Up Close with Gosho Aoyama – The Creator of Detective Conan

The name Detective Conan would definitely ring a bell for many young adults around the world. He has been an important part of many people’s childhoods, appearing in anime series, movies and even crossovers with other prominent manga franchises such as Lupin III. The latest movie, Detective Conan: The Darkest Nightmare was released earlier this year to much fanfare as well and was screened at the Singapore Writers Festival. 

This year, the annual Singapore Writers Festival invited the series mangaka, Gosho Aoyama, down for a Q&A session just last week where fans were also given a chance to ask the mangaka anything they wanted! It was definitely a rapid-fire session with hands coming up again as soon as Aoyama-sensei answered burning questions from the fans. What answers did he have for them?

WARNING: Possible spoilers for The Darkest Nightmare under the cut.

To open the massive panel discussion that was held in The Chamber of The Arts House at Old Parliament, the moderator and translator asked him a set of questions that touched on his personal life and influences.

Aoyama-sensei revealed that he was like the character Mitsuhiko Tsubaraya as a child, being rather naughty. His favourite childhood manga was Tetsuya Chiba’s Ore wa Teppei and he also professed to be a fan of Sherlock Holmes. No wonder he decided to go on the less-taken route and write a mystery-centred manga! In fact, he revealed that it had always been his intention since primary school to embark on a private detective story!

When asked about the nature of dualism in his characters, Aoyama also revealed that he had the idea from the drama Mikeneko Homes no Suiri where a cat solves crime cases and doubles as a detective. He found the idea interesting and thought that it was a cute aesthetic. When asked if he was inspired by the manga Ranma 1/2, he answered with a simple ‘no’.

Some of the questions were also more specific to certain characters. For instance, Shinichi Kudo’s football skills were inspired by the time when Japanese football was gaining footing in the international football scene. Aoyama also admitted that like Kudo, he was good at sports but bad at music when he was younger.

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Some of the questions also pertained to his personal growth alongside the series. When asked if he did not expect the Conan series to come so far, he revealed that he never expected it. He expected readers to be disinterested in reading a manga with “too many words” but to his surprise, they did. With a whopping 91 volumes of the manga in print, Aoyama also revealed that to overcome any stumbles, he would discuss with his team of editors for long hours and provide them with the necessary direction. He would give them homework to research for trick ideas and would advise them on what did not work in the context of that volume. He would also brief his editors, especially after watching mystery movies together. Research definitely plays a huge role in the creation of the Conan series. Sometimes, briefings with editors could take up to twelve hours. Aoyama revealed that he often had three days to think of the plot outline while drawing the illustrations in the manga would take another five days.

As for the tricks used in the manga, Aoyama admitted to to liking some of the gimmicks as they were also easier for the young audience to understand. He would actually experiment with selected tricks as well. When asked if he had any tips for creating tricks for mystery works, he said that he used permutations and combinations but assured the audience that he would not use any of them in real life murders, which sent the entire Chamber into a roar of laughter. Aoyama also revealed that when he wrote the manga, he did not have any particular target audience and wanted to target people from all walks of life.

Then came a question that was on the minds of many of the audience members: Does Ran know that Conan is really ShinichiAoyama then threw a question back to the audience. “Why does Ran never realise that Conan is Shinichi?” and teased them further, saying that it would be more fun if Ran did not know the truth. Aoyama was also asked about his involvement in the development of the anime series. He then answered by saying that for The Darkest Nightmare movie, there was a lot of input from himself to the point that the staff wanted less interference from him. He did the plot for the movie and also some drew selected mis en scene (the arrangement of scenery on-screen) that he felt other animators could not replicate from his words alone.

He was also asked if the anime adaptation had influenced the manga to which he replied that some characters who used to be exclusive to the anime adaptation ended up in the manga. For instance, Mitsuhiko was added into the manga as Aoyama found that his seiyuu did such a cute voice that he had to transform him from a bully to a cuter character. Likewise, Sato also has a more important role and Hattori from Osaka was also added to the manga. He even said that if not for the anime, Hattori would not even exist in the manga.

Before opening the floor to the audience, the panel decided to ask two more questions that were definitely on the minds of most of the fans. They asked him if the series would come to an end soon or if it would continue for a long time. Aoyama answered by saying that the manga was approaching its climax and that everything has an end. Then, he teased the audience again by saying that it could hit 200 volumes and to look forward to that possibility. For the final question from the panel, they asked if Singapore would ever become the setting for upcoming episodes. Aoyama sent the crowd into excited whispers when he said that the idea was still in his head to have Singapore become the setting for the 1000th episode of the anime and apologised in advance if that never happened.

With that, the panelists then opened the floor to the audience. It was evident that many fans had burning questions to ask him as the very moment the floor was open, dozens of hands sprung up. Some fans revealed that they had flown all the way from Indonesia and even Japan to ask him their burning questions and to meet their mangaka hero up close and personal. Most of their questions pertained to their favourite characters or his time in Singapore. Some of the lucky Japanese fans even managed to have conversations with him in their native language.

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Aoyama revealed that whenever he had writers’ block (or for his case, mangaka block), he would walk aimlessly in his room or just go to sleep. His favourite food in Singapore was also revealed to be chicken rice! The audience also asked if there was a possibility that we would see Shinichi proper again to which he replied that maybe they would. He also promised to give one of the characters a good life after the series ends. One fan, in a rather comedic fashion, then noted that most of the people who get murdered in the cases present in the manga happened to be models or rich people. Aoyama himself was rather taken aback and realised it as well, noting that it was just a coincidence, meeting with laughter from the audience. He also revealed that lovers Akemi and Akai were cousins, sending most of the audience into a shock.

As for the age old question of Conan himself ageing? Aoyama said that it was a secret. He was also asked if he wanted more action in his movies to which he acknowledged that while his recent movies had more action, the next movie will be purely a mystery. Another fan was also curious to know if Aoyama was interested in adapting any other Japanese mystery novels but he replied that he did not have the time to do so. Fans were also curious for a series about Shinichi to which he gave a rather vague answer: “I wouldn’t say no but I wouldn’t say yes”. He also revealed that he named the members of the Black Organisation after alcohol because he found it cool. He also remained adamant in not revealing any future deaths in the manga.

The time-frame of the Conan series was also a topic of discussion. Aoyama revealed that it had been a half a year since the beginning of the manga, prompting him to laughingly remark that ‘there had been so many murders in half a year’. Another fan asked about the possibility of a Conan-themed cafe or exhibition. Aoyama said that he hoped he could do it one day, sending many fans into applause. One of the funniest questions that day was undeniably the one where he was asked if he has considered solving crimes for the Japanese police. Aoyama said that he had no plans to do so and the audience followed with massive laughter.

At the end of the panel, Aoyama admitted to writing with the end in mind and sometimes just letting the story guide itself. He also revealed that he was quite interested in architecture. The man behind Detective Conan is definitely a very enigmatic man brimming with humour and ideas!

With that, the panel came to an end. There was also a book signing and the first 100 or so fans who managed to purchase his manga (bought in either Japan or the Festival Bookstore) had the opportunity to take a photograph with him. For the many fans who flew from other Asian countries, it was definitely  a thrilling experience for them to meet Gosho Aoyama – a man who formed a significant part of the childhood. We at J-Network hope that Aoyama can keep up the suspense with the Conan series!

All photos taken by Astrid

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