes, I would’ve found a way to avoid drawing all those pipes. [laughs]
Horikoshi: See, those kinds of clever workarounds don’t even cross my mind. I’m so jealous of Kubo-sensei’s artistic talent and design sense. It’s not just me, either—I’m sure every manga artist would agree that Kubo-sensei is the embodiment of good taste.
Kubo: I tend to plan scenes around dialogue I want to write, and create manga in order to depict those scenes—or something like that.
Horikoshi: Oh, I see.
Kubo: Occasionally, I can come up with characters and dialogue at the same time. I start by thinking “I really want to throw in this line,” followed by “This character seems like the type to say that,” and finally “In what situation would this character say that line?” That’s basically how my scenes are written.
Horikoshi: Wow, our creative processes are completely different.
Kubo: Horikoshi-kun, have you ever wanted to make a character say a specific line?
Horikoshi: For sure. There are moments when I’ll go, “Wouldn’t it be epic if so-and-so said THIS?” while outlining future developments. I tend to think about the characters and their situations in tandem.
Kubo: We pretty much do the same thing, then.
Differences Between Their Creative Processes
Horikoshi-sensei, please share your character-creation process with us.
Horikoshi: I don’t actually have a set process. When I was creating a stockpile of characters prior to being serialized, I began by visualizing their appearance or determining their powers. But recently, I created Hawks because I needed someone to fulfill a specific role for the sake of advancing the plot.
Kubo: Ahh, so you created a character who could serve as a competent double agent.
Horikoshi: Exactly. By the way, Hawks’ look still hadn’t been finalized at the storyboarding phase.
Kubo: You were still tweaking it while drafting the chapter?
Kubo: That’s not a design you can draw under stress. My condolences.
Horikoshi: I fell into a bad habit of needing to make my characters’ debut panels as cool as possible. And deep down, I’m convinced that the trick to making my art look cooler is to add more details.
Kubo: You sure love cramming in those details.
Horikoshi: They help cover up any blemishes so that nothing seems off.
What is your character-creation process like, Kubo-sensei?
Kubo: Sometimes I create characters and write their dialogue simultaneously, other times I decide on a name first. For example, Rukia started off as just a name.
Horikoshi: Whoa, color me surprised.
Kubo: I was drawing one day when I heard someone on TV say the name of a species of cosmos flower that sounded vaguely like “Kuchiki Rukia,” so I jotted it down. “Kuchiki” is a Japanese surname that means “decayed tree” and “Rukia” is a given name that signifies “light,” which I thought would befit a grim reaper. From there, I designed a scythe-wielding Soul Reaper, changed her weapon and outfit a couple times… And that’s how she came to be.
Horikoshi: That origin story makes her even more alluring… I think the only HeroAca character whose name came first was Tsutsutaka Agoyamato. He’s a minor character I doodled in the middle a meeting.
Kubo: Wait, you doodle during meetings?
Horikoshi: I usually take notes or make sketches while I talk. You don’t seem like the note-taking type.
Kubo: I don’t need notes ’cause my meetings only take 30 minutes tops, formal business and small talk included. My editors probably think I’m a rude jerk. [laughs]
Are there any other characters whose name came first?
Kubo: Bambietta was born out of my desire to have a character whose nickname could be “Bambina.” All five members of her clique have initials like B.B. or G.G. ’cause I made it a rule to have their first and last names begin with the same letter.
Horikoshi: Now that you mention it, there are a lot of memorable names in Bleach that feature alliteration, like the badass-sounding “Aaroniero Arruruerie.” That’s the sort of vibe I wanted to replicate with Rock Lock.
Kubo: He’s that dark-skinned hero, right? What a great name.
Horikoshi: I’m happy you remember him! Thank you.
Mirio’s Introduction Scene Was a Failure?!
Who is your favorite character in the other person’s series?
Horikoshi: Mayuri is my favorite character by far! As it happens, I asked Kubo-sensei to draw Mayuri for me when I got his autograph in the past. I like his first appearance the most, since he gave off a mysterious aura that made you question his humanity.
Kubo: He left quite an impact on you, eh?
Horikoshi: When it comes to Mayuri, anything goes. The dread that comes from not knowing what he’s plotting makes him a standout character.
Kubo: An ironclad rule of shonen manga battles is that “the protagonist will win no matter how bad the situation gets.” But each time I drew Mayuri, I wanted to keep the audience guessing what strange tactics he’ll use to win, so I’m glad you feel that way. I never intended to portray the 13 Court Guard Squads as the bad guys—rather, I tried to show their differences in opinion without making them morally black or white. I did my best to flesh them out so that the audience wouldn’t treat them as villains.
Horikoshi: I completely understand.
Kubo: As for me, I like Denki Kaminari. He plays a very amusing role in the story.
Horikoshi: Despite having an extremely powerful ability, he looks pretty weak… [laughs]
Kubo: That’s part of his charm. Each HeroAca character has their own distinct strengths, so it’s hard to pick favorites. That said, I also like Mirio.
Horikoshi: What do you like about him?
Kubo: That scene when he single-handedly protects little Eri won me over.
Horikoshi: To be honest, I thought I failed to make Mirio come across as an interesting character the first time he showed up.
Kubo: The position of a caring older brother is definitely a tough one to fill.
Horikoshi: Yup. Furthermore, his debut scene ended before I had a chance to show his emotional range, which meant he was reduced to being a plot device. At that point, I felt so sorry for Mirio that I vowed to have him deliver a strong impact on the readers. If I could make them think, “Wouldn’t this guy make a great protagonist?”, then victory would be mine. That motivated me to draw.
Kubo: Yeah, the aforementioned scene did make me think that.
New Quirk: “Zero Calories”?!
What would you say your personal Quirk is? In addition, if you could manifest any kind of Quirk, what would it be?
Horikoshi: My Quirk is “Sleeping.” It’d be nice to have a Quirk that lets me function without sleep. [laughs]
Kubo: My Quirk is “the ability to not feel sick after eating tons of delicious food.” I wish I had a Quirk that could make anything zero calories.
Horikoshi: A “Zero Calories” Quirk sounds amazing. [laughs]
Kubo: I could even render my opponents immobile by nullifying their calories.
Horikoshi: It doesn’t just lower the amount of calories you consume to zero? [laughs] That’s overpowered.
Kubo: True, a Quirk that can erase your enemies’ calories would be overpowered! It’d certainly be popular with the ladies. But with name like that, it’ll get mistaken as some sort of sandwich. [laughs]
Kubo-sensei Is One of My Heroes!!
In your eyes, what is a hero? What evil do they face?
Kubo: That’s a question to which the man behind HeroAca must reply, “I’ll answer that though my manga.”
Horikoshi: I’m still struggling to find a satisfying answer, but I hope to reveal it in the final chapter.
Kubo: I look forward it.
Horikoshi: While we’re on the topic, Kubo-sensei, how do you go about depicting concepts like good and evil in your series?
Kubo: Though I’ve always been a fan of superheroes, I’m not the type to draw with a theme in mind. I’d much rather hear about the heroes in your life, Horikoshi-kun.
Horikoshi: Alright. Back when I read Jump obsessively, Oda-sensei, Kishimoto-sensei, and Kubo-sensei were the three pillars that propped up the magazine. Ah, I swear I’m not just saying that to kiss up to you. [laughs] (TN: Eiichiro Oda and Masashi Kishimoto are the creators of One Piece and Naruto, respectively.)
Kubo: You totally are… [laughs]
Horikoshi: Either way, I truly believe that Jump was at its most interesting back then!
Kubo: That’s similar to how we felt about Jump when Dragon Ball was being serialized.
Horikoshi: Right. Hence the three of you are my heroes!
Horikoshi-sensei. Although you were only in middle school when Bleach started, did it influence you in any way?
Horikoshi: At the time, I had never drawn anything resembling manga before, so I’d doodle randomly while daydreaming about settings or characters. I used to copy art of people holding Zanpaku-to, among other things.
Kubo: I’d love see ’em! Were those Zanpaku-to your original creations?
Horikoshi: Yes. Their blades could transform, just not into Bankai. [laughs] Anyway, I came up with a bunch of those.
Kubo: Do you still have them around?
Horikoshi: Probably not. All I remember is that I drew them in B5 notebooks at home…
Kubo: Darn, you should’ve mailed them to me as fan letters! I save every piece of fan mail I receive, so I would’ve preserved them for you.
Horikoshi: In any event, Bleach was responsible for ingraining the power of words in me. However, my sensibilities are nowhere near as polished as yours… Which is why some people might think I’m lacking.
Kubo: In terms of passion?
Horikoshi: No, in the sense that I come across as a nervous wreck.
Kubo: I know Deku’s a huge worrywart, and talking with you has made it clear why. You’re two peas in a pod. [laughs]
Horikoshi: I designed Deku to be plain and average on purpose, but now I’m not sure why I made him so boring. [laughs] His weakness is that he worries for the sake of worrying, and has trouble thinking on his feet. Like me, he struggles to make progress because he’s always doubting himself.
Kubo: That negativity is kinda adorable, though.
Horikoshi: Way before I started on HeroAca, a veteran artist told me at a banquet, “You’ll feel invincible once you’re famous.” But I haven’t changed one bit. [laughs] I still feel more insecure than fulfilled. Since there are people out there who are much better than me, I can’t get let myself get cocky.
Kubo: Last time we ate together, didn’t I tell you that “once you reach the top, the only direction you can go is down”? [laughs]
Horikoshi: I’ll never forget the words you said to me long ago. We were taking a taxi together when I confessed to you that “I have no idea what my forte is.” You immediately replied, “Art, of course,” and I saw a path open up before me.
Kubo: I don’t remember having that discussion… But that’s exactly how I’d respond if you were to tell me the same thing right now.
Horikoshi: I’m flattered…!!
Fancy Ultimate Move Names!
What do you think of all the ultimate moves that appear in your respective series?
Horikoshi: My favorite one in Bleach is Tentei Kura (Heavenly Charged Sky Net). It’s just a communication spell, but it sounds like the strongest move ever.
Kubo: It had way too many patterns for a measly communication spell. [laughs] At least they resembled what its name suggests.
Horikoshi: I also thought it looked overly flashy for a communication spell. [laughs]
Kubo: Glad you agree. [laughs]
Horikoshi: Lately, I’ve been more conscious of giving cool names to new techniques. Twice’s ultimate move, Sad Man’s Parade, is a prime example.
Kubo: Very nice.
Horikoshi: My goal is to come up with attack names that kids will want to shout after reading.
Cheers From Kubo-sensei!
Lastly, Kubo-sensei, could you give some advice to the young rivals who grew up reading your series?
Kubo: We didn’t talk much about this, but my generation had to draw while bearing in mind that “everyone considers the era of Dragon Ball and Slam Dunk to be the golden age of manga.” We were constantly plagued by self-doubt. Even though everyone thinks their own manga is the best in the world as they’re working on it, we couldn’t shake off the fear that our series weren’t on par with the ones we had enjoyed as children. But today, Horikoshi-kun reassured me that he also thought Jump was at its peak when he was younger. Which means the current youth will consider whatever they’re reading now to be the greatest of all time.
Horikoshi: …That’s awesome to hear. I’m kind of relieved.
Kubo: I can tell that some of these newer series were inspired by HeroAca. Kids these days are probably taking notice, too.
Horikoshi: Hmm… That’s a little concerning. I’ll work even harder to stay ahead!! Thanks a lot for today, Kubo-sensei!!
Kubo: Same to you!!