20181116 Translation of Ishida and Takahashi’s interview with BuzzFeed Japan
It took me 3 days to translate this monster of an interview (~3.5k word count lol), but it’s finally done! My hands need a break after typing for so long...
Thank you to the interviewer Kashima Yui for asking some really great questions, and BuzzFeed JP for making this interview happen. I really enjoyed seeing Ishida and Takahashi banter back and forth, you can really tell that they’re great friends, and I’m happy to have witnessed a sliver of their relationship.
Also, I’m far from perfect, so if I’ve made a mistake or mistranslated something, please let me know.
Edit: Fixed a line from Takahashi saying, “You did it,” to “He got me.”
“I’ve always thought about quitting” - Author of Tokyo Ghoul and his sworn friend talk about their creative works and the troubles they’ve faced
Behind the scenes of Tokyo Ghoul’s final chapter, and what it means.
By Kashima Yui, BuzzFeed Staff, Japan
November 16, 2018
Over 37 million volumes of Tokyo Ghoul have been sold worldwide. During the 7 years it has taken to reach its conclusion - from the start of its serialization to July of this year - Ishida Sui has delivered an elaborately portrayed work with a profound story to the world at a tremendous speed.
This enigmatic mangaka has almost never appeared in the media, but there is a certain someone that he’s been influenced by.
That person is Takahashi Kunimitsu of österreich, who was responsible for the Tokyo Ghoul:re anime ending theme, “You of Paradise.” Ishida for some time had a phase where he would only listen to the music that Takahashi composed. “He’s the type who’ll say everything that’s on his mind,” he raves.
At the same time, Takahashi must have also been influenced in turn by Ishida, for he had stopped making music until he received a request from Ishida.
I thought that I would no longer be making music. Why am I...?
Sui-sensei lives in Fukuoka, and Takahashi-san resides in the Kanto region. How did you two first meet?
Ishida: We first met 3 years ago when I requested the opening theme “Incompetence” for the Tokyo Ghoul √A anime. I’d already received many proposals for the opening song, but I more or less shot them all down.
It was because I liked the former band the cabs that Kunimitsu-kun used to be a part of. Right around when I was drawing volume 7 of Tokyo Ghoul, I was pretty much listening to just one the cabs song, “Soldiers in February”, which might be why I’m so strongly attached to the band.
Takahashi: But by then, the cabs had already split up and I’d stopped being a musician.
Ishida: After Kunimitsu-kun took a break from being a musician, I kept an eye out on his SoundCloud (laughs).
Every now and then I’d see a new song uploaded, so I knew that he was still alive and well. Since I knew he was still making music I thought, “Couldn’t he compose music for Tokyo Ghoul too?”
I said that to the anime people about 100 times, that I wanted Takahashi Kunimitsu to make the opening. But because he couldn’t make up his mind, they turned me down 99 out of those 100 times.
Takahashi: That’s ‘cause I never got the news to begin with! Back then the manager of the office I was enrolled at suddenly said to me, “Something big’s happened.” No warning in advance.
Ishida: What do you mean I never told you, are you even hearing yourself right now? (laughs) But it really was an impossible request. Plus the fact that Kunimitsu’s band broke up and was now nonexistent.
Takahashi: I thought to myself that I’d no longer work in music, so I wasn’t willing to accept at the time.
I’d uploaded my music onto SoundCloud, but that page was just a personal space for myself rather than a place to market my music. So when I was approached about a collab I was thinking, “What are they talking about? Why me...?”
Along with the fact that I’d never read Tokyo Ghoul.
Were you scared?
Takahashi: I was terrified. It had already been 3 years since the band broke up, so I felt like I’d lost my ability to compose music. I was thinking, “What’ll happen if I can’t make it?” On top of that, that piece was on a much larger scale than anything I’d ever worked on. That made me anxious on a regular basis.
...but on the other hand, it felt like this was a sign telling me to keep playing music. I wasn’t sure if I could do it, but I thought that if I didn’t try here and now, I might not play music for the rest of my life.
I was extremely tight on schedule for “Incompetence”, the opening theme for Tokyo Ghoul √A, but at any rate I frantically worked on it in a frenzy, feeling more and more dead by the end of it. I didn’t read a single page from Tokyo Ghoul so that I wouldn’t get pulled in by it. The result...every single bad thing that had accumulated during my 3-year hiatus showed up all over the song.
Ishida: I basically like everything he composes, so when I heard the demo I thought it was pretty good. I was more than happy. But I have to admit, that song...is way too all over the place (laughs).
Takahashi: Even when I listen to it now I think it’s all over the place.
Did the two of you come to interact through the production of “Incompetence”?
Ishida: No...back then I just received the demo. After it was released, we talked about it on Skype, and that was probably our first ever conversation. After that, was it through Twitter DM or email?...I got a message from him that had an “at this time” kind of vibe, and that’s when we began talking to each other more personally.
[T/N: I’m not exactly sure what Ishida meant by “at this time”, but the word he used, “この度は” is a form of “now” that you’d use in formal/business speech, so perhaps he meant that Takahashi’s message to him felt formal.]
The extent of our conversation for several months was just exchanging texts back and forth, but one day we unexpectedly began voice chatting through Skype. And then Kunimitsu-kun declared out of nowhere, “I am light.” (laughs)
Takahashi: I was overly concerned about my own image, so I’d try to crack jokes or else I’d have a hard time making conversation.
Ishida: I thought he was acting like an extremely gloomy person because he felt like it. Back then that dark part of me was also prominent, so when I tried talking all emo I’d get told, “I’m light.” (laughs)
Takahashi: I told you, that’s just me talking a lot and making jokes.
Ishida: After that, we’d talk on Skype once every month or two. One time we talked for around 6 hours.
Takahashi: Until morning. This guy talks while he works, you know, so he can blabber on for a long time.
Ishida: Funny enough I make more progress if I have someone to talk to while I’m working.
A mangaka and a musician talking on Skype night after night
And that doesn’t reduce your ability to concentrate? Since when you’re talking over the phone there are moments where you have to think about the person you’re talking to.
Ishida: It depends on the work. There’s a term in the manga industry where you’re just moving your hands. The “usual work”, should I put it? The “usual face”, the “usual composition.” When I’m doing that kind of work, I’ll often listen to someone talk, watch TV, or listen to music.
What do you talk about?
Ishida: About creative works, among other topics. Recently we’ve been talking about death matches.
Ishida: A type of fiction where a group of people are forced to kill each other off, you’re guaranteed to find one in any convenience store. Because the death match is such an excellent format, it’s easy to draw and sell in any era. But if the author relies too much on that format, the story will fall apart without them even realizing it...that’s my opinion on it.
The most interesting death match is still “Battle Royale.”
Takahashi: Rigid formats will always exist in any kind of media, including in music. It’s fine if you put a story into that template for starters, that’s what a countless number of creators are aiming for.
Ishida: The format itself isn’t bad, but if you rely too much on it, it no longer becomes your own creation, and the work ends up becoming sloppy and excessive.
When you’re talking things over with each other, are you ever influenced by the other person?
Ishida: I am. Whether it’s music or manga, I realized that there are many factors that I can relate to in terms of creativity, even if I may not be an expert in those fields. When I’m talking to Kunimitsu-kun, it makes me wonder if I can connect with people working in other genres. We can have discussions without building fences between one other.
What about yourself, Takahashi-san?
Takahashi: Objectively speaking, Ishida-kun is a very successful person. In the past I would always hold feelings of inferiority towards those successful people.
But talking to him...I realized that he was a normal person. It might just be by chance that Ishida is normal, but how should I put it, we suffer in similar ways. In that sense I’ve become more open-minded and changed how I think about people running on the front lines.
...I’m a professional too, after all. Since I’m a creator, the last thing I can do is call professionals fools.
I once gave up on music. Ishida Sui has kept going.
Takahashi-san, why did you stop being a musician in the first place? I heard that just before the cabs tour you suddenly disappeared.
Takahashi: ...that’s right. I caused a lot of trouble for many people, especially the band members, so I can’t talk much about it...just that I ran away like a fool. That’s why I thought I wouldn’t be working on music anymore.
After you kept composing music in your “personal space”, you received news of a collaboration. Have your thoughts changed on this matter?
Takahashi: I suppose so. When it comes to anything concerning Ishida Sui, there are two things that have affected me the most. The first is that the act of continuing on no matter what is worth its weight in gold, and to not object to it.
Ishida: It’s a huge feat, putting things out with no regard to its shape or form. I feel it even more since I’m not working on a serialization anymore. Whoever can accomplish this is truly remarkable.
Takahashi: I’ve already given up on music once, so I’ve got some very strong feelings regarding this.
And one more...because Tokyo Ghoul really felt like it reached its conclusion, I realized that “ending things properly” and “continuing” can both be considered equally wonderful.
What do you mean by “ending things properly”?
Takahashi: You know what Ishida-kun said when we first met? “I’d like to end Tokyo Ghoul by turning it into a complete train wreck.”
Ishida: You said you’d demolish it for me (laughs).
Takahashi: But when I actually read the final chapter, it had a pretty clean ending. "He got me...” I thought.
I’ve always thought about quitting
Takahashi: I find it frustrating that I was given the right answer without feeling like I earned it. Here I am strolling on the sidewalk, and before I know it Ishida-kun’s racing down the road...that’s what it feels like. That’s what I was heavily influenced by when I was making “You of Paradise.” How valuable “ending things properly” can be.
You’ve already mentioned how important it is to keep on going, but Sui-sensei, you continued to work on your serialization for 7 years. Did you ever think about quitting?
Ishida: All the time. I underestimated how taxing manga and magazine serializations were.
Why is that?
Ishida: I wonder...I think it was only after I realized that I could rely on other people that I really began to enjoy making manga. The conclusions I came to on my own were mostly self-contained, and I no longer felt that it was fun drawing manga alone.
But I found another way after asking around. And it only took about 6.5 years (laughs).
Have you been worrying on your own until then?
Ishida: This is a personal problem, but I didn’t want to tell anyone about how the story would unfold. I also considered the editor-in-charge as a reader, so I wanted to keep it a secret. In that case, what am I supposed to discuss with the editor? I can only talk about superficial things...that’s what I did for the longest time.
And though I’d been so eager to stop, I said that I wanted to keep going a bit longer during the last half-year...which was why I kept dropping off the manuscripts late every week. It seems that the printers always had to wait until the very last minute for my manuscripts.
The final chapter of Tokyo Ghoul was meant to be a train wreck
Ishida: I’d originally planned to finish it December of last year, but I said, “I’m sorry, I need another 3 months.” I increased the extension bit by bit, and I ended up lengthening it by about 6 months.
When I told the editorial department that I’d be done in 10 chapters, they prepared the cover page of the final chapter’s issue. But right before the deadline I told them, “I’m sorry again, I need 3 more chapters…”
Takahashi: I was reading that issue of Young Jump where it was supposed to end in 10 chapters. I was completely deceived (laughs). I saw the cover and it said, “Tokyo Ghoul climax.” So I thought, “Is it finally over?” but when I read it it just kept going on.
Ishida: When I told them I needed 3 more chapters, it was too late by then. Most likely every department was under chaos then, but I hope you can sympathize with the Young Jump editorial department.
Is that the reason why Tokyo Ghoul was on the back cover of the final chapter’s issue?
Ishida: It is. Thanks to the kindness of the editor-in-chief, he suggested that Tokyo Ghoul could get a cover if it was on the back.
I often see final chapters on the front cover, but it’s kinda cool to have it on the back instead. It might even be better to have the reader see Kaneki and Touka on the back so they can read it and think, “It’s really over.” It wasn’t what I was necessarily aiming for, but thanks to the editor-in-chief’s stylistic sense it made that back cover possible.
The final chapter went from a train wreck to a happy ending. Did you have a chance to change your mind?
Ishida: Probably...once I was aware that the ending was approaching, I lost all meaning of value behind a train wreck ending. At first I thought, “Let’s shock everyone and make myself disappear,” but then I realized that I was misconstruing that as cool.
Nonetheless...the endgame had some parts that were definitely messy, but I changed them to be positive. I’m fine with it not being good, as long as it’s got some definitive answers. That happy ending is also a train wreck in its own way (laughs). I thought that that kind of train wreck would be more interesting.
Takahashi: That ending completely shocked me. “He got me,” I uttered.
Communicating, continuing, ending
How did you feel when you were asked to collaborate with Tokyo Ghoul once again for “You of Paradise”?
Takahashi: As we got to know each other, we’d inevitably talk about the anime. I couldn’t refuse when I was asked to compose the ending song when I’d been watching the course of the final chapter from up close, and been utterly deceived and shocked by it.
...but I was scared.
Why did you think that, even though you achieved it last time without any major hiccups?
Ishida: I think it’s that feeling of, “did I strike gold?” There’s a lot of luck involved when you’re extracting gold from a lode. He was able to do this naturally during the cabs era.
Takahashi: I could compose music almost as if those lodes were exposed to the open.
Ishida: When I asked him to do “You of Paradise”, I got the feeling that he was thinking, “Where can I dig from...” I think he was afraid that he wouldn’t be able to dig up that lode. Though I thought he was going to be fine.
How do you think it turned out when you tried composing it with that fear in mind? Were there any changes, compared it to “Incompetence”?
Takahashi: “Incompetence” being all over the place was because I was all over the place.
Up until now I’ve been making music and thinking that I can’t convey my ideas well. When I was in the band, I’d never really been able to express my thoughts so I gave up. I thought it was an impossible feat for me.
“Incompetence” was a song that I tossed out into the world, without any hope that I’d be able to express such a warped feeling. For a while after that song was released, I hardly ever listened to it.
But Ishida-kun and my friends who are still playing in bands...I’ve watched them keep on going or reach a proper end no matter how many years passed by. They’re doing it right.
I came to the conclusion that it was dishonest of me to give up on expressing myself from the beginning when the people around me have been working hard and doing their best.
Sui-sensei, have you ever thought that you couldn’t convey something when drawing your manga?
Ishida: I definitely have.
Takahashi: Sounds like you’ve given up.
Ishida: Maybe, since I have to draw every week. If I don’t follow a set routine then I become overwhelmed very quickly. This means that I’m working on one panel at a time, but I can’t convey my ideas well that way.
And it’s not the reader’s fault, it might just be that I’m not good enough. I couldn’t figure it out no matter how much I thought about it, so I gave up on the issue of not being able to properly convey my ideas.
To be honest, I don’t really feel anything from people reading my stuff. I can’t physically see you reading the manga, and I can’t gauge how you really feel about it by asking how many copies you have. It’s to the point where sometimes I’ll notice someone reading it at a convenience store and think, “I finally found someone.” It makes me think that being a mangaka is a lonely profession.
Takahashi-san, did you compose “You of Paradise” after reading the final chapter this time?
Takahashi: I read it this time (laughs). At first, the song I was using for the ending before “You of Paradise” was some ridiculously abstruse piece. After I sent it to Ishida-kun, he told me, “To be honest, it’s got the things that I want to express and it’s packed with lots of stuff, but I want you to compose a really simple piece that anyone can listen to and enjoy.” And so it got rebuilt and that’s the song you see today (laughs).
First, face what you’re trying to convey. Don’t whine about how you can’t convey your ideas if you haven’t tried in the first place. That’s what I thought. If you start thinking, “I can’t do it in the first place,” you’re running away. Take that first step. It feels like I can now pursue universal virtues.
Ishida: It’s a challenge, huh.
Takahashi: I’ve thought about just giving up in defeat. When I first saw that the final chapter that Ishida-kun wanted to make a wreck of had turned into a beautiful and happy ending...he seemed to have chosen to end it by having it speak to people universally. I was shocked by it, and the desire to go along with it bloomed in me. If Tokyo Ghoul can have that kind of ending, then I can make the music to match it.
You seem to have changed a lot as a person over the last 3 years.
Takahashi: I had a musical spirit who would always whisper in my ear, “You’re that kind of human being, aren’t you?” When it disappeared after having stuck around since my band days, I kept my distance from it. But I feel refreshed now since I think I should finally put an end to my issues.
Ishida: “You of Paradise” is the only song appropriate for that kind of ending. No other song can work.
After a 2 hour interview, Ishida and Takahashi vanished into the streets of Shibuya to go watch a live performance of cinema staff, to which Iida Mizuki, the guest vocalist for “You of Paradise”, is a member of.
As an aside, the name of the cabs live tour that was never realized after Takahashi suddenly disappeared, was called “You of Paradise.”
END OF THE INTERVIEW.
I think I need to clarify on what I mean by ‘train wreck’. When I say it, it refers to something in ruins, complete shambles, destroyed. Essentially a tragic ending, akin to chapter 143 of :re, so Ishida was thinking about having TG end in tragedy. I chose to use the term ‘train wreck’ and ‘in ruins’ over ‘tragic’ because they have slightly different connotations (台無し vs. 悲劇). It’s the reason why I would consider TG chapter 140 (when Kaneki ‘dies’ to Arima in V14, looks like an end to a classic tragedy play) as tragic ( 悲劇) and TG:re chapter 143 (when Kaneki loses to Juuzou and Hanbee and shit hits the fan for everyone) as 台無し (train wreck/ruined).
567 notes · View notes