New York Comic Con has presented us with a number of thrilling opportunities – particularly when it comes to the interviews we lined up for the weekend. Our first major interview was with Mr. Harold Sakuishi – best known for creating the long-running and extremely well known manga series Beck. The series, which ran from 1999-2008, focused on a group of Japanese teens who formed a rock band.
Now, 10 years after the series’ conclusion, Harold Sakuishi continues to create stories that he hopes resonate with his fans. Read on as he discusses the importance of a strong ending, concerns surrounding the present trends in the manga industry and more!
Thanks so much for joining us today, I really appreciate you taking the time.
Thank you, I feel honored.
I’m going to start things off with a slightly…different question: you’ve previously stated in interviews that you’re a fan of Ashita no Joe. Did you get a chance to watch Megalobox this last year? What were your thoughts?
I haven’t watched the anime yet, but there is a manga version of it that my assistant worked on.
I take it that you enjoyed the series then, because your assistant worked on it? *laughs*
I haven’t fully watched the anime yet, so I’m not knowledgable enough on it [to share my thoughts].
Well I can tell you – it’s very good!
It will be the first thing I watch when I get home! *laughs*
So far I’ve had an opportunity to interview a handful of creators, who all have their own thoughts on the kind of content they create for their fans. What’s your philosophy when it comes to creating new stories?
What a serious, and highly complicated question! *laughs* Ultimately speaking, I want all of my manga to be very meaningful to someone else’s life. There are people who say “That was pretty good”, and then toss [a series] to the side…but I want to make a manga that isn’t just discarded after you read through it once. I want to make something that you hang on to in your life.
Something with a lasting impact.
Right. I myself have had the experience of reading a manga that really impacted me in terms of how I think and live my life.
What is a series like that, that you’ve read?
There’s an artist known as Makoto Kobayashi, you might not know of him in the States, but he’s a very famous artist in Japan. His manga is great, and he’s also a great person to meet face-to-face. I always feel like I’m trailing behind him, following his back.
When you look at the manga industry in Japan, what are things that are going well, and what do you think needs to change for the medium to evolve and grow?
A very serious question, again! *laughs*
I think that now, in the age of the internet, it’s great that whatever you want [in terms of information], you have access to at the tip of your fingers. At the same time, some series require even deeper research than what a regular internet search can find. For example, when I’m working on Shakespeare, I have to make sure that what I’m writing is historically accurate. Therefore, when I go into research, I take the process very seriously, even though the information is more easily accessible.
The things that I question about manga nowadays is that it’s really long. Series are very long. I think that the end of manga and how it concludes is just as important as the whole story. Maybe that’s something that we have to change in the tradition of manga…
It’s like they’re almost afraid for it to end…
The Beck manga ended 10 years ago this year – what would you say were some or the biggest lessons you took away from producing the long-running series? Did it change your process or approach to Seven Shakespeares?
Such a very serious question!! *laughs*
No, I think it’s great. *laughs*
In my mind, when I compare Beck and Seven Shakespeare, I try to focus on writing the internal quest and emotions within an individual character. The internal changes of someone. In terms of Beck, when it started – from the debut to the breakthrough – it was a trial and error phase of my manga career.
You know people say there’s “Right Brain” and “Left Brain” – the creative power that comes from both sides balanced each other and came together finally after working on Beck.
Usually when you ask a manga creator “If you had a chance to go back and change how you wrote your story, would you?” They say “No no, I’d leave it just the way it is.” Are you saying that since you realize the early chapters of Beck were in a “trial and error” phase, you would go back and change them if you could?
I have absolutely no regrets of working on Beck.
He would leave it the same?
Yes. The story concluded well.
And the ending is just as important as the beginning…
So serious! *laughs and nods*
The internet culture has grown tremendously in the decade since Beck finished. What do you think of these new mediums through which artists can create and share those creations?
Because I’m “old school”, I haven’t fully figured out what’s current when it comes to internet culture. I try to keep my radar open to it and learn new things. I think the medium can change the way that manga is formatted, as well as how audiences will experience it going forward.
What about general advice that you give to young creators who come to you?
I cannot say anything that is too “preachy” to anyone. The one thing I could really say is that if you have something you’re truly passionate about, that becomes the essence and the fuel to make your own creation. The more you have those things that you’re passionate about, that will be reflected in your work.
Are you reading anything right now for fun?
I’ve really been into a manga called Beastars. All of the characters are animals. It’s a very unique series…
Who’s the artist?
Any final comments for your fans?
Nothing makes me happier than you reading my manga!
Nothing makes us happier than reading it!
I feel very honored. Thank you.
Many thanks to Mr. Sakuishi for taking the time to chat with me, as well as Kodansha USA for helping to orchestrate the sit-down at NYCC. You can read the entire Beck catalogue on Comixology now, as well as Seven Shakespeares.