Randomly I came across something I had been curious about: What was Tanigawa’s thoughts around the time Haruhi was first published? And so, I found an interview that was published in the June 2003 edition of The Sneaker. This would be the first interview he gave to a Sneaker publication, but not the last. I thought it would be interesting to see his thoughts around the sudden rise that the Haruhi series would become. It became something fun to work on. Let’s go Hanshin! (Apologies, I can’t find decent pictures to break up this text dump)
Interview with Nagaru Tanigawa, “Sneaker Grand Prize Award Winner”
Published in the Sneaker June 2003 edition
Digging into the reader
-First, let me congratulate you on winning the “Sneaker Grand Prize.”
Thank you very much. It is truly an honor.
-What were your thoughts when you found out?
“You’re kidding…” was the first thing that came to mind. I thought I had finally lost my mind.
-How has life been after winning the award? Have people been treating you any better?
Not really, but that’s because I’ve not told anyone. Really, I haven’t. I’ve kept it a secret from everyone. But if I have to say if something’s changed, my heart rate has definitely doubled since then. Instead of “beat-beat” I now have a “be-be-a-bea-t-beat.” Don’t get me wrong, I seriously thought it was a joke. There wasn’t anything like a surprise party or some old guy walking up to me saying “Surprise!” while I was putting on my helmet. But I’m honored beyond words.
-You seemed to write this work rather quickly.
If I recall correctly, it only took about 3 weeks. I think Hanshin still had a chance then.
-You’re referring to the Hanshin Tigers previous season, right?
Yes. I’d say I’m a true fanatic than a casual fan. Whether they win or lose, I’ll be there. The atmosphere is a bit different when they’re winning though.
-How do they look this year?
They’ll win it all, right? Hanshin looks really tough this year. I think they’ll go for the title.
-Previously, you’ve said you’ve worked in a company. What kind of job did you do?
I served as something like a manager at a department store focused on ladies clothing. Nothing significant though.
-Did your time working help you when you were writing?
I can’t say it was good for writing, but it was good for thinking. I would have trouble sleeping, so I would think about things like conversations and such while I was lying in my bed.
-What kind of genre were you writing then?
At that time I was writing school stories. Things that brought the reader back to their own school experiences to showcase the good side of school life.
-What kind of books did you read as a child? What started you to read books?
I love mystery and sci-fi books, but as for what got me reading, it had to be the Akane Books World Mystery Collection for Boys and Girls and World Sci-Fi Collection. Those collections were truly interesting and led to reading many mystery and sci-fi novels. There were not many titles in my elementary school’s library, so I would read things like Holmes and Lupin from Poplar Publishing, but they quickly ran out of titles for me to read. After that, I would read books I borrowed from the public library. I would go there at least twice a week. My best record was finishing 14 books in one week.
-What authors would you say inspired you? Please don’t feel restricted by the titles you’ve mentioned.
I read from probably 100 authors, so if pressed from those… I’d have to say I wasn’t inspired by Chouhei Kambayashi-san at all. Probably the ones who inspired me most would be Tetsuya Satou-san and Ken Asamatsu-san. They were great inspirations for me. I also read a lot of Chihiro Arai-san’s works. And I can’t forget Hajime Komine-san too. I could go on about all 100 if I had the time, but these five come to mind first. I’ve been influenced by many people that I’ve come in contact with, but these I would say have most influenced my work. Just as long as we don’t say I’ve plagiarized from them, of course. (laughs)
-What recent title(s) have you read lately?
These past months have been so busy that I’ve not had time to read much, but Robert J Sawyer’s Illegal Alien was quite interesting. I also enjoyed reading Otsuichi’s Goth. It was wonderful.
-What gave you the idea to start Haruhi?
I started thinking about “A strange girl who abruptly starts talking about strange things and the reactions that occur afterwards…” Then once the character was created, the story came along afterwards.
-While reading your work and examining the characters in the story and the protagonist’s phrasing, the way its written gives a sense that you’re right beside them enjoying the fun.
Is that so? Perhaps I wanted to put myself beside the reader but then again… that would be interfering with people’s lives. So perhaps those were the characters I wrote. And I also wanted to write an idiotic character too. Perhaps that’s why everyone but the protagonist is somewhat idiotic.
-Would you say the protagonist’s use of “ore” is similar to how you usually speak, Tanigawa-san?
Hmm… that’s different than how I usually talk. Maybe we could say that I was caricaturing myself a little when speaking as him. That could be my ideal world after all.
-Would you include a meeting with a “moe” girl in that world?
It would be alright if there wasn’t one, but I would certainly want an idiot there. While I would give quips, that person would be able to provide the other side of the comedy duo.
-But you have the “moe” character “Mikuru-chan” in your work. According to rumors, even the selection committee grew to like her.
Is that true? I’m not certain what that says (laughs). I had no idea I would be creating that sort of character when I started. Usually that’s decided when you begin to start writing dialogue, but I didn’t think about what type of characters I would be creating this time.
-Did you get the sense that you had balanced the characters after you finished writing?
From the beginning the character “Haruhi Suzumiya” was always a high tempo characters. Thus I had to make a low tempo character, “Yuki Nagato”, in comparison but really… you get that feeling from everyone else, don’t you?
-Was there anything useful in your experience up until now as a working adult that helped you develop these characters?
Probably. While I can’t say this person or that person was represented in a character, I can see patterns from all the various people I’ve met. There were a lot of part-time employees at my previous job, so they were helpful to design characters from.
-Do you carry that same “the ordinary is so boring” feeling that Haruhi has, Tanigawa-san?
Well it would be nice to look up and see an UFO sometime. Something like an disguised Martian spacecraft that came by to say “Hello!” But I would be worried if there was something like a giant meteorite that would come down and end the world tomorrow. There’s a problem with the supernatural. Soon they become too common and you start thinking “enough already!” If there’s too many aliens invading you think “go home!” But, at the beginning, there would be plenty of fun to be had.
-Incidentally, isn’t it true that you have a different novel being published by Dengeki Bunko this June? Would that story be considered your debut work?
I had submitted that piece to Dengeki prior to applying for the Sneaker Grand Prize. Since that process wasn’t put into a selection screening, the editor from Dengeki read it by chance and was pleased. I received a notice saying “We don’t need to see another sample of your writing.” So I started writing something suitable to be published after my debut in Dengeki Bunko. Almost immediately after that, I was told the result of the Sneaker Grand Prize. It had been about half a year since I submitted that entry… I completely forgot all about it. Please forgive me! (laughs)
-Your life has completely gone upside down, hasn’t it? Since The Sneaker editorial staff and Dengeki Bunko editorial staff work separately, we were shocked when we heard about your circumstances. With great pains, for this occasion, the Sneaker Bunko and Dengeki Bunko have collaborated to make a simultaneous release of your works on June 10, 2003.
Thank you so much. Everything so far has been such a surprise to me. I cannot say how grateful I am to everyone involved.
-So tell us a little about your work that will be published from Dengeki Bunko.
It might not be what you want to hear, but it’s another school life story. It’s not about collecting mischievous characters, but instead everyone is like an esper. But in that school, there is one person who is powerless. Of course he has to be our protagonist. Why is he there? That’s the main purpose of the story. The title is Escape from the School! Please read it.
-Excluding light novels, what type of genre would you like to write in the future?
Hmm, let’s see. Probably Sci-fi or mysteries. It’s what I’m most familiar with, so I could see myself writing a cutthroat mystery. Then after that would be a cheerful mystery. It’d be something where you get mad at the punchline, but also smile at the same time.
-All of those are novels, but yet they sound so difficult to write.
If I can sum it up in one word, it’d be entertaining. In both reading and writing, it’s the best way I can entertain myself.
-Finally, Tanigawa-san, would you give a message to our readers?
Hmmm. This year’s Tigers are somewhat different. They’re not all stars, but they’re pretty good. We say that every year though.
 Kyon uses the very masculine first person pronoun “ore” to refer to himself in the Japanese. The official translations don’t make this clear. Tanigawa tends to use a less masculine “boku” instead.