This article is based on an article from the Japanese edition of Engadget and was created using the translation tool Deepl.
We spoke with manga artist Moto Hagio, who released his first fully digital work Galileo's Universe on the App Store.
Moto Hagio is a manga artist known for such works as The Poe Clan, The Heart of Thomas, Iguana Girl, A Cruel God Reigns, and Queen Margot, which ended this year.
She has always been a pioneer in breaking new ground in manga since her debut in 1969, and in 2012, she became the first shōjo manga artist to receive the Medal of Honor with Purple Ribbon. In 2019, on the 50th anniversary of her painting career, she was named the first female manga artist to receive the Cultural Merit Award.
This article has been edited from each question and answer that we asked Hagio in May 2020 on a text basis.
I understand that Galileo's Universe, which you drew for the App Store, is Hagio-sensei's first fully digital manga work. I've heard that you've been using Mac and Photoshop for some time now, and that you also use the iPhone in your daily life, but when did you start using it and how do you use it?
Hagio: I'm still a beginner in digital drawing. I used a Mac for color about 28 years ago, but I used it about 2 or 3 times a year, so I didn't improve at all. (Tears)
I've been forced to use my iPhone since last year because I heard that my cell phone will no longer work. I love my iPad and have a variety of sizes.
Do you use Siri? Talking to spaceships and computers was common in good old science fiction, not to mention 2001: A Space Odyssey, but there's a generation of kids these days whose first interaction with a computer is a conversation.
Hagio: I used Siri at first, but now I look it up myself; Siri's reply is so loud it's embarrassing to use it around town.
This was the first time you used the iPad and Adobe Fresco in earnest for Galileo's Universe; what was your impression of it as a tool?
Hagio: It was hard to get used to drawing on an iPad at first. But I got used to it after a few days of use, and once I got used to it, it started to be fun.
Fresco's watercolors are beautiful. It's pretty as a dream. The blotches are complex and create an unexpected effect. If you're imaginative, you'll be able to put on a beautiful watercolor painting. The person who created this technology is a genius.
However, due to the small capacity of my iPad, I had trouble saving my pictures and it sometimes froze. If you want to draw a lot of pictures, you should have more storage space.
What was your experience of drawing with the app on the iPad screen and with the Apple Pencil? Do you still feel different from analog?
Hagio: It's exciting to do something new. I was able to quickly copy and trace my drawings, and the effect of layering lines and colors was interesting. If I made a mistake, I could quickly correct it, zoom in nicely, and draw in the eyes and details smoothly.
There are many different types of lines, and depending on what I was drawing, I could choose from vector, pixel, or even watercolor, and it was fun to choose which lines I wanted to use to get that feeling. And the pen is light and doesn't require a lot of effort to put it in. I like that my fingers don't get tired.
What was different from the analogue version was that the pen contact didn't work for some reason or another, it didn't move as I wanted it to, or it would disappear in the middle of a drawing, and I was surprised at how often accidents happened on their own. Normally it's a smooth process, but I'm tired of dealing with digital accidents. I get panicked.
You once said that it's a matter of stamina to be able to draw the lines that you have in your mind's eye, and the way you draw changes with age.
As a fan, it's great to be able to read more and more of your new work now that you've been painting for 50 years, but how do you think the iPad, digital technology and the Internet will affect your future work? What would you like to see happen and what would you like to have in the future?
Hagio: I suffer from deterioration of my hands year after year. What I want is a glove that will restore my muscles when I put it on quickly. But it's impossible. So I wish I could draw digitally... I'm making an effort in recent years to do so.
In that respect, Fresco's pen is beautiful. I actually drew a preview using Fresco, but when I processed it with Photoshop and tried to finish the details again using Fresco, I was disappointed to find that I couldn't get it in again because of its large capacity. It would be nice if you could draw a larger version.
I saw Galileo's Universe in production. The vertical progression style is new to me. Was this designed to be read on a smartphone?
Hagio: It seems that everyone reads a lot of manga on their smartphones. With analog technology, the main way to read manga is to move your eyes horizontally, but to have your eyes flow vertically, and also endlessly, is almost a revolution in terms of reading flow.
This is the first time I've created a comic like this. With the idea of reading it on a smartphone in mind, I thought about creating it all in four panels of the same size, but the person in charge told me that size was too small. Apparently they had other developments in mind for smartphones, like reading on a PC?
In the end, with the help of Apple's designers, we ended up with the current two-frame average. The PC is also a very special world. You can't communicate in an analog language. We don't have the concept of a page or two in a drawing, so what do you call a single screen? I wonder, though, if they don't have an official name for it. It's a bit sci-fi. I don't know how to describe it in a digital terminology style, and I'm trying to communicate with the person in charge, I wonder, "Am I talking to an alien?", and I was puzzled.
You've talked before about cartoonists manipulating time with frame breaks and conveying the breath of their work. Have you encountered any difficulties or discoveries in creating in this new style? (Speaking of style, The Willow Tree* blew me away. It's one of my favorite short stories.)
Hagio: Thank you very much.
There is a certain amount of confusion and joy in working with a new style. In comics, I create a rhythm through frame layout and frame work, so I'm a little concerned about whether or not the story is going well with this frame development. I wonder if people will read it. It was fun to create and draw this work.
I understand that you were in Italy to cover Galileo's universe. You've often used Italy in your past works, including The Road to Rome, and I think you have a close relationship with Italy through your lectures at the University of Naples. How was your visit to Italy this time?
Hagio: It was a very short visit. It has been 10 years since my lecture in Naples, but Italy is still a beautiful city. And it's still a historical city. The old buildings are well-preserved, and they represent the history of the city.
The Vatican and the Villa Medici were all interesting, but the library by the Minerva monastery was amazing. It's a wall-to-wall bookcase with a cloister where you can see the books upstairs. The entrance is very narrow, but the inside feels immensely spacious. It's almost like a museum. It had a lot of impact.
Speaking of impact, I missed my return flight at Fiumicino airport (my first time there) and spent the day at the airport hotel in Rome. Fiumicino airport is really big.
What made you choose Galileo as the subject matter for a work that will be seen by many in the App Store? I understand that Galileo was found guilty in his second trial when he was close to your age now.
Hagio: When I was in elementary school, I liked to read biographies of great men for children, such as Pestalozzi, Galileo, Pasteur, and Nightingale. I was always concerned about Galileo, who was imprisoned because people didn't understand what he was saying, even though he was scientifically correct. I couldn't help but wonder how he felt about his trial, or if he was alternately disappointed and hopeful, and I couldn't help but imagine how Galileo must have felt.
When I was in Florence, I visited the Galileo Museum. I saw the planetary record that Galileo wrote and the telescope that he used, and I could imagine how he was feeling at the time. I also saw Galileo's finger bones. It is easy to understand Galileo's act of observing and recording as a study, so it is easy to understand his feelings. I also visited the tombstone of Galileo in the Basilica of Santa Croce. I was relieved to see his tombstone that he was buried in the cathedral after his imprisonment.
I've heard that the new coronavirus had an impact on the production of your manga, including communicating digitally with your assistant. As with Japan's declaration of a state of emergency, I'm sure you're heartbroken by the situation in Italy. (As of May 2020)
As an artist, I expect that you will eventually produce work like Nanohana (Rape Blossoms) and the trilogy about the relationship between radioactive materials and humans, but what do you think about the current situation that everyone in Japan is feeling uneasy? And how are you doing?
Hagio: It is truly heartbreaking to see the damage caused by coronaviruses in the world. I never expected this kind of reality to befall us. It reminds me only of the science fiction and manga I read in the past. Like Osamu Tezuka's Ode to Kirihito.
For the time being, I'm working for Apple and I hardly go out of my house, but I can't stay in my house forever. I wonder what's going to happen to me.
I'm watching the news every day, hoping that the vaccine will be ready as soon as possible and that the virus will be brought to an end. The world will be different after the coronavirus crisis. I'm watching carefully to see how it will change.
Please make a sequel to Girl on Porch with Puppy*.
Hagio: I'm sorry, but Girl on Porch with Puppy is already complete. I'd appreciate it if someone could draw the world of the sequel.
Sorry 🙇, thank you!
We have made an animation of the digital drawing process which was given to us by Moto-sensei. The size of the animation is about 2,000 pixels in height so that you can see the details, so please enjoy it on a high resolution device with a full screen display.
*Girl on Porch with Puppy
Published in COM magazine in 1971. Although it is a short story of only 10 pages, it is a shocking work that will erase the souls of readers of all generations.
It has been included in the anthology ‘Deformed Future: Contemporary Manga Collection’, which was published in August 2020.
In e-book form, it's included in the Shogakukan Bunko edition of Lulu and Mimi, a collection of early works, including the title debut work, in e-book form.
Hagio-sensei's comment is, for example, "I think people who sympathize with Girl on Porch with Puppy are marginalized in life (laughs)."
(The Science Fiction World of Mochito Hagio, Part 3 | Matogrosso in conversation with Nozomu Omori)
This comment was made in response to Omori's statement, "(...) I was really struck by the short story 'Girl on Porch with Puppy'. I was surprised that such an amazing SF could be drawn in shoujo manga".
*The Willow Tree
Included in the series of short stories ‘Going to the Mountain’ (series Somewhere Not Here).
As mentioned in the interview, in My Lectures on shōjo manga, a recording of a lecture she gave at the University of Naples in Italy, Hagio herself explains the entire volume frame by frame in the context of what Japanese manga is all about.