Special MahoIku Interview Starring Asari Endou, maruino And S-Mura

Hey there, pon! What’s magi-cooling? MahoIku is set to celebrate its 10th anniversary this year and what better way to do my part than to translate an interview with the author himself, the illustrator and the editor looking back on their long journey! Today, we’ll find out all about the magical girls within them!

This is an interview from the Magical Girl Raising Project Official Fanbook that was officially released in October 2016. The interview itself was, going by context, conducted before the airing of the anime and the release of Queens. So obviously spoilers ahead.

I’ve also decided to feature an exclusive sketch of Marika that didn’t make it into the final volume of Jokers as well as other exclusive illustrations from various artists who have contributed to MahoIku whose work has made it into the book.

I Want To Write A Chaotic Battle Between Magical Girls!

First of all, how did this work come to be?
Asari Endou: I remember that when I first devised this project, I had so many ideas gushing forth in my head. It was really matter of ten or even twenty ideas and me wondering which ones of them I should pick. Originally, it was a vastly different story, but after many editorial meetings, a constant back and forth of “this won’t do and that won’t do”, as we ended up meeting in a family restaurant, the project gradually took shape.

So you had quite the trouble in setting the foundations?
Asari Endou: That’s right. When asked with “What do you want to write?”, I replied with “I want to write a chaotic battle between magical girls!” (laughs). The ideas I proposed were all quite dark, weren’t they?
S-Mura: The debut work “Bishoujo wo Kirai na Kore Dake no Riyuu” was gag fiction, so from my side of things, I was hoping for something in the veins of that.
Asari Endou: Huh, so I was desired to write something gag-related then?
S-Mura: Now that’s what landed you the “Kono Light Novel Ga Sugoi!” Kuriyama Chiaki Grand Prize Award, didn’t it?!
Asari Endou: That’s right. However, I hadn’t even considered that.

This sure is a surprising fact that’s being revealed now. maruino-sensei, by the time it was settled that you would be in charge, the first volume had already been finished?
maruino: No, the matter at hand was still the work featuring 16 characters.
S-Mura: Asking for 16 different designs within a single work was a task far beyond the ordinary. However, they would gradually just pass away. So we considered to just ask for five or six designs at first.
maruino: At the first meeting, as I was listening to the general introduction of the project and the twists, I got quite fired up. So I proclaimed: alright, I’ll draw them all.
S-Maru: It feels like that at that point, the gears of fate had been set into motion once more.
maruino: All these sixteen girls were properly aligned and then would get killed off. I was wondering if it would be alright to be so wasteful and then came to think that I wanted to see them on a two-page spread. When I heard who would be the first to die, I settled on making her the cutest.
Asari Endou: That was Nemurin. She then went on to become popular for some reason.

Endou-sensei, when you got to see maruino-sensei’s illustrations, what were your impressions?
Asari Endou: Well, these sure are amazing. Really amazing stuff.
S-Mura: What is it with this wording, it’s unbecoming for an author.
Asari Endou: But really, I was totally overjoyed. Something really amazing came out of it. “This’ll work!” is what I thought.

How are character designs settled?
Asari Endou:
maruino-san arranges the descriptions from my writing and that in turn receives the feedback itself in the books, that’s kind of what it’s like.
maruino: While key points themselves are laid out, I’m really grateful that I get to take care of everything else. There are some real fixations from my side of things, however, Endou-sensei doesn’t seem to mind.
Asari Endou: Well, from my side it’s more like, I toss too much into the ring or rather the parts that I leave to maruino-san are too big so I’m very sorry for that. Depending on the character, there are also cases where everything is entrusted to you after all. So roughly speaking, I provide a motif or an idea, and ask her to cook something up entirely on her own whims.
maruino: That didn’t happen with the first volume however. It started happening from Restart onwards.
Asari Endou: That’s true, as far as Lapis Lazuline is concerned, I think I didn’t offer anything on her design.
maruino: The instructions I was given were nothing more than “A Blue Magical Girl”. (laughs)
Asari Endou: It really was a simple instruction that didn’t go any further than that.


Originally, The Fates Of Life And Deaths Were Reversed For Pfle and Lazuline

Endou-sensei, do you write spontaneously or rather don’t rely too much on a firm concept?
Asari Endou: I change things in the process of writing. When I change things on my own that were previously discussed in a meeting, I get scolded. At the end of the day, things would get reverted and I would have wasted my time.
S-Mura: There are also times when what comes out is completely different from the initial plot.

Well then, is there a character who has had their fate changed in quite some drastic ways compared to the draft?
Asari Endou: That would be Pfle and Lapis Lazuline. The outcome of their death and survival was originally the other way around.
maruino: When I first read the manuscript featuring Pfle’s death, I cried, but when the book came out, it had taken a completely different direction and I was all like “Is this for real?”. It was a big shock to me.

It’s surprising that Pfle was originally supposed to die. Reading that scene must have been quite grave.
maruino: I keep seeing the divergence in her fate. When drawing my illustrations for Restart, I was practically crying, like “Pfle is going to… Pfle is going to…!”
Asari Endou: I really am terribly sorry for this.

What was the reason for reverting her fate in the last minute?
Asari Endou: Truth to be told, because it was set back.
S-Mura: The thing is that with progressing the story with Pfle’s death, the curtain just wouldn’t fall. No matter how many times we redid it, the last chapter just wouldn’t come to a proper resolution, and so, after talking it through with Endou-san over and over again, we settled for redoing a part somewhat earlier than the conclusion. It got as far as undoing Pfle’s death and approaching a different route from thereon.

I see. She has turned into quite the vital character by now.
Asari Endou: It’s because I was in a position where I couldn’t think of anything without her. By now, throughout the entire story, she has become a key person, so it stands to reason that she might have been a necessary element after all. Still, I’m sure there are also quite a number of people among fans who would have been happy for her to die there.
maruino: Ahahahahahaha.

So as one would expect, Pfle is a character who’s incredibly divisive with the fans?
Asari Endou: That might not yet have been the case with Restart. By now, there are also people who hate her guts rather passionately.

From the writer’s perspective, is there a part of you that also wants it to be that way?
Asari Endou: No, of course it’s not like that. While I did think that that was interesting in its own right too, one thing I want to be understood is that there’s not really any character I have the intention for to be looked down upon.

Mahou Shoujo Ikusei Keikaku by Pochi Edoya 魔法少女育成計画まほいく江戸屋

The Character Design Has No Bearing On Life Or Death

Is there any character that strikes your fancy in particular?
maruino: In terms of design, I give it my all with all of them, so there is no particular one on that front. From the perspective of a mere reader, I assume it’s Fukuroi Marika and General Pukin?
Asari Endou: As for the design part, I love Nemurin.
maruino: Hooray!
Asari Endou: Followed by Kafuria. So from a design standpoint, these two form the Top Two?

What specifically do you like about them?
Asari Endou: With Nemurin, I like the color gradation of her hair. Like how it doesn’t look like long hair but actually is. As for Kafuria, I wonder… perhaps it’s a personal bias for that kind of veil hiding the face that’s part of mourning dress fabric.
maruino: So it was a fetish. (laughs)

Yet both of them were easily discarded in the actual story?
Asari Endou: Well, we’re just talking about the designs here.

So a character’s design has no bearing on whether they’re going to live or die?
Asari Endou: None. I don’t do any of that “This one might be not be popular so let’s kill her. This one is really cute so let’s refrain from killing her.” stuff. All that changes based on design are revisions such as a character using their tail in close combat or fitting the portrayal of their actions to their looks.
maruino: Getting to read that is super interesting. When I experience how my depictions have made it into the story, it really gives me a feeling of “I’m so glad I gave it my all there!”

Well then, are there any instances where you look at the designs and then settle for the characters’ magical abilities?
Asari Endou: No, that also doesn’t work that way… as you would expect, the parts regarding crucial abilities are settled first. Such as 7753’s goggles for instance.

Speaking of 7753’s design, she has a boy’s uniform. How did that come to be?
S-Mura: That was because Snow White’s school uniform was the sailor uniform type so we requested one with a different motif for a magical girl, that’s about what we asked for. And then, who would have thought, we received a male school uniform.
Asari Endou: That sure was a surprise. “So this is what that has turned into!”, kind of like that.
maruino: I pondered a lot about the part of a school uniform with an air around it unlike Snow White’s, and ended up worrying about it so much I figured there might be no harm in trying this out and that’s what I submitted.
Asari Endou: That’s the feeling it had. What an amzing power of the imagination.

By the way, which are the characters favored most by the readers?
S-Mura: We had included a “Readers’ Card” as a questionnaire post card in our volumes, however, in the column that asked to tell the readers’ favorite characters, Lapis Lazuline’s and Snow White’s names were brought up especially often. Especially Lazuline lead the Restart characters by quite a wide margin.
Asari Endou: That’s why she has numerous appearances in the short stories.
S-Mura: Speaking of the Episodes volume, it was two characters who scored favorably with readers who ended up on the covers.
maruino: Snow White had already made it on a cover, so we were wondering which other characters were really popular and it turned out to be Lapis Lazuline and Top Speed.

With Episodes Phi, Tot Pop is a character who made frequent appearances, is she also someone who was popular with the readerbase?

Asari Endou: Well, in terms of popularity, she scored more in the mid-field actually. However, since I was all about wanting to write her, she was suddenly all over the volume. She sure is handy. Her career as a magical girl is also quite the long one, so it’s not weird for her to be featured in so many different story set-ups. Limited’s group of middle-schoolers meanwhile doesn’t appear a lot. The same goes for the Pure Elements from Jokers. The time of activity they had was so short so establishing connections to other characters is tricky.

魔法少女育成計画柚木 涼太

Which Scene Do The Two Of You Like The Most And Which Illustration?

Among all the scenes you have written so far, which one do you like the most?
Asari Endou: My favorite scene, huh. I wonder which one that would be… after all is said and done, I think it’s the last stretch of Restart’s conclusion. I’ve said this before but when I’m in the process of writing, I keep rumbling about how I’m forced to rewrite this and that yet when the book hits the storeshelves, I’m always glad about what I did.
maruino: I love the scene in the climax of Jokers, when Marika doesn’t let go of her enemy. As she is on the borderline between life and death and is repeatedly pierced by Shufflin, she still doesn’t let go of her and keeps attacking with her thorns. That’s when I realized: “Wow, I love Marika!”
Asari Endou: There are several scenes where Marika won’t let go of her enemy. If I remember correctly, even in the first Shufflin battle, she ends up grappling…
maruino: That’s right.
Asari Endou: It makes me anxious that I might just be writing the same things over and over again.

Moving on, what’s your favorite illustration?
Asari Endou: When Pechka gets trampled on in Restart. In Limited, it’s the last one with General Pukin.
maruino: Same here. No matter how you look at it, that’s not the face of a magical girl.
Asari Endou: As for Jokers, it’s the Solar Cannon. Or should I rather say “Solar Heaven”? While it’s Fukuroi Marika’s technique, before there was a Solar Heaven, there was a technique called “Solar Cannon”.
S-Mura: Truth to be told, there already was a Solar Cannon implemented in the initial draft, but when revising the script, a new technique came to be, and that brought with itself a new illustration.
maruino: I love that one too. In order to fully emphasize on the strength of the flash, I didn’t make use of any kind of grey scale.

MahoIku Marika 袋井魔梨華

The First Work That Is So Well-Received That Even On The Net It Garners A Huge Attention

I assume that Mahou Shoujo Ikusei Keikaku is your first work that has elicited such a big response?
S-Mura: That’s correct. I’m glad that the response was so big immediately after the initial sale.

When you heard that, what were your thoughts?
Asari Endou:
I was genuinely overjoyed.
maruino: I was sure that it would sell well so when I heard about its success, I was all like “All right!”

So it’s like you got to hear the readers’ voices essentially?
Asari Endou: That’s right. Point by point. And I’m not just talking about the opinions and reactions that come in through the editorial department, I also check the net for reactions. Feedback and thoughts really push me forward.
S-Mura: Directly after the sale of Mahou Shoujo Ikusei Keikaku, websites that usually don’t feature light novels featured it and it received good reviews on Bookmeter and such and that makes me really grateful. It wasn’t just about the content, there were also people who saw the cover and then decided to purchase the volume, so there are a lot of people who resorted to what is known as “cover purchases”.
maruino: It really is a blissful story, isn’t it…
Asari Endou: When I first saw the cover myself, I really felt quite the impact.

Each story features 16 magical girls, however, is there any particular obsession with the number itself?
Asari Endou: 16, 8, 4, halving these numbers just like that, makes for a good suspense or so I believe. 32 would have been too high after all, so I went with 16.
S-Mura: To be honest, featuring 16 characters, from the perspective of the editing process, was quite worrisome. Never mind a serial publication, with just 288 pages for a volume, portraying 16 characters was a point of contention.
Asari Endou: Actually, before I started writing, I was asked if it wouldn’t be better to cut the overall number down to 12 people.
S-Mura: However, Endou-san declared “I’ll do it with 16!” and when I saw the finished draft, sure enough, there were 16 characters included.
maruino: Even though there were few depictions and explanations, I still remembered each and every one character vividly. I remember thinking, after finishing, that it was 16 characters indeed.
S-Mura: Of course, there was also an influx in opinions like “There weren’t enough pages.” or “I wish we had gotten a deeper look into these characters.” but even more than expected, also such ones as “I really liked the fast-paced feeling it had.” and “Within a single volume, it achieved all it had to.” so from my standpoint as an editor, I once again made many new discoveries.

By the way, it might be a bit late for this question, but why are the character illustrations held in chibi 3-heads-size style?
maruino: That’s because, for the first volume, I was conscious of the setting in regards to the game’s avatars. That’s why the characters all stand upright.
Asari Endou: Starting with Restart, they all got their own poses.
maruino: That’s right. Since there’s no longer the game avatar motif, I decided to give them all a vibe of actually being alive and that’s how the posing came to be.

In Restart, Snow White was mostly just a guest character and the main characters were completely replaced. DIdn’t you have thoughts of bringing in more characters from the previous work?
Asari Endou:
As we were in talks of the next work at a meeting, the first work had finished as its own story, so we naturally tended towards doing an entirely new one. The overall setting should be left intact, however, the game’s rules and characters would change. Also, this time around, we would go for killing the character on the cover. (laughs) Snow White got to live because there was no other way with her on the cover, I got to hear something like that somewhere and that did trouble me a bit.
maruino: So you actually minded that. (laughs)
Asari Endou: Well, rather than that itself troubling me, I didn’t want for characters who had the air of a protagonist with them to be relegated to a safe space, that was the intention behind it.
maruino: That’s the first time I’ve heard about this. (laughs)

maruino-sensei, so you never had any thoughts on that kind of intention?
maruino: I wasn’t aware of that at all and hadn’t even considered the possibility.
Asari Endou: If we did it like that with the second volume, you would come to wonder how we would proceed with it from the third volume onwards.
S-Mura: Well, there was a part where people said that the cover characters’ fates would alternate between life and death with every volume.
Asari Endou: That’s just a coincidence. Sure, Aces might have been just a fluke? But then again, if Bluebell’s to die in the next volume, would that imply a continuation of the pattern?
S-Mura: Well, it’s all just coincidental, so it’s best not to think too deeply about it.

On that note, are there any parts you are bitter about because you were fond of them but they were nixed?
Asari Endou: I’ve been thinking forever that I would have been glad if Lazuline hadn’t been killed. Don’t you feel sorry for her? She had no relation with that one person after all, that’s what I said.
S-Mura: Oh, was it like that? Who gets to live and who gets to die, who had which opinion is something I don’t remember anymore. (sweats) How we would proceed to treat Ripple, we had so many turnarounds during our creative meetings for that as well.

So it wasn’t just Pfle who was about to die but also Ripple?
Asari Endou: Yeah. That would have happened in Limited.
maruino: Actually, I’ve read the version where Ripple died. It was a huge shock. And then, as I was sent the following version, I was all like “Oh, so she survived!” (laughs)
Asari Endou: Over the course of the meetings, we had several arguments on whether Ripple should live or die. At first, I didn’t like the idea of killing characters who had previously survived, but then S-Mura-san got to me, asking me if that kind of thinking was the right way to go about things. So then I figured he had a point and simply killed her off but S-Mura-san went inbetween again. (laughs) If you kill her, you at least have to it with the proper spectacle, that’s what it boiled down to.
S-Mura: It’s true that characters who survived shouldn’t get a guarantee for further survival, but if you decide to kill them, then it must be done in the right way, that’s what our conversation was like.
Asari Endou: I don’t want to play favorites with certain characters, so when it’s their time to die, I think it’s okay to let them. However, it’s true that when I think of other works where characters are reintroduced just to die, I always feel very disappointed, so S-Mura-san was probably in the right here. (laughs)

So, is there anything like a setup that you tearfully deleted?
Asari Endou:
It wasn’t really tearfully, but there was one where Lapis Lazuline was established to be Calamity Mary’s daughter. And so, I even had her have a mole under her eye added that the two of them would share, however, I was then very bluntly told “There isn’t even any point to this kind of plot thread, is there?”…

Now that you mention it, Lapis Lazuline’s family situation feels like it has special circumstances to it.
Asari Endou:
It’s a father-child household. Anyway, Mary had her husband and daughter flee on her.
maruino: When I was told to do the character design, that’s what I was told and still believed so for quite some time. And so, when Restart was sold, I was told after a bit of time “We did away with that concept” and that stunned me. (laughs)
Asari Endou: The part of the mole still managed to survive however.
maruino: It’s far from just the mole, Mary’s leopard pattern is the reason for Lapis Lazuline’s zebra one. Both also share drooping eyes. I’ve also played with the thought of her face matching her mother’s post-transformation, but then did end up not doing that. (laughs)
Asari Endou: Yeah, you didn’t after all. It wouldn’t fit Lazuline’s character anyway or rather even more importantly, no matter what, she couldn’t have been Mary’s daughter. That’s also how she turned out to be much more naive.

魔法少女育成計画愛敬 由紀子

The Long Journey To A Fully Realized Anime Adaptation

Can you tell us on what you felt when you first heard about the anime adaptation?
Asari Endou:
Well, there were many points at which I heard about the anime so to speak. The first signs came in shortly after the first volume had even been released I think. However, not much progress in talks had been made from thereon and only after many forths and backs, a proper progression came to be.
S-Mura: That topic came up and then vanished again, then came up again and then once again vanished, that’s essentially what it was like.
Asari Endou: Well, that’s just what it is like (with anime). That’s why when I first heard about plans, I was overjoyed, but as time moved on, these feelings let down.

However, at some point, the final decision came in after all, right?
Asari Endou:
It sure did but it was more like “So this time it’s final for real.” -> “That it mostly is, yes.” -> “So it almost nearly is.” is what the process was like so there never really was an ultimate confirmation. (laughs)
S-Mura: For us, too, an anime adaptation wasn’t something we had any details about or rather for the level of the Kono Rano Bunko, this was a first, so we were complete beginners in terms of anime, meaning we ran about in confusion a lot.

Well then, when you were able to see the first image illustrations or character designs…
Asari Endou:
I think that was… somewhat recent actually?
S-Mura: These came in one after another around the end of 2015 I believe.

So when you finally got hold of them, what did you think of them?
Asari Endou:
I thought they were amazing. Really, that’s all that I could think, that they were amazing. (laughs)
maruino: For me it was the same, they were amazing. (laughs) They truly were. Even though I create designs that are not constructed for motion, for the staff to take them that far, I felt grateful and also in awe at the professionality. Really, “amazing” is the only way to describe it.

There are also characters in the novel that are not featured in illustrations, when giving them designs in the anime, were you asked for advice or did you give your opinions or anything of the sorts?
I’ve designed all the human forms of the magical girls. For the comicalization I had also designed numerous characters, however, this time, I was also asked to design the characters I hadn’t designed back then.

So for the anime too, all designs were lifted from maruino-san’s as a baseline?
That’s correct. As for the main 16 magical girls, all design decisions were in our control.

Are there such parts that concerned Endou-sensei?
Asari Endou:
For character depictions, it’s a necessity to really delve into it, such as how old they are, what their specific postures are, essentially the kind of mental image that we want to get across. I also had to look into the books and in some cases correct characters’ ways of speaking or differences. Still, that barely ever ended up happening.
S-Mura: Including director Hashimoto and scriptwriter Yoshioka, the staff had a really good grasp of the source material, to the point it made us even feel a bit in awe. There were many times when parts that we did not put into the anime caught us by surprise too.
Asari Endou: And that is probably why the ones who were excited the most to find out how the anime would turn out were none other than us ourselves.

Can you tell us what you felt when you first saw these images move?
Asari Endou:
I thought it was amazing. (laughs)
S-Mura: That again!
Asari Endou: No, but really, I was so moved by it, I was really glad. Like with how well the characters’ hair moved.
maruino: I was absolutely floored. Seeing the characters’ expressions move, their gestures and hand motions. I totally want to see the actual anime as soon as possible.

Which parts are you looking forward to the most?
Asari Endou:
It’s got to be the action after all. Just what kind of vibe it will give off, I am supremely looking forward to that. Also how the cruel scenes will be depicted.
maruino: As for me, nasty scenes are a no-go. I’ve read the novel but you can’t see images thereof in that. However, I still think I am looking forward to see them here.

The part that gets adapted in the anime is the entirety of the first volume, right?
Asari Endou:
Correct. It’s constructed around the first volume with the baseline and short stories interwoven.

I want to hear some about the further proceedings of the source material. First of all, how many more volumes do you plan to release?

Asari Endou: I don’t know that. It might continue for a long or a short time. Especially the angle of Snow White’s story will soon be concluded. I believe there will be two, three more books.

And from thereon you might or might not continue?
Asari Endou:
S-Mura: Of course, there is also the matter that we would like to continue as long as there’s a popularity going with it.

About the next sequel story, QUEENS, if there’s anything you have to say about it, please tell us.
Asari Endou:
I wonder what is okay for me to say… maybe that someone is going to die?
S-Mura: Everyone already understands as much though. (laughs)
Asari Endou: Well, these books are often referred to as the “card game series” or the “uppercase letter series”, however, I could also say that as a continuation, this is the final arc to JOKERS and ACES or that for the time being, this is a stopping point to anything related to the organization of the Magical Kingdom.
S-Mura: There’s also to point out that Lady Puk Puck is incredibly adorable.
maruino: The hurdles have just been raised. (sweats)

So there’s finally going to be an image of her?
Asari Endou:
She gets to be on the cover even.

So she will receive a character designs from hereon?
That’s how it is.

Well then, we are looking forward to it.
Asari Endou:
That we are.
S-Mura: That we are.
maruino: The pressure~!

Likewise, are there any expectations that you, maruino-san, have as a reader?
maruino: Eeeh, let’s see… I don’t want for death to occur?
Asari Endou: I understand that much, I really do. However, I have my doubts on whether I can deliver on that.

Then so be it. Please give us cheers of encouragement to each other for the future endeavors.
Asari Endou:
For always putting you on such a tight schedule, I am sorry, would like to apologize and am hereby asking for forgiveness. That is all I can say. Also, thank you for everything so far.
maruino: Oh no, no.
Asari Endou: I also can hardly say “Give it your all!” since fundamentally, I am always indebted to you so I’m not in a position to cheer you on like that.
maruino: All I can tell you is to please take care of your physical health.
Asari Endou: I’m giving it my all.

And last but not least, a message to your fans please.
Asari Endou:
Thank you very much for your continued support of my work. I will continue to strive on so please look forward to that.
maruino: Thank you very much for the ongoing support. When looking at the illustrations, figures and customes you make, that also gives me great energy for my designs that lie yet ahead! If you could continue to make me feel so from now on as well, I would be overjoyed.

Well, now that sure was magi-interesting! Especially since S-Mura adds so much to these conversations just in terms of dynamics with Asari Endou. I hope you’ve learned some new things as well! And I also think it’s interesting to look back at interviews that are… half a decade old… and see how some of these statements have aged. Let’s just say that I’m glad it wasn’t just two or three more volumes until the conclusion. Unless we detract breakdown and the Episodes volumes, in which case… (sweats). How Asari Endou’s promise to mind his physical health has turned out? Well, as for that, you better not check out his twitter account.

Speaking of checking things out! I’ve also translated some other interviews!

And written magi-long reviews too! We’re slowly but surely assembling a bible here in regard to the length. How magi-ambitious!

And with that said, I wish you all a magi-happy 10th anniversary! May you partake in countless Clantail petting sessions, shiritori adventures with Micchan and staring contests with Mei!

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