Q: Since you base characters on people you know, do you have a friend like Grey who likes to take off his clothes?
Hiro Mashima: Me! (laughs)
Q: Is there a reason why you name your characters after the seasons?
Hiro Mashima: For my Japanese audience, I thought western fantasy names would be unfamiliar. Haru means "spring," so he's is a warm character. Natsu means "summer," so he's a fiery guy.
Q: What will you do when you run out of seasons?
Hiro Mashima: I've already used Fuyu (winter) in one episode a while back, and used up Shiki which means "seasons" in Monster Hunter, so I've already run out! (laughs) I do have a name thought up, "Seison," which is French for seasons!
Q: Is there an anime version of Fairy Tail in the works?
Hiro Mashima: We've been receiving offers and getting a lot of interest from anime studios, but we've not confirmed anything yet.
Q: Is there an animation studio that you would you most like to work with?
Hiro Mashima: Pixar!
Q: If a live action version of Fairy Tail was made, how would you cast it in America?
Hiro Mashima: The one that comes to mind is Johnny Depp for Happy (the blue cat)! (laughs) Having this turn into a live action film would be a dream come true for me.
THE BUSY, BUSY LIFE OF A MANGA ARTIST
Q: What kind of environment do you work in while you're drawing your manga?
Hiro Mashima: I work in an 8,000 sq. feet area with seven desks w/ a sofa and TV where I can play video games with my assistants.
Q: How many assistants do you have? Have they ever given you ideas that you've used in Fairy Tail?
Hiro Mashima: I currently have six assistants. The storyline is basically fleshed out between me and my editor, but I appreciate how my assistants help me do my work.
Q: It must be a lot of work to pump out a new story every week! What is the most challenging aspect of being a professional manga artist? And what's the most fun thing?
Hiro Mashima: The fun thing is about being a manga artist is being able to travel and meet my fans. I've been to France, Guam, Taiwan, Italy and New Zealand, but other than this event, the only other convention-type event was in Taiwan.
The hardest part is that I'm not able to see my daughter as much as I'd like. She's about 2 years old.
Q: How long does it take you to sketch, draw a chapter of Fairy Tail, from beginning to end?
Hiro Mashima: It takes about five days. On Monday, I work on the script and storyboards. On Tuesday, I work on the rough sketches. Then Wednesday through Friday, I finish the drawing and inking. On the other two days I work on Monster Hunter, which is a monthly series for Shonen Rival. I work on a quarter of the story each weekend, and by the end of the month, I've finished a chapter.
Q: You do TWO series? How do you do that? When do you sleep?
Hiro Mashima: Whenever I can! (laughs)
Q: So what's Monster Hunter about?
Hiro Mashima: It's a video game from Capcom that's exceptionally popular in Japan. Capcom knew that I was a big fan of the game, and there was a new magazine coming out in Japan. So when the editors approached me, I couldn't pass up this opportunity.
Q: How far in advance do you create your stories (before they're published in Shonen Magazine)?
Hiro Mashima: Generally speaking, I tend to think of the next episode as I'm creating the current one. Sometimes I get writers block. Sometimes inspiration just comes when you're sitting down at the toilet. I like to think of that as just an inspiration from heaven. (laughs)
Q: What do you like do to when you're not drawing manga?
Hiro Mashima: I love movies, I like to play games and read books. I really like Braveheart, Lord of the Rings… I do love to listen to music when I work, but my favorite band is Green Day.
Q: Do you have any advice for aspiring manga artists?
Hiro Mashima: Just enjoy yourself! Obviously, it's extremely important that you're passionate about manga. but its also important to watch movies, play games, read books and get inspiration from those forms of entertainment too.
IMPRESSIONS OF AMERICA AND COMIC-CON
Q: Is this your first visit to the U.S.? Is it your first visit to an American comic convention?
Hiro Mashima: This is my third visit to America, but my first visit to an American comic convention. I see a lot of cosplayers walkng around, so I'm really thrilled to see so many manga fans in the United States. The fans here have a lot of passion, a lot of enthusiasm for comics. But comparing the fans in Japan and America -- there's no difference in their love for manga. But one difference is that here, fans can get much closer to the artists. In Japan, the security is very strict -- they keep the fans much farther away at events like this.
Q: Have you had any memorable experiences from meeting your American fans so far?
Hiro Mashima: Hmm! I really enjoyed meeting my fans, but I thought they were quite bashful!
Q: Do you cosplay?
Hiro Mashima: I'd love to try, but i haven't just yet. If I did, I would like to be Happy. I'll paint my face blue, and rock it! (laughs)
Q: Was there anything you've seen in the convention hall downstairs that made you think, 'Wow! This is amazing!'?
Hiro Mashima: (thinks a bit) Yes. Crying Macho-Man (by Jose Cabrera) That was interesting!
Q: Wow! Really? I didn't expect that answer! Is there anything that Japanese manga artists can learn from American comics artists, and vice-versa?
Hiro Mashima: Well, it depends on the artist. But American comic artists do much more with color than Japanese artists do. The character designs are very creative, so I admire that. Also the way panels are composed and the way stories are told are very different, so that would be interesting to compare notes.
Q: If you had a chance to talk to a reader who hasn't read Fairy Tail yet, how would you convince them to pick it up and give it a try?
Hiro Mashima: I guess I want to encourage readers to just have fun reading this story, and not think too deeply about it. Just come along with Natsu and enjoy the adventure! I also want people to wait for Volumes 10 and 11 -- those volumes will kick butt!
Q: Will you come back and visit us again?
Hiro Mashima: Yes! Definitely!