Part 1 | Part 2 | Parts 3 & 4 | Parts 5 & 6

Sorry for the delay. By the way, I just put out a V2 of 2012-09 because I missed an abbreviation.

The Making of “Hidamari Sketch”

What sort of process do you have when making “Hidamari Sketch”?

Ume: First, I write jokes I came up with in a notebook. For instance, when thinking about karaoke, I jot down whatever might happen. In here… “night fishing, calcium, fishing,” are things I wrote down… How this is related to karaoke, or what it looked like at this stage… I don’t understand it at all. (laugh) I listen for what kind of ordinary tune those four girls might sing, then take it into consideration and jot it down. After that, I discuss with my editor what I’ll have the characters do, and I decide on something. For example, to have Miya-chan being a good singer, I wondered what she should sing, and how everyone else should react. Not to mention deciding from all the different possibilities of how it should flow from the 1st panel to the 4th panel. I write those down in the notebooks too.

Do you take these kinds of notes each time?

Ume: Yes. It takes about 10 hours. It takes an enormous amount of time to incorporate the jokes I decided on into the actual work.
※A small example of this notebook is included at the end of the interview.

Actually, let’s put it here. Apparently Ume planned to incorporate a joke about the pocky game (top right corner).

And how much time is that?

Ume: About four days. When completed, it becomes the storyboard roughs. I fax those to my editor so they can take a look, and if there’s no problem, I start inking.

Is that step difficult?

Ume: It’s heart-breaking when the jokes aren’t funny enough. Thinking “This isn’t funny, is it?” as I draw is the most painful thing.

In the story, when are jokes put in because they’re necessary?

Ume: There wouldn’t be any jokes then, would there? I have to try changing the ways I present them and doing my best to make revisions in some way or another…

Because it’s a 4koma, is it ever hard to fit in dialogue when you decide on a panel’s layout?

Ume: I don’t really think about the fact it’s a 4koma. I put in a great amount of dialogue.

It’s not exactly a work crammed with text, is it?

Ume: Not really. However, for the 4th panel to have a punchline, the previous panels must supply exposition, and I worry about what to do. By doing so, I end up constantly adding dialogue… Before the joke comes in, I have to draw the 1st panel a certain way, but because it shouldn’t be rushed, the 2nd and 3rd panels have to have certain dialogue, like~ It’s hard to have good balance between the exposition and rhythm.

So that means other than the 4th panel, there are many additional things that trouble you?

Ume: That’s right. And I have a lot to worry about when it comes to the punchline’s dialogue.

When drawing, what do you fuss over and what do you handle carefully?

Ume: ……….

Why are you looking so distant? (laugh)

Ume: Well… maybe the composition.

The composition?

Ume: For example, when many characters are talking, it becomes a lot of information for one panel. Because the dialogue reads right to left, if the composition stays the same, it’s hard to arrange the conversation. I determine the characters’ positions, and to have them speak in order, I have to do things like alter the camera’s position. That takes a lot of time to consider.

What else besides the composition?

Ume: When it’s time to pick out everyone’s everyday clothes, that’s also troubling. Because characters who wear the same clothes all the time are pitiful. But thinking about it realistically, the characters aren’t swimming in money, so for them to wear different clothes each time is rather improbable. That’s manga for you! (laugh) But every time they wear casual clothes, I have to think up a full set of clothing for four characters, so I flip through magazines. Then, there’s the facial expressions. Yuno rarely makes a hateful face, or any kind of angry or disagreeable expression, or “yuck!” And her mouth isn’t open as often as Miya-chan’s. On the other hand, it would be eerie if Miya-chan opened her mouth and spoke really gracefully. (laugh) Then I pay close attention to the angle of the eyebrows. Which reminds me, Hiro had a habit of bringing her hand to her face. But until now, I was forgetting about that so maybe it’s not reflected in the work. Please don’t look for it. (laugh)

Being Made Into an Anime

When did you hear about the anime adaptation?

Ume: Spring of last year. [In other words, she found out in 2006]  My editor said it wasn’t a done deal, but it might happen. When I heard that news, I thought, “You’re kidding!” (laugh) Although I didn’t know whether or not it was set in stone. So I told my editor, “Come on, this has to be some kind of mistake.”

And how did you feel when it became reality?

Ume: I stared blankly. (laugh) I was shocked.

If any voice actress would’ve been fine, did you get everything you hoped for?

Ume: At the audition meeting, I was told by the anime staff that I could name any of the voice actresses I hoped for, so I frantically studied up on them. I’m thankful that I was allowed to participate in the audition judging, and so my wishes came true.

Speaking of voice actresses, why did you participate in the dubbing?

Ume: Why I did? I noticed scripts that didn’t contain the dialogue I wrote, and storyboards that were inserted.

You did notice. (laugh)

Ume: Director Shinbo said lightly that they were inserted, but with so many jokes it’s hard to tell from the original scenes. And he asked if I wanted to dub scenes of my self-portrait… ah, that really did happen. (laugh)

You go every week to record at the studio?

Ume: That’s right. It takes around 4 hours for everything. Outside of the time when I speak, it’s not like I do nothing, but instead I’m asked things like, “Does this line have a nuance like this?”

What were your thoughts upon watching it?

Ume: It was strange. The movement and talking. I was wondering, “Is this really what’s going to air on TV, outside of my own home?”

It was like you were being deceived? (laugh)

Ume: Yes. My friends were like, “I saw it! I saw it!” and I couldn’t believe how many e-mails I was receiving, yet it still didn’t feel real. When will I stop feeling so shocked? …It just felt like my work had begun a journey.

What’s your opinion on the anime?

Ume: As the original author, it means I have the most trouble giving one. Of course, the anime staff are all professionals in animation, but even as the author I’m just an amateur in those things, so I feel like I’m out of the loop sometimes. If some scenes weren’t funny, I was prepared for that, and I thought it was better to give any opinion I could. So, I have the special privilege to read the script and participate proactively.

So you mean you have a good relationship with the anime staff, right?

Ume: Yes. They made the characters so alive. To all of the voice actresses and staff, thank you very much.

I don’t have much else to say, but on the notebook page, you can see that Ume drew a line dividing the color strips from the monochrome ones. She also has the strip summaries grouped by which pages face each other when printed.

Next time, part 5: “A Long History with Doujin”