The former Sakurazaka46 member, Yumiko Seki, is an avid fan of Hunter × Hunter, having mentioned her enjoyment of the series multiple times. She recently sent Togashi a list of 11 questions, and he sent back an extensive handwritten letter. It was then read aloud on “Iwakura and Yoshizumi’s Show”.

Translation by 브이브 and AoM.

NOTE: There are spoilers for the current arc in the manga.


1. How much of Hunter × Hunter’s story did you have in mind when you started writing it?

The first three chapters.

Once I had a rough idea of the setting (a story in another world that focuses on the profession of Hunters), I felt like I could continue the story as long as I wanted. So I decided that the goal of the serialization would be to “continue for as long as possible” and that it should start with the main character (TBD) taking the Hunter Exam. At the start of the serialization, I decided to write three storyboards and a scene where the main character (TBD) fails the exam and the story jumps one to several years in the future. I didn’t decide on the content of the exam until right before the start of the series because I wanted to enjoy the fact that I didn’t know what would happen. In the end, after I discussed it with my editor, the idea of Gon failing the exam was rejected.

So if the question is asking about what actually appeared in the story, the answer would be the first three chapters. However, I had already decided that pillars of the story—the friend (Killua) and the villain (Hisoka)—would appear at the beginning of the exam. I decide what needs to be done in terms of narrative structure first, and then work on the details with a great sense of urgency until the last minute. In that regard, I had a rough idea of the outline for the story ahead, but since the timeskip idea was rejected, I had to draw the section right before that part and revise my initial plans. I remember that I probably wasn’t able to finish the manuscript that week.

Killua’s first appearance in the manga

2. I heard that timeline and character details are all connected. When creating character details, what do you refer to?

Character details are broadly categorized into (1) appearance, (2) personality, and (3) circumstances, which are determined in no particular order within the flow of the narrative. To use Killua as an example, it started with the narrative structure of him being a friend of Gon’s around the same age. His circumstances such as having superhuman physical abilities and being in a family of assassins were roughly determined, an appearance was then created to fit his circumstances and background, and finally his personality was shaped by the conversations he had with Gon and the other two.

When deciding on (1) appearance, I refer to my mental inventory of manga, novels, movies, music, historical and cultural figures, entertainers, and athletes that I’ve seen. In the case of Killua, around the time that I was deciding what number child of the assassin family he would be, thoughts of Kuroyume’s “Shounen”, Atsushi Kamijō, Multiple Personality Detective Psycho, etc. came to mind, and these led to his appearance. In the full-body illustration when he first appeared, there’s a part where the outline is interrupted by light, and here you can see my admiration for the artwork of Mr. Kamijō and Mr. Tajima.

The most useful reference for (2) personality is “placing characters in scenes and situations that I create myself.” Although I might have a rough idea of characters’ personalities, they often do something different from what I expected when I have them interact with each other in specific situations. For example, even if a character is set up with “a strong sense of justice,” their position will change depending on the definition of justice and their circumstances. Their response to the other person’s objections can provide an opportunity to change and supplement their personality and circumstances. This process is the true pleasure of creation and the lifeblood of character formation. If the characters don’t agree with the direction after these interactions, then the story’s development will change. I also try to include values, beliefs, behavioral tendencies, tastes, and preferences that I find difficult to accept in each character so they don't become “copies of the author,” and Gon is a perfect example of this. As a reference, debate shows are what I would recommend. When setting up a scene, I actively introduce situations where opinions clash, similar to discussions and debates, and then build on them.

I think what I reference for (3) circumstances has changed as I’ve aged. When I was young, I used interesting works as models, and after gaining some experience, I would take inspiration and lessons from failed series. At the moment, historical facts and nonfiction are huge for me.

The posters of Sakurazaka46 members in Chapter 393

3. The posters that appear to feature members of Sakurazaka (formerly Keyakizaka) in Hunter × Hunter—are those actually members of Sakurazaka?

The posters in the series indeed feature members of Sakurazaka46, including Yumiko-san. When I’m drawing the same art style for a long time, waves of fatigue can sometimes set in. So I used that panel as a reward to encourage myself: “If I go on for another X pages, I can draw a poster!”

If I had to describe them in one word, it would be “sincerity”. Their earnest attitude, especially in delivering songs, has been consistent since the Keyakizaka46 era. I believe the experience gained over time has made it possible for them to present the concept of songs with a higher level of precision and stability. I’m really happy that members with an aptitude for variety can have their own show. I think this is the result of each member understanding their role and having worked sincerely. Since the members of the Sakamichi Group use their real names, it’s more difficult to draw a line between work and private life, but I believe the sincerity of the members has definitely helped the color that evokes the image of Sakurazaka46 to be beautiful and clear.

4. When did you learn that I like Hunter × Hunter?

I found out when I read your blog posts during the Keyakizaka46 era. At the time, I was in the habit of going from the Keyakizaka46 Message app to the members’ blogs. Since I’m just one regular fan, I was so surprised at first to see you mention the series that it felt like being talked to by someone on the street. Even more than that experience, what made my heart drop was at the New Year’s special feature for “If I turn the corner, will Sakurazaka be there?”, when you mentioned that you wanted the “complete set of Hunter × Hunter”. As soon as I saw that, I started pacing around my workplace thinking, “I have to do something about this...!” However, since I’m hopelessly socially awkward with a negative, self-conscious personality, I would agonize over things like, “Would it make her feel uncomfortable?” and “Wouldn't it be a nuisance if I really sent something...?” I’m truly sorry that it took me two whole years to finally decide to send it.

Fugetsu using her Magical Worm ability

5. What is your favorite Nen ability?

As for what I like, it would be the older sister’s (the Tenth Prince) Season of Two (Without You). While I was drawing the storyboards, I saw the choreographer TAKAHIRO talking on a show about the intention behind the choreography of “Season of Two” and his interpretation of the song. I was so moved and inspired by it that I finished the storyboards all at once. I like these two songs so much that when I see them side by side in a live concert setlist, my emotional balance collapses. Yes, I like the songs more than the ability itself.

As for what I would like to use, it would be the younger sister’s (the Eleventh Prince) Secret Door (Magical Worm). It would save me travel time and expenses, and if my lower back happened to go out during the trip, I could use it to crawl to a hospital.

6. What Greed Island cards would you like to use?

When my serialization and breastfeeding times overlapped, my wife would freeze the milk in advance, and I would feed the baby while she slept. Since I was still in my 30s, I was able to get through it with all-nighters and naps. The time I spent feeding the baby was so peaceful, and I enjoyed holding them so much that I could naturally tell what they were asking for by their different cries. On the other hand, I struggled with the dilemma of having a weekly serialization and the physical constraints that came along with it.

Since the arc was based on that experience, I definitely wanted to have “Panda Maid” when I was in work mode at the time. Currently, I go back and forth between “Angel's Breath” and “Sleeping Girl” depending on my health.

The double-page spread of Komugi and Meruem

7. The cut to black scene at Meruem’s final moments had a profound effect on me. Did you plan to write it like that from the beginning?

Almost all the panel layouts are decided right before or during the storyboard process, when the tension is as high as possible, and this was the case for the idea of “having several pages of speech bubbles on black backgrounds divided vertically.” While drawing the chapter’s storyboards, I thought of a part from Fumiyo Kōno’s Town of Evening Calm, Country of Cherry Blossoms, remembering the scene as a sequence of monologue-only panels on white backgrounds divided vertically (when I reread it later, I realized it was my imagination and that I had mistakenly confused it with panels from another scene…). It was then that I decided to continue the exchange between Komugi and Meruem in simple, pitch-black panels.

Most people from the generation before mine will remember Ashita no Joe when they think of a famous scene of a character who burned as brightly as they could. For my generation, Raoh from Fist of the North Star would get a piece of that pie. What they both have in common is their use of kakeami [a shading technique that can involve crosshatching] to portray an emotional moment. I’ve always wanted to take on that challenge, and my wish came true with the double-page spread of Komugi and Meruem. It was really enjoyable to depict two characters who found the meaning of life in the process rather than the result, and I’m satisfied that I was able to reach that double-page spread as the culmination of everything.

8. What do you do on your days off? Also, what are you currently into?

I really don’t have a concept of days off, and what I’m doing day-to-day changes depending on the condition of my lower back. When it’s feeling good,  I’ll work at my desk for as long as I can before aggravating it; when it’s not, I’ll work standing up to the same extent and take breaks in a posture that doesn’t put too much strain on it.

An online article about ants being attracted to Kappa Ebisen sparked a brief interest in ant identification this past summer. I found more than 10 species just in my yard, and was impressed by the beauty of Pristomyrmex punctatus. I felt somewhat satisfied once I found Solenopsis japonica, and the interest ended.

An interest I’ve had for a long time now is recording TV shows that I don’t watch and then putting them on discs. It was only for my favorite shows at first, but the amount of data stored on the recorder that I wanted to watch later became too much, so I just started moving them to DVDs (in those days) without even watching them. At this point, I keep doing it because I find the whole thing of “I won't even watch them anyway” amusing.

Like Yoshizumi-san, I’m the type of person who always has sound playing while I’m working, and I still prefer to watch my favorite shows again and again for this. So, I end up never watching the discs of shows that I planned to watch later, but I can’t stop recording. What should I do?

The Volume 1 cover of Oi! Tonbo

9. Are there any manga you have found interesting recently?

If we define “recently” as something published in 2023, there’s a work that made me think, “As expected, it’s amazing...!!” However, I’m hesitant to give the name of the series since I would get criticized from various sides if I recommended it to Yumiko-san, even indirectly. But to defend the honor of that series, I’ll say I was amazed by its overwhelming depiction of a true story, impressed by its strength in portraying weaknesses without glossing over them, and moved to tears of gratitude at the characters’ resolve.

But...!! BUTTTT!!! I’m sorrryyy! So if we change the definition of “recently” to series that are still being published, and I had to name one that I read and enjoy all the time, it would be Oi! Tonbo. It’s a manga about golf, but you don’t need to know the rules to enjoy it. The protagonist, Tonbo, is exactly like the “ideal Gon character” that I envisioned when I first conceived of the Hunter² serialization, but I failed to achieve it in the first chapter. The series is an incredible fusion of Mr. Kawasaki’s expert knowledge of people and golf, and Mr. Furusawa’s warmth in gently illustrating such earnest characters.

10. Has the ending been decided?

Broadly speaking, I’ve prepared three endings for the series: A, B, and C. Thinking about the reaction of readers in terms of approval and disapproval, I expect 80% approval and 20% disapproval for Ending A (this isn’t necessarily a sign of praise; I just think it’s a safe conclusion that’s unlikely to receive much criticism), an even split between approval and disapproval for Ending B, and 10% approval and 90% disapproval for Ending C.

Even though the reaction would be overwhelmingly negative, the reason I’m still considering Ending C is because it’s personally my favorite. But basically, my ideal scenario and goal is to come up with an interesting enough ending that I don’t have to choose any of these three. For your reference, I’ll reveal Ending D, which was removed from the three remaining candidates, and if I were to die with the series still incomplete, I hope you’ll forgive me by accepting it as the ending.

[Ending D]

At the edge of a pond, a young girl is holding a fishing rod, completely motionless. All of a sudden, the rod bends sharply, and the girl yells out. Her name is Gin.

“It’s him, it’s him, it’s hiimmmm!!”

Carrying the Master of the Pond on her shoulders, Gin proudly says to a woman in front of her:

“See, Mom? I caught ’im!! Just like I said I would!!”

Gin gets closer to her and continues in a hushed tone:

“Now don’t ever tell me to become a Hunter again...!”

The woman nods reluctantly. Gin walks away with the Master still on her shoulders.

Mother: “I thought catching the Master would finally wake her up to hunting... right?”

She wants her husband, sitting next to her, to agree.

Father: “Taking over the shop and never leaving the island... that’s what Gin wants now. Let’s respect that.”

She still isn’t satisfied.

Mother: “Well, she might change her mind along the way. Jeez, why are you and Gin both so... it’s because of Great-Grandma Mito’s and Grandma Noko’s blood, right…”

It seems she doesn’t know that Mito and Noko aren’t blood relatives. Her husband smiles quietly. Refusing to give up, she continues.

Mother: “But Grandpa Gon was a famous Hunter...! I'm sure she’ll leave the island someday.”

Gin: “No way that’s happeninnnggg!!”

She yells out from the depths of the forest, from where she couldn’t even be seen and she couldn’t possibly hear her parents’ conversation.

Her father happily mutters:

“She can see right through us.”

The scene changes to a shop that has been around since Mito’s time. The Master is neatly filleted, and every part of it is prepared. Gin’s monologue while she’s working:

“Mom just doesn’t get it... When Grandpa eagerly recounts the memories of his days as a Hunter, Great-Grandma discreetly excuses herself from the table. All of Grandma Noko’s nods are based on hearsay from others, subtly hinting at the quiet sadness she feels for having not been able to stay by his side.”

With the knife in her hand, she slams it against the cutting board.

“I absolutely won’t do that!! I will not wait months or years for someone to come back, with my heart in knots!! Or make someone else wait!! I’ll..."

The sound of the door opening. A calm, carefree voice fills the room. A pudgy little boy holding plants walks inside.

Boy: “I got some wild plants~♪ Wow, you really caught the Master! Alright, let’s share it with everybody on the island!”

Gin (to herself): “I'll always stay... with someone I want to be with forever...”

Boy: “I can see everybody's happy faces♪ Come on, let’s get started~♪"

Gin (to herself): “I'll always stay with them!!”

Gin (to the boy): “Yeaahh!!”

The two cook the meal with huge smiles on their faces. A bird flies away from the island and soars through the sky. Underneath it is a town somewhere with people from every walk of life. Someone’s son, someone’s daughter, someone’s grandchild... all living in various places and exchanging smiles with each other. They could be this character’s child or that character’s grandchild.

The bird flies away into the sky.

Someone watches it as it leaves, with their back turned toward us.


11. Recently (especially in the latest Volume 37), the amount of text has increased considerably. Is there a reason for that?

(1) The basic information that has to be explained to readers is already quite extensive, including the introduction of several new Nen abilities, the details of the Succession Contest, and the backgrounds for each Prince.

(2) In terms of narrative structure, there are several unresolved conflicts that have to be addressed during the voyage, and I knew from the start that if I also considered the individuals involved in the Succession Contest, it would become a complex challenge where the various intentions and connections of an enormous number of characters are intertwined with one another. Unfortunately, I still had the spirit of welcoming challenges, so I increased the number of characters beyond the limits of my processing capacity. Consequently, the basic information mentioned in (1) has increased even more.

(3) I wanted not only the Princes but also their personnel to be more than just background characters, so I made extensive use of monologues to act as both narrative exposition and character development. As a result, the text has become more intricate and unruly.

(4) As I mentioned in my answer to your second question, when characters interact with each other, there are several personalities and circumstances to consider. In this current arc, I’m also experimenting with characters and how they feel about their missions (whether they're proactive, passive, or negative, whether they’re hiding secrets). In the process of looking for more interesting story developments, the number of words discarded in my mind is several or even ten times more than the word count in just one finished storyboard. This has become a routine part of my process, and as a result, I’m in a negative cycle where the number of words used in the finished storyboard feels small in comparison.

(5) As you can see from my previous answers, I’m “bugged” as an author: I’m not only unable to find the right balance, but deep down, part of me unapologetically thinks that word count is equivalent to a complimentary service. Words rule.