In honor of the upcoming Rurouni Kenshin Movie, I thought that I should repost an interview transcript that I wrote after seeing Watsuki Nobuhiro ( the creator of the Rurouni Kenshin Manga) at Anime Expo. It was translated into different languages, so If I can find some of the translations, I’ll post those too.
Anime Expo Long Beach Convention Center – July 5, 2002
Open Questions. – Guest of Honor – Watsuki Nobuhiro (Creator of Rurouni Kenshin).
(This is a transcript of the question session for Watsuki Nobuhiro at Anime Expo in Los Angeles California on July 5, 2002 from noon to 1pm. Watsuki-san answered the question in Japanese, and a translator told us what he said. This is not a completely accurate translation because I had no tape recorder, I wrote it in long hand. Also both the interpreter and I changed words to make them correct English sentences. Given this caveat, this is my interpretation of the questions and answers given at the talk.(Most questions were simplified) Enjoy. ROZZYCHAN).
1. How did you become interested in manga.
I have liked manga since I was a child. I first got into it because of my older brother. He loved anime and manga. My brother and I used to draw manga, but my brother stopped drawing it. Because I was a bit stupider than my brother, I kept drawing it. Then I won an award and worked for (an anime artist) and here I am.
2. Where you involved at all in the Kenshin OVAs.
Mostly the OVAs were the director has been in charge. Watsuki just checked the character designs, and the only thing that he did on the first one is to tell them that it was wrong when they showed one girl’s ears.
The director of the OVAs, who was the same as in the TV series, kept saying that he could not do what he wanted to do in the series, so I let him go wild with the OVAs and now I am a bit irritated because they were more interesting than the manga.
3. What Kenshin character are you most attached to?
Yahiko is like me. He is not strong, but he wants to be. I would like to be strong like Kenshin or Saito, but they had too tough a life.
4. In the final fight between Kenshin and Saito, who would win?
( There is a long hmmmmmmmmm ).
But if there was anything that he needed to protect or hold on to, Kenshin would win.
5. Were you satisfied with the way that you ended the manga?
Yes, I am very happy with how I ended Kenshin. The staff wanted it to go on longer, but the editor of jump, who I have been with for 13 years, kindly allowed me to end it there. For many series on jump they keep pushing and pushing the artists to keep drawing until the stories are no longer popular, but i am satisfied with the way Kenshin ended.
6. How much time did you spend doing research for the show.
Hmmmmmmm, Rurouni Kenshin started as a short story, so I didn’t do much research on it, but in the year and a half between the story and the start of the series, I spent a lot of time reading them (books about Meiji). I did the manga because I wanted to draw Kimonos and swords, so don’t count on all of the details to be completely accurate.
7. Why did you choose the Meiji era for RK?
Because I didn’t want to draw those samurai hairstyles. You know, those weird hairstyles from ancient periods. If you want to draw swords but no strange hairstyles, then you have to go to the Meiji era. Also, I am a big fan of the Shinsengumi. But drawing in this period means that I’m going to be drawing a lot of historical stuff.
8. Why did you kill off Kenshin?
About the OVA, I didn’t say anything about that. I just let (Hys..), the director, run with it. If I had kept drawing the manga, I would have had to draw Kenshin’s death. But I felt that Kenshin deserved a happy ending, he thinks that entertainment should have a happy ending, but the director preferred the tragic ending. So it is up to you to decide which ending you prefer.
I made a comment in the liner notes of the (new) OVA. Please read that.
9. What are your thoughts on the Shinabara arc? One of the filler arcs not based on the manga at all.
You can’t help having original episodes, because manga goes at a slower pace than TV production. But I wonder, Why Shinimobara? Why not Hokkaido ( the end of the shinsengumi)? Or they could have gone wild and go to the US!
10. Which artistic style do you prefer, the TV or the OVA. Which one do you think expresses your work the best?
Oh… ah… , In the bottom of my heart, it is probably the OVA. But I like the TV series better. Because it has a more happy, happy feel. I want to continue to write what I believe in. I want to write happy endings.
11. Will you ever draw what happened to Soujiro in the 10 years of his life before the Kyoto arc.
Drawing such a thing would be really depressing. I would rather draw what happened after the series. He probably led a life similar to Kenshin’s life. It would probably make a good series.
12. What do you like about Kenshin? What does Kenshin have in common with you?
I like how he wields his sword for others besides himself.
I feel that I am similar to Kenshin because we both always have our past sins on our mind. I wonder why wouldn’t look forward at least once. I understand, but I wish he would look forward.
13. How did you come up with Sanosuke?
Sanosuke was the next character after Yahiko. Kenshin needed a guy friend who could just punch Kenshin if he did something wrong. I liked how he was such a manly guy, but I wanted to draw out his character more. I’d like to draw someone like him as the main character of another series.
14. What advice do you have for those who want to be manga artists?
First, think of how you can convey what you find interesting to others, so that they think that it is interesting. And others need to find it interesting for it to work.
Also, you have to love manga.
15. In one of your liner notes you said that you would like to do a Kenji/Yahiko manga.
I have no plans to write sequels of any sort for a while. Plans for my next series are already started. Concerning sequels to Kenshin, I would like to think about drawing such a series in four of five years.
16. You once called yourself a commercial artist. How can you go beyond that commercial artist feeling and not get stuck.
(Sucks in breath) What you draw is what you are currently in love with. You should make sure to draw what you like, you should have fun with it. I don’t draw for commercial reasons. If someone draws in the same style as me, it means that their interest is there. If your interests change, then your style should change.
17. Since so little of it has been animated, how do you feel about the Jinchuu arc? Are you satisfied with how the OVA did the Jinchuu arc?
I would be happy to see more of it animated because I would like to watch it myself, but it isn’t as easy as saying, “Can you make it for me?” and having them say “Sure!”
But if fans keep saying that they want to see more, then Sony may get off their butt and do it.
18. What historical figures went into the design of Kenshin?
The model for Kenshin was one of the old manslayers of the revolutionary era (bakumatsu). This man was an assassin and slew … He had a tough life, and in his last years he started to repent for all of the killings, but he kept his will and was executed by the government. So he is not very well respected in Japan.
19. What parts of RK did you feel most proud of? What did you not like?
I am proud of “Yahiko’s battle”. I am happy with how I portrayed the character. He has had a lot of positive feedback from Japanese fans as well. I liked the Kyoto arc. I liked the final battle with Shishio, I felt the characters were very well defined.
I am most dissatisfied with the Jinchuu arc. I put too many enemies in it. If I did it again, I would have Enishi be fighting alone against Kenshin. I wanted to show that Enishi was different from Kenshin because he was doing it for himself.
20. How did you like Shishio?
Shishio was my favorite villian. He portrays all of the evil parts of me.
Shishio is all of my evil thoughts distilled into one character.
21. What is your favorite manga series?
As a manga artist, I don’t get much time to read manga like a fan does. I thoroughly enjoyed it. I wish that I had drawn it.
22. How does he feel about his assistant (The author of Onepiece).
The author of Onepiece was one of my assistants during the Kenshin era. He has matured since. He is fighting for good manga, good art. He is now a fellow/rival artist.
23. How much Doujinshi do you read, and are you embarrased by it?
Ha, ha, ha, ha. I do read a lot of fan stuff because fans send them to me. If someone sends it to me, I read it, but I don’t go out and look for it. I don’t like people who make Kenshin doujinshi’s just because it is a popular series, but if you write it because you are in love with the series, then it is the author’s choice to write it even if it is smut.
But one thing. I have my Kenshin world view, so don’t ask me if Kenshin and Sanosuke are together because he had a fan ask him that once. Just don’t do that!
24. What is the orgin of “Oro”?
I was surprised that it caught on like it did. because it is just like saying “huh” or “uh” or “eh”. I am surprised that Kenshin used it so much, and that the fans caught on to it.
25. What is your next series going to be about?
I can’t discuss my next series now. But I will say, I want to draw something about Alchemy. Everything else is secret. If everything goes well, you will start seeing it toward the end of the year, or the beginning of next year. Please read it.
26. Did you think the filler arcs were silly?
Well I shouldn’t be saying this, but I think that I could have made it more interesting. But whether you liked the arcs or not is probably due to personal taste. The director is the artsy type. His vision may not appeal to everyone (all ages).
27. Where did you get the idea for Kamatari?
The author of onepiece suggested it. I asked all my assistants for ideas for characters and it was his idea. It was a pun. The word for scythe and the word for gay guy sound alike. Then we had to decide what type of gay guy to make. Would he be the big queer guy or the funny looking queer guy? We decided to go for the “Kawaii” (cute) gay guy, if that’s the right word to use.
28. What do you think of Kenshin Cosplay?
Cosplay is really good if you love the characters. I love it so much, that I am willing to take photos with cosplayers.
29. Will you go to the comic con this year like you did last year with the author of trigun?
I did go to comic con before with the creator of Trigun. That author will be coming, but I won’t be coming?
30. Do you have any martial arts in your background? Also in the show it seems like Kenshin never changes his clothes.
I have practiced Kendo, but I am very weak. That is where my love of sports comes from, but I am very weak. If I were good at Kendo, I wouldn’t be drawing manga.
He doesn’t change Kenshin’s clothes much, because some kids think that changing the clothes makes it a different person.
31. Where did you get the idea for Shishio’s and the other character’s moves?
Some moves are based on actual moves. Sanosuke’s fuwai no kuwami is just an exaggerated double punch. The other half of the moves are created by him swinging his sword around in the privacy of his own room. A third catagory pays homage to his favorite shows like “Sunrise Showdown”. Shishio’s final move is just a big-*** homoro dama.
32. How do you feel about your apprentices who have their own series, the authors of One piece and Shaman king?
Both of my apprentices are my equals now. They have their own series, and I feel that I should treat them as such. He suggested that all of his friends live together with him in one big apartment, but one by one his assistants betrayed him and moved out. I wished that we could be good friends and live all together but they betrayed me. I still love them though.
33. Why was Kenshin a killer so young?
Kenshin was originally supposed to be in his thirties, but the director says that the main character in a manga can’t be 30! So I looked at the timeline and the youngest that I could get him was 28. But anyway, in the Meiji life spans are shorter, and many people started to fight in their teens.
34. Were you influenced by the work of ???? ( I don’t know the author)
H.. was the type of person who said, “How strong can I get?” but Kenshin said “How strong must I be to protect others”.