“Cat’s Eye” 40th Anniversary Original Art Exhibit Special Interview (PART 1)
To commemorate the Original Art Exhibit, we talked with the artist Tsukasa Hojo and his editor on Cat’s ♥ Eye at the time, Nobuhiko Horie (current, CEO of Coamix Co., Ltd.)
In the Beginning: the 18th Tezuka Award Work, “Space Angel”
Hojo - When I was a junior in college, a friend submitted his manga to the Tezuka Award. I wasn’t familiar with the award, but I heard that the prize was a whopping one million yen (approx. $4525 US, 1979)! So that got me interested.
At the time my experience in drawing manga was limited, but I was a college student with lots of time. So I began drawing one page per night on evenings after my summer job.
“Space Angel” was the name of a squad appearing in an animation that my friends and I were working on at school. Based on that segment, I just drew what I wanted to into a manga each night. Looking back, though, it was far from being a readable manga.
That came out to about 20 pages, so I quickly added an ending to turn it into a 31-page manga, and submitted it to the Tezuka Award right before its deadline. Come to think of it now, it was totally absurd.
If you won, they notified you by phone. But I lived in an apartment without one, so I received a postcard. The postcard was from Horie-san, who later became my editor. I didn’t fully understand what editors in charge of a work did, but I do remember being surprised by the message on the postcard: “Let’s create thrilling manga together!!!”
Horie - The message on the postcard was just me, doing my job.
I mean, it’s a line that a Weekly Shonen Jump editor should come up with, right? “Friendship, effort, and victory” is what the magazine is all about.
The Tezuka Award selection process was done in groups, and there used to be a rule that let the most junior editors choose an artist they wanted to work with.
I was the youngest, so I got to choose Tsukasa. While his submission piece was, as he acknowledges, rather unfinished, the award judges unanimously agreed that he was an artist with massive potential.
1981: How the First Series Manga, Cat’s ♥ Eye Began
Hojo - During my four years at college, I created three one-shot pieces, of which two were published.
The editors asked for more, but I begged them to wait, because I needed to focus on my graduation work and thesis.
Cat’s ♥ Eye was the first piece I created after I completed my college work.
It was published in the Weekly Shonen Jump, and the readers seemed to like it, so Horie-san asked me to develop a name (draft) of a sequel. However, when I drew up the name that set Ai as the main character, he asked for another.
So I sent in another work. Then in June, three months after I graduated, he gave me a call, out of the blue, to tell me I should move to Tokyo immediately because I now have a series. I found out later that he used my drafts to pitch Cat’s ♥ Eye as a series at a Shonen Jump Serialization Meeting.
I remember thinking that having my series in a magazine was a rare opportunity, so I should grab it when I can and move to Tokyo.
The series began in the summer, but at first, I struggled to keep up and had to work like crazy. By late autumn, however, I think I got the hang of it.
Horie - I believed that budding manga artists should finish school--high school, college, so forth--before making their debut, so I was willing to wait until Tsukasa graduated.
At the same time, I also knew he could hit the ground running, so the earlier his debut, the better. The schedule was to have Tsukasa draft up names while still in school and begin his series immediately after he graduated, just like other students joining the workforce when they graduate. I didn’t plan any of this on my own… or at least I don’t think I did.
At first, Tsukasa said he could only finish up to three pages per day because he still wasn’t used to the drawing process. That amounts to 21 pages per week. Shonen Jump’s serialized story manga is 19 pages per week. That leaves basically no time to rest or work on names; it must have been excruciating. Anyway, after four months, he said he could manage five pages a day, and things became smoother.
On Cat’s ♥ Eye
Hojo - I developed this as a one-shot manga, so I hadn’t thought through detailed settings like you usually would for a series. Suddenly, though, it was to be a series. So my first question was, now what do I do?
Horie-san surprised me after the series began by asking what drives the sisters as art thieves. I was like: now you ask me? Isn’t that something we should have discussed before the series started? I had a vague notion that the characters come from a family of thieves, but Horie-san kept pushing for a more compelling, exciting motivation.
“That’s not quite this story,” I thought but out of desperation, I blurted out an idea about the sisters hunting for a painting by their father. It was spur of the moment, so no-crying-over spilled whatever, but the idea stuck. So we fleshed it out with the Cranaff Syndicate and other aspects.
Horie - Tsukasa and his friends had fun and had already developed concepts for the serialization of Cat’s ♥ Eye, so we didn’t create the foundation together.
I asked why the sisters were thieves, simply because I didn’t know.
I did know that doing a series of stand-alone stories solely on the idea of thieves would become increasingly difficult to continue. On the other hand, an underlying story would facilitate the continuity of a series, so I thought we should incorporate why the characters turned into art thieves as the backbone of the narrative.
Maintaining a series through installments of one-shot stories is extremely challenging.
The Two Endings of Cat’s ♥ Eye
Hojo - Actually, I don’t know what happened between the ending of the series on Weekly Shonen Jump and the final one-shot, but the magazine probably had its reasons.
I was mulling over what to do with the one-shot because the series finale already presented a good closure for me. That’s when Horie-san told me an interesting story.
He said, “This guy I know, his wife came down with a viral cold. She wakes up, sees him, and says, ‘Who the hell are you?’ It seems that the virus went to her brain, and she lost her memory.”
It was an intriguing story that I wanted to depict, and it became the final one-shot.
Horie - Cat’s ♥ Eye didn’t end because of a lack of interest, so I felt we had unfinished business, and I wanted to do the work justice.
The amnesia story did really happen to a friend of mine, and Tsukasa and I frequently had conversations like these. We’d be shooting the breeze when inspiration would gel into a storyline. We talked about good movies, stuff that happened to our friends, and many other things. Having good conversations is also a part of an editor’s job.
To be continued…