An Exclusive Interview with Hiroya Oku“Pleasure to meet you, EVENING!”

An Exclusive Interview with Hiroya Oku“Pleasure to meet you, EVENING!”

Mr. Oku, who starts his new series “Inuyashiki” on our 4th issue of EVENING, let us in on his life as a manga creator!

Originally from Fukuoka, he came out to Tokyo with lofty ambitions.

──To start off, could you tell us what started you off on your journey as a manga creator?

It all started when I read Osamu Tezuka’s “The Vampires” when I was in the fourth grade of elementary school.
I was surprised to see the creator, Mr. Tezuka himself, make an appearance in the manga.
He actually plays a very active part in that manga, and helps the main character who is in trouble. After seeing that, I remember passionately wanting to become a manga creator, intensely longing that freedom of expression that enables the creator himself to become an essential part of his work.
I decided I wanted to be a “manga creator” that very next day.

──After that initial impact, what did you do to follow your dream?

I bought an introductory book on manga, and practiced while trying to figure out what I lacked as a manga creator.
At that time, I was only able to draw humans from the chest and up—drawing the entire human body, or actions such as walking and sitting were beyond my ability.
So I practiced drawing using work from professional manga creators who I thought were skilled in expressing the movements of a human’s body.
I did this by looking at a sample drawing and memorizing it, drawing my picture without looking at anything, and finally bringing out the sample to compare.
It was almost like checking answers on your homework. By using this method, I was pretty much able to draw human body movements by the time I was in junior high school.
Nevertheless, one is never satisfied when one starts drawing.
I started to aim for a more realistic human figure, with muscles, bone structure and wrinkles.
I bought anatomy references for artists-type of books, actually posed by myself to see how the skin wrinkles, and made observations day by day.
My goal was to become good enough to draw a realistic human being without looking at anything.

──When did you actually start making mangas after all this drawing practice?

I was in senior high school when I first bought manuscript paper and screentones to make a manga.
I sent that manga to the Shogakukan Newcomer Comic Contest and received an honorable mention.
An editor called me, took me under his wing and we started to create a rough draft.
The rough draft did not go very well, but the high school me was excited just to have a staff member manage me, so I didn’t think of publishing in a magazine at all.
I just drew what I wanted to.
I planned on going to a special school for manga after graduating high school, and create manga while fooling around at the same time.
My managing editor at that time called me and told me to come out to Tokyo after graduation.
When I replied, “I’d like to enjoy myself here a little more” he scolded,
“You have no idea how harsh the world of manga is! Don’t look at it lightly!!” (laughs).

──I see… That is what brought you out from Fukuoka to Tokyo (laughs).
I heard that you worked as an assistant at Mr. Naoki Yamamoto’s (his “Red” series is now ongoing) work place.
What was working under a professional manga creator like?

Being an assistant was so much fun, and I learned a lot too.
Watching Mr. Yamamoto make his manga taught me that the rules in manga manual books were not necessarily iron-clad. Actually, I figured out that any tool was okay when filling in with black (when solidly coloring something).
You don’t have to use a mapping pen, G pen or turnip pen.
It could be anything, even a ballpoint pen. Just color it black.
And if you make a mistake, use white-out! Many valuable lessons were learned there.
It felt like this experience paved the path I wanted to tread on, and my consciousness toward manga creation changed during this time.
This was also the start of me thinking about drawing mangas on a computer.

The world of Hiroya Oku and his pursuit of reality.

──What was the sequence of events that led you to create mangas in 3D on the computer?

Creating manga in 3D was essential in creating “01 ZERO ONE”.
Because “01 ZERO ONE” was placed in a near-future society, I predicted the future townscape and created designs for items such as buildings, cars, streets and traffic signals.
I wanted an intricate and unified background to work on, as the backdrop of the story was in the future.
However, if I had my assistants draw in the background by hand as I usually did, the drawings would not be perfectly unified.
For this reason I decided to use 3D software so all the lines would come out the same and the background drawings would gain that sense of uniformity I was aiming for.

──But what about the learning curve for the 3D software?

Naturally, I had no idea what I was doing in the beginning.
I experimented by myself at first, and I gathered my assistants once I got a hang of it.
After that, four assistants and I dived in and created the landscapes I designed, schools, game centers, miscellaneous goods—you name it. The work we did there was actually quite fun. Still, after two years of paying assistant salaries, and investing in costly computers and printers for 3D rendering, I used up most of my money.
Most of the money I had saved from “Hen” was gone, and I thought I was done for when the “01 ZERO ONE” series started to get published but didn’t do well.
I was headed for bankruptcy, so I went and asked my managing editor to let me quit the “01 ZERO ONE” series.
But I was not going to let all that technology go to waste, so I implemented 3D in “GANTZ”.
In the end, all the investments I had made for “01 ZERO ONE” were for a good cause.
That flop has enabled my studio to create images that no one else could.

──The backgrounds of your work are all rendered on computers,
but you draw your characters by hand, right?

I don’t want to draw humans on a computer.
Human drawings made on a computer are devoid of organic warmth.
I believe that readers will not be able to empathize with characters unless characters have a unique human warmth. For that reason, I pointedly draw my backgrounds cold and sterile, to emphasize the organic quality of the human characters.
I also still want to be able to draw a human from any angle without looking at a sample.
This is one dream I have had since elementary school.
I believe that my drawings are progressing, even at this moment. My techniques are still not complete, and I’m enjoying the journey toward achieving the perfect drawing.
Creating mangas would be boring if there was no goal to pursue.

──I was surprised to learn that you draw crowds and mob scenes by hand!

It’s probably just self-satisfaction, but I draw crowds by myself because almost no one puts in so much detail to mobs like I do. May it be a small group of people, I still want them to be expressive, active and in motion.
Some scenes in the end of “GANTZ” called for a massive mob, and I actually couldn’t believe I did all of that (laughs).

──We’ve talked about your drawings, but also enlighten us on your story-making.

I believe the story of a manga is very important.
My mangas are based on pretty wacky stories, so my drawings are there to convince readers and help them enjoy the story.
I want the drawings to have the texture and feeling of actually being present at the scene.
I want to express the flesh of human hands and face, the wrinkles on clothes, the softness of fur on animals and the rigid coldness of mechanical items in hopes of the reader experiencing a realistic ambience.
It would mean everything to me if the drawings work to reinforce the storyline.

The path for “Inuyashiki”

──I regret not being able to comment on the story, as the series has not started running yet, but when did you get the idea for your new series?

The initial idea came to me during the latter part of the “GANTZ” series, around the beginning of the “Catastrophe” phase.
During “GANTZ”, the series was a high-tech story that I wanted to see played out.
After “GANTZ” was finished, the story I wanted to see next was an expansion of the idea I had had at the Catastrophe phase.
It started off with a lot of trial-and-error design drawings based on that idea, trying to find the image I was looking for.
After many drawings and rejections, the final product was “Inuyashiki”. Still, “Inuyashiki”, at the present, ‘should’ be the story I want to see.
The outcome and core of this time’s storytelling is still not clear until the series starts, so I just have to do my best.

──To wrap this interview up, please tell us your feelings about this new series.

“Inuyashiki” will weave a story that I want to see, using all the technology I have acquired to this point.
I just want to tell a story.
I like creating stories, so I hope this manga will be able to create the world I am aiming for, and hope that this world will be something no reader has ever seen before.
I will be creating the “Inuyashiki” world on the belief that it is something that does not exist in our world…yet.
I hope all the readers will keep a note in the corner of their minds that “Hiroya Oku is creating something weird once again” (laughs).

──Thank you very much.

Source: Evening Official Facebook

All kinds of otaku are welcome at the TOM Fan Club! Join here: