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Exclusive Eiichiro Oda and Masashi Kishimoto Interview from Naruto ‘Book of Lightning’

Written by William

The “Book of Lightning” (雷の書), a book exclusive to the recently-opened Naruto Exhibit, includes an interview between One Piece author Eiichiro Oda and fifteen-year-rival and Naruto author Masashi Kishimoto.

We translated the interview from this book:

Question: Are there any manga series that have influenced you?
Kishimoto:I’d have to say that Toriyama-sensei has been a huge influence. Of course, there’s Dragon Ball, but I really loved Dr. Slump, as well. Other than that, I was enthralled by Katsuhiro Otomo’s Akira.
Oda:The first time I saw your art I thought it gave off quite a bit of Otomo-sensei’s style.
Kishimoto:Oh, is it that obvious? (laughs)

A panel from Katsuhiro Otomo's Akira

A panel from Katsuhiro Otomo’s Akira

Oda:As a manga artist, you can kind of see which manga artists someone was influenced by by looking at the art or story development.
Kishimoto:In my case, I was considerably influenced by Dragon Ball in my story-building, I think. For example, the parts that are reminicent of that shonen-magazine style that get you excited while reading. Or the part where Goku grows up and becomes a parent, I personally really liked that. Also, Toriyama-sensei’s balance between black and white color is superb; it makes it easy to look at, and he doesn’t even use that much screentone. I really think that’s cool.
Oda:And even looking at Toriyama-sensei’s art from back then, it doesn’t feel old because his sense of design is great. That’s really amazing.

Dragon Ball creator Akira Toriyama drew Rock Lee for the recent Naruto Exhibit

Dragon Ball creator Akira Toriyama drew Rock Lee for the recent Naruto Exhibit

Question:Other than manga artists, is there anyone in particular who has influenced you?
Kishimoto:In my case I’d probably say there’s a lot of animators who influenced me.
Oda:Whenever Kishimoto and I hang around, he tells me all these names I never heard of, telling me that “this animator’s awesome!” Didn’t you also appoint the animator for Naruto when its anime adaptation was going to start?
Kishimoto:I did. (laughs)
Oda:Besides Kishimoto, who has a copious knowledge of the anime process, there’s no manga artist who could do that.
Kishimoto:The one I asked for was someone who’d won prizes overseas, in France I think. Actually, ever since I was a new manga artist, I’d been thinking of asking for him to work on Naruto if it got an anime adaptation. Of course I did that because I liked his art, but I [also] thought that if someone who is active overseas worked on the manga, maybe people all over the world would read Naruto…
Oda:So Naruto becoming a huge hit all over the world was pre-ordained.
Kishimoto:Well, back then I was just thinking that it’d be nice if it became a hit.
Oda:If it were you now, it wouldn’t be that weird, but back then you were still a newcomer in his second or third year of serialization. Usually you wouldn’t put that much thought into that process.

Question:It’s amazing that you’ve actually been able to turn that dream into a reality. What about you, Oda-sensei, are there any people who influenced you?
Oda:If you were to come right down to it, I’d say an animator who’s also a manga artist, Hayao Miyazaki.
Kishimoto:But you’re completely “original”. I don’t feel like you were influenced by anyone in particular.
Oda:That’s probably because I was an average young boy who read through a lot of different manga series. Looking back at it, I’d say that was a really good thing. Also, I was generationally lucky. Considering I’m at an age I was able to actually enjoy reading Jump while it was in its Golden Era.
Kishimoto : Exactly! We really were right in the middle of that era. Because you’d buy Jump every week, you’d read the story in real-time each week and things like “this is how you create an interesting story” or “this is how you put together thrilling plot developments,” and so forth. It all was deeply engrained in you. Reading it all at once in the manga volumes is just different.
Oda:Our generation is proud that we were able to enjoy the best of Jump, right? (laughs)

Question:Mr. Kishimoto, could you tell us which One Piece character or story you like?
Kishimoto:Okay, I’m not saying this because Oda’s here in front of me, but I like all of it! (laughs) But I am very interested in the Spring-Spring Fruit abilities Bellamy has and his personality is very interesting as well. Although, I would have to say Chopper’s backstory! Things like his first time meeting with Hiruluk, or the cherry blossom snow falling as he leaves the island, that really gets to you!
Oda:I’m happy to hear you say that.
Kishimoto:Although, I like him, but he’s also scary! I mean, in many ways doesn’t he hold more “power” than Luffy? That’s why I think Chopper might be the “real boss.” (laughs)

Question:A theory about Chopper being the real boss? (laughs) What would make you think that?

Kishimoto:Mmm, not sure. Luffy’s the main character and more beloved than anyone else, but that’s all through Chopper’s existence! I mean, I really think that he created a kind of synergistic effect. He has this “presence” and gives off this “mood” and he actually holds a key role among the crew. Like, Chopper’s cute, but he’s actually a monster.
Oda:Chopper secretly thinks of evil deeds, wait, stop lying! (laughs) As a bit of an inside story, Chopper was a character born out of desperation. Originally I had him mapped out as a tall, lanky bipedal reindeer but Luffy, Zoro, Sanji [Nami and Usopp] were too popular and I couldn’t find a place for Chopper. I thought that if I’d gone with that design, he’d have been upstaged by the other characters so I made him a bit shorter.

The original design for Chopper. Click to enlarge.

The original design for Chopper, from the databook “One Piece Green: Secret Pieces”
(Click to enlarge)

Kishimoto:And that’s how that character was created. But seriously, I’m really jealous of Chopper!
Oda:You’ve always been saying that. (laughs)
Kishimoto:Actually, I was always thinking of going for a mascot character so I created a pink tadpole character once. I even casually drew that character all over manga volumes and Jump cover pages … but it just didn’t grab people.
Oda:(laughs) But a lot of things happen that you don’t account for during your serialization, right? For me, Chopper is an example of that.

Naruto and the pink tadpole  mascotte on the cover of 'Naruto' Vol. 49

Naruto and the pink tadpole mascotte on the cover of ‘Naruto’ Vol. 49

Question:So it often happens that the story continues in a different way than you planned out in the beginning of the series?
Oda:Well, yeah of course. Like, there’s the plot, it was something you thought of yourself when you were still an amateur in your 20s, so of course you’d think of something better now.
Kishimoto:Yes, that is exactly it.
Oda:You’re all like “I’m not going to lose to my own self from before!” (laughs)
Kishimoto:Because you’ve gotten more experience.

Question:While on the subject, is there anything you have a particularly hard time drawing?
Kishimoto:I’d say I’m not that good at drawing women. But you draw anything, huh?
Kishimoto:Well me too, I wouldn’t say it’s difficult, but I would say I’m probably not good at drawing things when under the pressure of a deadline and when there’s very little time. Since I’m not “feeling it,” it already takes a lot of time to think of what to draw.
Oda:Right, you only want to draw the art you want to draw, right?
Kishimoto:You’re drawing it because you like it.
Oda:Exactly, people who think we draw because it’s our job are gravely mistaken! (laughs) If anything, this is just an extension of our hobby. Things we don’t want to draw or don’t interest us, we just don’t want to draw them! (laughs)

Question:And Kishimoto-sensei’s new series is finally starting in Weekly Shonen Jump‘s April 27 issue.
Oda:How many weeks will you be drawing this series?
Kishimoto:Mmmm, who knows~
Oda:You’re sure you’re not underestimating the work?
Kishimoto:What, no of course not. (laughs)
Oda:Well, I don’t mean it like that, but are you sure that you and the people around you aren’t underestimating it a bit because you’re all thinking that “[after a fifteen year serialization] a short series is a cinch.”
Kishimoto:I don’t know.
Oda:It’s a lot different from having to draw every week like I do.
Kishimoto:That’s true, it has been a little while since I stopped the weekly serialization so it’s possible that my senses have dulled.
Oda:On top of that, the main story of Naruto finished and it’s a new series. Everyone’s expecting a lot from you, so you definitely can’t cut any corners here.
Kishimoto:Yeah, you’re right.
Oda:I think that in the beginning you’ll totally feel the backlash from having taken a rest.
Kishimoto:Because as a manga artist, even if you rest for just one day it’s tough to get back to how you were before that.
Oda:Like when you take New Year’s off and you’ve become a bit slower.
Kishimoto:I know exactly what you mean. (laughs) You feel like you just can’t draw that well, and the amount of times you use your eraser increases.
Oda:When rough sketches you used to be able to draw in one go doesn’t go quite as smoothly as you anticipated and you’re like, “wait what?” It’s weird but the busier you are, the better you become. (laughs) Humans are at their best when they’re completely immersed in something.

Question:During your serialization, what was the time you were in most trouble?
Kishimoto:Oh, that would be the time I got a slipped disk.
Oda:Oh, you were really in bad shape, that was really tough then, huh? (laughs)
Kishimoto:It was back when I was drawing the fight with Kakuzu, back then my lungs weren’t in great shape either. Whenever I’d get a little bit tired, I’d be wheezing as if I had pneumonia. When I’d cough, I could feel it hurting in my lower back. It was really tough. In the end they had to publish the pencil-version of the chapter in Jump. Other than that, I’ve also fallen down from the stairs and things like that.
Oda:Wait, you did?
Kishimoto:Yeah, about 3 years ago? When I went to the onsen with my family, I wasn’t paying attention and fell from the top of a stone stair.
Oda:Now that’s dangerous!

Question:Was that because you were thinking of a story?
Kishimoto:No, I was just tired.
Oda:You wouldn’t think of the story while walking down the stairs. (laughs)
Kishimoto:I didn’t injure myself badly, but I did think I was going to die the moment I fell. (laughs)
Oda:If you did die there you would’ve become a legend, no doubt about that.
Kishimoto:But I don’t want to become a legend. (laughs)
Oda:Yeah, me neither; I’m not interested in becoming a legend! You’d probably be thinking “If I died like this, I’d become a legend, but what was my life really all about?” the moment you’re about to die. I wouldn’t like to be praised post hoc.
Kishimoto:Like Van Gogh, who’d get praised by later generations. I want people to praise me for my work now, while I’m still alive. (laughs)

This was a special interview, and not part of the four-hour-long interview that we will be covering once the Official Naruto Exhibit Book: “Road (道)” comes out. The official planned release for the Official Naruto Exhibit Guidebook : “Road (道)” is in early to mid-May. Make sure to keep an eye on The One Piece Podcast for updates!