Continuing Our Conversation with Fujita!
The wait is over! Part 2 of Kodansha’s exclusive Fujita on Wotakoi Finale interview is now available to read below or if you would like to experience this entire interview in one video check out the Kodansha YouTube page to see a special video covering all the topics of this interview in a singular multi-media experience fans of Wotakoi are sure to love!
To read Part 1 of Kodansha’s exclusive interview with Fujita hit the link below:
Exclusive Interview: Fujita on Wotakoi Finale – Part 1
Once again we must give a 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 Hobbies – What is Fujita’s personal otaku genre?
Fujita: I like video games, and I play fun, low-key ones like Animal Crossing and Pokémon. The types of games I like are ones I can enjoy in my own time, that I’m free to play as I like by myself.
Recently, I’ve also been into TRPGs (tabletop role-playing games). The Cthulhu TRPGs have surged in popularity in the past decade or so with more people playing them, and it became a trend to stream playthrough videos on YouTube. I happened to watch a really fun one that got me intrigued and I played it with my family, and that’s how I got into it.
I generally like creating characters and letting them act out stories, and while creating a manga out of that takes a lot of time and energy, a table talk game is less taxing and great for some casual fun. I think TRPGs are unique in that they let me create characters and play with them in ways that aren’t possible in manga.
Asides from games, I like horror-related content. Recently when I work, I’ve been playing videos in the background where YouTubers go to some haunted location or professional horror storytellers tell spooky stories. I’m very intrigued by the emotion of fear, and I find it curious and impressive that being scared can also be entertaining.
I think that the emotion of being scared and being entertained might involve a similar evoking process, just in different colors. A well-crafted story is of course scary, but also makes you go, “Huh. That’s really neat.” Everyone is capable of fear, and the same goes for enjoying something. Because I draw manga, I have a habit of dissecting the fear I feel to figure out what gave rise to that emotion. I break down the elements to arrive at a reason that makes sense to me, like “maybe it’s scary because this part of the story is told in this kind of tone.” When I listen to these stories, half of me does it in the spirit of research, hoping to translate that method somehow into my own manga, and the other half just wants to enjoy being scared as a regular member of the audience.
On Wotakoi’s Ending – What were the challenges of wrapping up a series?
Fujita: I wasn’t conflicted about finishing the series. It went as far as it would go, and I thought it was time to wrap it up. I felt the story couldn’t go on without having Narumi face her inner conflict about hiding her otaku ways, and if I kept waiting to pursue that storyline, I was worried that it wouldn’t be clear what the story was about anymore… Over the six or seven years working on the series, a gradual rift began to grow between the readership and the character I had originally intended Narumi to be. So time was running out to give closure to the story of Narumi wanting to hide being an otaku, which is what I had set out to do in the first place. Closet otaku are already becoming a minority, and once it becomes normal for most to think they have no reason to hide their otakuness, I figured it would be really difficult to present a story that would be convincing to my readers. Looking back, I just barely made it in time for the story to be relatable, so I think the timing was good.
Personal Thoughts – Did Fujita get to draw the ending they wanted?
Fujita: In finishing the series, I put a crazy amount of thought into the last two episodes or so. I had to wrap up all the stuff about Narumi’s relationship with Hirotaka, but also figure out how to fit that into her own inner conflict, as well as how Hirotaka should get involved in Narumi’s personal struggle. I may be the one who came up with Wotakoi, but throughout the series my editor Suzuki-san helped make the adjustments it needed, so the two of us discussed what would make the most sense for Narumi and Hirotaka’s characters. We had ideas that would have been fine if it wasn’t the finale, but we definitely wanted to aim higher because it was going to be a special episode. I knew we couldn’t compromise. We ended up going with an idea that was completely different from my initial plan.
Suzuki: Compared to when the series began, society’s ideas on otaku have changed so much, haven’t they?
A positive interpretation is that Wotakoi may have had some influence, with the suggestion that it’s okay to be more open about otaku inclinations. And now people are becoming a lot more open about it than we ever expected.
Fujita: I first thought about retuning to the usual energy and banter at the end, but as I was working, it started getting emotionally touching. I didn’t want the kind of heartfelt ending that screams, “This is the finale!” which was why I meant to end on a busy, comical note… [laughs]
Suzuki: Well, I thought it had the feel of their usual style while still having Narumi overcome her inner problem, and I felt like it ended in keeping with the series. I also thought the individual characters really got a chance to shine in the final volume’s book-only episodes in a way that makes you want to see more. I really liked the one about Ko changing the way she calls Naoya.
Fujita: Those were meant as bonus treat for the fans!
Suzuki: The book-only episodes weren’t the only treat. You didn’t hold back with the cover of the artbook, either.
Fujita: I drew all the lovey-dovey situations I had refrained from drawing before.
On What’s Next – What does Fujita want to do next? Are they working on anything new?
Suzuki: We can’t really talk much about this, but we have been discussing things.
Fujita: I’m at the stage of preparing my next move.
Suzuki: I think it’s going to be something that surprises everyone in a good way, so I hope it leaves people in awe.
Words to the fans of Wotakoi
Fujita: I can’t thank you enough for supporting me from so far away, and I hope to see you again in some way or the other!
On Characters – Fujita Tells us why they love each character
Narumi was the easiest to work with because I didn’t have to worry about how to portray her. She also functioned to ease the tension in any situation. She would make everyone smile just by being there. Narumi is the heroine, but I wanted her to be a kind of hero who saved Hirotaka. At the very end though, I got to make Hirotaka the one who saves his hero Narumi, so I’m glad I managed to guide the story there.
Hirotaka is actually meant to be the heroine. So I was really careful about how I portrayed him, and many of the times my editor turned down a storyboard, it had to do with how I presented Hirotaka. We had discussions that went like, “If you make him smile here, it might make the rarity of him smiling less special.”
I worked with Kabakura thinking it was okay if he was something of a jerk. When I came up with material for Kabakura, it would be him making a verbal attack with something rude or selfish in an argument with Hanako. I didn’t mind if he came across as awful or a jerk depending on how you looked at it, but I wanted to make sure that he wasn’t clearly in the wrong. I wanted the fights between Kabakura and Hanako to be quarrels stemming from a difference in values. I sought advice from a lot of people about how to keep that balanced in terms of whether Kabakura’s way of thinking made sense in certain scenes. Kabakura was the second easiest to work with after Narumi, so I enjoyed drawing him. His character was great for throwing curveballs.
She was a good senpai around Narumi—older, reliable, cool, and composed. But she acts like a kid around Kabakura, and I wanted to show that contrast. Some characters can be insensitive around the people they’re comfortable with, and I wanted that for the Kaba-Hana couple, where they end up looking like a husband-and-wife comedy act from the outside. I had never created a female character like Hanako, so I wasn’t sure if I would grow to like her in the beginning. One thing that can be said for both Kabakura and Hanako is that they both like to act cool.
I suppose this is my opportunity to say that I come up with the characters for Hanako’s cosplay based on what I think she might choose, so although sometimes people say that those must be my favorite characters, that’s not always the case!
I really didn’t know what to do with Naoya until later on in the series. He was so innocent that I felt like I was drawing a mythical creature I’d never seen before. Kind of like a unicorn that people say exists, but no one’s ever seen. I personally identify the least with Naoya’s personality traits. At the beginning, I had a really hard time using Naoya because his character ran solely on being innocent, blissfully oblivious, and pure, and that wasn’t much to work with. But by introducing Ko, I decided that I wanted him to provide Ko with emotional support, or in other words, be Ko’s source of light*. That’s how Naoya’s role as a character materialized. Without Ko, he really would have just been there for Hirotaka to tell him he sucks at video games.
*The kanji character for “Ko” means “light” in Japanese.
When I proposed Ko’s character design, I almost had to redo it at first because she “looked too much like a boy.” But I pushed it through with the promise that she would get cuter as the series progressed. I thought she was cute, and I didn’t want to change her to fit in better with society’s idea of cuteness. Juxtaposed with Naoya, I was particular about not making them look like they would work together, so I couldn’t agree to make pre-transformation Ko look cuter. I wanted Ko to be an otaku with no love for herself who gets pulled up by Naoya. Naoya is a radiant “Light type” to a ridiculous degree, so although I felt bad for Ko, I figured she needed to start from a ridiculously low place. But people with low self-esteem like her tend to be really kind. They get hurt easily, so they’re careful about not hurting people, and they’re very observant of others. So I think of all these characters, Ko is the kindest of all.
This concludes Kodansha’s exclusive interview with Wotakoi: Love is Hard for Otaku series creator Fujita, detailing their thoughts and feelings around the manga, adaptation, it’s finale and more.
Fans who still need to get their copy of the final volume can find where to buy their copy on kodansha.us. And remember that there are still exclusive variant editions of the final volume at Barnes and Noble!
Wotakoi fans can also experience Parts 1 and 2 of this special interview in a uniquely crafted video full of art from the series, as well as a process sketch segment of the exclusive AX 2022 art by Fujita