About a month ago I translated what I later realised was only the first half of a 2014 Ichikawa Haruko interview for the ‘Kono manga ga sugoi!’ website. That first half is focused exclusively on Houseki no kuni and you can read it here.
Now, for the second half, which is more about Ichikawa’s inspirations and progress as an artist.
The pleasure of drawing manga gives shape to my ideas
Your works, ‘Houseki no kuni’, ‘Mushi to Uta’ or ‘25-Hour Vacation’, tackle the ideas of life and strange life-forms many times. What exactly brought about your interest in such themes?
I: I am not sure. I believe it might be because I have loved flowers and bugs ever since I was a child.
What kind of manga did you read as a child?
I: I loved gag manga in elementary school, like ‘High School! Kimengumi’ (Shinzawa Motoei) or ‘Koitsura 100% Densetsu’ (Okada Aamin). I discovered Hagio Moto’s works in middle school, while ‘Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind’ (Miyazaki Hayao) and ‘AKIRA’ (Otomo Katsuhiro) had a great impact on me in high school. I mostly played video games as a schoolkid, so I relied on my friends’ recommendations when it came to manga.
You were blessed with great friends. When did you start drawing manga?
I: I was looking for a job and ended up working as an editorial designer, when it crossed my mind that it would be nice if I were able to do the planning, editing and designing all by myself. That seemed possible if I were to try my hand at drawing manga, so I started with one volume.
Does that mean you hadn’t drawn anything at all until then?
I: More or less, and that only after finding employment. Nothing complete though, but only things resembling prototypes for ‘Mushi to Uta’, ‘25-Hour Vacation’ or ‘Houseki no kuni’. That is when I figured that if I wanted to draw something properly I needed a fixed date and a target, so I applied for the Afternoon Four Seasons Award and won. That was ‘Mushi to Uta’.
Wow! Things went so fast between the moment you decided to become a manga artist and making your debut!
I: I would say I was lucky. The pleasure of drawing manga gives shape to my ideas. Sometimes when I draw I even think ‘Ooh, so that’s how it goes!’. I never get tired of that feeling.
Were there other occupations you were interested in besides becoming a manga artist?
I: At some point I wanted to become an industrial designer.
Perhaps a part of that dream has been fulfilled through manga. The interiors you draw are extremely beautiful!
I want to draw manga that exudes sensuality
You studied fine arts in university. What was your major? Does it help you when drawing manga?
I: I enrolled in a seminar researching graphic design. It was a strange place, with everyone basically doing their own thing. Practically we didn’t do anything special, but I am glad I made many special friends under teachers I respected.
How do you create your original stories?
I: I try to see if a certain idea can become a full fledged story, then halfway through I expand on the things I find interesting and the whole story gets pulled in that new direction. Something along these lines.
What do you do in order to get new ideas?
I: Nothing in particular. I get many of my ideas during walks, on trips or when I watch the news on TV.
Do you have any favourite books or movies?
I: After reading Kafka’s works I was surprised to find out they were based on personal experiences. I loved ‘The Trial’ in particular. I learnt about aesthetic aspects from Shibusawa Tatsuhiko’s work. I love ‘Star Wars’, ‘Robocop’ and movies directed by Edgar Wright. ‘Ender’s Game’ was one of the more interesting movies I’ve seen recently.
Were you influenced by any manga artists?
I think the worlds you create exude that inorganic but somehow sensual atmosphere.
I: Thank you. I pay a lot of attention to that sensuality when I draw manga.
Is there something you would like to do now if you had the time?
I: I guess I would like to make labels for my mineral collection and then put it in order.
Ah, you are quite serious about collecting them. Speaking of which, do you wear gemstone jewellery?
I: Unfortunately I am allergic to accessories. I can only wear wristwatches.
Have you thought of a plot for a future manga?
I: Hmm, well, I am really busy now, so I haven’t even had time to think about something like that, but I have been interested in blood vessels lately.
Blood vessels?! That sounds…it is really unexpected for a manga subject, but I would love to read it! Now, if you would please leave a message for our readers.
I: I felt so grateful when Houseki no kuni received the tenth place in ‘Kono manga ga sugoi! 2014’ Men’s ranking even though it had just started serialisation. Thank you very much!