Hi all! I’m thrilled to tell you that we recently interviewed Kakeru Kobashiri-sensei, the author of the light novel The Dawn of the Witch (Mahoutsukai Reimeiki)!
She revealed to us several fascinating things about the story, her involvement in the manga and anime, and more.
Also, I’ve got a special surprise after the article, so make sure to read until the end!
Note: This interview has been edited for clarity.
Mipon: When did you first begin working as a professional writer?
Kobashiri-sensei: I started writing for a magazine when I was 22. I loved video games, so I’d often write articles for that publication.
M: What kind of articles did you write?
K: My work involved writing articles about new releases, game walkthroughs, and the like.
M: That sounds like my idea of a dream job when I was a kid.
K: Yeah, it’s like you get to play games all day!
M: That must have been fun!
K: It was, but I also had to play games I wasn’t very good at, and beat the game or clear a certain stage, no matter what. Otherwise, I couldn’t write the walkthrough. In that sense, it could be tough, but it was fun too.
M: Was your job writing for a magazine what inspired you to write fiction?
K: It was always my dream to be a writer, ever since I was in elementary school. I guess what started it all was a story-writing assignment for class. Since then, I aimed to become a novelist, but I wasn’t able to debut while I was a student.
At the time, I thought the quality of my writing wasn’t up to par. So, once I graduated, I decided to work for this magazine, figuring that the editing department would help me polish my technique.
M: When you’re writing, are you inspired by any overseas media like books or films?
K: Oh, absolutely. I’ve been influenced by a lot of overseas works. I really liked this series called The Saga of Darren Shan. [And] Lord of the Rings was also a major influence. I loved reading the translated version for younger readers as well. A lot of fantasy novels will be translated for younger audiences here in Japan.
M: Do you still draw inspiration from those books today?
K: It’s hard to say, honestly. Those books are such a core part of who I am today and even shaped my personality. At this point, it’s impossible to say which book influenced me in such-and-such a way.
M: How would you describe a typical day/routine of working on The Dawn of the Witch?
K: My routine has pretty much been the same since I debuted 8 years ago: I sleep, play video games and write.
M: How much on a typical day do you spend writing?
K: It depends on the day, but I’m usually writing from 12 midnight to 7 A.M. I prefer to work during the night.
M: Do you have free time afterwards? If so, what do you do?
K: Yeah. I’ll either read manga or books, play games or sleep.
M: And your workspace is the room you’re in right now?
K: That’s right. I’ve got a few bookshelves as well.
M: How did The Dawn of the Witch come to be published as a light novel? For example, was it your idea to write a continuation of Grimoire of Zero, or was it suggested by your publisher?
NOTE: Kakeru Kobashiri-sensei is the author of the light novels The Dawn of the Witch (Mahoutsukai Reimeiki) and Grimoire of Zero (Zero kara Hajimeru Mahou no Sho). Grimoire of Zero, takes place in the same world as The Dawn of the Witch, but is set hundreds of years before. You can read this interview (and of course watch the anime) even if you’re not familiar with the story of Grimoire of Zero.
K: I had already written a rough draft of the initial manuscript, so I sent it to Shoij-san, who’s my editor. So he read through it and asked if I’d be okay with publishing it, and I was like “Yes! Of course!” [laughs]
Satoshi Shoji, Kobashiri-sensei’s editor: That’s right, you already had the manuscript, didn’t you?
K: Yeah, I was well-prepared.
M: So, it was approved very quickly, then?
S: Oh, yes. The manuscript was really good, so I immediately decided it should be published.
M: Who was the most difficult character to write/create?
K: Nobody, actually. I only create characters who’re easy to write! [laughs]
M: When did you get the idea to write The Dawn of the Witch? Were you still writing Grimoire of Zero?
K: I decided to write The Dawn of the Witch around the time I was finishing the last volume of Grimoire of Zero. I wanted to write from the viewpoint of a different group of characters than Zero and her friends, because while it is meant to be a continuation of the story, I wanted new readers to feel comfortable picking it up from there. I pitched the idea to [my publisher] Kodansha, and they gave it the go-ahead.
M: Did you have any story ideas besides The Dawn of the Witch?
K: Oh yes, I have lots. I keep telling myself: “One of these days I’ll start on ___!” but never get around to them. Some ideas still haven’t been put on paper for over 3 years [laughs]. But if I start to write one story, I concentrate entirely on that, and the other ideas get shelved. So right now, I’m just focusing on writing The Dawn of the Witch.
M: How much of the plot for The Dawn of the Witch did you have planned out when you started writing?
K: I had most of it planned out by the time I started, aside from making Saybilredacted the child of Thirteen
As I was finishing writing Grimoire of Zero, I still didn’t have a perfectly clear idea of the character, or what to do with him. But once I finished Grimoire, I thought, “Oh, now I know what to do!”
M: Ah, so you had decided that by the time you finished Grimoire of Zero.
K: Right. Once I actually finished Grimoire of Zero, a lot of the ideas for The Dawn of the Witch fell into place.
M: Aside from that, the majority of the plot was decided while you were finishing Grimoire of Zero?
K: With my writing style, and with quite a few other authors as well, I sort of plan out the story while I’m writing. I’ve decided on the overall story and progression while I try to write within that framework, as I’m writing,
K: I might change some ideas or go in a new direction. The story becomes something even I didn’t anticipate, and that’s the true joy of writing, in my opinion. So, while I would say, “Yes”, if someone asked me if I’ve decided the story, I mean that only in the broadest sense. There’s still so much I haven’t decided yet.
M: How about what you’ve already written so far? Looking back, is there anything you would have liked to do differently?
K: Not at all. I make sure to deliver something I’m 100% satisfied with. Rest assured; I have zero regrets.
M: How closely were you involved in the manga adaptation?
K: I don’t think I was too hands-on with it, was I, Shoji-san?
Satoshi Shoji, Kobashiri-sensei’s editor: Your role mostly involves checking the storyboards.
K: Yeah, that’s about the extent of it. That’s pretty common, though.
S: I’m not sure how closely involved that might be, relatively speaking, but usually you’re just asked to approve the storyboard for each chapter. The manga format has its unique characteristics of course, but [the manga author] Tatsuwo-sensei does such a great job that it’s pretty much left up to him.
There may be some setting or dialogue-related differences that need to be settled, in which case Kobashiri-sensei would decide what to do about them.
K: Right. There may be dialogue or choice of words that aren’t what I had in mind, so I might point that out, but I mostly let Tatsuwo-sensei have [most of the] creative control.
Could you describe the process of searching for a manga artist for the adaptation?
K: I believe the editing department makes that decision.
S: Within Kodansha, the editing department for Monthly Shonen Sirius—specifically the manga editing department—put forward the suggestion of having Tatsuwo-sensei be the artist. Then, after confirming with Kobashiri-sensei, we made the final decision.
M: Well, you definitely made the right choice. Tatsuwo-sensei’s art is amazing.
S: Thank you.
K: The editing department asked me to look at Tatsuwo-sensei’s art and character designs and asked me, “Would you be OK with them?”, and I thought, “What author in their right mind would refuse?!”. I could only say yes.
M: And how about the anime adaptation? How much were you involved?
K: Hmm, how much am I allowed to say, Shoji-san? [laughs]
S: Right now, there’s a lot that we can’t reveal, but it’s safe to say you’re more closely involved than with the anime adaptation of Grimoire of Zero.
K: Would you say I’m quite heavily involved then?
M: The plot of The Dawn of the Witch might be considered fast-paced and has quite a few sudden twists. Would you agree with that opinion, and if so, did you intend to write it that way?
K: Actually, I’d say there are tons of stories out there that are much more fast-paced and shift more suddenly [laughs]. Personally, I don’t think I have so many out-of-the-blue story developments. It’s more like I’m writing so that I stay interested and continue having fun. Would you say so, Shoji-san?
S: I think the story is very well-balanced. Most readers won’t expect the twists, and there’s not so many abrupt reversals that the story becomes a tangled mess.
K: Thank you, that’s kind of you to say!
M: I was quite surprised by Holt’s backstory and redacted her betrayal of the Church.
That was an unexpectedly early development, in my opinion.
K: Oh, really?
M: Other series might hold off on a reveal like that until, say, chapter 20 or something. The fast pace makes it really interesting for me.
K: True, that one was introduced quite early.
M: You touched on this earlier, but would you recommend people starting on The Dawn of the Witch to read or watch Grimoire of Zero beforehand?
K: It’s totally OK if you don’t.
M: Oh good! I still haven’t gotten around to reading it yet [laughs].
K: In fact, I’m writing The Dawn of the Witch specifically with that in mind. However, I would suggest reading or watching Grimoire of Zero at some point, because when you do, your experience of reading The Dawn of the Witch will completely change.
So, I’d recommend that first, you go into The Dawn of the Witch totally fresh. If you want to know more about the story and characters, go read or watch Grimoire of Zero.
Finally, go back and read The Dawn of the Witch again. Then you’ll have all those “Ah-ha!” realizations. That’s the kind of experience that I’m going for with this series.
M: I immediately took a shine to Zero when she appeared in The Dawn of the Witch, so I definitely want to read Grimoire of Zero soon.
K: Please do!
M: I’m also curious about Albus. Could I learn more about her if I read Grimoire of Zero?
K: Yes, definitely! [laughs]. You learn a lot about her in volume 9 of the light novel. She gets into all sorts of trouble.
M: In The Dawn of the Witch, Professor Roux is very interested in finding the Grimoire of Zero, but does the book have much relevance to the plot of this new story?
K: It doesn’t have any relevance to the story itself. Roux just wants to see new sights, read new books, and so on. That’s what drives her, and the Grimoire of Zero is just one of those amusements to her. The book itself won’t cause chaos like it did in Zero’s adventures.
M: How about the character designs themselves? Do you decide physical attributes like height and build?
K: I decide pretty much everything. With Holt, for example, I wanted her to have all the ideal traits of feminine beauty—large boobs, big bottom, a sweet smile, and she’s always cheerful. On the inside though, I wanted her to have a dark, murky side to her character as well.
However, I want to point out that I didn’t make her like that to make her stand out or be the butt of jokes and teasing. Yes, she’s full-figured, but that’s just how she looks and none of the characters make a big deal of it.
M: When your novel was getting a manga adaptation, and now an anime adaptation, did you have any requests for the artists?
K: Absolutely. I made it very clear to Iwasaki-sensei [Takashi Iwasaki, light novel character designer], Tatsuwo-sensei and the anime character designer to make Holt’s bottom and legs thicker. I told them, “Remember, she’s got a big butt!”. So, to answer your question, yes. [laughs]
M: Do you plan to write more stories in the same world once you’re finished with The Dawn of the Witch?
K: No, probably not.
M: A totally new setting, then?
K: For my next series, probably yes. Maybe 10 or 20 years later, if I decide, I’d like to return to the world of Grimoire and Witch. As long as my readers are interested and the publisher thinks it’ll sell, I might consider it.
M: If you go with a whole new setting for your next work, would you draw inspiration from anything you’ve written previously?
K: I’m not entirely sure, honestly. I believe that each and every story that’s ever been told can’t be *completely* new—nothing is 100% [original] stuff that’s never been done before. So, I would probably follow my usual style, which is to look at other people’s stories that I like, imagine how I would write that story, or find inspiration from characters I enjoy.
I’d start like that, by imagining “What would happen if character X existed in world Y?”
M: Do you have any advice or encouragement for fans who want to become light novel authors themselves?
K: Above all, I’d say to always remember what it is you really enjoy. As a writer, the most painful moments you can experience are when you start worrying about whether other people will think your story is interesting, whether they’ll enjoy it too.But during those times, as long as you have a clear idea of what you think is interesting, you can pick yourself back up and remember, “It’s OK! I know for sure that this story is interesting!”.
Reminding yourself what it is you love is very important.
M: It’s no fun unless your heart’s really in it, right?
K: Exactly. Otherwise, you’ll just be miserable.
End of interview.
I definitely recommend you watch The Dawn of the Witch anime when it comes out, I love the amount of plot twists that it has. The anime is streaming this season, so don’t miss it!
Finally, do you want to win a copy of manga signed by Kobashiri-sensei herself?
She was kind enough to sign a copy of the manga which we’ll be giving away to our readers!
Subscribe to our Youtube; we’ll be making a big announcement soon!
If you’re already subscribed, then just keep an eye out for the news. As always, if you’ve got any questions, feel free to reach us on Twitter or Instagram.
Thanks to Kodansha, Kobashiri-sensei, Shoji-san, and everyone that made this interview possible.
Interview and Translation: Karl Bruder.
Editor: Chelsea McWillis.
©Kakeru Kobashiri,KODANSHA/”The Dawn of the Witch” Production Committee.
If you want to know more about this stunning anime, check out this video: