For the first time in her long career, Ouran High School Host Club creator Bisco Hatori stepped foot into American territory. The popular shojo manga writer made her U.S. debut appearance at this year’s Anime Expo, with VIZ Media sharing hosting duties. After a minor delay due to the room being capped and a small Ouran opening theme tease, the panel began with some announcements and prize giveaways. Hatori entered with a thunderous applause, showcasing her modesty by talking about how nervous she was being here.
First came a question about Hatori’s experience at Anime Expo. “I heard the fans are very intense,” Hatori said with a laugh. “I went down to Artist’s Alley, and was impressed with all the art down there. They weren’t just copies of characters; they had something of the artist’s own personality.” Regarding her trip, “VIZ has been so nice to me. From my hotel room, I could see all the [Fourth of July] fireworks.”
The first manga VIZ brought up was Behind the Scenes!! “I talked to a lot of development heads,” began Hatori, “but it was the art departments at TV stations that impressed me the most.” Regarding the theme of zombies in the student film the characters make, “It was a suggestion by my editor, and when I was in college, I had a friend who loved zombies! I was scared of them at first, but the more I drew them, the more I enjoyed it.” Despite the manga recently ending, she didn’t have time to focus on Kurisu’s family, as much as she wanted to. As for the manga’s romantic pairings, “There was a little change in the middle [that differed from the original idea], but that’s all I can say.”
Like the characters, Hatori dabbles with crafting. “But I’m not very good!” Hatori spouted with a laugh. “I have this skinny thing of clay that I was going to make something out of, but now after a very long time, it’s still a skinny thing of clay.” Her love of films greatly inspired her style. “Some of my favorites include Rosemary’s Baby, Bonnie & Clyde, Butch Cassidy & the Sundance Kid, and The Deer Hunter.”
Moving onto Millennium Snow, a focus was placed on a character’s mysterious mother, who — according to Hatori — is human. As for the timeline for the manga’s epilogue, “It’s about 90 years after the final main chapter.” After a prize break, it was time for the series of the hour: Ouran High School Host Club. The shojo genre itself was instrumental in its creation, albeit for a parodic manner. “I wanted to show the characters as not being one-sided, unlike the other series out there.” This comes from her placing a little something like her own personality into each character, from Tamaki’s love for justice and Haruhi’s kindness.
When it came to Ouran’s creation, it all began with editors throwing around ideas surrounding rich and handsome boys, what with the popularity of Otome games. Placing it in a high school setting helped to bring the humor more into the series. As for Haruhi’s cross-dressing father, “It’s all about being yourself. Haruhi has the ability to see past a facade, which comes from her father being the way he is.” The series humor comes both physically & mentally, but according to Hatori, “There are difficult moments and easy moments. Coming up with the right dialogue can be very tough.
The longing for people to reunite and connect is a big theme in Ouran High School Host Club, an intentional element throughout Hatori’s works. “There’s this focus on kindness, and it plays a big role in everything I write.” Its anime adaptation by BONES in 2006 garnered her popularity outside of Japan, with new fans popping up almost all of the time. Her favorite scene is early in the first episode, right after the vase breaks. “I was writing emails to the team saying how much I was loving it!”
Then it was time for Bisco Hatori to do a live drawing, which gave her manager Takeshi Sato a chance to talk about how otaku culture is similar here to what it is in Japan, as well as his love for Los Angeles. He doesn’t have much crafting talents, “well...except Tetris.” The manga series Bakuman inspired Sato to work in the manga industry, and working as an editor has him constantly chatting with different creators in-person or on the phone. As for what skills are needed to be an editor, “Heated intensity is the most important. You and the author need to both be intense so as to make sure you get to the finish line each time.”
After final prizes were given out, Bisco Hatori finished her picture of Haruhi from Ouran, with a loud applause from the audience after its final touches. With a nod to the crowd, Hatori waved farewell as her first panel outside of Japan reached its conclusion. A lot of love and respect was given from the audience to the beloved creator, with her returning said praise with a modest approach. Though it may be some time before we know what’s up her sleeve next, fans of Bisco Hatori’s works will no doubt have their hearts touched thanks to her clever writing and strong-spirited characters.
Special thanks to Erik Jansen of MediaLab PR