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?
* 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?
* 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.