With its gorgeous art, wonderfully designed characters, and fully realized world, The Promised Neverland quickly found a massive audience. Now that the series is wrapped up and the final manga volume has hit the stores, we got a chance to ask artist Posuka Demizu some questions about working on this amazing series.
Shonen Jump: Please tell us how you and Shirai Sensei met.
Posuka Demizu: I was suddenly contacted by the Shonen Jump editorial department. I received the project for a one-shot and we didn’t actually meet each other until after that publication.
SJ: How do you two work on a single story? Please tell us what each of your roles are.
Posuka Demizu: Based on Shirai Sensei’s story, I draw a draft, do the coloring, scan and finish digitally!
SJ: Do you communicate story ideas or feedback to Shirai Sensei?
Posuka Demizu: I don’t communicate story ideas to Shirai Sensei. If I do think of an idea, it’s highly likely that Shirai Sensei has already thought of it. Instead, amazing things have happened, when Shirai Sensei reads into a small detail in the drawing and connects it to the rest of the story, turning it into foreshadowing. It’s really unbelievable.
SJ: Tell us how you became a mangaka in Shonen Jump?
Posuka Demizu: I was previously working on a video game manga for a different magazine. I had just found out that series would end and was thinking about what to do next when I happened to receive an email from Sugita-san, the editor. He had actually seen my illustrations, not my manga work, and decided to contact me. The timing was really miraculous.
SJ: Are there times when you suggest ideas relating to the color illustrations? Can you explain your process?
Posuka Demizu: I’m fundamentally free to do the color illustrations however I want. I may be asked to do something specific for a storyline or a magazine’s release but otherwise I stay on task with summarizing the story up until that point in the illustration. While Shirai Sensei works on the story, I’m doing the color illustration, so I’m drawing about what has happened right up until then.
The volume one cover was made in an obvious way. To avoid spoilers, there was a happy vibe, but to give a feeling that they’re fenced in, they’re surrounded by a circular wall. The lower part of the illustration is darker, but this part is covered by a belly-band (for the Japan version), so you can’t see it at first. It turned into foreshadowing because of Shirai Sensei’s brilliance. Sensei often creates easter eggs from my drawings!
SJ: In The Promised Neverland, there are many horror elements in the action adventure story. Are you a horror fan? If so, what horror movies and manga do you like?
Posuka Demizu: I fundamentally don’t like horror. I never watch horror movies. But my debut title was a horror manga. This came about because my editor had suggested a horror series in time for summer, so I tried it and got a lot of positive feedback. Later on, I heard that people who tend to be afraid will create a scarier image in their head and feel fear much easier. I think my debut manga was drawn with that feeling. So, I don’t like horror, but drawing something scary isn’t difficult.
SJ: Your manga has scared a lot of children (and some adults too). What are your thoughts on this?
Posuka Demizu: Really?! I think I’m a little happy about that…
SJ: Emma breaks from the typical mold of a Shonen Jump protagonist. She’s not male, have remarkable strength or super powers, and she doesn’t yell things when attacking. What were your goals when designing such a unique protagonist?
Posuka Demizu: Thinking about it now, I didn’t have any goals per se. Shirai Sensei’s story needed a different kind of character like Emma, so she came naturally to me. It wasn’t necessary for her to be doing special fight moves or attacks. I was originally with non-Jump magazines, so maybe I didn’t feel it was necessary to follow that Jump style.
SJ: Your illustrations are very pretty and your work has its own signature style. Who are the artists and mangaka who inspire you?
Posuka Demizu: I love the world of video games, so I get inspiration from games and the artists behind them. I’d say the Final Fantasy series (especially FF9) and Oreca Battle are big influences. Other artists (outside of mangaka) are Yasushi Nirasawa, Naohisa Inoue, Yutaka Ohno, and Takayuki Sakai. Makoto Hijioka and Kotone Yumiya for mangaka. As far as influences while drawing, when my next title comes out, I will have gotten the most influence from Shirai Sensei.
SJ: If Emma, Ray and Norman had grown up in the human world, what jobs would they have?
Posuka Demizu: Emma would be a teacher, Ray a researcher, and Norman is so smart that he would become the CEO of a company, sell it and live an easy life.
SJ: Out of all the characters, who do you empathize with (or see yourself in them) the most?
Posuka Demizu: Thoma and Lannion.
SJ: If you were to play an escape room, which character would you want on your team?
Posuka Demizu: Ray.
SJ: The demon world that was created is very detailed. It was just as interesting as the human world. How did you come up with ideas for demon society and the beautiful exteriors?
Posuka Demizu: I try to bring up as many ideas as possible, and have them narrowed down. This was when the series was ongoing, so I didn’t have much time…
Emma’s culture is heavily influenced by Western culture, so I used Eastern and non-Western influences as the demon’s culture. Although I did consider something space-influenced, I ended up choosing to incorporate elements from cultures we are familiar with. I used pictures of buildings I saw on my camping trip in Thailand for reference. I spotted an odd-shaped brick building at an ancient site. I took that and added strong fantasy elements to it. The market scenes are a mix of photos of trips to Africa and Korea, mixed with other elements until you can’t tell where they originated. It’s difficult to create consistency within an entire culture, but I was helped by the demon’s biology and appearance when trying to figure out some aspects of culture such as clothing. There were many moments of inspiration like this.
SJ: The manga is complete, so what are your future plans? Will you two be working on another manga? (Please!!!)
Posuka Demizu: Shirai Sensei and I are working on a short project even now, so honestly, it doesn’t feel like it’s ended and it’s still going on!
*This interview was conducted in January 2021.
SJ: If The Promised Neverland was to become a video game, what kind of game do you think it would be?
Posuka Demizu: A problem-solving puzzle game!
Going back to one of the previous questions, of the games that influenced me, there was a series called The Neverhood and in that series, the first one was a puzzle game, and the second was a brawler game. So I imagine The Promised Neverland would also be a problem-solving puzzle in Grace Field House and the second series would be action in Goldy Pond.
It would be fun to have the demons come up from behind you in the action game!
SJ: Do you have a message for your fans in the US and abroad?
Posuka Demizu: Thank you for reading The Promised Neverland! I’m disappointed I wasn’t able to visit the U.S. in 2020 as planned, but I’m always receiving so many supportive comments through my Instagram and Twitter accounts! Your messages are always encouraging. Thank you very much!
SJ: Thank you so much for your time and wonderful words of encouragement!
For more about The Promised Neverland from the author Kaiu Shirai, click here.
Order your copy of The Promised Neverland, Vol. 20 written by Kaiu Shirai and illustrated by Posuka Demizu here!
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