I’m beyond thrilled to tell you that we had the opportunity to do a written interview with Asato-sensei, the author of the popular light novel 86-Eighty Six-, which is now also a manga and anime!
This is the first interview she’s given to English or Spanish-speaking media, so we’re truly honored to have the opportunity.
So, let’s start!
M: When did you first begin writing as a professional? How did you get your start?
Asato-sensei: I started writing professionally in 2016, after entering and later winning the Dengeki Taisho* writing contest.
*The Dengeki Shosetsu Taisho contest, run by KADOKAWA, is one of Japan’s leading light novel contests. Asato-sensei won the Grand Prize at the 23rd contest with her debut work.
A: As for when I first began writing stories, that would be when I was in middle school. Back then, I would write stories based on ideas I came up with in elementary school.
As an elementary school student, I was also going to cram school, so I didn’t have time to write until I started middle school.
M: Can you describe a typical day of writing 86?
A: I usually spend about 6-8 hours a day writing, and in my free time, I like to read or watch movies.
If I’m out shopping, I might also take a walk for an hour or so. I love going to museums and libraries as well, but I haven’t been able to go for about a year because of the COVID-19 situation.
M: How much of the overall story for 86, such as setting or events, did you have planned out before you started writing? How much time did it take to plan the story and build the world?
S: I had planned out most of the content of Volume 1, but I decided on details about the setting and characters’ backstories as I wrote.
Asato: In total, it took me about 5-7 years to come up with everything.
It started when I saw the movie The Mist (2007), which takes place in a supermarket, but I wondered: “What if it wasn’t confined to just a supermarket, but covered an entire country?”
From there, I came up with the idea of “Eighty-Six” and “Juggernauts,” and I started writing the story around 2014.
M: Did you include any aspects of your own personality into the characters from 86?
A: Like Shin, I tend to be a bit lazy or careless when I’m cooking. Not quite as bad as him, though, since I season properly and remove the eggshells…
M: Were there any story elements you had started out with that you ended up not using?
Asato: Before 86 became what readers are familiar with, I changed the setting three times, so there’s a lot of things that were ultimately never used.
A: First, I had set the story in “a fortressed city surrounded by mist,” but I scrapped that idea completely.
Second, I came up with the setting of a near-future city surrounded by a “fog of nanomachines,” but I rejected that too.
Third, I thought of this twist in which Lena’s and Shin’s perspectives were based in different points in time.
A: Finally, I came up with the setting for 86. Even then, however, I made some changes when my contest entry manuscript was revised for the novel publication, such as deciding not to include a heroine who I was planning to introduce in the next part of the story.
M: How closely were you involved with the manga and anime adaptations of 86?
Asato: For the manga, I approved the manuscripts and character designs and answered any questions the artist had about the story and settings.
Pretty much every time, I just said “Wow, these are great!” and had no suggestions for improvement.
The artist (Motoki Yoshihara) and staff did such a wonderful job, and I’m very thankful.
As for the anime, I attended the scriptwriting meetings, approved character designs and visuals, and answered questions about the story.
For the anime adaptation, there were a lot of questions about the characters, mecha, various items/objects, and so on.
Answering them all was a bit tough…
M: Were there any scenes that were difficult to adapt for the anime?
A: With anime, there’s limited time to work with, so you can’t be as liberal with descriptions or dialogue as you can be with novels.
You have to convey information through dialogue that can’t be explained through imagery (such as the history and circumstances of a country) and you have to do it in fewer words than in a novel format. I found that particularly difficult.
M: Were you involved in the voice actor selection process, and if so, how closely?
A: I joined the director, producer, editor, and other staff for the auditions of each major character and commented on whether I felt the person auditioning fit my image of the character.
M: Regarding the design of the Juggernauts, why did you choose a four-legged design instead of a realistic tank or a sci-fi style bipedal mech?
A: I just think they’re cool. That’s all!
M: The 86 light novel is still ongoing, but do you have an idea of how the story will end? How much of the story is still left to be told?
A: The general series of events and the story’s ending is more or less decided.
The chief editor has already seen the brief synopsis for each volume (just a few sentences each) until the end of the story. So, while I have a clear idea of how much of the story is complete, I’d like to keep that a secret.
M: Do you have any plans to start a new story, or perhaps a spinoff, once 86 is complete?
A: I have a few ideas, and I would definitely like to write those in the future. As for spinoffs, I’m currently writing Academy IF (Operation High School) *¹ and Magical Girl Regina☆ Lena*², so I don’t think there will be any more spinoffs. But that’s not to say I wouldn’t consider more if I come up with an idea.
*¹ Academy IF (Operation High School) is a “what-if” alternate-universe in which the Eighty-Six live a peaceful life as students and enjoy their youth to the fullest. The light novel can be read (in Japanese) online at this site. A manga adaptation is also available, illustrated by Suzume Somemiya.
*² Magical Girl Regina☆ Lena is a side story written as a limited-edition bonus for the Blu-ray and DVD releases. Suzume Somemiya-sensei is also in charge of the artwork for this project.
M: 86 is currently being translated into several languages, including English, Chinese (Traditional and Simplified), Korean, Thai, and Vietnamese. Do you regularly speak with the translators?
A: If the translators have any questions or comments about the story, they’ll get in touch, and we’ll discuss them.
M: We at Mipon are always interested in real-life locations from anime. Are there any places that served as a model for those in 86?
A: There are places that I’ve used as models, but only loosely. Many of the locations in the anime don’t actually exist, so you wouldn’t find them if you went looking.
In the prologue of volume one, the “sunset that was as beautiful as sheer madness” is my description of what I would consider the most beautiful dusk scenery.
I often look up at the evening sky and try to find it. I hope my overseas fans also take the time to look up and search for their own “sunset that is as beautiful as sheer madness.”
M: In recent years, the anime industry has grown exponentially, and many anime are being adapted from light novels and literature. What would you say to overseas fans who want to create something that might one day be adapted into an anime? Is it best to start by writing a web novel, light novel, manga, or something else?
A: That’s hard for me to answer personally, as I haven’t analyzed what sort of media is most easily adapted.
However, I do agree that there are a great deal more anime adaptations being made compared to when I was a child.
I started writing my light novel because I wanted to express my vision of “the most beautiful dusk” in a light novel format. And because of that, I really enjoy my work as a writer.
So I feel that you should envision your own goal; your “most beautiful dusk,” and set out to express that in whatever format you think is most appropriate, whether that be a web novel, light novel, manga, or anime (or perhaps even poems, lyrics, music or art).
It’s most important that you create the story you want in the way you want so that you enjoy the creative process itself. Above all, I think you should be having fun with it.
End of interview.
Remember that the second cour of 86 airs on October 2 and you don’t want to miss it because it will be 🔥.
The story and animation are top-tier and it’s full of outstanding plot and tons of emotional moments. Not to mention the relatable characters, especially Lena, who is a very well-written character.
Thank you again to Asato-sensei, Aniplex, and everyone else that made this interview possible!
Translation: Karl Bruder.
Editor: Chelsea McWillis.
DISCLAIMER: All the images above were used with the permission of Aniplex. Thank you for always producing top-tier anime!