In his career Nagasaki worked with renowned manga artists like Osamu Tezuka, Sanpei Shirato and Takao Saito. He met Urasawa in his second-year at Shogakukan Inc. He started to collaborate with Urasawa, working on most of his manga titles. Nagasaki quit Shogakukan in 2001 to become a freelance manga producer. His job is to help manga artists create stories and plots and also with sales strategies. He writes stories for Shin'ichi Sugimura's Diaspolis, Siemu Yoshizaki's Deka Girl. He's credited as Producer for Naoki Urasawa's Pluto, a retold Astro Boy episode. Nagasaki is given the credit of Co-Plot Writer for the 20th Century Boys manga and Urasawa's latest Billy Bat.
Tell us what you remember about the time you and Naoki Urasawa started the 20th Century Boys manga back in 1999.
I remember thinking that Urasawa was a surreal manga artist. In the beginning, he said he wanted to draw a story of a man who dreamed of the end of the world and he had this symbol mark design as a title of the manga with no name. He was thinking about having a big monster as the agent to end the world, but I suggested a religious cult. Urasawa is one of a few manga artists who can draw both adults and children. We put a lot of our childhood episodes into the story. I had a feeling that 20th Century Boys would be the manga to summarise Urasawa's career at that point.
Would it be accurate to assume that your relationship as an editor with Naoki Urasawa is kind of symbiotic, similar in the way Fujiko Fujio and Yudetamago are?
[Note: Fujiko Fujio is a manga creating team, consisting of Abiko Motoo and Hiroshi Fujmoto. Yudetamago is also a manga creating team, consisting of Yoshinori Nakai and Takashi Shimada.]
That's how I see ourselves, too. I believe that it was possible because we share a similar kind of morality and sentiment about society. Our level of tolerance is the same. Even if we deal with an evil character we both want justice to win in the end. Urasawa's recurring theme is a struggling retribution of unsuccessful men. My contribution is to suggest more complex plots. Urasawa comes up with a bad guy who has an interesting human quality, like Manjome in 20th. The villains I come up with are cold-blooded and evil. I think our differences are the key to us creating interesting manga, because one person's imagination is usually quite limited. Urasawa is incredible in the way he can digest any suggested idea and make it completely his own.
Both you and Urasawa's names are credited as screenwriters in the movie version of 20th Century Boys. How did that happen?
We both felt strongly responsible for the material whether or not the movie was a hit or a flop. The story in the film is different in some places and the same in other places. The way the movie deals with Friend is different, which resulted in different dialogue. We think Friend's identity isn't really important (laughs) but it is for the movie, so we wrote it differently.
Last question. What kind of movie do you think 20th Century Boys will be?
Urasawa and I are waiting with interest and anxiety to the reaction of the fans of the original manga. The movie and the manga are different entities but we want them to have a link. We're all serious about making a good movie so I'm confident that it'll be an enjoyable one. I hope those who have never read the manga will see it, too. In one interview Urasawa did when he started to draw the manga, he said something like, "I don't want to reminisce about the 20th Century nostalgically, and I want to examine it." Much of the story is the answer to the question, What was the 20th Century? The sentiments expressed in the movie are those of people who lived through half of the 20th Century. I guess it'll be an intriguing movie to see in the 23rd century, too!
About Chapter Two:
Chapter 2 is full of mystery to be unfolded in the Final Chapter. 20th Century Boys - Chapter 2 is based on 10 volumes of the original manga series. To adapt it into a movie forced us to alter the story. When we were making a story for the manga series, we had many plot ideas we ended up not using. The second chapter of the trilogy employed one of those ideas. So it is still an extension of the manga series. A version of 20th Century Boys that could have been. This is a story revolving around Kanna and Otcho and Friend's rise to God status. We made sure not to change the characters and their moral values, even if we had altered the story. The first chapter of the trilogy is made to look exactly like the manga series. But this one steps into an alternative universe. I'm confident that it retains the essence of the manga series for those who have never read it and those who have read it hopefully won't find it strange either.
In this movie, the character of Sadakiyo asks himself, "Am I a good guy, or a bad guy?" It's a question that's thematically central to the story. Would words that were important to a child remain important as the person matured? His question makes us think of how a person transforms over the years.
Many seem to want to know who Friend is. But what Urasawa and I want to show is not who he is but what he is to us. I hope that we can get that point across to the audience. In the Final Chapter you will see what really happened in the apparent peace of Kenji and his friends' childhood. This movie lays out all the mystery to be resolved in the next chapter.
About Chapter Three:
You'll find out everything in the last 10 minutes. I know I wrote the screenplay but...I cried when I watched the last scene. There were so many side stories and mysteries in the first two movies and the last 10 minutes of the final chapter deals with all the questions. We started writing the final chapter in the beginning of 2008, just when the Chapter 1 was in principal photography. The screenplay went through a trial and error process as opinions were voiced leaving us with various story arcs. We particularly had a tough time deciding how straightforward to make it. Urasawa and I spent a lot of time deciding how to end the original manga, too. We wanted the readers to keep thinking about the meaning, so we chose a more suggestive ending. We considered ending the movie in the same suggestive way but eventually we decided to make an ending that suited the movie, for those who knew 20th Century Boys through the movies.
The movie has a movie ending but the theme of it remains the same. What Urasawa and I wanted to ask with 20th Century Boys was not who Friend was but what Friend was, and what the 20th Century was for us. As long as that remained the same, I didn't mind other things being different from the original manga. One difference can be seen in a promotional poster depicting Two Friends. There was no such scene in the screenplay. When Urasawa and I visited the set, Director Tsutsumi conceived the idea of the Two Friends. We approved his idea right away and it was shot on the spot. Also the climactic live concert scene is quite different. The movie version is more emotionally satisfying, suitable for a big movie climax. And remember; don't leave your seat during the credits. You'll definitely regret if you didn't stay.
© 1999, 2006 Naoki Urasawa, Studio Nuts, Shogakukan © 2008-2009 “20th Century Boys” Film Partners © 2008-2010 4Digital Media