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[Waseda University Public Relations Magazine "Northwest Wind" Special Project]
A meeting with Yuji Horii, Ryo Asai and Minako Okamuro

Creating From Waseda (Part 2)

Up until now, Waseda University has produced many creators. Here we will introduce two creators from different fields. Yuji Horii, the creator of "Dragon Quest" and up-and-coming author, Ryo Asai. Along with Professor Okamuro of the School of Culture, Media and Society, we pressed for the rich secrets in producing creators. [Venue] Hotel Metropolitan (Nishi-Ikebukuro, Toyoshima Ward)

Cast

Yuji Horii / Game designer

Born on Awaji Island in Hyogo Prefecture in 1954. Graduated from Waseda University School of Letters, Arts and Sciences I in 1977. Switched to being a game designer after time as a freelance writer. Known as the creator of the famous role playing game series "Dragon Quest." As a pioneer in video gaming, he continues to have an influence, not only in Japan, but throughout the world.

Ryo Asai / Author

Born in Fuwa County, Gifu Prefecture in 1989. Currently studying at Waseda University School of Culture, Media and Society. Debuted as an author by winning the 22nd Subaru New Novelist Award with his teenage omnibus novel, "Kirishima said he's Quitting the Club" (Shueisha) in 2009. Earned acclaim for his smooth style in depicting small changes in high school life from the viewpoint of five classmates.

Minako Okamuro / Professor at Waseda University School of Culture, Media and Society.

Withdrew from Waseda University Graduate School of Letters, Arts and Sciences on completion of her PhD (UCD) in 1990. Entered current position after time as a full-time lecturer and assistant professor at Waseda University School of Letters, Arts and Sciences. Majors in drama and television, and is especially known as a leading expert in Japan on Samuel Beckett. Major publications include, "Theatre of Knowledge, Knowledge of Drama" (Pelican), and "All to Know About Beckett" (Hakusuisha).

Changes in creative methods through evolution of tools
Okamuro

What kind of books did you read?

Asai

From primary school days, I always liked Kodansha's "Bluebird Collection." Works by Kaoru Hayamine and Hideyuki Matsubara. I still like them. At university, everyone is reading difficult books while I read the Bluebird series.

Okamuro

I see. I also admire your drawings of girls. How can you draw so well?

Asai

Girls, from a boy's perspective, are a different species and interesting. Girls have a particular toughness. I felt sensitive in that area, and looked down on it in parts.

Okamuro

You have an icy stare for girls who aren't smart and only cute.

Asai

I wouldn't say icy, but I saw it as kind of horrible, girls who use cuteness as their biggest weapon. My female friends from high school were angry at me and said, "you looked at us like that?", when reading that book. They said that they did have that kind of time in their life, and didn't want to be found out.

Okamuro

Really? Mr. Horii, what were you like at high school?

Horii

I drew manga. At the time, there was nobody around me who seemed to be hanging out with girls. There also weren't many people drawing manga, so everyone used to say I was good. I used to think, "I am 'good'." Actually, in the summer holidays of my third year, I took my own manga to Go Nagai. I thought he would make me his apprentice. But he wasn't to be taken in that easy, and politely turned me down. So I thought I might as well go to university.

Asai

So you went to Waseda. I used to think Waseda was full of strange people, but when I actually came, people were surprisingly normal, that is to say, there were many creative students with their feet planted firmly on the ground.

Okamuro

That's right. Especially in the School of Culture, Media and Society where Mr. Asai and I belong. Even if you write novels or draw manga, you aren't called a "geek." It's a tolerant atmosphere. Even in my seminar, when we make films, it is a vibrant atmosphere and when I say, "write a comment about the lesson", I get substantial feedback. That is really enjoyable. Waseda students have an appetite for expression.

Asai

It's also enjoyable for the students. Especially in the School of Culture, Media and Society, because you know the professors are reading what you have written.

Horii

It may be easier to be creative now than compared with the past. There are many people writing mobile phone novels, and Twitter is also an example of a creative tool. Speaking of Twitter, I think it is a bit like playing MMORPG over a network. By providing your own profile and comments, and being found and followed by others gives you a thrilling feeling that you may be influencing something. I think that is like a game.

Asai

With Twitter, everyone is writing through a "made-up model of themselves", as if they are saying it themselves. There are many university students "directing" themselves in there mutterings. It's like they make a "four in the morning grumbling Me." I am an excessively self-conscious type, so I don't think Twitter is for me.

Horii

As for me, I try not to get too hooked on it as it takes up too much of my time, but I do it and hide my identity. I have about 30 followers.

Okamuro

If you are found out, I think you'll have a huge amount of followers. But the interesting thing about Twitter, although there is an acting aspect to it, there is a part of it where the comments can't be acted out and are rather reflective. I think it's a tool that allows you to be conscious of your real self and acted-out self. I use my real name and communicate with graduates and students, and am followed by directors of dramas I have reviewed. That expansiveness is interesting. From the communication side of things, games can also be said to be that type of tool.

Horii

That's right. By sharing the tool that games are, everyone can use it as a material to play with or talk to people with. That is why "Dragon Quest" has been accepted. People actually like people. People are drawn to places where people gather. Popular products soon produce queues, and that tendency is strengthening.

Okamuro

I feel that now everyone wants to communicate. In that sense, I think that it is possible games will become even bigger as communication tools.

Horii

That is so for games, but along with the progress of computers, the way many things are made has changed. Take novels for example, before, because it was on paper, you had to write the story down in order. Now, when you write on a computer, you can write the middle scenes first and change the order when the novel is complete.

Asai

Yes, you're right there. Listening to what you have just said, I was thinking that I am already taking that line of thought, because I don't think of the story in sequence, I write scenes.

Okamuro

I also believe that the pace of how things are made is accelerating. In the work analysis seminar I take, we can no longer use the analysis methods of old. For example, now many dramas become movies but how far can we take them as a single work, or how do we think about the influence game culture has on dramas and films.In that meaning, I think it can be said that Horii created one of Japan's cultures, the video game.

I want to bring up "creative people" from Waseda
Okamuro

Are there any places on campus or nearby that have left an impression?

Horii

I killed a lot of time on the slope at the School of Humanities and Social Sciences. I would kick cans at Anahachiman Shrine next to the School, or go to the three tatami-mat room where a manga research club member lived. I used to hang out at eateries like "Kitchen Otoboke" or the ramen shop "Merci", but it has changed a lot from then.

Asai

Those two restaurants are still there. They were there in your time, were they? I spent quite a lot of time on the second basement level of the study building. It was always open and became a kind of "Dancers Area." Even if I go there now, there is always a colleague or senior from dance circle there.

Okamuro

Do you have any impressions from your classes?

Horii

I didn't go to many classes. But I did weightlifting in P.E, and that was more fun than expected. That remains in my mind.

Asai

I took volleyball in P.E. Of my other classes, Professor Akio Miyazawa's subculture class was memorable. He was really interesting and I always wondered what he was thinking. He would give topics to express something, be it in drawings or words, anything was fine. Other students writing novels would review each other's work, and all the lessons had us thinking if this kind of stuff was being done at other universities. It felt like we were being experimented on each time and it was really interesting.

Horii

In my time, there were no novel writing lessons. There wasn't a literary arts field.

Okamuro

We stopped taking applications for the School of Letters, Arts and Sciences I and II in 2007, and opened the School of Culture, Media and Society, and School of Humanities and Social Sciences in their place. Mr. Asai is a student of literary arts and journalism at the School of Culture, Media and Society, and I am in charge of representation and media, and TV culture lessons.

Asai

The media class is very popular, there are many students who want to take it

Okamuro

I'm pleased to hear that. Now changes in subculture and game culture are accelerating, so I am starting to think that education must accommodate those changes. Professor Miyazawa, who Mr. Asai mentioned, is a leading playwright in Japan, but through that kind of idiosyncratic class, I want students to know the joy of learning and the joy of creating.

Horii

Yes. I think there are many people in Waseda who want to create things, but it is a masterpiece while it is still in your head. Getting it out and completing it is the hard part. So, anything is fine, but it is important to try and produce one piece of work. In doing so, I want you to know the gap involved in the work between what you have in your head now and the finished product. Good luck to all you students.

Asai

I also want to continue writing stories that I would like to read myself from now on. It was hard for me as a child when I got toward the end of a book. I want to continue producing forever with that unexplainable feeling of "Aaah, I'm coming to the end of the book."

Okamuro

I hope that Waseda University continues to produce people like Mr. Horii and Asai, who can make something out of nothing. Thank you very much for your time today.

(The End)

(To Part 1)