Interview: Hiro Mashima

by Carlo Santos, Aug 17th 2008
He created an epic fantasy journey in Rave Master, and now he's exploring the possibilities of magic in Fairy Tail. Few manga-ka can make adventures come to life like Hiro Mashima, and at Comic-Con 2008, fans of his work got to meet him in person. Learn about his life, his career, and his artistic ideals in this one-on-one interview.



How do you like America so far?

I absolutely love it. I also like the fact that the roads are wide.

When you first heard that you would have an opportunity to meet American fans, what was your initial reaction?

I was thrilled. [in English] "Cool!"

Tell me a little bit about your childhood. Were you inspired to draw a lot while growing up?

When I was a kid, living in the mountains, my grandpa used to bring me discarded manga that he'd find lying around. He'd bring them back, and I would read them, and start drawing from them, so I've wanted to be a manga artist for as long as I could remember.

What was your favorite manga growing up?

Dragon Ball.

Would you say you were a fan of the manga from Shonen Jump?

When I was younger, yes.

Was there any other manga, anime, TV show, even a video game, that inspired you to become an artist?

Dragon Quest.

Did you take any specific lessons to become a manga-ka?

Right after high school, I went to a school that specialized in training for manga artists, but it didn't quite mesh with me. It taught me the basics, but I didn't think that it would apply to me as a pro, so I basically quit and then I taught myself.

As you were studying by yourself, what was the most important thing you learned?

Well, I wasn't necessarily studying formally, but watching a lot of movies, I learned about framing and angles.

Were there any particular movies that were a strong influence on you?

Braveheart ... Lord of the Rings.

Tell me about how you made your debut.

I created my own story first, and brought it to the attention of the editors, which led to entering a competition. And so that basically was how I first got published, and then after that, just bringing material to the editors, which led to serialization.

Looking back on it now, how have you changed since your debut work?

I think it's a little bit rough, but I also look at it and think, "Oh my God, this is so passionate!"

Do you feel you still have that passion today?

Certainly ... [in English] "Of course."

Your first major work was Rave Master. How did you get the inspiration to create that series?

Well ... I thought about how cool it would be to travel the world, so I kind of drew from that as my inspiration.

The current series you're working on is Fairy Tail; what was your inspiration to create that?

For Fairy Tail, my inspiration was basically just hanging out at a bar, partying with my friends ... that kind of atmosphere is what I wanted to capture.

I noticed that the bar of the Fairy Tail Guild is a prominent feature of the story. Would you say that's the center that everything else revolves around?

Yes, I think ... I really wanted my readers to enjoy that feeling of community, and the Guild is like the central link for all the characters in Fairy Tail. It's also about young people finding their calling, finding a job ...

Were there any ideas you got from Rave that influenced your ideas for Fairy Tail?

I guess the common link between Rave and Fairy Tail is definitely the development of the villains. You know, the hero takes them on as a challenge and justice prevails—but I also want readers to understand that villains aren't purely black and white; they have reasons for doing this, and that makes them complex to think about.

Do you feel that the hero characters in Fairy Tail have their own complexity, that they might have a dark side also?

Hmm ... those ideas might come out in later volumes.

What do you think about the prospects of Fairy Tail being adapted into an anime series?

[in English] "No comment." [laughs]

Or say, do you think it would be cool if there was a Fairy Tail video game? I would totally want to play it as a game.

Oh, so would I! I'd love to see Fairy Tail as a video game, but there haven't been any offers yet.

In the Fairy Tail series there is a lot of magic, lots of different kinds of magic. How do you decide on the physics or the rules of magic in the story?

Ever since I was a kid I've wanted to be a wizard, so I like to think about, "What kind of magic would be appropriate for this character?" and then I just go along with my imagination.

There are many other stories out there that also involve magic. How do you strive to make yours unique?

Well, let's take fire magic for example—instead of just shooting it out like, "BOOM! I'm gonna punch you with fire!"—I try to utilize magic in a unique fashion ... or even the different properties of the elements.

While working on Fairy Tail, do you think about what readers want to see, or are you motivated more by your own interest in what happens next in the story?

I try to consider both, but you know, the readers take precedence. I really like to think of the fans and see what they would like to see.

And do you get a chance to read your fan mail?

I read every single one.

Nice! Also, what do you think of fans who send in their own artwork of your characters?

They make me really happy. I even have my favorite fanart posted right by my desk.

Your characters are named after the seasons—Haru [spring] in Rave Master, Natsu [summer] in Fairy Tail, and Aki [fall] in your newest series—so what kind of character is Fuyu [winter] going to be?

Actually, I've already created Fuyu for a one-shot that I drew for the magazine. He's a guy who really admires, and wants to be, a superhero—and he's incredibly courageous—but he doesn't have the physical ability.

Speaking of superheroes, what do you think of American superheroes?

Oh, I love them.

Do you have a favorite superhero?

Spider-Man.

You're famous for creating series in the adventure genre; have you ever thought about working in another genre?

I'd like to challenge myself with various other genres as opportunities arise, but you know, one of the things that I really enjoy doing is stories about the human condition.

Are there any manga, anime, shows, that you currently get inspiration from?

Hm ... if it's Japanese animation ... Code Geass.

Oh, and are there any video games you're currently into?

[points out T-shirt with "Monster Hunter" logo] Monster Hunter! [laughs]

Speaking about your career in general, what do you find is the biggest challenge of being a successful manga-ka?

One of the challenges of manga is, you know, when you create a story that doesn't necessarily flow the way you want it to, so you have to make changes along the way ... Even if it feels like things won't agree, you just have to move on and learn something from the process.

And do you ever feel that the process might sometimes be time-consuming or tiring?

It can be, but at the same time, I enjoy so it much that I know I'll be fine.

And what do you feel are the greatest rewards of being a manga-ka?

The thing I like best is hearing from the fans. Even the negative ones—they make me a little upset, but still, I enjoy hearing that feedback from them.

So what do you think is the single most important thing an artist should know to succeed?

I think the most important thing is to have a passion for the art.

And what advice would you have for young artists who want to create their own manga and other stories in the future?

Well, first of all, it's important to have a love of manga—but instead of just drawing manga all the time, it's also important to get inspiration from other sources such as TV shows, films, games, books—to experience all different forms of entertainment.

Finally, what message do you have for your fans?

Thank you all very much for your support! I hope you enjoy reading my works, and please continue to support me in the future.

Thank you very much.

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