Editor’s Note: We recently told you about an incredible new horror comic from Luchagore Productions featuring the artistic talents of Hiro Fujii (Comic Producer and Designer) and Daiju Kurabayashi (Comic Artist). Our very own Danni Darko recently had a chance to talk to these two incredibly talented Japanese genre artists, and we’re thrilled and honored to bring you this exclusive interview.
Thank you so much for speaking with me! First, can each of you tell our readers a bit about your background working in the horror genre.
Hiro: First of all, thank you so much for this interview, Danni! It’s our pleasure. It’s our very first experience to get interviewed by someone. We’ll try to be sweet as possible. I have been doing my blog HORROR SHOX for nine years. I review my favorite horrors in my blog.
Daiju: I started my blog 2 years ago. It is called “Guts of Kurabayashi” which is my joke based on the Japanese title of Evil Dead. Evil Dead‘s Japanese title is called “Shiryo No Harawata” which means “Guts of Evil Dead” in Japanese. When I review, I always put my drawings along with my writing. Hope people love my style.
Hiro: Daiju’s blog is really fun to read. He’s not only good at drawing but also good at writing. He has a unique sense of humor, which makes him special in both drawings and writings. Believe it or not, he published his first novel this year! The title is “Fukushusha (Avenger).” It’s really good. The Kindle version is available through Amazon. It’s unfortunate that no English translation is currently available though.
The two of you make an awesome team. How did the collaboration get started?
Hiro: We met on Twitter a couple of years ago. Our friendship started casually. We both love horror and bonded over that. Sometime after, I found that Daiju is not just a horror lover but also a super talented artist.
Is there a particular film that made each of you immediately fall in love with Horror? What are some of your favorite movies and directors?
Daiju: It’s hard to pick one, but I’d have to say The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974). It made me paralyzed. It is full of brutal, evil, crazy intensity… even though it is not very bloody. It’s even partially comedic. It perfectly described “the happiness of being crazy” and “the loneliness within insanity.” I love all the sequels. I enjoyed the recent blu-ray version so much. (Dark Sky Films’ “40th Anniversary Collector’s Edition” was localized in Japan last year with the Japanese original cover.) As for directors, Dario Argento, Tobe Hooper and John Carpenter changed my life. As for more recent filmmakers, I’d say Tom Six is the best. I didn’t have very high expectations before seeing The Human Centipede (2009). I thought it was just going to be weird. But I instantly fell in love with it after watching it for the first time. I love all three films in The Human Centipede trilogy.
Hiro: For me, it would have to be Nekromantik (1981). Some people assume it is a sick hentai horror, kind of like the sort of thing you’d see on somewhere like cartoonporno xxx or another hentai website. But it’s not that way at all for me. To me Nekromantik is a beautiful twisted love story. And I love all Larry Fessenden’s films — not only the ones he directed, but all of his other film appearances and involvement as a producer. He’s always trying to do something different/creative and giving another perspective, which always makes me amused. As a designer, Dario Argento and Mario Bava are the best.
You two have created some downright gorgeous work for Luchagore Productions, working with Jill Sixx Gevargizian and Gigi Saul Guerrero. Can you describe the content you created for each?
Hiro: Thank you for describing our work like that. We are flattered. Let me talk a minute about how our collaboration began.
It was January 2015. Daiju watched Jill’s “Call Girl” online. He was totally impressed by it. Ater seeing it, he made one quick drawing. He posted it on Twitter. I retweeted it, along with my English notes like “My buddy Daiju loves Call Girl!” Soon later, Jill responded and said, “This is amazing. What is the artist’s name?” After several conversations, she said, “Let’s do a full Call Girl comic!”
It was the moment our team began. I cannot forget it. Daiju and I were very excited. Daiju got strongly motivated by her words. He started to draw that night. Four months later, “Call Girl” comic was released online. Daiju made his debut internationally. Big thanks to Jill, Eric, Tristan and Laurence… as well as all the people involved with with “Call Girl.”
My part is to do my design work to enhance Daiju’s art accordingly. I also help interpret from Japanese to English so we can communicate smoothly. Jill calls me “a comic producer.” I myself feel a bit too flattered by it. I’m a producer. Basically, Daiju is the main player. I am the one who keeps eyes on him so that we can get done what needs to be done. We respect each other. We always talk a lot.
Releasing the “Call Girl” comic changed our life. Jill has been so kind to us since we met. Not only has she helped promote the comic aggressively to get it exposed, but she also invited us to join her community of friends online, and she even often mentioned our names in her interviews. It was like being invited to someone’s party where a lot of unknown people are hanging around. I admit that we were a bit nervous at first. What are we gonna do? But soon later, we started to feel great.
Thanks to Jill we were able to join the horror community and meet a lot of fantastic people, including so many talented filmmakers, artists, writers, and fans — including you, Danni. Making friends like this is the most fun part of creating art. People call us “Daiju & Hiro”. It’s like people are picturing us as a comedy duo like Harold & Kumar! Haha. That idea really makes me laugh.
We are so glad Jill and fans love the extra prologue and epilogue which Daiju added on the “Call Girl” comic. Here’s my guess. Jill and Eric intentionally placed those scenes hidden inside her film like Easter Eggs. It was already there. Completely hidden. It was waiting to be found. Daiju found it. He made it visible. That’s what happened. Jill’s directing style is so brilliant. She always tries to put some meanings in every scene in her film.
Daiju: Very true.
Hiro: Last year we met Gigi Saul Guerrero on Facebook (Thanks to dear Shannon who hooked us up with her. She’s the talented comic artist from Canada). Gigi showed us “El Gigante.” We loved it. We instantly became LUCHAGORE fans. After we saw “El Gigante”, we became eager to create the “El Gigante” comic. We discussed a lot and made our plan. We sent email to Gigi to let her know our plan including some rough drawings, shouting like “Please let us do the El Gigante comic!” We had no idea how she would react.
Thank God she quickly replied to us! It was full of kind words. Wow! We did it! Since then, we started to work on our “El Gigante” comic project. During the process, numerous discussion were made, a lot of ideas were tried, and it became bigger and bigger. Turns out the plan had been changed beyond what we thought at first. It will be over 60 pages total. As we mentioned in the latest sneak peek teaser, we decided to postpone the release date in order to make it bigger, better, and bloodier.
Daiju has been focusing on his job more than ever. He’s expanding his ability as much as possible. He even tries to do what he never did before. I’m proud of him. So believe me. It’s worth to wait. Let me add this. My friend Summer Johnson has been helping me a lot regarding the English writing. Thanks to her!
Daiju: I’m truly honored. Thank you Gigi for liking my style. We’ll show people our absolute best.
Hiro: Happy unexpected things happened while working with Gigi. She asked us if we would be interested in creating the poster for their latest holiday short “A Luchagore Easter”. How can we deny it? CryptTV’s logo has been placed on the poster we created. We are honored. Creating the disgusting egg graphic was so much fun. Now you can see the poster on top of the Luchagore website in very large size, right next to “Luchagore Christmas” poster which also we created. It’s just “WOW”! I showed it to my mom. She said, “Ewwwwwww!” She’s proud of her son.
I chat with Gigi in regular basis, to ask her advice, or just show her our progress to make sure we are going the right direction. She always gives us good advice and suggestions to make things even better. I can see why she’s such a successful director. She’s a genius, and she makes us feel more creative, motivated, and relaxed. Daiju and I felt no pressure at all during the entire process. We really love to work with Luchagore.
The idea of the “Luchagore Tacos” illustration popped up during a chat session with her. It’s our love letter to Luchagore. From what I’ve heard, the printed “Luchagore Tacos” poster is gonna be available in the near future. I don’t know how or when. Probably at some conventions or events. And also, our designed “El Gigante” T-shirt is gonna be there too! We hope people enjoy them.
Daiju and I humbly appreciate Gigi, Raynor, Luke, Gordon and Shane. They’re throwing us the opportunity to learn. Every time we do something with them, even if it’s a one piece of a little pencil drawing, we feel we become a bit better than before. Their suggestions, opinions, and advice make us better. Creating art is such a process. It’s the result of collaboration and communication.. and a genuine passion for getting better and better. We are incredibly lucky.
Daiju: I love LUCHAGORE films. Gory, bloody, disgusting visuals are fun to see. But it’s not only that. I feel some kind of “distorted emotion” in my stomach when I see their films. It is hard to explain in any language, but I feel like I hear bloody poetry. For me, seeing Gigi’s film is like listening to good poetry!
That’s amazing. Are there any other projects you’re especially proud of and/or any upcoming projects we should know about?
Hiro: Prior to last year’s Christmas, we were contacted by Casey Crow who saw the “Call Girl” comic. Casey is an indie filmmaker who created an awesome short, “Klagger.” They were looking for the artist to create their giveaway campaign poster. We created the poster for them. After their Christmas campaign was successfully completed, the winners started to post their photos on Facebook. In those photos, we saw “Klagger” fans holding our artwork in their hands! They frame it! With big smiles! It was spectacular to see people enjoy our work. We thank everyone. Casey, his brother Brandon and their team have been working on the feature-length version of the film, which will be released in the near future. They love horror, which means they know what fans would love to see. It’s promising. We cannot wait to see it.
We were also contacted last year by Naoyuki Tomomatsu, a Japanese indie horror director (Stacy, Lust of the Dead). He offered us a job to create the poster for his latest film, Romance of the Dead. I’ve heard that one of his producers loved the “Call Girl” comic and recommended us. I created/designed their poster with help from Daiju. Tomomatsu runs a film festival called Tokyo Thunderbolt Film Festival. They screened Jill’s “Call Girl” last year. There’s a really fun story about that, but Jill tells it much better on her podcast if you want to go check that out.
Regarding future projects, yes, there are some! Most recently, we received inquiries from two indie filmmakers. I cannot share details about them yet. But we’re hopeful we’ll be able to work on those after releasing our “El Gigante” comic this summer. We need to focus on one single goal at a time rather than trying to multi-task. We prefer to give every project our absolute best.
In my humble opinion, Japan has given the world some of the absolute best in genre cinema and comic art. Who are some of your artistic heroes?
Daiju: We can find a lot of honorable and respectable manga artists in Japan. But let me introduce my favorites:
Shigeru Mizuki – Nobody can draw what he drew. Very original and unique. The detailed artworks are impressive. His black humor is fun to read. It is sad he passed last year. I hope I can become like him one day.
Kazuo Umezu – His “The Drifting Classroom” made my eyes open to horror. It has everything I love… serial killers, monsters, love and craziness.
Junji Ito – I cannot tell if it is horror or comedy. What he draws always fascinates me and creeps me out.
Katsuya Terada – He is not a horror artist, but I respect him a lot. His technique always astonishes me. Even just a simple line drawing, when it was drawn by him, is definitely different from others. He’s special. I always ask myself, “How he can do that?” when I see his artwork.
And so many more! “Joyurei” by Motosuke Takaminato. “Yokai Hunter Series” by Daijiro Morohoshi. I cannot forget Hideshi Hino’s “Jigoku Kozo” which really scared me. I don’t know if it’s available in the US or not, but please check it out when you get a chance. If you are a big fan of brutal, crazy, absurd horror manga, this is right up your alley.
Regarding anime, I am a big fan of Mamoru Oshii. His creations are not for everyone. Some people hate them, but he has been supported by those enthusiastic fans like me. My favorite title is Patlabor: The Movie (1989).
Do you plan on ever making a trip here to the US, perhaps attending one of our massive Horror Conventions? What Horror celebrity would you love to meet?
Hiro: We wish we could be there! But you know, flying over to US from Japan is insanely expensive. We cannot afford it. Of course, we’d like to get there and meet people! We’d definitely love to meet Jill and Gigi in person. Gigi was telling me that Luchagore attends several conventions, and they bring the posters and t-shirts which we created for them. We really wish we could join there! We’d love to go to Slaughter Movie House.
Daiju: I want to meet Tristan (Risk).
Hiro: So do I. I wonder how she smells.
Daiju: I believe she smells magically sweet.
Hiro: How do you know?
Daiju: Because I know.
Have the two of you considered making short Horror animations? Like an anthology?
Hiro: Oh no! We have never thought about that. We wish we could do that, but I believe we need to learn more and more to make animations. I have no idea even how to start. Lol.
How can people contact you, see more of your work, and keep up with future projects?
Hiro: We’re working on our portfolio website. But for now, please feel free to contact us via my Twitter and Facebook page, or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. We’re glad to hear from people. Thank you, Danni! We’re flattered!