Bungo Stray Dogs’s creator Kafka Asagiri was welcomed to Anime Expo 2023 with open arms and a passionate crowd during his panel. The manga series is currently receiving its fifth season of the anime adaptation this summer. Anime Trending had an exclusive opportunity to sit down with the creator as he shared his philosophy and creative insights.
Thank you for your time at Anime Expo 2023. Could you talk about what inspired you to create characters based on notable authors and historical figures?
Kafka Asagiri: I wanted to take famous literary authors that I think are so cool so that everyone can learn about and enjoy them. I want them to be more well-known and liked more so I wrote in a way that makes people more seek out the original works and read them. And that is the reason why I decided to write Bungo Stray Dogs.
You first started out working at an automobile company before becoming a full-time writer. What motivated you to change your career and start writing stories?
From the manga Black Lagoon, there is a villain named Ibraha that says: “What we do isn’t a profession, it’s a way of life!” And I wanted to live by that motto by making my profession into my way of life and that’s why I became a writer.
By the way, Ibraha’s job is being a terrorist… (laugh)
Were you familiar with Black Lagoon before being an author?
Yes, I read Black Lagoon before changing my career to becoming a writer. From that time, there were many different influences and lines that served as a compass for me in the way I live my life. This line from Black Lagoon was one of them.
Another one is “Anpanman’s March,” the opening theme song for the children’s anime, Anpanman. In the second verse of the song, it says: “Why were we born? What do we live for? Not being able to give an answer is something I don’t want!” And that really captivated my heart.
To our understanding, you sent Harukawa-sensei a few background lines for each of your characters to create their initial designs. What was that process like in terms of exchanging ideas and refining the final designs?
For 90% of the characters, the first drafts that Harukawa-sensei designed were used as the final designs. So there was very little need to have back and forth. Harukawa-sensei’s character designs were perfect and I hardly needed to say anything to them so we used it as-is.
However, there was one character who was the exception where we dug deep and went back and forth about them many times. That particular character is Chuya.
Could you talk about the creative process with illustrator Harukawa-sensei and yourself when you work on the Bungo Stray Dogs?
I first think of a simple manga art blueprint or storyboard called a “name,” which includes a rough art and line of dialogue, and pass it to Harukawa-sensei. Harukawa-sensei takes that, polishes the art, and turns it into something befitting for manga. For the most part, I keep my mouth shut and don’t ask her to make any changes. I fully trust her skills.
How much research do you spend on each real-life author before creating the characters? Were there any surprises while doing research?
It really depends on the author. For authors that I am knowledgeable about, I utilize what I know and my impression of them. For authors that are lesser known, I purchase their literary works and spend several days doing research.
When I was researching Ernest Hemingway and his works, there was one story that really stood out and surprised me. Hemmingway and his fellow writer friends came up with the idea of trying to come up with the shortest novel.
He wrote, “For sale: baby shoes, never worn.” It’s only 6 words, but this novel shot me in the heart. After reading this, it reminded me again of how much of a genius Hemmingway is.
Bungo Stray Dogs features many Western authors like F. Scott Fitzgerald, John Steinbeck, Fyodor Dostoevsky, and many others familiar to readers outside of Japan. Were there any other writers that you wanted to add in the manga, but haven’t gotten the chance to?
Ernest Hemingway, Hermann Hesse, Dante, and there are so many authors I want to add, especially European authors. In particular, if Dante were a character, he would be so overpowered.
While creating the story and world-building for Bungo Stray Dogs, could you share if there are any works that inspired you and helped provide guidance?
I derive a lot of inspiration from movies. Every time I feel writer’s block, I watch Avengers.
With the upcoming fifth season of Bungo Stray Dogs, could you talk about the working relationship and collaboration with the anime staff?
I participate in every script meeting. There, I check alterations in the script and discuss them. However, for the rest of the anime production process, I usually don’t touch anything. I leave it up to the anime staff.
And there are two reasons. First, I am a professional in writing scripts, but I am not a professional in animation. The second reason is I want the anime staff to work on it with creative liberty. I want them to dive deep into the work in anime form.
The manga series is in a very climactic story arc now. What can readers look forward to the most as the Detective Agency faces its greatest challenge?
The first point would be that in the battle between Dazai and Fyodor, who would win? The second point is that I want everyone to pay close attention to this story’s weakest character Aya and her battle.
I like strong characters, but when it comes to weak characters, I really enjoy when weak characters are desperate to win, giving their all to fight and overcome their struggles so I put much of my own writing power into writing these scenarios.
What does a day-to-day look like for you, the creator of Bungo Stray Dogs?
It’s very relaxing and enjoyable!
The reason why is because even if a person gives it their all to accomplish their task, no matter how long they do it, the limit is three hours. Any more than that and you run out of creative gas.
So for this job, each day, I only have to work three hours.
I am so happy. (laugh)
If you were in trouble, which character from Bungo Stray Dogs would envision rescuing you?
I don’t care who it is. I want someone to rescue me.
If I had to pick, it would be Edgar Allan Poe. Because if he wrote a novel about a vacation, I can relax in that world for a long time.
Could you please share any final comments for Bungo Stray Dogs fans outside of Japan?
First, when I first started working on this title, I really had no idea that it would become so beloved by fans all over the world. From now on, I will put my all into creating the best story I can. I hope everyone will continue to cheer for me.
Yen Press is publishing the English version of the manga series Bungo Stray Dogs. Volume 23 is currently scheduled for November 21, 2023. Crunchyroll is streaming the anime series including the latest fifth season.
Translation by Momo Cha