There’s no doubt that Yoshihiro Togashi is a master storyteller, despite his unnerving health conditions. He has had two back-to-back successes with Yu Yu Hakusho and Hunter X Hunter, changing the landscape of Shonen using the foundation laid by Akira Toriyama.
Every aspiring mangaka would love to know the secret behind creating such captivating stories, and in a recent Q&A on “Iwakura and Yoshizumi’s Show” with the former Sakurazaka46 member, Yumiko Seki, Togashi revealed this secret.
When asked what story constructs he uses while creating character details, the legendary manga author mentions 3 important categories that define a character
And these are determined in no particular order within the flow of the narrative.
To explain this further, he uses Killua as an example and says the following:
“It started with the narrative structure of him being a friend of Gon’s around the same age. His circumstances, such as having superhuman physical abilities and being in a family of assassins, were roughly determined; an appearance was then created to fit his circumstances and background; and finally, his personality was shaped by the conversations he had with Gon and the other two.”
(The main characters of Hunter X Hunter)
(Gon and Killua)
Just like any other artist, he looks for inspiration from media already published for character design, his mental inventory of manga, novels, movies, music, historical and cultural figures, entertainers, and athletes. For Killua’s appearance and character, he used 3 models as the basis.
He offers a specific procedure for personality and circumstances, which he describes as “the true pleasure of creation and the lifeblood of character formation.”
Basically, Togashi begins structuring his story by placing the character in situations that he comes up with and deciding how that character’s personality will shape up depending on how he or she responds to those situations.
Despite having a general notion of the character’s personality before putting them in a specific situation, he acknowledged that these characters frequently act differently from what he expected.
That’s why he mentions that personality and circumstances are interdependent. Based on one’s personality, he or she ends up in a certain situation, and that could in turn change that person, for better or worse. We’ve seen this play out in shonen multiple times, with Naruto, Nico Robin, Vegeta, etc. and how their personalities changed after associating with Kakashi, Luffy, and Goku respectively.
Even in My Hero Academia, Tomura Shigaraki became who he is because of the circumstances he was left in after accidentally killing his family and All For One taking him in as his successor.
In Hunter X Hunter, Killua was brought up as an assassin and through experiencing the Hunter Exam with Gon, Kurapika and Leorio, his whole idea of social interactions changed, and has been with Gon ever since.
His whole sense of what is right and wrong was completely altered after meeting Gon. And Gon… well… he had a screwed-up perception of morality, so that’s why the duo were constantly put in circumstances that challenged their views. That is what Togashi means by giving the following example:
“For instance, even if a character is set up with “a strong sense of justice,” their position will change depending on the definition of justice and their circumstances. Their response to the other person’s objections can provide an opportunity to change and supplement their personality and circumstances.”
We see this playing out when Gon gets mad at Neferpitou. Killua tried to put some sense in his head but instead got an identity crisis when Gon began to not trust Killua and his reasoning. That moment tested their friendship like no other.
(Gon and Killua’s feelings towards each other change after the Chimera Ant arc)
Therefore, the story began to change, leading Gon to let loose and risk his entire life trying to kill Neferpitou, and hence the Zodiac Election arc, which included the narrative of Killua and Leorio trying to save Gon from his coma.
Togashi goes on to state that in order to prevent his characters from becoming “copies of the author,” he incorporates ideals, beliefs, behavioral habits, preferences, and tastes that he finds hard to accept into them and says Gon is a perfect example of this.
“Debate shows are what I would recommend. When setting up a scene, I actively introduce situations where opinions clash, similar to discussions and debates, and then build on them.”
We see this clearly happening during the Hunter Exam, where Leorio and Kurapika have a disagreement while they are up against a set of prisoners. And Tonpa uses that to spark tension between them.
Towards the end of the answer to the question, Togashi reveals that he uses historical facts and nonfiction as a major inspiration to create his circumstances but does not give examples.
About Hunter X Hunter:
Hunter × Hunter is a Japanese manga series written and illustrated by Yoshihiro Togashi. It has been serialized in Shueisha’s shōnen manga magazine “Weekly Shōnen Jump” since March 1998, although the manga has frequently gone on extended hiatuses since 2006. Its chapters have been collected in 37 tankōbon volumes as of November 2022.
It was first adapted in anime format in 62 episodes by Nippon Animation, which ran on Fuji Television from October 1999 to March 2001 but stopped until the York New City arc. A reboot by Madhouse aired from October 2011 to September 2014, totaling 148 episodes, with two animated theatrical films released in 2013. This reboot covered everything from the 1st arc to the Zodiac Election arc.
My Anime List describes the overall plot of Hunter X Hunter manga as follows:
“Secret treasure hoards, undiscovered wealth… mystical places, unexplored frontiers… ‘The mysterious unknown.’ There’s magic in such words for those captivated by its spell. They are called ‘Hunters’!”
Gon Freecss wants to become a Hunter so he can find his father, a man who abandoned him to pursue a life of adventure. But it’s not that simple: only one in one hundred thousand can pass the Hunter Exam, and that is just the first obstacle on his journey.
During the Hunter Exam, Gon befriends many other potential Hunters, such as the mysterious Killua; the revenge-driven Kurapika; and Leorio, who aims to become a doctor. There’s a world of adventure and peril awaiting, and those who embrace it with open arms can become the greatest Hunters of them all!
Source: Hunter X Hunter Fandom