As Senku would say: GET EXCITED!
The date was November 15th, 2019 — after three hours of waiting in line at New York’s AnimeNYC convention, us Dr. Stone faithful were herded into VIZ Media’s Shonen Jump panel, where the series’ creators would speak about their popular weekly edutainment manga. My heart wouldn’t stop pounding: it was one thing to witness writer Riichiro Inagaki and artist Boichi discuss what I personally consider the funnest, most genuinely passionate serial currently running in Japan’s Weekly Shonen Jump magazine, but meeting the genius behind possibly my favorite manga in high school — Riichiro Inagaki’s Eyeshield 21, a sports series revolving around high school football — was nothing less than a dream come true. While I hadn’t scored the interview or autograph signing I’d hoped for, just merely observing both geniuses discuss their craft was more than satisfactory.
After VIZ dispensed with their breaking news and some special words from Hisashi Sasaki (Jump’s former editor-in-chief/Vice President for Global Shonen Jump) regarding Naruto‘s 20th anniversary, the two men of the hour arrived to wild applause. From how they met, Boichi’s artistic prowess, behind-the-scenes planning, and yes, the possibility of a New York arc, the panel was a riveting once-in-a-life time experience I’ll never forget. In exchange for my missing the interview cut, I furiously typed down every last question and answer to the best of my ability for the purposes of sharing their comments with our fellow Dr. Stone fans!
While it should be mentioned this is not an exact 1:1 transcript of Boichi and Inagaki’s comments — hey, typing this as they were speaking was painstaking work! — you can be rest assured the general idea behind their statements are accurately conveyed. Also bear in mind this article revolves around Inagaki and Boichi’s appearance at the Shonen Jump Panel, not the Dr. Stone one a day later; sadly, another obligation took priority and I couldn’t make it, but thankfully for all of us, VIZ Media chronicled all the juicy bits (complete with video) in this Twitter thread! (And for posterity, here’s their Twitter thread for the following SJ panel.)
*Riichiro Inagaki and Boichi march onto the stage to wild applause.*
Inagaki: (In English) Nice to meet youuuuu! Obviously you would be telling me the truth in loving Dr. Stone. English Time is over!
Boichi: I’m Boichi, please have mercy on me.
MC: How did you become such a dynamic manga duo?
Inagaki: So my editor remembered I mentioned Wallman, one of Boichi’s previous works that I loved, and when this project came along, he got us in touch.
MC: Oh, I forgot to introduce Honda-san, the editor.
Honda: Yes, hello! I’m the editor for Dr. Stone.
MC: What’s the process like creating Dr. Stone?
Inagaki: So I start out with the storyboard instead of textual writing; after that’s done, I pass it to Honda-san, then it gets passed over to Boichi-sensei. Really, my end doesn’t require a whole lot of drawing, so it’s not that hard. *Laughs* If you all just imagine a rough sketch on the back of the napkin versus a complete draft of a project, you can tell who has more work.
Boichi: Inagaki-sensei does all the important things, so after I receive the storyboard, I draw super quickly and then go eat.
*Inagaki and Boichi share an epic bro-shake — cue laughter.*
MC: Were you introduced to science before the series?
Inagaki: Since I was a kid, I always really liked math and science, so I always thought I’d be in that field…but clearly, I became a manga writer instead!
Boichi: I was always interested in sci-fi when I was little, so I was really interested in science. I studied physics in high school and even competed in a physics competition! One of my favorite authors also wrote sci-fi.
MC: Any favorite scientists?
Inagaki: As it happens, there’s a chemical called Gibberellin created by seedless grapes, which was discovered by a Japanese scientist named Eiichi Kurosawa. I have to mention him because he’s my wife’s grandfather!
Boichi: I have so many favorite scientists, be it Albert Einstein, Isaac Newton, Richard Dawkings, or Steven Hawkings. I’m also quite fond of Carl Sagan, who always had this warmth in introducing science to the public; in fact, I draw Senku by projecting this warmth into him.
MC: What does a manga editor do exactly?
Honda: I feel it’s a little hard explain, but as I’m working with these really talented senseis, I’m working to make it easier for them to create the manga they want to make via calculating schedules and logistics.
MC: Any chance Senku and friends will come to New York? If so, what will they find?
Inagaki: So right now, they’re currently heading south and are caught up with a certain island. Maybe it’s possible they’ll head to America? Knowing Senku, if it’s possible, he’ll go there for one reason…
Audience Member: Pizza!
Inagaki: *Nods sagely* Maybe so.
At this point, an intermission’s held via a Dr. Stone trivia game. While a Kinro cosplayer did quite well, the next contestant was ruthlessly barraged by next-to-impossible questions. (“How many seconds did Senku count while encased in stone?”) By the way, did you know the Los Angeles Rams are Inagaki’s favorite football team? Regardless, my hopes for an audience Q&A goes never come to fruition, and our special guests eventually continue the panel…
MC: Boichi, your art is insanely detailed. Can you tell us a little bit about your process?
Boichi: It depends on things like the International Space station, the characters, and real objects — there is so much data out there, and I need to collect them. When I drew the third chapter of Dr. Stone Reboot: Byakuya, I had about 1500 referential photos. For characters, I can’t spend too much time, since I’m doing two manga. Thankfully, I have different ideas about characters in my head, so I work faster with them.
MC: Boichi, how long does it take you finish an average page and do you use assistants?
Boichi: I have three staff members, and they’re all great manga artists. To me, it takes about an hour to hour and a half to finish one page.
Honda: I’ve worked with plenty of Jump artists, and let me tell you, that’s REALLY fast! I’ve never encountered something like that.
MC: How different is it writing for a series like Dr. Stone as opposed to something like Eyeshield 21?
Inagaki: Thing is, no matter how interesting I want to make a sports manga, football and the like are designed around rules, so I’m a little constrained there. But in the case of Dr. Stone, the sky’s the limit, and even though my characters don’t have ESP or any superhuman talents, the only challenge is researching the science and then writing whatever I want from there, so I’m having fun.
MC: Do Dr. Stone and Eyeshield 21 take place in the same universe?
Inagaki: (In English) The answer is NO!
Do Dr. STONE and Eyeshield 21 take place in the same universe? Inagaki-sensei says… pic.twitter.com/RKhH6XXjlI
— VIZ (@VIZMedia) November 15, 2019
MC: The manga is knowing for its outrageous gag faces, how do you come up with these?
Boichi: Actually, Inagaki-sensei is surprisingly good with with his drawings, so the gag faces are already there. All I’m doing is cleaning them up and adding my own touch.
Inagaki: Personally, I always think whatever I send over is horrible, so I credit that to Boichi. *Laughs*
Boichi: No, really, Inagaki’s so good that every time I receive his storyboards I always wonder, “Why doesn’t he draw himself?”
MC: Which character’s gag faces do you enjoy drawing the most?
Boichi: Actually, not only the gag faces, all the drawings of Kohaku are my favorite. Whenever I draw Senku, I don’t really care; I want to draw Kohaku! Any Kohaku fans?
*Cue thunderous applause*
MC: They’ve reinvented so many incredible things in Dr. Stone like ramen, phones and record players, but no one’s reinvented anime. Is that gonna happen at some point?
Inagaki: So this is more behind the scenes, but we actually were discussing whether anime could appear in Dr. Stone. So there’s the episode where they make a radar, and since there’s a display screen, we discussed if they could produce and show anime on that screen. We consulted our science experts on that, but unfortunately, they said it wouldn’t be possible with such a small screen. Of course, Senku’s science kingdom could certainly make that happen eventually, so I’d like to have it happen at some point.
MC: A Japanese manga editor is a dream job for millions of fans. Is it as fun as it seems?
Honda: I love this job because I’m the first person to read the Boichi’s storyboard. I think Inagaki’s jealous.
Inagaki: What I’m really jealous about is that Honda-san gets to read it first, not me!
Honda: I’m sorry, but that’s my job!
Boichi: I’ve worked with so many editors, but I’ve never had so much with any like Honda-san. He’s the best in Shonen Jump!
MC: Since you got a chance to both draw and write the Dr. Stone side story, Dr. Stone Reboot: Byakuya, how did the process go? And can you tell us about the science contributor Ms. Cool Astro?
Boichi: One day I talked to Honda-san and said, “Hey, I have some spare time, maybe we can do a sidestory? You can tell Inagaki to write a story and I’ll draw it.” But surprisingly, Honda-san asked, “Why don’t you write it?”. Truth be told, I had the idea of Byakuya already, but I wasn’t sure if it was okay…regardless, Honda-san insisted!
Anyway, Ms. Cool Astro is a Korean woman who went to the International Space Station, and I happened to get in touch with her and asked her to contribute.
MC: What do you think is the secret for coming up with memorable characters?
Inagaki: Raise your hand if you want to be a manga artist or work in the manga world.
*A couple dozen or so hands eagerly raise, and then…*
One would think developing the story is the important first step, but for me, that’s a trap. So instead, it’s about the character — what kind of personality do they have or emotions they express or how they react to their environment, and the story comes after that. So the story exists because of the character, the character doesn’t exist because of the story, it’s never the opposite. Focus on that, and I think you’ll do well in manga.
MC: Your art is so intricate it’s incredible. Considering this takes place in a fantasy stone age world, what do you use for reference?
Boichi: I’ve always been interested in science ever since I was a child, so I studied archaeology and ancient biology and watched movies like Quest for Fire. Really, I’m always trying to remember what I learned. I also pay attention to how Dr. Stone‘s tools and ecology depends on what Senku and co. have invented, or the science elaborated in the chapter. For the most recent chapter, the science he’s used is applicable up to the 18th century.
MC: Do you both have a message for American fans?
Inagaki: When I first started Dr. Stone, I was a little worried that maybe Senku was a bit boring. He didn’t have ESP or muscles, so I was in doubt. But in Japan, fans started giving great feedback and here in America too, so I’m very thankful for all the feedback!
Boichi: I already talked to Honda-san about this, but when I draw Dr. Stone, I want my Japanese fans to be happy. But I also have my international fans, so I want what I draw to appeal all over the world.
Inagaki: (In English) THANK YOU SO MUCH!
Boichi: Thank you so much; I’m so happy to be here! I don’t know about Senku in New York, but I think it’s possible for the Byakuya side-story. Maybe it’d be quite fitting, don’t you think?
And that’s a wrap! What was your favorite answer by Inagaki and Boichi of Dr. Stone? Let us know in the comments below!