After an amazing eleven year run, Hiro Mashima, author of the mega-hit manga Fairy Tail, literally and figuratively closed that chapter of his life. At New York Comic Con 2017 Diva was fortunate enough to sit in a room with him (and his translator) to discuss Fairy Tail and its impact.
(Please note: Text was edited for clarity)
Deadly Diva: How did it feel the first day you woke up and didn’t have to start a new page of Fairy Tail?
Hiro Mashima: (chuckles) I was actually feeling kind of gloomy so I started doodling.
DD: After working so long with the Fairy Tail characters, are you excited to move on to a new project?
HM: I’m full of hope for the new series and I’m looking forward to that.
DD: Fairy Tail is relatively new, but already considered a classic. How does that make you feel?
HM: (chuckles) I’m actually really glad to hear that.
DD: Other comics creators have said they knew what the last page was going to be when they started. Was that the case with you? If not, what was your roadmap for such a long series?
HM: I honestly didn’t have any of the last scene of the story in my mind when I started the series. The fact that I didn’t know, nobody knew, where the story was going was actually the best part about working on the series. For example, one chapter ends with a huge cliffhanger where the character is in a real tight spot. ‘What’s gonna happen next?’ Well, that’s actually my question to myself & I really have to think about this.
DD: How did you know it was time to end the series and how did you stay on schedule since you were writing as you go?
HM: The reason I decided to close Fairy Tail is because I wanted to challenge myself. To plan a story based on each story arc is a lot of planning and it’s a very difficult task, but for me I think that the right way.
DD: Do you think you’ll revisit the world and characters of Fairy Tail?
HM: At this point I feel like, I’ve done everything that I can do & want to tell in the story Fairy Tail, but I might change my mind once, like several years have passed from now.
DD: Have you considered revisiting Rave Master?
HM: In this whole autograph session I’ve been experiencing at NYCC, a lot of ppl actually requested character from Rave Master. But I realize I forgot how to draw a lot of the characters from my old series, so it might be hard at this point.
DD: Thinking about Rave Master & Fairy Tail, you’ve worked on primarily huge fantasy series. Is this something you’d like to do in the future as well, or are you thinking of branching out into other genres?
HM: I personally just really love fantasy works in general. So if I get started on a new series, I would like to try another fantasy series. However, each series’ approach is quite different. For example, Rave Master was about a group of people who were trying to save the whole world. And then Fairy Tail is actually about the more closer knit relationships, friendships & family. So if I were to try another fantasy series, I’d like to try a different approach again.
DD: Are there any other genres you’d like to work in?
DD: The characters within Fairy Tail, are they born with innate magical abilities or is it something anyone can learn? Can anyone learn any magic?
HM: In the world of Fairy Tail, if anyone wants to learn a new magic & if they train themselves hard enough they should be able to learn that. So maybe it’s not even told in the main series of Fairy Tail, but there are a lot of characters who are training themselves to learn different kinds of magic that will eventually give them those powers. However in the guild of Fairy Tail everybody is all about collaborating and working together. So what most of those characters are focused on is their own powers that their best at, and to refine it to be the help of the rest of the group.
DD: Zeref is an interesting character. He’s not really a bad guy. He’s more tragic. Why did you imagine him that way?
HM: I didn’t really want to go for a typical bad guy. I kind of combined all the elements and references I’ve been cultivating in myself and inserted into this character. And it turned into this very highly complex character called Zeref. He’s honestly a full contradiction. & that sorta his characteristic.
DD: The female characters seem to be strong & sexy at the same time, very self-confident. How do you come up with such balanced female characters?
HM: (chuckles) This is actually what I like in women. This is my personal taste and I’m completely inserting it into the character.
DD: Was there any character that you didn’t get to explore as fully as you wanted?
HM: One of the characters I think of is the Acnologia, which is a character that comes in the last story arc. In my mind, I had a deeper setting for this character. But then I had to prioritize the momentum of the story and the fights for the main characters, so I really couldn’t get into that. But I may have a chance to explore into the story of Acnologia at some point.
DD: Fairy Tail is unique is the way the characters change their clothing throughout the series. What was the creative process behind how you would change the outfits from arc to arc?
HM: (chuckles) Every time I make a costume change for a certain character, usually there’s something I didn’t like about their previous character design. So that’s something I’ve been working on through the refreshing of that. But sometimes I think the previous design is better so sometimes I go back and forth between the character designs.
DD: How was it for you to imagine all the Edolas counterparts for the characters you already designed?
HM: I had a lot of fun drawing this story arc. I was focused on thinking what would make the complete opposite of how the characters are in the real world. But in some cases, for example characters like Mirajane, there isn’t much difference in her in the main world and in the alternate world. Not too many people might know this, but the evil king that appears in the world of Atlas is the alternate version of Macao.
DD: You traditionally use more Western inspiration for fantasy than Eastern. What kind of Western work do you get your inspiration from?
HM: Maybe 20-30 years ago in Japan, there was a huge boom of RPG/fantasy games. Those were where I started off. For example, Dragon Quest or Final Fantasy, those were the series that inspired me.
DD: In Japan, shonen manga appeals to boys and girls, while shojo manga only appeals to girls. What is it about shonen manga that crosses gender lines?
HM: That’s kind of a difficult question. Shonen manga tends to touch on everlasting themes , like friendship. But I think those are kinds of elements that hit regardless of gender. Shojo manga tends to stay within a theme of romance very often. So for the male audience, it’s kinda of like watching Sex in the City. (chuckles) Maybe it’s kinda of hard for the male audience to get it.
DD: Is there anything the current direction of shonen manga is missing that you would like to see more of?
HM: In Japan, for shonen manga there’s sort of a jinx where the science fiction works don’t really take off. If it was a manga for slightly older teens or adults, there are a lot of great sci-fi manga. However, the shonen manga, for example the ones from Shonen Magazine or Shonen Jump, there are not that many science fiction works that really have taken off. So if you are a newcomer artist trying to launch a new manga maybe that is something to explore in that genre.
DD: A lot of shonen characters share the same traits — rebellious, but skilled. What made Natsu special? What made you think he’d be an interesting character fora series?
HM: His pink hair is the most unique characteristic. (chuckles) Also that he gets super motion sickness.
DD: In the American comics industry, it’s common for dozens of people to work on one title versus in Japan where it’s generally one person who draws & write the entire thing until it ends. What are your thoughts on the differences in creative processes?
HM: One of the great things about the approach for the American comics is that so many people could work at once so that it could turn into a movie or a different type of comic or media. So it could carry over to not just America, but overseas. So I think that has to do with the fact other people can enter into the creative work and then produce the work for the rest of the world. That’s one of the advantages of the American comics. So in terms of manga, it usually starts with one person. One person thinks of the story in the arc Everything is centered in that main storyline. So if there is an opportunity to branch off and to spin off and make it further into the world, that’s actually a good thing that’s worth trying also. In terms of Fairy Tail, a lot people get and understand and love the worldview of Fairy Tail and also the characters and setting. So it is actually possible to expand the story into a spin off where it could be taken over by another creator, kinda diversifying the intellectual property is actually an amazing thing.
DD: In American comics, because of the complex structure, they worry a lot about continuity. If something happened in 1950, it has to be the same in the present day, or you have to explain it. Did you worry about that over the 11 years you were working on Fairy Tail, or was that your editors’ problem, or did it just all work?
HM: I was thinking about it a little bit. But I didn’t put the highest priority on the continuity. It’s more important to me to make the story exciting by really portraying the emotions of each character. So if the fans find some flaws in the continuity of the plots, I’m actually excited to know people are reading that much into it.
DD: How much influence does your editor have on the final product?
HM: One of the main processes in the creative process I usually write the first draft of the chapter of manga and then show it to the editor. The editor will give me feedback whether it is good or not. If the editor says it is not good, I would ask them the reason why. That kind of creative process is very important when creating manga. Sometimes we get into a conflict when the editor says one thing & I disagree then I push forward with what I believe is the best case scenario. If I don’t succeed, then I’m like ‘I should have listened’. Sometimes when I’m stuck on an idea, he gives me a pretty powerful advice that really helps me get over those places I was stuck on.
DD: Sometimes characters in Fairy Tail die, but you always bring them back. Why did you decide against death in that series?
HM: (chuckles) This has to do with the fact that my previous work, Rave Master. A lot of characters died and it turned into a sad story. When you are working on a manga in a weekly magazine, it’s all up to the readers polls & the feedback whether you can stay in the magazine or not. To be quite honest, those chapters that have the death of a very important character get very popular. Knowing that, I really wanted to make sure people don’t die in my series.
DD: The Fairy Tail characters live on in your Twitter posts. Are the fans supposed to take these posts as canonical insights, or are these just for fun?
HM: Those pictures I post on my social media are just my doodles and it has nothing to do with the main plot of the story. Of course i want people to remember these characters, that’s one of the reasons. But also it’s fun for me to draw these characters. LAstly, I have another set of character in mind for my next series, but I won’t be able to post those on my social media. So that is why you see the what you see.
— 真島ヒロ (@hiro_mashima) October 12, 2017
DD: Fairy Tail was serialized in a weekly magazine. What was that like and would have preferred something where you had more time, like a monthly?
HM: I have worked on weekly series and monthly series at the same time. As you can imagine, working on a weekly series is very difficult, really hard work. However, you get the immediate feedback from the fans that “I want to read the next chapter” and I really want to respond to that with the next chapter.
DD: Since Fairy Tail had such a hectic production schedule, were you able to take care of your health, like eating properly and getting enough sleep?
HM: Of course! I have no trouble eating & sleeping.
DD: What do you like like most about the anime adaptation of Fairy Tail?
HM: The biggest contribution in the anime is the work of the voice actors. Even the US voice acting has the same kind of feeling as the Japanese voice actors. I’m actually quite happy with the outcome and I’m proud of the work.
DD: If you were able to cosplay at a con, who would you cosplay as?
HM: I want to give it a try! I’ve been really into Game of Thrones nowadays. Maybe I’ll pick a character from that show to cosplay as.
DD: If you were in the world of Fairy Tail on a mission, who would be your teammates?
HM: Lucy, Erza, Juvia
DD: Where would you put your guild tattoo?
HM: Ummm… The same as Natsu, on my arm.
DD: As you move on from Fairy Tail to the new series, what will you carry with you? What mistakes have you learned from? what good things will make your life easier?
HM: One of the things that I learned and I feel succeeded in Fairy Tail is to develop lots of characters with very unique personalities.. That is something I learned from working on Fairy Tail & I would like to apply that to my next series.
DD: Do you worry about the elements of Fairy Tail bleeding into a new work, making it too similar?
HM: I honestly don’t think it’s necessarily a bad thing that my new work reminds people of my old work. In Japan there’s is kind of a jinx, after the first big hit your next series is going to be a flop.I personally am not worried about it. There is one reason I’m not worried about it. I personally don’t think Fairy Tail was a giant success. So I feel no pressure to work on a brand new series.
DD: When can we expect your next series?
HM: The editor is rushing me on this. (chuckles) I can’t really say exactly when yet. But I’m hoping I can start it sometime next year.
DD: Lastly, what do you like most about the Fairy Tail fandom?
HM: Everybody’s eyes shining. I get really happy just looking at that.
You can pick up the Fairy Tail manga on Amazon, watch the Fairy Tale anime on Crunchyroll and learn more about Hiro Mashima on the Fairy Tail wiki. Want more anime news and podcast? Check it all out right here on FanBros.com!