Aiya Kyu answered fan questions, signed books, and performed a live drawing at sold out event!
On a humid spring day in San Francisco, fans of the smash hit The Rising of the Shield Hero gathered on the second floor of Japanese bookstore Kinokuniya. Aiya Kyu, the artist adapting the Shield Hero light novels into manga form would soon take a seat in front of dozens of passionate fans. The event would be comprised of a formal interview, a fan Q&A session, a live-drawing, and a book signing. In the hour leading up to the event, the sense of anticipation was palpable–the air was electric.
During the event, two fans cosplaying Naofumi and Raphtalia entered the store and were immediately swarmed with people requesting their photos! With good reason–they looked absolutely amazing.
Even Naofumi and Raphtalia showed up for the event. (IG: @kalsplay @Space_trashy )
Fans were also able to peruse a selection of Shield Hero merchandise ranging from T-shirts to manga and light novels.
As the manga artist, Aiya Kyu, took to the stage, the room fell silent. There was a really strong sense of reverence in the room–every eye in the audience was trained on Aiya-sensei as she answered questions and performed the live drawing.
Throughout the event, I noticed something really wonderful–people who were complete strangers before the event were talking to one another and building immediate friendships over their shared love of this story. I saw people connecting over their favorite story moments, comparing differences between the light novels, the manga, and the anime adaptation, and never once did I hear any of the typical gatekeeping that so often comes with discussions of anime adaptations and their source material. The fans who were here just wanted to connect with the creator behind something special to them, and to meet other people who loved the same thing they did. This is a really special community of fans, and this event represents the real, powerful ability of anime to bring people together.
Included below is a full transcript of the interview and Fan Q&A.
(Transcription credit: Kevin Matyi)
Tim Lyu (Crunchyroll Host): So, Aiya-sensei, how do you like San Francisco?
Aiya Kyu: It’s a very good place to spend your days, and I actually went around doing a lot of tourist-y stuff yesterday.
TL: Fantastic. Okay, let’s go and get straight into the in-depth questions–when did you start drawing manga, and how did you break into the industry?
AK: I always loved drawing. Ever since I was a child I was like, “I want to draw for a living,” so basically I went to school specifically for this kind of vocation. I was a manga assistant, then, finally I became my own manga artist.
TL: So how did you become involved in adapting The Rising of the Shield Hero to manga, and were you a fan of the novel before you started writing it?
AK: So I didn’t know about the series until I got the offer, and I was approached one day by the editorial staff at Monthly Comic Flappersaying “hey we have this series Shield Hero, would you like to draw a manga for it?”
TL: Many fans find Naofumi’s story to be very special and relatable. What makes Shield Hero stand out from other isekai (‘another world’) stories?
AK: So I’m sure that everyone’s gone through a time where they were betrayed or they were framed by someone else, and they felt alone in the world, so that they really feel some kind of link to Naofumi. That’s probably why they feel so much emotion for the series, and that’s also the reason why this series is so unique in the isekai genre.
TL: How closely do you work with Aneko Yusagi-san for the manga adaptation, and do they have an active role in the work?
AK: How to present a story in a manga form is slightly different than that of a novel, so we basically have a little bit of freedom, but I work very closely with Aneko-sensei to make sure that their worldview is still correct but that it still has that very manga feel to it.
TL: What has been the most challenging aspect of adapting the light novel into the manga?
AK: The most difficult part is the fact that there’s a lot more words involved in a novel, so it’s very hard to fit all of that in a manga–it gets too crowded if you try to force all of the original words in there, so trimming the fat, so to say, and making sure that it’s presentable in manga form yet still has all of the concepts that are in the original novel is the hard part.
TL: Right, because, like you talked about before, when you talk about magic in the light novel you can just spend pages explaining, but in the manga, if you keep all of that, you basically have a nice PowerPoint presentation. Y’all don’t wanna read PowerPoint presentations.
AK: (She laughs) So basically you want to preserve the tempo and feel, making sure the manga isn’t too sluggish so in more explanatory segments you try to use more art and use pictures over words to keep the flow going smoothly.
TL: Naofumi is a complex character who’s viewed as a villain but is actually deeply kind and generous. Was this a challenging character to work with?
AK: I believe the character is very easy to empathize with and you just get into it with him in the novels, so trying to keep that aspect of being easily relatable going to the manga was very difficult.
TL: One of the more popular characters, Raphtalia, is a very complex character with quite an intense backstory. How did you work to convey all of her depth in manga form?
AK: Thanks to all of the efforts of Naofumi, Raphtalia is a very strong woman nowadays, but it’s very important to remember the past that she grew up from. It’s very difficult but I always try to keep in mind her backstory and to keep the past that created what she is now.
TL: And here’s a nice little fun one: which character from Shield Hero is your favorite to draw, and why?
AK: Naofumi’s the main character, he’s central to the story, he’s easy to empathize with, so I find him easiest to draw.
(As Aiya-sensei said ‘Naofumi,’ sounds of approval and laughter spread through the crowd.)
TL: I like how the audience, when she said ‘Naofumi,’ was just like “heck yeah.”
(Tim and Aiya-sensei laugh.)
TL: Do you have anything you would like to say to the Western fans of The Rising of the Shield Hero manga?
AK: First of all, thank you for the invite to the signing event, because I wouldn’t be here to begin with if it weren’t for the novels. It’s really amazing to see so many fans here for this event. It makes me happy, and I hope that you guys all continue to like Shield Hero.
A photo-op spot where anyone could become the Shield Hero!
Aiya Kyu then moved on to the Fan Q&A, starting with some questions sent in by our news readers from our article last week.
Crunchyroll News Reader: How do I improve my drawings to be a successful manga artist?
Aiya Kyu: Becoming a manga artist is not just skill–you also need luck in equal measure, but more importantly you need to be able to tell a story well, and not just draw well. So basically, in all aspects of drawing and storytelling, you just gotta keep practicing.
CRN Reader: Have you played any role playing fantasy games?
AK: In the past, I loved fantasy games and played a lot of them, but nowadays I just don’t seem to find much time to play very long games, so I haven’t been playing as much.
CRN Reader: Why have you chosen to draw this series in a more light mood than, let’s say a darker tone such as Berserk? We all understand that it’s primarily a good series and that it was drawn more light to help bring the more upbeat tone into it. However, Shield Hero has dark overtones in the story. Was this a request from Aneko Yusagi-sensei themself or was it your idea, since this was an isekai show?
AK: One big part of it was my original art style to being with. But I got very inspired by the illustrator for the original novels, Minami-sensei, and I wanted to approach that art style, so the inspiration from the original novels was a big part.
The event then transitioned into an open audience question and answer session.
Audience Question: When drawing the manga, have you experienced any emotional bonds with the characters, to the point where events that happened to characters still affect her?
Aiya Kyu: I’m sure that if I got too emotionally attached to a character, I would definitely feel some kind of emotion if something were to happen to that character, but I feel it’s better to pull back a bit and just look at the entire worldview. I always try to keep in mind to take a step back and look at the big picture instead.
Aud: Is there a character that you like drawing the least?
AK: I don’t have any particular characters that I don’t like drawing, like let’s say everyone’s least favorite character, Myne. I don’t have to really draw her as a beautiful woman so I can really relax while drawing her and so I have fun drawing her because I don’t have to make sure that she’s really cute. So I don’t have any characters that I don’t like drawing.
Aud: How does it feel drawing Myne solo?
AK: I just make sure that I give her evil looks. (Audience laughs) I just try my best to bring out the worst in her.
Aud: You already answered the question about your favorite character, but what’s your favorite shield design?
AK: I really like the small shield the best, because it’s the easiest to draw.
Aud: Were you expecting Raphtalia to become one of the most popular female characters of 2019?
AK: I really didn’t expect this at all when I was drawing the manga! I’m just transforming the already existing story into manga, so I didn’t really think too much about it.
Aud: Are there any characters that you want to see cosplayed?
AK: Let’s just keep it simple and plain. Give me Naofumi and Raphtalia.
Aud: What is your favorite character and why?
AK: I like the worldview of the series, and I like every single character. But if I really, really had to pick one, it’d be Naofumi because I find him the most fun to draw.
Aud: If you were trapped in an isekai, would you choose the shield, sword, spear or bow?
AK: Strictly speaking, if it was just for arms, I’d pick a sword.
Aud: Removing Naofumi, Raphtalia and Filo, who’s your favorite character?
AK: That’s a really hard question! If I really, really had to choose, since I like drawing monsters, maybe one of the monster characters, or Fitoria since she’s kinda somewhat a monster.