We are extremely pleased to be interviewing Idzuki Kouji, the mangaka (author and illustrator) of Samus and Joey and Metroid EX, a four-part Metroid manga series that was published in Comic Bom Bom. In this interview, Kouji-san discusses Nintendo’s involvement with the manga, his thoughts on the story and reveals why Metroid EX never received a tankobon (compilation).
Disclaimer: In an effort to ensure that Mr. Kouji’s words are not misinterpreted in our translation, we have also included the full interview in Japanese, which can be accessed here.
Thank you for speaking to us Idzuki-sensei! For those who don’t know you, please introduce yourself to our readers.
I am a mangaka who mainly drew video-game based manga for Japanese kids’ magazines. I’m thinking that liking anime and games led me to this job. Outside of Nintendo[’s series], I worked on Capcom’s Rockman (Megaman) series, Rockman 8 and Rockman and Forte being my representative works.
Please tell us how you got into writing manga. What sparked your interest?
The reason I drew manga was, of course, because I liked to draw. I wanted to try it, but it looked impossible. It wasn’t impossible, because I thought I had to try challenging myself once.
How did you get the opportunity to write Samus and Joey?
When drawing comics based on video games, the publisher (Kodansha) asks the holder of the rights (Nintendo) for a secondary use license, but then they need to consider which artist they’ll ask to draw it. At that time, I think I was selected by both Nintendo and the publisher out of several candidates based on being able to draw an action theme and an energetic child.
Obviously, this required approval from Nintendo. How much involvement or oversight did they have with the story?
At first, Nintendo strongly disapproved of an original story featuring a child in a harsh Metroid universe. They probably thought that harsh universe would collapse.
However, since I myself thought to show children an adult with a strong sense of justice and resolution through Samus Aran’s bravery, I absolutely did not want to take out those things I wanted to show kids out of my story. Because of that, we went to the Nintendo’s Kyoto headquarters and we directly negotiated with the staff and the producer, Sakamoto. After that, this story in the Metroid universe featuring a child could finally be made as a side-story, Metroid: Samus and Joey.
At one point, Samus remembers her parents and the Chozo, and they have the same appearance as in the prequel Metroid manga authored by Koji Tazawa. Was there any collaboration between the two of you?
Because the planning for Kenji Ishikawa’s Metroid manga started at the same time period as my own and at the same publisher (Kodansha), there was also an idea of keeping pace, I remember drawing Samus’s parents while keeping his drawing in mind.
There’s a scene in chapter 12 where Samus gives a thumbs down and asks “Any objections?” which she also does in Metroid: Other M. Did Metroid’s producer Yoshio Sakamoto have a hand in this scene?
I carried on drawing an original story for Samus and Joey without breaking the setting and universe, but I think there wasn’t any input from Sakamoto about that.
However, before drawing it, there must’ve been scenario checks and change from Nintendo’s behalf, but basically they let me draw it freely.
What is your favorite moment from the story? One of our favorites was in the very first chapter, when Samus grabs a bullet right out of the air.
As for the scenes I liked in my Samus and Joey comic, I too like the scene where Samus grabs a bullet from the air in the first volume, but I quite like the scene from EX where the back of Samus’s starship was broken up by the Craftsmen.
Samus and Joey was re-released in three tankobon (compilation) volumes, but Metroid EX never was. Why was this?
I myself do not know why Metroid EX was never released as a Tankobon. The thing is that there is no reason for the mangaka to know the contract details between Kodansha and Nintendo. However, this is a really frustrating thing for me. I want a lot of people to be able to witness a Metroid EX tankobon someday! This is what I long for. For now, since I don’t have Nintendo’s permission to rerelease Metroid EX, I’m looking forward for a new surge in interest in Metroid (such as a live action movie), because if that happens there may be an opportunity to rerelease the manga.
Was your series meant to be part of the official storyline? If so, where in the timeline does it take place? (for example, between Metroid and Metroid 2)
The story was drawn as a setting that takes place between Super Metroid and Metroid Fusion.
Most of the characters, apart from Samus and some who are mentioned like Ridley, are original to the story. Did you consider including any characters from the Metroid games?
I tried not to use characters outside of Metroid’s main characters such as Samus and Ridley as much as possible, and the reason is that Nintendo’s checks would have become complex.
You recently launched a campaign on Fukkan to have Metroid EX reprinted in a tankobon form. What prompted you to do this?
Making a tankobon of Metroid EX is my dream. On Fukkan.com, if there’s a certain numbers of requests for releasing a certain book (around two/three hundred), there is a possibility of Metroid EX being released. For this purpose, I asked the all of the fans for their cooperation (Right now we managed to get over 170 signatures, we’re just one step away). [Editor’s note: As of November 23, 2019, there are now 179 signatures.]
If the story was reprinted, would you have an opportunity to go back and change anything, and what would it be?
Samus’s day off. I’d like to draw a scene of some kind of trouble Samus gets caught in in her daily life as a woman.
What is the likelihood that Nintendo would revisit this?
I’m excited for a new experiment involving Metroid from Nintendo’s behalf. However, I don’t know if they have such a project or not going, but I’d be very happy if they made a live-action Hollywood movie.
Volume 1 included a short chapter based on the beginning of Metroid Fusion. Was this a tie-in to the game, and would you have liked to write a longer story?
The reason I drew the Metroid Fusion manga was, of course, to raise sales of Metroid Fusion which was released at the time, and I wrote it with the thought of doing a service for the people that read the manga. While it was planned as a one-off, I wouldn’t have minded making a longer story.
What is Samus’s fate after the end of EX?
Well she’s still protecting the galaxy from evil threats as its strongest bounty hunter of course! There’s also the reason to connect it to Fusion.
Have you kept up with the Metroid series since, and what are your thoughts on it as a whole?
As for the Metroid series, I didn’t keep up with all of it. I don’t know of what happens after Metroid Prime. The main reason is that I didn’t have any consoles to play the games with.
It’s been a long time since the series concluded, but would you be interested in writing a prequel or sequel?
For Metroid, I think the objective as an author is to stir up curiosity. I’m not planning to draw a sequel to Metroid EX, but I’m filling my imagination about what Samus and Joey might do after.
Of all your stories, including Samus and Joey, which one was your favorite to write?
It’s Samus and Joey EX. Although it isn’t an original work of mine, I feel very satisfied that I could put the story and the setting together in a satisfying way. Except that I couldn’t put it out as a single tankobon for the world to see.
What projects are you working on now?
As of now, I’m working as an assistant for handicapped people. I’m thinking about writing a story based on my experiences I got from there.
Idzuki-sensei, thank you for taking the time to speak with us. Is there a message you would like to share with our fans?
I would first like to address my thanks to everyone reading this interview article. The content of Metroid is pretty cool, and its harsh world is charming, but in my works, strong heroes tell something to the younger generation through their actions, and they get more mature by chasing these actions. This was the purpose of this Metroid side-story. I hope that the people that have read it, or whoever gets the chance to read it could feel that there is a meaning to continue to pass the torch to someone else. Thank you so much.
On behalf of Shinesparkers, we would like to thank Mr. Kouji for his time, and request that you visit Fukkan.com and express your interest in re-releasing Metroid EX!
© 2019 Darren Kerwin and Idzuki Kouji
Special thanks to Antoine Fantys and RoyboyX
Interviewed on 7th August 2019