What inspired this story?
Ohkawa: The Rika-chan [similar to Barbie] doll boom started when we were little kids. While I didn’t really play with dolls (laughs), the other three had a lot of experience playing with them. We were talking about how it would be cool to have dolls that could move on their own.
Mokona: Eventually, you had dolls with joints, like Jenny-chan. We thought it would be cool to have dolls that could be controlled by a person’s thoughts, not just move on its own.
How did that evolve into a combat story?
Ohkawa: We had wanted to create a combat story for a long time, so we figured fighting dolls would be cool. We didn’t want little girls to be literally beating each other up (laughs).
Were any of you interested in fighting to start with?
Ohkawa: Hummm, I really suck at fighting games (laughs). However, I love watching fighting sports, like Karate competitions, K-1 — all of it, really. No particular fighting style or game directly inspired ANGELIC LAYER. I think it was influenced by the entire sport.
It’s unusual to have a female as the main character in battle-type stories…
Ohkawa: I think that’s because its starting point was with girls playing with dolls.
Mokona: We also thought it would look kinda weird to draw a crowd of boys carrying dolls (laughs).
Nekoi: I think we basically wanted to draw a lot of girls (laughs).
Ohkawa: Contrary to what people think, we don’t really like drawing pretty boys. We prefer drawing girls. For anime adaptations of our works, we ask that the female characters be given preference when we don’t have a lot of time to give feedback (laughs). Therefore, we wanted to create something where the main character was a cute girl. We never even thought about making Oujirou the main character.
The drawing style is different. Any particular reason?
Ohkawa: We wanted the artwork to be more relaxed. I think people have the wrong idea, but we were planning on ANGELIC LAYER to be a comedy first and foremost, in the same vein as 20 Mensho ni Onegai!!
Igarashi: The general feel of the work was reflected in the line, “Icchan go boom!”
Mokona: As a result, the artwork is geared to give the work a comedic feel.
Ohkawa: The TV Series was a lot more serious, so people thought the manga was also more serious than it was. The scenes prior to the battles as well as the reason for Misaki living apart from the mom was supposed to be funny, so I think some readers were kind of confused. That was unexpected (laughs).
You weren’t involved in the anime?
Ohkawa: No, we left it to the anime staff. We didn’t even do scenario checks.
Mokona: Maybe we’re imagining things, but Blanche seems to get special treatment. She’s drawn so neatly.
Nekoi: Blanche is modeled after Kogane, our cat (laughs).
Igarashi: In the TV series, even the romantic element is a lot more serious. Although they’re saying the same lines as the manga, it’s got a totally different feel. That was cool.
Nekoi: There’s a line by Tamayo that goes something like “Misaki’s so cute, it’s hard not to fall in love with her”. In the manga, the characters are arm-in-arm. In the anime, Tamayo is hugging Koutarou from behind in the sunset (laughs).
I heard that for this manga, the ending was created first, and the details of each episode were decided as the story progressed.
Ohkawa: Usually, we like to create the beginning, the ending, and all the details before we start. We heard in an interview with another manga artist that they created each episode as they progressed, so we wanted to try that. So, we gave it a shot and it was hard (laughs). It was a good experience. We enjoyed it.
Mokona: It was really fun on our end. During the battle with Shirahime (Battle 16), I remember Ohkawa raising her arms in joy, saying “This is what we’ll do!!”
Ohkawa: We struggled through that battle. We didn’t know how it would end. We couldn’t come up with good ideas. Hikaru’s weak point was her lightness, so we decided to make Shirahime heavy since she was bigger.
Your stories tend to be more serious rather than lighthearted or comedic. Do you have a preference for one over the other?
Ohkawa: Serious stories tend to be long, so I think it leaves a stronger impression with the readers. We don’t have a preference. We’d like to create something like ANGELIC LAYER again.
Translated from Japanese by TokyoPop.
Interview originally published in CLAMP No Kiseki vol. 4 (Kodansha), released on December 22, 2004.
If you found mistakes in this translation or would like to contribute with translating other interviews, please contact me.