Interview: Kouji Seo

by Chih-Chieh Chang,

Editor's Note: This is a group interview, attended by Chih-Chieh Chang for Anime News Network at the 2009 Comic Exhibition in Taipei, Taiwan.

Kouji Seo debuted with Half & Half and then worked under Tsukasa Oshima as an assistant during the serialization of Shoot! Later he published his own title W's in 2000. In 2002 he started serializing Cross Over in Weekly Shōnen Magazine; two years later, his romantic comedy Suzuka became very popular and was adapted into an anime series. Beginning in 2008, Seo started a new series called Kimi no Iru Machi (A Town Where You Live) in Weekly Shōnen Magazine with his hometown (Shobara, Hiroshima) as the setting.

Most of your manga are sports-themed; do you have a favorite sport? What's your favorite sport to watch, and which sports do you participate in? 

Seo: I was a member of my high school's track and field team, and I love watching baseball. 

Have you always wanted to be a manga artist? Were there any other careers you pictured yourself pursuing?

I wanted to be a mangaka ever since I was very little, so I feel very lucky to be where I am now. However, if I didn't draw manga, I'd like to become a chef and cook delicious cuisine. 

The male protagonists you create are usually in love triangles with two girls, typically one with long hair and one with short hair, and he usually treats the short haired one better. Which hairstyle do you personally prefer? 

Seo: I prefer short ones (laugh). 

How do you overcome obstacles in your creative career? 

Just keep drawing; that's all you can do, no matter what obstacles or setbacks you face. 

What inspired you to draw Kimi no Iru Machi

I wanted to draw a love story set in my hometown. 

Since the story of Kimi no Iru Machi is set in your hometown, are any of the characters in the manga inspired by your friends? If so, have any of your friends complained? 

Indeed I have used personal friends as inspiration for some of the characters, but I haven't received any complaints; they rather like it. 

You said that you've wanted to be a mangaka since you were a child; which manga (or which author) turned you on to the idea?

Doraemon by Fujiko F. Fujio

How do you relax after deadlines? 

Sleeping, as I'm always exhausted after deadlines. 

Have you considered having characters from Suzuka appear in Kimi no Iru Machi

Now you've mentioned it I might consider the idea. (laugh). 

Any plans for a Suzuka sequel? 

I'll think about it if I have enough time. 

How do you feel about the Suzuka anime? 

Surely it was wonderful to see my characters moving and talking, and I was especially pleased that the the director of Suzuka (Hiroshi Fukutomi) was also the director of several Doraemon movies. I felt honored by that. 

If you were pick a girl to date with in real life, which of your characters would you like your partner to resemble? 

Beats me; I love all the female characters I've created. 

If Suzuka were to be adapted into a live-action film, which actress would you like to see in the lead role?

Maki Horikita

Do you have any special habits when you're working? What would you do when you couldn't find inspiration? 

When I'm concentrated I sometimes play with my nose, and if I really can't write down new material I'll take a walk in the park. 

Every female character you've created become quite popular among fans; would it be possible to draw multiple endings for each of them? 

I love them all so I ensure each of them has a happy ending. 

Why did you name the characters in Suzuka after Imperial Japanese Navy warships? 

Both the lead male and battleship Yamato were born in Hiroshima so I named him after the battleship. “Suzuka” was too cute to be a warship (note: in reference to the Shiratsuyu class destroyer Suzukaze), so I named the female lead after it. 

Any advice for your fans who want to become a mangaka? 

I'd say you should work diligently and aim for getting your work serialized in Japanese manga magazines. 

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