HaruChika author Hatsuno Sei was interviewed in September 2015 for University Co-Op’s Dokusho no Izumi column. University Co-Op released the first two sections on the website with the remainder published in their magazine. The interview contains some spoilers for stories occurring after the HaruChika anime. The first section in particular has talk about the most recently published book “Planet Charon”. If you prefer less spoilers you could skip “1. HaruChika’s New Work” and move on to the second part.
Writing Orthodox Mystery
1. HaruChika’s New Work
Kumazaki: I enjoyed reading the new book “Planet Charon”, the long-awaited sequel to “Millennium Juliet” of the HaruChika series (referred to as HaruChika below), which was published about 3 years ago. This time the third years such as club president Katagiri and student council president Hinohara have retired. I think this volume made me think more regarding the present and the future of the wind ensemble club. Were you conscious of something at the time of connecting the previous works to the current one?
Hatsuno: HaruChika is something that I started out writing with the feeling that it’s like a space in which I publish experimental mystery works. Therefore the mystery factor gets precedence after all, it does not mean that the youth or wind instrument performance parts always have a high priority inside myself. But as the series went on, I couldn’t help but be conscious of the passing of time after all, so I followed it up as well since around the time of “Fantasy Organ”.
Kumazaki: Have there been any changes in your motivation when writing as the series progresses?
Hatsuno: I want to write the way I like it, but since it became as series, some parts which I have to depict accurately, turned up. Such as growth to adulthood or the musical performances. This series has many one-on-one dialogues and is peculiar for having few scene changes. Because I want to focus on that, there were many things I removed. I put in parts that would stimulate intellectual curiosity and humor, while erasing romance and the performance parts. That is very irritating.
Kumazaki: But there are also readers who expect that.
Hatsuno: That’s true. That’s why I somehow made a trajectory change in “Fantasy Organ” with the intention to make it balanced. In a documentary on wind instrument music, there were many great books. For example there’s a famous book called “Buraban Kids Odyssey” (Ishikawa Takako/Little Dog Press). If you want a wind instrument music story of high purity, I recommend that. It’s a story that deals with wind instrument music and you won’t easily come across a work better than that.
As for me, I aim for the enjoyment of reading that is distinctive of fiction, rather than the realism of wind instrument music. For example, the book “Millennium Juliet” has a story called “Duel Play” which crosses over space and time and “Fantasy Organ” features the point of view of adults. I broadened the variation while harvesting various realms in the story. In the same manner I picked up science fiction in “Planet Charon” which I hadn’t done before. I also have that kind of playfulness.
Kumazaki: I thought that the word “star” was a very important word this time. You make a wish on a star, but a star is also a “very distant being”. I wonder why you picked up the star.
Hatsuno: Because I wanted to deal with a normal motif which doesn’t change for ten or even a hundred years. Originally this was a series that I began writing while I was an office worker, so at first I wrote it while targeting readers in their 30s and 40s. I thought of writing a book that would feel interesting to read, even for a working adult who has gained experience like an old fox. That’s why I place importance on the humor.
Kumazaki: Right. I felt that the moods of works like “Jet Black Prince” and “Water Clock” are quite different.
Hatsuno: Among those there are parts I have avoided in this series up till now. I tried hard not to let internet or smartphones which are ever-present these days, and music and television programs in vogue with young people appear.
Kumazaki: That’s certainly the case.
Hatsuno: Even so, I was unable to avoid internet. This time I touched upon internet for the first time in the entire book.
Kumazaki: Digital twin, huh.
Hatsuno: Right right. You could liken the internet to a star. Even in a distant place you can see stars. That’s what we call, being out of reach.
Kumazaki: I see. I also thought that personality reproduction according to data and communicating with someone through the internet even without seeing their face is sort of like the Fermi Paradox phrase “Where is everybody?”. It has a resemblance to corresponding with a distant star. Entangling the star and the internet is unexpectedly interesting.
Hatsuno: I think that internet as a metaphorical expression has many parts which overlap with stars, so this time it took this kind of form. I inserted things such as email, conversion function, Chikamama’s consultation on the internet at the beginning… I deliberately involved internet through the entire book.
2. Hot-blooded characters are cool!
Kumazaki: Come to think of it, I was born in the same year (1994) as Chika-chan, but she is still a high school student.
Hatsuno: That’s true. Chika-chan is still a second year high school student in “Planet Charon”.
Kumazaki: As it is I think I can still enjoy myself at ease.
Hatsuno: I wrote “The top 10 of the blacklist marked by the student council” into it, I can’t end it if they’re not complete.
Kumazaki: So all of the top ten will appear? I’m curious what kind of people will appear from now on.
Hatsuno: There are four people left. The big four remain. I am obliged to round them all up. Once they’re complete, I want to have everyone graduate properly.
Kumazaki: Many oddball characters have appeared, but how did you do the character-molding?
Hatsuno: Straightforward people who are like eccentrics. Their speech is down-to-earth, they are attentive concerning how to handle relationships with a person and aren’t confined to a narrow world.
Kumazaki: They don’t seem like high schoolers.
Hatsuno: Because I have no intention of writing them as real high schoolers. In a good way, I am writing them as idiots who broke through like an example.
Kumazaki: How interesting, I want to see them. They’re honest about what they like and have a clear attitude that they won’t do what is against their own decisions, so I think they’re cool in that respect.
Hatsuno: In a sense, that’s because you’re allowed to do that until you’re an university student. Curiously, rather than cooling down, it’s better to be enthusiastic.
Kumazaki: That way is more cool. Shimizu Minami High School is a school with various club activities huh, such as the “Youth Safari Park”. Many people are properly searching for the place where they belong, and to protect it is something I understand.
Hatsuno: So it became a theme called “Finding your own place”.
Kumazaki: Finding friends and your own place.
Hatsuno: Indeed, the answers to questions like “Why do I have to go to school?” “Why do I have to make friends?” are mounted throughout the series by the way of metaphorical representations.
Kumazaki: “First Love Sommelier” was interesting. That was the book in which I became acquainted with Esperanto for the first time. Although I started reading HaruChika in my mid-teens, I became absorbed in the knowledge that I previously didn’t know about. It was a book in which I was able to find that kind of pleasure.
Hatsuno: It stimulates intellectual curiosity quite well, huh.
Kumazaki: I was stimulated.
Hatsuno: After that, I tried to insert truth beyond reality wherever possible. In one volume there’s at least about one line. But what I aim for the most after all is a mystery that overflows with an orthodox spirit.
Kumazaki: This HaruChika is a mystery in which people don’t die, so there’s no stench of blood. The moment when the truth is out, it feels very good to round up and connect the foreshadowing up till then.
Hatsuno: The connection of the foreshadowing is good, but it’s fun because there’s a difference. Something like an unexpected twist. In an everyday mystery, the greater the difference of the first part and when the riddle is solved, the more it surprises after all. That is interesting. I am writing while paying attention to that.
Kumazaki: Hatsuno-san, do you have any characters you’re fond of?
Hatsuno: Hm, that’s difficult. But as expected I enjoy writing the negotiations between Haruta and Chika. From a woman’s point of view Chika-chan doesn’t seem very girly.
Kumazaki: She’s a girl who’s cheerful, honest, doesn’t get discouraged no matter what happens, doesn’t lose heart and even if she feels down she gets back on her feet. Many women who appear in HaruChika are cheerful, strong and decisive.
Hatsuno: I am conscious of their coolness. I want to depict cool girls rather than cute ones.
Kumazaki: Is that Hatsuno-san’s type?
Hatsuno: They might be my type. I want to depict characters that make you want to follow and mimic their example.
Kumazaki: While reading I found no character I completely hated.
Hatsuno: I make sure not to write them that way.
Kumazaki: It’s good that they all live in a cool manner, huh.
Hatsuno: I hope not to sell flattery as much as possible.
Kumazaki: My personal favorites are characters such as Hiyama Kaiyuu and Asou-san. I loved “First Love Sommelier”’s “Frequency: 77.4 MHz” in which both appeared.
Hatsuno: In that story it was troubling to make use of the radio. Because I heard high school students these days don’t listen to the radio.
Kumazaki: I only listen to internet radio as well.
Hatsuno: I thought I had to make it a very amusing radio portrayal to make high school students listen to the radio, so the content became sort of like that.
Kumazaki: That story was also about finding your own place.
Hatsuno: Right. It’s a bit heavy though. Because it brings up the problem of the nursing of elderly people.
Kumazaki: But it ended refreshingly. When I read that story I thought there seemed to be a message saying: “You need bravery to step forward and decide on something, but that’s on the inside. On the outside as well, there will be someone who pushes your back for you and accepts the things you have decided.“
Hatsuno: I write while keeping that in mind. When you become a working adult, there will be many opportunities in which you will get to know your own place. High school students as well as university students who don’t know their place are privileged. That’s why it’s beautiful to get serious and take action.