Manga creator Yoshihiro Togashi is famous for making huge Shonen Jump hits Yu Yu Hakusho and Hunter × Hunter, among others. He’s also known for taking many, many hiatuses and his love of video games. Without much media coverage or social media presence, though, few people know what he’s really like. However, now there is a new manga, Sensei Hakusho—compiled in a book written by Kunio Ajino—a former assistant of Togashi who was with him from the beginning of the serialization of Yu Yu Hakusho in 1990 until the end of Level E in 1997.
Here are just eight things you might not have known about Yoshihiro Togashi:
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He Wanted to Name Yu Yu Hakusho “Yu Yu Ki“
This story has been spread around before, but Togashi initially wanted to title his spirit-hunting manga Yu Yu Hakusho (Poltergeist Report) Yu Yu Ki (Poltergeist Record) instead, but when another manga titled Chinyuki—a title that is only different by one kanji character—began serialization around the same period, Togashi changed the series’ title to Yu Yu Hakusho.
He’s Had Back Problems Since the Time of Yu Yu Hakusho
Since Hunter × Hunter began serialization, it has become infamous for its large amount of hiatuses in between. Though some fans say that Togashi is slacking off and playing video games (and as seen in the manga, he does get distracted by them sometimes), it is widely known that Togashi has had back problems that have been plaguing him from years. One time, Ajino found Togashi lying down on the floor out of sheer pain during the serialization of Yu Yu Hakusho, but he continued to draw with his belly face-down, only asking for Ajino to go buy him a warm compress at the convenience store while he continued to draw. This is when Togashi was still in his mid-to-late 20’s.
“When I saw him drawing even in that condition, I thought about how hard it must be to be a professional manga artist. At the same time, I felt the strength of Sensei’s sense of responsibility.”
Ajino remarks that he doesn’t remember Yu Yu Hakusho ever taking a break, except for just one week when Togashi took off to go and do research for the manga.
His Assistants Never Suspected He Had a Girlfriend
It’s a famous story in the industry that Yoshihiro Togashi is married to manga artist Naoko Takeuchi, the creator of Sailor Moon. However, Ajino only has one story to tell about her: One day, they heard a woman outside the studio. She gave Togashi a lunch box and he seemed very happy after coming back inside.
“During the time when the assistants were there, there wasn’t a trace of a woman in his life, as far as we could see,” Ajino explained, “I really do have to wonder when he had time for romance at all.”
He Gave His Assistants Thorough Advice on Their Manga Submissions
Manga assistants are usually manga artists training to become professional creators. That means that many of them are constantly trying to produce work that will allow them to debut in a magazine. Of course, Togashi’s assistants were no different. Ajino recalls that despite him requesting that Togashi look at the rough draft of his new manga when he had time, Togashi immediately took the rough draft in hand, sat down on the floor to rest his back, and began reading it. He would even laugh out loud when he found something funny.
Although many of Ajino’s works didn’t get approved by Shonen Jump’s editorial department, Togashi would always give thorough advice for his next piece. When Ajino was pushed by the editorial department to write a sports manga, he was hesitant because of his lack of knowledge on the subject. Togashi, however, suggested that writing a sports manga when you don’t know the rules actually allows for room for more interesting ideas. Ajino also depicts Togashi evilly snickering the words, “Listen to what the editorial department says at first, and then once you start to sell, do whatever the hell you want.”
He Refused to Let His Assistants Do the Inking
“If I did that… I think that’d be the end of my life as a manga creator.”
At one point in Ajino’s autobiographical manga, the assistant recalls a certain period during Yu Yu Hakusho’s serialization where Togashi couldn’t keep up with deadlines and was pushing himself past his limit. Although assistants were supposed to draw the backgrounds for the manga, Togashi began making backgrounds out of simple lines in order to save time. Despite this, Togashi was still nice to his assistants, and never took out his stress out on them.
Ajino remembers waking up from a nap at work and overhearing Togashi’s editor talking to him, suggesting that since he was so overworked, he should at least leave the inking of characters to the assistants. However, Togashi told his editor, “No… That’s the one thing I don’t want to do. If I did that… I think that’d be the end of my life as a manga creator.”
Despite His Earnings, His Meals Were Modest
Ajino recounted in the manga how Togashi’s meals mainly consisted of rice balls, lunch boxes, and canned coffee from the local convenience store he and the other assistant would go buy for the manga artist. Once in a while, however, the assistants would pick him up a take-out box from a local restaurant when they went out for a meal. Ajino noted that Togashi seemed a bit happy whenever they brought him something back from the restaurant.
To pay for the things they needed, Togashi would hand over his entire wallet and allow the assistants to use his ATM card to pay. With his normal appearance and fairly small dwelling, Ajino recalls Togashi’s editor coming in at one point and telling the creator, “It’s a waste if you don’t use your money.” That night, Togashi took his editor and assistants out to an expensive restaurant and paid for them. With the success of Yu Yu Hakusho, Togashi was not low on cash.
He Met Manga Legend Osamu Tezuka
When he was just 20 years old, Togashi won the Tezuka Manga Award in 1986 for his work Buttobi. At the award ceremony’s after party, he actually got to meet Osamu Tezuka, the creator of Astro Boy and Princess Knight who is as known in Japan as the “God of Manga.”
“Please create manga that will give dreams to the children,” said the legendary creator to young Togashi.
Tezuka passed away just two months before Yu Yu Hakusho began serialization. Ajino also went on to win the Tezuka prize years later, but never got to meet the master.
He’s a Pretty Decent Guy
“That’s good. Hi. I’m Togashi.”
Something that Ajino makes pretty clear throughout his manga is that he likes Togashi as a person. While it’s custom for Japanese companies to give their employees bonuses in the summer and winter, freelance manga assistants have no luxury. Despite this, Togashi decided to give his assistants bonuses for their hard work.
He also liked to make jokes with his assistants, and even wrote autographs for them on their manga. One time, as a joke, he drew a sketch of Kenshin from Rurouni Kenshin on a volume of Ajino’s Yu Yu Hakusho manga. He played video games and mahjong with them, and even brought Ajino and his other assistant from Yu Yu Hakusho back on for Level E (despite not needing assistants) just to give them work.
“I think it was really a hard time for you, Sensei,” Ajino writes in the postscript, “But as assistants, we enjoyed every day we spent with you. Thank you, Sensei.”
Sensei Hakusho will be available in Japan from publisher East Press on September 16. There is no word on a Western release.