Interview: Makoto Raiku

by Chih-Chieh Chang,
Makoto Raiku, the author of Konjiki no Gash Bell (also known as “Zatch Bell!” in North America), was invited by Ching Win Publishing (Gash Bell's manga licensor) and Muse (anime licensor) to attend a special premiere of Konjiki no Gash Bell: 101 Banme no Mamono, the first theatrical movie of the Gash Bell seires, followed by a meeting with his fans and a press conference. Raiku-sensei's event was started 30 minutes earlier than the published schedule; he wanted to have a longer break after the press conference. Thus I was unable to take any pictures, aside from the ones I took during the press conference.

Makoto Raiku (R): Da Jia Hao (in Chinese)! I'm Makoto Raiku. Thanks for your assistance.

Q: Right after sensei stepped off the plane you rushed to the special premiere of Konjiki no Gash Bell: 101 Banme no Mamono. Please tell us your first impression of Taiwan.

R: I'm really happy to meet my fans in Taiwan for the first time.

Q: How do you feel about the rising popularity of Gash Bell?

R: All I could say is that I'm very happy and grateful. It's my biggest wish to see more children reading and loving the series.

Q: Why does Gash have two vertical lines below his eyes? What's the function of those lines? And I think Raiku-sensei looks a bit like Gash (laugh).

(Marked with red arrows)

R: To tell Gash apart from regular, normal children, I just drew two vertical lines under his eyes. I didn't think too much about why. Thanks for telling me that I look like him (laugh).

Q: I watched the movie yesterday. In the end Wiseman (the arch-enemy of Gash and friends) was not defeated by (Gash's) combined magic, but because his own magic can't absorb the runic chants. Seems to me that it represented the enemy was not defeated by force but with heart instead. Is this the message sensei wants to tell your audience?

R: It was not trying to demonstrate how powerful Gash was; instead, the virtue of cooperation and their willingness to protect their friends not to be harmed anymore were what I wanted to present.

Q: In less than two years of serialization (started in January 2001) Gash Bell has won the honor of Shogakukan's best children's manga (December 2003). Please tell us how you felt when you received the news, as well as how the prize affects you and your creation.

R: Still, I felt joyful, grateful, and highly motivated. Meanwhile it's an honor that my parents felt proud of. After earning the prize I can't draw stuff haphazardly anymore (laugh).

Q: Why did sensei choose the combination of magic books and demon kids?

R: In the beginning the pairs were simply between a human being and a demon kid. However, having the combination of just a human and a kid-looking creature seemed incomplete and even a bit boring, so I discussed with my editor and we added magic books for demon kids to use their magic with, making the story more interesting.

Q: The title of this movie is Konjiki no Gash Bell: 101 Banme no Mamono. Could there be the #102 Mamono (magical creature/monster) in the next movie?

R: I'm sorry, there will be no #102 (laugh). In fact I didn't expect myself to create so many different creatures; the following movies will not contain new creatures from the magic realm.

Q: Then what kind of a story will it be?

R: There will be more demonic features coming from the future time (sic).

Q: There are a total of 100 demon kids in Gash Bell. Did your inspiration ever dry up while creating so many creatures? What would you do to keep yourself motivated? What kind of references have you relied when creating them?

R: Recreations like reading novels, playing games, and interacting with other people etc. all can provide me with ideas for character designs. When I have hard time creating a new character, I'd just keep it in mind (that I have a character needed to be created) when taking a bath, at the dining table, taking a walk, and the idea might come in at any moment. The major reference of demon kids are actually modeled after movements of human kids I observed (laugh).

Q: You mentioned playing video games in your spare time. Which game(s) do you play and what's your favorite?

R: My favorites are Dragon Quest and Final Fantasy. However, those long RPG are not designed to be stopped or terminated at any given moment, and due to my current serialization I can't play them too often, so right now I play Doubutsu no Mori (Animal Crossing), which can be started and stopped at any moment.

Q: Aya Ueto performed (ending) theme songs of both TV series and the movie. Is she sensei's personal favorite?

R: It was Shogakukan who invited Miss Ueto to perform the theme songs. I was very happy seeing cute Miss Ueto singing the theme songs for Gash Bell anime, yet I haven't met her in person.

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