Motoki Tomatsu Discusses the Incredible Journey Of ‘Kiva #1’

Kiva #1 interview

It’s a tricky thing to mix a real-life disaster and a fantastical story of a dog’s epic journey. But that’s exactly what writer and artist Motoki Tomatsu does in Kiva #1, a new book from Scout Comics hitting stores later this month.

“I was simply inspired by the stories about pet dogs left behind after the disaster,” Tomatsu told Comic Book Club over email. “I created the story based on that and attached it to what actually happened afterward. I’m not talking about reality, and I’m not in the position to do so.”

To find out more about the inspiration behind the series, read on.

Comic Book Club: What initially sparked this idea that’s part Incredible Journey, part post-apocalypse thriller (but with animals)?

Motoki Tomatsu: When I grew up in the countryside in Japan, many pet dogs were chained outside the house. I had a secret desire to release them all and let them be independent from their masters. It was a weirdly contradictory daydream. Then, much later, the Fukushima disaster happened. I read an article about pet dogs left behind. It sparked an idea in my head about the greatest escape that could happen for real.

How do you get into the head of animals? Do you view Kiva and the rest as human surrogates? Or are you aiming to make them feel more animalistic?

Originally, I wanted it to be more animalistic, with no dialogues. A part of my mind still feels the same. But as I proceeded with the writing, I realized that the characters needed to be more understandable for everyone. I tried to keep every character’s motivation as simple as possible.

You’re using a real disaster as the backdrop for a semi-fantasy story. How do you straddle the line of being respectful while still creating a thrilling adventure?

I was simply inspired by the stories about pet dogs left behind after the disaster. I created the story based on that and attached it to what actually happened afterward. I’m not talking about reality, and I’m not in the position to do so.

Talk about designing Kiva. What was important to capture in his character, visually?

I wanted Kiva to look similar to the dog I grew up with, a Shiba Inu mixed breed. Nothing too special, very common in Japan. Every dog has a story. Although Kiva looks like one of those very common dogs, he has a pretty special background.

How about thematically? At least part of it seems to be about Kiva growing up and hardening as he faces a world outside of domesticity.

Exactly. Growing up, for sure. Family is the first thing that crossed my mind. Kiva needs to find his family. Inui gets her family together, and Toru got stuck with his family at the shelter.

You don’t shy away from violence with the animals in particular. What’s the line with scenes like this? How far can you take them?

I like reality. I know how wild the wild can be at times. Show everything, so there’s nothing to hide.

You’re also jumping around in time a lot in this book. Do you have a linear timeline of events that you’re breaking up? Or are you mostly seeing where the story takes you?

The main story is in 2011 when the disaster happened. I bring up the past to support the characters’ motivations.

This is to be continued at the end. What can you tease about further volumes?

The future will be a series of tough decisions for Kiva. He will leave the wild, return to his pack, and fight for what is his. Inspired by [Kurosawa’s] Seven Samurai

Kiva #1 hits stores on July 17, 2024.

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