Yasuhiro Nightow was born on April 8, 1967 in Yokohama and grew up in Yokosuka and Shizuoka before moving to Tokyo and entering the Social Sciences Department of Housei University. He began producing doujinshi (amateur comic books) in college, and garnered acclaim for his original doujinshi while working as just another cog in the machine of major housing company Sekisui House. (It was a company trip to Saipan that sparked his passion for collecting action figures, when he saw the toys for the first Batman movie.) At the age of 26, he realized that his heart lay with manga, and boldly quit his day job to draw manga full-time. In February 1995, after the stand-alone story "Call XXXX" and the video game comic "Samurai Spirits," he started a little deep-space planet future gun action series called "Trigun" in the pages of Shounen Captain magazine, and the rest is history.

According to widely-supported rumor, Nightow is married to fellow artist Takako Kyuubi, whose Trigun gags can be seen in the Trigun: Final Definitive Edition and several Trigun doujinshi anthologies.

exerpts from interview with Yasuhiro Nightow in the September 2000 Manga no Mori newsletter
Translation by sumire.

"From Reader to Artist"


I was born on April 8, 1967. I was born in Yokohama, but we moved to Yokosuka when I was in elementary school, and I spent those formative years of junior high and high school in Shizuoka. At the same time I decided to spend a year studying for college entrance exams, my father also had a job transfer, so I came to Tokyo with my parents.

I attended the Social Sciences Department of Housei University. I haven't studied art at all. The last formal art training I had was art class in junior high school.

Your meeting with comics...

The first comic book I ever had my parents buy for me was Fujio Akatsuka's "Tensai Bakabon," published by Akebono(?) Shuppan. Before that, I had copied pictures of "Snoopy" ["Peanuts"], but "Bakabon" was the first thing I drew where I was aware that it was comics. When I was 12 or 13, Leiji Matsumoto was a big influence. I was copying his drawings right in the middle of the boom of "Yamato" and "Harlock" and "999." After that, I got drawn into Shounen Sunday, which had artists like Rumiko Takahashi and Fujihiko Hosono. (laughs)

When I was starting to deviate from those a little, I discovered Katsuhiro Ohtomo. Like, I bought "Sayonara Nippon" when I was in the eighth grade. (laughs) From there, I got into Fumiko Takano and the other New Wave artists.

Speaking of your generation, were you influenced by Yoshikazu Yasuhiko?

I thought his art was really great, but I felt like it was totally different from what I was drawing. His talent is exponentially greater than mine, so I probably wouldn't even be able to copy him.

What about manga?

It was a very solid period for the "Sunday" comics, but for some reason, I had lost my interest in comics for a moment. That was because when I saw the new wave works, it was a shock, and made me start to see things from the "drawing" point of view.

It was the moment when my stance changed from that of a reader to that of an artist. It's probably because of this that I didn't go into animation or game work.

So Ohtomo had a lot of influence on you.

What was your doujinshi work like?

I went to an academic-track high school, but we had a sort of unofficial manga club, and I made some photocopied pamphlets and things of my original works. I first consciously made doujinshi when I was a sophomore in college. I put out my own books, and had things reprinted in a magazine called "Little Boy" put out by Fusion Product.

What led to your becoming a comic-book artist?

After I graduated from college, I went to work selling apartments with Sekisui House [one of Japan's largest housing companies]. I was so busy with work, I couldn't draw comics, you know? I was probably building up a lot of stress, too.

One day, I was thinking about my future, and I just couldn't see myself sitting in my boss' chair. I was sure I'd end up thinking, "Why didn't I choose comics back then?" so after three and a half years with the company, I quit. It was unexpectedly easy. I was 26 then.

So, my debut was pretty late. Before that, I had done some semi-professional comic book work--I had contributed "Call XXXX" to Super Jump, and my first one-shot "Samurai Spirits" that was published in book form afterwards. When I quit my job, I used those as material to convince my family and friends.

A publisher I had met when I was still an amateur artist gave me the chance for my real debut.

Is there any talk of reprinting the "Samurai Spirits" book?

Does my present readership want to see it? Those drawings are pretty embarassing for me. (laughs) See, I put my all into drawing them on big paper, so I wanted them to be seen in the large format. If I got the opportunity, I might like to do a reprint, though.

On the serialization of Trigun

It's the series I ended up doing for that publisher I mentioned who approached me in my amateur days. I did one story for the February 1995 issue of Shounen Captain, and then two months later, in April, it became a regular series. It was also that publisher who arranged for my first meeting with Nippon Victor when there was talk of animating Trigun. I'm deeply indebted to him, and very grateful.

Background music during work

Late-night home shopping programs. (laughs) Stain-removers and vegetable peelers and muscle-training equipment and stuff like that. (laughs) You know, when there's some guy constantly blathering on, it livens up the room. It doesn't fluctuate as much as music, it doesn't grab your attention because you've heard it over and over before--it doesn't disturb you while you're listening to it.

Tell us about the interval between the discontinuation of Trigun and the start of Trigun Maximum.

When Young King Ours invited me to do some work for them, they were hoping for a new piece, but I was troubled by leaving Trigun unfinished. I told them I wouldn't feel like I had done my work unless I finished it, plus I was attached to it, and I asked them if they'd let me finish it. Just at that time, the talks on the anime had gone through, so I think that helped, too. The publisher was understanding and let me resume serialization.

The Tokuma Shoten series had stopped right with the defeat of Dominique, and then I just dropped that and jumped ahead into the beginning of Trigun Maximum. I drew the story that comes between them only afterwards. I had only had some vague idea of blowing a hole in the moon--the finer points were unsettled--so I think it was a pretty desperate act.

The parody book incident

Well, that's all in the past now. Once, I protested against a publishing company that had put out an anthology (of Trigun parody manga) without my permission. I didn't know about it until it had been published, and bookstores had it lined up alongside my own works. Doujinshi are distributed only to like-minded individuals at special events, so I think they manage to just barely stay within an acceptible line, plus I know how much fun it is to exchange ideas and opinions like that, so I don't want to interfere. But when you're talking about a book with a commercial basis, being sold in ordinary bookstores, it's a totally different story, so I was like, "Be reasonable!"

What future developments do you have in mind?

In just a few more months, I'll be introducing the character who's going to carry the final half of the story. So I'm thinking that all that's left is to point the story towards its conclusion and run with it. I've more or less decided the ending. However, stories really do take on a life of their own, so I can't say for sure how much things will go as I've planned.

What do you have to say about Young King Ours?

In "Ours," there are a lot of manga I, as a reader, personally like, so I think it'll suit people who enjoy Trigun. Plese give it a try.

To be continued...

Excerpts from interview with Yasuhiro Nightow in Puff (or "Pafu") magazine, March 1999 issue, pages 14-31.
Translated by sumire

* * * * *

Is it true that you answered, "I'm prepared" when you were told that 'questionable' fanzines might start to appear if Trigun was animated?

Did I say that? Well, I draw my comics, and what readers imagine from them is their own business. So if they want to express that, no one can tell them to stop. To say "I'm prepared" is a bit too straightforward, but it's like, I don't have the right to stop them from expressing themselves. But there is a certain shock reading them--how come these two guys just naturally progress to a bed scene? (laughs)

There was an unusually memorable illustration of a girl in a maid costume in one of your old circle flyers. Do you like maids?

If it's a matter of liking them or not liking them, yes, I like them. The white lines and black space present a nice contrast, so it makes a strong picture, too. But nowadays--possibly because of my age--I'm losing interest in overly frilly things like that. But there's also something erotic about the situation, isn't there. (laughs)

It seems like you draw a lot of eating scenes. What's your favorite food?

Nori*. Good nori, bad nori, I love it all. I love it so much, I wouldn't mind if all the food in the world was turned into nori. Nori is good. My least favorite food? I think avocados aren't fit for human consumption. If all the avocados were to disappear from the face of the earth right this very instant, it would not bother me in the least.
(* Nori: The papery black dried seaweed stuff that sushi is wrapped in.)

Will future developments include anything like a love story?

Well, in a broader sense, I'd like to depict the connections between people. And I persist in thinking of love as one element of that.

By the way, what's your type of woman?

I was startled to suddenly realize this one day, but all the women I like have aquiline noses. Their noses are like this. (gestures) Ryoko* Sakurai, Yuki Matsushita, Hanako Sumida, Ryoko Hirosue... As for personality, I like someone who seems to have been raised very naturally, like Hiromi Iwasaki. I like women who are independent, or have at least one thing I can respect about them.
(* Or possibly Kyoko.)

What's your daily schedule like when you're working on your comics?

Draw, draw, draw; sleep for six hours; draw, draw, draw; sleep for six hours... My way of sleeping is thinking, I'll break down afterwards, so try to sleep now. I break time into six-hour blocks--how many days before my deadline, and how many six-hour blocks are in that time. Then I calculate the average number of pages I have to draw in those six hours. (laughs) That's how I do it.

How do you spend your days off?

They're over in no time at all. But when I have time off, going out and buying a month's worth of toys is stress relief for me.

Do you spend a long time at just one toy store?

Well, lately, I just haven't had the energy to make the rounds to a lot of stores. I stick to places nearby.

What are your favorite toys?

Anything you can fiddle with. From action figures to the latest Japanese things--Beast Wars and stuff like that. The latest Microman toys are very good.

How about video games?

I haven't played much lately. I bought "Legend of Zelda" and still haven't played it yet. I like action RPG problem-solving games--"Tomb Raiders" was good. And "Dragon Quest." I'm looking forward to the new one. I have to like one of the characters to get into fighting games. I try to think of a way of fighting that suits the character.

You also like Legos?

They're great, aren't they. But in two years, the product lineup changes completely. So I go around looking for vintage Legos. What I'm looking forward to are the Star Wars Legos that're supposed to come out next year. It's just something I read on the internet, though--it hasn't been confirmed yet.

To be continued...