This year at Otakon, Manga Mavericks staff member Varun Gupta and Weekly Shogakukan Edition’s Sakaki had the pleasure of conducting a joint interview with author Wataru Watari and editor Hironori Hoshino. Wataru Watari is best known for writing the hit light novel series My Youth Romantic Comedy Is Wrong, as I Expected (also known as My Teen Romantic Comedy SNAFU) as well as the multimedia project Girlish Number. Meanwhile, Hironori Hoshino is the Chief Editor for Shogakukan’s light novel publishing imprint Gagaga Bunko, which has served as the Japanese publisher for Watari’s SNAFU series, as well as other notable titles such as Bottom-Tier Character Tomozaki and The Tunnel to Summer, the Exit of Goodbyes.
Both the audio recording and transcript of our discussion with Watari and Hoshino can be found below. Please note, the transcript has been edited for additional clarity.
Manga Mavericks: Watari-sensei, My Teen Romantic Comedy SNAFU and Girlish Number do a great job of dealing with and displaying harsh realities. What were the challenges of properly depicting these harsh situations, and were you at any point worried that your writing would be too cynical for readers?
Watari: One of the challenges was that people would sometimes point out that it could be too harsh a thing to illustrate, but also at the same time. I didn’t know if readers would be willing to accept this kind of harshness. But we just decided to ignore all that and then go our own way.
Weekly Shogakukan Edition: Hoshino-san, before working for the light novel editing department at Shogakukan, you were a magazine editor. What specific magazines did you edit at Shogakukan, and how would you compare light novel editing to magazine editing?
Hoshino: When I started working at Shogakukan, it was for Gagaga Bunko. As a magazine editor, the work was something that catered more to male viewers, which is very different from now. I would study gravure models and pay attention to the current trends to cater to the readers. Now, it’s very different in that we think about how we can make an entertaining story. It’s really fun to try to make a nice story.
Manga Mavericks: Watari-sensei, is there anything you would change in the SNAFU story in retrospect?
Watari: I guess…the tax rate? Oh actually, my royalty rate!
Weekly Shogakukan Edition: What do you both think is unique about Gagaga Bunko compared to other light novel publishers in Japan? What do you think makes them stand out?
Watari: There’s a difference in marketing, so I think it’s slightly more difficult to advertise, and we do end up creating more unusual stories.
Hoshino: All the editors have unique personalities. So, the works end up being unique and unusual.
Watari: For writers and editors, there’s a challenge aspect to it. For Otakon, someone just told us “Why don’t we go to this convention?”, and we were like “Oh, let’s do that!”. It’s kind of a going to the “frontiers” mentality. Like a spirit of challenge.
Manga Mavericks: What are your favorite Shogakukan series, and what other Shogakukan authors or editors would you love to work with?
Watari: I would like to work with Gosho Aoyama-sensei and maybe work on writing for Detective Conan. Please let me work on the annual movie release!
Manga Mavericks: Hoshino-san, do you have a favorite Shogakuakan series?
Hoshino: I really like Master Keaton and the works of Naoki Urasawa-sensei.
Weekly Shogakukan Edition: I’m actually reading Master Keaton right now!
Manga Mavericks: It’s one of my favorites as well.
Watari: Actually, I really like Ghost Sweeper Mikami, and if I have the chance, I would really like to work with Takashi Shiina-sensei.
Weekly Shogakukan Edition: Watari-sensei, how far in advance do you plan out your stories?
Watari: I don’t really have a set schedule, but out of the six months that I work, for five of those months, I just loosely think about what I’m going to write, and then I talk to Hoshino-san on the first day of the sixth month. Then, I spend one month just typing and writing.
Manga Mavericks: Hoshino-san, how do you feel about Watari-sensei’s writing and what is it like editing his work?
Hoshino: So, Watari-sensei mentioned the six-month and five-month process, but after that timeline, we actually have one month after the deadline where I have to try to make this work get published on time.
Manga Mavericks: How deeply involved are both of you with the anime adaptations of Watari-sensei’s work?
Watari: I think everything actually leads back to me and I’m the fixer. I participate in a lot of meetings about the production of series, and then if they ask for input, I will give them my input. During production, there’s a thing called cutting, where they try to dub the voices over a rough animation. I take a look at that and then see if characters are speaking too fast or too slow. Those are just some ways that I participate in the production. I also sing for events!
Manga Mavericks: Hoshino-san, you’re also involved with the anime productions too correct? What is your experience on it?
Hoshino: Actually, I don’t really have my own input that much, but I do stand by his side and say “Yeah, listen to Watari-sensei’s opinion!”. I also try to work out the schedule.
Watari: They also send me anime cuts for me to review, so I pass those on to Watari-san to get his approval.
Weekly Shogakukan Edition: Watari-sensei, what is one genre that you have yet to do that you would like to write about?
Watari: I actually have a lot of genres that I would like to explore, such as a mystery space-opera. I love singing, so maybe idols, and also mechas. I need to see if there’s some kind of novel that I could do, and maybe possibly merge these genres into one. I love Macross, so I would love to do something like that.
Manga Mavericks: How do you feel about the reach of your novels overseas, and what do you think is the impact of the overseas light novel market on the light novel industry?
Watari: It was very unexpected because in Asia, I thought most people would be able to relate. But in the West, school is a bit different, so I was really surprised that people were able to relate there too. It made me think that no matter what the region, they could all relate to a time when they had a negative experience interacting with people. I just wanted to stand up for the loners of the world.
Manga Mavericks: Thank you so much, it was amazing talking to you both!
Thanks again to Wataru Watari, Hironori Hoshino, interpreter Seiya Furukawa, and Otakon for making this interview possible!