To commemorate the release (June 21st) of the CD for Peace Sign, the opening theme of My Hero Academia Season 2's first cour, we set up a special discussion between the manga's author, Kohei Horikoshi, and the song's artist, Kenshi Yonezu.
In this first meeting between Horikoshi-san, a prior fan of Kenshi Yonezu, and Yonezu, a reader of MHA who once aspired to draw manga himself, they conveyed their great respect for each other as contemporary creators, and let a variety of questions fly.
Horikoshi: I've been listening to the Peace Sign CD ever since it came in. Thank you so much. It's extremely cool!
Yonezu: Thank you very much. I always read your manga, so it was an honor to write an opening theme for it! Since I have the opportunity, I was curious how My Hero Academia first came about...
Horikoshi: I was really downtrodden when my previous serialization came to a sudden halt, but I needed to come up with an idea for my new work quickly. While I was thinking it over, I recalled how much fun I had drawing the one-shot "My Hero," so I thought "I'll just draw what I have fun drawing," and the series that came out of that was My Hero Academia. My main thought was how I wanted to draw the protagonist Deku trying his best.
Yonezu: The story moves fast and has a really good tempo to it. Do you make it that way consciously?
Horikoshi: I feel like what I'm thinking is, "don't let people get bored." It's not the tempo I'm thinking about, but rather being able to include new information each and every week. Yonezu-san, do you have a favorite character in Hero Academia?
Yonezu: They're all so charming, but my personal favorites are Tokoyami and Jiro. Both of them have excellent character designs, and Tokoyami's abilities are cool too. Horikoshi-san, what characters are your favorites, or which do you think are similar to yourself?
Horikoshi: I've never really thought hard about it. As far as who's similar to me, I guess strictly speaking it'd be Deku. He cries easily and cowers... It's not really the most pleasing aspects. (laughs) But I think we're similar in those regards.
- On the anime's theme song, Peace Sign...
Horikoshi: What did you decide first when you were making Peace Sign? I'm very interested to know not only how you did this one, but where you start making your songs in general.
Yonezu: The first part I thought of was the first four lines. "One day, flying just above us, / there was an airplane going by; / it's strange how well I remember it - / even though it's meaningless, somehow..." It's based on an actual experience of my own, something I suddenly remembered while looking for common points between myself and Hero Academia. The number of days it takes and the method varies depending on the song, but Peace Sign was difficult. Difficult as in, I spent a lot of time thinking "So is this song actually appropriate for Hero Academia?"
Horikoshi: I thought the Deku you drew for the CD cover was really cool, too.
Yonezu: When I was making Peace Sign, I pictured a boy seen from behind, holding up a peace sign. That image became the lyric "So long - throw up a peace sign, / for this story tumbling along," and then I switched out that boy-from-behind with Deku.
Horikoshi: When I saw the opening, honestly, my jaw dropped. I'd received the Peace Sign song in advance, and listened to it again and again like any regular fan. Seeing the characters I created moving to your song got me thinking what an amazing thing this all is. It's like, the moment a wild idea becomes a reality... Something along those lines.
Yonezu: Peace Sign is a song I was able to make all thanks to My Hero Academia. As soon as I saw the opening video, I was convinced it was a song born for this very day. It's a really good song, if I say so myself!
- The conversation turns to their interest in each other's work...
Horikoshi: Yonezu-san, I really love your illustrations. I also bought Monster Encyclopedia (a book of illustrations released by Yonezu). I used to draw my fair share of "monsters" as well, so I felt a kind of affinity there. (laughs)
Yonezu: A lot of so-called "monsters" appear in your manga as well, Horikoshi-san. They all have such cool designs, and there's always some slightly-niche one that really gets me. I have a great admiration for that.
Horikoshi: Are there any illustrators or writers that influenced you?
Yonezu: My number one is Masashi Kishimoto. Naruto had an immense influence on me. There's also some I came to appreciate after growing older, like Taiyo Matsumoto and Daisuke Igarashi. When you ask me who's influenced me, the first names that come to mind are all manga authors. Horikoshi-san, I've heard you were influenced by One Piece and Naruto, so I'd like to know your current favorite scenes in each.
Horikoshi: I have a lot of favorites, so it's hard to narrow it down to one... (chuckle) You said "current," so I'll go with the ones that just now popped into mind. In One Piece, it's Franky's flashback, where his master Tom is captured, and even though he should really just back down, Franky lashes out saying "I just can't do that." In Naruto, it's when Zabuza's underlings the Demon Brothers cut Kakashi to pieces. It hits you with surprise, despair, and tension all at once, and it just instantly drew me in.
Yonezu: I liked that myself, so I know what you mean. (laughs) Also, Horikoshi-san, I was curious about how your self-portrait is a hand-like monster.
Horikoshi: There's no deep reason for it. I simply like drawing hands. Honestly, I just like to, that's all it is. (laughs) Yonezu-san, you do both music and art, and I imagine you started both as hobbies, but has your perspective changed since making them your livelihood?
Yonezu: As a child, music was something distinct from studying and homework where I could just have fun and go anywhere, yet upon making it a job, it suddenly became studying and homework. Sometimes I come to my senses and go "wait, this shouldn't..." But still, music is fun, and it's music that's always occupying my mind daily. I even have excessive thoughts like "I was born to make music!", while also having times where I go "Enough of this tedious stuff!" and feel like giving it all up. It's hard to keep it going, but I think that's why it's interesting.
Horikoshi: Do you feel pressure?
Yonezu: Hmm, do I? I'm always asking myself "am I making something that I can approve of?" as I create music, so sometimes I'm uneasy about what if I would even do if I couldn't achieve that approval. But while I do feel that internal pressure, I don't feel much external pressure at all. Sure, "if you're not wanted anymore, it's over" - but I'm grateful for that, because it makes things clearer for me. It functions as a kind of aid. I wanted to draw manga as a kid, and there was a time when I drew some really rubbish manga. But I remember eventually learning how weekly manga artists have a rough schedule with hardly any breaks or sleep. Horikoshi-san, what kind of environment do you draw in, and at what pace?
Horikoshi: I'm generally holed up at my workplace. Lately I've been taking considerable time for story-writing, making the drawing part require all-nighters before the deadline every time. (laughs) But otherwise, I make sure to get at least a little sleep. My worry is how I can't do much to have a change of pace. I like to sleep, but all the anxieties and tension I had yesterday come back as soon as I wake up, so it doesn't feel like much of a break. Lately, though, I've been making sure to get some sunlight. You strike me as a stoic person, Yonezu-san, but what do you do to break things up?
Yonezu: I like to drink, so I'll go drinking with someone if I feel like my head's going to boil. That's about all I've got... (laughs) Also, Horikoshi-san, do you like music?
Horikoshi: I love music. It's just part of my life. For example, around the time when I'd just moved to Tokyo: during my train rides to Jinbocho (where my publisher Shueisha is located), I'd often listen to Chatmonchy's "Somaru Yo" or "Koi no Tane." And even now, when I listen to those songs, I remember how crowded the train was at the time, or my feelings of impatience.
Yonezu: I see, I see.
Horikoshi: I also love your music, Yonezu-san. I especially like Go Go Ghost Ship (from Yonezu's 1st album "diorama"), and often listen to it to put myself in the mood. Now it's Peace Sign, though. (laughs) What's a song of yours you're especially fond of?
Yonezu: I have a fondness for all the songs I've made, and I'll feel differently about it from moment to moment, so it's hard to pick one and say "it's this!" It's cliché, but my favorite song is always the one I'm making at the time. Still, Go Go Ghost Ship is a song I enjoy myself and do for concerts a lot, so I'm all too pleased that you listen to it so much!
- Lastly, the two heroes exchanged a parting shout.
Yonezu: Whenever I see Deku and friends, I naturally stand up taller. It's like, these kids are so earnest, so what about me? Horikoshi-san, your story gives me courage every time I read it. May we both keep making good things.
Horikoshi: As a fan of yours, I'll keep listening to all the music you've made, and all the music you're going to produce. I really love that world of yours, Yonezu-san. I'm truly nothing more than a fan, so... I'll just keep accompanying you. You have my support!