Interview with Editor of Samurai 8, Hikaru Taguchi

Four and half years after the conclusion of “NARUTO”, the silence has been broken once again with the start of a new series, “Samurai 8: The Tale of Hachimaru” (hereinafter “Samurai 8”). A delicate fusion of Japanese and SF elements collide to create a unique samurai aesthetic, woven by the combination of Masashi Kishimoto and Akira Okubo. This time, we talked with Mr. Taguchi, the editor who is supporting the two creators.


                                                    【Leading up to the launch of “Samurai 8″】

Team JUMP: Please tell us about the process leading up to the serialization of “Samurai 8”.

Taguchi: Around the end of “NARUTO”, Kishimoto-sensei was starting to think about what to do next, and how he would execute it. At that point, he noticed that the art of Okubo-sensei, who had been an assistant on NARUTO, was very good and he told him half-jokingly that they should work together on his next project. Then two or three years ago, during the serialization of BORUTO, they started planning the project seriously.

Team JUMP: So the characters and settings were already decided from the start of the project?

Taguchi: That’s right. Various ideas went around in Kishimoto-sensei’s head, but he was decided on making a story about samurai. From there he started considering all sorts of ideas such as what kind of characters would catch on in this day and age, or if he should intentionally try going in a different direction.

Team JUMP: There are both Japanese and science fiction elements in this title. How did you attempt to harmonize the two concepts?

Taguchi: If it were strictly a science fiction theme, it would’ve become a heavy read. That’s why we chose to incorporate the samurai concept as well, to make the work more accessible to readers. Furthermore, Kishimoto-sensei intended to mingle the Japanese and SF elements using Okubo-sensei’s soft and approachable style, rather than going for a busier cyberpunk look.

Team JUMP: Was there any specific reason for choosing SF as the theme?

Taguchi: Nowadays, with CG technology being as sophisticated as it is, you can enjoy as much SF content as you’d like outside of manga. That’s why we wanted to make SF expression in manga an important consideration. We need to have some titles that weave the story on a very large scale, otherwise, the manga industry itself will start to shrink in importance. However, there are not many newcomers who can take on the genre of SF. That’s why I would like to see great mangaka like Kishimoto-sensei face a challenge like this head-on. Kishimoto-sensei himself was also amazed by the scale of the story in SF works such as Star Wars, Star Trek, and Ghost in the Shell during his childhood. If we only created stories that play out in a small town, we would be limiting the scale of the manga. We chose SF in order to create a large-scale story that would excite audiences.

Team JUMP: For weekly series, SF is a difficult theme to deal with, isn’t it?

Taguchi: Since we use a lot of technical terms, it tends to become difficult to understand for readers. SF has various difficulty levels. It’s easier to understand if the story is based on the real world while featuring otherworldly characters. But in this work, the culture and the historical background are completely different, and the story develops on the stage of the universe. Moreover, cyborg samurai are quite different from the typical samurai, and these jumps of imagination make the content rather risky. I believe that this is Kishimoto-sensei’s challenge to himself, creating something very different from NARUTO, in a difficult genre. I think he has a desire to show everyone in Japan and around the world something huge in scale.

Team JUMP: So he is determined.

Taguchi: He dared to take on something difficult and step up to the challenge. To tell the truth, it would be much easier for him to draw an easy to understand setting such as in NARUTO, but that wouldn’t be a challenge for him.

                                                  【From conceptualization to serialization, to now】

Team JUMP: How do Kishimoto-sensei and Okubo-sensei communicate while creating the title?

Taguchi: Since they’ve been working together for 17-18 years, their communication is generally smooth. However, because they both have a strong attachment to their drawings, they each pay special attention to fine details, saying things like “Can I add some more letter designs here?” I think many discussions take place beyond the eye of the editor. Even when they are creating a final draft, they still go back and forth on how to draw things. They both have very strong preferences when it comes to illustrating manga.

Team JUMP: Do they communicate with each other about the fine details of various machines and other settings in the work?

Taguchi: I believe they cooperate with each other when considering the design and settings. I often hear them saying things like “Why don’t we change the design of this a bit?” They also put a lot of thought into the designs to make them appealing to children as well.

Team JUMP: Was this work put together with any particular thought or emotion in mind?

Taguchi: Kishimoto-sensei considers “Samurai 8” to be a fresh new challenge. In the first chapter, he draws a sickly young boy, and then in the second and third chapters, he illustrates the story of a genderless child. It’s hard to explain but he is challenging himself to express something that’s meaningful in this era.

Team JUMP: Are there any particular points we should be paying attention to in this work?

Taguchi: At the root of his work, he wants the readers to be excited and experience the thrill. The design of the cyborgs that appear, armor that emphasizes Japanese elements, and other depictions such as animal companions that transform with a clatter and merge together are all used to serve that purpose. Surprisingly there’s a lack of these kinds of gadgets in titles today. It would be no different than other manga if the samurai just put on armor themselves. I hope the readers get a thrill out of all the Japanese elements and gadgets incorporated in Okubo-sensei’s designs.

                                                                        【Additional Topics】

Team JUMP: Please tell us about your ambitions for media comic development.

Taguchi: With a name as big as his, it’s an extremely rare for Masashi Kishimoto to be doing a serialization. It isn’t common for mangaka like him, who have already sold 250 million copies worldwide, to still be active in the scene. It might be tactless of me to say so but I think this is a valuable opportunity, a touchstone for us. It’s weird to say, but he can do whatever he wants. If he were a novice, getting an anime adaption itself would be significantly difficult. But Kishimoto-sensei is a person who excites these industries just by putting out a serialization, and so I think it would be nice to go on and do various projects with him that would be hard to with others. For example, the promotional video we released in last year’s Jump Festa 2019. If that was about some novice’s work, it would hardly have gotten noticed, but that video has reached 820,000 views worldwide. He makes such big waves in the industry, so I’m always telling him to do whatever we can. When proposing some projects to such a huge name, everyone hesitantly comes up to him and sheepishly says “what do you think of this?” – that’s not what I do. I say: “This plan looks good. Let’s do it!” – I push through my idea. I think it’s a great thing we’re doing media development differently to others, locally and abroad at the same time. You know, world simultaneous WEB delivery of comics and such. Anyway, the whole world is waiting for his next development. So, I’ll be heading forwards and persuading anyone I have to.

Promotional video from Jump Festa 2019

Team JUMP: By that you mean that you want to develop media while looking overseas as well as domestically.

Taguchi: Well, if we could take Okubo-sensei’s illustrations mixed with that same warmth and fun and go and push it out on all fronts, that would be great, but our talks haven’t progressed to that point, so I can’t really say anything specifically for now. Thinking about it, actually, this interview is also a bit too early for us. (laughs)

Team JUMP: Everyone (laughs)

Team JUMP: Will “Samurai 8” be an important title for “Weekly Shonen Jump” as a whole?

Taguchi: I think “Samurai 8” is like the spark of an explosion. “Jump” is a magazine that is competing for manga artists to survive. From the viewpoint of a novice, just the idea of having Masashi Kishimoto in the space is different in terms of motivation.
It’s the same as Eiichiro Oda-sensei (ONE PIECE) and Riichiro Inagaki-sensei (Dr. STONE), who have been competing with each other for a long time, having such big names in existing in the same magazine pages raises tensions. Above all that, Okubo-sensei’s illustration is nothing less than astounding. Any mangaka who is doing a new serialization at the same time is probably like “please stop! I do not want my illustration to be compared with Okubo-sensei’s!” (laughs) Even simply the amount of information present in the background by Okubo-sensei is amazing. I think those same mangaka are gonna be like, “I’m giving up. My backgrounds cannot be compared to theirs!” – I believe it is a good thing for novices to feel this strong sense of pressure from these big names and think that they have to try harder. Going back to the work, I think it’s a work consciously made with the intent of taking advantage of the ability that is being able to utilize various plans and doing things that only veterans are able to do.

                                                                【The role of the editor】

Team JUMP: What is important in establishing a relationship between editor and mangaka?

Taguchi: I’m still young and need to learn more myself but I think being straightforward is important. For example, with new talent, I can be frank with them from the beginning. I can talk candidly say things like “You have to keep plugging away more seriously. You’re pampered by everyone right now because you’re young, but after 4-5 years you won’t be young in this industry!” However, it’s difficult, to be frank with a mangaka who has completed a large series and has earned a reputation. The editor tends to step back somewhat. But honestly, the mangaka is also aware of this and are probably thinking “These guys are lying” in their minds. Of course, there are different ways of thinking and it depends on the person, but some people sugarcoat their true feelings and just flatter the mangaka. I’m not one of them. I speak plainly and talk to them about anything. It might be rude, but I often explain my intentions upfront at meetings before sharing my opinions.

Team JUMP: So your saying trust is important, aren’t you?

Taguchi: That’s right. It is important for them to know I’m not lying. I try to consider their deadlines and circumstances and let them know important information beforehand.

Team JUMP: What kind of work Samurai 8 is to you?

Taguchi: It’s a bomb. Well, the protagonist’s sword literally explodes, but other than that I want the work to be something unconventional. I am open to pretty much anything. At the start of a new series, even a veteran mangaka becomes cautious, interestingly. But I have a gut feeling that Masashi Kishimoto is the type of mangaka who can create extraordinary work every time. When I was just a reader of NARUTO, I remembered my shock as Madara dropped a huge meteorite to earth. Be that was not the end. He mumbled “what will I do with the second one…”, and dropped the second meteorite on the first one. The biggest appeal of Kishimoto-sensei is his confidence to do what he wants without hesitation. Where other people would hesitate, he’s the type that goes straight ahead. I want him to go full throttle with “Samurai 8” as well. I would like him to stimulate the industry, rather than staying quiet. I really want him to use his many talents to set off an explosion in the industry.

                                                                 【Personal questions】

Team JUMP: What are you into recently?

Taguchi: I am addicted to “Super Sento” bathhouses. Humans are suckers for being pampered… I started out just going to the sauna, but before I knew it I was a gold member. Then indoor saunas alone weren’t enough, and I started to go to a 24-hour bathhouse. Now I recharge with outdoor baths and meals. I’m starting to feel like an old man (laughs).


You can read the Samurai 8 manga on MangaPlus by Shueisha.

NoxDRaz

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