Hear from Series Creator Fujita on all things Wotakoi!
We’re continuing the celebration of Wotakoi: Love is Hard for Otaku, kicked off at Anime Expo 2022, by giving fans a glimpse into the creative mind of series creator, Fujita, as they recount the ideas and experienced that inspired them to create the geeky fan-favorite rom-com, Wotakoi. Read below for part one of a two-part interview and also be sure to check out a very special sketch video at the end!
Big thanks to our interview translator, Sawa Matsueda Savage. And English-language series editor, Vanessa Tenazas for their help on this interview.
(Please note that since we transcribed an audio recording of an interview with Fujita-sensei, some comments come from Wotakoi’s Editor, Suzuki are mixed into the answers.)
On the Beginning: Tell us how Wotakoi started.
Fujita: I started by posting one page at a time on Pixiv for fun, and people said they liked it in the comments. That made me so happy that I kept at it until Ichijinsha contacted me one day and it became a series. Back then, looking for undiscovered amateur content on Pixiv that you personally enjoyed was just starting to become a trend. The free platform provided easy access to that kind of content, and it was kind of like uncovering a lucky find or buried treasure. Nowadays, there are professional artists on Pixiv and people know they can find good content there, so I think the expectations are much higher than before. I think it really helped that I was posting back when people were just starting to realize that there was some surprisingly fun manga to be found there.
On the Concept: What gave you the idea of Wotakoi?
Fujita: It came from a conversation I was having with a friend while working on art stuff. We started discussing “what if” scenarios about a guy and a girl we thought would be cute together, and what kind of things they might talk about. That idea grew and I thought it was neat, but I couldn’t explain it that well in words. So I put pen to paper because I wanted to give shape to the idea, and the resulting rough sketches was how it started. Even in today’s day and age where it’s much easier being an otaku in life, I still think there are a lot of people who are like Narumi and hide that part of themselves. Even though times have changed and it may not seem necessary to hide it, that’s a separate issue, and one of the things I wanted to do was to acknowledge that feeling of reluctance. So I think the final volume provided a sense of closure in that regard by focusing on that issue.
On Characters: Are they based on real life people?
Fujita: There are no real-life people I can point to and say, “This is who that character is based on.” But I imagined there were people out there similar to these characters. Rather, I think I was totally convinced there must be as I drew them. Take Kabakura, for instance. I drew him thinking that was exactly what a guy would be like if he had a big ego and an image to uphold but actually loved anime and couldn’t resist his cravings. I did find it hard to believe when a reader told me they knew a person who was just like Naoya. Even with Hirotaka, whose personality is meant to be a boiled down, extreme version of a bunch of otaku traits, I occasionally hear about reported sightings of guys just like him, so I think it’s definitely possible that he exists. When people tell me they’ve seen people like the characters, I’m relieved to know they aren’t completely a figment of my imagination. I get the sense that readers enjoyed seeing familiar bits of themselves and people they knew in the characters.
On Comedy: Who’s your comedic influence?
Fujita: I’ve liked comedic stuff from when I was little and liked making people laugh, so I did kind of incorporate some classic comedy tropes and formulas. Also, this was not a direct inspiration for Wotakoi, but the type of comedy I enjoy is work like Gag Manga Biyori (A Good Day for Comedy Manga). I like that absurd style, but I couldn’t create that kind of humor with my drawings, so I aimed for the kind of vibe you find in Gintama. Rumiko Takahashi’s Ranma 1/2 and Maison Ikkoku are also examples of my idea of the ideal energy I wanted to create. I took care when developing the feel of the characters so that readers would find them endearing and want to see more of their everyday lives. I also tried to keep things light and not too serious.
On Manga: How did you get into drawing manga?
Fujita: In terms of just casual drawing, I started when I was in elementary school. I would draw four-panel manga with no dialogue in my notebook and show them to my friends. When I grew up, I still had this vague notion that I wanted to be a manga artist and went to a vocational school. Stuff happened, and I had a period of difficulty where I lost sight of what made manga enjoyable, so I decided to take a break and just draw manga for my own enjoyment. That’s when I turned to Pixiv and the result is Wotakoi. So I guess it started as a hobby I played around with that turned into a career. I feel like by the time I realized, it was the only path for me.
On Manga: What kind of tools do you use?
Fujita: I work with analog tools up to the inking stage. Before the inking stage, drawing with the analog tools I’m used to makes the page look more convincing, plus it’s faster. But for the background art, I definitely prefer working digitally given how challenging it is to have to put a ruler to paper and draw each individual line, making sure none of them go out of the panels. I hope to hit a sweet spot of balancing digital and analog processes, and I’m still figuring that out.
Working in analog, the lines I draw will be printed just as they are, so I have an idea of what the finished product will look like. But working digitally means being able to zoom in indefinitely and draw infinitely thin lines. I hate that when I work on fine details until I’m satisfied, there’s too much detail in the final print and the page looks cluttered. I personally don’t enjoy reading pages with too much detail, and I want to produce the look of the manga I grew up with. I like lines that are relatively thick and easy to see, and a drawing style that depicts depth of field with just the use of lines. When I draw digitally, I don’t get a sense of the finished product, and trying to get it closer to where I want ends up being a time-consuming process.
On Anime: What was it like to see your manga become an anime?
Fujita: Everyone involved worked so hard to create it, and it made me so happy to see how passionate everyone was.
Suzuki (Editor): I feel like a lot of people discovered Wotakoi through the anime, including overseas fans. I think the anime played a big part in how it reached such a global audience.
Fujita: I love watching overseas reaction video series, and in a scene where Hirotaka sees Narumi crying over anime and says, “What’s the point of crying over anime at this age?” there are these two overseas otaku guys who tell him off and say something like, “Hey! You just turned everyone against you!” But then Hirotaka cries as well right afterwards and the guys are like “Yeah, that’s right!” It was good to see that they approved of how that played out. People from overseas have much more candid reactions and it’s cute.
Suzuki: Even after the TV series was over, we released several OVAs, and they sold in a way that’s unimaginable with most usual OVAs. I really felt that it’s indicative of just how many people loved the anime.
Fujita: Those involved put so much work into it, as well. The anime was a good learning opportunity for me.
On Anime: Would there be a new season of anime?
Suzuki: I do want to see them do the events surrounding Kabakura and Hanako’s wedding and the book-only episodes from [Japanese] volumes nine to eleven.
Fujita: I want that as much as anybody, so there’s no point asking me about it. [laughs]
Suzuki: It would certainly make a lot of people happy if they animated the full series.
On Theatre: Is it true that Wotakoi is becoming a theatrical play?
Fujita: Yes. The stage adaptation has a distinctive theatrical vibe of being a live show, and I think people will be glad they watched it. I think the choice of doing Wotakoi in live action is kind of a gamble. It can make some people die from embarrassment by feeling “seen.” I’m one of those people, actually.
It’s bad enough in manga form, but producing it with actual people honestly makes me worry that some viewers might explode from embarrassment.
Suzuki: To tell you the truth, the person who came with the play proposal had an abnormal amount of passion. Be it the anime or the live action film or the play, I felt that the people involved had completely different personalities depending on the genre. I have no idea what the stage adaptation will be like until we see it, so it’s something to look forward to.
Fujita: It is! It’s completely unknown territory, so I can’t wait to see how it’s developing!
This concludes part one of Kodanansh’s exclusive interview with Wotakoi series creator Fujita detailing their thoughts and feelings around the manga, adaptation, it’s finale and more. Stay tuned for the upcoming conclusion to be released soon!
Can’t get enough of Wotakoi? Check out our exclusive Fujita sketch video as they draw the exclusive Anime Expo 2022 Wotakoi Art