To start, when did you come up with the idea for RG Veda?
Ohkawa: When we were doing doujinshis, we talked about creating an original story and that’s when we came up with the basics. We did a kind of digest book which presented the characters and the concept of that world. The editors (of Shinshokan) got hold of it and invited us to do a professional publication.
For what reason did you take “Rig Veda” (the sacred book of brahmins of ancient Hindu) as reference material?
Ohkawa: As I mentioned in the Magic Knight Rayearth interview, I wasn’t very good with fantasy stories. I’m incapable of remembering western names (laughs). We thought it would be good to have something eastern that we were a little more familiar with. But it also had to be different from the ninja tales so we opted for mythology.
Igarashi: Among the numerous eastern mythologies, we chose Rig Veda due to Mokona’s influence.
Mokona: Since I was born in Kyoto, I’ve been very close to shrines and temples during my childhood. And at that time, I was very much in love for that world and I used to visit Sanjusangen-do a lot, a shrine in Kyoto. Thanks to that I was very familiarized with Hinduism and esoteric Buddhism. I also carried with me books which I couldn’t understand very well, such as The Sound of Hindu Culture (laughs).
Ohkawa: She also carried Rig Veda, I asked her to borrow it to me so I could read it. Although we used it as a theme, we mostly consulted the names and the multiples human relationships. The story itself ended up being completely different.
And I don’t suppose it was a big effort to search documentation about it?
Ohkawa: At that time a book entitled Dictionary of Esoteric Buddhism was published and it turned out as a big reference for us. It was such a thick book that you could use it as a cushion (laughs), and it had all kinds of illustrations. A lot of the names for secondary characters and objects were taken from there.
Nekoi: That book was Mokona’s and it’s very likely that she still has it.
Mokona: Yes, I have it (laughs). Even now, I look at it from time to time. It’s a book that serves as a reference for many things.
What’s the reason behind the title “Seiden-RG Veda”?
Ohkawa: Because putting “RG Veda” in katakana was hard to read. We put Seiden (the scared legend) in kanji, so that it would be easier to understand, but we added the “RG Veda” reading to it. The title was chosen in a very simple way. Besides, it was already called the same way when we did the doujinshi.
How was the work in its doujinshi format?
Nekoi: There were loads of gags and comedy. Or better, most of the story was comedy and there was only a little bit of seriousness.
Mokona: The number of pages for a doujinshi is very limited so it was much simpler to draw comedy scenes.
Are there any differences between the RG Veda published professionally and the doujinshi one?
Ohkawa: The general lines are the same. But it differs greatly in the details. The episodes that we didn’t draw for the doujinshis appeared in the professional publication, but there were also episodes that were included only in the doujinshis.
Which cases did that happen, specifically?
Ohkawa: First of all, the character of Ashura is very different. For the doujinshis, Mokona created an Ashura character independent, who doesn’t intend to understand anything, so that it ends up being even more impertinent than the one from the professional publication.
Mokona: Not impertinent… he was a lot more hateful (laughs).
Ohkawa: Ashura only had a double personality and always showed a violent character. However, in the doujinshis, given that it was an amateur publication made for fun, and that we had only thought about the story concept, the characters were not fully elaborated yet. Neither Mokona had not written the original work in structured conditions, but only a few short notes with comments… Because of that, when we decided to publish it professionally, we brought back story and characters which until then remained in disorder.
Nekoi: The biggest difference in the doujinshi episodes was the story of the Kishimo god (if it exists or not). It was the longest story that we published as amateurs, it had at least 60 pages. But in the professional publication nothing of that appeared.
Ohkawa: When they talked to us about running it in a magazine, we showed them the storyboards that we had for the doujinshi. But they didn’t like it and we had to prepare The Stars Festival chapter instead.
Mokona: The story of Aizenmyo-ou is also very different content-wise in regards to the professional publication. The outcome is the same but the development of what happens after Rasetsu’s appearance has nothing to do.
Ohkawa: The difference is that in the doujinshi we don’t see what happens after Rasetsu’s appearance.
Was Rasetsu’s story included?
Ohkawa: Yes, there was a Rasetsu story, but the content was very different.
Mokona: He didn’t have that charming wife (laughs). Although his issues with his older brother were the same.
Ohkawa: Same with Karyoubinga’s story, right?
Mokona: It was also in the doujinshi. General Taishaku-ten kidnapped her and everything was the same, even the murder, but the measures taken by Karura-ou after that are completely different. In the professional publication, she worries about her clan, but in the doujinshi she doesn’t show that concern and straightly joins Yasha-ou’s cause.
Ohkawa: Many more episodes that I had thought of were discarded. Then, because of the different concept interpretations, there were subtle changes in the development. In the doujinshi, such elements were also interesting, but what prevails is cohesion and it ended up a bit violent.
Was it planned from the beginning for RG Veda to last for so long?
Ohkawa: No. At first they asked to draw something for South magazine, and they said that if the readers’ survey responses were good, we would do three more chapters for Wings magazine.
How strict (laughs).
Ohkawa: Not really, in professional publishing, that is normal. RG Veda was a very long story, so that we didn’t like the idea of cutting it in half and we also thought about a different story, but the editors’ hopes were very strong and in the end, RG Veda turned out the way we planned it. At first it was The Stars Festival and after that followed the three chapters about Ashura’s reborn.
Igarashi: We ended it in a point where we gave an idea of “and the journey continues” and, as the readers’ response was very good, we were allowed to continue.
Were there any later conditions in order to continue?
Nekoi: Yes, there were (laughs). When the first volume came out, we had to surpass the sales of the first print run and they told us that, if we managed that, we could continue publishing it for more time (laughs). Although after the first print sold out, we weren’t given any other conditions as such.
As a result, it continued for a long time. Didn’t you have a lot of difficulties?
Ohkawa: The thing that worried me the most was labeling the dialogs. Since the characters’ names were in kanji, and not very common ones, if there were mistakes, we were the only ones able to realize it. We worked very hard proofing and revising everything. While we complained about how difficult all those names were (laughs).
Igarashi: That’s what we got ourselves into (laughs).
Ohkawa: Since there were so many complicated kanjis, at that time the editor in chief suggested: “What if we used katakana?”. But if we left them in katakana, it would be hard to remember them even for me so in the end they allowed us to keep them in kanji (laughs). I understand how the editor in chief must have felt like to ask something like that (laughs).
Mokona: Being in charge of the drawings, I had a hard time with the screen-tones. At that time I wanted to make a high quality graphic work like Bastard!! The Destructive God of Darkness (Kazushi Hagiwara) and specifically, they started using screen-tones in a very elaborated way and the technique to apply them was essential to any artist wanting to follow the latest trends.
Ohkawa: And the artist, of course, has a very hard work ahead. Because the clothes that Ashura and the others worn were not only filled with lines describing ornaments, but also they have to apply the screen-tones on top of them (laughs).
Nekoi: As we were applying screen-tones, more we wanted to apply. When we started with the series, we didn’t use that much, but once you start doing it, it’s hard to stop… half the time it felt too much.
Igarashi: The manuscript sheets ended up being much thicker (laughs).
Mokona: And besides the screen-tones, when we debuted we had no idea of how to draw backgrounds. I wondered again and again what kind of background to add to the drawing and I always went to stores.
Nekoi: That’s why, in some scenes, the landscape drawings have some differences (laughs).
Ohkawa: One time we finished it in three days, but in special occasions we didn’t finish it before one week. What we can draw in one day, it took us up to four or five days back then.
Mokona: We drew and drew but we never finished it (laughs). With doujinshi we could establish a deadline whenever we wanted and postpone them as we pleased. But with professional publishing you have to draw everything within a scheduled deadline. It was very hard to adjust ourselves to that. On another note, the manuscript measures were different. The drawing sheet for a professional publication is bigger than the doujinshi one.
Nekoi: At that time, we were always worried if we filled all the blank space. We saw the manuscript sheets so big that we asked ourselves if we could really fill them out. I now look back and realize that simply filling them out not always results in something good to look at.
When did you start thinking that you have caught the rhythm of things?
Nekoi: In my case, during Kumara’s story…
Mokona: For me in Karyoubinga’s story. As for the screen-tones, that would be around volume 4. Until then I was in the process of trial and error.
Ohkawa: With the story, at first I didn’t know how to find a balance between comedy and the serious plot in many occasions. And also, in the beginning there were a lot of names and just the thought of introducing all of them overwhelmed me. At first I would write whole sentences that now would have been cut. By now I understood that some sentences were not necessary.
Igarashi: Let’s say that we were too young (laughs).
The materials that you use now are different from those used at that time?
Mokona: At that time I used nib pen to draw, but not anymore.
Ohkawa: We only drew RG Veda and Tokyo Babylon with nib pen.
Mokona: And also the beginning of X and Gakuen Tokkei Duklyon.
Ohkawa: The good thing about it is that it gives a shining result to it and the bad thing is that they scare me (laughs), but that’s what we did back then. Of course we did drawings with round pen, but it was what we could do at the time.
Igarashi: Even if we were to draw it again now, it wouldn’t look the same.
Mokona: Whichever way you look at it, the eyes are too big and it’s obvious that the shoulders’ width are too large. That’s how it looks to me now, but at that time we believed that it was the right balance.
What do you think now when you look back and see RG Veda?
Ohkawa: By being our debut work, nothing came out exactly the way we wanted. Although we knew how we wanted, we weren’t able yet to get the most out of our capacities. And even though we thought that having a few extra pages would make us feel more comfortable, it wouldn’t really have done us any good (laughs).
Nekoi: At one point I read what was published in the magazine and finding it uninteresting made me feel depressed.
Mokona: It makes me very happy that a manga we drew just for fun ended up being published professionally. When the tankobons started coming out, I was extremely moved.
Igarashi: We had already self-published our works but now these were books that you could find in any bookstore.
Ohkawa: When I saw our books in line in a bookstore, I felt very satisfied. Although now I pretty much lost that primitive feeling (laughs). But with regards to RG Veda, until we finished serializing it, each time I saw it in the bookstore, I was taken by an overwhelming feeling.
Igarashi: Ah, something else. We were in charge of the tankobon design, but the truth is that we wanted to use golden letters for the cover (laughs).
Translated from Spanish by Chibi Yuuto.
Interview originally published in CLAMP No Kiseki vol. 6 (Kodansha), released on February 22, 2005. Original text available upon request.
If you found mistakes in this translation or would like to contribute with translating other interviews, please contact me.