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Conversation with Hiro Mashima at NYAF 2011

Known to American readers as the creator for Rave Master and Fairy Tail, Anime Diet gets the opportunity to interview this Japanese mangaka at New York Anime Festival. Hiro Mashima made time in his busy schedule to be a guest at this year’s Festival. Through the helpful assistance of an interpreter, here’s an 18 minute conversation in an edited transcript. The questions with an asterisk is what I was able to ask Mashima-sensei.

Have you been to the states before?

A few times, San Diego Comic Con, and a few private times.

How do you like it here, and how has it been with the fan’s reactions?

New York fans are very passionate.

What were your influences and what led you to become a mangaka?

Miyazaki Hayao and Toriyama Akira, I am huge fans of both. In particular to Toriyama with Dragon Ball, when I was little, I use to trace and copy their work. Gradually as I did this, I realized I wanted to go pro, so I brought my work to the publishers.

What was your first published work?

Rave Master.

* You’re well known to American readers for your adventure titles, however is there a particular genre that you would like to try in the future?

Love story.

* What is your favorite type of pasta?

Meat sauce. I had it for lunch today.

*If you get the chance, please check out Eataly on 23rd and 5th as a Pasta Heaven.

How much research goes into your current work?

I don’t do a lot of research even though it is on a guild, there’s not a lot I know about European culture. I find that it is better to not know. It is similar to how an American can depict a ninja and there’s a lot more freedom involved that depends on your imagination rather than on prior knowledge.

Would you say that with your new series, you borrow a lot from Asian or Japanese mythology to write about?

Of course, definitely.

With the rise in popularity in the genre of magic and fantasy as an enjoyment for adults, not just for kids, what is your opinion on why Magic has been a genre of interest?

Because it is full of dreams and everyone wishes they can have magic abilities.

What is Plue?

A dog. (laughs)

* In the past you’ve included people that you’ve met in your work, such as Dallas Middaugh and Jason Thompson in Fairy Tail. Would you keep in contact with them, and what made them potential candidates to be drawn?

Dallas is over there, so I do keep in touch with him. (Dallas Middaugh is currently the Publishing Services Director at Random House). I hope to see Jason again, but apparently he is not here.

Dallas had come in the room at this point, and he mentions that he is very happy to see Mashima-sensei, because he’s came back to the States again.

Mashima: He has such a face that is made for manga.

Dallas: It was a tremendous honor to find myself included in a manga. I have been in the industry for 11 years now, so it is a crowning achievement to be included like that.

Mashima: It’s a very small role.

Dallas: But I’ve enjoyed it very much.

So if you find people that would be inspirational, then you would include them in your work?

Definitely. Do you want to be included? (laughs)

What do you hope readers get out of your work? Is there any major themes that you write of in your work?

For Fairy Tail, bond is the biggest theme. The bond between people and the bond between friendships. There are several ways bond is depicted, but this is the driving force in Fairy Tail. I call it a guild, but I would call it a family.

Who is your most complex character? Is there a particular character you like to work with?

I can’t say a lot about this yet, but in volume 24 of Fairy Tail, there is a complex character who will hold the key to the entire story. He’s possibly the most complex character I have drawn.

How far do you plan ahead for your story? Is there an ending for Fairy Tail?

No not at all. Of course there’s a cliff hanger for every episode, but I don’t know what would be happening next.

What is your work schedule like? How long does it take for a chapter of Fairy Tail to be done from start to finish? How many assistants do you have?

I work on a weekly basic, so a week to finish a story. I begin with a meeting first, where the main storyboards for the chapter are discussed over a three day period. I work with five assistants.

* In the work schedule of being a mangaka, what is the most challenging part?

Finding instead of what I want to be depicted, what does the reader what to see is challenging.

Since American and Japanese culture are so different. Do you get worried sometimes on if an idea is misunderstood by the American audience?

I am quite aware of cultural differences, so my intention is to always draw for an international audience. I tend to avoid linguistic Japanese jokes and tend to prefer jokes that cater to an international audience.

Do you have any favorite American show or books you like to read?

I love television dramas like 24 and LOST.

* Do you have influence with how the animation progresses?

It is a case by case process for every mangaka. There are some anime that would not have any influence at all. For me, in Japan with the animation team, I have a balanced harmonious relationship. I can definitely say that when the speech is wrong, I can point it out.

* In regards to the plot of volume 14, which character would have been your choosing for being crowned Miss. Fairy Tail?

Actually in Japan when the chapters were being published, I asked readers to poll who would be their choice. So a ranking was conducted. Juvia was third. Lucy was two, and the winner was Erza.

NYAF Anime Blogger Roundtable

Things were rather hectic at the New York Anime Festival, but bloggers of all stripes made time for an important, self-referential summit.

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NarutakiRT served as MC, while representatives from About.com, Comics Worth Reading, Anime Vice, Anime Almanac, Ani-Gamers, Colony Drop, The Gaming Dungeon, Ogiuemaniax, Reverse Thieves, and Anime wa Bakuhatsu da! held forth. Ed from Vertical also showed up to inject an industry-side perspective.

AKB48 in NYC: Idolmaster Cosplay

Steam rose off the city streets as we partook of a Takoyaki stand a few blocks away from Webster Hall.

“It was a lot like Idolmaster,” fellow anime journalist Omo noted, drawing a parallel to the infamous Japanese game.

“Idolmaster cosplay,” I shot back.

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AKB48, an Akihabara-based idol group, had their US debut at Webster Hall following the New York Anime Festival. While initial enthusiasm for their preview performance was great, the Sunday evening show time coupled with the location – across the city from the convention – thinned the crowd of con attendees considerably. Not to be deterred, AKB48 had cleverly rallied a separate fan base of non-conventiongoers, and a large throng of overwhelmingly middle-aged men clutched email printouts rather than tickets in line.

Continue reading AKB48 in NYC: Idolmaster Cosplay

New York Anime Festival 2009, Day 0: Cake

The Dave and Buster’s was crowded. Black-attired waitstaff in crisp uniforms nodded professionally at me as I entered, pointing me up to the third floor when I inquired about the event hosted there.

The cake-cutting katana. Photography by Linda Yau.

It was hard to miss – a frothing mass of humanity bumped and jostled at the far end of the room, packed in tight. I could not see the object of their focus, but this had to be it. As I made my way across the room, I gradually discerned that there were at least three different types of people here – businessmen in suits with refined drinks, a casually dressed faction, and a surprisingly large number of fashionably-attired teens.

Continue reading New York Anime Festival 2009, Day 0: Cake

Gundam Creator Tomino @ NYAF

Mobile Suit Gundam celebrated its 30th anniversary this year, and creator Yoshiyuki Tomino (富野 由悠季) was the guest of honor at New York Anime Festival.  Anime Diet recorded his keynote address.

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(Edit, 9-30, 10:13 AM: the progress bar and time are now working. Plus, the video is watermarked, for the convenience of all the video thieves out there.)

Tomino was very dignified throughout his appearance at the convention.  In keeping with his professional demeanor, he made a great effort to be polite.  Even when asked directly, he refused to say anything bad about his experiences working with Osamu Tezuka, creator of Astro Boy (鉄腕アトム). It has been widely observed that in the early days, Tezuka’s budget was tight and his deadlines were brutal, which many have speculated may have led to a hostile working environment.  During the Q&A session following his speech, Tomino suggested that anime creation in general creates friction, noting, “If working together with others was easy, I would have produced thirty more works like Gundam.”

Tomino signing a sketch of the R78 Gundam. Photography by Eric M Chu.
Tomino signing a sketch of the R78 Gundam. Photography by Eric M Chu.

In person at his autograph signing, Tomino was charming and playful, joking with fans, posing for pictures, and drawing smiley faces alongside his autographs.  However, his patience was tried by a poor translator, who was unable to keep up with him despite stopping him a few times to request clarifications.  A bit of checking revealed that the translator used for Tomino had prior experience in translation, but almost none in live translation.  The translator apparently wanted the honor of handling the keynote address, and Tomino assented, a decision that he later regretted.  At just over nine minutes into his speech, Tomino’s staff issued a statement that “a proper translation will be available later,” causing a strong reaction from the frustrated audience.

To be fair, Tomino’s discussion became very complex.  I was not able to follow it all myself.  Essentially, his rhetoric went along the lines of, “A picture may be beautiful, but that alone does not make cinema.  A story may be excellent, but it alone does not make cinema.  What is it, then, that elevates work to the level of cinema?  It is only through the synthesis of disparate elements from different creators that cinema is produced.”

It was an attempt by one of Japan’s finest creative minds to give a deep discussion of art, and I truly appreciated being in the presence of a genius willing to share a glimpse of how he viewed his work.

Tomino posing.  Photography by Eric M Chu.
Tomino posing for us. Photography by Eric M Chu.

New York Anime Festival 2009 Day 1

NYAF Video, Day 1:

Moritheil‘s liveblog of the New York Anime Festival, Day 0:

  • 11:44 Attention New Yorkers: Moritheil walks among you. #nyaf #
  • 12:19 @misuzulive Wow, how far are you driving to come to #NYAF? (Cars. NYC. Brave soul!) #
  • 12:22 Tonight we dine in . . . Hell’s Kitchen? #nyaf #
  • 12:55 Darnit, people in the hotel lobby are talking about plans to meeet with @animevice and I can’t place them! Who are youuuu #nyaf #
  • 13:40 @s0nified hahaha, where precisely are you? #nyaf right? #
  • 13:41 @hisuiRT I’m sure they were going to! One of them nodded at me and I smiled back but they didn’t say anything. Awkward otaku silence! #
  • 13:42 @narutakiRT I’m a little shaky on the chronology involved. Are you going to the preparty as well, or just the movie? #
  • 13:46 @animemiz Let me know if you’re about :) #
  • 13:47 @omonomono So, we meet again! :P #
  • 13:48 @s0nified This just goes to show – no place is safe! :P #
  • 13:48 Ni-pah, Yaan, Au, Fuwa-Fuwa (#NYAF) digg.com/u1D3It #
  • 13:55 Nobody draw! RT @petertatara: 40,000 officers on the street because of the UN. I’m running an event filled with kids with swords. #nyaf #
  • 13:57 @AA_TheHaisho That’s the spirit! :P #
  • 14:04 @VamptVo Hey, are you in town today? Going to the preparty or anything? Doing dinner? :D #
  • 14:07 @VamptVo Understandable. I’ll see you tomorrow, then, probably :) #
  • 14:21 @narutakiRT I see. I’m going to the party; I’ll see how tired I am after and decide if I can stay awake for the movie :) #
  • 14:33 @omonomono Cool. I’ll look for you when I get there. #
  • 14:49 I’m wearing jeans and a shirt with rainbow afterimages. You can talk to me. Really. #nyaf #
  • 15:05 Guy in a suit just started chatting me up. nothing to do w/anime. I’m too approachable! #
  • 16:08 delicious cake is delicious. #nyaf #
  • 16:13 w/ @omonomono, @animemiz, @kransomwastaken. #
  • 17:37 Rapid search for Yui Makino merch: failed. Trying the dealer room tomorrow. #nyaf #
  • 17:39 Fabled NY bookstores, you have let me down. #

Moritheil‘s liveblog of the New York Anime Festival, Day 1:

  • 05:49 #NYAF weather: 63 F now, 41 F tonight. Can you believe that?! #
  • 05:54 I heard 6 AM. RT @OutOfTimeProd: The #NYAF autograph ticket line for Yoshiyuki Tomino begun at 7am, maybe earlier. Signing is at 7pm. #
  • 06:01 #NYAF #followfriday @princetrunks @ronaldhennessy @petertatara @jlhls @omonomono @debaoki @vamptvo @s0nified @hisuiRT @narutakiRT @PatzPrime #
  • 06:14 Bandai’s PR guy is staying at the same hotel as me. Huh. #nyaf #
  • 08:44 You will know me by my tachikoma shirt! #
  • 08:45 Hanging out w/ @sbrblurb. Come say hi! #
  • 09:02 Number of compliments on my @jlist shirt: 3 #nyaf #
  • 09:04 Cosplayers! Come forth! My camera is ready! #nyaf #
  • 09:22 Just met @Yuricon, who dropped tantalizing hints about the next Yuricon. #
  • 09:25 Note @sbrblurb is wearing a pedobear getup. It’s easy to spot us! #nyaf #
  • 09:56 Had a hilarious conversation with @animealmanac about the finer points of bathroom photography. #nyaf #
  • 09:57 Dealer’s room is setting up. Took video but can’t get in yet. #nyaf #
  • 11:00 Just saw an MTV agent try to recruit some cosplay girls. #nyaf #
  • 11:29 Shook hands with @mpinto prior to his panel. Ganbatte! #nyaf #
  • 11:31 #nyaf @animevice arrived fashionably late – just on time for her own panel. #
  • 11:33 Correction: that fine gentleman is @michaelpinto. Ganbatte! #nyaf #
  • 12:45 Interesting advice from @animevice. Now for Tokyopop. #nyaf #
  • 12:47 @debaoki I’ve heard good things about Chorus. :) #
  • 13:03 @edsizemore whoops, just saw your tweet. I guess you know what I look like now :) #
  • 13:05 OK, why are we at #nyaf looking at clips from SDCC? Is this a metajoke, Tokyopop? #
  • 13:06 www.Tokyopop.com/ramenflavor #nyaf #
  • 13:11 Haha, 1 out of 50 ppl recognized the Joss Wheadon film Tokyopop is adapting to manga. #nyaf #
  • 13:18 Nice catch by @debaoki as to who published what manga. #
  • 13:20 “Not just boobs, MILK coming out of boobs!” Oh, Tokyopop. #nyaf #
  • 13:37 Audience member just called out Tokyopop on declining amounts of Japanese content. #
  • 13:42 Hey neat, I won a shirt. Full disclosure! #
  • 13:44 Tokyopop is now 20% non-Japanese content. #nyaf #
  • 14:17 In the giant blogger katamari ball by Tomino. #nyaf #
  • 14:23 Tomino moved to bigger room; line chaos ensues. #nyaf #
  • 14:25 Tomino has struck a victory pose. The crowd is roaring in approval. #nyaf #
  • 15:19 Tomino conducted himself with great dignity and gave a high-level speech. #nyaf #
  • 17:07 Tomino is the man. Nodded in approval, posed for a photo. #nyaf #
  • 17:09 #nyaf Met the @hinano / @jpmeyer gattai. w/ @vamptvo and 17 other bloggers for Cencoroll. #
  • 17:14 Too many bloggers to list them all. @wildarmsheero rocking the Strike Witches gear. @starcreator w/@wootshirt. #nyaf #
  • 18:46 Cencoroll was very neat. Very condensed. #nyaf #
  • 18:51 @mightyatom That WAS you! I wasn’t sure. #
  • 20:52 @mightyatom I was with a ton of bloggers outside Cencoroll, and I was like – that hair! It’s her! I yelled at you but you didn’t respond :/ #
  • 20:54 @mightyatom Then I thought, “Maybe I just didn’t get a good look; it could have been someone else.” You were moving pretty quickly. #
  • 22:49 #NYAF 2009 Karaoke Showdown! digg.com/u1D8JX #
  • 22:58 @mightyatom Holy crap, you missed Tomino? Well, I have some HD video for you. #

Ni-pah, Yaan, Au, Fuwa-Fuwa (NYAF)

Anime Diet East will be spreading its banner and once again making the sacred pilgrimage to New York for the New York Anime Festival. Oddly enough, the only set items on the schedule are the Del Ray pre-party, the Yui Makino concert, and a certain karaoke gathering for those of exceptionally refined taste and articulation.

Not a recommended way to travel.
Not a recommended way to travel.

Liveblogging will occur via Twitter.  Expect incriminating photos.

NYAF Video Diary – Day 1

(If the video isn’t available yet, please wait a few minutes for it to go up. Youtube is still processing it as of this time.)

Here’s day 1 of our New York Anime Festival video diary! This one includes a few clips from the Funimation panel, some of the stranger and more interesting sights in the dealer room and the hallway, and of course 4 interviews with fans.

This is but a prelude, however, to the footage from Days 2 and 3–coming as soon as tonight. We’ve got exclusive Rie Tanaka footage, the Anime Blogger panel, and other exclusives which helped to make this, footagewise, one of the best cons we’ve attended. Stay tuned!