(This interview was conducted and published in the November 2013 issue of Shousetsu Yasei Jidai, then republished in Honobu Yonezawa and the Classics Club in 2017.)
Table of Contents
Michio Shuusuke interviews Honobu Yonezawa
Michio Shuusuke is an author who won the Special Prize of the 5th Horror-Suspense Awards in 2004 for his debut work, Eyes on their Back. He also won the Naoki Prize in 2011 for The Moon and The Crab.
Michio: Please tell me the good places in Gifu.
Yonezawa: I can’t think of any places that are especially good compared to anywhere else, but there is a Chinese restaurant with delicious food that I could bring you to. Do tell me if you come to Gifu.
Michio: Could you recite a line from a poem as a reflection on your development as an author since your debut?
Yonezawa: A line from a poem? That’s quite the unreasonable request. I’m not very good at this, so please let me go with a line that I immediately think of.
Nothing happened!/Yesterday simple vanished/Like the blowfish soup.1
Then again, even if I survive today, I’m not sure about tomorrow.
Michio: This is a psychological test to figure out the title of your favorite full-length novel.
You are standing alone on a riverbank. In front of you is a boat that can fit only one person. On the other side of the river is a beautiful woman, a frightening wolf, and a duck. The wolf is attacking the woman, who suddenly catches the duck and is about to push it into the wolf’s mouth. At that moment, you notice a book fall at your feet. You pick it up, and it turns out to be a full-length novel. By some coincidence, it also turns out to be a novel that you really like. What is the title of that novel?
Yonezawa: Who’s the Shadow?2, I suppose?
Michio: Now for a psychological test to figure out your favorite type of woman.
You are standing alone on a mountain summit. You look up to see a colorful hot-air balloon in the distance. On it is a dog, monkey and pheasant. With a loud voice, you call out to one of them, but you cannot hear their response. The hot-air balloon gradually gets closer to you. When the balloon gets close enough such that you can clearly see the animals, you call out at the dog, monkey or pheasant once again. What kind of woman do you like?
Yonezawa: OK, I get it, how about we slowly talk about this next time? We’ll have the dog, monkey, pheasant, but we’ll leave out the recorder.
Tsujimura Mizugi interviews Honobu Yonezawa
Tsujimura Mizugi is an author who won the 31st Mephisto Prize3 in 2004 for her debut work, A School Frozen In Time. She also won the Naoki Prize in 2012 for I Saw a Dream Without a Key.
Tsujimura: Yonezawa-san, you’re known for sending renowned confections like Castellas and dorayaki for all sorts of occasions like moving and receiving awards. What is your favorite local confection?
Yonezawa: Kuri Kinton4… is the first thing that comes to mind, but lately I’ve been finding the cream buns of Hattendo to be delicious. Have you tried them before?
Tsujimura: What is the best sightseeing location that you would recommend?
Yonezawa: I’m quite embarrassed to give such an ordinary location, but I recommend those who have not climbed to the top of Fushimi Inari5 to give it a try.
Tsujimura: Yonezawa-san, you continue to fascinate us with your extremely thick shell for letting others into your circle. I think of you as a friend, and assuming that you think the same way, when did I become your friend?
(I’m certainly glad that this request for me to be an interviewer arrived.)
Yonezawa: W-What are you talking about! I have no such quality, probably. I’ve had five or six people tell me in succession that they feel that I was being distant towards them, and I believe you were present to witness that, but this is still wholly unexpected! It has been eight years, but our first meeting was the panel discussion with Kasai Kiyoshi6 and Kitayama Takekuni7. At the time, I thought of you as “someone sharing a table for work”, but we started being more friendly and casual to each other afterwards. In fact, as someone who usually stays at home or goes out on his own, I’m glad that you care about me.
Tsujimura: Yonezawa-san, you seem to be a down-to-earth person, but what is the most impulsive purchase you’ve ever done?
Yonezawa: …American Dream Fund…
Tsujimura: Please tell me two gadgets from Fujiko F. Fujio’s Doraemon that you would like to have.
Yonezawa: Gadgets so versatile that they can grant any wish depending on how you use them are against the rules, I presume. Now, if I refrain from picking the Time Machine, What-If Phone Booth8 and Lie 8009… Ah, but this also completely reveals my desires. What a terrifying question. Well, with the Time Cloth10 and the Adapdation Light11, I should be able to live comfortably. (The Adaptation Light can also be used to withstand both hot and cold weather, right?)
Nagaru Tanigawa interviews Honobu Yonezawa
Nagaru Tanigawa is an author whose debut work The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya12, won the Grand Prize for the 8th Sneaker Award in 2003. His other works include Let’s Leave the School.
Tanigawa: Are there any authors whose works have influenced your literary style in any way, regardless of whether they write mysteries?
Yonezawa: Tsumao Awasaka13, but his frontier of refined simplicity is too far for me. The inner emotions of his characters are not directly written on the pages, and yet their mental states are keenly transmitted to the reader. I found that to be a formidable tool. In that sense, rather than being influenced by Tsumao Awasaka, I aspire to be like him.
I have tried to emulate Mikihiko Renjo’s14 writing, but it proved to be impossible. Also, whenever I read Juran Hisao15 or Futaro Yamada’s16 works, I will want to write like them, but it is probably impossible. Putting aside the problem of having the elementary knowledge of it, I believe that my type of writing is different.
I think there is an author whose writing style is similar to mine, but it would be impertinent for me to say it here, so I will tell you secretly some time. His literary style is really interesting, and I will never get tired of it.
Tanigawa: You must have read numerous books for as long as you can remember. Out of all those books, could you name the best 3 or 5 stories that were able to make you laugh from the bottom of your heart? Not limited to mysteries, of course.
Yonezawa: When I was a kid, I used to laugh at anything, but as for whether I will still find it interesting now…… It’s awful; I had already forgotten the names of the books quite a while ago.
I do remember something funny, and it was related to a proofreading error, where Sartre was written as Saru (monkey). I have no idea why and how I came across that, but another book that I recently read, Book of Misprints, contained that error, and that made me nostalgic.
You said that I’m not limited to mysteries, but Berkeley’s Top Storey Murder was a story that made me laugh. He sometimes writes to make fun of people who read too many mysteries, and Top Storey Murder was the most fun out of his stories.
A story that I laughed at for the plot is Siniac’s Rabbit Cuisine Tastes of Murder. It’s amazing that it’s funny not because of the sentences or the structure, but because of the plot itself. None of the characters have any sense of restraint; the latter half of the story made me burst out in laughter.
H. G. Wells’ The Stolen Bacilius/My First Aeroplane, which was recently released (in Japanese), also made me laugh a lot. There were many works that give off a bad taste when they try to ironically mock society, but I remember being thoroughly entertained by this book.
Tanigawa: I often fantasize that if John Dickson Carr17 were still alive today, he would be creating a huge number of astounding locked room tricks which make use of the latest technology. If you could revive a deceased mystery author and somehow make them write a book, whose soul would you summon? Please give your reasons for your choice.
Yonezawa: Indeed, I would like to see how Carr would take in the development of the study of history.
I would like to slowly think about this question, but the more I think about it, the more have the feeling that even if I call back an author who has reached the end of their natural lifespan, they will not be able to produce another book. If that is the case, I would rather call upon authors who pass away before they managed to realize their ambitions, since calling on those who have gone past their natural lifespan would be a bother for them……
Tanigawa: There have been many stories written in the style of The Finishing Stroke20. What do you think is required for it to work effectively? Please tell me the composition of elements such as plot, tricks, logic, direction and showiness. You could say that it requires 60% idea, 30% logic and 10% thrill, for example.
Yonezawa: Sorry for twisting your premise, but actually, I do not really prioritize writing in the style of The Finishing Stroke. I believe that by only placing emphasis on the element of surprise, the story would turn into just a box of surprises. Of course, a mystery would be desolate without some surprises. If we assume that there are a lot of stories like The Finishing Stroke, I would say that it is because the authors like the feeling of lowering the curtain suddenly, right after they have finished writing whatever is necessary.
Back to the question, I recently heard this answer from Ayatsuji-sensei21, and I have been influenced by it. As he said, it is all about putting the readers in the right mood. If done well, even mysteries where it comes as no surprise as to who the culprit is can leave a strong impression. I thought that to be an excellent idea.
Tanigawa: As you read more mystery stories, the more you get tired of typical mysteries, and begin to yearn for better excitement, perhaps with a more unexpected culprit, more acrobatical logic, or more insane tricks; when you finally get to the strong medicine like irregular conjugation, meta-narratives and anti-mysteries, you come full circle, return to the orthodox mysteries, and the loop repeats. Do you see the mystery genre undergoing such dramatic changes in the future?22
Yonezawa: Damn, I think I might have answered this question a little with the previous answer. Would mysteries undergo a fundamental change? I think that local change could certainly happen. Someone is bound to come up with a style that no one else has thought of before. However, even if that translates into a temporary movement, I believe that the mystery genre as a whole will not change fundamentally.
Aren’t fresh styles and structures the necessary product of the complicity between the reader and writer, based on the act of reading mysteries? I personally think that it’s interesting for that to be true, and I have actually written about it before (about the “complicity between reader and writer”, not the “fresh styles and structures”). However, on second thoughts, that is not the main thread of the story. With a strong setting, the variants that play around with cliches will appear, I believe.
I think that I probably want to see that in mysteries, or rather, I think that the best approach would be to aim for the completion of the story while applying those techniques to the mystery aspect. For that, you would have to disdain from wanting readers to have the assumption that mysteries are supposed to go a certain way, no matter how much you like it. I suppose that is why I do not want the mystery genre to go through internal changes and end up with a dramatic metamorphosis.
Wait a minute, you asked me whether it was possible if such change was possible, but I think my answer was about whether I desire such change. Sorry for that.
Tanigawa: This is a consultation rather than a question. As I get older each year, I have gradually come to realize that it is difficult to live in this world with only the belief that human nature is fundamentally good. If you have some sort of secret method to live a carefree life, please share it with me. Not that I’m accusing you of being a carefree person, of course.
Yonezawa: Everyone will die eventually. It should be fine if you are aware of that fact, right?
Gatou Shouji interviews Honobu Yonezawa
Gatou Shouji was the person in charge of series composition in the anime adaptation for Hyouka, and also handled the scriptwriting for Full Metal Panic and The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya.
Gatou: Long time no see! By the way, I was the main culprit for making Chitanda have huge boobs in the anime adaptation for Hyouka, but frankly, what do you think of it? Do you hate me for it? Or are you fine with it? Based on your response, people may gossip about you liking huge boobs (or small boobs), so please think carefully.
Yonezawa: Since the direction for Mayaka was already decided based on the setting, treating Chitanda that way in contrast was a truly intelligent decision, I believe.
Gatou: I’m really sorry about that. Putting that aside, how are you recently? Are you healthy? Did anything unpleasant happen to you?
Yonezawa: My health is fine, but since the end of August, I feel like I’ve been mired in a rhythm in which my work is not going smoothly. When the galley proof23 arrives in PDF form, the printer malfunctions; the emails that I receive don’t have attached files; the documents I send via fax require additional checks; the glue goes missing when I want to send the galley proof back in an envelope; when I want to drink a cafe au lait, there is no milk, only yogurt.
I’ve been hit by so many individual, minute issues where I have to redo something that I had a dream in which my work gets completed when I say, “It’s OK.” I think it’s mainly caused by the practical aspects of my working becoming a little messy, though.
Gatou: That must be quite unpleasant. Come to think of it, your icon on Twitter is a racoon. Is there a reason for that?
Yonezawa: Huh? It’s a bird, though…
No! This must be one of those situations where you point at a deer and declare it a horse24! And those who call it a deer are killed! Yes, its a racoon! And it’s there because I love racoons!
Gatou: I see, thank you for that. Also, the Gindaco25 at the Yotsuya26 intersection that I would often stop by after post-recording sessions has apparently closed last year. That’s a really sad thing. Please say some words for Gindaco.
Yonezawa: The post-recording sessions I attended were during the hot season, so I never ate at the Gindaco at Yotsuya… It would have definitely been useful if it were during the cold season!
Some people may not like the crispy batter of Gindaco’s takoyaki, but I love it. I also love how it’s soft inside, and how they use dashi broth. I love the sauce flavor and the shoyu flavor, regardless of whether they contain green seaweed or not.
I love them.
Gatou: Alright, thank you for the hard work. We can slowly chat in the Kadokawa’s next Thank-you party.
Yonezawa: Yes. I’ll be bringing along the collection of short stories we talked about the first time we met, and it would be great if you could sign it.
It’s that book, you know.
Satou Satomi interviews Honobu Yonezawa
Satou Satomi is a voice actress who gave an enthusiastic performance as Chitanda Eru in the anime version of Hyouka. She has also done various roles like Tainaka Ritsu in K-ON!
Satou: Please tell me the details of how the Hyouka series was conceived? (When, how, what were you doing when you thought of the idea?)
Yonezawa: The root of it was a study I wrote during my time as a student.
I came into contact with the subgenre of “everyday mystery”, and I wanted to write in that style myself, so I wrote some short stories with a university student as the protagonist. I got used to it, and started having thoughts of submitting my work. At that moment, I decided to change the setting from university to high school, and it became Hyouka.
Satou: Please tell me your candid thoughts of the Hyouka anime, and if there are any scenes that left a lasting impression.
Yonezawa: When I write my stories, I usually don’t distinctly imagine the characters’ faces, and instead I think of their silhouettes, so to speak, so I was surprised to see the characters that appeared in the anime.
As for scenes that left an impression, I really liked “Those Who Know Something” and “Is it Sunny out in the Mountains?” Since I have always been a fan of mystery dramas set in closed rooms, I was really excited to watch the former. For the latter, the original story was quite a short one, so there was a lot of time to work with, and as a result, I remember that the emotions depicted in that episode were fleshed out in a very detailed manner.
Satou: What kind of existence do you think Chitanda Eru has?
Yonezawa: Ahaha, when I say, “I’m curious about that” during work meetings, I often get asked, “Are you acting like Chitanda?”, even though they are really common words. Since this happens to even me, it must happen a lot more for you, Satou-san.
In all the humble works I have put out, Chitanda is the character I’ve known the longest. But to be honest, there are still some parts of her that I cannot grasp. I generally know what makes her happy and sad, but I feel like I still don’t fully understand her deeper feelings.
I believe this is because the <Classics Club> series has been written largely through the eyes of Oreki. To him, Chitanda is still a mystery.
Satou: What animal would you compare yourself to?
Yonezawa: Hmm, hmm. If it’s like a fox or raccoon that can turn into a human, a thought comes to mind; I share the dislikes of a cat.
Satou: Please tell me about your favorite place. (You can give the specific location, shop name, or give the general atmosphere that you like!)
Yonezawa: I like places that give the feeling of accumulated culture. It’s hard to describe it in words, but I feel happy when I see places that have been lived in for hundreds of years, or scenery where detailed arrangements have been added here and there.
That, as well as western-style houses. But I also like Japanese-style architecture… and lots of other places.
Task Ohna interviews Honobu Yonezawa
Task Ohna is the mangaka for the manga serialization of Hyouka in Weekly Shonen Ace.
Task Ohna: Excluding human beings, what is your favorite living thing?
Also, do you keep a pet?
Yonezawa: I don’t currently have a pet, but my house used to have a Java sparrow.
As for my favorite living thing… I can’t really think of one. I feel like I’ve been living a life with very few animals around me.
Task Ohna: When creating a story, does the text come to your mind?
Or do the images come to your mind?
Yonezawa: I am very clear about this. It’s the text that comes to my mind.
It all starts from the text, but I’ll check for any deficiencies or inconsistencies with the images in my mind afterwards.
Task Ohna: Is there anywhere you want to go someday?
The places I want to go increase at a greater rate compared to the places I’ve been to, so they’ve just been accumulating.
Task Ohna: Please tell me if you have any habits or methods of taking a breather when you are stuck in your writing.
Yonezawa: I take walks at night. I think about vicious things like the culprit or their method of committing the crime while randomly drifting around.
Task Ohna: Please tell me your top three favorite historical figures.
Yonezawa: Hmm, this is a difficult question. It might be a little different from my favorites, but I’ll list the figures I’m currently interested in.
Editors (Tier 2) : Joshua Fisher
Assistants (Tier 1) : Definitelynotme, Rolando Sanchez
Thank you very much for all your support!
- A haiku by Matsuo Basho, the most famous poet of the Edo period in Japan and recognized as the greatest master of haiku. This means to be relieved (because the character in the poem drinks blowfish soup but is fine the next day).
- A mystery novel by Michio Shuusuke himself. Pretty sure Yonezawa-sensei is joshing about here.
- A Japanese literary award for unpublished genre fiction novels, mainly for mystery novels. It was established in 1996 by the editors of Mephisto magazine and is awarded on an irregular basis. The winning work is published by Kodansha and the winner receives a statue of Sherlock Holmes.
- Mashed sweet potatoes with chestnuts. Incidentally, this is also in the title of the third volume of Petit Bourgeois: Case of the Autumn-Exclusive Kuri Kinton, which I am currently translating.
- A famous shrine in Kyoto, known for its thousands of vermilion torii gates, which straddle a network of trails behind its main buildings.
- A detective mystery author who won the Kadokawa Award in 1979 and is known for his detective protagonist Kakeru Yabuki, who employs phenomenological speculation to solve his murder cases.
- A Japanese novelist of mystery fiction who won the 24th Mephisto Prize for “Clock Castle” Murder Case and wrote the light novel series Danganronpa Kirigiri.
- The user must enter the booth, take the phone off, then say “What if __?” , then set the phone down. Once this is done, the user will experience whatever they said. However, the scope of the gadget’s power appears to be limited to “current world” (including the entire galaxy) and not the past or future.
- When consumed, any events said by the user will occur in the other way around.
- The Time Cloth is able to advance/regress the state of a target by causing a temporal distortion that goes forwards/backwards by covering an item with its blue/red side.
- When used upon someone, the gadget allows them to live in any environment like under-water or in space. The effect of the gadget only remains for 24-hours.
- If you haven’t read this yet, I highly recommend this series to you. It has a really interesting setting, with time travelers, aliens and espers, as well as an extremely unique main character who prides himself on his eclectic snark.
- A mystery author who was known for works such as Kijutsu tantei Soga Kajo zenshu (The Complete Cases of Magician Detective Kajo Soga) and Midare karakuri (A Trick Goes Awry).
- An author who wrote popular fiction and mystery novels. His most notable work is Kakuregiku (The Hidden Chrysanthemum), which has been adapted into a drama recently.
- An author of popular fiction in Showa period Japan, he was a pioneer in the use of black humor in Japanese literature.
- An author who wrote many ninja and mystery stories.
- American author of detective stories, generally regarded as one of the greatest writers of the so-called “Golden Age mysteries” (complex, plot-driven stories in which the puzzle is paramount), and was a master of locked room mysteries.
- A Japanese author of mystery and fantasy stories, who passed away in 1930 when he was only 27.
- A mystery author who passed away in 2001 at the age of 48.
- A 1958 mystery novel written by Ellery Queen, about a detective who fails to solve two murders in 1930 but manages to figure it out in 1957 after gaining decades of experience.
- Refers to Yukito Ayatsuji, a famous mystery-horror writer who also had an interview with Honobu Yonezawa, which I will be translating some time soon.
- The original question was in one sentence. Nagaru Tanigawa is a beast.
- Advanced, preliminary versions of a soon-to-be-published book; these proofs are meant for the author and/or editors and proofreaders to review and either approve or suggest changes.
- Japanese proverb that means to use authority to push something illogical through.
- A takoyaki chain.
- A neighborhood in Shinjuku.
- A Buddhist temple perched high upon the cliff face of Mount Mitoku in Tottori Prefecture. To get there, one must take a dangerous trek on the mountain trail.
- The former residence of the Tachibana family, a clan of feudal lords during the Sengoku and Edo periods.
- A southeasterly wind that blows from the Ozu basin to the estuary of the Hijikawa River in Ehime prefecture. It is accompanied with radiative fog that develops from the surface in the Ozu basin during a clear night with calm winds.
- A Japanese monk in the Heian period who, after taking part in the Shishigatani plot to overthrow Taira no Kiyomori, was exiled along with two others to Kikai-ga-shima.
- The daimyō of Bizen and Mimasaka Provinces during the Sengoku period. Having fought against Tokugawa Ieyasu in the Battle of Sekigahara he was exiled to the island prison of Hachijō-jima, where he died.
- An emperor in the Heian period who stepped down in favor of his half-brother but was exiled to the islands in the Kagawa Prefecture. According to legend, he became an onryō (vengeful spirit) after his death, and everything from the subsequent fall in fortune of the Imperial court, the rise of the samurai powers, draughts and internal unrests were blamed on his haunting.