Naoko Takeuchi is something of an interesting character, even by Japanese manga artist standards. As you follow her career, she seems to waffle between two extremes — sometimes she’s intensely private, and other times she’ll write about deeply personal stories and publish them in comics with massive, nationwide circulation.
And for that, I’m immensely thankful. How often do we have a chance to get such a close look “behind the curtain,” so to speak, of our favorite creators?
Today, I’d like to take a closer look at Ms. Takeuchi’s relationship with the equally-famous manga artist Yoshihiro Togashi. Or, more accurately, how she very nearly called the marriage off. It’s a pretty epic tale, as told by our favorite eccentric artist herself, so you might wanna stick around!
While I believe everyone is welcome to their own opinion, it always surprises me at the sheer number of Sailor Moon fans there are out there that actively seem to dislike Ms. Takeuchi.
It’s not that there’s necessarily a lot of fans with that belief, of course. It’s just that it seems somewhat absurd to be a passionate fan of a series and yet hate the person who made it.
I personally believe it’s due to the fact that she tends to come off as a famous person… who has absolutely no clue that she’s famous. While her fans charitably look on at Ms. Takeuchi’s comments about her race cars, expensive jewelry, and fancy houses as proof of her innocence and naivete, her critics interpret them as boasting and a sign of being out of touch with the rest of the world.
I can’t, and won’t, change your mind about who she is. But it is an important part of her personality. And, luckily for us, that over-sharing trait of hers gives us a lot of interesting insights into her personal life, including how she met her husband, Yoshihiro Togashi,1 and what the rocky lead up to their marriage was like!2
When Two Manga Legends Collide
So how did the two meet? Well, contrary to internet rumor,3 Megumi Ogata had nothing to do with introducing the two. While there is one internet translation lurking about where Ms. Takeuchi refers to Megumi as “her cupid,”4 the two actually met at a gathering for manga artists.
- There’s no Japanese text available
- Megumi’s comment that Ms. Takeuchi was replying to was “illegible” and couldn’t be translated
- Ms. Takeuchi refers to another person at the gathering as “cupid” as well
- Megumi played characters in both of their works (Kurama in Yu Yu Hakusho and Haruka in Sailor Moon) and could be a figurative “cupid”
…I’m pretty convinced this is just a baseless internet rumor.
So anyway, in August 1997 Ms. Takeuchi was invited to a Weekly Shonen Jump party hosted by Kazushi Hagiwara, author of the appropriately titled manga, Bastard!!.5 As luck would have it, she was seated next to Yoshihiro Togashi, acclaimed manga artist and creator of such titles as Yu Yu Hakusho and Hunter x Hunter. Ms. Takeuchi was actually a big fan of his, particularly his science fiction manga Level E.
At the party, he gave Ms. Takeuchi a card with his name and number on it, which she took as a sign to call him. Depending on which of her two stories you believe, either she called shortly thereafter and talked on the phone (where he admitted to knowing nothing about Sailor Moon),6 or she faxed him three weeks later and he took three months to get back to her since he was travelling at the time.7
Lover, Manager, Partner, and Colorist
Though the timeline is a bit vague, Ms. Takeuchi had a lot of time on her hands once Sailor Moon was over with, so she decided to help Yoshihiro with his then-new manga, Hunter x Hunter. She first tried to play the role as manager (running his office, cleaning up after him, etc.) before getting booted out of that role and trying her hand at coloring his art.
Ultimately, there wasn’t enough work to do, and she found herself just sitting around with no jobs being sent her way. Not yet ready to get back into the life of a manga artists, Ms. Takeuchi weighed her options, and even briefly considered going back to work as a pharmacist — which she actually has a license for.
Let’s Get Married!
Again, depending on which version of Ms. Takeuchi’s conflicting narratives you believe, the proposal happened in one of two ways:
1) Yoshihiro hated watching Ms. Takeuchi feeling so conflicted about her future and he proposed to her, telling her that she could take it easy8
2) Naoko invited him out for dinner to celebrate her own birthday and he stood her up. She got drunk and called him to yell at him, and demanded to know what he thought about their relationship. He said he was thinking about marriage, and she accepted.9
In June 1998, just 10 months after they met, Ms. Takeuchi phoned up her editor, Fumio “Osabu” Osano, to let him know she was quitting her manga career — a story he’d heard many times — to get married.
The Downward Spiral
And that brings us up to what we were here to discuss in the first place — what (almost…) went wrong!
The months counted by, Yoshihiro was incredibly busy with his newly-launched manga, and the wedding talks went absolutely nowhere. And if that wasn’t bad enough, news of their “marriage” had apparently gotten out, with women sending him fan letters to congratulate him on his marriage, and pop magazines carrying the news.
Except, you know, they weren’t actually married.
Finally getting tired of all this, around October 1998 (roughly 4-7 months after they got engaged, depending on which timeline you believe) Ms. Takeuchi demanded answers. Was he serious about getting married? And what were his views on marriage anyway?
The first answer was a definitive yes. The second answer was… well, I’ll let him tell it:10
We’ll keep our own last names, live separately, and both work. Oh, and we won’t butt in about each other’s job. No kids, no legal marriage, and I don’t want a ceremony. Cheating is also okay, for either one of us.
That went over about as well as you’d imagine. Ms. Takeuchi figured that if he could be such a care-free individual, then she could too. She called the wedding off in November 1998 and decided that she’d re-launch her manga career all on her own, and find some other guy.
Thankfully, this was the shock that Yoshihiro needed to bring him to his senses, and he begged Ms. Takeuchi to take him back. The two set a firm wedding date for January 1999, giving them exactly one month to get everything together.
Apparently miracles do happen, because on at 9:30 am on January 6, 1999, the two were married at the Four Seasons Hotel in Bunkyo-ku, Tokyo. The day after their wedding, they left for a 15 day honeymoon to Spain and Turkey.
So what do I think about all this? Well, I’m of mixed minds. While all of the statements come from official sources — and even from Naoko herself! — none of the timeline really makes sense to me. At best, I think that she probably got a lot of her dates wrong, and at worse, I think she was embellishing a lot of details for the sake of dramatic story telling.
Naoko describes herself continuously as “free” during that time, but her new manga PQ Angels ran from September to December 1997, so even granting a few months’ lead time, she would have still been busy when they first met. What’s more, she describes helping him work on Hunter x Hunter for at least two months, before she found herself without anything to do and looking at getting back into the workforce… but that manga debuted in March 3, 1998, which is a mere 12 days before her birthday when he supposedly proposed.
Even factoring for some lead time before publication, I find it hard to believe he could have had so much of the manga ready that she was actually doing production art on the manga for nearly two months.
Regardless of whether the timeline is true or not, it’s still an interesting look into both of their personalities, and also makes me happy to know that their marriage is still going strong 19 years later. Good on ya, Yoshihiro, for turning your act around!11
- See Yoshihiro Togashi (Wikipedia) ↩
- See Young You (January 1999) ↩
- See Naoko Takeuchi (Wikipedia) ↩
- See Princess Takeuchi Naoko’s Return-to-Society Punch!! ↩
- See Kazushi Hagiwara (Wikipedia) ↩
- This is the story that appears in the January 1999 issue of Young You ↩
- This is the story that appears in the special January 6, 1999 edition of Weekly Shonen Jump ↩
- The Young You version ↩
- The Weekly Shonen Jump version ↩
- See p. 151 of the January 1999 issue of Young You ↩
- Kinda… maybe… but probably not… ↩