Inoue sensei held a conference on Saturday to talk about his works and answer the audience’s questions. He mainly told us things about Slam Dunk, Vagabond, and his illustration book Pepita. I will try to summarize the contents of this conference with the best of my abilities.
He started by briefly introducing himself and telling us how he became a Mangaka. As far as he can remember, he always loved drawing so during his high school days, when he was asked what are his projects for the future, he started to ask himself what job could he do to be able to draw. He then decided to become a Mangaka. After that, he explained why he chose to do a Basketball manga, Kaede Purple as his first work. Inoue sensei was in the Basketball club in high school and loved it, so a basketball-themed manga was the natural choice that came to him. He also told us Sakuragi, the main character of Slam Dunk, was created in order to be the counterpart of Rukawa from Kaede Purple, who also appears in Slam Dunk. He said he was quite bad at first but he always believed he would get better, which he did during the 6 years he spent publishing in Shonen Jump. He also said he was surprised that Slam Dunk became such a great hit, and that it’s now part of what is considered the golden age of Shonen Jump.
Another Basketball manga he’s writing is Real, which he had the idea to create simply after watching a documentary on Wheelchair Basketball on tv. He thought it was quite an amazing sport and decided to make a manga of it.
After he was done with Slam Dunk, he wanted to try out doing a more mature manga, with deeper feelings. That would be Vagabond. He decided to choose Miyamoto Musashi as his main character simply because he’s one of the historical figures he had recently heard about before planning the manga. His initial plan for Vagabond was to make it a short story, ending it in around two years. However this started to prove difficult as he added more and more elements to the story. To this day the manga is still being published.
In Vagabond, he decided to go against historical records and portray Sasaki Kojiro as a deaf man, because he was looking for a way to make him skilled enough to rival Musashi. By making him deaf, he created a character that doesn’t focus on the outside world but only strives to perfect himself.
The art of Vagabond have this particular trait to it because starting volume 14, he started drawing it with a brush used for calligraphy instead of the usual pens Mangaka use. Inoue sensei explained to us the tip of a pen is hard and you can only draw with it in a stiff way. You have to start drawing and lift the tip at precise points. With a brush, the drawing is smoother and there’s some kind of random factor. Sometimes you’ll stop a bit farther than where you planned to, sometimes it’ll go on another direction. He likes that random factor, and he thinks the readers can perceive it and enjoy it as well.
He continued to tell us details on his work style, and explained how working on a new chapter usually goes. First, he meets up with his supervisor, to talk about the manga’s story so far, what story elements he’s going to introduce next, what the readers liked and what they didn’t, in order to make a rough storyboard. This takes around 3 days. The time after that is spent drawing the chapter. Inoue sensei admitted that part is quite difficult to speak about, because most of the time when he’s done, what he did turns out different from what they planned, and by that point there’s isn’t time left to change things. And even without doing so, he’ll still have to reduce his sleep-time in order to make the deadline. There are five people in his studio, him included. They do the backgrounds inking while he does everything else.
After that, he started talking about Pepita, his upcoming artbook & travel diary inspired by Antoni Gaudí’s architecture. He decided to create this book during his trip to Barcelona. He liked how natural Gaudí’s works are and he felt the wish within them to be in accordance with nature. This is something he also tries to express in Vagabond. Gaudí’s designed buildings may look a bit weird at first glance, but they’re in harmony with nature and the landscape.
The questions by the audience:
There’s a lot of popular Basketball manga recently, most notably Kuroko No Basket. Do you ever read them?
Inoue sensei replied he doesn’t read other Basketball manga as he don’t have much free time. He never really checked Kuroko.
You used to be an assistant of Hojo Tsukasa. Did you influence any of his works?
He answered that he didn’t, of course not. In fact, he was more getting in the way than helping. He sucked back then.
You also did a manga on soccer, are you also a soccer fan? (Here)
He complimented the person asking this, saying he is quite well informed. He is indeed also a fan of soccer, watching some matches from time to time, the J-League, the national team’s matches and the world cup like everyone else.
Are you planning to do a sequel to Slam Dunk someday?
He explained he can’t say yes because if he did, the pressure will be tremendous if he can’t do it in the end, and he cannot say no either because he definitely doesn’t want to close that door himself. Maybe when he has more free time and feel like he wants to do it, he’ll do it.
You did an art expo on Vagabond. Will you do another one, possibly with all your works this time?
It takes a lot of work, but he’ll try to do it again.
Why Slam Dunk and Real are focused on teamwork while Vagabond is all about loneliness?
He answered it’s something that came forth logically, as basketball is a team sports. However every character in Slam Dunk and Real do persevere and try hard in their own way when they’re alone. As for Vagabond, it’s the story of a man and his sword. Again, a logical choice. However, in the latest chapters of Vagabond, you’ll notice that Musashi slowly starts to rely on others and ask for help.
I probably omitted some things, and the things about Pepita were a bit too deep for me so I cut the details on this. Thanks for reading.