Interview: what is the secret to turning happy daily-life events into a story? - "The TV drama of 'A Man and His Cat' had to focus on kindness."
A Man and His Cat depicts the heartwarming days in the life of Fukumaru, a pet store cat whom no one would adopt, and an old man who has been suffering from depression ever since his wife passed away. The live-action TV adaptation, airing on Wednesdays at 00:58 a.m. (JST) on TV Tokyo among other stations, was welcomed warmly by the public.
The original manga was formerly published on Twitter and has grown into a smash hit that has sold over 1.7 million copies. We interviewed the author, Umi Sakurai, and asked them about the secrets behind such a charming and gentle world.
"My manga has become a real-life story!"
── How did you feel when you found out that your work was going to be adapted into a live-action TV series?
── The drama also features an impressive cast: Masao Kusakari in the role of 'the man' Kanda, and Ryunosuke Kamiki as the voice of Fukumaru.
── How did you feel when you first saw the drama?
The drama came to be thanks to the support of the readers, and it was only made possible with the help of the many people involved. Thinking about it always makes my eyes water.
The drama gets the original author's seal of approval! Even in the TV series, Fukumaru is just too cute
── Did you make any requests to the cast and crew of the drama?
I've insisted that A Man and His Cat is a story that places importance on kindness. As long as the TV adaptation followed the core of the story, the visuals and dialogues between the characters could be adjusted as much as needed to fit the 3D world. After all, there are certain aspects and dialogues that can only work in the manga. In fact, the characters in the drama version do not have exactly the same hair and clothes as in the original, do they? But the man looks like the man, and Kobayashi looks like Kobayashi. That's because the core of the characters is the same, just adjusted slightly for the live-action version.
── Speaking about the characters’ appearance, weren't you worried about how Fukumaru would be represented in the live-action?
── The drama version of Fukumaru often sticks his tongue out in a blep, doesn't he?
Twitter is the place to try out anything you like
── How did the manga A Man and His Cat come about?
【猫漫画】おじさまと猫 pic.twitter.com/ypjJr6jMaL— 桜井海＠おじ猫ドラマ放送中！６巻発売中！ (@sakurai_umi_) June 12, 2017
── What parts would be rejected?
── Would the 'old man' concept have been rejected too!?
I think the advantage of posting comics on Twitter is that you can give bolder projects a shot without the fear of them being turned down. You may try something new and realize that it works. I believe Twitter is truly the place to try out anything you like!
4-page manga are made to feature only the best bits
── After getting the public's response, you decided to serialize A Man and His Cat on Twitter first, before moving on to GanGan pixiv and the Monthly Shonen GanGan. What did you focus on when you started publishing your manga on Twitter?
To be able to convey information through the flow of the story and the pictures, rather than explaining it in dialogue and narration, is a skill that is required even in regular comics. In 4-page manga though, you have to be even more serious about the way you select the info to include. If you're planning to draw regular comics in the future, posting 4-page manga on Twitter could prove to be a valuable learning experience.
── With the serialization in GanGan pixiv and the Monthly Shonen GanGan, the number of pages per chapter has suddenly increased to about 20, right?
Establishing a setting after seeing your characters in action
── Music is also an important theme in A Man and His Cat. Do you have any experience in music?
── Your work features a moving portrayal of the characters struggling in the world of music. I figured you must be a very dedicated musician to be able to describe those aspects in so much detail.
── How do you establish a setting for your characters?
When I manage to clearly picture the life of the characters as I work on the storyboard, that's when the story starts taking shape. It's a strange process: I start writing the storyboard while the story isn't ready yet. (laughs)
── You don't write your stories starting from the setting; you write the setting while following the story.
In my rookie days, my editor asked me: "What's your personality like?"
── A Man and His Cat has a very wholesome atmosphere, but the characters' words and actions don't seem fake because each of them has a well-defined backbone.
As we go on with our lives, we often think about other people's feelings such as "What is this person thinking?", or "How can I tell this person the truth without hurting them?". There are also many situations in which we act with consideration for the feelings of others. What lies at the root of A Man and His Cat is a picture made of small, happy moments, little exchanges of thoughtfulness that can be found anywhere in our daily lives.
── It seems like kindness is the essence of many of your works, including A Man and His Cat.
When I told my editor that I would describe my personality as "kind" after remembering that specific episode, they raised an eyebrow.
── Do you think it's important for writers not to be too set in their ways when assigning a certain personality to themselves?
That's why I think it is important not to be too set on your definitions and to be willing to try different things. As you do so, you may acquire different sets of skills and learn to draw things that you couldn't draw before. Don't be too adamant about succeeding; instead, you should dare to take on various challenges without taking things too seriously.
Curiously trending: Fukumaru's escape arc
── What episode, in particular, has stuck with you? I'd like to ask your editor Horii as well.
When it comes to A Man and His Cat, the storyboard often makes me cry. (laughs) Recently, I wept like a baby when the kitten walks up to Geoffroy in episode 69. First I cried at the storyboard, then at the draft, and then again at the phototypesetting. (laughs)
── While I was reading A Man and His Cat, I've got the feeling that Sakurai may be a fan of not-so-pretty cats. The comic features a few cats with uncommon features...
── The second half of the drama series is finally underway. I'd like to ask the original author to share a message with the viewers.
The gentle atmosphere of the first episode will continue until the end, so please keep holding these characters in your heart. Hopefully, the many people involved in the production of the drama will also be happy with the amazing results of their work. I'm so happy that I'm spending all day reading the feedback from the viewers, but as the original author, I swear I'll get back to the manuscript! (laughs)
── Thank you very much!
"A Man and His Cat" TV drama now airing!
Spend a wholesome evening enjoying the gentle relationship between the fluffy Fukumaru and his owner.
"A Man and His Cat" is also on pixiv Comic!
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>>Read A Man and His Cat (Japanese only)<<