Kazuki Takahashi at MAGIC 2019, Part 3: Interview

April 10, 2019 at 2:00 pm | Posted in Duel Monsters, Japanese, Konami, Series 1, Yu-Gi-Oh! | 2 Comments
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Sahé Cibot and Kazuki Takahashi at MAGIC 2019 at Takahashi's Q&A panel

Kazuki Takahashi did more than judge a manga contest and sign autographs at MAGIC 2019. He also participated in a question-and-answer session where, for 25 minutes, he entertained the audience with candid insights about himself and his creations. Takahashi spoke about his start as an artist, the importance of creating dramatic cards and moments, the origin of the Blue-Eyes White Dragon, and even about a game he invented that failed to take off.

At MAGIC, all panels were conducted on stage in French. For attendees who only speak English, this wasn’t a problem if the guests were also English speakers. But for a panel like Takahashi’s, which was conducted in French and Japanese, the convention’s technology came to the rescue. Attendees could rent a pair of earphones and a receiver that allowed them to listen to an English interpretation of all the French dialogue spoken on stage.

Takahashi’s panel was the last one of the day, scheduled for 6:00 p.m. Sadly, it started very late and the auditorium, which could seat 400 people, was only about a quarter full. Nevertheless, the true fans in the room were all very enthusiastic. They made sure Takahashi could hear their cheers when he arrived on stage, even as the French Yu-Gi-Oh! theme song thundered from the loudspeakers as he entered.

Takahashi was accompanied on stage by his interpreter, Sahé Cibot, the general manager of Shibuya International and one of the manga contest’s judges. They were joined by Naoki Kawashima, deputy editor in chief of Shueisha’s Weekly Shonen Jump and fellow manga contest judge, although Kawashima did not speak during the panel. The moderator was Matthieu Pinon, a journalist and author who specializes in manga and anime topics.

This post contains a full transcript of Kazuki Takahashi’s Q&A panel.

Matthieu Pinon, Sahé Cibot, Kazuki Takahashi, and Naoki Kawashima at Takahashi's Q&A panel at MAGIC 2019
Left to right: Matthieu Pinon, Sahé Cibot, Kazuki Takahashi, and Naoki Kawashima

Matthieu Pinon: Good evening, everyone. Thank you for waiting for this grand moment, this extraordinary meeting with Mr. Takahashi, the author of the manga Yu-Gi-Oh!, whom you all know because you are all passionate about manga and Japanese pop culture. To begin this conference, we will first ask Mr. Takahashi, what manga did you read when you were a child? What manga did you like to read?

Kazuki Takakashi: Honestly, I liked to watch Japanese tokusatsu [special effects] TV shows where kaiju appear, like the Ultraman series and Kamen Rider. These are what led me to want to draw.

Pinon: So drawing is all well and good as a hobby, but at some point you decided to become a professional. What motivated you to move in this direction?

Takahashi: Since I loved to draw, I wanted to make it my career. Before I was a manga author, I was an illustrator and also worked on video games. Then I started developing manga.

Pinon: You just talked about video games. At the time Yu-Gi-Oh! launched, video games had exploded in popularity in Japan. Then you came along with Yu-Gi-Oh!, which was a table-top game, something that might seem a bit old-fashioned compared to the current trend. Was your editor surprised when you presented this project?

Takahashi: No, not at all. Back when I was working at a game company, it was an era of martial arts video games where players could take control of characters and make them fight. So, it was less interesting to create a manga about martial arts. It was more special, more different to make a manga about table-top games, which are analog and more traditional.

Pinon: There are many table-top games in the world. And when Yu-Gi-Oh! first debuted, the manga included several categories of games. When you launched the card game, that’s when the manga became a success. This success is thanks to you [the audience] and the editors. How did public interest in the Yu-Gi-Oh! card game manifest itself?

Takahashi: When the manga began, the original concept was to show various ways of battling using games each week. At first, I wasn’t even thinking about a card game. Cards were just one of those games. After drawing them for two weeks, there was such an overwhelming reaction from the readers that I decided to make the manga into a series about cards as a response to their request.

Kazuki Takahashi speaking at his Q&A panel at MAGIC 2019, with Sahé Cibot and Naoki Kawashima

Pinon: To first explain how readers can express their interest, we have to remember that the magazines contain a small postcard in that back that readers can mail to the publication to specify which series they prefer. And it was right at the moment that the card games appeared in Yu-Gi-Oh! that the manga climbed further and further into the top 10. Speaking of cards, you didn’t just make these cards by happenchance; you actually developed rules for the game. Could you explain to us your process of creating a card? How did you determine its characteristics while taking into account the increase in the number of cards as the game progresses?

Takahashi: First, I created the story and decided how a character would play an active role in that story. Then I asked myself, what card would be the most dramatic when used by the protagonist while fighting against an opponent? Are fan-favorite characters playing an active role? From there I created each card.

Pinon: Could you tell us, briefly, how many cards you created for the game? Do you remember?

Takahashi: I’ve… Never counted before. Quite a lot, I guess. Like… A thousand.

Pinon: Around a thousand! I think that deserves a round of applause because a thousand cards is so–

[The audience applauds, drowning out Pinon.]

Pinon: And among these one thousand cards, the most famous is the Blue-Eyes White Dragon. But why a white dragon with blue eyes? Why not, say, a black phoenix with red eyes? Why did you choose this animal with this color and specifically this eye color?

Takahashi: I wanted to design a mystical and cool monster for Yugi’s first rival, Seto Kaiba, when he appeared for their first battle. That monster became the Blue-Eyes White Dragon. In a black-and-white world [of manga], I wanted its name to evoke a feeling that would allow readers to conjure up its colors. Ultimately, the Blue-Eyes White Dragon turns out to be a woman — a woman with white hair, white skin, and blue eyes who is revealed in the story to be a spirit.

Pinon: Does anyone out there have the Blue-Eyes White Dragon card?

[Many people in the audience raise their hands.]

Takahashi: Ah. [Nods.]

Pinon: Congratulations, you can show off to others.

[The audience laughs.]

Pinon: And when you watch Game of Thrones, you will get to see your card.[1]

[A few more chuckles from the audience.]

Pinon: Quite often, a duel in Yu-Gi-Oh! is more than a simple face-to-face confrontation between two players. Through the strategy of the opponents, players get to know one another better. It’s almost as if they are communicating through the cards. Was this important to you in your manga?

Takahashi: Yes, that’s right. Because the protagonist, Yugi, is a character that readers are rooting for, I always thought about how to give him a dramatic victory. For example, his trump card gets destroyed and he needs a come-from-behind win. I always thought about how to make such dramatic developments possible in narrative terms.

Kazuki Takahashi speaking at his Q&A panel at MAGIC 2019, with Matthieu Pinon and Sahé Cibot

Pinon: As we all see, MAGIC invites not only famous manga authors but also authors of [non-Japanese] comics. We know that you are a particular fan of this medium. What comic series do you read? Which do you follow with great interest?

Takahashi: I really like Mike Mignola. When it comes to BD, I really like Moebius.[2]

Pinon: Those of you who have been to Japan before might know that production of Japan’s own homegrown comics is quite important, so much so that foreign comics, whether French or American, are not well represented. Where did you find them, and how did you enter the world of comics?

Takahashi: There actually are places in Japan that sell American comics and I occasionally visit them to shop. I’ve always been a fan of American comics, especially stories about superheroes. I love the impactfulness of the artwork, a style that can’t be found in Japanese manga.

Pinon: You mentioned Mike Mignola. You had the opportunity to meet him and exchange drawings. He drew Yugi and you drew Hellboy. Could you tell us a little about this meeting? Because, when we see the drawings, it must have been quite the interesting encounter.[3]

Takahashi: I actually haven’t met him. I was excited to meet him at a comic convention but it didn’t work out. But we did end up collaborating. I drew Mike Mignola’s Hellboy while he drew Yugi.

Pinon: [You exchanged your drawings] through your publishers?

Sahé Cibot: Right.[4]

Pinon: For those of you who don’t know how Yu-Gi-Oh! ends, we aren’t going to spoil it for you, but you really should read the manga to the end because it’s quite exciting. The conclusion of Yu-Gi-Oh! is particularly successful. There are many manga that will simply stop, with publishers stating that their popularity is declining and that this is where they would draw the line. But you took great care to make a well-prepared ending. How did you plan this with your editor? Without revealing the ending to the reader, could you tell us how you prepared this well-developed, thoughtful ending?

Takahashi: When serialization of Yu-Gi-Oh! began, I had already decided that Yugi would meet the other Yugi — that he would meet his, umm, double — and that the two would fight in the end. I decided from the very beginning that Yugi would win.

[Cibot translates Takahashi’s answer into French, but leaves out his last statement that Yugi would win.]

Cibot: This is a huge spoiler, isn’t it?

[The audience laughs.]

Pinon: The ending is from 2004 so those who got spoiled are 15 years behind. We won’t blame you.

Cibot: Well, I didn’t say who won.

Pinon: This is so– Anyway.[5] Why was it important to you that he meet his double?

Takahashi: Well, it’s kind of like a multiple personality. The idea is that when the protagonist finds himself in trouble, a stronger version of himself appears. As the story progresses, he learns more about that other self and realizes that he must defeat him in order to become independent. Eventually, he does defeat his other self, grow, and become independent. This is the theme of the story.

Pinon: Sometimes, our greatest adversary is none other than ourselves. Two years ago, I believe, Yu-Gi-Oh! was developed into a smartphone mobile app. There was a monstrous promotional campaign in Tokyo where you could see billboards all over the Yamanote [railway line], the likes of which is completely unimaginable over here.[6] How did it make you feel seeing the analog game that you had designed shift into a video game?

Takahashi: Sure enough, in the manga, there was a rule that the game should absolutely not be taken in a digital direction. But we’re talking about Konami Digital Entertainment here, so…

[Takahashi and Naoki Kawashima laugh.]

Kazuki Takahashi glancing to his left and laughing at his Q&A panel at MAGIC 2019

Pinon: Time has moved on of course and video games are now available on smartphones that everyone can have in their hands. So time passed and in 2004, you stopped the manga. And for ten years, you supervised everything that was developed after that. Then, in 2013, you returned with a one-shot called DRUMP. What motivated you to create this manga?

Takahashi: I had the opportunity to do a one-shot. I thought of making the theme about card games. The Yu-Gi-Oh! card game is incredibly extensible, with rare cards and powerful cards constantly being introduced–

Pinon: It’s quite the catalog. I think some people have one or more binders that are stuffed full of cards.

Takahashi: On the other hand, I thought I could make an interesting game using playing cards, which are limited to 52 cards, so I created a manga based on that concept.[7]

Pinon: So in DRUMP, if you have a deck of 52 cards and a pencil, you can build and rebuild a [DRUMP] deck. You will only ever need 52 cards. Did this constraint help you create a crazy new concept? Or was it a barrier?

Takahashi: I did a lot of play-testing and found it to be a well-rounded game, so I created a story around it. I had fun drawing it and making the cards. It was interesting to play. I really wanted it to become popular, but compared to the power of Yu-Gi-Oh!, it paled in comparison. [Laughs.]

Pinon: As you may have noticed, we’re running a bit late so we’re going to have to cut this short. However, to finish, Mr. Takahashi, you don’t often have the opportunity to meet a Monacan or French audience. Perhaps you have something you would like to tell your fans, who have come and waited until the end of the day to see you. So if you have anything you would like to say, now is the time. Seize the moment.

Takahashi: More than 20 years have passed since Yu-Gi-Oh! began serialization. I am so grateful to be able to come to Monaco to interact with fans. I thank you all from the bottom of my heart for supporting Yu-Gi-Oh!.

Sahé Cibot and Kazuki Takahashi looking at the audience at MAGIC 2019 at Takahashi's Q&A panel

Interview Notes

1. ^ See Game of Thrones, season 7, episode 7.

2. ^ BD (bédé) is short for bande dessinée, a term describing comics of French or Belgian origin. Jean “Moebius” Giraud was a famous creator of BD.

3. ^ Takahashi’s and Mike Mignola’s illustrations were printed in VIZ Media’s September 2004 issue of Shonen Jump magazine.

Kazuki Takahashi's Hellboy artwork and Mike Mignola's Yugi artwork from VIZ Media's Shonen Jump, September 2004

As described in this issue, VIZ Media had asked Takahashi to draw his favorite American comic book character with Yu-Gi-Oh!-style hair, so he created the Hellboy drawing on the left. VIZ then contacted Mignola and he agreed to draw Hellboy clad in Yu-Gi-Oh! apparel. The two artists then exchanged these drawings.

4. ^ In this awkward exchange, the interpreter, Cibot, did not translate into Japanese the first part of Pinon’s statement about how Takahashi had exchanged drawings with Mignola. Instead, she asked if Takahashi had ever met Mike Mignola before. That’s why Takahashi repeated the same information in his response.

5. ^ Another awkward exchange. Nothing was lost in translation here though. Takahashi ignored the no-spoiler request, hahaha.

6. ^ The mobile app that Pinon mentions is of course Yu-Gi-Oh! Duel Links. The Yamanote Line is a circular railway loop that connects Tokyo’s major city centers. The Yu-Gi-Oh! Duel Links billboards described by Pinon appeared in March 2017 and were well documented on social media and in Konami’s own video ads.

7. ^ The game Takahashi created is called DRUMP and uses a standard deck of 52 playing cards. The manga, also called DRUMP, was published in 2013 in Shueisha’s 49th issue of Weekly Shonen Jump magazine. It was not published in English or French.

(Questions and answers have been edited for clarity and readability.)

* * *

Next:
– Kazuki Takahashi at MAGIC 2019, Part 4: Coming soon

Previously:
Kazuki Takahashi at MAGIC 2019, Part 2: Autographs

Yu-Gi-Oh! Duelist and Monsters Memorial Disc Tops Japanese DVD Sales Chart

March 27, 2019 at 9:00 am | Posted in Japanese, Yu-Gi-Oh! | Leave a comment

Yu-Gi-Oh! Duelist and Monsters Memorial Disc DVD, Blu-ray, and Animate-exclusive postcard
Photo by @animatehonten

The Yu-Gi-Oh! Duelist and Monsters Memorial Disc — a new video product celebrating the Yu-Gi-Oh! Official Trading Card Game’s 20th anniversary — was released in Japan on March 20 and immediately soared to the top of Oricon’s sales charts.

Oricon’s animation DVD ranking for the week of March 18 to 24 names the Memorial Disc as the number 1 seller of the week with 8,480 copies sold.

The Blu-ray edition of the Memorial Disc also performed well with 5,693 copies sold, placing it second on Oricon’s animation Blu-ray ranking.

The Yu-Gi-Oh! Duelist and Monsters Memorial Disc was announced in November 2018 alongside the results of V Jump magazine’s poll of the best Yu-Gi-Oh! monsters. The Memorial Disc highlights the winners of this poll, playing back the monsters’ most memorable battle scenes with commentary from the series’ voice actors.

Also included is a music CD with a selection of popular songs played during battle scenes in each anime series. Additionally, first printings of the Memorial Disc include a Secret Rare Dark Magician Girl card and a booklet that lists the winners of the poll. Furthermore, purchases from certain retailers include exclusive bonus items. Animate offers a postcard (seen in the photo above), Amazon Japan offers a slipcover for the Blu-ray and DVD case, and Canime offers a clear file.

Check out an advertisement for the Memorial Disc from Marvelous, with narration by Kenjiro Tsuda, the voice of Seto Kaiba.

Mai Kujaku Voice Actress Receives Congratulatory Wedding, Birthday Illustration from Yu-Gi-Oh! Animator

February 11, 2019 at 6:00 pm | Posted in Duel Monsters, Japanese, Yu-Gi-Oh! | 3 Comments
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Artwork of Mai Kujaku wearing a wedding band by Takahiro Kagami
Mai Kujaku wearing a wedding band! See the whole illustration by Takahiro Kagami.

Happy birthday to Haruhi Nanao, the voice of Mai Kujaku (Mai Valentine) in Yu-Gi-Oh! Duel Monsters! Today, Yu-Gi-Oh! animator Takahiro Kagami posted an original illustration on Twitter for Nanao featuring a cheerful Mai and a nervous, blushing Jonouchi. It’s been a long time since he last drew Mai, wrote Kagami, but he finally found the time to draw her. He congratulated Nanao on her marriage last December and wished her a happy birthday.

Aside from playing Mai Kujaku, Haruhi Nanao is a regular in Crayon Shin-Chan as the voice of Ms. Yoshinaga (Ms. Anderson), and has also played Rin Nohara in Naruto Shippuden and Sella in Fate/kaleid liner Prisma Illya. Follow her on Twitter, @nanaoharuhi.

Takahiro Kagami is best known among Yu-Gi-Oh! fans as a prolific animator, animation director, and character and monster designer for Yu-Gi-Oh! Duel Monsters, Bonds Beyond Time, and The Dark Side of Dimensions. He is also a prominent animator and animation director for Mushi-Shi, Death Note, and Banana Fish. Follow him on Twitter, @jetikariya50.

Japanese Yu-Gi-Oh! Fans Pick Their Favorite Monsters

November 21, 2018 at 12:00 pm | Posted in 5D's, ARC-V, Duel Monsters, GX, Japanese, Other Stuff, VRAINS, Yu-Gi-Oh!, ZEXAL | 2 Comments

Yu-Gi-Oh! 20th Monster Selection poll graphic on Shueisha's V Jump website

As part of the ongoing festivities celebrating the 20th anniversary of Yu-Gi-Oh! in Japan, Shueisha’s V Jump magazine asked fans to name the best monster from the six Yu-Gi-Oh! anime series. The poll, which was held online earlier this year, amassed a whopping 33,056 votes. Today, V Jump released the results online and in its magazine — and some of the choices are quite unexpected!

Yu-Gi-Oh! Duel Monsters:

  1. Dark Magician Girl (6617 votes)
  2. Slifer the Sky Dragon (3848 votes)
  3. Blue-Eyes White Dragon (3089 votes)
  4. Dark Magician (2852 votes)
  5. Red-Eyes Black Dragon (1963 votes)

Yu-Gi-Oh! GX:

  1. Yubel (4183 votes)
  2. Elemental HERO Flame Wingman (3663 votes)
  3. Cyber End Dragon (3513 votes)
  4. Elemental HERO Neos (2564 votes)
  5. Elemental HERO Divine Neos (2545 votes)

Yu-Gi-Oh! 5D’s:

  1. Black Rose Dragon (6593 votes)
  2. Stardust Dragon (5268 votes)
  3. Shooting Quasar Dragon (3531 votes)
  4. Junk Warrior (2846 votes)
  5. Shooting Star Dragon (2120 votes)

Yu-Gi-Oh! ZEXAL:

  1. Gagaga Girl (5025 votes)
  2. Number 107: Galaxy-Eyes Tachyon Dragon (4110 votes)
  3. Number 39: Utopia (3587 votes)
  4. Number 62: Galaxy-Eyes Prime Photon Dragon (2994 votes)
  5. Galaxy-Eyes Photon Dragon (2986 votes)

Yu-Gi-Oh! ARC-V:

  1. Dark Rebellion Xyz Dragon (5609 votes)
  2. Clear Wing Synchro Dragon (4674 votes)
  3. Odd-Eyes Rebellion Dragon (3982 votes)
  4. Starving Venom Fusion Dragon (2781 votes)
  5. Odd-Eyes Pendulum Dragon (2502 votes)

Yu-Gi-Oh! VRAINS:

  1. Firewall Dragon (6061 votes)
  2. Decode Talker (4221 votes)
  3. Borreload Dragon (3939 votes)
  4. Trickstar Holly Angel (2207 votes)
  5. Gouki The Great Ogre (2017 votes)

All 30 of these monsters will be highlighted in an upcoming Blu-ray and DVD titled “Yu-Gi-Oh! Duelist and Monsters Memorial Disc,” to be released in Japan in March 2019. The product will feature commentary from the series’ voice actors as they watch these monsters in action in their most memorable scenes.

What do you think of these choices? Did your favorite monsters make the top five?

Related:
Japanese Yu-Gi-Oh! Fans Pick Their Favorite Duels

Yu-Gi-Oh! Animators Shuji Maruyama, Junichi Hayama at Youmacon 2018

November 9, 2018 at 11:00 pm | Posted in 5D's, Duel Monsters, Japanese, The Dark Side of Dimensions, Yu-Gi-Oh!, ZEXAL | 2 Comments
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Shuji Maruyama and Junichi Hayama at Youmacon 2018 opening ceremonies
Shuji Maruyama (left) and Junichi Hayama

Fans of anime, manga, and Japanese culture descended upon Detroit, Michigan, last weekend for the annual Youmacon convention. This event would be a very special one for animation fans because the convention welcomed four animators straight from Japan, including two highly respected and beloved Yu-Gi-Oh! animators.

Making his first ever appearance in the United States was Shuji Maruyama, a very prolific Yu-Gi-Oh! animator and animation director who has worked on Yu-Gi-Oh! Duel Monsters, 5D’s, ZEXAL, ARC-V, Bonds Beyond Time, and The Dark Side of Dimensions. Maruyama is probably best known by fans as the character designer for 5D’s. More recently, he has worked on Fuuka, Recovery of an MMO Junkie, and Hanebado!.

Returning for his second appearance at Youmacon was Junichi Hayama, who has served as an animator and animation director for Yu-Gi-Oh! Duel Monsters and as a key animator for The Dark Side of Dimensions. Hayama is well known for his mastery of the brush pen and has most recently been working on Golden Kamuy.

Joining Maruyama and Hayama were two more talented animators: Mamoru Yokota, who has worked on Death Note, Naruto, and Gatchaman Crowds; and Shigefumi Shingaki, who works full time at Toei Animation as an animation director for One Piece.

Over the weekend, all four animators participated in live drawing events, where cameras were homed in on their paper and pencils to get an up-close view of their artistic process, and in Q&A panels where they tackled burning questions from the audience.

But there was one very special panel that was not to be missed by any Yu-Gi-Oh! fan: “Draw of the Cards.” Moderated by Anthony “Kroze” Kresky of Yu-Gi-Oh! Abridged fame, Draw of the Cards was dedicated entirely to all things Yu-Gi-Oh!, with Shuji Maruyama and Junichi Hayama offering insights about the Yu-Gi-Oh! series they’ve worked on and delighting the audience with their illustrations.

This post contains a full transcript of the Draw of the Cards panel and also highlights the Yu-Gi-Oh! artwork that Maruyama and Hayama presented at Youmacon 2018.

Transcript: Draw of the Cards, a discussion about Yu-Gi-Oh!

Kroze: I’d like to start this panel by talking about what goes into animating and drawing a show that’s highly based on just people playing cards against each other. How do you make that exciting from an animator aspect?

Hayama: That’s something that the author of the source material really thinks of so I really don’t have any say in that.

Maruyama: This is a work with an actual proper source material so I make sure a lot of the elements from the source material are not lost in the adaptation.

Kroze: Since it’s coming from manga source material that already exists, has there ever been any difficulty adapting something over into the animated show that was easier to tell over in the manga?

Maruyama: I want to really keep the elements from the source material intact so I make sure to use the same “image.” So I really want to make sure I preserve the touches, the styles, the expressions, and the angles that are from the manga and convert that into an animation style.

Hayama: Exactly what Maruyama said. Adapting from manga to animation — they seem very similar but they’re actually very different in a lot of components. In manga, most of the time a lot of the motion and feelings are all condensed into one single image. Whereas in animation, you have to keep in mind that it is in motion and you really want to have fluidity in the entire content. At the same time, knowing how to make sure that the essence of the source material is intact while converting that to a fluid motion is what separates amateurs from veterans.

Kroze: Do you ever look to the cards for art inspiration when adapting some of the sequences into animation?

Hayama: We don’t actually take inspiration directly from the cards. There are dedicated people that deal with the monster designs so that they can be adapted from the cards to the animation. [Takahiro] Kagami is one good example of them. He is known among the fan community as one of the best animation directors in the production team.

Maruyama: Kagami did a lot of the earlier monster designs as well as the God Cards’ monster designs.

Kroze: Yu-Gi-Oh! has had a lot of great characters over the many years. Is there any character that you take pleasure in animating and drawing?

Hayama: I don’t have a particular favorite character because I make sure that plot lines and story lines are intact, and so I see value in all the characters.

Interpreter: Is that genuinely your answer? Or are you saying that because you don’t want to answer the question?

Hayama: No, seriously! Every single one has an important role in the story line.

Maruyama: Just from the ease of drawing, I really like to draw Yusei because I draw a lot of him, so I’ve got a lot of practice for him. But my particular favorite is Bruno from 5D’s. I like his role in the story and his design.

Kroze: Because Yusei is simple for you to draw, does it make the action scenes a lot easier to create? Does it let you be more dynamic because you don’t have to concentrate that much on Yusei?

Maruyama: Hmm…

Hayama: The more you draw, the easier it gets. You have the image of the picture revealed in your mind, so there’s one less thing to deal with. So sometimes even the smallest details like how his fingers appear, the more you draw, the more you memorize how they actually look. So in other words, practice makes perfect. At some point, it becomes a habit as opposed to a task.

Kroze: All of the Yu-Gi-Oh! shows have so many action sequences in them. Are there any particular ones that stand out that you had a lot of fun animating?

Hayama: I don’t remember. Sorry.

Maruyama: It’s not an action scene, but one of my favorite scenes is in Yu-Gi-Oh! Duel Monsters when Yugi is dueling Joey while he was being controlled by Marik. I love that, especially the scene where, after the duel is over, Yugi jumps into the water to try to help Joey. That’s one of my favorite scenes because it really allows me to reidentify, to reassure that their friendship just goes above and beyond what friendship really, truly is.

Kroze: At this point, I’d like to take a couple of questions from the audience.

Audience member: You’ve talked about which characters you look forward to drawing. Which characters are the most difficult to draw?

Hayama: Actually, monsters were really hard to draw. In Duel Monsters, there’s that black magician wearing some sort of belts fighting against Pegasus.

[Audience members shout out the name — Magician of Black Chaos.]

Hayama: When I saw that character design, I was like, you’ve got to be freakin’ kidding me.

[The audience laughs.]

Maruyama: A lot of the dragons in 5D’s were really hard to draw because a lot of them were 3D designs, even though some of them, like Black Rose, were drawn most of the time. Including that, there are a lot of dragons that were designed from the get-go through computer graphics as 3D models. They didn’t consider animators at all during that design process so I struggled with that.

Audience member: Have you ever played the card game itself?

Hayama: I don’t have a clue about it.

Maruyama: Recently, I’ve been playing Duel Links.

Audience member: Of the different summoning mechanics — Normal summoning, Xyz, Synchro — which is the most difficult to incorporate into an action sequence?

Hayama: I don’t understand all the different summonings so I just try to have fun without caring about them.

Maruyama: Summonings and the transformation portions are probably one of the most inspiring, appealing portions of the anime so I make sure to use some variations so there’s not all the same recycled motions. I have fun trying to come up with different kinds of animations.

Kroze: Are there any transformation sequences from other shows that you’ve look to for inspiration for some of those summoning sequences?

Maruyama: Not really. Not any one in particular.

Audience member: Which of the Egyptian God Cards is the hardest to animate?

Hayama: I don’t know. Which one’s are the God Cards again?

[Maruyama lists them off for him.]

Hayama: Which one’s the blue one? That’s the hardest. All of them are hard to illustrate.

Audience member: I was assuming it would be Ra because of all the scales and everything. The yellow one.

Hayama: I try to forget about bad memories.

[The audience laughs.]

Maruyama: Back when God Cards were the thing in Duel Monsters, I was still just pretty new, so I struggled with all of them.

Audience member: Are there any other series’ animators who you respect and who you draw inspiration from?

Hayama: Once we go down that rabbit hole, there’s no end to it.

Maruyama: True, but…

Hayama: I worked on Fist of the North Star. During that time, the character designer, Masami Suda, was like my mentor figure. A lot of my work has many elements that I learned from him. At the same time, when I was someone who just enjoyed anime not as a professional but as a viewer, I believed some of his touches are kind of reminiscent of the original Gundam series.

Maruyama: I learned a lot of things from [Takahiro] Kagami, one of the animation directors from Duel Monsters. A lot of my works are similar to his style.

Kroze: Is there anything in Yu-Gi-Oh! that you haven’t worked on that you want to work on? Like GX.

Hayama: As long as I get paid, I don’t care.

[The audience laughs.]

Maruyama: If I get asked to, I will be happy to do it.

Audience member: Are there any American series that influence your art?

Hayama: I watch The Simpsons. I also watch a lot of American comic series, from Marvel and DC. I watch them just for fun, but if I see something interesting, like certain layouts or designs, I might get inspiration from them.

Maruyama: I watch Pixar for fun, but I don’t think it really inspires my work because the styles are completely different.

Audience member: Have either of you worked with the creator of Yu-Gi-Oh!, Kazuki Takahashi?

Hayama: Nope.

Maruyama: I just said hi to him once.

[The audience commiserates with him — “Aww.”]

Hayama: I would like to meet him for a very personal reason. Takahashi worked on a spin-off manga of the anime Go-Q-Choji Ikkiman by Toei Animation. I was a fan of the show so I want to meet Takahashi just for that personal reason.

[Note: The Go-Q-Choji Ikkiman anime and manga aren’t available in English. According to the Go-Q-Choji Ikkiman Japanese Wikipedia entry, the manga was serialized in Kodansha’s Weekly Shonen Magazine in 1986 and was compiled into two graphic novel volumes. Takahashi worked on it using the pen name “Kazuo Takahashi.” -ravegrl]

Audience member: When you’re not animating, what’s your favorite thing to do at home?

Hayama: Rest assured, I don’t work all the time. I watch movies and drink a lot. The usual things.

Maruyama: Same.

Audience member: How did you get into the animation industry?

Hayama: Back when I was in high school, my friend’s brother was involved in an anime production. I mentioned to my friend that I might want to be an animator some day. “Oh, you want me to introduce my brother to you?” So I met him and asked if there’s a special school for this. “No, don’t do it. Don’t do it.” Two months later, I find myself introduced to a new company. After five minutes of introductions and a simple interview, they were like, “When are you going to come?” I started in April and the rest is history.

Maruyama: I went to a special school for animation. From there, I met the first company that I worked for, and now I’m here.

Kroze: Seeing as how this franchise has had a lot of people work on it, is there anything that either of you feel like you’ve contributed that you hope makes a lasting impression on the franchise as it moves onward?

Hayama: I will leave that to the viewers and the audience’s discretion.

Maruyama: I hope the character designs will stay intact as long as the series does continue.

Audience member: For Maruyama, you’ve talked about how you’ve drawn inspiration from animation director [Takahiro] Kagami. Do you know the story behind why, in so many of Kagami’s episodes, Joey is often shown making a tough-guy pointy-chin face?

Maruyama: Kagami really likes Antonio Inoki, who is a well-known pro wrestler in Japan. Kagami is a fan of him and so he played around with the thought that maybe Joey really likes pro wrestling. So in certain scenes, he added some references to some pro wrestlers in terms of their facial expressions or emotions or playfulness.

Audience member: Apart from the card game, Yu-Gi-Oh! known mostly for the hair. Which character’s hair is the most difficult for you to draw?

Hayama: Tristan. Tristan has a distinctive pointy hair style. What makes it difficult is that it really depends on the angle it is seen pointing. [The subsequent explanation is inaudible because of the excessive laughter from the audience.] That makes it difficult because the angle really changes his hairstyle. I saw the character design and was like, you’ve got to be kidding me.

Maruyama: The character Vector in Yu-Gi-Oh! ZEXAL. His hair is very hard to draw. Similar to Tristan, the angle really dictates how the hairstyle looks. In the show Ashita no Joe, the main character has a very interesting hairstyle as well. Depending on the angle, the hair goes on one side or the other. Even if he looks straight forward, it still goes a little to the left or right. Likewise, for Vector, I really have to think about how, if I am looking straight at him, how the hair would look.

Audience member: If you have the chance to create your own monster card or Yu-Gi-Oh! card, what ideas would you have for it?

Hayama: I won’t know until I try.

Maruyama: I will try to design a cute girl, like Dark Magician Girl.

Audience member: In Yu-Gi-Oh! 5D’s, the final villain, Z-One, has a really interesting design. Where did the idea for his design originate?

Maruyama: I didn’t design him so I have no idea. But the first time I saw that design, I said that looks really tedious.

[Note: The actual designer of Z-One is Shinichi Miyazaki, who is credited in the endings of episode 65 and onward for his “Concept Design Cooperation.” Miyazaki recently tweeted an early design sketch and character concepts for Z-One. -ravegrl]

Audience member: Did you enjoy working on ZEXAL more or 5D’s? Which one was more fun?

Maruyama: I had more fun with ZEXAL because it was a little more colorful and playful. In 5D’s, very early on, the main character gets arrested. That sets up the tone of the show to be kind of dark. I think it’s not my actual output that is dark, but that darkness is something that I have to keep in the back of my mind when I’m actually illustrating.

Kroze: Speaking of 5D’s, the show, like you said, has a very dark tone. While manga is always black and white, 5D’s definitely has a very prominent “color” to it that makes its darkness feel entrenching. Is there anything that you looked at that inspired how you approached the darkness there?

Maruyama: There are actually dedicated people that deal with the color tone and the director and the people that handle this idea. They handle the tone of the colors and they make sure it’s all consistent with the story and throughout the series. So I didn’t have much of a say in the actual color.

Audience member: In the Dark Side of Dimensions movie, Kaiba and Mokuba don’t have their lockets on. Do you know why their lockets aren’t included in the movie even though they always wore them in the TV anime and manga?

Maruyama: I have no idea. I was given the designs from the directors. There’s nothing that took place in the background that we know of or any theories we can verify.

Audience member: Was there ever a time you had to animate something where you said no, you couldn’t do it, or had to change the way it was animated because it was too difficult to create?

Hayama: There were many occasions where I’ve thought it’s impossible to do a certain thing within a certain given schedule. Before I decide to accept the job, I make sure it’s something that I can finish. Because if you do accept the job that’s nearly impossible to do, you will always experience something bad.

Maruyama: No comment. [Laughs.]

Audience member: Do you have any favorite old American action movies?

Hayama: Escape from New York.

Maruyama: Back to the Future.

Interpreter: Is it a sin to have never watched that movie?

Kroze: What?! Are you serious?

Hayama: You’re joking! How sad.

Audience member: In Duel Monsters, Noa’s story arc wasn’t in the manga. What is it like drawing something that doesn’t have a source material?

Hayama: Even during Noa’s arc, I was just an animator, so I wasn’t part of the actual major staff. The director and the scriptwriter are the ones who make the decisions about the details. But, having said that, I did feel that it was kind of different than usual, that it was kind of weird. But a job is a job.

Maruyama: What Hayama said.

Kroze: I have a final question for both of you. This is a little bit of a silly one, but the phrase “the heart of the cards” is used many times in the series. What do you believe the heart of the cards means?

Hayama: Sorry, I have no idea.

Maruyama: I’ve never heard of that.

[The audience laughs.]

Interpreter: “Kādo no kokoro wo shinjiru” — “To believe in the heart of the cards.” [The interpreter places his index and middle fingers on top of his wrist, as if he were pausing before drawing a card.]

Hayama & Maruyama: Aaah!

Hayama: It’s a fully mental thing. Probably a full mental hypnosis.

Shuji Maruyama and Junichi Hayama’s Yu-Gi-Oh! Illustrations at Youmacon 2018

While the animators were answering questions during the Draw of the Cards panel, they were also busy putting pen to paper. What were they drawing? This panel was technically a Q&A panel, not a live drawing panel, so there were no cameras set up that pointed at their papers. So, the audience would just have to be surprised.

At the end of the panel, Shuji Maruyama and Junichi Hayama revealed what they had been working on and invited the audience to approach them and take photos.

Maruyama wowed the crowd with his Yusei Fudo and Jack Atlas:

Yusei Fudo and Jack Atlas illustrations, drawn live by Shuji Maruyama at Youmacon on November 3, 2018

Close-up of Yusei Fudo in an illustration drawn live by Shuji Maruyama at Youmacon on November 3, 2018

Close-up of Jack Atlas in an illustration drawn live by Shuji Maruyama at Youmacon on November 3, 2018

Hayama’s Seto Kaiba and Yami Yugi left the audience awestruck:

Seto Kaiba and Yami Yugi illustrations, drawn live by Junichi Hayama at Youmacon on November 3, 2018

Close-up of Seto Kaiba in an illustration drawn live by Junichi Hayama at Youmacon on November 3, 2018

Close-up of Yami Yugi in an illustration drawn live by Junichi Hayama at Youmacon on November 3, 2018

Needless to say, everyone was astonished by the works Maruyama and Hayama managed to turn out while they were casually chatting with the audience. They are both truly masters of their craft.

These are the only two Yu-Gi-Oh! pieces that Hayama drew the entire weekend.

Maruyama, however, created more Yu-Gi-Oh! illustrations at other live drawing and Q&A panels that weren’t specifically dedicated to Yu-Gi-Oh!.

Here is another take on Yusei and Jack by Maruyama. This photo is from fellow animator Mamoru Yokota (@yokotamamoru).

Yusei Fudo and Jack Atlas together, drawn live by Shuji Maruyama at Youmacon on November 2, 2018

Seto Kaiba was a very popular request for Maruyama. He drew Kaiba and Blue-Eyes White Dragon twice using two different styles at two different panels:

Seto Kaiba drawing a card with Blue-Eyes White Dragon, drawn live by Shuji Maruyama at Youmacon on November 3, 2018

Seto Kaiba standing with Blue-Eyes White Dragon, drawn live by Shuji Maruyama at Youmacon on November 4, 2018

All of these illustrations by Maruyama and Hayama were given away to lucky audience members.

On Facebook, Yu-Gi-Oh! voice actress Erica Schroeder, who was also a guest at Youmacon, shared a story and photo of how she had the great fortune of running into Shuji Maruyama in her hotel lobby. After Maruyama learned that Akiza Izinski is her favorite character that she has played, he whipped up an original illustration for Erica in minutes.

Erica Schroeder, Shuji Maruyama, and Maruyama's illustration of Akiza Izinski

Truly a moment she won’t ever forget!

At Youmacon’s Artists Alley, the animators had their own table set up where they accepted a very limited number of commissions over the weekend. When they weren’t attending panels or sightseeing in Detroit, they were busy drawing at their table. Youmacon attendees could commission an original piece of monochrome or full-color artwork on a shikishi — a hard paper board often used in Japan for autographs, paintings, and calligraphy.

Shuji Maruyama displayed two sample shikishi at the table — one with a color drawing of Yuma Tsukumo with Astral, and another with a monochrome drawing of Yami Yugi and Seto Kaiba standing back to back.

Yuma Tsukumo, Astral, Yami Yugi, and Kaiba illustrations on two shikishi by Shuji Maruyama at Youmacon 2018

Yuma Tsukumo and Astral illustration on a shikishi by Shuji Maruyama at Youmacon 2018

Yami Yugi and Seto Kaiba illustration on a shikishi by Shuji Maruyama at Youmacon 2018

Throughout the weekend, all of the animators held autograph sessions where they each offered posters to fans that featured original illustrations from anime series that they’ve worked on.

Junichi Hayama’s print showed Saichi Sugimoto and Asirpa from Golden Kamuy. But Shuji Maruyama’s print was this masterpiece of Yusei Fudo, Jack Atlas, and Yami Yugi:

Shuji Maruyama's original print with Yusei Fudo, Jack Atlas, and Yami Yugi illustrations

Want to see Shuji Maruyama and Junichi Hayama at more events? Contact your nearest anime convention’s guest relations staff and let them know!

Follow Shuji Maruyama on Twitter, @masyuu_nemunemu.

And follow Junichi Hayama on Twitter, @hayama11.

* * *

If you enjoyed hearing from Shuji Maruyama and Junichi Hayama, check out my coverage of Youmacon 2017, where Hayama made his first American convention appearance. At that event, Hayama spoke in greater depth about his background, techniques, and the animation industry.

(Questions and answers have been edited for clarity and readability.)

VIZ Media to Publish Kazuki Takahashi’s THE COMIQ Short Manga Series

October 6, 2018 at 11:30 am | Posted in Japanese, Other Stuff | 3 Comments
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Preview of Kazuki Takahashi's THE COMIQ

Yu-Gi-Oh! creator Kazuki Takahashi is returning to Shueisha’s Weekly Shonen Jump! In honor of the magazine’s 50th anniversary, Takahashi will debut a new manga titled “THE COMIQ.” This limited series will launch in issue #46 of WSJ on October 15. Chapter 1 contains 53 pages. The story is about a rookie manga creator’s manuscript and the secret it possesses. This news was unveiled in issue #45 of WSJ, which hit newsstands in Japan today instead of on its normal Monday date because of the Health and Sports Day holiday.

Also today, VIZ Media announced at its Shonen Jump panel at New York Comic Con that it will serialize THE COMIQ in its English-language magazine.

(h/t ANN. Image from @VIZMedia.)

Yu-Gi-Oh! 5D’s Comes to Duel Links

September 25, 2018 at 12:00 pm | Posted in 5D's, English dubbed, Japanese, Yu-Gi-Oh! | Leave a comment
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Crimson Dragon mark and eye from the Yu-Gi-Oh! 5D's Duel World opening animation in Yu-Gi-Oh! Duel Links

Duelists young and old, professional and amateur alike, it’s the moment you’ve been waiting for! The world of Yu-Gi-Oh! 5D’s is here! Yusei Fudo and his friends today join the smash hit Yu-Gi-Oh! Duel Links game. With them come the new Synchro monsters and Synchro summoning mechanic.

Synchro what?! Don’t worry, they’re not complicated. But if you don’t know how to Synchro summon, you’ll be able to play a short tutorial after picking up your first Synchro cards that teaches you how to use them.

To gain access to the 5D’s Duel World, you first need to unlock Yusei by reaching Stage 10 in the DM Duel World. Then, complete the Character Unlock Mission of summoning Wind-attribute monsters ten times. As you reach higher stages, you’ll be able to unlock more characters, like Akiza Izinski, Leo, and more.

In Japan, the Yu-Gi-Oh! 5D’s anime will begin streaming on several Japanese video networks beginning on October 1 to celebrate this update. Fans in the West are more fortunate, as we’ve had the entire Yu-Gi-Oh! 5D’s anime, both dubbed and subbed, streaming for free for the last couple of years.

Yu-Gi-Oh! Duel Links’ addition of the 5D’s world follows its release of the GX world almost exactly one year ago.

Yu-Gi-Oh! 5D's logo and Duel World (5D's) in Yu-Gi-Oh! Duel Links

Yusei Fudo, Jack Atlas, and Stardust Dragon in Yu-Gi-Oh! Duel Links

Kazuki Takahashi’s Weekly Shonen Jump 50th Anniversary Illustration & Comment

July 14, 2018 at 11:00 am | Posted in Japanese, Yu-Gi-Oh! | Leave a comment
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Kazuki Takahashi's Weekly Shonen Jump 50th anniversary illustration featuring Yami Yugi

Shueisha’s Weekly Shonen Jump debuted on July 11, 1968, in Japan. Since then, the manga magazine has serialized a legion of beloved stories, not the least of which is Yu-Gi-Oh! by Kazuki Takahashi. Now, to commemorate the magazine’s 50th anniversary, Takahashi and a hundred other serialized manga creators each inked their own special illustrations on a shikishi board. Takahashi’s is shown above. The text says “Celebrate! Congratulations on the 50th anniversary of your first issue, Jump!”

In the latest issue of Weekly Shonen Jump (published today in Japan instead of on its usual Monday date because of the Marine Day holiday break), Takahashi and other Jump manga creators leave more well-wishes and comments commending the magazine.

Kazuki Takahashi's Weekly Shonen Jump 50th anniversary comment in issue 33
Photo by @bang_ipp

“Congratulations! I’m thrilled to have a Yu-Gi-Oh! character also taking part in Jump’s 50th anniversary event!” says Takahashi.

To see a larger version of Kazuki Takahashi’s artwork and the other one hundred shikishi, head over to Shueisha’s official Weekly Shonen Jump website.

UNIQLO’s Weekly Shonen Jump 50th Anniversary Yu-Gi-Oh! Shirts

May 4, 2018 at 7:00 pm | Posted in Duel Monsters, Japanese, Series 1, Yu-Gi-Oh! | 2 Comments
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Yami Yugi T-shirt by UNIQLO

Shueisha’s Weekly Shonen Jump magazine turns 50 years old this year! The home of Kazuki Takahashi’s Yu-Gi-Oh! manga, WSJ has teamed up with UNIQLO to develop Jump UT, a new line of T-shirts featuring the hottest WSJ series and characters. In the coming months, the Japanese casual wear maker will be selling 83 different shirt designs in its stores all over the world. Today, Jump UT made its debut in UNIQLO’s online and brick-and-mortar stores in the United States — and Yu-Gi-Oh! has the honor of being one of the first series included at launch!

Currently, there is one Yu-Gi-Oh! design available, pictured above, featuring Yami Yugi. The image is taken from the title page of chapter 200 of Yu-Gi-Oh! Duelist. This shirt is only available in kids sizes.

At least two more Yu-Gi-Oh! designs will be available in U.S. stores in the near future. One is a white T-shirt with the three Blue-Eyes White Dragon cards printed on the left breast. The other is a black T-shirt with Dark Magician in his iconic pose. These two shirts will arrive on May 25. These designs are already for sale on UNIQLO’s Japanese website, which lists both shirts as adult men’s cuts.

UNIQLO T-shirt designs featuring three Blue-Eyes White Dragon cards and Dark Magician

UNIQLO’s Jump UT shirts are $14.90 for adult sizes and $9.90 for kids sizes.

Which other Weekly Shonen Jump series will get their own UNIQLO shirts? How did UNIQLO select which designs to use? What special considerations went into developing Jump UT? For insights into this product line, check out the manga The Making of Jump UT!, available in VIZ Media’s free WSJ section.

And for more Yu-Gi-Oh! shirts, don’t forget to visit ShopYuGiOh.com.

Update (May 25): UNIQLO’s Blue-Eyes White Dragon and Dark Magician shirts are now up!

Yu-Gi-Oh! Bonds Beyond Time SteelBook Blu-ray Available Now

March 27, 2018 at 12:00 pm | Posted in Bonds Beyond Time, English dubbed, Japanese, Yu-Gi-Oh! | 5 Comments
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Front cover of Cinedigm's Yu-Gi-Oh! Bonds Beyond Time SteelBook

Yu-Gi-Oh! has joined a select number of anime titles in getting its own SteelBook! Today, Cinedigm Entertainment re-releases Yu-Gi-Oh! Bonds Beyond Time on Blu-ray in a lovely, collectible SteelBook case. The glossy gold case features brand-new key art of Yugi, Jaden, and Yusei on the cover. This artwork hasn’t been seen on any other release of this movie, not even in Japan. Inside the case is Yugi’s glowing Millennium Puzzle alongside some Egyptian hieroglyphs.

The contents of the Blu-ray disc are identical to Cinedigm’s original Blu-ray release of the movie in 2014. The disc contains the movie in both English and Japanese.

The Yu-Gi-Oh! Bonds Beyond Time SteelBook is available now from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Best Buy, and many other video retailers for a suggested retail price of $24.99. UPC: 767685157343.

Back cover of Cinedigm's Yu-Gi-Oh! Bonds Beyond Time SteelBook

The Millennium Puzzle and hieroglyph inside Cinedigm's Yu-Gi-Oh! Bonds Beyond Time SteelBook

Jaden, Yusei, and Yugi on the front cover of Cinedigm's Yu-Gi-Oh! Bonds Beyond Time SteelBook

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