Interview: Masakazu Ishiguro

by Christopher Macdonald,

ANN: So actually, just getting straight into Sore de mo Machi wa Mawatteiru, You're responsible for the entire manga: you do the artwork, you do the story. I was wondering as a mangaka do you prefer to work solo or how do you feel about working with a partner? Does that interest you?

Ishiguro: So actually, I like the way I do it now. I prefer to do it alone. From the very beginning, I didn't have any aspirations to doing it with anyone and I was really looking forward to working on the manga by myself. That's the traditional style of Japanese manga creation and it's something I looked forward to doing as a kid.

When you're working on your own manga what about the creative process give you the most pleasure? Is it planning out the story or is it doing the artwork?

So actually I really enjoy all of it, but I guess if I had to choose one: creating a story is the most difficult but also my favorite.

Now, Sore Machi is set in a maid café but it's decidedly different from what most people might expect from a maid café. From a manga set in a maid café, rather. So I was wondering: did you deliberately set out to subvert the common expectations that readers might have from a maid café?

So from the beginning I had set out to make a typical maid café story, but somewhere along the line I was told to make it totally different. So I was like “well, if you don't mind having a kind of weird maid café that's in a shopping arcade then I'm okay with that."

So that was actually an influence that came from your editors?

It's not like they pressured me or anything like that, but I did decide that I wanted to try to do it, using the images that I had, to the best of my own abilities. So that's sort of the way it kind of came out. At a certain point you have to listen to what the editors say because without them you can't get into the magazine. And also to be perfectly honest I really didn't think I would be able to write in the typical Japanese moe style or the typical maid café style. So that was also sort of a big reason why Sore Machi turned out the way it did.

[laughs] What's your problem with moe?

I don't dislike moe. Personally, I like moe, it's I can't write it myself. So that's really all it is.

What were the biggest influences on Sore Machi?

Actually it's a pretty obscure title. It might not have been brought to the United States, it might only be in Japan, but there's a title: Sumire Gaho, which is by the mangaka Ohara Shinji, and that was something that really had an influence on me.

Unfortunately I'm not familiar with that title myself. Can you tell me a bit about how it influenced you? Also, going back a bit, you said that you started out with something set in a maid café. Why did you decide to work with that setting in the first place?

So Sumire Gaho is actually a story about a high school newspaper club and the main character would write about strange occurrences and odd things that would be happening and I thought it was really interesting, but unfortunately it finished after four volumes. It stopped at four volumes and I was so disappointed. And I wanted to keep reading, so I thought well, I guess the only thing I can do is write myself. So originally I had thought of Sore Machi as sort of a continuation of that story. Ultimately it went in a different direction, but really originally what I wanted to do was keep that story going because I loved it so much. So I thought about it and I realized ‘well if I just literally write a story about a high school student newspaper club then it would just be a copy of that manga and it wouldn't really be my own story with my own experiences and my own feelings", so I sort of veered into a different territory.

What kind of emotions have you tried to put into Sore Machi?

There are a lot of different feelings and emotions and memories that I put into the manga. But for example: one of the things that happens really often is that there are… a lot of the time people are eating bentos in the manga. And that is actually something… when I was in high school my mom used to make bentos for me every single day, so for me that was really important and it's my way to show my gratitude for that.

So right now Sore Machi is up to I believe 8 volumes and it's ongoing. Do you have an ending to the story in mind?

Yeah I already have the ending. I came up with the ending pretty early on, in the beginning.

What are you hoping that North American, or at least English-speaking, readers are going to take away from the manga when they read it?

Well there's not really… it's not like I want the people to think in a certain way or anything like that when they read the manga. But one of the things I think a lot about and kinda worry a little bit about is that there a lot of Japanese jokes and puns and plays on words in the manga and I wonder if that's sort of being translated properly, whether people are understanding those jokes. But then I think about it and I realize that there are a lot of American movies and such that get brought into Japan and those are translated in a way that Japan can understand so I'm thinking they're probably doing a good job with that.

So you already have an ending, a conclusion, to the story in mind. Do you have any ideas about what you'd like to do next, after Sore Machi? What are your hopes or aspirations for your career afterwards?

So I mean this is sort of far away. We're not saying it's going to end anytime soon, but eventually when Sore Machi finishes I think I'd like to try a sci-fi, sort of action kind of manga.

Any comments you'd like to leave for your American readers and fans?

I think originally the sort of audience that I was writing for was Japanese people. But things like school comedies and home dramas and things like that I think are pretty universal and they're things that everyone can understand and relate to. And I would like to keep writing that so I hope you guys will keep reading it and keep enjoying it. The characters that come out in the manga are Japanese, but I believe that there are those common points between all cultures.

Okay, one last question. During the process of working on Sore Machi and everything that you've dealt with as a professional, have there been any surprises for you, in any aspect, anything that really sticks out as something you didn't expect, whether it be good, bad, or just different?a

So actually there haven't really been any bad things that have happened, which is good, but one of the things that I think I was a little bit surprised to learn is that things don't always necessarily go in a straight line. So sometimes things get shuffled or the timing doesn't always match up. The title is written non-linear, so things happen before and after each other in juxtaposed time.

Episode by episode, yeah.

So sometimes things can get a little shuffled and only the editor might notice or something like that. There's always a trigger that's been secretly placed and only the author would know, but some readers find out that this must be something that he actually planned to place before it really happens in the later volumes. And I'm really surprised when the readers find that and contact me about it, when they know that they've found it, and it makes me happy. So you should look for easter eggs in Sore Machi!

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