To paint a picture involves more than just broad brushstrokes on a canvas. Hiroshi Shiibashi is a complicated man with a complicated...manga! Though he made his Weekly Shonen Jump debut in 2008, he was no noob to the game. In his first-ever U.S. interview, he reveals how he started his first hit series Nura: Rise of the Yokai Clan. Read on for details on this incredible creator’s rise to fame and exclusive insight into the Yokai Yakuza Gang War that’s currently terrorizing SJ Alpha!
Q: Your art is incredible and inspires many fans. Whose art inspires you?
Hiroshi Shiibashi (HS): I've loved drawing ever since I was in first or second grade. I loved American superheroes like Batman and Superman, and as an homage, I drew a superhero pig character and series called “Butta-man.” I believe that I was the first person who “killed” Superman. [laughs]
I started my mangaka career as an assistant to Hirohiko Araki Sensei [ed. note: creator of JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure], so my style of drawing feels awfully close to his. He is very nice on his days off, but he was a very strict teacher, and I’ve learned a lot from him.
Q: The yokai lore and historical references in Nura are very dense. Did you start out with all that knowledge and love of yokai? Or do you constantly research new creatures and stories to incorporate?
HS: Since I was little, I grew up with yokai tales. Of course I liked them, but I knew only a little bit about them. Before I debuted as a manga creator, I brought my manga submission to a lot of different publishers and magazines. During that time, someone suggested to me that I should do a series on yokai. That is when I seriously started doing research about them to create plots. It was only after I began the serialization of Nura that I started to know more about yokai.
Q: The most recent chapters of Nura were pretty gory. Are you into horror movies or gory action films?
HS: I am a fan of horror flicks more than action. I don’t like splatters, though it might seem a bit contradictory. My favorite horror movie is House of Wax.
Q: The stories in Nura traverse time to tell a larger story. What’s your favorite part about Nurarihyon’s past with Princess Yo?
HS: Before I started the Nura series, I was already planning on doing this flashback story arc about Grandpa Nura’s younger days and how he got married to a human wife like Princess Yo. I liked the fact that the setting took place in Sengoku Jidai (the age of provincial wars in Japan), because I think yokai look very natural in this particular historical setting, and thus were a good match. Also, Rikuo’s grandpa’s personality was really cool, and so were the villians. Finding out the Nura clan’s origin truly added depth to the story.
Q: Why is Karasu Tengu so much smaller now than he was 400 years ago?
HS: That’s a difficult question. His personality became milder when he got married...I think.
|Karasu Tengu from 400 years ago.||Current Karasu Tengu.|
Q: About Rikuo’s parents, his mother Wakana doesn’t seem afraid of yokai. Why is she so different from other humans? Was she like that even before meeting Rikuo’s father, Rihan, or did he change her mind?
HS: I think Wakana was born that way. The coexistence of yokai and humans is the main focus of Nura, and she was the first human who united both of them.
Q: It must feel incredible to have your work turned into an anime. But what did you do (or how did you react) when you sat down and watched the first episode?
HS: I was like… YES! [laughs] At first, I was kind of embarrassed. But when my series was animated, I realized that so many people were now involved in it. At the beginning, I was invited to the animation production meeting and was asked if they could include original elements in the anime. The second season was mainly based on the manga series, and since then I became a little hands–off from the anime side. But they told me that they wanted to create it with a more mature presentation, which I liked.
Q: Going digital with SJ Alpha allows U.S. fans to catch up to the current Nura storyline in Japan. We’re seeing a much more confident and powerful Rikuo in the latest chapters. What’s been the most significant change in Rikuo’s personality in the past few years?
HS: I think the biggest difference between now and then is that Rikuo started to realize his purpose in life. At first, he denied his identity. But after his battle with opponents like Gyuki, Rikuo started to understand what he has to do and what he needs to become.
Q: Last but not least, do you have any comments for the SJ Alpha readers?
HS: My series is very Japanese in style, almost like ukiyoe (drawings on Japanese paper screens). It is a bit strange for me to imagine that someone from overseas like America is reading Nura at the same time as readers in Japan. But it makes me extremely happy. I hope you learn more about Japanese culture and art style and enjoy the yokai showdowns in this series!
Watch Hiroshi Shiibashi at work in our Creator Sketch Video!
HIroshi Shiibashi Creator Sketch Video
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Interview by Misaki C. Kido (@Onnabancho_J)