The Ninjabot

Kenichi Sonoda: An Interview with The Classic Manga Creator and Anime Character Designer

Posted on April 17, 2014 at 12:59 pm by Victor Chaves

articlesonodaAt Seattle’s Emerald City Comic-Con this past month, I met Kenichi Sonoda, known for his character designs in Bubblegum Crisis, Wings of Honneamise, and Solty Rei. His manga works Riding Bean, Gunsmith Cats, and Cannon God Exaxxion are also really well known in America, and are characterized by his love of guns, muscle cars, and women. Most of Sonoda’s manga are published in America by Dark Horse, and many of his animated works can be found via Amazon or other outlets. With the help of his translator, I got a chance to sit down with Sonoda and ask him about his work and what he’s planning next.

You come to America quite rarely, what brought you to Seattle for Emerald City Comic-Con?

I was asked by two people to come around the same time; one of them was Animeigo and the other was Shujiro Hamakawa [known for Key Animating ThunderCats, Transformers The Movie, The Big-O, and much more] who is the other artist that was here [at the signing table] and since I received the offers around the same time and I figured, “Why not?” and that’s how I got the chance to come this time.

Do you prefer character design or writing manga?

I like both, but as far as character design for anime, I don’t have to be responsible for everything else that comes after it, so I really like that a lot. I get to write and draw everything in manga, so the responsibility for the final product is pretty heavy, but it’s pretty nice to be able to release that to the world.

Gunsmith Cats OVA

Gunsmith Cats OVA

You mentioned in the Friday panel that your next work would take place in Kichijouji, do you have any other details regarding it?

I wanted to do something that I had never really written in any of my previous manga, so I will be including some occult elements, as well as my feelings concerning those certain areas. Specifically occult elements like ghosts, ESP, UFO’s, and reincarnation.

You mentioned the occult, do you connect that with Kichijouji? Or is there something else about Kichijouji that inspires?

There is no direct connection, the only real reason [the new manga takes place there] is that I live in Kichijouji and I’ve grown fond of the place.

Bubblegum Crisis

Bubblegum Crisis

What cultural differences have you noticed between the West and East regarding opinions on your works?

I’m not actually very aware of the differences in opinion, but I think it’s very similar, but I’m not quite sure. I do love to hear from fans how they enjoy my works, but for me, drawing manga is the most fun.

Speaking of fans, how often do you meet them?

As far as America is concerned, I am able to meet fans at events like these. I have doujinshi [fan-made or Indie comics] that I sell at Comic Market twice a year. There I meet my Japanese fans to talk and sign things for them. Although I haven’t had the energy for Comic Market as it requires so much. Last summer, there was actually a cloud that built itself above the convention center because it was so hot! Even inside, looking up you can see how cloudy it was.

Since you are starting a new manga, are you going to end Bullet the Wizard?

Actually I finished it a year ago. To be honest, Bullet the Wizard didn’t sell very well.

Besides gunplay, cars, and women, what do you feel is another theme that appears in your works?

I actually prefer in my manga to have a little bit of realism in my character dialogue and scenarios that they get into. A lot of dramas, anime, and manga in Japan have scenarios that aren’t realistic. It’s something I really try to emote in my works.

That probably connects a lot of fans to your works, like Gunsmith Cats.

I really appreciate that the fans understand what I try to do and support my works.

Riding Bean OVA

Riding Bean OVA

I know you enjoy the CZ75R and the SIGP210, what factors do you look in a gun to be interesting?

I usually consider the functionality, how it feels to shoot it, and how efficient it is. When a gun is very efficient, I consider it to be very beautiful and makes me want to draw it when I feel that way.

Finally, is there a type of story you always wished to write that you haven’t written yet?

That’s kind of what I’m attempting to do with my new manga. When I finished Exaxxion, my publisher asked me to make more Gunsmith Cats, but it was very difficult as a creator to do the same type of characters and story over again. When I end up drawing the same characters like in Gunsmith Cats, it becomes more difficult to come up with new ideas when I’ve already gone through the past ideas I had already come up with. It was a little tough to maintain that for awhile. I really wanted to make something new, and that’s what this new work will be.

Follow Victor on Twitter @fake_brasilian to see him salivate over Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure.

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