Hisashi Eguchi"Cute girls have a period of being really invincible."
I read you started drawing comics when you were about 10?
I started drawing manga with panel layouts when I was in third grade, but I started drawing when I was 2 or 3 years old. I did not know about manga when I was two or three. When I was two, television started in Japan.
Do you feel like the TV taught you how to draw as a kid?
I was mesmerized with TV. I used to watch and copy it. I really like to re-create the scenes that I saw in TV. As I was doing that, animated programs on the TV started. Do you know Osamu Tezuka?
Oh, absolutely. Astroboy!
I loved Astroboy and I was always copying it..
Then I went to a bookstore in my town and there was Astroboy on a book. It was manga and had panel layouts. I asked “what is this?” and my father said “this is manga.” I asked him to buy it for me and he did, then I got to know manga and become absorbed in it.
How old were you?
I was 4 years old. When I was ten, I started to make panel layouts with stories in mind.
What age do you remember drawing your first girl?
For some reason I did not draw girls at all. I used to draw Ultraman, Ultra Seven. Only super heros. And jets or airplanes, vehicles. I was drawing manga from elementary school to middle school, but there were no girls in it at that time. I was a boy!
So how did you end up drawing girls?
I first drew a girl when I decided to become a professional manga artist. I thought it was strange not to have girls. Also, I knew that it would be popular if the girls were cute. I forced myself to do it, but I couldn't draw. So I looked at girls manga (Shojo manga) and did research. I did not dislike girls. I had a girl who I liked, but I did not draw her.
You do have a real sensitivity to how you depict girls, but at the same time, your sense of humor is pretty perverse. What's crucial in the combination of cuteness and comedy?
Jokes come from a gap- contrast. Manga artists before me drew funny things with funny pictures. The images too, they draw in a way that you can see that it is comedy manga right away. There was a separation between comedy manga and story manga. I like cool pictures. I like jokes with humor but I like pictures themselves being cool pretty. I wanted to combine the two.
I also liked American Pop Art. Early Roy Lichtenstein. Andy Warhol. I am still very influenced by them.
I can see that.
I like to use organized lines. The less lines the better.
Can I talk to you about Stop!! Hibari-kun!?
There was a boom of LOVE comedy in the shonen manga. I liked the sense of adventure or excitement in shonen manga, but I didn't like weak romantic comedies. I wanted to make fun of it. So, if a really cute girl was in fact a boy... I could be sarcastic.
It was a bit of a rebellion.
Yes, rebellion is one thing, but the other thing is that I really admired women. For women, there is a time that they become invincible, for example, cute girls have a period of being really invincible. No man can match that. There have things that are beyond our power, and I have a strong admiration for them. I also wish I was born a girl. That does not mean that I want to become a woman now, but...
That's beautiful. Did you know when you started Hibari-Kun that you wanted it to become anime?
No, it is very hard to move (animate) my pictures in animation. I am not satisfied with the anime at all.
That makes a lot of sense. My favorite characters are the white crocodile curse. I was told it was a metaphor for having no ideas. Are you still struck by the white crocodile curse from time to time?
All the time!
Can you talk a little bit about Comic Cue volume one?
How can I say it? I wanted to make something like the all-star game in baseball. Or Avengers. All-hero, I wanted to have a festival of Avengers. All the heroes! With all my favorite artists.
Were they your friends at the time?
No, I wasn't friends with them, I was a fan. We became friends later, but at that time I just liked their works and I called them saying “why don't we make this together?” We were competitors, so we were very nervous. Many artists got together and formed friendships.
I also watched Nantoka Narudesho on YouTube and I've never seen anything like it before! What made you want to mix anime with live action and puppetry?
I wanted to make it interesting, considering the fact that we did not have much of a budget. I aimed for it to be “cheap”. They don't have a big a budget to make anime.
Do you have a favorite segment from it?
“Nantoka Narudesho” was a story of a blind girl, and it’s dark all the way through. The dark scene continues for a long period of time. I heard that animator had a hard time. It was all black and he used various ideas for that.I wanted to ask you about Roujin Z. What is your process for character design in both of those movies?
That was around the time that I met my current wife, so I took pictures of her as the model. She was just 18 years old, the same age as the character Haruku.
I like Roujin Z very much. The story is very interesting. I did all the characters in Roujin Z.
You did a beautiful job on all of them, but Haruko especially is an incredible character.
I agree. Haruko gives us energy, you know.
How has your approach to character development changed over time?
I’m largely influenced by Katsuhiro Otomo, the creator of Akira (he also wrote Roujin Z).The emergence of Otomo-san changed the Japanese manga world.
I feel that too, because his work effects me and a lot of my friends in the USA. A lot of people I know in America that don't really like Manga or Anime like Otomo, he's an icon to everybody.
He is just a drunk man here though. I really like his personality, too. He is very casual, of course I like his works as well.
I know you sing and play guitar, have you been playing music as long as you've been drawing?
If I was talented I would like to, but I just play music as a hobby. You need to be gifted. When I was in high school I wanted to do something with music, but then my plan failed, so I became a manga artist. I did not touch any instrument since I became a manga artist. Recently, however, I started to play again. Maybe after 30 years? It was really fun after a long time. Then I bought many guitars last summer.
You also have a good singing voice!
Singing, yeah. It is more difficult to play an instrument than to sing.
What do you like to listen to when you work?
While I work? I listen to everything. Foreign and Japanese music.
You've done album artwork as well, I got into Ging Nang Boyz purely because of your album art, how important is a visual element to music?
There is a power of an artwork that makes people buy an album even if they don't know the music. When I buy CDs because I like the CD artwork, it is often is a hit. The content is reflected in that. We call that "jacket GAI"-it means they don't know…the kind of music, but they have the image of the work, and they just chose it because of the work, but actually it's good. I only do album artwork for music that I like.
How do you judge when something you've made is good?
I don't want to disappoint myself when I look at it later. I don't want to regret it later.
To the outside audience, a lot of your work is available online as isolated images. Do you feel like we need the back story to still love it?
I would be happy for as many viewers as possible to look at my works, but I don't make any effort for that. I think the people who can understand my manga are limited. Only people who can understand it would understand my jokes.
How important color is to you? And I also want to know--what’s your favorite color?
I like single colors, of course. I also I like two-tone coloring. For example, grey and dark blue. I like a combination like that. I like white and red too. You know white and red from an American toothpaste called Colgate? I like that design very much. When I went to US I bought many of them and put them on display.