Atlus Character Designer Shigenori Soejima Interview on Projects From 2010 – 2017, Artistic Process

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Seeing the World as Flat

We would like to put the spotlight on you now. Have your hobbies and preferences changed between the release of your first artbook (2010) and the current times (2018)?

Soejima: Generally, no. People around me even say, “You’ve always liked the same things.”

Were there areas where you felt you’ve grown since 2010?

Soejima: Growth…? More like progress. I was able to make new observations as I gained more experience, and I could make artwork and designs based on my analyses. This is what I mean by progress.

Before, I would add things in my drawing just because I liked them, but now, I can recognize what I like and analyze it, so that I can trim away the excess bits. I think that’s the most significant difference between my process then and now.

You analyze it?

Soejima: A certain promotional image would have a certain intent, and to fulfill its intent, certain crucial parts need to be in the illustration. I analyze whether these parts need to be emphasized or subdued for effect, and I think I’ve become adept at it, but…

But?

Soejima: Art doesn’t come merely from analyses and construction. They’re important points for consideration, that’s true, but what precedes them and helps them take shape are still ideas. And I don’t think I’ve improved in that department.

Really?!

Soejima: Really. I’ve learned time and time again to do what must be done, but I sometimes feel like I’m not up to my true skills, or that I haven’t evolved very much from the basics.

When I was asked to work on the character design for Stella Deus, I got so happy and went, “Yes! A fantasy series!” before drawing with gusto, yet I don’t think my ideas changed much since then. While the past is past, if I were to be the boss to my past self, I’d still say, “I hope you think on it more, Soejima-kun.” (laughs)

So you believe that you haven’t changed, despite the time that has passed?

Soejima: In those days, I believe I could draw with gusto before precisely because I didn’t know what my intentions were. Now, however, I can’t rely on that enthusiasm alone to propel me to draw. It’s true that I can make better art now, by building on theory and understanding the work’s purpose. However, the more I learn, the bigger and harder my challenges become.

And what is your solution to this?

Soejima: Naturally, I put as much thought into my work as I can, but I also think it’s important to see the world from a flat, level perspective. Ideas are all over the place,  and yet they can only be truly discovered in the different ways they are interpreted.

Ideas that you can emphasize with have to be searched for, like in a treasure hunt. The majority know this, but are usually not aware of it. But when someone is explicitly told this, it surprises them, and they transform it into something fresh and innovative, something that leaves an impression to others.

How were you able to bring this idea to fruition?

Soejima: I believe that working with Hashino-san after P3 left an effect on me. We have different positions in the company, but his clear descriptions of his objectives and the means to attain them were a learning experience for me. After gaining this perspective, I saw the creators around the world and their sheer talents in a new light, such as Yasushi Akimoto-san, although it took a while to realize.

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