Tite Kubo is the creator behind the manga series, Bleach, now up to volume 23 in the U.S., and volume 33 in Japan, where it has sold more than 100 million copies. It's also been developed into an anime series, two feature-length animated movies—one of which had a limited theatrical release in the U.S. this summer—and a number of video games. Bleach continues its serialization in the weekly Japanese manga anthology magazine, Shonen Jump, making Kubo’s visit to San Diego a rare treat. His fans filled the seats to SRO capacity during his panel, and even waited in line outside the room for a mere glimpse of the star creator. PW Comics Week had the opportunity to meet the famed mangaka during Comic-Con and to ask him a few questions. Thanks to Viz Media’s Hiromi Psaila, who translated.

PW Comics Week : When you were first creating Bleach, did you think it would be this successful?

Tite Kubo : I don’t think it’s a success yet. But I’m very, very happy to learn that lots of fans are enjoying it in a place where I’d never imagine [it would be popular]. It’s very rare and difficult for me to see fans because I’m so busy, so this is a rare opportunity for me.

PWCW: What do you think of the U.S.? And Comic-Con?

: My first impression is that America is so huge, so big, and the sun is very strong, very bright. Thanks to the intense light, you can see the vivid color of trees, the buildings.

Comic-Con is huge, too. It’s very interesting to see big major publishers and also independent artists drawing and selling [their comics] on the same floor. That doesn’t really happen in Japan. Also artists are close to their audience, which doesn’t happen in Japan, either. I feel envious of this situation. Artists and fans are so close, and they can get closer to each other. In Japan, artists and fans are rather far apart from each other.

PWCW : Now that Bleach has been going on for a bit, how do you keep the adventure and the story fresh?

TK : I think it maintains a freshness because when I create manga, I don’t think about what’s going to happen—I just come up with an idea and let it flow. It’s a weekly installment, so I have a very short time to create manga, but the good thing is that because it’s short, I can come up with the idea and start creating it.

PWCW : Have you ever gotten yourself into a situation that made you say, “Uh-oh”?

TK : I don’t really face that kind of situation because it’s a long story and sometimes I forget what’s happened in the past, but I read the previous volumes of Bleach and that usually helps me to create and have a new idea.

PWCW: What is your favorite aspect of creating Bleach?

TK : When I draw the scene that I’d been dreaming about or had always wanted to draw, that is the time that I’m happiest. The other time that I really enjoy is when I create new characters. But when I create new characters, it’s not usually when I’m working. When I’m running errands, it will come up in my mind, and then I’ll develop it. It’s one of the most enjoyable parts. But I enjoy drawing and creating manga, so it’s always fun.

PWCW : In both Bleach and Zombie Powder 9 [an early, unfinished work by Kubo], the theme of death is prevalent. People are haunted, family members are killed. Why is this theme important to you?

TK : When I was very small, three or four years old, I remember wondering what was going to happen to me or other people when they die. When I saw babies’ images in mothers’ wombs, I wondered where we all came from. For me, life and death are very important themes. There is no life without death. That’s why it’s very important to me.

PWCW : You mentioned that when you draw action, you choose the best angle in your head. How do you decide which is the best angle?

TK : I select the angle based on its looks. It has to be cool. And at the same time, it has to be realistic. If it’s not realistic, the reader cannot feel the pain. In a battle scene, it’s most important to make it realistic so that readers can feel the pain. I choose the action where if I were the character, I would feel the most pain.

If the flow of power or impact is not right, then the impact cannot be communicated to the reader. Otherwise it’s incomplete, and it needs to be perfect.

PWCW : How do you maintain such a demanding schedule?

TK : Hard work. (laughs) I don’t think it’s too hard. I draw faster than others so I don’t really think it’s an issue.

PWCW : You also had a message for aspiring mangaka, advising them to believe in their work, otherwise it’s dishonest to charge money for it. What do you mean by that?

TK : The message is that if you believe in what you create, it’s enjoyable and people will follow. The talented mangaka should know that, otherwise no one would read or enjoy it. So believe in yourself. Believing in yourself is important.