Interview with Nobuteru Yuuki

We sat down and chatted with the character design of Legend of Mana, Seiken Densetsu 3 and Chrono Cross.

Posted on April 5, 2008 at 5:17 pm by Matt Simmons

At the latest Sakura-Con Convention in Seattle, Washington, Zentendo was able to attend a press event for famed character designer Nobuteru Yuuki. While his name may not immediately jump out at the standard gamer, his past works in both games and anime might surprise some. His work as a character designer includes Legend of Mana, Seiken Densetsu 3 for the Super Famicon, and Chrono Cross. His anime work includes high profile works such as Record of Lodoss War, Escaflowne, X and Xenosaga.

Zentendo: Typically with western game developers, the character designer is never really noticed or usually is never promoted with a game release. How do you feel character designers are treated in Japan, and do you think it is a more worthwhile career goal in Japan as opposed to western game markets.

Nobuteru Yuuki: In Japan, if a person simply enters a game company to become a character designer, their name will probably go unnoticed or unrecognized as much as anywhere else. My career began with manga and then anime, so over time I built my name up through my works in animation so that eventually the game companies sought me out for my work. Otherwise my name probably would not have become as noticed as before.

Press: What were the main design inspirations for the characters of Escaflowne and Record of Lodoss War?

NY: For Lodoss War, the director and staff of the anime were very inspired by the paintings by Alan Lee from The Lord of the Rings books, and at the time they very much wanted to take the sort of fantasy setting that Tolkien had created and make a story in that vein for Japan. For Escaflowne the director had pitched the idea of combining Shoujo and Mecha anime together, which is a very unusual combination. Shoujo itself is very hard to define as it means many different things to different people, so for the TV series the idea was to draw characters that would be appealing to girls as well as mecha designs in a fantasy setting. For the movie of Escaflowne we had decided to drop the Shoujo aspects completely and focus on making it a straight dramatic fantasy so the character designs were changed accordingly.

Press: What do you prefer to work on more, TV series or movies?

NY: When a movie is made, it is typically planned out very far in advance, so in the character design aspect, you have lots of time to work on it. Where as in a TV series the time limit is much shorter in order to get everything into motion. Also in a movie you have the option to redo a scene or piece of animation till it is to your satisfaction, where in a TV show you don't have the time to really change anything and have to accept it as it is and move on.

Press: Have you seen the fan edit of the Escaflowne movie titled Nescaflowne, and how do you feel about people playing with your designs and spoofing them and whatnot?

NY: I have not actually seen that movie, but would be very interested in doing so. but generally I am not a character designer who feels the need to have complete control over everything I draw. If fans create something like a doujinshi or cosplay, or even fan dubs I feel that in a way it shows how well liked my characters are. So I generally like to see people enjoying my designs.

Zentendo: I have noticed that you seem to have a very unique way of coloring you characters in their designs and have wondered what sort of art program or technique you use. and what would you say is your favorite character you have made?

NY: My favorite character would have to be Deedlit from Record of Lodoss War and Hitomi from Escaflowne. I don't really know why, but I just love drawing those characters. As for techniques, most artists generally prefer working with some art program on a computer or some style of ink and just draw with that always. I actually am always using something different, whether it be Copiac markers or watercolor, or digital painting and ink. If there is one thing you notice, it is probably the color palette that I use. There is definitely a set of colors that I prefer to draw and color with, so that is probably what you would notice me by.

Press: Would you ever consider making a TV series of Five Star Stories:

NY: I considered the original author of the Five Star Stories to be a genius and master storyteller, so when the opportunity came to work on the movie I was thrilled. Unfortunately only the first part of it was animated so that might be a reason it might seem a little slow, but I would love to be able to work on the rest of it should there ever be a decision to.

Press: What, if any, American artists or character designers influenced you from early in your life on to today?

NY: When I was young I did not like any American artists at the time, because back then it seemed to me that it didn't matter in American comics who drew Superman or Batman, as long as the story kept going. It seemed like most the designs were always the same and that the focus was more on overall comic then the art or character designs. Later I was asked to draw character designs on a cartoon that would be animated in Japan and directed and dubbed for America. The director of the series kept asking me to make the designs look more like American comic characters so I went to a comic book shop and as I looked around Frank Millar's The Dark Knight Returns really jumped out at me. It seemed to be a huge turning point for American comics in general. So Frank Millar would be a definite inspiration from American comic artists.