Q: Golden Kamuy was voted number two by male readers in “Kono Manga ga Sugoi! 2016”. First of all, please tell us your honest feeling about it.
Noda: It’s awful. Position no. 2 is for the loser.
Q: Too bad, yeah.
Noda: No-one will remember you if you’re not number 1. Can you name the opponents when (judoka) Nomura (Tadahiro) won the Olympics gold three times in a row?
Q: No, I can’t immediately recall.
Noda: It’s like that.
Q: When Golden Kamuy’s first volume was released, it was also placed second in March 2015’s Kono Manga ga Sugoi! Ranking as voted by men.
Noda: Did it feel great when Nomura got silver medal? It’s like that.
Q: Despite using judo as an analogy, thank you for the easy-to-understand explanation. By the way, in both rankings, the number one spot went to…
Noda: Unforgivable Dungeon Meshi.
Q: How was the response at the beginning of the serialization?
Managing editor (ME, Ookuma Hakkou): Since the beginning of serialization, Golden Kamuy has thankfully always got good results in polls, so I was confident that “it could sell”. That’s why, although I had felt just wanting to publish volume 1 quick, we confidently published (the first two volumes) in two consecutive months. (Golden Kamuy vol 1 was published in February 2015, vol 2 was in March 2015. – KC.)
Q: It’s indeed an unusual way of releasing comic books.
ME: There are various benefits of releasing comic books in two consecutive months. First, for the readers, reading the next volume while interest is still high spares them the anxiety of waiting, right. If the next volume is going to be published next month, book sellers will put it on display without returning the previous volume to the publisher. If the first volume sells more than expected and has to be urgently reprinted, the reprints of the previous volume can be put along with the next volume at the book store.
Q: In terms of sales, there are quite a lot of benefits. However, if you are not sure about being able to sell it, it’s something that’s hard to do, isn’t it.
ME: Regarding Golden Kamuy, I was… sure, but still, when I got the request for reprint, I fell on my knees out of joy and relief (laughs)
Q: How about you, Noda-sensei? How did you react to the responses at the beginning of the serialization?
Noda: I thought my editor told me the results, but I don’t remember the contents. I only remember drawing while thinking with conviction “There is no way it doesn’t sell!”
Q: I see. Are you worried about readers’ reaction?
Noda: Of course I want to know. I can’t check the Internet too often, but I feel happy if I receive fanletters. Nowadays, handwriting a letter takes great effort. The letter being handwritten itself already conveys the writer’s feelings.
Q: Where did you get inspiration for Golden Kamuy?
My great grandfather went to the Russo-Japanese war and took part in the 203-Meter Hill Battle as a tondenhei. (Tondenhei were soldiers in the Meiji era sent to Hokkaido to guard & develop the island – KC.) I wanted to make a manga of his story when I got the chance. Then after my previous work, Supinamarada!, ended, my managing editor suggested “How about making a manga about hunting set in Hokkaido?” Then I thought I’d make the protagonist a young man who’s just returned from the Russo-Japanese war.
Q: So at first you began planning a manga about hunting?
Noda: That’s right. But if it’s only about hunting, I would quickly run out of materials, so I decided to throw in various other elements.
Q: I think that the various elements that are linked intricately is what makes this work distinctive.
Noda: The Ainu, the legend of hidden gold, Hijikata Toshizou, the jailbreak king.. even the incident with brown bear, are truly parts of Hokkaido’s history. I picked up the elements that I think interesting from all those things about Hokkaido.
Q: (asking the editor) When Noda-sensei sent you the idea, plot, and such, what was your impression?
ME: “This is it!” Before that, I’ve been exchanging a lot of ideas with Noda-sensei. Each of them was interesting. But the moment I read the draft of this work, I felt like I could hear the sound ‘click’!
Q: The Ainu culture is among the various elements present in Golden Kamuy. Up until now, there were so few manga that portray the Ainu culture. Why did you choose this subject?
Noda: Actually until now there are so few of them. Does it not feel fresh for the readers? I think that since it is a delicate subject, people recoil from it. It brings along dark images of prosecution, discrimination, and such. But I was convinced that if I make an Ainu-themed manga that is cheerful and interesting, it can become popular. Even the Ainu people whom I met to gather data told me, “Please do not portray miserable Ainu people anymore. Please draw strong Ainu people.”
Q: Speaking of that, how was the decision by the editorial team taken? Especially because lately there is a tendency of high demand for political correctness.
ME: The serialization meeting of the editorial team agreed on it unanimously. Thankfully, the editorial team is frank about whether something is interesting or not. However, since neither the editorial team nor our company had much experience and knowledge about the theme, they told us “You need to be prepared well”. As for Noda-sensei, during the meeting when he presented the material, he said “I’m prepared”, so there was no problem.
Noda: Although it’s a delicate subject, I think any trouble that arises from it is not caused by malice, but because of ignorance. That’s why I make this manga while researching and asking experts as much as possible. In addition, I think it’s okay to draw various Ainu people: strong ones, sly ones. Because they too are human.
Q: How’s the reaction to that?
Noda: I think the Ainu people understand my seriousness about this. I’m glad that I receive a lot of nice responses from the parties concerned with the Ainu.
Q: The title is made up of an English word (Golden) and an Ainu word (Kamuy). How did you decide on the title?
Noda: ‘Golden’ means the colour of gold. In another word, shit.
Noda: The Ainu believe gods (kamuy) exist in everything, so there must be kamuy in shit too. I lied.
Q: Please. (laughs)
Noda: Even until now my father cannot name the title of my previous work, Supinamarada! correctly. No matter how often I correct him, he always calls it ‘Marada’. “This is bad,” I thought. I must come up with a title that can stick to the memory fast.
Q: “Golden Kamuy” is indeed easy to remember.
Noda: Still, there are people who say it’s uncool. But I think the content would sweep away any such impression. “Robocop”… Is there any movie fan that call this title uncool? It’s like that.
Q: I see.
Hinna Hinna Ainu Dishes
Q: Golden Kamuy is quite full of well-drawn food and cooking scenes.
Noda: As I said earlier, at the initial stage of the concept, the keyword was ‘hunting’. I think ‘hunting’ includes everything from catching an animal and eating the meat, using the fur and bone to make daily goods, to selling the goods to get money. So depiction of food was naturally part of it.
Q: I see. Since I understand how rich Ainu culture is, personally I’m always looking forward to scenes of Asirpa cooking.
Noda: When I was researching, I found that Ainu’s food culture was so interesting it can’t be ignored. The utensils, the designs are so nice, I really wanted to draw them in details.
Q: Many readers, when they see cooking scenes in Golden Kamuy, think “The food looks delicious!”
Noda: I think that’s the effect of the repeated “citatap”. It makes you want to try saying simple Ainu words like ‘hinna’ or ‘osoma’, right…
Q: “Osoma”… That word is popular.
Noda: It would be great if it’s chosen as ‘Buzzword of the Year’. I want to be able to say “Eat that shit!”
Q: Since I don’t have knowledge about Ainu food, I would like to ask you a question. At every opportunity, Asirpa tells Sugimoto and Shiraishi to eat animal brains, but is it common in Ainu culture?
Noda: What do you mean?
Q: In other words, I wonder if Asirpa does that to know their reactions, just like a Japanese asking a foreign tourist to eat natto?
Noda: Oh no, according to the notes of Ainu women born in the Meiji era, they really ate the brains of any animal they caught, with a sprinkle of salt. The Ainu are not the only hunters that eat the brains of deer and other animals.
Q: Ah, so it’s a common eating habit.
Noda: I have also been pushed to eat the brains of a badger, it was delicious. It was hinna. That’s why I think Asirpa tells Sugimoto and Shiraishi to eat it because she truly thinks it’s delicious.
Q: So sensei has really eaten it..
Noda: When we went to Hokkaido for collecting data, we picked newly sprouting pine leaves, and the editor, the cameraman, and I put them into our mouths, and the three of us spat them out at the same time.
Q: Oh, the same reaction as in Book 3, Chapter 22! By the way, of the foods and animals you’ve drawn so far in Golden Kamuy, which ones are your favourite?
Noda: Maybe the otter head. Since I have no data about how the cooked head looks like, I just drew it out of imagination while looking at an otter skull. But a chef specializing in game animals praised me “You drew it well”. As for animals that I like, I think it’s the brown bear. In Golden Kamuy, it’s become a useful summon beast. By the way I have a rug made of the fur of a big brown bear …
Noda: Sometimes I put it over my head and re-create the entrance scene of Clara’s grandmother. Alone.
(Noda was referring to a scene from Heidi anime below)
Corrections, suggestions welcome.