Date of Interview: June 8, 2023.
Reason: On the occasion of the German release of Choujin X.
Topics of Discussion: The creation of the unique setting and the world of Choujin X, Tokyo Ghoul not being successful, working style, work hours, and hobbies.
MP: Hello Ishida-sensei, and thank you for taking the time to answer our questions.
MP: In your current work, Choujin X, you once again create a world where a secret society of superhuman beings exists in the shadows. Can you tell us something about the origin story of this world? How did you come up with the idea, and what criteria did you use to create the world of Choujin X?
Ishida-sensei: It’s a subtle nuance, but the secret society in Choujin X (we’re talking about Yamato Mori, right?) is not one that operates completely in the shadows but rather like a secret society that only has one foot in the shadows. As for the setting, Tokyo Ghoul was a quite restrictive world, so I wanted to write something with a looser framework.
Simple superheroes and an organization, as is often the case. I thought that if I had the minimum elements for the story, I could simply draw and give it my own style.
Then, I wanted to introduce things that are familiar but somehow unusual and designed the world to be very close to reality. Additionally, I added a bit of a retro atmosphere according to my taste.
What else? I imagined that in this world, the linguistic system is broken, and many different races live in a large country (which is actually structured as a broken national system). They speak a common language. So, even though there are different species with different origins, there is no X race or Y species. The distinction is only between humans and Choujin. The story also includes the preserved history of the different languages because I definitely wanted to incorporate as much as possible from the cultures of each country. Humanity exists as one big family. It’s hard to explain why I decided this way as it’s more of a feeling, but I felt it was better that way.
MP: Like Tokio Kurohara, as readers, we gradually get to know the world of Choujin X in more detail, with each chapter revealing new characters and insights that gradually come together to form a larger picture. How about yourself? Did you, as the author, have a concrete idea of the overall story progression from the beginning, meaning, did you already sketch out all the events, including the ending? Or do you let spontaneous inspirations guide you while writing the story and surprise yourself with what happens next? Have you already designed the entire story in your mind? Can you tell us more about the planned structure of Choujin X?
Ishida-sensei: I have somewhat determined the overall story progression, but sometimes the characters don’t follow the plan, or things don’t go as expected. I lay down something like rails, but if something derails, I try to let it continue in that direction. However, I have to be careful not to cause accidents. I set the goal and pave the way. If there is a derailment and it wasn’t just a runaway, it’s okay to lay down new tracks. … Looking back, I don’t think I’ve derailed too much at the moment. However, I see unexpected landscapes and things happen that surprise me, so it’s not exactly as I envisioned it in my mind. But not everything is spontaneous inspiration for the work, so to speak. It’s about half and half. However, I feel like I would lose interest in drawing a story if I couldn’t surprise myself.
MP: You achieved great success with Tokyo Ghoul. We heard that afterwards, you felt a significant pressure to succeed. How did you overcome this pressure while working on Choujin X? How did you deal with the high expectations from fans?
Ishida-sensei: I don’t recall ever saying that I felt pressure to succeed. But I’m not sure if I remember correctly. Did I say that? I don’t know. I don’t think I said it.
But the relationship between an author and pressure, I believe it’s a profound topic. So, I’ve thought about it in my own way.
As a premise, I don’t really consider Tokyo Ghoul a success.
For me, success is when I feel that I’ve drawn something well. Upon reflection, I don’t really demand that it be well-received by society or liked by many people. So, success for me is whether I can praise myself for it or not.
And when I think about it further, I think I struggle more with engaging with my readership. Honestly, I don’t have a clear idea of the type of people who enjoy reading my manga. If I think too much about it, I find myself trying to cater more and more to the readership, and that affects my drawings, making them seem strange. Therefore, I demand “self-praise” first and foremost. Anything beyond that is nice, and I think, “Thank you.”
That’s why the only thing I can do is face my own obstacles, and I believe that’s the greatest pressure I face. I haven’t really overcome this pressure until now.
So, when I draw manga, whether it’s Ghoul or Choujin, I face the same obstacles and pressure. If what I draw after overcoming those obstacles pleases people, I’m happy. I think that’s when I can establish a connection with the readers for the first time.
MP: In Germany, there are many readers who also enjoy drawing. That’s why we would like to ask you about the technical aspects of your works. Do you draw traditionally or digitally? What drawing tools do you use for creating Choujin X, and specifically, which ones do you use for each step of the process?
Ishida-sensei: I work entirely digitally using Clip Studio Paint by Celsys. As for the drawing tools I use…? It’s difficult to explain. Let me list them: 10-20 types of main pens, secondary pens, and brushes that I frequently use, and about 100 that I occasionally use. Then I have around 50 keyboard shortcuts. With each of these keys, I can switch between tools and actions, so I use approximately that many functions. So, for which specific step do I use which tools…? Maybe next time I can elaborate more on that…
MP: Where do you personally find inspiration for your drawings, and is there perhaps a specific ritual that helps you with that?
Ishida-sensei: Inspiration… I’m not quite sure. When I feel like drawing something, I draw it. It doesn’t happen often that I see something and then feel like drawing it. As for a ritual, I don’t have one, but if I haven’t been drawing for a while, my proportions become messy. So, in those cases, I draw a page of quick sketches to warm up for working on the manuscripts. That way, I reduce the effort of having to revise something because it’s not well-drawn.
MP: Can you tell us what a typical day looks like for you? How many hours per day do you work, and at what time of day (day or night) do you typically work? Do you have assistants, and what tasks do they handle?
Ishida-sensei: Currently, I don’t have any assistants. Basically, I work on everything alone. Lately, I’ve been waking up in the afternoon or evening and drawing for about ten hours. After that, I read a book or watch a movie until I fall asleep. If I have trouble sleeping, I work a little more. When I want to make quick progress or need to submit a manuscript urgently, I draw for twenty to thirty hours straight. When I take it a bit slower or don’t have any urgency, I only draw for about five hours and spend the remaining time on other things. Additionally, to get my body moving, I incorporate jogging or taking walks in between.
MP: Choujin X seems to have an irregular release schedule. Is that related to the reasons mentioned earlier? The online reactions from fans to this situation have been mostly positive. Were there any reactions to this announcement that personally moved you?
Ishida-sensei: Weekly series have a page count of 18-20 pages per week. However, I have always thought that personally, I can probably draw something better if I’m not bound by a specific pace or page count. And it’s easier for me to take breaks when I need them. (I don’t know about the reactions to the announcement since I haven’t seen them.)
MP: What do you do when you’re not working? Do you have any hobbies or favorite activities that help you relax in between?
Ishida-sensei: Well, jogging and taking walks are my means of relaxation. But most of the time, I’m thinking about work, and I often play video games, read, or watch movies with work in mind, so it’s hard to find a hobby that completely relaxes me.
MP: Thank you for the interview!