The MIERUKO-CHAN anime and manga series offers a unique blend of horror and comedy. Ironically, however, manga artist Tomoki Izumi and anime director Yuki Ogawa both describe themselves as “scaredy-cats.” ANN asked the two about their work crafting this unique series.
MIERUKO-CHAN was originally started as an internet series. When did the concept of “a girl who pretends she cannot see scary ghosts” come to you?
TOMOKI IZUMI: It all started because Twitter manga were getting popular and I thought, “I want to draw my own manga and go viral too!” Although I must profess that I came up with the content on the spot, I’ve always had an interest in drawing horror.
When you first began MIERUKO-CHAN on Twitter, it began trending quickly. Did you always intend for it to become a serialized work or did its popularity on social media influence your decision?
IZUMI: From the moment I first released the manga, I had the intention of serializing it. There were already manga being released on Twitter in that format, so I wanted to try an option for serialization that isn’t the traditional route of submitting to a magazine competition.
I’m curious about the design for the character Yulia Niguredo. What do you consider her appealing aspects and what inspired her mushroom hair accessories?
IZUMI: When it comes to Yulia, she’s got a lot of confidence and a defiant personality, but she’s also quick to jump to conclusions. The way she gets caught up in all kinds of mischief because of a misunderstanding but tries to deal with it seriously is one of her cute aspects. The reason I gave her a mushroom motif is simply because I like mushrooms.
The series has an impressive monster design team with staff members from shows like Jujutsu Kaisen and Higurashi. How did you go about assembling this team and what considerations did you make as the director?
YUKI OGAWA: I thought that if a single person handles the designs, they’ll end up showing common elements, so I asked for multiple designers. Monsters don’t just appear in a human-like form—they take all kinds of appearances—so I wanted unique designs that each take a completely different approach. I think that the end result was fantastic in that regard.
Were there any hurdles or special considerations you had to undertake to adapt MIERUKO-CHAN into an anime? Initially, the series started with a somewhat simple concept. Was it difficult to expand on that idea in the earlier episodes?
OGAWA: Due to restrictions around grotesque expressions like blood and guts, we added an aura over the abdomens of the monsters that had their stomachs cut open and made it a little difficult to see the slashed-up sections. The animators draw everything down to the finer details, so I feel bad for them. Also, given that the story is premised on continuing to ignore the monsters, it would become repetitive if Miko ignored them the same way every time. Because of this, we discussed things as a group and took a trial-and-error approach by changing the way the monsters appear, the style of presentation, not making them appear when you think they’re going to appear, delaying the timing, and so on.
While the back stories for the ghosts are not revealed, the monster designs do suggest certain histories. Is there a ghost in the series where, based on its design, you have a feeling like “this is how they met their demise?
IZUMI: I make sure to leave room for the imagination in the monster designs. It’s a nuance of the Japanese language, but I didn’t want to just restrict their existence to so-called yūrei (ghosts), but to draw them as “beings of an unknown nature.” I think that one of the appeals of the story is that the readers can imagine for themselves what kind of beings they are. What you don’t understand is scary.
OGAWA: As for monsters that are given an unknown background or gender in the manga, the anime also adjusts things to be similar in that regard. That’s because I thought that if you can figure out everything from a glance, then it would lessen the mystery and intrigue, which would also make it less scary. I think that the fear of what you don’t understand is an important aspect of this series.
Have you ever experienced a supernatural or ghostly experience, and can you tell us about it?
IZUMI: There’s nothing I could honestly classify as an experience, but since I’m a coward I don’t go near scary-looking places. I’m also not very observant when it comes to these things, so even if I did see something I might not even notice.
OGAWA: I’m a big scaredy-cat, so even when I think something could be off, I ignore it. I’ve never looked at anything straight-on, so I can just barely claim that I’ve never experienced anything…
Is there any horror media (live-action film, books, comics) that has influenced your work on MIERUKO-CHAN?
IZUMI: MIERUKO-CHAN isn’t just a horror story but also a story about the girls’ daily lives with comedy elements as well, so it’s hard to come up with specific examples of works that influenced me, but I think I have been influenced by a lot of things. Other than films and manga, I also love looking at the creature designs in video games.
OGAWA: Once again, because I’m a big scaredy-cat, I didn’t watch horror things as a child, so I didn’t particularly take inspiration from that kind of media. Even now, I can’t watch horror by myself, so I watch the MIERUKO-CHAN anime with the staff. (laughs)