DRAWN & QUARTERED
Here are some more comments made by "School Rumble" artist/writer Jin Kobayashi during a panel at the Kawaii Kon anime convention on April 14.
On how he got started in the manga industry:
"There's a lot of people who like to ... read manga, but not many can actually draw themselves. I put myself in a situation where I practiced drawing a lot, and this is how I started.
"Manga culture in Japan is very diversified. Little kids, guys read them even in through middle school and then on to high school. I used to exchange 'Shonen Jump' with some of my friends during high school and read the latest stuff that was popular back then.
"... And since a lot of people still read manga well on to their high schools, a lot of people were really good at ... trying to make similar drawings of what they saw in the manga. As I went to university, I joined a manga circle -- it's like a club for fans. There I decided that, 'Oh, hey, this is pretty cool to draw my own stuff,' so that's where I started to learn how to draw my own manga.
"I didn't really plan on becoming a manga artist from the start. I actually wanted to become an animator. And in order to become an animator, I needed to learn a lot of new tricks and new stuff that I didn't know about.
"So when I was in the manga circle in my freshman year, the people there would take me along to a doujinshi convention called Comic Market -- it's one of the largest doujinshi conventions in Japan. They would take me around to show me all these doujin circles with all of their amateur work, and that's how I found that there's a lot of things that I don't know about."
"When I went to a doujinshi convention ... in America, you think about amateur people who try to mimic the drawings of famous anime or manga. However, I wasn't really interested in that. I was much more shocked to see how many doujinshi there are, where doujinshi circles would draw their own ideas and make up their own art and would sell them at this convention, their own ideas. That's what really surprised me, and I fell in love with these amateur doujinshi artists. They left a very big impression on me since then. ...
"As I would hang around those circles and fan clubs, I started going to these more smaller doujin conventions under my own circle clubs. Not (as) big as Comic Market, more like 50 doujin circles. ... And as I appeared in there making my own stuff, I made a lot of new friends. I became acquainted with a lot of people. ...
"And the stuff that really was interesting was to learn about the amazing greatness of learning to make your own stuff. Like game programming -- personally, I had absolutely no experience in computer programming, so as I got to know a lot of these doujin game programmers, they taught me that it's not all about just manga, it's not all about just anime. There's a lot of things that people make on their own ... like games. And all these experiences just made me into -- one step closer to the person that I am."
"During my third year at my university, as I was going to all these doujin circle conventions and meeting interesting people, building up my own experiences, I realized that I really loved to draw. And by the fourth year when my graduation was looming ahead, I had to start looking for a career. I decided to become either an illustrator -- a person who draws illustrated inserts in light novels -- an animator or a manga artist.
"So what I did was I walked and brought my own illustrations to the big anime studios, game studios, hope they liked my design, and I took my work to some of the major publishers, see if they liked some of the mangas that I drew. So that's basically how I tried to motivate myself to start my own career."
"As I walked to different places, there was one publisher in this major publishing group called Kodansha -- one of their editors said, 'You know, your work is pretty nice. Why don't you put your artwork in a new artists' contest that we run each and every year?' I (thought), 'Yeah, that might work,' so I started to make my own original manga for this contest to see if I could win, to see where it could take me. Interesting fact is before this, I never really was focused on making my own manga that deeply, so when I heard about this contest, I started to take much more seriously what my own original ideas are."
"I tried to submit my own work for this new artists' contest, and this was the first time in my life that I made my own 30-page original manga. It was a really tough ordeal since I didn't know left from right. I had a lot of help from my doujinshi circles and my friends and my accomplices.
"And I submitted my work, and ... unfortunately while I did not win that contest, they gave me a great appraisal. What that means is (if) you didn't win (and) your work was really great, you were appraised. So people who were appraised ... there's a compilation magazine that comes out every time this contest is done, and people who got an appraisal got their manga published into the special volume of the magazine. As luck would have it, that happened to be how I started my debut work, and I guess people loved the appraisal work that was published in that manga, and here I am."
On the influence of the action-movie genre on "School Rumble":
"Out of all the movies, out of all the genres, I would say I love action movies very much. I don't know if 'Indiana Jones' could be called an action movie but I love 'Indiana Jones.' Other than that, I also love Jackie Chan movies. I grew up with them as a kid. ...
"And if you saw episode 2 of School Rumble, second season, you can tell that I really love military action sequences -- shoot-'em-up, get the stuff. One of my favorite military-type action shoot-em-up style movies that I really love is 'Desperado.'
"I also like to do mock survival games myself, so that's why I wanted to try to incorporate that into my manga."
On a possible ending for "School Rumble:
"I do have some vague idea of how it might end, but as I start, as I draw and make my own mark on 'School Rumble,' I get new ideas that call for this character, 'I can develop her even more,' and whatnot. So at this point, I really can't say that I really have a definite end right now."
On Kobayashi's favorite character other than Kenji Harima:
"I would have to say Takano Akira. I kind of fell in love with her -- it's my own drawing, but for some reason the voice actress for the anime that acted out her role was very funny, how she portrayed herself. (There are) a lot of mainly gag and comedic characters, but with that voice actress, it's really opened up a lot of ideas of where I can take Takano from."
(The following may spoil some plot details that have yet to be revealed in the translated American volumes.)
On the relationship between Mikoto Suo and Hiroyoshi Aso:
"To tell the truth, the editor who saw that pairing was like, 'What?' I guess he didn't like it, but I didn't think it was that all weird. I mean, it's like, nice looking guy and pretty, outgoing tomboyish girl seemed a very nice couple together. Nice looking guys and very energetic and great girls somehow end up in a relationship when you don't realize it."
On why Akira Takano has never been on the cover of the "School Rumble" manga:
"To give you guys a little info, she was supposed to be on the cover for volume 5 ... but when I looked at the preview for the volume 5 manga, it's like, 'Hmm, this manga is a little bit more centric to a story with Ichijo Karen.' So I went ahead and put Ichijo Karen on that volume.
"So I later decided on vol. 6, what are we gonna do? We going to do Takano on that one? But I said, 'Actually, (these covers have been) all girls. I want to draw a guy. ...' So that's why it became Harima then.
"And then I dragged them on, and then we're asked, 'Oh, hey, why has Takano never been on the cover of that manga?' (I replied) 'Ehh,' and the publisher and editor said, 'Oh, I don't have a problem. Do you mind?' 'Not really.' So she was left out.
"Funny thing is, the voice actress -- (Kaori) Shimizu -- for Takano is always bugging me: 'Why has Takano never been on the cover? What, do you hate her?' I said, 'No, not really.' But I kinda like fooling around with her. So just let it be, and she's never been on a cover yet, and probably won't. Volume 12 is going to be coming out, and no, Takano's not gonna be on that cover - (it's going to be) a much more minor character -- and the possible future of her coming out on the cover ... umm, much further and still unknown."
Jason S. Yadao, Star-Bulletin