Capcom Design Room – 1995 Artist Interview

Capcom Design Room – 1995 Artist Interview

Originally published in the 1995 Capcom Illustrations mook by Gamest, this roundtable interview chronicles the formation, purview and early processes of Capcom’s design room, an internal department dedicated to illustration and visual design and the incubator for Capcom’s most talented illustrators. This interview also contains some of the earliest public insights from many of Capcom’s most famous and enduring artists, all of whom continue to work at or with Capcom to this day.

—Nice to meet you all! First things first: how should we begin the interview?

Shoei: Let’s introduce ourselves, shall we? I’m SHOEI, head of the design department at Capcom.

Nishimura: I’m Kinu Nishimura, and I’ve worked on Varth, Street Fighter II: Champion Edition, Armored Warriors, Cyberbots, etc. I was the second person to join the design room, after SHOEI.

Sensei: I’m SENSEI, illustrator for Punisher, Ultimate Ecology, Armored Warriors, Cyberbots, Quiz & Dragons, etc.

Shoei: Hmm, I guess he’d be #3.

—Can you tell us the origin of your pen name?

Sensei: Well, I really taught for a year. (laughs) I was working as a part-time teacher. “Sensei” is just a handle, I don’t mean to put myself on a pedestal or anything like that.

Bengus: Umm… I have no idea what to say. (laughs) I guess I should start with my first work for the design room, Super Street Fighter II. My major works include the Dungeons & Dragons’ cinematics, Alien vs. Predator, the Darkstalkers series and Street Fighter Alpha.

Shoei: These three mainly work as lead illustrators, and if you factor in all the other people helping out in various areas, our department has around 12 staff in total. In addition to illustration, these three also work as character designers: they’ll contribute designs during the dev cycle for a game, should the planners request they do so.

A light-hearted sketch of Capcom’s design room circa 1995.

—I’d like to ask you all a few questions, starting with Nishimura-san. To start off, what made you want to join Capcom?

Nishimura: I wasn’t personally that knowledgeable about games — they were more my younger brother’s thing, but when we went to the game center together, I was really impressed by Magic Sword and many other Capcom games: the graphics were beautiful, and I thought the illustrations were great, too. At that time, I was majoring in traditional Japanese painting at junior college, but I took the entrance exam and got accepted. It was already February and I was sure I’d missed my shot, but I got super lucky…

After I joined the company, I did about 70% of the pixel art for Saturday Night Slam Masters’ Gunlock (the rest was recycled Biff Slamkovich and elsewhere) and then I came here.

Shoei: Initially, I was the only person working in the design department, but as the workload steadily increased, it became too much for me to handle on my own, so I brought her aboard. When I was looking for someone to bolster our staff, I wanted someone relatively new who could be recruited without causing too much disruption for the people she was already working with, and so I asked her to join.

Up until that point, the planners and pixel artists for a given game would be put on the spot to draw illustrations, but juggling those demands with regular work was very hard, so I thought we needed a proper, formalized system for illustrations.

—So, what was your first illustration, Nishimura-san?

Nishimura: That’d be Varth: I drew illustrations of some characters that don’t actually appear in the game. (laughs) SHOEI told me the game could use a few characters. SFII:CE was next, I think?

Shoei: She actually drew those characters after the game was released; that’s why they didn’t appear on the arcade flyer or the articles printed in Gamest.

—That particular illustration is very popular with Gamest’s readers.

Nishimura: Thank you very much! I get so embarrassed looking at my old drawings…

—You did the illustrations for the characters in Cyberbots and Armored Warriors, right?

Nishimura: Yeah. For the mecha, the chara-man1 from the dev team came up with the designs, and SENSEI did the line work and final illustrations.

Nishimura's artwork for Cyberbots.

—How do you choose your art materials?

Nishimura: I mostly use Liquitex; I was originally a Japanese-style painter, so I’m more familiar with transparent watercolors… When I want a thick, heavy touch, I use Liquitex, and when I want something tighter, I use an alcohol-based marker called Copic.

—Do you have a favorite art medium?

Nishimura: Those Copic markers are quite easy to use, and I’ve also been using color ink recently. Cyberbots was made using color ink: the originals are drawn in pencil, and then I make copies of the drawing and color them with color ink.

—What kind of paper do you use?

Nishimura: For pencil drawings, I use commercially-available manga manuscript paper, as it’s the ideal size… or, I use whatever copy paper I can buy nearby. (laughs) For marker work, I’ll copy the original drawing onto color copy paper and then directly apply the marker, and I use thicker paper for materials like color ink or Liquitex that require a lot of water. I tend to use a lot of Kent paper, and try to avoid working with rough-surface paper like Mermaid.

—What size paper do you use?

Nishimura: Nothing too big: the maximum size is around A3, and smaller single illustrations range between B5 and A4. I don’t mind detailed work, but painting big pictures is tough because there’s so much space that has to be filled. (laughs)

—What do you find most interesting about your job?

Nishimura: It’s both interesting and painful, but I’m most stimulated by looking at the works of other artists who are way better than me, and observing how my own art has leveled up over time — I look back at my own work and think, ugh, I can’t believe I drew this!, and I can clearly recognize what was lacking in my old approach. Actually, there are times where I’ll create something that’s pretty close to what I envisioned and in that moment, I’m like “I might actually be a genius” (laughs) but after a week or so, I’m back to “ugh”.

—Do you find it tough to look at your old works?

Nishimura: If it’s something I put all my effort into at the time, then it’s not so bad… but if not, then yeah, it’s tough.

—Do you have a favorite mangaka or illustrator?

Nishimura: My all-time favorite is Jun Suemi, who does the illustrations for Wizardry and other games — it was his work that made me aware of game illustrations. Our own AKIMAN is right up there, too. I became addicted to Hirohiko Araki while working on Cyberbots, and I’m also a big fan of the works of Kazuhiko Shimamoto.

—Have you been drawing since you were a child?

Nishimura: That’s right. As a child, I secretly wanted to be a painter when I grew up. (laughs) I can’t tell stories, so becoming a mangaka is off the table, so what else is there?, I thought… and when you look at it that way, could it be that my current job is my true calling?!

—Are there any of your drawings that you like?

Nishimura: Cyberbots, I guess? I also like the cinematics I drew for that game: when I drew them, I was completely run off my feet and was forced to simply do the work on autopilot, with my brain turned off (laughs) There’s also the King of Dragons illustration I drew for the Capcom Club magazine: it had a different vibe to the official promotional art, and looking back on it, it was a lot of fun to draw.

“The King of Dragons is the first game I ever drew anything for. When I first joined Capcom, I was asked, ‘would you like to draw pictures of some monsters?’, and at the time I was just so happy to be able to draw something, but I didn’t really approach things with a lot of thought back then (nor now!), so those pictures are ones I’d definitely rather not think about. Even so, it’s still a fond memory for me, so when Club Capcom asked me for an illustration, I offered to do The King of Dragons right away. That said, I ended up cramming way too much into it, and the magazine version had text added to it which made it even more cluttered! I tried color inks for the first time with this image, but the colors didn’t quite turn out right due to the fluorescent ink, so the work was hard going… go easy on me! Given the opportunity, I’d like to take another shot at it. (Kinu Nishimura)”

—Next up is SENSEI.

Sensei: Okay.

—What was your debut work?

Sensei: My first main illustration was the poster for the Punisher arcade game. I was still working on it right up until the last second, but when they told me I’d miss the production deadline if I worked on it any longer, I had no choice but to tearfully turn in my work.

—Punisher’s based on an American comic book by Marvel, right? Did you struggle to match that original aesthetic?

Sensei: I was utterly useless at it. Please forgive me! (laughs) Drawing in that style really didn’t come easy.

—Do you have any particular favorite manga artists or illustrators?

Sensei: There are so many. Generally speaking, I prefer more intricate drawings to simpler ones, but I can appreciate anything that’s well-crafted. Narrowing down my favorites to just one or two people is a little tricky.

—I understand you’ve been drawing for a long time.

Sensei: That’s right. I’ve been drawing ever since I was a kid, when I’d draw monster pictures with crayons on the pages of the expensive illustrated picture books my parents bought for me. They were both artists as well, so they were incredibly tolerant. (laughs)

—(laughs) Is there anything in particular that drew you to Capcom?

Sensei: Well, before I worked here, I worked as a part-time teacher at a junior high school and I’d often hear the students talking about games, so I took a trip to a game center to check them out for myself, and when I saw the cloud boss of the game Chariot I thought whoa, that’s awesome! Getting a full-time teaching position wasn’t a sure bet, so I figured I should broaden my job search and sent my resume to Capcom, who saw it and called me in for an interview. As it happens, I did end up being accepted for a full-time teaching position, but I don’t regret coming here.

—Did your outside impression of Capcom change once you became an employee?

Sensei: The first surprise upon joining was learning that everything was handled in-house — I’d presumed they were working with outsourced illustrators and designers, but SHOEI drew all the title logos and AKIMAN handled the illustrations. I didn’t even know there was an internal design department; it was established right around the time I started working here, and I was assigned there after my initial training.

Shoei: He was the first new recruit we plucked for the department, and we’ve added new members every year since. It seems that people generally don’t expect there to be an internal design room within the company; that said, when they notice our little crew doing all this peculiar, hand-crafted work, a lot of people think it looks like fun, and a lot of the younger employees asked to be assigned here, but I think adding one new member every year is optimal.

—Oh, so it’s a relatively popular department, then?

Shoei: It seems so, yeah. Nobody quite knows what we do, so they’re all a little curious. (laughs)

—I see! Getting back on track… SENSEI, do you tend towards any specific art materials?

Sensei: In my case, a lot of my work is for posters and other main visuals, so I mainly use Liquitex. My primary paper is Kent, because there happens to be a lot of it around. (laughs) The amount of time I have before deadline dictates the size of paper I use (laughs), but it’s generally between B2 and B4; if the paper’s too small, I can struggle with the really fiddly details.

—Do you have a favorite art medium?

Sensei: I mostly use Liquitex. When it comes to watercolor and oil painting, I like Kusakabe’s color sets, but I haven’t really used them a whole lot since I joined the company.

—What about reference images?

Sensei: I used NASA photos as a reference for the Earth shown in the background of the Cyberbots [poster?], and whenever I’m doing sci-fi work, I’ll compare other illustrators’ work to my own — if it’s like, wow, that stinks!, I’ll quickly make alterations, and if not, I keep on truckin’. (laughs)

—What’s the most interesting thing about your job?

Sensei: Realizing that final, tangible product, I think. I always get a big kick out of seeing my posters in the game center.

—On the flipside, what’s the toughest part of your job?

Sensei: Nothing recent springs to mind… although, I do tend to oversleep, so I’m occasionally late for work. My bad!

“This was the first main illustration I drew, but I was struggling to draw the stand-alone illustrations and they ate up a lot of my time, not that I had much time to begin with. Subsequently, I couldn’t get it finished for the promotion deadline, which caused a lot of hassle for a lot of people, and for that reason it’s a hard image for me to look at, but I did the best I could at that moment. On the actual post, the shadows of Bruno and the gang were cut off due to the layout… this image was made with Liquitex on water-coated B3-pad Kent paper. (SENSEI)”

—Alright, onto BENGUS. When did you first begin drawing?

Bengus: Hmm.. since I was a kid, I guess?

—So you’ve been drawing your whole life, then?

Bengus: No, not quite. Up until junior high school, copying anime and manga pictures was practically all I did, but once I hit high school, I didn’t really draw much at all. That said, I had other interests, so I ended up going to a computer-related school, but when it came time to apply for a job, I thought I might as well try applying to Capcom, and they took me in.

—I see. What was your debut work?

Bengus: The first thing I did after joining the company was drawing destructible table & chair for Dungeons & Dragons, and from there I ended up drawing the character select screen and characters for the cinematics. Up until Alien vs. Predator, I was drawing in-game graphics, and I was brought to this department to draw illustrations for Super Street Fighter II.

Nishimura: It’s like a human trafficking business here, with people being bought and sold. (laughs)

—Do you have a favorite illustrator or mangaka?

Bengus: Well, as far as mangaka go, I like Go Nagai. Momoko Sakura, too.

Nishimura: Why Momoko Sakura?! (laughs)

Shoei: Whatever the reason, he’s into stuff that’s way out of fashion. (laughs)

—What made you decide to apply to Capcom?

Bengus: Hmm… I don’t remember why I chose to apply to Capcom, but I’d seen a lot of their developer illustrations in Gamest and I always thought they were quite good.

—Oh, so you read Gamest?

Bengus: Yes, I’m a long-time reader.

—Wow, thanks a lot. (laughs) Did your impression of Capcom as an outsider change once you joined the company?

Bengus: The consumer and arcade departments were quite far away from each other, and so I wondered whether it was right that they were so far apart, stuff like that.

—I see.

Bengus: In terms of the work itself, it’s not as tough as I thought it’d be — once I joined the workforce, I thought I’d have to be more disciplined.

—What kinds of art materials do you use?

Bengus: I tend to use Liquitex and markers, and for paper, I use copy paper. (laughs)

—Doesn’t copy paper bleed?

Bengus: Nah, not really.

Sensei: Copic markers are alcohol-based, so they don’t bleed.

Nishimura: Copy paper’s not particularly thick, so it’s fairly easy to lay down a rough sketch and then trace over it.

—Are there any particular favorites among the art you’ve drawn so far?

Bengus: Not especially. I like and dislike them all equally.

—Do you look at reference images?

Bengus: If I don’t quite grasp something, I won’t hesitate to look it up, but I tend not to look at reference images while I draw.

—What’s the most fun part of your job?

Bengus: Actually drawing the pictures is the most enjoyable part for me.

—Which parts of your job are the hardest?

Bengus: I can’t say I’ve found any of it to be particularly tough. If anything, doing this interview has stressed me out more than anything else I’ve done since I joined the company.

“There are two versions of Super Street Fighter II: the normal version and the Tournament Battle version, and this poster was drawn for the Tournament Battle version (hence THE TOURNAMENT BATTLE being written on the poster). I was told that this version of the game featured eight different color variants per character, so I thought it’d be fun to draw different versions of the characters all bunched together. Looking at it now, they all have such stern expressions on their faces, so I wish I’d drawn Cammy with a smile. (BENGUS)”

—I see… (laughs) Finally, SHOEI-san. Do you have a favorite illustrator or mangaka?

Shoei: Well, I haven’t drawn much recently. When I was in elementary and junior high school, I dabbled in manga, and my favorites then were Go Nagai and Leiji Matsumoto, and I was also watching anime like Mazinger Z and Yamato. I’m more of the Yamato generation rather than the Gundam generation. (laughs)

Nishimura: SHOEI helped to advise me on the character designs for Cyberbots, and so the design style is very Super Robot-like.

—Ah, so you’re into, like, drills and stuff?

Shoei: Oh yeah, the drill. Gotta love it! (both nod earnestly)

Nishimura: SHOEI’s bookshelf is packed with soft vinyl Getter Robo dolls. (laughs)

Shoei: None of those New Getter Robo, though.

—What put you on this path?

Shoei: I’m pretty sure it started with Mazinger Z. The ending movie showed the internal illustrations—I was captivated by that, and afterwards I spent a lot of time drawing Mazinger Z internals. After that, Getter Robo came out, and seeing those transformations was yet another huge impact. (laughs) There were other inspirations mixed with those, and because of all these things, I’d often enter anime illustration contests, but I wasn’t thinking of illustration as a future occupation.

—Why’d you decide to enter this field?

Shoei: Well, I went to a trade school for design and joined a design studio—they were handling advertising for video games, among other things, and through them I ended up designing posters for a certain video game company. Before then, I’m not sure I’d even touched Space Invaders, but that’s how I learned about the game industry.

One day, I was flipping through a job information magazine and noticed an opening at Capcom: it said they were after people who were experienced with, or had interest in, animation or illustration, and so I gave it a shot and sent an application.

—Did you start off doing this type of design work?

Shoei: In the beginning, I worked on in-game graphics, and I’d also occasionally draw illustrations or do design work such as logos. After around four and a half years of working like this—right around the time I finished up on Street Fighter 2—it was becoming more difficult to do both game graphics and design work side-by-side, so I asked my boss to allow me to concentrate solely on design, and from around the time of Knights of the Round, I was no longer working on game graphics.

From then, I spent around eighteen months working on my own on game title logos and so on. I’ve been in charge of title logos since I joined Capcom, and most of the logos after Side Arms were designed by me.

—When did you start hiring more people?

Shoei: When I was working on Street Fighter 2 Champion Edition, I was working on everything from the main illustration to the logo to in-game graphics—I was working all through New Year and it was really tough, so I asked for one more person to help me; that’s when Nishimura joined, and soon after, the number of people working with us suddenly increased. Right now, including AKIMAN, there are seven people who actually draw pictures; the other people in the department handle administrative work or design work for pamphlets and so on, and we also have someone who translates American comics.

We only recently became a formalized department, and before then we were pretty much left to our own devices (big laugh). People around the company would ask, what on earth are those guys doing? (laughs) I think they’re employees, but we never see them at their desks…

—You guys had it rough, then.

Shoei: We were given our own room around three years ago, but before then we’d work right alongside the developers, squirreled away somewhere in the planning room. (laughs) Nowadays, people are well aware of the design team, but at the time, they’d look at us like, who are these slovenly people? (laughs) Our area would be a total mess, with untidy desks and all sorts of drawings strewn everywhere; we were these weirdos who lived in the corner, and when they’d arrive to the office in the morning, there we’d be, asleep at our desks. It all seemed very suspicious. (laughs)

—That sounds very similar to us at Gamest. (laughs)

Shoei: I’m not sure how other companies handle things, but our company basically handles all the arcade-related work in-house: from the illustrations to the posters to the logos, we’re intimately familiar with the games themselves and are able to immerse ourselves directly in the process of making the overall work, and I think that way of thinking led directly to the formation of the design room.

—Do you oversee all the design drawings?

Shoei: I don’t look at everything, but I always try to offer my input on anything illustrative. In addition to title logos and illustrations, we also handle pamphlets, how-to-play cards and the staff T-shirts for special events, and we also handle design and illustration work for UFO catcher prizes: watches, plushes, notebooks, and so on.

“The Super Street Fighter 2: Super Turbo poster mentioned above by SHOEI; the illustrations themselves were mostly drawn by Kinu Nishimura, with BENGUS handling Akuma. “I enjoy pencil drawing, so I think I was able to get these to look how I wanted them to. As I drew, I wondered if it was really okay to go with such an art style, but the scales gradually fell from my eyes. (Kinu Nishimura)”

—Do you have a preferred art medium?

Shoei: I don’t do a lot of painting these days, but I sometimes help the other designers. Recently, I’ve been using a Macintosh computer for logos and so on.

Previously, I used Liquitex and acrylic gouache; I’m not really into color inks. I also use an airbrush for my main illustration work, and if I get the urge to do cel illustration, I’ll go to an anime store, buy the materials and make a cel myself.

—Were those Turbo cel images made in-house?

Shoei: Yeah. I enjoy doing that kind of work. (laughs) I enjoy trying different techniques, and I try not to use the same technique more than once, so the image changes with every picture. (laughs) The Super Turbo illustration, for example, looks like a slapdash pencil drawing, but that was a very deliberate stylistic approach. (laughs) People often commented that I mustn’t have had a lot of time to work on it, and other departments kept pressing me for the cleaned-up version as soon as possible. (laughs) I thought it’d be impactful—since the world of the game itself is so colorful, it seemed like a monochrome approach might be interesting.

—I think you did a version where only Akuma was colored, right?

Shoei: The image was to be used at an overseas trade show, so I had someone quickly do the coloring. I really like that pencil line approach, but it won’t work again… I took that approach so as to say, “you can do this sort of thing, too.”

—Do you decide on the particular approach to take before you start on each illustration?

Shoei: That’s right, I’ll consult with the designer in charge of the illustration and ask, “how do you want to approach it this time?” and we’ll make a decision from there. At that moment, it’s hard to know whether it’s the right or wrong approach, so I’ll establish some guidelines and have them go from there; they’ll usually have some doubts about precisely what to draw, so I try to help them figure out a direction… but, I more or less leave a lot of parts up to them. (laughs)

Nishimura: Is that so…!

Shoei: Well, I hope it gets results, but the company does get annoyed at me for the art style changing all the time.

Nishimura: I’m told that Ryu’s face changes every time, but I think I’m drawing the best possible version I can at that moment. I think that if you truly understand the fundamental essence and characteristics of the character, then even if the details differ somewhat, the image will reflect another aspect of the character.

Shoei: It’s a touchy subject, but from a licensing perspective, it’s best not to deviate too much.

Nishimura: If you do the same thing over and over, people will get bored of it. I consciously try to change my art style each time.

Shoei: Well, one of the drawbacks of this approach is that you end up going into every new work with a half-cooked level of craftsmanship. I really didn’t expect the Street Fighter series to keep going and going. (laughs) Conversely, when it comes to adapting these characters for animation, there’s no one definitive look for the characters, so it can be difficult to convey the intended “on-model” image.

(behind-the-scenes chatter)

—This has gone completely off-topic! Bringing things back on track… let’s talk about the Fujiwara-kyo anime.

Shoei: Capcom had a pavilion at the (Romantopia Fujiwara-kyo ’95) expo held in Nara, and that was the film we showed at that event. It was freely viewable to the public, but we didn’t give a lot of advance notice, so it’s probably not something that’s well-known outside of the Kansai area. The production for that anime was handled by a different company to the one that handled the theatrical animated movie,2 so we had to re-establish the image from scratch, and that’s why I asked Nishimura to work directly on the character designs.

Nishimura: I’ve become pretty good at drawing those main characters after drawing them so often, so I thought I’d give it a shot.

Shoei: That’s why the look of that animation is very close to our official illustrations. I’d really like for more people to be able to see it—we manually reviewed the key frames and had them make a lot of revisions.

—The voice actors are different from the movie, aren’t they?

Shoei: Only Honda’s voice actor is the same.

Street Fighter II: Yomigaeru Fujiwara-kyo (“Return to the Fujiwara Capital”), the anime discussed above. Incidentally, shmuplations was commissioned to subtitle this very video earlier this year!

—When you’re working on a new game, at what stage does the design room become involved with designing the characters?

Shoei: Our involvement changes on a case-by-case basis: in some cases, we work in tandem with the plan-man from a very early stage, and in other cases we might be tasked with illustrating characters that are already moving in-game. A project manager will often come to us with requests for characters of a certain archetype—”main character”, “female character”, “mastermind-type”, etc—but every project is different. For Cyberbots, the characters were created from scratch by the design room.

—Do you handle most of the art for the intro screens and other demos?

Nishimura: Yes. The planning staff will give us the storyboards, and then we’ll draw the original images based on those specs. That was the process for the Darkstalkers and Street Fighter Alpha series, for example, and I also worked on the pictures of Chun-Li, Cammy and Akuma that appeared in the Super Turbo intro. If I have enough free time, I’ll even work directly on the pixel art. We won’t always handle the entire thing individually, though: for example, the image of Ryu throwing the hadouken in the Super intro was drawn by AKIMAN.

—Does the artist drawing the character illustrations also draw the posters?

Shoei: They’re different artists. it’s hard to one artist to find the time to do both. There are so many characters these days…

Bengus: Yeah.

—When it comes to workflow, do you have assistants who specifically handle coloring, or…?

Shoei: No, the artist in charge of the image will handle the entire thing from beginning to end. They don’t want other people touching their work. (laughs) This way, the completed image will be more consistent, and the artist feels more responsibility for the final product.

—Are most of you designers from the Kansai region?

Shoei: Not really.

Bengus: I’m from Tokyo.

Nishimura: I’m from Shikoku.

Sensei: I’m from Kyushu.

Shoei: I’m from Osaka, but I don’t use the Kansai dialect very often within the company. AKIMAN’s from Hokkaido, I think? We’ve amassed migrants from all over the country. (laughs)

—What are your standards for the people you hire?

Shoei: On a surface level, I want artists who can be immediately effective. That said, I typically avoid people whose drawings are too idiosyncratic—people who draw characters with strange proportions or other eccentricities often struggle to draw in a different style and their work doesn’t always have a lot of practical application; what’s more, people who’ve developed such individualistic styles tend to be proud of what they’ve cultivated, and so getting them to draw in other styles can be easier said than done. Even when it comes to illustrations, the work we produce is a product, and so people who understand this are a big asset: in other words, adaptability is a key point.

—How important or unimportant is an art degree?

Shoei: SENSEI and Nishimura are art school graduates, aren’t they?

Nishimura: I don’t think formal education is that important—I think it’s good to bring on people who’ve thought about the skills required to be a professional and acquired those skills on their own. More than anything, I think being self-motivated is crucial.

Shoei: When BENGUS joined, he was at a point where he wasn’t even familiar with paints, let alone Liquitex. (laughs) On the contrary, it might be better for one to come in with no prior knowledge.

Sensei: People who are already too set in their ways can be unable to go in new directions.

Shoei: It’s hard to properly articulate something so instinctual, but when I see a picture by someone who has that certain something, it makes me tingle. Edayan, the artist who recently won the illustration contest we held through Gamest, is actually working at the design room now. (laughs)

—Ah, so I’d heard…!

Shoei: At the time of the contest, we really needed someone who could hit the ground running, but the strange part that he kept telling us that he really wanted to be a mangaka, so it was like, don’t sweat it, you’ll be able to draw manga too. (laughs) He ended up drawing the manga for this book.

Actually, I buy every issue of Gamest and check out all the readers’ illustrations, so I’m usually familiar with all the regular contributors. People might potentially be discovered from that angle, too — it’s not like sitting the entrance exam is your only point of entry.

This contest-winning illustration of Morrigan scored Edayan a job at Capcom; he’d go on to contribute series-defining illustrations and designs for the Rival Schools, Street Fighter EX and Street Fighter Alpha series, and is currently heavily involved with the Monster Hunter series.

—Are you on the lookout for any particular style of illustration?

Shoei: Hmm, it really comes down to the perceptiveness of the artist: if I see something in their work that excites me even a little, I’d be inclined to hire them. When we do things like exams, I tend to find that the artists whose works aren’t quite so refined are the ones that tend to stand out. Technique is something that can be developed over time, but cultivating that artistic sensibility can be more difficult as it is, to an extent, innate.

—As for the illustrations themselves, do you have someone acting as an art director to check over each piece?

Shoei: That’s right. Generally speaking, we’ll begin by deciding on a direction for the illustration, and then it’s in the hands of the individual artist to see it through from beginning to end, at which point AKIMAN and I will consult with them and offer our two cents. That said, I usually sneak a peek at it during the process, though, when the artist isn’t around. (laughs) More than anything, it’s usually the artist themselves who want to fix their work once it’s done… Coming at it from another angle, some of the illustrations we make aren’t just illustrations: they’re not truly complete until they’re made into posters or other things, so it’s important that the artist works with that in mind.

—In closing, do you have a message for our readers?

Shoei: Alright, Nishimura can go first. This discussion’s getting too serious!

Nishimura: Oh, so I should start off with something like, “suppon~!!“?3

Shoei: Uh, no. (laughs)

—Please try to say something halfway dignified. (laughs)

Nishimura: I want to show this book to my parents and relatives, so I really should say something decent. (laughs) Well, then, my message to the aspiring illustrators out there is to do your best to walk whatever path you believe is right for you. “Flexibility” and “being true to one’s self” are key.

Sensei: When I was a kid, I’d be infatuated by Ultraman and anime and think to myself, I wish I could make someone else feel this same excitement, but I never expected I’d actually get to do work like this. (laughs)

Bengus: Umm… I don’t have much to add. (laughs) What to say…

Shoei: Saying anything substantial at this point would be very un-BENGUS-like. (laughs)

Bengus: Okay, well, I’m more nervous right now than I’ve ever been since I joined Capcom. Done.

Shoei: I plan to continue aiming at producing the best possible work so as to meet peoples’ expectations, and I look forward to working with some of you on Capcom games in the future!

—I think that wraps things up nicely. (laughs) That concludes our interview. Thanks for your time, everyone!

Shoei: Nishimura-san, you were remarkably reserved today.

Nishimura: Ya got me…

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  1. Capcom’s in-house terminology for various development disciplines differs from the typical Japanese titles: character designers are “chara-man”, game designers are “plan-man” etc, irrespective of gender; studios descended from Capcom, such as Platinum Games, often tend to use that same nomenclature.

  2. The Fujiwara-kyo anime was produced by Studio Pierrot, and the theatrical anime was produced by Group TAC.

  3. An old kabuki term for appearing or disappearing from the stage via trapdoor, as if to imply by magic.


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