On 22 May, Maki Marukido-sensei (author of the Pornographer series) held an online talk show as part of onBLUE’s 10th Anniversary celebrations! This was the second event in onBLUE’s “Online Talk Event Tour”, in which onBLUE’s manga artists take turns hosting online talk shows over the course of approximately 1 year. Tickets were sold online prior to the event, which was held on ZOOM and hosted by Momonga (Marukido-sensei’s editor), just like sakura sawa-sensei’s talk show at the end of March. (You can find sakura-sensei’s event report here!)
As the talk show commenced, Marukido-sensei’s mascot plushie was shown on screen. Marukido-sensei then said, “I didn’t know so many people would show up to my online talk show, especially given how many live streams there are nowadays. Thank you so much! I read through all of the questions you sent, and will try my best to answer as many as possible. I hope you have fun!”.
The poll function on ZOOM was used again in several instances throughout this talk show. This time, the test poll asked the audience whether they thought Kijima (from the Pornographer series) prefers Japanese food or Western-style food. A whopping 80% of viewers picked “Japanese food”, but according to Marukido-sensei, “Kijima doesn’t care much about food, so he probably thinks it’s too much effort to eat Japanese food with chopsticks while holding a rice bowl. He tends to pick bread and other foods that can be eaten without much fuss, but he might prefer Japanese food if someone else was to take care of the cooking”…!
Q&A about Marukido-sensei
The first question that was addressed during the talk show was “why Marukido-sensei decided to try becoming a manga artist”! As Marukido-sensei mentioned before in an interview with onBLUE, she wasn’t exactly aiming to become a manga artist from a young age; in fact, she realized she could draw manga quite a while after she graduated from uni and entered the workforce. At that point, Marukido-sensei quit her job to focus on drawing manga, after which the onBLUE editorial team (or rather, Momonga) saw her work at J-GARDEN and headhunted her.
According to Momonga, the self-published version of Pornographer was really interesting and was concluded in a way that alluded to a sequel, so she approached Marukido-sensei and asked if she wanted to publish the rest as a commercial title. Save for the first few pages, not many edits were made to Pornographer upon commercialization. (Fun fact: Momonga still has a copy of the original self-published Pornographer release!)
“There was a little under 6 months between me being approached at the event and the commercial publication date of Pornographer. I’d gone on about how I wanted to write a sequel in the afterword of the self-published version, but I actually hadn’t planned out the story, so I ended up thinking about it quite desperately. Even though this title had an uncertain future, I managed to publish 3 volumes of it, and it even got adapted into a live-action drama and movie. I’m very grateful”, said Marukido-sensei.
Behind-the-scenes stories about the characters
When asked whether the character settings for the Pornographer cast changed at all over time, Marukido-sensei said “not really”. However, Kijima was originally meant to be more apathetic, and Kuzumi was supposed to get into the bike accident while delivering a customer order during his shift at a soba restaurant. Kuzumi was initially envisioned as “a broke and suffering student”, but that setting was cut after Marukido-sensei decided it was unnecessary. It was interesting to hear how she had a fair bit of freedom with Kuzumi’s character setting, thanks to her leaving the specifics up in the air while penning the self-published version!
During the plot-making process, Marukido-sensei decides on a character’s manner of speech by testing various patterns in her head based on their overall image. She tries not to fixate too much on her initial character image since quite a lot of good ideas emerge when she ditches her biases!
While Kijima’s character background and internal thoughts were discussed in-depth in the manga, Kuzumi was relatively shrouded in mystery up until now. Marukido-sensei told us a fair bit about his backstory during this talk show!
Kuzumi is an only child, and his parents moved around quite a lot when he was a child, thus leaving him without a specific place to call “his hometown”. Marukido-sensei decided to adapt this setting because it wouldn’t make sense for him to be living alone if he was born in Tokyo, and if he was born in any of the the surrounding prefectures in Kanto, it’d double up with Kijima’s image (in Marukido-sensei’s mind, Kijima was born in Tochigi). His parents earn enough to send him to a university in Tokyo, and place great importance on giving their child autonomy. If Kuzumi was to introduce Kijima to them, they’d be the type to cast away their worries and celebrate their relationship!
In terms of Kuzumi’s romantic history, Marukido-sensei mentioned that “he probably dated someone for the first time in high-school and went out with another person in uni”. “He’s not unpopular with the ladies”, she said. Furthermore, she mentioned that “Kuzumi is nice and well-mannered, and thus attracts clingy people who want him to comfort them. Kijima may not know this, but he can be a bit clingy too”…!
(Marukido-sensei also said, “I feel like there might be a darker side to Kuzumi, especially because he’s a good human being and his tastes in movies reflect his sensitivity”. After all, if something (or someone) seems too good to be true, it usually is…!)
The following question was then addressed: “I loved how Kuzumi called Kijima “sensei” before saying goodnight to him in a scene near the end of Pornographer Playback, even though he’d called him “Rio” until then. Is this an expression of Kuzumi’s love, now that he’s a little grown up and able to consider Kijima’s feelings as a writer? Or is this a message from you saying that someone’s creative space is a lonely, sacred place that not even their partner can enter?”. Marukido-sensei’s answer was as follows: “I think it’s both. Sure, it’s hard to approach someone who’s glued to their desk, but Kuzumi likes Kijima as an author too. Kijima’s status as a writer left the biggest impression on him during their initial encounter, and I’m sure Kuzumi enjoys being able to call him “sensei” again. Also, as an author myself, I also wanted to add a sense of loneliness to that scene. I wanted my readers to know that, even though they’re a couple, they’d have this kind of “alone time” as well- especially since you’d usually be working alone if you’re writing something”. Marukido-sensei herself prefers to be left alone when she’s writing something; she said “it depends on my condition on the day, but I usually don’t have enough space in my brain for verbal communication when I’m working on something, so I’d rather be left alone than get fussed over”.
After that, we got to hear about Kijima and Kuzumi’s life after they began living together! In terms of food, Kijima mostly buys his meals from convenience stores, but Kido and Kuzumi both cook their own food. Marukido-sensei commented, “Kijima probably never cooks. Right now, Kuzumi is also too busy to cook for anyone other than himself, but perhaps Kijima will try cooking after a change in circumstances leads to a change in heart…maybe…”.
Marukido-sensei hadn’t thought about when Kijima told Kuzumi his address, but she did say “Kido had forwarded Kuzumi’s letters to Kijima for 2.5 years, but in hindsight, that was way too long. Maybe Kuzumi found out Kijima’s address by accident, or Kido just straight-up told him”. When asked whether Kijima works any odd jobs outside of his authoring career, she mentioned that she envisioned him teaching at a cram school while brainstorming Pornographer Playback, since that’d give him financial stability and peace of mind. However, she then scrapped the idea since she thought it’d be more interesting if he didn’t have any other jobs.
There was also mention of Kijima’s relationship with his uncle, who “was a bit irresponsible but had many hobbies, unlike his honest younger brother who took over his family’s farm out in the sticks”. “Perhaps the uncle had passed away leaving his vinyl records behind, and Kijima had just thought it was cool without really knowing about him as a person. It’d also be interesting if he was still alive and simply swung by every now and then”, she added. Talk shows like these are a really rare opportunity for us to hear backstories for side characters like this!
About Mood Indigo
Kido has had a dedicated fan base since Mood Indigo was released, and Marukido-sensei had received many passionate questions about him prior to this talk show!
The first to be addressed was the reason why Mood Indigo was written in the first place. Momonga said, “Pornographer had really good sales even though it was Marukido-sensei’s first comic release, so we wanted to publish more volumes that featured the same characters”. Initially, they were thinking of a spin-off where Kido finds another male partner, but since he’s faithful to his wife, they decided to work on a prequel instead.
The biggest issue with writing a prequel was that there was no way for Kido to end up with Kijima; there have been instances where fans who read Mood Indigo first became unable to read Pornographer because of this. However, according to Marukido-sensei, it really strikes a chord with some people; perhaps Mood Indigo leaves such a big impression on its readers precisely because it doesn’t have a happy ending. When asked about Kido’s current feelings, Marukido-sensei clarified that he doesn’t have any lingering feelings for Kijima, and that “even if he did, he wouldn’t be able to steal him from Kuzumi”.
It was also noted that, prior to the TV drama adaptation, not many people were asking her why Kido didn’t end up with Kijima; Marukido-sensei mused that “even though the script didn’t deviate much from the original manga, the subtle production differences resulted in people asking different questions”. When writing Mood Indigo, she hadn’t thought of it as a love story; rather, she’d framed it as a story where 2 men around the same age harbour sticky feelings for each other, such as jealousy and admiration. “The characters in the drama and the characters in my art had slightly different atmospheres, so I also watched the drama and wondered why they didn’t end up together, but since I’d already written the manga, there wasn’t anything I could do about that ending. It’d probably be best if the viewer could think of the manga and the drama as two different things”, she added.
At this point, a survey was conducted among the audience members about why things didn’t work out between Kido and Kijima in the manga. The four options were “their sexuality”, “their personalities”, “their relationship at work” and “Kuzumi’s presence”. Most viewers agreed that their personalities were the main issue, as did Marukido-sensei; “people with the right personality could easily overcome sexuality-related issues and work-related issues, and things weren’t going well between them two when Kuzumi popped up anyway, so their personalities were probably the main issue”, she added.
There was also a popularity poll for the three characters, and the result was as follows:
Marukido-sensei mentioned that she thinks Kijima is the most interesting character, while Momonga said that Kido is her favorite!
About the live-action adaption
Discussions for the live-action adaptation began in Spring 2018, at around the same time as the paperback release of Mood Indigo. Prior to the actual production of the live-action drama, Marukido-sensei and the onBLUE team had actually turned down another production offer from a different company.
According to Momonga, “the onBLUE editorial team didn’t really know what the drama was going to be like” although both Marukido-sensei and Momonga visited the filming locations. That said, after Marukido-sensei read the script, she was relieved to see how faithful the writers were to the original manga; she also didn’t have any other concerns over how the drama was going to turn out.
When asked for behind-the-scenes stories about the filming sessions, Marukido-sensei said: “When I visited the filming session for the final episode, they’d gotten rid of all of the sets, so I had no idea what the characters’ room actually looked like, I was overcome with joy when I saw Terunosuke Takezai dressed as Kijima. Actors sure have a different aura to us regular folks!”. She also mentioned how happy she was when she saw the actors posting on Twitter about how they read the manga, and when she was asked for her autograph during the filming sessions. Momonga also told us how Marukido-sensei became friendly with the production staff and started chatting to them or going out for food with them as the filming progressed! The final filming session took place in the outskirts of Tokyo, and Marukido-sensei visited the location as a means of watching over the end of the drama series.
“In the live-action version of Mood Indigo, Kido was painted in a more romantic light. It was interesting to see this difference”, said Momonga-san. Marukido-sensei also chimed in, saying: “The sound director asks for my input between each scene while recording drama CDs, but that doesn’t happen with live-action adaptations, so it was interesting to see how different the outcome was even though it was based on a story I wrote”.
The final question for the first half of the talk session addressed what Marukido-sensei thought about people creating Pornographer fanart, especially since it’s become more common after the live-action was aired. Marukido-sensei’s answer was as follows: “Please, by all means, feel free to do so! I’m very grateful. That said, if you’re creating fanworks based on the drama version, please make sure you’re not doing anything that’d be rude to the actors”. For fan artists, it must be really helpful to hear directly from the artist about matters like this!
Marukido-sensei’s work environment
After a break, Marukido-sensei shared her screen and showed us how she draws. She takes great care while writing the plot for her manga; the text file that was shown on-screen looked a lot like a movie script. This is the most time-consuming process for Marukido-sensei, and while it’s easy for her to make educated guesses about how long it’d take her to finish drawing, she finds the plot-writing stage to be quite stressful since she has no idea how long it’ll take…! Marukido-sensei also tweaks with the story and the dialogue while drafting her manga pages.
Before she commences drawing, Marukido-sensei reads through her plot and pastes the dialogue into Clip Studio Paint. Her draft pages are drawn digitally, and she adds enough detail to let you visualise the end result easily. After pasting the dialogue onto her pages, she drafts the overall visuals of each page and quickly decides on the panel layouts.
Marukido-sensei usually submits her draft pages within 2-3 days of finishing the plot; according to Momonga, this is “really quick” compared to other manga artists. “Each artist has a different method of drafting, and us editors usually get to see it for the first time when they submit their work”, she said.
The draft pages shown on-screen during this session featured a few pages that said “No Image”. Marukido-sensei takes this approach when she’s unable to think of good layouts for the spicy scenes, since she wants to submit her draft for checking ASAP; “No Image” usually translates into “insert nice steamy scene here”. Marukido-sensei mentioned that the spicy scenes take a lot of energy to draw, so we really gotta thank her for keeping us fed!
Marukido-sensei has drawn digitally since her fan artist days. She used to draw traditionally and make digital adjustments when she was in uni, but that was mostly because Clip Studio didn’t exist back in those days. She often uses 3D materials and pose references on Clip Studio, but at one point, she bought a “princess set” for little girls to use as a reference for a particular scene…! “Actual drawing dolls are handy too, but their use is somewhat limited since they’re a tad too muscular. I mostly use them to check how knees are supposed to bend, and how muscles are meant to look.”, she added.
The digital screentone application process is mostly left to Marukido-sensei’s assistants, but she often makes specific requests when choosing her characters’ clothing patterns. She tends to stick with basic screentones, and rarely uses “special” screentones (like cloud patterns and such).
Marukido-sensei’s favorite part during the manga creation process is “everything up to the draft page creation”; to her, “finishing the pages feels like grinding”. She often worries about whether she’ll actually be able to draw something that she put in her draft, but it usually ends up working out in the end. Ideas for her stories could pop up at any time, so she focuses on brainstorming as much as possible. When she hits a “writer’s block”, she reads or watches other people’s works to find inspiration!
While Marukido-sensei was at it, she also chatted to us about the above CD cover illustration! The composition was inspired by the song title “Slow Dance”, and this was a rare opportunity for her to draw Kuzumi facing the back. The background was based on a photo of a real sunset, and she aimed for a more sentimental atmosphere than usual since the artwork was drawn to complement a song. Marukido-sensei added, “this was the most fun I’ve had recently while working on a coloured artwork”!
The above picture was initially drawn on a 30 x 30cm canvas to match the size of a vinyl record, but Marukido-sensei was then asked if they could make it into a poster “because the artwork is so nice”. We totally get that feeling; the bigger the print, the more we can admire the fine details!
At this point during the talk show, we got to hear about Marukido-sensei’s latest work Bokura no Micro na Shuumatsu (“Our Micro Doomsday”), which is currently being serialized on onBLUE. The main selling point of this title is its dramatic story, in which the Earth is projected to be destroyed in 10 days. Masumi, the protagonist, heads to his university library at the end of Chapter 1 and bumps into his ex, whom he never wanted to cross paths with ever again. A love story then unfolds as the two interact with each other!
When asked about the reason she decided to write a doomsday story, Marukido-sensei told us: “I came up with this story in January 2020 while visiting my family. I was thinking about how Momonga asked me to write something dramatic, and found inspiration for the overall plot after remembering Motoko Arai-sensei’s novel To You, At a Glance”. She wrote the plot before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, so she was very surprised to see how the real world ended up after that…
Momonga-san then gave us a passionate pitch about the appeal of Bokura no Micro na Shuumatsu, saying: “Although this is a doomsday story, there’s a clear romantic plot. The two main characters go on a road trip to reunite a high-school boy with his parents one last time, during which their history gets revealed and their relationship progresses”. Marukido-sensei’s previous works had a story that focused on the seme being attracted to the memorable uke, but this features a more shoujo-manga-esque story composition!
This manga is currently being serialized, but the first/second volumes are planned for release at around the end of this year. You’ll surely enjoy it if you’re a fan of Pornographer, so do keep an eye out for a potential future English release on futekiya!
Marukido-sensei wrapped up her talk show by discussing her thoughts about onBLUE. She always thought of onBLUE as “a cool BL magazine with lots of great titles that focus heavily on the storyline”, so when she was first approached by the editorial team, she couldn’t believe her luck!
Marukido-sensei’s favorite onBLUE works included the following 3 titles:
- A Stray Dog in the Night by Aiko Nobara-sensei
- Lying Devil by Sumako Kari-sensei
- STAYGOLD by Yoshiko Hide-sensei
Since there are many onBLUE titles that she loves, Marukido-sensei had given us a list of titles by artists who she’d followed before her debut. (A Stray Dog in the Night and Lying Devil are both available in the futekiya library!)
Marukido-sensei’s talk show wrapped up with the following remarks: “Even though I can’t always reply, I really appreciate the positive comments you send me through Twitter and other channels. I hope you enjoyed today’s session. All I can do is continue to draw manga as usual, but the live-action version of Pornographer will hit streaming services soon, so I hope you enjoy both the manga and the live-action!”.
Thank you, Marukido-sensei and Momonga!
This article is available in Japanese on honto’s swamp website below:
丸木戸マキ先生 漫画よもやまフリートーク イベントレポート
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