Hiro Mashima first burst onto the scene in Japan with the popular comedy/supernatural series, Rave (known as Rave Master in the US), in 1999. His mix of fantasy, over-the-top slapstick, and down to earth irreverence led him to create Fairy Tail next, a comedy/fantasy adventure series licensed by Del Rey Manga in the U.S. The series immediately made PW’s comics bestseller list after the Del Rey editorial team decided to get fans attention by releasing volumes one and two simultaneously—and to invite Mashima to the San Diego Comic-Con International for his first visit. At San Diego, Mashima was received warmly by manga fans and PWCW was able to interview him on the exhibition floor. Thanks to Del Rey’s director of licensing, Mutsumi Miyazaki, for translating.
PW Comics Week: What do you think of Comic-Con?
|Hiro Mashima and the winner of a contest to dress as one of his characters.|
Hiro Mashima:There’s lots of energy, and passion from the fans. I can feel that.
PWCW : Do you make appearances in Japan as well?
HM:Not yet. Not for Fairy Tail.
PWCW : For you, in your opinion, what makes a good story?
HM: It’s something that everyone can enjoy no matter what age group they are in, from kids to teens. I try to cater to all of the above—as well as myself.
PWCW : In Rave and Fairy Tail, you have two main characters, both boys, who have no fathers. Additionally, two adventures in Fairy Tail entail saving a father-son relationship. Why is this relationship important for you to explore?
HM: It’s partly from my personal experience. I lost my father when I was younger. In a way, it’s difficult to imagine what a father is. In my stories, instead of introducing the father figure first, I introduce him in the later part and expand from there. I kind of keep him as a mysterious figure and introduce him little by little later on.
PWCW : Your female characters in Fairy Tail are sweet and sexy, sometimes cranky, but also smart and strong and very capable. Usually, the female characters in shonen manga are sweet or sexy, but rarely exhibit the type of focus and determination that your female characters possess. Do you have a preference for more serious women characters?
HM: In Japanese society, I feel that women are starting to have more and more power, and feel a stronger belief in themselves. I thought it might be appealing to have a character like that for my fans. I think it makes a character more attractive.
PWCW : Do any of the women in your family exhibit these characteristics?
HM: All the characters, not just the female characters, do have elements from people that I actually know in my life.
PWCW : You are working on Fairy Tail, you are working with Kodansha on a new magazine, you are also a judge for a new competition. Now that you are a professional mangaka, is manga still fun?
HM: Of course, that’s what I live for. It’s my passion. And in addition to creating, I feel that scouting new talent is part of my duty as an artist.
PWCW : When did you start thinking about pursuing manga as a career?
HM: Ever since I can remember [Mashima is no1 31. When I was little, I thought, I want to do this for the rest of my life. My grandfather used to find manga from the nearby mountains [that had been thrown away] where we lived. Day by day, he would find something and bring it home. I would find inspiration from these drawings.
PWCW : Did your parents ever worry or try to discourage you?
HM: They all were very supportive. I lost my father when I was young. My father was also an artist and wanted to become a professional artist, but he passed away before he could achieve that dream. I want to make this dream come true on his behalf.
PWCW : There is a good deal of silliness, dry humor and slapstick in Fairy Tail. What are your inspirations for humor? Did you watch American cartoons?
HM: The humor comes from various aspects of my life. I work in the same room with my assistants, and they may joke around certain things [that give me ideas]. Also, I find inspiration for my work from my daily life.
PWCW : Do you listen to music when you work? What kind?
HM: I like rock ’n’ roll, but I take turns with my assistants, so we kind of go around. I love Green Day. I’m listening to them now, but I’ve always loved them.
PWCW : Which artists--musicians, mangaka, writers, movies/movie directors--have inspired you or your work?
HM: Akira Toriyama. J.R.R. Tolkien.
PWCW : You seem to get along very well with your assistants. Did you assemble them yourself or were they assigned to you?
HM: I didn’t know them before—some came because they are fans [of my work], or they applied [for the assistant job], or were referred by friends. But the ultimate decision is up to me. I decide who I want to work with. In my assistants, I look for someone who is seriously pursuing a career in manga. I don’t want to hire someone just looking to get paid. I want someone who is passionate about becoming a mangaka. Unless it’s someone like that, they won’t last.
PWCW : Is your team of assistants on Fairy Tail the same team that worked with you on Rave Master?
HM: Some have become professional artists in between. There’s only one person from Rave that remains. Most became professional mangaka.
PWCW: Were you sad to see them go?
HM: I felt 50% sadness, and the other 50%, I was very happy for them.
PWCW : Do you have any hobbies? Do you have free time?
HM: Yes, of course. I feel it’s important to have time like that so I can find inspiration for my work. That’s also part of my professional career. I love to play video games and guitar, and I like to draw and sketch.
PWCW: Do you play any sports?\
HM: No. [Showing his hand] This is my life. I’m very careful. I’m not very good at sports anyway.
PWCW : I’ve spoken to a few American comickers, and they talk about the physicality of drawing so much.
HM: When I first started out, I had really bad carpal where I couldn’t even use my wrist. But it’s been 10 years, so now I’m used to it. Perhaps I’ve naturally found a way not to hurt it.
PWCW : Do you ever feel like your arm or your hand has an expiration date?
HM: [smiles] Not at all.