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Isabella stares at Little Bernie

The list of interviews are arranged in chronological order. To quickly scroll down to the interview you want to read, click on the Table of Contents.

Shueisha

Date
4-5 February 2017

Original article, Part 1 link: https://wpb.shueisha.co.jp/news/entertainment/2017/02/04/79445/

Part 2 link: https://wpb.shueisha.co.jp/news/entertainment/2017/02/05/79456/

A talk with the creators of the unconventional hot title, The Promised Neverland: “From a 300-page cold call to debut.”

February 4th & 5th, 2017

The Promised Neverland,' ('Story: Kaiu Shirai '/ 'Art': 'Posuka Demizu')', the unconventional suspense serial that began running in Weekly Shonen Jump last August, is currently creating a buzz.

Last year, it won the 2016 Mandou Kobayashi Manga Prize for Promising New Series, and it was also one of the thirteen titles nominated for the 2017 Manga Taisho.

The stage of the story is “Grace Field House,” an orphanage in the middle of a forest in the countryside. It’s a peaceful place where thirty-eight orphans, all younger than twelve, live happily together in modest circumstances under the care of their kind “mom,” the gracious Isabella. …Or so it seems. However, one day, Emma, a twelve[S2] [sic]-year-old girl who’s one of the oldest residents, stumbles onto the truth about the facility.

Joined by Norman, a reliable genius who's her age, Emma attempts to save her friends' lives by secretly engineering an escape and getting everyone out...

Reader reactions have included, “It’s a Jump manga, but it seriously doesn’t look like Jump!” and “Even though it’s a manga, it feels like I’m watching a high-quality TV series from overseas, and I’m always desperate for the next chapter!” Although it exists under the Shonen Jump label, a classic brand that drives Japan’s manga industry, it isn’t limited by the magazine’s worldview, and it has won support for its uninhibited style and unique trajectory.

On Friday, February 3rd, the second volume was released. We've taken this opportunity to hold the first-ever long, exclusive interview with both creators, as well as Suguru Sugita, who has been the series’ editor since its launch.' The three of them shared all sorts of stories with us, from backstage anecdotes regarding the beginning of this unprecedented series to the creative approaches behind its style!

***



For both of you, this series marked your Weekly Shonen Jump debut. As far as the writer, Shirai-sensei, is concerned, I hear it’s your first series as a manga creator?

Kaiu Shirai-sensei (hereafter Shirai): Yes, that’s correct.

―And Demizu-sensei, the artist, has had other series in different magazines.

Posuka Demizu-sensei (hereafter Demizu): That’s right. It was at another publisher, I’m afraid; I’ve worked with Shogakkan’s Coro Coro Comic and Televi-Kun magazines.

How did you end up working together? To begin with, tell us how this series came to be.

Demizu: Well, the very beginning was a rough, unsolicited manuscript that Shirai-sensei created about three years ago.

―Huh!? So the prototype for this series existed three whole years ago?

Shirai: That’s right. It wasn’t as if I’d won a prize with it or anything, though. It really was just a rough manuscript that I brought in to show (the editor), without being asked.

―Had you been making cold calls like that for a while, then, working to become a manga creator?

Shirai: No, it wasn’t that sort of thing either. I guess you could say it just sort of happened… In the first place, after graduating from university, I worked in a white-collar position at a corporation. In addition, it was a job that had absolutely no connection to the world of writing stories and drawing pictures.

―And what led you to reinvent yourself as a manga creator?

Shirai: Looking back, I think I probably started wanting to leave something tangible behind. I liked my current job, and it did feel worthwhile, but I was working constantly, and it wasn’t work that left any physical traces. There’s nothing wrong with not leaving anything physical, but after I left that job, I thought I’d like to do work that would leave evidence of some sort next time.

If it didn’t work out, maybe I’d be able to resign myself to quitting…

―Then that’s why you gravitated toward the creative world?

Shirai: Yes. I hadn’t actually written a story before,[S4] but I’d always been interested in that sort of thing and had a deep admiration for it. I thought, if I was going to do this, I’d give it my very best shot. So I polished several stories that I’d managed to work up into actual manga manuscripts, submitted them to contests and things here and there, and had people look at them. But, erm, nobody bit. (laughs) It was hopeless to the point of magnificence.

I thought “Well, I’ve obviously got no talent, then!”, and I very nearly gave up. Still, it would have been frustrating to just let it end like that, so I drew up one more rough manuscript, thinking I’d make it my last attempt, and that’s the one that became the basis for The Promised Neverland. It ended up being pretty long, though. While I was drawing it, it got to be over three hundred pages…

Over three hundred pages, out of nowhere!?

Shirai: Of course lots of things were completely different from the way they are in the current story, but to put it in terms of what it is now, it began with the protagonists discovering the secret of their orphanage and went up to the point where they escaped from it. Since that was the case, due to the nature of the project, I really couldn’t get it to fit inside the page limits for a one-shot.

―That really is too big to bring in on a cold call, isn’t it…

Shirai: Right. Not only that, but that was how big it was in its rough form, so I really didn’t know what to do with it. It was hard to pare it down, though, and when I showed it to a friend, the friend said, “This is great. Go for it: Take it to somebody and say you want it to be a series.” So I thought, “All right, I’ll just do it that way and take the storyboard in as an original story proposal.”

In any case, if nothing else, I wanted to ask a professional editor if it had any merit as a manga. If it didn’t work out, I thought I might be able to come to terms with the fact that I had no talent and resign myself to quitting. I ended up bringing it to the editorial department at Weekly Shonen Jump, and the editor who looked at it was the one who’s my editor now, Sugita-san.

01

―And that explains why there were three years between then and now.

Shirai: Right.

―What did you actually think when someone brought you an unsolicited story that was over three hundred pages long, Sugita-san? I doubt many new manga creators go that far…

Sugita: I got a phone call from someone who wanted to bring in a manuscript, and of course I set time aside, but I never even dreamed there would be that much material, so I’d scheduled a preliminary meeting for another matter about an hour after that. Then I met Shirai-san for the first time, and three hundred pages landed right in front of me. (laughs) It was about fifteen chapters’ worth. That was a shock.

I figured I’d start reading from the top, and if it was boring, I’d stop partway through and talk with the author about what I’d read up till then. …But it was fascinating, and I actually ended up reading the whole thing, all the way to the end. At that point, finally, I thought, “I’ve got somebody incredible here.”

At the time, though, Shirai-san hadn’t won any prizes and had no history of publication in other magazines, so in order to take it from that point to the series debut, I had to lay quite a lot of groundwork, including talking the editorial department around. Still, it definitely was good, and I really wanted to get this talent out into the world somehow.

It would be best to bring in a professional artist…

So the decision to put someone else in charge of the art was initially made at that stage?

Shirai:  That’s right. That had always been my intention, and after I talked it over with Sugita-san, we decided to think along those lines.

Sugita:  In terms of the substance of this story, although it’s a fantasy, it has horror and suspense elements as well. We felt that, unless we had someone who could draw pictures of various types in an integrated way, we wouldn’t be able to bring out 100% of the story’s true goodness. Shirai-san’s art skills were still developing, and so I thought that adding a professional artist who could do that sort of thing to the team was sure to improve the project. After all, Shirai-san’s real strength lies in storytelling.

One other big concern was the fact that creating an elaborate story like this at the pace required by a weekly magazine was bound to be a job and a half. In order to maintain its quality, we decided it would be best to split up the writing and the art.

Shirai:  Then, after we’d approached various artists, we finally met someone who made us think, “This is the one!” That was Demizu-sensei.

And now, finally, Demizu-sensei comes into it!

Demizu:  Yes, at that point, finally. (laughs) Since that’s the case, in terms of the three years or so that Shirai-sensei and Sugita-san spent on preparation, I made my entrance fairly late. Specifically, I joined the team after the beginning of 2016.

―But this series isn’t the first time the two of you have worked together, is it.

Shirai:  Correct. The first time was a one-shot story called Poppi’s Wish that ran in Jump+.

02

Poppi’s Wish, the creators’ first story together. You can still read it for free (in Japanese) in Jump+.

That one was released about six months before The Promised Neverland serial started, wasn’t it. In February 2016.

Demizu: That’s right. The serial I was working on at another magazine had just ended, and they approached me immediately afterwards. The upshot was “Yes, absolutely, let’s do this.”

Meaning Shirai-sensei was the one who made the initial approach?

Shirai:  Yes. I’d seen Demizu-sensei’s illustrations before, and I thought they were terrific. I couldn’t approach her while she was working for someone else, though, so I aimed for the instant when it looked as though that might be over. (laughs) I went into it prepared to be shot down, but she accepted the offer readily.

Demizu:  To begin with, Shirai-sensei contacted me through Sugita-san. Then I read the story for the first time, and how should I put it… Personally, it went straight to my heart, and I thought, “This is really, shockingly good!” I told them “I absolutely want to do this!” right away, and we went from there.

Then it was love at first sight for both of you.

Shirai:  Yes, although at first, it was a burning unrequited love on my end. I really was basically just a fan. (laughs) I’d been head over heels for her art before we ever met, and frankly, I thought, “I don’t care if it’s just for a one-shot, I want to work with Demizu-sensei at least once, no matter what!”

What was it about the art that you fell for, specifically?

Shirai:  If I start giving you the list, you’ll never get me to stop, you know. (laughs) First, her characters are really lively. She has a fantastic talent for depicting expressions, too, and she can draw absolutely any pantomime. She’s also capable of creating a comprehensive look for the world. Most of all, her drawings of kids are cute: The mob characters go way beyond mob level!

Even if we stray from Jump’s standard formula all over the place!


03

One of Demizu-sensei’s pictures. Even the mob characters are meticulously drawn, and the worldview is whimsical.

You weren’t kidding about not stopping, were you. (laughs)

Shirai:  There’s lots more where that came from! (laughs) And so, when she agreed to do the art for Poppi’s Wish, I was thrilled. The thing is, when I initially wrote that one-shot, I felt that if we found someone who could depict its world properly, we could definitely let them handle The Promised Neverland. …Setting aside the question of whether they’d agree to do the series or not.

Then, when I saw the manuscript Demizu-sensei actually drew, it was even more fantastic than I’d imagined it would be. I told her I’d love to have her handle the series as well, if possible.

Demizu:  I’m really honored. Nothing could make me happier than hearing those words from a writer who has as much talent as you do.

So that’s how you came to be in charge of the art for The Promised Neverland.

Demizu:  Right. First, though, I read the story for Chapters 1 through 3 of the series, and they gave me another shock. My first thought when I read them was, “Huh? This isn’t like Jump at all!!” (laughs) In a way, that was true of Poppi’s Wish as well, but this story was much farther removed from Jump’s general tone.

Shirai:  That’s, uh, well… It isn’t just Demizu-sensei. Most of the writers I’d shown it to earlier had told me the same thing. (laughs)

True, it does stray from the standard shonen manga formula in many places. To begin with, it’s unusual to have a girl as the protagonist. Was there any particular intent behind that?

Shirai:  No, that was just how it had been back in that initial three hundred-page manuscript. When I came up with the story, I wasn’t trying to tailor it to Jump. Then, when I made the cold call, I didn’t really tinker with it; I just took it in as it was. I thought, “If they call me out on it, I’ll change that part,” but that was about it. In the end, Sugita-san didn’t say anything particularly negative about it, so we kept it as it was.

Sugita:  I did technically call Shirai-san out on it! In fact, I seem to remember resisting it pretty stubbornly. (laughs) It’s just that it was plenty interesting as it was, and I felt as though, if we destroyed that exquisite balance by being overly conscious of a preexisting formula, we might actually end up killing the story.

In any case, the story as a whole had always deviated from Jump’s standard formula right and left, and we’d made it that way on purpose. I thought it would probably be okay. More importantly, we were doing things that weren’t in other series, and it was already this fascinating, so I thought we might as well make it a story that would stand out from the pack as much as possible.

Shirai:  I was grateful to him for allowing it. I did want to experiment, though, to see if we’d really be able to get along properly by doing things that way. To that end… Before the series began in the main magazine, they’d let me write two one-shots for Jump+, and when I did, I made sure both of them deviated from the classic Jump formula as well, so that I could see how readers would react. The characters are shallow, but I used the look of their worlds and scenario gimmicks to show things, which really isn’t how it’s done in Jump. (laughs)

So Poppi’s Wish was part of that effort, then. It was all foundation work for the serial that was about to start in the main magazine.

Shirai:  That’s right. And we did get a response, to some extent, so we decided to stick with our current strategy. Finally, we took the plunge and headed into the series.

**

The series began in August 2016. As we discussed earlier, it doesn’t fit the magazine’s standard formula, and the fact that an unconventional series was running in Jump immediately caused a stir. Its setting, which resembles Europe or America, is also unique, and intentionally removing Japan’s landscapes and places that would be easy for readers to identify with seems like an unusual move as well.

Shirai:  The thing is, with a story as odd as this one, I thought that setting it in a Japanese landscape might actually make it feel as though something was off. Having familiar scenery in the background would make it more obvious that the story was fiction, and it seemed like it might just emphasize the aura of gloom.

Partly because of that atmosphere, people tend to describe it as feeling like a TV show from overseas. Are there any works that have influenced you as a creator?

Shirai:  Oh, yes, lots of them. Even if I limit myself to what’s influenced me as a manga creator, there are quite a lot of manga artists who have. In terms of panel divisions, I’d say Naoki Urasawa-sensei[S8] , although he isn’t a Jump creator. My storyboards tend to be split up rather finely, and there are lots of panels, but relatively important panels are drawn to appear larger: That method is straight from Urasawa-sensei.

For imaginary lines and the logic behind directing the reader’s gaze, I took a page from Takeshi Obata[S9] -sensei’s techniques. I also loved Neuro: Supernatural Detective, so I’ve been deeply influenced by Yusei Matsui-sensei[S10] , and I learned how to depict suspense from JoJo’s[S11] Hirohiko Araki-sensei. I’ve picked things up bit by bit, from all sorts of creators.

It feels as though there are other major influences besides manga here. What about films or TV?

Shirai:  Yes, I do watch movies frequently, too. I like all different kinds, but if I was to name one, there’s a suspense movie starring Elijah Wood and Macaulay Culkin, The Good Son. I absolutely love that one.

So it is suspense, then. I knew it.

Shirai:  That’s right. Macaulay Culkin is a good boy in front of others, practically angelic, but he’s pitch-black underneath, and only Elijah Wood knows what he’s really like. In The Promised Neverland, Mom is just like that. I like two-faced characters like those, and situations that keep you on the edge of your seat.

Krone’s off-the-wall facial contortions!


There are clear glimpses of the roots of the story in that anecdote. (laughs) Also, the way who’s telling the truth and who’s a traitor switches with dizzying speed feels similar to one of the finest examples of those overseas TV shows, the 24 series…

Shirai:  As you suspect, I talked it over with Sugita-san in the beginning and intentionally worked to achieve that. After all, even in Jump, other series use ferocious battles to create ever-flashier highlight scenes, while we had to use psychological warfare that went above and beyond that to create intense “hooks.” There was no other option.

It really is about psychological warfare, not battles, isn’t it. I think the placement of the demons is symbolic there. In the first chapter, they were grotesque and terrifying, but then they don’t show up for a while after that. That certainly doesn’t mean everything is peaceful, though: We don’t know what the humans are thinking, and they’re scarier than the demons…

Shirai:  That’s precisely where Demizu-sensei’s talents become extremely important. We always have to be careful to keep things from looking lackluster. It’s odd for me to say this when I draft the storyboards myself, but in this series, I think there’s a very delicate, tricky balance and timing about what sort of picture to show where in order to catch and hold the readers’ sympathies. The interest generated when a smiling character abruptly shifts to looking terrifying in the middle of a tranquil sequence is also important.

The faces Sister Krone makes are incredible, aren’t they?

Shirai:  I always look forward to seeing what she comes up with, too. She’s smart, but when she isn’t, it’s really endearing, and I love her! (laughs)

Demizu:  I like Krone, too; she’s fun to draw.

I’m also a big fan of the way Isabella’s trim neatness and her maliciousness slip in and out of view from panel to panel.

Demizu:  As far as I’m concerned, Mom is just as much of a blast to draw as Krone.

What is it about her, exactly?

Demizu:  Mom’s the only one who absolutely never loses control, you see. Of the characters currently in the story, I think she’s the only one who really should be drawn to be beautiful. That means I can never let my mind wander when I’m drawing her. I feel as if I have to straighten up and look sharp!

Shirai:  In the first place, simply because of what they’re like, both Krone and Mom must be difficult to draw. Even when it comes to that subtle rendering, though, Demizu-sensei has such a good handle on it that if I tell her one thing, she understands ten, and so… Every time I make a request, I’m able to feel all excited about it.

Demizu:  As you’d figure, though, I’m nervous every time: “Is this expression really the right one? I haven’t wandered away from what Shirai-sensei intended, have I?”

Shirai:  There are no problems whatsoever! I mean it. The only thing I have to say every week is “Thank you very much”! (laughs)

Demizu:  No, no. I think it’s because you draft your storyboards quite thoroughly, so I manage to get by without misinterpreting much.

04

Sister Krone, whom Demizu-sensei says she has fun drawing (left, from the Vol. 2 preview page in Vol. 1), and a panel that shows a glimpse of the inherent terror in the seemingly pure Isabella

Demizu-sensei is the first one fooled?


Sugita:  From an editing standpoint, when the writer and artist are different, that’s exactly where I need to take the most care in general. For example, even when it comes to the expression on a single character, there’s inevitably a gap between what the writer visualized when they wrote a certain line and the expression the artist envisions from that line.

On projects where the story and the art are created separately, adjusting those subtle differences until they’re the best they can be turns into the biggest issue. If you don’t do that, the writer’s intention and the readers’ impressions may fall out of step, and it can become impossible to effectively move the story and the drama forward. Due to those concerns, before beginning the series, we needed to use the one-shot Poppi’s Wish to gauge their compatibility.

Creators who’ve worked together for many years learn to tell what the other is thinking. However, from their very first job together, these two had almost none of those missed connections. It was a miraculous pairing, and it startles me as well. To put it another way, it took a lot of the pressure off me as an editor. (laughs) After all, when views don’t mesh, adjusting them is one of our biggest duties.

Shirai:  Either way, it’s very clear to me that Demizu-sensei reads my roughs thoroughly, then considers all sorts of different possibilities. Depending on the situation, rather than being just what I imagined, the expressions she chooses from among the alternatives often surpass what I had in mind. That’s why, whenever I give her a rough script, I always really look forward to seeing what sort of manuscript she draws from it. I think, “Aha, so she did this here!” Give-and-take like that makes me truly happy.

―Can you name a specific scene?

Shirai:  Take the end of Chapter 9, when Norman smiles. That was exactly what I’m talking about. Demizu:  Oh, yes, right. The faint one. (laughs)

05

The end of Chapter 9, which made an impression on Shirai-sensei

Shirai:  In the original script, he didn’t really smile here, and he wasn’t smiling in Demizu-sensei’s drafts. But when I looked at the final manuscript, he had this indescribable smile. At first, due to reasons that had to do with foreshadowing, I thought “Wait, what?”, but as I looked at it, I realized the expression really was best this way. It made me feel that that was how it should be. And at that point, we simply had use it. (laughs)



―That may be the best part of stories that have a separate writer and artist.

Shirai:  Yes, when it’s finished, it frequently ends up being far better than I could ever have anticipated on my own. Demizu-sensei really does draw it that way quite often, and I truly appreciate it.

Demizu:  Just as Shirai-sensei looks forward to seeing how my manuscripts turn out, from my perspective, I look forward to getting the storyboards every week. Part of it is the simple fact that, as a fan, I get to read the next bit of the story before anybody else, but there’s more to it than that. (laughs)

First I give the roughs a quick read-through, searching for the highlight of that chapter. I look forward to that part of the work every time. And then, the amazing thing about Shirai-sensei is that, every once in a while, I’ll get a request to draw a certain scene without being told anything about future developments. That’s always kinda fun, you know. I think, “This is it, here we go!” (laughs)

Shirai:  Well, when people do know, sometimes it shows, even though they don’t mean for it to. “Oh, this person is saying such kind things here, but you know they’re just going to sell them out later…” That sort of thing. So, by not telling her, I also end up looking forward to seeing what sort of picture she’ll come up with.

―If you’re going to fool the readers, start with the creator?

Demizu:  That’s exactly it. (laughs) At times like that, I always think and vacillate a lot, but at the same time, it’s fun; it feels like a terrifically worthwhile challenge. Drawing while I imagine the future of the story and Shirai-sensei’s reasons for deciding to do things this way puts me in a position that’s halfway between reader and creator, and it’s fascinating.

Shirai:  I’m truly grateful that she racks her brains that thoroughly over each of my storyboards, and as a writer, I have a deep respect for it. Oh, and one time, what I thought was really incredible was that, working from one of my rough manuscripts, Demizu-sensei named all the mob characters and even came up with background information for them.[S12]

What we want to show is “Friendship, Effort, Victory”


―Wait, you don’t mean…all the kids at the orphanage?

Demizu:  Mob characters are fun. (laughs) Besides, to the protagonists – Emma, Norman and company – all the kids at that orphanage are precious companions. As I was drawing each of them and imagining this and that, it just sort of snowballed on me… I didn’t know how much I was allowed to make up about them on my own, but since I had come up with all of that, I thought I might as well send it to Shirai-sensei. And then it all ended up getting used in the story. (laughs)

Shirai:  To begin with, all I’d come up with for the children besides the main characters was how many there were in all, and how many of those were in each age group. But she said things like “This kid is probably this sort of person, right?” and thought up all the things I hadn’t, in detail.

I thought, “There was a massive amount of work to do already, and she still came up with all of this, in what spare moments she managed to find?” It’s profoundly moving to have someone read my storyboards that thoroughly. At any rate, I ask her for lots of things regarding the background information for this series, precisely because she’s Demizu-sensei. For example, I had her come up with several different floor plans for the House, and working from those, we thought up and settled on future story developments together.

Demizu:  I like coming up with scenario information. It’s just like with those mob characters: Once I start thinking about it, I can’t stop, and I always end up going, “Fine, let’s just use all of it.” (laughs)

06

Shirai:  So, Demizu-sensei’s presence keeps making the setting for this story more and more detailed. I thought I made things pretty elaborate to begin with, but she’s more impressive than I am. Once things are like that, as a creator, I can’t slack off. (laughs)

Demizu:  But what makes me happy is that Shirai-sensei gives serious thought to my suggestions and responds to them. I mean, I’ve thought up a ton of tentative proposals for background info and sent them in, and they’ve all come back to me with comments added. When I look at them, I can tell Shirai-sensei really considered them carefully. It’s a very satisfying game of catch.

―This really is an ideal relationship, isn’t it. You’d never think you’d been a team for less than a year.

Shirai:  I agree. From the bottom of my heart, I think I’ve had the good fortune to run into a truly excellent creator!

Demizu:  No, no, that’s mutual. (laughs)

―All right, we’re getting down to the last question. The series is referred to as “unconventional” quite often; what exactly is it that you want to communicate to readers through this story?

Shirai: It’s extremely simple: Jump often gives the words “Friendship, Effort, Victory” as its slogan, and that’s what we want to do here. We’re ignoring Jump’s standard formula right and left as we create the series, so people may think we’re against it, but even if our protagonist is a girl, and even if there aren’t any battles, in the end, all we want to do is come up with a story that connects to “Friendship, Effort, Victory” with a heart full of hope, from a slightly different angle. (laughs)

The thoughts behind the word “Promised”


―I assume you can’t discuss future developments in much detail, but… For example, have you already settled on a story and background for the world Emma and company will escape into, to some extent?

Shirai:  Yes, that’s already been determined. It’s implied in the title, “The Promised Neverland.”

―Whoa, is it okay to say that much?

Shirai:  Yes, it’s fine. For that reason, I’ve intentionally avoided using the word “promise” in places and lines that have no connection to that up until now, even when I wanted to, and I’ll keep doing so until the reveal.

―That seems deeply significant.

Shirai:  As a matter of fact, in the beginning, I was planning to make the title of the manga just “Neverland.” We decided it needed a little more than that, though, and so it became “The Promised Neverland.” I have developments in mind that will solidly link that added “Promised” to the heart of the story, so… Please continue to look forward to it!

―That really is something to look forward to.

Shirai:  If Emma and the rest manage to escape, I’m planning to reveal the meaning of “The Promised Neverland,” so I’ll do my best to keep the series from getting cancelled before then! (laughs)

Then, Demizu-sensei, are you currently working on designs that will be used in the developments after the escape?

Demizu:  Yes. I have to come up with a lot, so it’s scary, but on the other hand, I’m having quite a lot of fun thinking about this and that and what I should do on my own as well!

Incidentally, they’ve already scheduled releases up to Volume 3 of the comics…

Shirai:  That’s right. Volumes 1 and 2 have been released, and Volume 3 is scheduled to come out in April. I’d like to conclude the Escape arc at some point between Volumes 3 and 4 or thereabouts and move on to the next phase. We haven’t scheduled anything yet; it’s just what I’m thinking now, in a vague way.

And the story after that… I already asked about that, didn’t I. I really am looking forward to this even more now.

Shirai:  As far as I’m concerned, I think the unique skills which were the reason we asked Demizu-sensei to be in charge of the art will be put to their best use, in the truest sense of the word, in those future developments. We’re bound to be treated to a world that’s thoroughly and unmistakably Demizu-sensei, and I’m looking forward to it as a fan as well! (laughs)

Demizu:  Yes, I’ll do my best. (laughs) Even working from the limited amount that I’ve been told, it sounds like it’s going to be a pretty interesting story, so I’ll buckle down and make sure the interesting elements come through clearly!

Shirai:  And of course I’ll do my best as well. Nothing could make me happier than having everyone read this, enjoy it, and talk about it. Thank you so much for looking forward to it, and please continue to support us!

―Thank you both for taking time out of your busy schedules to talk with us today.

Kaiu Shirai

Author. Debuted as a writer in 2015 with the one-shot The Whereabouts of Ashley Goeth'[S13] in Shonen Jump+. In 2016, teamed up with artist Demizu-sensei for the first time on the Shonen Jump+ one-shot Poppi’s Wish. Both stories were very well-received, and the pair’s series The Promised Neverland has been running in Weekly Shonen Jump since August of the same year.

Posuka Demizu

Artist. Active as a popular illustrator on the artist networking SNS “pixiv.” Also active as a manga creator on Coro Coro Comic’s I’m the Demon King!! Oreca Battle series, among others. In 2016, she made her Jump debut with the one-shot Poppi’s Wish in Shonen Jump+, and has been drawing The Promised Neverland series in Weekly Shonen Jump since August of that year.


(Interview & text/ Takahiro Yamashita ©Kaiu Shirai and Posuka Demizu/Shueisha)


[S1]Since this article was released in two parts over the two days after Vol. 2 hit stores in Japan, there are no spoilers past Chap. 9. For the record, in the magazine, the series was on Chap. 24.

[S2]This is what the original article says, and since I’m just translating, I’ve kept it.

[S4]@_@ *Translator dies*

[S8]Creator of “20th Century Boys” and “Monster.”

[S9]The artist (although not the writer) of “Hikaru no Go”, “Death Note” and “Bakuman.”

[S10]Probably better known for “Assassination Classroom.”

[S11]“JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure”

[S12]This means that everything in the character chart on Page 46 of Vol. 2 (except the ages and ID numbers) came from Demizu-sensei.

[S13]Story also available in Jump+ for free. Find it here: https://shonenjumpplus.com/episode/10833497643049549911 (The “Goeth” name spelling is given in the story in romaji (Page 39, Panel 2), so it’s legit.)

Sources

KonoManga (2017)

Date
25 December 2017
Description
Part 1 of 2 of interview

http://konomanga.jp/interview/133182-2

Today We’re Interviewing:[S1]  Kaiu Shirai-sensei (Story) and Posuka Demizu-sensei (Art)!

The Promised Neverland is a powerhouse title that started causing a sensation immediately after its run in Weekly Shonen Jump began, with the total number of copies printed zooming past one million [S2] in the blink of an eye.

Momentum unchecked, the title dominated a fierce battle teeming with noteworthy manga series to waltz off with first place in the Kono Manga ga Sugoi (This Manga’s Incredible)! 2018 Men’s category!!

The three main characters – Emma, Norman, and Ray – live at Grace Field House, a small orphanage, along with other children and a kind “mom.” It was a peaceful, happy life, and they thought it would go on forever… But that tranquility came to an abrupt end.

The reality of the orphanage, and the workings of the cruel world, were laid bare.

Having learned the truth, in order to survive, they made up their minds to escape—!!

This novel “escape fantasy,” its secrets, and as-yet-untold anecdotes about how the two creators teamed up have attracted intense interest from readers, and you’ll find a deluxe, eight-page interview in the main magazine, Kono Manga ga Sugoi! 2018! This time, we’re bringing you a “director’s cut” interview with writer Kaiu Shirai-sensei and artist Posuka Demizu-sensei which includes all the content that couldn’t be printed due to page space limitations, available only on Kono Manga ga Sugoi! WEB! This is an interview all manga fans have been waiting for, so whatever you do, don’t miss it!!

Shirai01

Story: Kaiu Shirai

Author. Debuted as a writer in 2015 with the one-shot The Whereabouts of Ashley Goeth'[S3]  in Shonen Jump+. In 2016, teamed up with artist Demizu-sensei for the first time on the Shonen Jump+ one-shot Poppi’s Wish[S4] . Both stories were very well-received, and the pair’s series The Promised Neverland has been running in Weekly Shonen Jump since August of the same year.  

Demizu02
Art: Posuka Demizu

Artist. Active as a popular illustrator on the artist networking SNS “pixiv.” Also active as a manga creator on Coro Coro Comic’s I’m the Demon King!! Oreca Battle series, among others. In 2016, she made her Jump debut with the one-shot Poppi’s Wish in Shonen Jump+, and has been drawing The Promised Neverland series in Weekly Shonen Jump since August of that year.

 

A “Jump”-like Series from the Ultimate Tag Team

──The manga that, for both of you, is your first-ever series in Weekly Shonen Jump (hereafter “Jump”) has just taken first place in the Men’s category.

Shirai: I wasn’t expecting that at all, so when I got the notification, I was startled. I’m thrilled, and at the same time, I’m terribly grateful and rather overawed. I’d love to share this delight with Demizu-sensei, our editor, the comics editor, the designer, and the readers who give us their constant support.

Demizu: I’d like to just cut loose and rejoice, but the thought that a lot of people are going to be watching the series from now on makes me really flustered and self-conscious.

Chap0103

──Tell us about the events that led up to the launch of the series.

Shirai: To begin with, I’d been submitting manga manuscripts and taking them on cold calls, but had had absolutely no luck with any of them. Then, while I was studying for a technical exam for a different job, I came up with a storyboard and drew it in two notebooks, and a friend of mine told me it was good. That storyboard was the prototype for The Promised Neverland, and at the time, it was over three hundred pages long.

──Three hundred pages!

Shirai: Not only was the page-count high, but it wasn’t the sort of project I could cut down to one-shot size, so I figured I’d have to shelve it. However, that friend gave me a push, saying, “Even if it is just a storyboard, go on and make a cold call with it.” Then the editor who’s my current editor praised it far beyond what I’d expected, and picked it up. …So I’m technically a “corporate dropout-type” writer. (laughs)

──Why did you choose Jump as the destination for that cold call? From your style, I think you could just as easily have gone with a young men’s magazine, where there would have been fewer restrictions.

Shirai: That was because I liked Jump. After they picked it up, I did realize, “Oh, you know, I may not have been a good fit for a boys’ magazine.”

──Readers say the series “isn’t like Jump” quite frequently, in a positive way. What made you aim for serialization in the main magazine, Weekly Shonen Jump, rather than in Shonen Jump+? 

Editor: At first glance, the project does look like an unusual one for Jump. However, at heart, it’s a “Jump-like” action story about overcoming overwhelming adversity and trials with hard work and friendship, and attempting to grasp victory in the form of an escape. Even on that initial cold call, Shirai-sensei said we should be able to make the series fascinating in a new way specifically by running it in the main magazine, and so we had our sights set on serialization there from the very beginning.

──So you started preparing for the series based on that three hundred-page storyboard?

Shirai: We refined the storyboard, and while we worked on that, we searched for someone to handle the art. As part of that effort, I wrote other one-shots, and they published two of them (The Whereabouts of Ashley Goeth and Poppi’s Wish) in Shonen Jump+. 

──And Demizu-sensei teamed up with you starting with that second story,  Poppi’s Wish.

Demizu: At first they told me, “There’s no guarantee that we’ll be able to run (the one-shot)” and “We don’t know if we’ll be able to do the series.” Up until then, I’d drawn illustrations for game and novel packaging, and I’d been working on a series geared toward young children in Monthly Coro Coro Comic (Shogakkan). However, this project came up just as that series ended, and I thought, “Even if it takes time, there’s really no reason not to give this a shot.”

──Why did you choose Demizu-sensei?

Shirai: Because I thought she was “the ultimate.”

── “The ultimate”! Now there’s a phrase that sounds like Jump!

Shirai: She can draw incredible monsters, her children are cute, she’s particularly good at androgynous girls, she’s able to use rich expressions to show how two-faced humans can be, she’s capable of creating worlds, her drawings of food look delicious…etcetera. I thought she was the ultimate on so many points I can’t count them all. I thought, “It’s all right if she turns down the offer; I just want to establish a connection with her,” so I asked her to help on the one-shot, fully prepared to be rejected.

──Demizu-sensei, what did you think when you first read Shirai-sensei’s storyboards?

Demizu: I read the rough manuscripts for Poppi’s Wish and The Promised Neverland on the same day, and I thought, “Huh? That wasn’t anything like what I expected!”

──Both are significantly different from your earlier style, after all.

Demizu: First, even as I was startled by how unlike Jump the content was, I was bowled over by the skill behind the composition. Take a class in school, for example: Even if it covers the same material, depending on the teacher, how interesting the class turns out to be differs wildly. This is just like that. Shirai-sensei has a genius for presentation. At the time, I’d been drawing art that was geared toward little kids, and so suddenly working on a suspense story made me uneasy, but I said, “I’ll do it!” They presented me with several alternatives and asked me which I wanted to draw, and I chose Poppi’s Wish.

Shirai: I really am glad she agreed so readily. Demizu-sensei’s transcendent, super-fast art is practically god-like!

What is it Like to Make Manga as a Team? A Behind-the-Scenes Look at Production!!


──What does Shirai-sensei’s story look like when you get it, Demizu-sensei?

Demizu: It’s formatted as a storyboard. They have fairly detailed instructions written on them, and I do my best to incorporate as many of those as I can.

──So it’s what they call a “storyboard manuscript,” then.

Demizu: At first, the small size of the panels threw me for a loop, but I think I’ve gradually gotten better at drawing the detailed parts as well. Sometimes people ask me whether working from a storyboard manuscript feels restrictive, but it’s nothing of the sort. The style is significantly different from any of my previous projects, so the idea that what I’ve made is eventually going to define my own style is both strange and something I’m really looking forward to.

ShiraiStoryboard

【Storyboard】 (Art) ©Kaiu Shirai & Posuka Demizu/Shueisha

DemizuMS

【Finished Manuscript】 (Art) ©Kaiu Shirai & Posuka Demizu/Shueisha

── From the comments under the creator portraits in the comics, you seem to look forward to the pictures Demizu-sensei draws quite a lot, Shirai-sensei.

Shirai: There was a time when I submitted finished manuscripts and made cold calls with them. However, looking back, I never felt as if both the art and the story had to be all mine. The characters Demizu-sensei draws are vibrant, and it really feels as though they’ve had life breathed into them, so I enjoy that, for starters.

──Your art has changed from what it was before, hasn’t it, Demizu-sensei?

Demizu: I’m reinventing it, so that the art won’t end up looking like my previous drawings. I took the deformed illustrations I used to draw for little kids, stretched them out like bread dough until their proportions looked human, then added Shirai-sensei’s style to them. And also…Jump! I add in the atmosphere of the Jump I used to read ages ago, and the style of the current Jump; it’s a mixture of a whole lot of things. I thought about how to depict the world of children – when working with main characters who are children – in a shonen manga, rather than a manga for very young kids. I want to work landscapes that feel the way they did to me when I was a child, from a child’s perspective, into this world.

Interview/Composition/Writeup: Ryuji Kayama


 [S1]

No spoilers past…

Most recent volume released: Vol. 6

Most recent weekly chapter: Chapter 68 (Released the same day as this interview.)

 [S2]This interview is from Dec. 25, 2017. By April 2018, the series had sold 4.2 million copies worldwide. By Jan. 2019, it was up to 8.8 million copies. (And that’s all pre-anime sales.) …So even at the time, this was either an understatement or old news.

 [S3]Story available in Jump+ for free (in Japanese). Find it here: https://shonenjumpplus.com/episode/10833497643049549911

 [S4]This one’s also available in Jump+ for free, at this link: https://shonenjumpplus.com/episode/10833497643049550006

KonoManga (2018)

Date
8 January 2018
Description
Part 2 of 2 of interview

http://konomanga.jp/interview/133230-2

Proudly in 1st place in the Kono Manga ga Sugoi (This Manga’s Incredible)! 2018 Men’s category!! Kaiu Shirai (story) x Posuka Demizu (art) The Promised Neverland''''Interview'She never wanted to be a manga creator!? The manga creator who influenced Shirai is 'i-sensei[S1] !?' We reveal one shocking fact after another about how these two make manga!!!

In this hugely popular Kono Manga ga Sugoi! WEB corner, we interview popular manga creators about the secrets behind the making of “that one manga” and hear never-before-told stories about their debuts.

'Today We’re Interviewing:[S2]  Kaiu Shirai-sensei (Story) and Posuka Demizu-sensei (Art)!'

The Promised Neverland is a sensational “escape” fantasy, presented by Kaiu Shirai-sensei (story) and Posuka Demizu-sensei (art)! This popular Weekly Shonen Jump series just took top place in the Kono Manga ga Sugoi! 2018 Men’s category, and it’s currently the hottest title out there!! There’s a deluxe, eight-page interview in the main magazine as well, but we’re bringing you a director’s cut filled with lots of unreleased stories right here, only on Kono Manga ga Sugoi! WEB!

Previously, we heard lots of invaluable stories about how the two creators came to form the “ultimate” tag team on The Promised Neverland, and behind-the-scenes anecdotes about the making of the manga.

This time, the creators told us all sorts of things about the secrets in the details of the comic volumes, and the works that have influenced them!

Clues to the World of the Series Drawn into the Backgrounds

──It is drawn in incredible detail, isn’t it, backgrounds included.

Demizu: Yesssss! I’m thrilled to hear you say that! There are still lots and lots of areas I want to fill in, though.

Shirai: There’s a terrific playfulness in the details. There’s that “Happy New Year” in Volume 3[S3] , Chapter 21, and it’s fun to see what’s on the labels and memos she draws in the title-page pictures for chapters (such as Vol. 3, Chap. 25  and Vol. 6, Chap. 45.)

I301

──Places like that are seeded with hints to help you decipher the story’s world, aren’t they.

Demizu: They give me incredible freedom when it comes to drawing standalone pictures and peripheral material for the bound volumes. I’m very grateful to Shirai-sensei for that as well.

──The covers of the volumes, under the dust jackets (Cover 1) are also elaborate. A certain girl is shown on Volume 1, for example, and as you read your way through the story, you learn who that girl is. 

Demizu: That’s right. I draw up several rough versions, based on things Shirai-sensei told me and on hints I picked up from the nuances. I choose one of them, add or subtract elements, get feedback on it, and then add the finishing touches.

Shirai: Even with the ordinary title-page pictures, it’s fun to imagine what sort of story is behind each one. In addition, it’s just incredible to watch the messy pictures I drew as a stopgap become something really cool, or come back to me showing things I completely hadn’t anticipated. It doesn’t get more fun than that.

Demizu: In the “Escape” arc, though, I don’t think the scenery was all that important. That means the backgrounds were created as places for the characters to stand. There are lots of designs where the background bells out in a fisheye effect…

──Such as the Volume 2 cover illustration?

Demizu: Volume 2! That’s the one! I wanted to make the characters easier to see, and to direct viewers’ eyes to the places we wanted them to notice as much as I possibly could. Conversely, when the backgrounds are narrow and tight, it’s to keep them from getting in the way of the characters. Those backgrounds may be part of the reason people tell me the characters are very expressive.

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──By the way, there are pictures the children drew on the wall at Grace Field House. Do you draw those “pictures the kids drew” as well, Demizu-sensei?

Demizu: The pictures the House kids drew are mine, too. I draw them with colored pencils, then process them on my computer. I once did a letters page for Shogakkou Ichinensei[S4]  (Shogakkan), so I had a big stockpile of ways to show things, and it wasn’t any trouble.

──I see! Now I want to go reread the series for the details and the backgrounds[S5]  several times!

Works that Influenced Both Creators

──Let me ask about your personal lives now. What manga did you like when you were little?

Shirai: By “little,” you mean elementary school-age or so? I liked Akuma-kun (Shigeru Mizuki) and Dragon Ball (Akira Toriyama).

Demizu: I liked reading Pokémon and Tamagocchi. We didn’t have much manga at my house, so I tended to read it at friends’ houses and at after-school day care. I’m afraid I didn’t buy much of it; I’m sorry… When I was little, I spent more time playing the games my parents bought me. Things like The Neverhood, Hermie Hopperhead and Little Big Adventure. In terms of movies, I watched Madagascar over and over.

──Was there a work that made you decide you wanted to create manga?

Shirai: I think it may have been the Rahmens’ comedy skit, “A Novelistic Being.”

Demizu: Actually… I never thought I wanted to make manga, even as a child.

──Really?

Demizu: I thought, “Manga creators have to pull all-nighters, and it looks really rough!”, you see. I had fun drawing, though, and before I knew it, I was an adult and still drawing pictures. When I was in high school, I submitted a manuscript for the first time and won a prize; I still can’t forget how deliriously happy I was then, so I think I’ll be able to give it my best no matter how rough things get. Oh, and I still haven’t pulled an all-nighter!

──I see. If there are any works that have influenced your work on this series, then, could you tell us about them?

Shirai: Every manga I’ve ever read. Aside from manga, I think probably Die Hard and Frozen[S6] .

Demizu: For this series… There’s really nothing. However, I was influenced by Shirai-sensei, whom I met just before the series started.

──In what way, exactly?

Demizu: I learned how to set up unexpected twists, and think up turns of phrase… Shirai-sensei is really good at explaining things in an orderly way, even in a single work-related e-mail. And so now, I’m really happy that I get to draw that writer’s story!

Future Developments We’re All Curious About! The Ending's Already Set!?

──What should we watch for from here on out?

Demizu: When I’m drawing, I just get engrossed, and I can’t stop. Those of you who haven’t read the series yet, absolutely give it a look.

Shirai: Ive already decided on future developments in a general way, and I have several possibilities for the ending in mind. If I nail down too much before we get there, though, it will turn into a case of pre-established harmony[S7] . For that reason, I just settle on the main points in advance, and when it comes to the connections between those points, I’m careful to preserve the sense of “live performance” that you can only get from a serial. That means I sometimes end up going with sequences or developments that are different from what I’d planned on. There’s actually a character whose departure was hastily settled because I’d been given color pages at the beginning [S8] of the magazine.

──It really does seem like a live performance, doesn’t it.

Shirai: I have several of Demizu-sensei’s roughs that are related to future developments over here. They’re all incredibly cool. We’ll continue to unravel the mystery of the main story and the mysteries of the under-jacket illustrations on the comics. Characters you haven’t seen yet will make appearances, and that one character you do know just may show up again.

──What? Who might that be?

Shirai: Absolutely look forward to it. (laughs[S9] )

I303

 [S1]This bit isn’t covered in this article, but it’s Yusei Matsui (Neuro: Supernatural Detective, Assassination Classroom); Shirai mentioned it in the Feb. 2017 interview.

 [S2]Most recent volume released: Vol. 6, although Vol. 7 was released the day after this interview.

Most recent weekly manga chapter: Chapter 69 (Due to the New Year’s holiday, Jump wasn’t published the previous week.)

 [S3]It’s in the last panel of the chapter, on the bottom row of the bookshelf behind Isabella.

 [S4]This literally means “First-Grade Elementary Schooler”, but it’s the name of a learn-and-play website for little kids, run by Shogakkan.

 [S5]This is actually a seriously good idea, especially around the end of the Escape arc (after you know what’s really going on.)

 [S6]This combination is seriously killing me. XD

 [S7]Concept explained here, if you’re curious: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pre-established_harmony

 [S8]With most manga magazines, the placement of a particular series varies from month to month, and the front of the magazine is a desirable, high-visibility position. In addition, only a few serials get color pages in each issue. Later interviews confirm that Shirai is referring to Chapter 23 here.

 [S9]Chapter 74 ran on Feb. 12, 2018, a bit over a month after this interview was released. ^_^

Twitter Q&A

On May 2018, The Promised Neverland official Twitter account, @yakuneba_stuff, asked a total of 23 questions to Kaiu Shirai and Posuka Demizu. For more information, please scroll down to "Sources". Credits to Reddit user Nijitokoneko for translating 17 of the Q&As into English, and Discord user hwaet for translating the other 6.

Question Box Q&A
Questionnaire 1

Question 1

Questionnaire 2

Question 2

Questionnaire 3

Question 3

Questionnaire 4

Question 4

Questionnaire 5

Question 5

Questionnaire 6

Question 6

Questionnaire 7

Question 7

Questionnaire 8

Question 8

100 Chapters Commemoration Q&A
100 Chaps Q1

Question 1

100 Chaps Q2 and 3

Questions 2 and 3

100 Chaps Q4

Question 4

100 Chaps Q5 and 6

Questions 5 and 6

100 Chaps Q7

Question 7

100 Chaps Q8

Question 8

Questionnaire Extra

Extra Question

Remaining 6 Questions
Question 1 of 6

Question 1

Question 2 of 6

Question 2

Question 3 of 6

Question 3

Question 4 of 6

Question 4

Question 5 of 6

Question 5

Question 6 of 6

Question 6

Sources

Volume 13 Special Edition Q&A

When they did Poppy's Wish, Demizu had her choice of several different one-shots to illustrate, but that one was her favorite.

Shirai describes Emma as energetic, "like light," kind of motherly, and idealistic. She keeps the balance between Norman, who supports her, and Ray, who argues but helps anyway.

Because the main three all have exactly the same background, Shirai had to focus on differentiating them by their values and priorities.

Shirai requested that Demizu take special care to make Emma and Norman's designs very different. She came up with a bunch of potential designs for Ray, but both Shirai and their editor passed those over in favor of a random doodle (that she had almost junked) with the note "Ray looks like he'd be popular if one of his eyes were covered." Apparently Ray was more "wholesome-looking" in the original designs.

The staff rejected the earliest demon designs for looking too human, so Shirai left it to Demizu to make them look creepier and more alien. She tried a bunch of different approaches, including one where the demons had transparent bodies with visible internal organs, and ones themed on Captain Hook and the crocodile. She had fun with it, since she likes drawing monsters.

Demizu says "There are still secrets to the demons," and Shirai responds that they have designs to match... whatever it is they're hinting at.

When asked about the escape arc, Shirai and Demizu talk about having a rough time, desperately trying to keep up with the pace of weekly serialization. When asked for details, Shirai says that he would sometimes end up sending incomplete breakdowns so that Demizu could start on the artwork while he finished the chapter. Chapter 23 was especially bad - he couldn't get the breakdowns done for two weeks. He wanted to do something with an impact since they'd be getting a color page, so he decided to kill off Krone, but he couldn't make any progress because he couldn't figure out what Grandma thought of Krone. (He adds that people often tell him that he gets writer's block from the weirdest things.)

Demizu had trouble because she decided it would be fun to try to do all the backgrounds herself, since she likes the House. She quickly fell behind and had to get assistants to help her. She had mostly done design work before TPN started, and she came up with the designs for the House itself, plus ages, personalities, and room assignments (!) for all the kids. Shirai says that made the breakdowns easier for him to draw.

Demizu had trouble because she decided it would be fun to try to do all the backgrounds herself, since she likes the House. She quickly fell behind and had to get assistants to help her. She had mostly done design work before TPN started, and she came up with the designs for the House itself, plus ages, personalities, and room assignments (!) for all the kids. Shirai says that made the breakdowns easier for him to draw.

Shirai's favorite parts of the Jailbreak Arc are chapters 14 and 25. Demizu likes the scenes showing mealtime at the House.

Volume 4 The Promised Neverland offscene 7

Extra page in Volume 4 showing Norman's suitcase containing the string telephone, which he got from Emma in Volume 3's Omake chapter.

The string telephone in Norman's suitcase was Demizu's idea. Shirai originally had it being empty, and the addition inspired the bonus comic in volume 4. Demizu mentions that she doesn't think it's the same one as in the volume 2 bonus comics. Norman was probably sick many times after that, so she figures that they probably made a new one each time, and he packed the most recent one.

Shirai says that the above is just one example of how Demizu contributes to the story, and that TPN wouldn't be the same series without her input. Asked for more examples, he mentions Norman's creepy half-smile in the last panel of ch. 9. He had originally intended to make Norman seem like an innocent kid, but after seeing how Demizu drew him, Shirai decided that would be more interesting and changed his approach. Asked why she drew him that way, Demizu replies that, after considering how Norman might have felt in that scene, she thought it wouldn't work to give him the same kind of facial expressions he'd had up to then.

Shirai says he often makes unreasonable requests like "draw him with an expression that will make people want to read the next chapter." (He did this regarding Ray in ch. 13, for instance.)

Shirai says that a lot of things have changed from his initial plans. William Minerva (!) and Isabella's secret room didn't exist at first. Krone wasn't supposed to die, and Emma was supposed to return to the House to find that Gilda had become a Sister (!!) with Krone as the Mama. Ray was supposed to die. Norman never said that he liked Emma.

The most important parts of the story don't change, but Shirai alters other things all the time.

Asked what characters they would compare themselves to, Shirai picks Ray for his tendency to lose hope and give up. (He specifically says, the bad parts of Ray's personality, not the cool ones.) Also Don, because he sees himself as a nobody.

Demizu says she's the most like Thoma, because he looks like the self-portraits she'd draw of herself as a little kid. Her favorite is Lannion, who she put a lot of her favorite (visual?) elements into.

Shirai responds that he thinks Demizu is like Norman (for being reliable) or Phil (for being innocent), so she compares him to Isabella and Leuvis (?!). She laughs and says that there's a lot of Shirai himself in Leuvis' lines, then adds that she's expecting to add Peter to the list. Shirai counters that they both put a lot of themselves into all of the characters.

The interviewer asks who they would want to be friends with if they were in the House, and Shirai picks Phil, for being so friendly and cheerful. Demizu agrees with his choice but says she'd choose Emma and Lannion first.

Character Design Concepts

This section is a direct translation of the interview, thus there may be some inaccuracies and flaws.

  • Emma
    • Shirai: "Five years old on the inside" and "a girl who is like an innocent boy." I remember requesting "not masculine, but not an object of romantic interest for readers, either."
    • Demizu: I wanted to make her lively and a bit androgynous. I had various ideas for her hairstyle, but it was decided from the start that it would be short. I like girls with long hair, too, so I also had a concept for her with a ponytail.
  • Norman
    • Shirai: I had a lot of out-there demands. "He's not the prince, he's the horse." And on top of that, I asked for something like "angelic, and a bit ethereal." At first, I got a Norman who looked fairly healthy, so I responded with the request to make him "a little more thin and fragile." At that point, Demizu-sensei drew the image of "Norman, who can't get the lid off a jar" that's in the bonus material in volume 1. (Note: The Japanese equivalent of "knight in shining armor" is "prince on a white horse") At first, I meant to go with a simple design philosophy, so I think I caused her [Demizu] a lot of trouble.
    • Demizu: Norman was supposed to be slender, but it was difficult to show that difference between him and the other children. All of them wear the same clothes, plus Ray is also pretty skinny, and Emma is a girl. I had Norman with more striking hair, too.
  • Ray
    • Shirai: It was about the black hair and dark eyes.
    • Demizu: There was something vague about wanting him to match Isabella. Oh, that's right. Other than that, what he has in common with Isabella are his eyelids and eyebrows, I guess... So I could emphasize a sharpness that would make you wonder if he would become more like her as he grew up. But I couldn't spoil that, so I made the balance between Emma, Norman, and Ray first priority.
  • Isabella
    • Shirai: I requested "a woman who is poised and dignified, like a soldier and like a ballerina" and "make her a mom, not a teacher or a maid." Demizu-sensei adds idiosyncratic features to the designs depending on their characteristics, so that you can distinguish them by their silhouettes, but it turned out that if she did that for Isabella, it would look wrong. So it ended up that "Isabella's lack of distinguishing characteristics is her distinguishing characteristic." Because of that, she has basically the same kind of design as in my makeshift drawings from the original breakdowns. That turned out to look dignified and refined because it's Demizu-sensei's version of Isabella. Since her design didn't change much, it's easy for me to draw when I'm signing autographs.
  • Krone
    • Shirai: At the time, I considered the option of making Krone white. A white Krone would have been pretty good, too! A strong-looking, muscular young woman who comes off like some kind of foreign mercenary and looks like she'd start speaking questionable broken Japanese. But I think the current powerful Krone is the best, after all.
    • Demizu: Not all of Krone's designs were originally black. I submitted a variety of designs, and she ended up being black. I think it was best to make her a black person to make her easy to tell apart, since she wears exactly the same clothes as Isabella. Readers can distinguish between the characters at a glance.
  • Demons
    • Shirai: We have designs for demons from Demon A to O. We discovered that the closer to human they are, the creepier they get. Those demons look creepy if you put ears and things like that on them. I keep saying "They're so creepy" yet I gave instructions to "Please make them creepier and more threatening!"
    • Demizu: I would draw tons of them, and they would pick a few of them. I was also directed to make them so that you can recognize at a glance that they're the demons from The Promised Neverland, and to make them simple, so that kids could draw them fairly easily. I think it was a good idea to make them so that people can draw imitations. They really are creepy, especially if you give them hair.

Miscellaneous

This section is a direct translation of the interview, thus there may be some inaccuracies and flaws.

  • "What was in the breakdowns that you originally submitted?"
    • Shirai: The kids finding out about the secret of the House and deciding to escape was the same. Emma wants to save everyone, but she never says anything about trying to escape with everyone like the current version. Ray's betrayal, Norman's shipment, and Emma's leg being broken are all in there. Krone appears, too, and the cliff around the farm is in it. Under conditions where it would be difficult for even one person to escape, Emma makes it out of the House alone, for the time being. She meets Sonju and Mujika and hears about the two worlds, the demons, and the promise from a thousand years ago, then sets out for her next destination. That's as far as it went, 15 chapters in all. It was a prototype I brought in as a presentation, depicting everything up to the escape as briefly as possible. Thinking back on it, it was poorly done.

The interview has a list of the steps they go through in the creative process, with the note that they may have to make corrections at any step along the way.

  1. Discussion (Editor and Shirai)
  2. Drawing the breakdowns (Shirai)
  3. Reviewing the breakdowns (Editor)
  4. Drawing the rough artwork (Demizu)
  5. Reviewing the rough artwork (Editor and Shirai)
  6. Final art (Demizu)
  7. Reviewing the final product (Editor and Shirai)
  8. Sent to the printer

Shirai always includes a lot of notes with his breakdowns. Demizu mentions notes about things like characters' facial expressions or instructions regarding kids in the background, and Shirai says that he'll include notes about scenes he wants done a certain way for continuity reasons, or pass on notes from the editor. Demizu adds that he'll write things like "Make this panel look cool."

Sources

Volume 13 Special Edition Q&A - Full Article Translation

(Story) Kaiu Shirai & (Art) Posuka Demizu

Special Interview - A Look Back at the Escape Arc

Top Image

Shirai

[Character(s) you think you’re like]

Ray, Don

[Character(s) you’d like to make friends with]

Phil

Demizu

[Character(s) you think you’re like]

Thoma

[Character(s) you’d like to make friends with]

Emma, Lanion

[How The Promised Neverland Began]

—How did the two of you come to be serialized in Jump?

Kaiu Shirai (“S”):        To begin with, I cold-called the Weekly Shonen Jump editorial department with a 300-page storyboard, roughly fifteen chapters’ worth. The editor who took a look at it for me was Sugita-san, my current editor, and we started to discuss submitting it to the series competition[S1] . However, in order to raise the quality of the series, we wanted to have someone who could draw the things I wasn’t able to draw in charge of the art. We started looking around, but for about two and a half years after I brought in the storyboard, we didn’t have an artist for it. Ultimately, though, we ended up getting the ultra-super-fantastic Demizu-sensei to draw it, and I just feel like cheering.

Posuka Demizu (“D”):            When they approached me about the art, I was working on a job for another company, but the tentative end date had just been set, and the rough manuscript they’d sent over was completely fascinating. In retrospect, I’m glad I believed in something I thought was good.

S:         Thank you very much!

D:        We decided we’d try teaming up on a one-shot short story first. Even then, I worked quickly because I didn’t want to keep them waiting, but it was still about half a year before we got started on the series.

S:         No, no, it went really fast!

D:        I had several options as far as one-shots went, and every one of them was so good that I thought “I want to draw them all!” They told me I could choose, so although it felt presumptuous, I picked the one I liked best, Poppi’s Wish [S2] (*). It seems to me as though the art for that one came really easily.

S:         That storyboard would have been hard for an ordinary person to draw, I think. Because Demizu-sensei was the one who drew it, though, she gave depth to the story’s world, and it got a good response, for which I’m grateful. Then when we finally entered the series competition, we got through on the first try! That’s Demizu-sensei for you!

*Currently available in Shonen Jump+ (Information current as of March 2019)

[Creating the Characters]

—How did you go about creating each character?

S:         I started with the three main characters. Emma was really energetic, a kid like light, but there was also something maternal about her. She was girl who’d jump straight to idealism, who’d want to save everyone. Norman was there to support her, and Ray would argue but still help her out… I balanced things that way, with Emma at the center. That isn’t to say that all three of them were simply facing in the same direction. After all, the way they were born and raised was practically identical, you know? Both their mother and their clothes were the same: There was just no way to add individuality! (laughs) Due to basic story reasons, I couldn’t make them wear their clothes in nonstandard ways, either. For that reason, I ended up having to use the differences in their values and what they each considered precious to set them apart from each other.

—How did you decide on the designs? What was the process like there?

D:        I added individuality to each character through the art, preserving Shirai-sensei’s distinctive style as I worked. With Emma and Norman in particular, I was asked to create a marked distance between their character designs, so I decided to make Emma just as cheerful as could be, and Norman turned out quiet and mature. I submitted several proposals for Ray, but for some reason, the one that got noticed was something I’d drawn in an offhanded way, as a doodle. (laughs)

S:         There was a sort of scribbled proposal with a note that said something like “If we hid one of Ray’s eyes, I bet he’d be popular,” and both the editor and I said, “This is wonderful!”

D:        The proposal where his eye was hidden was a casual sketch; I’d thought it might give him a sort of shadowy air and make him look cool, and I very nearly scrapped it. I’d assumed that, as with their clothes, their hairstyles would be restricted for hygienic reasons. But when Shirai-sensei saw it, the response I got was that impossible one…

S:         If it’s Ray, it’s okay! That was definitely the coolest option.

D:        Yeah! But thanks to that, he is popular, too.

S:         You’re right; a lot of people say they like Ray, which is great. At first, there were lots of other, more wholesome-looking Rays. (laughs) Like a sports club senpai, for example; all sorts.

D:        The type that says, “In accordance with regulations, I trim my bangs properly!” (laughs)

—What about the demon designs?

S:         I leave those to Demizu-sensei. The image I started out with was basically just “red oni, blue oni[S3] ,” and the editors told me “That’s a middle-aged guy[S4]  idea.” So then I had to make them monsters. I let Demizu-sensei decide what sort of monsters they would be, and how we’d convey the creepiness of an alien species. She drew lots of design proposals from a variety of starting points, and we ultimately settled on the demons we have now. However, there were some proposals where their internal organs showed through, and others that looked like Captain Hook or the crocodile. She had an incredible wealth of ideas.

D:        I’ve always loved creature-types, so I had fun with the demon designs. The demons still have secrets, don’t they.

S:         Yes, they do. And the designs were created to accommodate those as well.

D:        When I first turned in my proposals, I included a bit of scenario information I’d thought they might be able to use, maybe, and it got incorporated right into the story. I thought, “Wow, that’s amazing!” It’ll come up a bit later in the series, I think.[S5] 

S:         That’s right. We’re just getting started with the demons!

[Memories of the Escape Arc: We Were Desperate!]

— Tell us what you remember about working on the Escape arc.

S:         Desperation. First off, I was desperate to keep up with the pace of a weekly magazine. From about the end of Volume 3, all the memories I have are grueling ones. Every week, I had trouble getting my storyboards finished. I gradually got more opportunities to see Demizu-sensei’s fantastic color illustrations, though, so I was happy as I worked.

D:        It just got more and more popular, didn’t it. That was really something. …All I remember is being desperate, too!

S:         I know, right!?

—What about it was rough, specifically?

S:         This hasn’t been happening quite as much lately, but I’d send in the first half of the storyboard by itself and tell her “Go ahead and get this part drawn! I’ll send the second half later” all the time. Also, there was that time when it took me two weeks to finish the storyboard for the chapter where Krone dies (Chapter 23)… That was the first chapter since Chapter 1 where we’d gotten color pages at the beginning of the magazine. For that reason, I wanted to do something major in the story as well, so I decided to work really hard and have Krone die, but I just couldn’t get the storyboard drawn. More than Krone’s actual death, the trouble was that I didn’t understand Grandma’s feelings about her. People always tell me I get blocked at very odd places. I think I managed to make Krone die in a good way, though. …That said, at this point I really do think, “Taking two weeks on a storyboard at a weekly magazine; what kind of moronic stunt was that?”

—And what was rough for you, Demizu-sensei?

D:       I really love the House, so at first I thought I’d draw all the backgrounds myself, but when I actually tried it, I got stuck right away. From that point on, I had assistants come in and help. At first I really wasn’t sure how it would go, and I was nervous, but everyone was incredibly nice. When I think about it like that, the very beginning really was the hardest part. Before the series started, there were a lot of things to design, too. I struggled to get the floor plan for the house nailed down: I had to consider the younger siblings’ ages and personalities when assigning them to rooms, and I had to fit the library and other areas that were necessary to the story in without forcing anything.

S:         You did come up with the House floor plan first, didn’t you. Having that made it easier for me to draw the storyboards, though.

D:        Did it!?

—What were your favorite scenes in the Escape arc?

S:         Chapter 25! Although the script is the same as it was in the storyboard, in my version, Mom was pretty matter-of-fact. But the part when she says “I love you” ended up as a picture where she bursts out of the panel against a background of leaves and light, and she’s gazing up and smiling as she speaks. The dramatic presentation in that panel is just out of this world. There were lots of scenes like that in Chapter 25. When I look back over the storyboards, the sense that they were grueling often wins out, but when I look at the finished manuscripts, so much about them makes me think, “I totally love this!” The presentation for Chapter 14 – which has the scene where Ray says “I’m the strongest card you’ll ever have” – is amazing, too. That’s another part I really love.

—What about you, Demizu-sensei?

D:        In this series, for me, I think it’s the “Thank you for the food” scenes. Shirai-sensei puts those in with incredible precision. They were striking all the way back in Chapter 1, but what was really fantastic was the way the “Thank you for the food” scene which is so important that it makes you think “That’s Grace Field House in a nutshell” was interpolated as a beautiful scene during the sequence where Krone dies! It was true when I drew it, of course, but even when I read it in context, it really sticks with me.

S:         I decided to do it that way in a flash. I visualized things like the demon’s hand looming up behind Krone very easily. And yet I got stuck on Grandma for two weeks…

[Chemical Changes that Happen Precisely Because You Work as a Team!]

—As the two of you create the series, have there been any good chemical reactions that happened because you were working as a team?

S:         Norman’s string telephone. In the original storyboard, when Norman got shipped out, his suitcase was empty. Then, when Demizu-sensei drew her roughs for that chapter, she added a notepad and pen and the string telephone. When I saw that, I said, “You can take out the notepad and pen, but absolutely keep that telephone!”, and so we ended up with what we’ve got now. That was really good! As far as you were concerned, Demizu-sensei, the notepad was more important than the string telephone, wasn’t it?

D:        That’s right. It was just a casual idea; I thought he wouldn’t pack a change of clothes or anything, but he might take a notepad, at least! (laughs) Then, when I thought about what Norman’s last personal possessions would be, it seemed as though they might be writing materials and that string telephone, because of the memories it held.

S:         There’s a theory that the string telephone he took when he got shipped out might not have been the one that appeared in the four-panel manga in Volume 2.

D:        Norman’s probably been sick several times. If they made a new telephone every time, he may have taken the most recent one.

S:         Thanks to that idea, we also got the bonus manga with Mom and Norman and the string telephone in Volume 4, so I’m really grateful for chemical changes like that. If it had just been me, I never would have thought of it. If it wasn’t for Demizu-sensei, The Promised Neverland wouldn’t be what it is now. That’s true of the kids’ cuteness as well; there are lots of changes on a daily basis.

—Were there any other changes to the storyboard that you ended up liking?

S:         Yes, in Chapter 9. It’s great that the tag scene came out comical, but the panel I mean is that one at the end, where Norman smirks and says “It won’t be impossible to kill her.” In the initial storyboard, he wasn’t smiling. As far as I was concerned, for certain reasons, I’d planned to show Norman as a rather absent, naïve boy – the sort that turns up in World Masterpiece Theater programs – during the Escape arc, but when I saw the finished drawing, I thought “This would be more interesting” and changed course. That smirking Norman was just too good, and I ended up not sticking too closely to the “absent” concept I’d had in mind. That’s how fantastic that expression was.

—What made you decide to make Norman smile there, Demizu-sensei?

D:        I was thinking about what he’d be feeling when he said a loaded word like “kill,” and I thought it wouldn’t work if his expression was the same as it had been up till then. I wanted to put in a sharp feeling that was different from usual, and so I drew him that way.

S:         At the rough storyboard stage, I ask Demizu-sensei for nigh-on impossible things pretty frequently. During the Escape arc, I requested crazy expressions like “A face that will get people wondering about next week’s installment” lots of times. The face Ray makes at the end of Chapter 13 is one of those; she just nailed them, like it was nothing, and it made me really happy.

Were there any places during the series where you deviated from your initial plan?

S:         Tons of them. Mom’s secret room and William Minerva didn’t exist at first. According to the initial plan, Krone didn’t die, and when Emma came back to the House after escaping, I had an idea that Gilda would have become the Sister and Krone would be the current Mom. And also Ray was supposed to die… There really are a whole lot of things. I do have something like an initial plan that I settled on at the beginning, but it changes all over the place in order to make the flow of the story as interesting as possible when it’s read in book form, and because we got color pages, and when I want to emphasize a turning point… (laughs) The main points have barely changed at all, but the way the story gets to them, and the characters’ feelings, are different. I’m pretty sure that, long ago, the part where Norman said he liked Emma wasn’t there. It feels as though it’s simultaneously pretty much the same and pretty different. I think weekly serials should have a live-performance feel to them.

[If You Compared Each Other to “Neverland” Characters…!?]

—Which Neverland character or characters do you think you’re most like?

S:         I think the way I tend to get desperate and throw in the towel is a lot like Ray. Not the cool side of him, the slightly crazy side. (laughs) Also, in the sense that I’m aware that I’m a nobody, maybe Don. …Although Don isn’t a nobody.

D:        The one that’s similar to me is Thoma, and the one I like is Lanion. I get the feeling that Thoma looks like a self-portrait I drew as a kid. (laughs) That self-portrait was from when I was about nine, so I do look different now, but… (laughs) Lanion’s jam-packed with all sorts of elements that I like. I decided right at the beginning that I liked him, and I’ve drawn him that way.      

S:         As far as I’m concerned, though, Demizu-sensei seems like Phil or Norman. She’s like Norman in that you can count on her, and her frank innocence is like Phil.

D:        I think Shirai-sensei is like Isabella. Her, and also Leuwis. (laughs)

S:         Agh, not the dangerous ones. (laughs)

D:        You most definitely are dangerous, you know. (laughs) I really do feel as if Shirai-sensei’s soul is in Leuwis’s lines.

S:         It was fun to draw Leuwis, true, but that dangerous? Really?

D:        I’ve been wondering if you’re going to turn into Peter next, actually. I’m kind of looking forward to it. (laughs)

S:         It’s the “dangerous characters” series! (laughs) Enemy bosses, all down the line.

D:        I really do think you’re in there, though.

S:         Well, we’re both in all the characters, anyway.

D:        That’s true. When I’m drawing, elements of some sort get in there.

—If you ended up in the House, who do you think you’d make friends with?

S:         Phil. I’d like to lean on his communication skills. He seems as though he’d make friends with you, without any encouragement. I really do like him; he’s cheerful and fun.

D:        Phil is great, isn’t he? I’d like to be friends with him too. For me, though, I think it’s Emma. You’d absolutely be able to make friends with her, you know? That feeling of reassurance is huge (laughs.) I think the way Emma would be your friend no matter what you were like is terrific. The one I’d be closest to and get along with best would probably be Lanion or someone like him.

—In closing, give us a message for the readers!  

S:         We’re beginning to enter the part of the series where, as Demizu-sensei wrote in her cover-flap comment for Volume 12, “The pieces of the puzzle are coming together.” The plan is to have it turn into the sort of exchange where characters you’re all hoping to see might appear, and unexpected characters may turn up… I really and truly hope you’ll look forward to it. D:        I’ll probably stress out all the way to the end, and I’m sure all sorts of things will be tough, but I’d like to sprint all the way through to the finish line!

S:         That’s right, we want to sprint all the way through!

D:        The fact that an ending exists means you can make it your goal and do your best. We’ll run all the way to the end, so please do look forward to it!!

The Basic Production Process!

D:              The instructions on the storyboards are incredibly thorough. Shirai-sensei leaves lots of explanatory notes for me. As I draw my roughs, I keep an eye on those notes, pick up the nuances and do my best to make sure the characters’ emotions come through clearly. I also make sure that everything Shirai-sensei wants to tell the readers comes across, with nothing left over.

— Have there been any instructions that made an impression on you?

D:              Yes, with regard to expressions and things. Sometimes there are instructions for the children I’ll be drawing in the background, too.

S:               I make notes about things I want shown in order to foreshadow future developments, and about comments our editor made to me when we went over the rough storyboard.

D:              Sometimes there are also instructions that say, flat-out, “I want this panel to look cool.”

S:               It’s like I’m leaning on the art, yes. (laughs)

D:              That lets me know exactly which parts I should draw, so it’s a huge help. Once the manuscript’s finished, I send PDFs to the editor and Shirai-sensei at the same time and have them look it over.

S:               With both the rough version and the completed manuscript, when it looks as though the nuances may come off as something other than what I intended in places, we discuss changing it. As a rule, Demizu-sensei uses the panel divisions from the rough storyboard in her version, but when I haven’t managed to work out a panel completely, she’ll get right in there and change it so that it looks awesome. She makes the pictures more dramatic too, and the basic quality goes up, so it’s incredibly helpful.

Basic Production Flow

Preliminary meeting (Editor and Shirai)

Storyboard draft (Shirai)

Storyboard check (Editor)

Rough art draft (Demizu)

Rough art check (Editor and Shirai)

Art (Demizu)

Finished manuscript check (Editor and Shirai)

Submit manuscript

*Corrections may be made at any of these stages.

[What are the character design concepts!?] 

Emma

S:      “Five years old on the inside,” and “A girl who’s like an innocent, straightforward boy.” I remember saying “She isn’t mannish, but she also shouldn’t be the type that readers will fall in love with.”

D:     I wanted to make her seem energetic and a little androgynous. There were several different possibilities for her hairstyle, but I think it was always supposed to be short. I like long-haired girls too, so there was a proposal with a ponytail.

Norman

D:     Norman was supposed to be slender, but it was hard to show a difference between him and the other kids there. They all dress the same way, and Ray was pretty thin as well, and then Emma’s a girl…

S:      I asked for some crazy stuff, didn’t I. On top of saying “He’s not the prince, he’s the horse,” I asked her to make him “Angelic, and also ephemeral.” She gave me a fairly healthy-looking Norman at first, so I asked her to make him look “A little more feeble, like a bean sprout!” What Demizu-sensei drew for me then was the picture in the bonus comic in Volume 1, “Norman, Who Can’t Get a Jar Open.”

D:     There were versions of Norman with crazier hair, too. (laughs)

S:     My original plan was to keep him simple and honest-looking, so… I think I probably caused her a lot of trouble.

Ray

D:     Vaguely, I wanted to make him match Isabella, somehow.

S:      Their black hair and eyes, you mean.

D:     Yes, that’s it. Aside from those, I’d say the only things he has in common with her are his eyelids and eyebrows… In order to make it seem as though, if he grew up, he might be similar to her, I also emphasized his sharpness. I couldn’t actually let that secret out, though, naturally. As a result, I put top priority on the balance between Emma, Norman and Ray.

Isabella

S:      I asked for “A woman like a soldier and a ballerina; dignified, with good posture,” and “Don’t make her a maid or a teacher. Make her a mother.” When Demizu-sensei creates characters, she tries to make it so you can tell who they are from their silhouettes. She thinks about what their special characteristics are, adding individuality to their designs. However, we decided that it would feel strange if we did that for Isabella. We ended up saying that “Isabella’s special characteristic is that she doesn’t have any special characteristics,” and so Demizu-sensei’s Isabella is along the same lines as the placeholder character I had in my rough storyboard, except prouder and more dignified. The design hasn’t changed much, so when we sign autographs and things, she’s easy for me to draw as well.

Krone

S:      Having Krone be white was an option, too, along the way.

D:    Originally, being black wasn’t a set part of her design. We came up with all sorts of ideas, and she ended up being black as a result.

S:      Krone’s white version was pretty good too, though! She was a tough-looking, muscle-bound young woman, the “I was a mercenary overseas” type, who seemed like she’d speak shady-sounding broken Japanese. That said, I do think the current, high-intensity Krone is best.

D:     Her clothes are exactly the same as Isabella’s, so in the sense of making her easy to identify as well, I think it was a good idea to have her be black. Readers can tell the characters apart at a glance.

Demons

S:      There are designs for Demons A through O[S6] , aren’t there.

D:     I came up with a ton, and Shirai-sensei linked several of them together and combined them. I was also told to design them so that absolutely anyone could tell at a glance that they were “Promised Neverland demons,” and to make them simple enough that even children could draw them pretty easily. I think the idea about making it possible to draw them by imitation was a good one.

S:      We realized that the closer they got to human, the creepier they were; that was a real discovery. If they sprout ears or something, those demons are gross.

D:     They really are gross, aren’t they. If they grow hair, they’re incredibly gross.

S:      And even as I say, “Ew, yuck, gross,” I tell her “Make them creepier and grosser!” (laughs)

[Interesting Trivia]

What sort of story was the initial rough manuscript?

The part about stumbling onto the House’s secret and resolving to escape was the same. Emma wanted to save everybody, but she wasn’t as determined to have everyone break out together as she is now. In the midst of that, Ray betrayed them, Norman got shipped out, and Emma’s leg was broken. Krone was in it, and that cliff around the farm was there, too. Then, under circumstances where it looked as if it would be hard for even one person to get out, Emma left the House, met Sonju and Musica, heard about the two worlds and the promise with the demons from a thousand years ago, and set off for her next destination… That was as far as it went, and there were fifteen chapters in all. I drew the story up to the escape as briefly as possible and took it in as a presentation; that was the prototype. Looking back, it seems clumsy. (Shirai)

What does Demizu-sensei keep in mind when she draws color illustrations?

Essentially, they’re summaries of the story. I want to communicate the story and the characters’ emotions to the viewer. In addition, in every drawing, I try to make people imagine the past a bit, and to supplement the story as much as I can. Also, since the Escape arc was spent in the limited environment of the House, I tried to expand things outward. Even if we were always in that same House, I took care to use different lighting and add changes with each picture. (Demizu)

[S1]I’m not 100% sure how it works at Jump, but usually, unless a new manga creator has won a prize and has the material for a fairly solid serial already, new creators start out by doing one-shot short stories (as Shirai-sensei did.) They can graduate to working on a series once their editor decides they’re ready, or – at some magazines – when the chief editor decides they are. If Jump had a lot of new creators who were ready to start serials, then all the creators and their editors would draw up three or so chapters of their series, and either the editorial department as a whole would review them all, with the chief editor making the final decision, or the chief editor would do all the reviewing. It’s possible for no series at all to make it through the review, and it’s also possible for a series to be “bounced” with requests for changes, at which point the editor and creator(s) will revise and resubmit them. Apparently Neverland did get through on the first try.

[S2]Story is still available here for free (in Japanese): https://shonenjumpplus.com/episode/10833497643049550006

[S3]Very common demons in Japanese folklore. http://yokai.com/oni/

[S4]This is the closest I’ve ever seen to a gender declare for Shirai-sensei, who doesn’t seem to have a publically revealed age or gender on record anywhere. However, since some things are stereotypically considered “middle-aged guy” ideas, the label is sometimes applied to women who have those ideas as well, in a joking way, so it still isn’t quite conclusive.

[S5]I’m not 100% sure which bit she’s talking about, but it’s very likely that it came up in either Chapter 120 or Chapter 127.

[S6]Note that I’m not sure whether Shirai-sensei is using Japanese alphabetical order or English alphabetical order, so this could mean either “five designs” or “fourteen designs.”

Acknowledgements

Great thanks to Colby for helping set up this page. <3

References

http://konomanga.jp/interview/133182-2

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