Remember the announcement from a couple of months ago about the Digital Devil Apocalypse interview? The Kaneko one. Well, I don’t celebrate Halloween, but here’s a treat for you (no tricks!).
(relevant banner thanks to @eirikrjs)
For Digital Devil Apocalypse scans check the scans tag, they’ll be easy to find.
The man called ‘the Demon Artist’. The man who reinterprets ancient myths and legends into modern allegory. The vision of the world that travels from his brain to his fingertips can be without doubt associated with the words ‘the Demon Artist’. However, it seems that those words weave a rather insular association. The Demon Artist – Kaneko Kazuma. In truth, there are many things to say about the demon motifs in his art and becoming more aware of them in order to understand his illustrations is certainly no mistake. And yet, we have dared to leave that way of thinking aside.
This interview does not intend to introduce the demons themselves, but to approach the secrets of the designs born at the interstice of intention and chance and to hear Kaneko’s interpretations of his own motifs. Each illustration has been categorised according to the particularities of its shape and this approach characterises the entire framework.
First of all, I would like to know why you are called the ‘Demon Artist’.
I received this nickname in the strategy guide for the NES version of Megami Tensei II back when I first started this job. I personally have doubts about it though. It stuck simply because my work was drawing demons. You see, I don’t draw as a hobby. I don’t want to do anything unless there’s a purpose to it. I usually like tarrying and procrastinating, but since this is work, I will take my idiosyncrasies into account, but still won’t turn it into a hobby. I will never get into the mood to do it otherwise. Maybe one day I’ll do something about it, but I want to take my time for now. I hate overworking or stressing myself out.
What can you say about the motifs of your demons?
I love using natural phenomena as inspiration, so I reinterpret them in my own way to have them fit in with the game. Besides, the terminology expands as well, so lately I’ve had all kinds of things to think about: focusing on particular mythologies, for example.
Do you mean that in the beginning you weren’t really taking the original mythology into account that much?
Yes. Now there are books coming out about imaginary worlds or about fantasy, but if these kind of ideas were used in games, they’d take hold of them in the end. When I started this work, Norse mythology wasn’t that popular. People knew about Alien Baltan though.
So during those times, I had to take inspiration from those lesser known mythologies and beliefs. I was eager to give them a shape somehow. There was this train of thought back then that Indians should be the ones to illustrate Hindu mythology. Indian goddesses, for example, would all look like they’re floating and so on. But you see, thanks to RPGs and fantasy games, people became more aware and started doing research. That is why I figured I should tackle those differences that were now obvious.
At first the motifs for mythologies and beliefs were limited and you had to draw them in a way that was easy to understand. Compared to that, you are using nowadays an intrinsic approach that aims for awe and fear, which shows your own interpretation of the subject, right?
Exactly. Even normal life has its own eccentricities, right? Like the times I get a bad feeling or when I get annoyed. This type of daily life experiences, my feelings, are a considerable influence on the shaping of characters. They get a really common feel like that, I believe. I want to express this common feeling that cannot apply to people who have isolated themselves from society.
What does ‘common’ mean to you?
The people who live normally are ‘common’. If you can’t walk around a city normally, then you aren’t ‘common’. Well, depending on those people’s hobbies or likes and dislikes, walking around the town can mean all kinds of things. But what I want to have in my art is this realistic feeling of daily motion.
How about you?
I rarely go out with no purpose, I usually try to find one, even if it’s just ‘Man, I kind of want to buy a bag’. Speaking of which, I’m a complete shopaholic. I start thinking that I’m utterly hopeless unless I buy something. I do get bored really fast though. For clothes I prefer Jeans Corona, so I always look for them everywhere and if I can’t find my size, I’ll have them order a pair for me; if they don’t fit, I sell them. Even if I throw them away, my garbage bags are transparent so it’s obvious a mountain of flashy clothes goes inside and it ends up looking like the garbage of an actor or something. I like Nicholas Cage, you know. Fashion like the one in Wild At Heart is really cool. For going out, I mean, since I usually work at the company during the day.
What about nightlife?
It exists. I’m not against adult entertainment and I go to clubs by myself as well. I have to be careful if I go in a group so it’s rather difficult. I don’t like it if there’s no fun, so I take the role of making things entertaining for everyone. But, truth be told, I don’t like that either. Even if I go to the club by myself, I just laze around. Since I go by myself very rarely, I don’t really talk about these nights and keep them a secret. They’re pretty fun.
Is it fun, going to those places?
It is. There are quite a lot of things happening around there. I get hit on by girls, for example. It’s different from simply walking around with a camera. I’m using CG now, so I don’t take photos of backgrounds anymore and use a digital camera, and at times like these I attract quite a lot of attention. I wonder if they’re interested in dating.
What do they talk about?
Well, we end up exchanging phone numbers sometimes, but I’m not interested in dating so I don’t keep them in mind. I simply forget them at those times. I really got into adult entertainment once I started going there for research. I’m not really interested in people at the moment though. That’s why no matter what someone gives me, I can’t give back. I only do inexcusable things. This is a sin, right…and it ends up reflected in my works. Like in Persona 2: Innocent Sin.
I see, so that’s how it was supposed to be…
That’s how sin is, you know. This is a strange thing to say, but I have a rather long face, so when I was a kid or later in school people would always point that out and it became an emotional period for me and I’d get really mad. But you see, I didn’t mind the way they said it and that was a sin. Even I felt like I had to do something, so instead of bearing ill will, I would rather naturally hurt the others.
Concerning demons, do you place the natural parts ‘everyday feelings’ and ‘sin’ at the root of their design?
I do. Demons are portrayed differently in manga, novels or movies, but in the end they are nothing more than something born out of the imagination of humans. Their shape particularly so. They bother us, so we’ll give them bat wings and things like that. Acting like this or revering them gives people peace. I feel that the most important thing when drawing demons is to study the people who created them.
What are your fears?
I guess I’m afraid of what the future holds. And a strange one: getting killed by a mass murderer. Socially wise, it would restructuring. I definitely fear what tomorrow might bring.
What do you think about giving the origin of fear human shape?
Take night, for example. It’s bright at night now, but it used to be completely dark before, so people would get scared just from hearing a strange voice or a sound. They gave it a form and blamed Azukiarai. Many of the demons I draw have the human shape at their base. If I go too wild though, they won’t look scary anymore. If I mix them up too much, they might end up looking interesting, but not frightening. If there actually were beings of the underworld, then the Angels of Evangelion would work, and laughing at them would probably be natural thing to do, but they wouldn’t be scary. In the end, I have the feeling it’s not going to work unless you use humans as motif to transmit fear or awe. Putting a human’s likeness in a costume is the same as in reality: doing things according to my own likes and dislikes, trying all sorts of looks, changing my hairstyle. Here’s an old and embarrassing story, but I think Jeanne D’Arc’s design is a good example. Her category: Hero. By putting her in a good costume, she gains that identity and becomes that person. It’s a motif found since long ago among the image of French revolutionary heroes, so it was easy.
A quick glimpse at the demon designs made me notice that the main gods of each mythology has a human form.
Amon Ra, Takemikazuchi, Vishnu…might be a coincidence, but as expected, the greatest gods are difficult to interpret. They are the bodily manifestation of natural disasters, so they’re illustrated along the lines of Raijin, no matter the belief. They appear together with thunder clouds and flashes of lighting. Even though I have these images in mind, giving them shape is difficult. I once drew a strange ball with lighting around it and put a face in its middle, then added all kinds of details, but in the end this made me realise the human form is still the best.
The more they’re related to phenomena, the more human they look…
It does tend to end up like this. Their identity as existences is clearly of a low level. The beings related to phenomena need a philosophical explanation. The lighting that comes rolling down has got to be praised and it’s something normal if you think about its effects on agricultural life, but there are also cases nowadays when you wonder why exactly it is revered. If we were to give shape to the things we don’t understand, it’s easier to just make them look human.
Do you use familiar things as motifs?
My own self who is afraid of the future. Parents, among others. I am an only child, but when the parents won’t be able to do anything in the future, you’ll have to live together, wouldn’t you hate things like that? Sending them to the nursing home is all right, but I’m still the one who has to pay for everything and I hate that. The funeral too, I don’t even know how to handle it. I hate things like that. On the other hand, I don’t like children either. There are a lot of friends of people with kids and everyone’s having fun but I’d personally think it’s just too noisy. I guess there’s no love in me for that but I can’t even tell whether this is true or not though. These kind of things are scary. Honestly. I want to give these things a bit more thought. For example, your ancestors. Even if people don’t believe in ghosts, they believe in the spirits of their ancestors. They even go to visit their graves. They do the funeral rites too. I think that’s strange though. You don’t need to do all those things if you don’t believe in them. It probably sounds a bit cold, but I think that by creating spirits and strange happenings we strengthen family bonds and preserve bloodlines. So if we revere phenomena as human forms, resentment might also arise, but if they are gods and spirits, then we might not understand them, so the only option left would be to praise them. This is what I base these demi-humans on.
Very interesting. If we revere real humans, then opposition will also arise. However, giving human shape to those phenomena means…
Yeah, very unpleasant. It may be that it’s difficult to empathise unless the human form is involved. Besides, praying at shrines is also an odd thing. There’s no cash dispenser, so when the gods hear all that they must think ‘I have to grant their wishes’. Kind of interesting.
Do you pray at shrines?
No. I went to visit Taira no Masakado’s head mound while we were working on the Megaten series, but that is because I personally respect him. A different matter. There are a lot of facets to this. If we were to follow the theory that the Imperial Family is part of the Hebrew lineage, then he would also become the one who opposed the Jews. The imperfect hero, so to speak. It would be cool if that kind of man existed. For example, it would kind of feel like when young people would visit Kimura Takuya’s future grave.
Then what about humans themselves?
Pretty indifferent to them. My parents owned a sushi store, so I was able to see a lot of customers coming and going – monks, yakuza, teachers. When I was in primary school, I saw my teacher doing lewd things to a young girl. I saw the strength of the yakuza. I guess I grew pretty indifferent after seeing all that. There’s also this service industry. Here’s a strange story: even if I take my subordinates out for fun, I have this habit of making great efforts to make them feel good. It’s like all my efforts come to naught. In the end I return to my old self, but wishing deep inside for sincerity makes me feel lonely. Perhaps that’s why I’m so cold towards people, since I have no expectations.
What are the differences between real humans and demons who have a human form?
When I think up characters, I think up a lie in a way. In the case of hotheaded characters, I try to find an objective explanation for their behaviour. Moreover, there are parts that cannot be simply expressed by drawing, so it becomes group work with the game’s script and timing. But I draw demons intuitively. Saying that I draw about 300 demons in four months is pretty terrible. There’s also no personal compensation. Both gods and demons were created by man’s unfairness. Giving form to things that worry us and then laying the blame on them. What I really love, look wise, is the image of Takakura Ken in yakuza movies, but you don’t really see this in real life. That transitory lifestyle, I don’t want it to be confined to just a moment, I feel like I want to be like that all the time. But it’s difficult, you see. We humans blame our weaknesses on other things that won’t allow us to act in a certain way. The ones who take the bad guy role in such moments are the demons.
That is why many people needed them for a long time.
Yes. But their numbers are decreasing now. Nowadays, murderers are much more frightening than things with no shape. Or thieves. Physical rather than psychological fear. Perhaps these categories reflect the atmosphere of the times the best.
What about the beast motifs?
It’s hard for me to draw beasts. Four-legged animals are difficult and I feel like I can’t even get the musculature of serpents right. So I still can’t settle on a pose for them. Roaring beasts look really cool, but I can’t keep using that forever. It’s a difficult composition. That’s why I get sad when all my efforts go unnoticed.
Do you keep the description of the beasts as transmitted through legends or do you add your own interpretation?
I mostly keep them as they are. There are quite a lot of composite demons, like Chimera, and I feel like they might actually be based on dinosaurs. There are theories according to which dating of fossils is not that precise, meaning they might have lived much closer to our ages. Not to mention that reconstructing dinosaurs from their skeletons doesn’t mean getting everything right. Their colours for one. It seems they actually had fur and the like and it made me think they might have been similar to composite beasts. However, beasts like Kerberos or Yamata-no-orochi are already said to symbolise certain things. Orochi, for example, is the symbol of the river or of the antagonistic group of eight men. Apparently, this theory that it is the Ark of the Covenant has been floating around. The Ark is a rectangular box with eight angles and three borders extending from each angle. In other words, it ends up looking like a forked branch. Of course, having a sword get out of that box is only natural. I thought it was pretty interesting. Also, perhaps the three heads of Kerberos symbolise Law, Chaos and Neutral. Basically, there are a lot of symbolic animals as there are gods in the shape of humans.
A lot of the Fallen are also animals. We have a horse and a dragon, among others.
The Key of Solomon features a lot of animals. It made me think that the Hebrews made their own gods the best and turned other people’s gods into demons, with the artists back then adding their own interpretations.
Are the visuals of legends created from the combined power of people’s imagination just as living beings are created from the combination of genetic elements?
A tornado, for example, resembles a dragon, right? You obviously can’t imagine things you’ve never seen before, so this comparison fits. The evolution of organisms is a strange thing. I still can’t understand why the giraffe has got such a long neck, even though Darwin wrote his whole book on evolution. Beings suddenly born with a strange defect or mutation adapted by coincidence. I can’t help but think there really was a god who one day simply decided to create them. But if you think about it, just why did he make them? I love animals and watch ‘Amazing Animals’ or the Discovery Channel, and notice there are so many strange creatures. Look at the spider, whose body is so small, yet legs are so randomly long. They’re really cool, but how do they live? It is a mystery. I’m actually quite interested in that.
Speaking of evolution, there are so many theories you can’t just settle on one; I think this is pretty fun.
It is. We don’t really know what is right and what is wrong, so using our imagination is really fun indeed. Drawing beasts is particularly interesting since they have a wide variety of motifs.
Do you love animals?
I love them, but my house is too small, so I can’t keep any. I’d do it if I had a big enough house though. I’d get a huge dog to look cool (laughs). When I was a kid, there was this yakuza in my neighbourhood who walked around with his two or three Shepherds. They also had some great names, like Shachi, not plain ones like Koro and others. I used to think they were so cool! I was born in the downtown though, so I couldn’t even imagine keeping one in our house. Maybe a dirty Shiba or something.
You talked in the beginning about paying attention to the people around, but that seems more like something spiritual, and when they have a pet some tend to exaggerate…
Yeah. I mean, there are people calling them ‘my little So-and-so’. I don’t know since I have never kept pets, but I wonder if I’d become like that too. Well, I’d probably end up like that and it scares me. It really scares me that I don’t know how it would all end up. Don’t you think people are at their most easy-going right now? There’s no need to force them to change. But once a pet or a child enters your life, there will be a sudden change. And you won’t be able to get back to your old habits.
Speaking of which, do you prefer cat-like or dog-like women?
Visually, cats. But personality wise…I wonder. I’m a fickle person, so I don’t want people to meddle in my affairs more than necessary. But don’t you think there are a lot of people who like being bound to something or someone? It feels like people want to be together, not romantically, but as simple humans. I dislike this kind of thing. I guess women might prefer practical matters though. Well, it also has to do with my Mara’s response (laughs).
I see. Perhaps that is why felines are anthropomorphised so often.
Ah yes, I see, I see. Feline characteristics and women are being linked directly, as expected. Women make feline moves on purpose and that remains imprinted in your mind.
Sometimes even snake-like.
Snake-like! (laughs). But there are quite a lot of snake women, you know: the ones whose upper half is human and lower half is serpent, you see them a lot in creation myths. Or take Tiamat or Nyoka for example. Perhaps snakes fit into a different category.
What other creatures represent animal nature besides dogs, cats and snakes?
There’s a lot of cattle too, bulls in particular. Think ox-headed Vajra, Kudan, Minotaur and so on. There are many of them if you look into the Middle East. There is the theory of one man named Velikovsky that Venus was formed from Jupiter, and taking into account solar winds and other influences, it acquired the tail of a comet, similar to two horns. That image was compared to a cow and that is why Lucifer had to have the horns too.
So you had to draw it your own way as soon as you read about it.
I simply thought it was interesting and adopted it as it was; when I agree with something that I also find intriguing, I embrace it in its original form.
Let us depart for a bit from the theme of beasts and turn towards life as a whole; let us talk about plant demons.
Flora like flowers and trees is difficult to draw, just as expected. Europeans believed in forests. I believe that in places like India, China or the Middle East, soma and plums become fruits that grant power. They are classified like this. Vegetation doesn’t actually have will, so it’s necessary to give them some spirit, anthropomorphising or combining them. We count gods in a similar way*, so I wouldn’t say they’re unrelated. The spirits of the forest in Europe act similarly to humans, but they are originally trees, so it led me to think whether certain spirits come from trees or not.
*Kaneko refers here to the counter for gods/nobles/etc 柱 [hashira] created through the combination of the kanji 木 [ki, tree] and 主 [nushi, master, owner, guardian spirit].
Trees have the longest lifespan of all natural organisms. That makes them sound almost divine in a way.
Places where vegetation grows, like forests or mountains were spirit realms after all. They were places for the people who had left society behind, places that had been left behind themselves. You could even say they looked scary to normal people. Perhaps these people mistook the ones who took refuge into the mountains for vegetation spirits. You could say the latter became assimilated to plants.
You said earlier that vegetation doesn’t have will, but lately there have been many studies regarding communication with plants.
Yes, indeed. But even if there were results, I can’t help but think those were simple reflexes. It’s said that humans have a spirit and soul, but aren’t those just brain activities in the end? The human spirit is just the crystalised form of a person’s memories. If we think neither soul nor spirit exist, we can conclude it’s the same for plants. If you do something to them, they’ll react and seeing them like that will make them look alive to you. Simply put, they’re like those new toys, Furby. There were experiments where plants grew after listening to music, right? I think that’s also a reaction to wavelengths.
It’s the same for people’s prayers. Words of prayer conducted by wavelengths and rhythm.
Exactly. There’s something close to us at festivals, strange clubs or when tension rises. It’s the result of people getting together.
You gave shape to various spiritual entities, invisible or amorphous beings, but what do you really think about them?
You mean if I believe in an afterlife? I don’t know, to be honest. It would be way too convenient to say ‘There really is life after death!’ like Tamba Tetsurou. Isn’t that a rip-off of Swedenborg’s ‘Spiritual Diary’? It also resembles Dante’s Divine Comedy. It’s like creating your own world together with people who share your sensibilities. Anyway, Tamba said that for everyone to be happy there appears a world where you go at it all the time since there’s too much lust left at the moment of death. What is he even talking about, doing it until you die or what…aren’t you dead already? (laughs). Well, if you think about it, the only thing you can do is think that such a thing can’t exist. Because memories pile up, the soul known as self is created and I personally believe it’s like someone inserting a soul inside you. But who knows what it’s really like.
I also see ‘memories’ as an important theme. For example, I think it’s like being told while alive ‘if you kill people, you’ll go to Hell’ and even after your own death the same thing is repeated. Common memories are symbolically moved into the spirit world, don’t you think?
You’re right. Actually, I have a feeling these aren’t actually memories. I think it would be interesting if a spirit world actually existed, but thinking about my own death would be frightening. Thinking that everything would disappear all of a sudden, it’s all rather blurry. I think it might be better to say it exists though because there are so many strange tales related to it, like stories about reincarnation. Say, there were Japanese people who woke up one day speaking German and having memories of a past life. Makes me wonder whether it’s something like genetic imprinting. Perhaps they’re all made up, but as long as they have that certain something, they’re interesting and manage to feel real. Not to mention that the charm of a lot of those stories with a certain something depends on the existence of a spirit world. Oh well, I’m not Freud but there are things such as different parts of the spirit. I wonder what it’s really like. Can’t be just this simple.
When you draw something spiritual, do you think there might actually be a spirit or do you just see something in your head?
I think the imaginary is closer to my thought process. I’ve never seen a spirit anyway. Speaking of my own experiences, there are generally transparent things of indeterminate form in corners and just when I think I’ve caught a glimpse, it turns out to be just a stain on the wall. Ghost photography is pretty much the same. Hitokotonushi, for example, is nothing but a bunch of tree leaves which resemble a human for a second.
Yes, exactly. I think about it first, then draw it. Speaking of Hitokotonushi, his story says that members of the Imperial Family prostrated themselves before him, so he probably used to be a blood relation. But this is a being who had to go in the mountains. That is why I designed this demon with the Shinto tradition in mind: if you can’t see his form but are in the mountains, then he is the leaves of the trees. I thought it would be interesting to use Shinto specific elements like shimenawa or shide. Shimenawa represents clouds, while shide represents lighting, like symbols of Yahweh. Not to mention that the clanging you can hear at shrines resembles the sound of thunder, while the cash box could be the Ark. Interesting, isn’t it? I enjoy these kind of things, because once someone says all this is foolish, I feel like all power of imagination disappears.
It’s interesting to see all these different explanations.
I know, right? There are some that are horrible no matter what though, like people of the future driving flying saucers. I just can’t agree with that. You can’t help but ask why they’d just come to Earth from the other side of the Universe. Not to mention coming from the future. You’ll be made fun of if you think about these kind of third-rate SF ideas.
It’s got to make sense.
Right, right. It’s interesting when they make reasonable sense. I like explaining these kind of things to myself. My dream is to do all this research this myself, travel like Mizuki Shigeru, maybe to Cambodia, maybe somewhere else. I don’t have time for a guide or anything like that though. There are so many things to do now: Maken X, the PS2.
There are many ghosts featured in the games, but I also noticed many humorous demons, like Kashiyama, Yulia, Speedy or Quicksilver…
Don’t you think there are a lot of mischievous ghosts? Not to mention that they manage to annoy you really easily. Take Poltergeist for example: there always has to be something flying around, moving. Nothing can stay still. That’s why they’re called ‘spirits’*. I don’t think they’re scary, so I thought I should make them humorous. Do you know about ley lines?
*Kaneko uses the term obake お化け; in JP 化 [ka] can denote change, influence
The route known as Ryuumyaku in Feng Shui?
Yes. It seems a lot of phenomena happen at the crossroads of that ley line. There also appear to be a lot of cases of spontaneous human combustion. One of my subordinates once told me, and I don’t know if it’s true or not, that every time he thought of how much he disliked work, his hands would start burning. He’d freak out and stop the fire, but there would be no trace left, not a burn. This kind of thing is due to the intersection points of electromagnetic energy and apparently it happens many times when people’s mentality gets really negative. Makes me think that Poltergeist might also be related to puberty. This makes me enjoy the way it can be related to human mentality, and I can’t help but make it look humorous. It seems that many years ago people who could have out-of-body experiences gathered and tried to move things around in that state. However, only four could move things just a little bit; it seems you have no power when your spirit is out of your body. The flesh and bones body is stronger. That’s why there’s nothing to fear about ghosts (laughs). Well, vengeful spirits are the scariest. If we think of them as living humans’ feelings, things get a bit different. For example, curses and similar things; I think prejudice can become a method of killing someone, and we can also call this prejudice ‘feelings’.
I see. Fortune telling is similar. It’s like an obvious suggestion.
Yes, exactly! This way, I think a lot about things and then make them myself. That’s why I rather enjoy drawing.
Those designs turned out humorous because they were related to human mentality. Being able to see people through your eyes is interesting.
Well now. Drawing humorous illustrations is fun. Of course I could have made them scary too, but I chose the humorous option. It would be nice to get human misery right, but I won’t get that far. Well, I’m also influenced by the way words sound. Quicksilver, for example, is cool and you may even encounter it in tailor shops (laughs). Your entourage is like something that was born out of emotional attachment. For example, if you go to a cold region, you end up staying at home a lot and by doing this, an abnormally high number of spirits related to the house appear. Sounds for example. Even in cities nowadays you can hear the sounds of fridges or air conditioners which are given shape thanks to emotional attachment. It gets interesting however, once you realise that that is energy released by people. I kept this in mind even in Maken X. It’s like if the power to create Images existed as atoms. I’d say it’s like the power to create Images of time and space.
Speaking of inorganic, you also have mechanical designs.
Ah yes, mecha. I love robots but I’m not very good at drawing them. There are quite a few patterns If you think about it, like the ones who fused with machines or the ones who completely resemble machines.
Are these completely different things conceptually?
Yes. For example, angels are said many times to have four faces, they are said to be wheels, sounds or fire, and many people even thought they might be flying saucers. I thought that thought pattern was interesting, so I turned them into mecha. According to folk belief, Wicker Man is actually a tool for human sacrifice, built with a full body where people are put and burnt. Wicker Man and the like resemble dummies. That is why putting negative thoughts into things makes them become something close to mononoke. Then there were beings like Tlazolteotl, who is a goddess of the bathroom, where I needed to add some artificial component to show their function.
I think that the creation of artificial beings resembles an alchemist creating a homunculus and might be similar to robotic engineering nowadays. Did you do this on purpose?
I wonder. Perhaps saying ‘no’ would be a lie. To be honest, I like Pinocchio style tales better than machines. The ones that feel like artifact spirits and so. Don’t they have dolls made from chrysanthemum flowers? The ones with long, long hair.
Objects have a heart.
Don’t your belongings, even if they are a car or a Mac, start getting bad when your mood is bad? Maybe it’s just my imagination, but thinking they’ve got a heart is romantic, so I make them like that.
Do you also personify things? Like giving dolls names.
No. I have a lot of transformable cyborgs and Spawn figures at home, but I’d really dislike it if they started dancing around*. If I start talking to them, my words may end up as kotodama. That’s scary. I live by myself, and sometimes when you get back to a dark house, you tend to say ‘I’m back’, right? I really wouldn’t like to be told ‘Welcome back’. I’d get the creeps. I wouldn’t even dare get inside anymore. That’s why I avoid this as much as possible. I’m a quite the scaredy-cat. Ghosts and the like have this ability to attack exactly when you least expect it. If one of them came and said ‘Good evening, I am a spirit and I hate you’, you’d feel like replying ‘What the hell, you wanna fight, punk?’ but when you’re vulnerable they come all of a sudden and you instinctively get scared. That skill can only belong to something created by humans after all.
*Kaneko references here a popular children’s song about toys who start dancing and playing after the children go to sleep
So mechanical gear is the future. Are you afraid of it because it doesn’t have life?
Hmm. When they will appear they will have some sort of predetermined purpose, so I think they will look like something whose existence is dedicated only to that. This makes things simple and their purpose solid. Things only built for a simplified purpose. Something along those lines.
There are also Zouma, the same type of artificial creations, are they a different concept?
In the story, those are things Victor intends to create and they’re more like created beings rather than Frankenstein’s monster. Besides, they are given names and made to evolve. I love robots, so I watch both anime and tokusatsu, but you see, there’s no way robots can move that accurately and it’s difficult to make them move in the first place. So, if I were to give an extreme argument, it’s that they’d need something similar to brains. In order to freely move their joints, they also need something like muscle tissue. In this case they end up like the Replicants from Blade Runner. Then it is necessary for them to have skin, or if it’s not possible, to be covered in vinyl or clothes. That’s how I thought up the concept of the Zouma. Perhaps that’s why they tend to be fused into the Hero race.
Even in the development of real life robots it is considered the ideal solution to give them humanoid forms in order for them to enter people’s daily lives unnoticed and do their job. Do Zouma have a human form for the same reason?
Real life human shaped robots, like P3, are pretty active, aren’t they. However, I think that Zouma were created to attain the most beautiful form possible from Victor’s point of view, rather than to be useful in daily life.
How about your personal point of view?
I personally think the spherical robots that fly around are the ultimate form. They’re extremely simple and can change their form at will. But you see, Victor is rather special. He even created a maid for himself. She turned out nice though, kind of feels like Ayanami (laughs). At first, I imagined her as more of a comic relief, but the young staff’s feverish romantic feelings crept in, so she ended up like that. I did imagine her to randomly have metal only around her mouth. This is a strange topic, but for someone like me who does character designs, the feeling I get when I see a cosplayer is probably similar to Victor’s. It’s probably different for those people, but for me, seeing the things I created move and dance really makes me feel like Victor. Isn’t there something like a cosplay sex industry nowadays? I kind of want to try it and ask for Sonomura Maki (laughs). They’d probably tell me ‘Oh! I see, hmm’ and then look for her on the Internet. That would be really unpleasant.
You said you love robot anime and tokusatsu; is that because the stories are interesting? Or is it because of the visuals?
Both. The stories themselves have more twists than any soap opera. Even if there are always the same kinds of enemies, there are so many new ideas when it comes to fighting styles or all kinds of other situations. I’m inspired by everything that has to do with its visuals, but the mecha design in particular has a great flow I find very interesting. Super robots or things that actually show joints, things that were tried without thinking.
Are you also interested in the movement mechanics of robots?
I like to think about it. If you think about doing it yourself then this is your first obstacle. As expected, maneuverability is good if you want to ride a giant robot and yell ‘Move!’, ‘Ugh..’.
So your designs, besides having that mechanism in mind…
No, no, I haven’t thought about it so far (laughs). But I’d like to think about it and try it. Robots depend on the world setting first of all. When a robot’s importance is firmly established, it becomes cool for the first time.
What tokusatsu shows do you watch?
I watch Kyuukyuu Sentai GoGoFive every Sunday. I’ve found Pink really cute lately, but especially when she was played by Satou Tamao. Also, lately the enemy female general roles have been played by adult movie actresses. It seems the producers like big breasts. On the one hand, they’re saying in a kid’s show ‘So you’ve come, something-something Five’, on the other, you can’t help but remember certain activities of theirs. I really enjoy this gap. After that I watch Robokon but that Robina too seems to release a lot of dangerous fluids from her brain (laughs). That’s why Sunday mornings are really awesome. Being up all night will make dangerous fluids come out.
Now, let us start a conceptual discussion about mysterious beauty; first, about beauty from your point of view. Can you please tell me where you think beauty resides?
It’s hard to tell what beauty is. It’s different for everyone. Too beautiful and it wouldn’t work anymore.
You are right. Beauty and the sexual aspect do not necessarily coincide.
Right. Seeing a beautiful photo won’t make you feel anything, but seeing someone pooping naked by the river in the middle of the forest will shock you. Especially if the poop is getting washed away (laughs). Wow, that’s one strong mental image. People who do the same work as me have certain fixed ideas about women, or how should I put it, there are a lot of people who draw them as beautiful. Some think aggressive women are cute, while others are too fond of doll-like girls. That’s why I draw whatever figures I find sexy based on my own experiences.
In other words, beauty resides in the female body?
Well, yes, you can find it in the female body but even if you simply look at it you’ll be deeply moved. More than that, it’s better if you only have a glimpse at the back. In that moment, you get the feeling everything has gone blank. Just a glimpse and then bam! You feel like extending your hand.
Nekomata used to be naked in the past, but she started wearing clothes halfway through. Is it because of the latest trend to only show brief glimpses?
That’s right. I’ve grown up.
The editor seems to have loved the Angel of the time of Devil Summoner though.
How should I put it, it was really well hidden back then, since her lower part was naked. But I wonder. What if a dick is hidden in there? I keep that in mind and give my best whenever I draw Mara and others (laughs). Also, Arioch has fangs.
In a way, we could add Mara and Arioch to the bewitching beauties too.
Before, the magazine editor-in-chief Yamada Gorou said something along the lines of: erotism lies at the border between the skin and the cloth, that is why people who wear clothes with a lot of openings exude erotism more feverishly than naked people.
Exude erotism more feverishly (laughs). That’s definitely the case. In that case, rather than simple eroticism, this seems to me linked to something different; a certain power still finds its way out to the surface though. Well, I’d say my drawings are still mild in this regard. I have a feeling I need things that let you use your imagination more.
Do you believe eroticism lies in what is left to the imagination?
Yeah. For example, not all demons are virgins. There are a lot of times when they were drawn as pure, but I personally dislike that. Especially when they are different from what I want to draw. It’s not to say that they like sex, but they do understand it and do it if they understand it; I love this kind of interpretation. Even tiny Pixie understands what it means. If it happens, how does it work? What does she do? You know, stuff like that.
Could it be that you…?
Sometimes I do end up thinking if they do it.
Then are you interested in the women you draw in that certain way?
No, it’s not like that. I already don’t like it when I think about those things (laughs). I’d probably be taken aback a little if I saw this kind of cosplay.
Then the beauties drawn here are not your actual sexual preferences, but conceptual ones.
That’s right. They don’t really come to me realistically because I’m a normal guy. My preferences don’t show up in my work. That is why for me people who don’t make a fuss are fine. People who won’t make future trouble. These kind of people are all right. Wait, what is this, a Junon interview? (laughs)
Excuse me (laughs). By the way, it is believed that lately the bizarre elements in your work have become stronger, was it on purpose?
Yes, it was. Well, I’m researching the bizarre, visually wise. I love stretch when it comes to western fashion, but that’s as far as I go. It’s not about fetishes or anything.
When categorising demons this time I find it interesting that we could use specifications for sexual parts such as hand fetish, foot fetish and so on.
Not at the moment. I’m thinking I’d like to introduce them in certain themes though. Well, if I had the chance to work together with Mr Shinjou*, for example, I’d probably try the fetish style. With all my heart, so you could see the feet, that type of thing. Just a little would be nice. If you saw them as usual, you’d get bored. But I like these kind of situations. And then….
*I assume he’s talking about Shinjou Kazuma
— We apologise, but we’ll need to omit some things…–
Ah, that’s right, there’s a limit to what you can write. It’s a problem with the publication code (laughs).
But you can’t remove these ideas. They are related to the main subject if you look over all of them, from the moment we started talking about demons.
Then even though your own sexual preferences are not reflected, depending on the person….
I wonder if they see the demons as indecent. I’m interested in that. For example, if there are people who still follow Pixie’s style even though they don’t see her illustrations. I’d actually like to conduct a survey; whether people have used her as pleasure material or if she was the reason they started using this kind of material.
To think this discussion was about beauty and fear…(laughs)
Well obviously, they become beautiful because they are refined. They gain a unique shape, then they are polished, become a well-defined concept and end up as a beautiful image in my head.
By doing this, they approach functional beauty and don’t even need to be women anymore. This time I have a feeling we can also talk about alluring male demons.
I am after all weak to fitting reason into functional beauty. It strikes home. However, I don’t know if there are demons who have that sort of functional beauty. Strange story, but male demons are needed because female humans also have sexual needs. But how is it practically? The people who play this type of games love beautiful people and I do draw them more or less like that, but women have all kinds of passions as well. Hairiness for one. Kind of like Freddie Mercury. I guess this would be better suited for men though (laughs). Nah, now that I look at it, he’s sexy. He looks so cool in Another One Bites the Dust. Well, there are some things I rather want to draw even if they’re directed at women. The erotic type. Don’t women suppress things, after all? We men can go to sex services, but usually there are no such things for women. They also can’t help but be passive most of the time. That is why I want to draw just for them something that looks cool. I think there should be more sexy guys.
That is an interesting idea.
Well, I have wondered whether this would end up like Angelique (laughs). But I think being able to fulfill wishes is the best. I wonder what it’s like. Might be difficult. You know, I’d better give up.
I would like to ask you now about the subtle problem we encounter: atypicality.
Atypical demons are the opposite of daily life. Personally, I see them as normal beings that lack something or the opposite, an upside-down version. If you stumbled upon a man standing upside-down you’d freak out. I try to capture this kind of feeling. But a lot of these things were already pre established by mythology. Dantalian, for example, is intelligent, so it has a lot of heads. Its greatness can also be represented by their number.
There are also demons that are parts of something.
Like Kanbari. It’s so strange, why would it only be a foot? I remember a book series with all kinds of subjects named Jaguar Books and the youkai I saw in it. So many of them were drawn in there, it was like an universal encyclopedia of demons. That’s how it felt. Truth is, they are more like existences peering through crevices. It’s like urban legends nowadays. You go to the toilet and relax and when you look up, there’s someone glancing at you. But still, why a foot. Maybe because you plant your foot when you try your best. There are also one-eyed designs like Cyclops who are gods of crafts. When people saw an artisan close one eye at work, for example, they created a monstrous representation of his talent.
Unbalanced forms are the ones that make you uncomfortable when you look, right?
Right. I used historical facts and documents as sources rather than aiming for this in particular. Among them there may be creatures without a source illustration, so I drew them using my own imagination. It would be interesting if I drew them upside-down or maybe it would be cool if I had them swing and dangle. There are also the Hindu gods with lots of hands, you don’t even know where to put them. That’s why I had all kinds of places where I could attach them.
Taking all the steps needed in creation. Not aiming to destroy daily life because of this unbalance, but aiming to offer peculiarities a logical sense in the context.
Exactly. But Dantalian’s heads aren’t normal (laughs). Well, if there are things to be taken out of the setting, then there are also things that can shift daily life a little. Because it is also believed they are in a slightly shifted world. For example, Ubu. It’s supposed to be just a child, but I figured I should draw it upside-down.
An unexpected combination.
Perhaps. But I didn’t think about it too hard. I personally feel strange when I see people in the bridge pose. The bridge is scary. How about walking with that pose? Then turning their head to the side… they basically end up looking upside down. This upside-down pose can even lead to the creation of a character. If I give them an inverted hand for example, then they definitely can become someone of note. If it’s not easy to see them like this though, then it’s going to be difficult in the game too. That is why I want to try to bring the focus on the subtle differences, like in taiga drama. For example, if one of the eyebrows is missing. Well, I also have the feeling it might end up feeling a little like a David Lynch production. I wonder if I can do these kind of game monsters.
Were you deeply interested in this kind of thing from the start?
I can’t say I love it, but it really brings out that abnormal atmosphere. That’s not like me though. But, but you can feel a great vitality. Conversely, I feel like it grants life. There was once a movie named ‘Freaks’ and more recently one named ‘El Topo’. They’re very stylish, interesting as movies as well, and they motivate you. There are a lot of people who are deeply troubled even though their physical health is fine, and I have a feeling they are the type to have proper sensibility. I think they’d be able to put their lives in order if they tried, but leaving that aside, you still understand what I talked about. Take Elephant Man for example. He is seriously troubled about people a lot and questions his own existence. It’s so pure, when you think about it. Well, since mentally underdeveloped children are portrayed abroad as little angels*, I think it’s close to that.
*Kaneko is probably referring here to the so-called ‘angel children’ (天使の子), a term used in Japan mainly for those suffering from Down’s Syndrome.
Can certain illustration in the category mentioned above make you feel similar?
We can also encounter a pattern of humans combined with other creatures. Pabilsag, for example, is a fusion between man and scorpion.
He’s from Sumer, I believe. I think he was one of the ten warriors Tiamat created. No one can say whether he was a scorpion man, though. I guess I just wanted to make him one. Scorpion men really have this strong Kamen Rider air, don’t they? It resembles Nirasawa’s style a bit… all right, I just wanted to draw him that way to be honest. There are people who love cyborgs, right? This type of combination has a certain aesthetic. That is why, as I just said, I love Nirasawa’s creature modelling.
Does this mean that graphically wise this kind of fusion is beautiful to a certain degree?
Ah, no, I just personally find it cool. Like, this is how I would like to be. Truth be told, the ability to transform would be the coolest thing and the result of fusing with a scorpion would make it easy to fight and would also look cool. That kind of thing.
Is it the same for Ubu, since we talked about it earlier?
Yes. I’d look like that if I were to become a demon baby.
Legion, for example, has numerous faces, would you also like to be remodelled into that?
That is being loyal to the mythology, rather than remodelling. There are many faces because there are both gods and evil spirits, ‘them’ and ‘us’. That is why it is a representation of the evil spirits’ numerous victims.
I see. Those faces by themselves have quite the impact. For example, it’s shocking to see a face in a place it shouldn’t be.
I’d find it kind of disgusting, like a Pop-up Pirate (laughs). The heads fly too. Kanaloa is one of the demon designs that do that. Their faces float. Aren’t there Heike crabs in reality as well? Lately, it seems Abalone shells have been extremely praised. Well, the Heike crabs also benefit from their association with the battle of Dannoura.
Do you think that the face is fitting for this kind of design?
I think hands would fit as well. It basically needs a motif that’s easy to understand, like eyes. But what’s done is done. Basically, the things you know very well coming out of different, unexpected places is the main point. I’m not talking about tentacles coming out of nowhere, but an extra hand or so; if you happened to see that, wouldn’t you freak out?
Kikimora is the reverse, with the form of a human and an insect’s face.
She looks exactly like her traditional illustrations. The type that’s faithful to tradition. You can find her in Russian woodblock prints, you know. She looked cute, so I decided to draw her just like that.
You create strange shapes from all kinds of patterns, but what do you enjoy drawing the most?
I do love creatures with a lot of faces or hands. But my number one favourites are people who wear a normal suit but whose faces have something off about them. I really want to draw that kind of thing. Didn’t they show up in Ultraman a lot? They were probably just cutting corners, but those characters looked really scary. They’ve got an abnormal atmosphere about them, but they also look like they could actually exist in reality if you’re unlucky.
Like in the original ‘The Fly’.
Yes, that’s right. Guys like that are scary. But on the other hand they’re also seen as attractive. Probably because of the headgear, with people thinking they’d also like to wear that kind of stuff and walk around. Perhaps that kind of desire to change into something out of the ordinary does exist. Costumes like the Jack Frost ones we used in CMs exist too, but putting something just on your head sounds fun.
And suddenly you start making cute movements.
You do, you do. Being able to transform to that degree is good. Maybe it’s even the impetus.
What are you aiming for regarding future unusual designs?
Details, as I mentioned earlier. Like one-point tattoos. I want to create these subtle differences in the future with a method I haven’t used before. I don’t think I can get directly involved though.
Please tell us something about charming or cute designs.
Dragon Quest, one of Japan’s traditions, had one and it’s probably become a custom to have a mascot character like Slime; as expected, it also makes you want one. And well, if one of those cute things attacked you, you’d still get scared. Happens a lot in American movies. Recently it was Snowman. Jack Frost is Snowman’s original name. He’s got a carrot for a nose, but when he assaults women, the nose disappears. I wonder where it goes (laughs).
Do you like cute illustrations?
I enjoy the ones that feel a bit off. Like the recent Ojarumaru. I’d like to adopt that kind of style; then even if we’re talking about really different demons, like Kappa or Gnome, it would be interesting if everyone felt like they had the same origin somehow. When I make designs, a considerable degree of preparation is important.
In order to make them even cuter?
That’s right. ‘I take my eyes off for a moment and they turn out cute’ it’s said, but I can’t take them off myself from what I draw. Then I end up wondering whether it’s is cute or not. I think impish beings are cute so they end up looking like little rascals. The one that first comes to mind is Kabu from Sally the Witch. There’s also the fact that their expression never changes. I love it when they simply have the same look on their face. They seem to have an expression, but actually don’t. Pikachu’s cuteness feels like it’s got a different context though: the fact that the only thing he says is ‘Pikachu’. The type of cuteness reminiscent of ‘bakeratta’.
There’s something about your cute demons who don’t consider themselves cute, but frightening.
From our point of view, they’d kind of look like they’re throwing punches in the air while the enemy puts a hand on their hand and holds them down. The demon himself might be all serious, but everyone around him will only see him as cute. But it also happens that I make a cool guy who ends up looking just pretty. Like, you’ve got perfect guys but they have this one silly spot that you just can’t hate them. Nevertheless, if you show it in only one illustration, they seem weak. In the end, small and with a child’s build is the way to go.
What’s the common point between cuteness and fear?
There are people who use their cuteness as a weapon in real life. But this does not apply to the ones who appear in games.
This is an actual in-game conversation, but seeing a cute face tell you ‘I’m going to kill you’ is startling.
Those scenes startled me too when I played in debug mode. I’d be so shocked if I were told ‘Bye, byeee, will you die for me?’. But this actually shows purity. Perhaps purity and fear are linked. The fear provoked by getting straight to the action, without any superfluous thoughts.
Do you mean the so-called ‘cruelty of children’?
No, I think it’s different from cruelty. They simply haven’t absorbed enough information, so their actions and words are straightforward. They have few choices to make and their activity isn’t long either. I don’t think you can call that cruelty. But I do think that sort of feeling is very frightening. And this is not limited to children, there are also a lot of adults like this. The look in those people’s eyes is scary. Perhaps this is also related to them not changing their expression too much. The multitude of expressions is a result of gaining experience, but pure people don’t have too many patterns of this kind.
Then are you saying they are neither aware of their frightening nor of their cute nature?
Exactly. I think they’re just as they were born. I’m thinking I’d be really scared if Mickey Mouse attacked me. There was this mascot character named Pipo-kun a while ago I turned into a motif in another game*. The person in charge with the PR got really mad at me (laughs). It was also missing a finger and he got mad at me again. There are a lot of things with less fingers than man. Mickey, kappa, all of them have four fingers. Little Grey as well. Well, there’s also a theory he’s got six fingers. I think it’s rather interesting.
*he’s talking about the dog mascot at the Kounan Police Department (Persona 2 EP)
Do you like real life cute things, separate from your illustrations?
I do. Cute animals and the like. They also feel pure. If you call a dog, it will come earnestly, right? Perhaps that kind of pure cuteness also has some loneliness in it.
When you talk about cute docile dogs, you do not make the difference between big and small dogs, right?
Exactly. It’s cute when the big ones come wagging their tail. On the other hand, I’d probably feel like teasing the small cute ones. Really, it’s kind of similar to lifting a girl’s skirt. Like when you try to be noticed and you end up hated.
Do you have any cute goods? How about the ones that appear in NHK’s educational programmes?
My house was flooded with Pikachu at one point in time. Palm sized Pikachu. I don’t have them anymore. I’m watching animal shows now. I find ‘Together with Mum’ rather eerie and those overreactions are kind of annoying. Those fluttering eyelashes… every time someone winks, you can hear them flutter. In this sense, I’ve always loved Ralph from the TV show Rank Kingdom who’s also called a pervy dinosaur. His facial expressions have increased lately and that’s a pity. I’m a fickle person, so even though I think he’s cute, I wasn’t able to keep up.
You are saying you get bored fast, but Jack Frost deserves the prize for perfect attendance in all games.
You see, I want to change Jack Frost’s design too but I can’t right now. I want to go for an image change, like draw him as a scary guy and turn someone else cute. But you see, there are all kinds of circumstances. Poltergeist, for example, can move around all kinds of small furniture. Well, using those tools is also one of the images typical of Poltergeist.
Now that we talked about the connection between the cuteness of the designs and childlike factors, could we also hear your opinion on real children?
I don’t really think children themselves are cute. I don’t have kids though, so I don’t really know. Just that when I see a little brat wandering around town I end up scolding him. I think it’s because I grew up downtown, but I still do it. Also, if I’m around toy shops, kids call out for me: ‘Hey, mister, do you like Gundam?’ and I lie to them and say ‘Yeah, I love it. I work on Gundam.’ (laughs). Feels like I become someone who starts a race with children, then falls down on purpose.
But the way you play with children shows your own cute side, you know that, right?
I kind of do it on purpose too. When it comes to women for example, I act indecisive on purpose, in order to appeal to their maternal instinct. The results show me I fail more often than not. Oh well, it’s all right if ‘cute demons’ are seen as an offshoot of myself. But things like these really exist and separation is inevitable. You may want them to remain cute, but it’s impossible for them not to change. A mascot is probably someone’s thing but they will be separated one day. Perhaps this is the foreordained sadness of cute things. Well, it’s not like I thought too deeply about this.
You said you do not have your own children. What do you think about having descendants?
I don’t have any because it’s a bother, simple as that. If I were to leave something behind, then I’m enough. The story gets a bit more complicated if I get cloned though. Ideally, I’d like to become a vampire. Immortal. Now that I think about it, I’m really selfish.
I have some questions about winged beings. Do wings symbolise flight, as in an existence of a higher order, a supreme existence?
Exactly. Something along the lines of ‘intelligence’. The ones with a lot of wings are strong. It’s not really established where exactly the thing about Lucifer’s twelve wings came from, but Milton’s ‘Paradise Lost’ had them. The original writings definitely didn’t say anything. Actually, I have a feeling there’s nothing written about wings at all. That is why I believe the wings of the angels were an image that was added in the Middle Ages. Maybe because they have the role of messengers, so they need to be fast or maybe because they come flying from the skies. I’m thinking it might be a symbol of spiritualism. They look cool no matter how you put it. But they’re also really bothersome, they’re not functional. You won’t be able to fly if you don’t flutter them and that makes them even more non-functional. Devil wings are much better. In the original ‘Devilman’ they were simply bat wings, but they really look the part. Perhaps that is the image I have in mind when I design them.
Then it is certain that you add the wings depending on the image you have in mind.
No, if you research various myths, you’ll see there are a lot of demons with wings. From the point of view of the people back then, they could move extremely fast, they knew everything; these kind of feelings similar to awe are what gave birth to the winged design, I believe. Now, speaking of angels, that happened in the Middle Ages, right?
The angel wings are the same as the ones of birds of prey. Why not like those of insects or bats?
Bats and the like are the image of demons. Well, angels were first and they are opposites. Birds of prey are quite the topic, aren’t they. But I simply think they look cool when they spread their wings.
Then the types of wings are chosen depending on the importance of the design.
That’s right, but it depends on the creatures themselves. Fairies, for example, will always have insect wings. That was also started by some artist. Those really small beings live in the woods and if we think about woods, then we also think about bugs. So it seems the people who saw their aura thought it looked like some sort of wings. Or maybe they extend like fins. Maybe that was the image people saw. This is all in all just a talk about potential auras. If you think big, there’s the Van Allen radiation belt around the Earth, electromagnetic waves in the shape of a donut that spread from the North Pole to the South Pole, induced by solar winds and that seem to spread like wings. It’s interesting to think about them that way.
They are like the embodiment of the wings of gods and angels.
It feels that way to me, yes. If we think about it the simple way, they are a symbol of wisdom. Like the many hands in Hinduism. Hands or heads are considered intellectual, so it is necessary for them to increase gradually. It’s the same here.
Would you like to be able to fly?
I would really love to. After watching Superman, I really feel like flying. Just flying smoothly. I’m not interested in sky-diving, bungee-jumping or planes though. I also don’t have dreams where I fly. My dreams are all about natural disasters. This really huge tornado comes in front of me or a big UFO lands in Shinjuku or I’m walking around Shibuya and a meteorite approaches like in Armageddon. I’m always saved in the brink of time though. After that, MAX is pecking at nabe in my room (laughs).
Do you like drawing winged designs?
Don’t tell anyone, but I do them because they’re easy to draw. I said earlier that they’re a bother to me though and I like it better when there are no wings at all. I actually have a feeling that the smooth ones are stronger design wise. However, bosses or great demons have to show off through their wings and it’s difficult since sometimes there are things I don’t agree with. Category wise, I like demi-humans or spirits better than wings. That’s because I like drawing humans including their pathos and cynicism. The ones who might be right next to you.
There are quite a few demons who also received wings, like Snappy the dolphin, but it appears they’re a different case.
An angel dolphin is straightforward. Character wise, it symbolised the desire to escape. Wings however have neither a positive nor a negative meaning. They’re a symbol of wisdom or an expression of greatness. Well, if we talk about Yatagarasu, then that’s another story. Even though Yatagarasu is a bird, he is a considerably different case. He’s got three legs. If it were in the future, its form would be made more of energy, it would be more of a symbol. Anzu, for example, is represented as a symbol of obtaining wisdom. He’s an enemy, but he obtained the wisdom of gods. Yatagarasu is YHVH’s messenger. Like PostPet’s Momo-chan. Like an e-mail.
You mean explaining a design in accordance with the setting.
For example, the Hebrew Gad clan came to Japan and became the ruling family. Aren’t there a lot of these kind of wordplays?* I want to do some research and see if this is true or false, but it’s pretty difficult so all I can do is simplify this information. It’s interesting to think about it, so if I’ve already gone that far, then I want to design it too.
*I assume he refers to ガド [Gado, Gad] – ミカド [Mikado, emperor]
Your thoughts always catch flight. Is it the same for your future possibilities?
I have absolutely nothing resembling life plans, I don’t save any money, I live hand-to-mouth. Thinking about the future is scary. I’ve said this before but there are things like being a future parent or whether I am still going to have this job or whether there will be a major recession and I’ll have to worry even about food. What about the house or toys, perhaps unthinkable times will come. I don’t really think about that kind of real future. I simply dislike doing the same type of work again and again, so I want to change it if possible. Even in the same Megaten series for example, showing a side that’s even a little different, showing we won’t run out of ideas. I also want to create a completely different setting, like Maken X. I don’t want only to draw, I also want to be involved with the design of goods. I think it would also be great if I could help young talents develop. My hope is that I too will be influenced by all kinds of people around and since my current job is here, I hope that in the future I will be able to influence others in turn. It would make me so happy. Then, years later, I would be so happy if a producer said ‘I made this work inspired by Megaten’.