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

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Proceeding with the Art Unit

Has anything changed in your work since the publication of the first artbook?

Soejima: The work gets divided more often among the Art Unit.

The system that you use for delegation is reminiscent to those of medieval and ukiyo-e artists. When exactly did this become a regular thing?

Soejima: I would usually make a rough sketch of the illustration, and let the staff work on it afterwards. But P4A saw Oribe-san taking charge of the art. Also, as time passed, there were more and more cases where the staff would take over the illustration once I finished the draft. However, those illustrations come back to me so that I can draw the characters’ faces and such, so they all seem to look the same. The staff made some art without my help after P5 was released.

Why did it start with P4A?

Soejima: We had several games derived from P4 and developing them at the same time meant that the workload got heavier. Even if that were not the case, I had faith in Oribe-san and the others—that they could grasp my art and draw it from the sketch to the finishing touches.

While I’m a tiny bit frustrated that the others can make cooler or cuter art than me, I acknowledge that it would not have been possible without the team’s best efforts.

Yet you’re still frustrated.

Soejima: Indeed I am. (laughs) But if working with others results in better art than I can do on my own, I would naturally choose the former. Since then, I let the staff try their hand on the art first, before doing any drawing myself. When their illustrations are done, I assess their quality to determine whether they can be released as official Atlus art.

It’s just that, as work is divided, uniformity is divided as well. On the other hand, when we draw individually, it tends to be art that’s difficult to split up, with a non-digital feel to it

How has your occupation changed, and how will it change, with the establishment of the Art Unit?

Soejima: I think I spend a lot more time thinking about work, like about which art to delegate to the staff, how I want that art to look like. There are a lot more things to consider now.

Do you also think about how the Art Unit should proceed in the future?

Soejima: These past couple years, I’ve been thinking about how to train the next generation. At first they came in because of the concern that there was too much work for me to handle alone, but they’re all very talented. They lend those talents to us, and I think it’s necessary for them to express their individuality. As they continue to simulate my art process to complete my illustrations, their own uniqueness might disappear.

I believe that it’s this individuality that will bring charm to Atlus’s future works, so I have high expectations from everyone. Now, I don’t know what the future has in store, but if I were to release a third artbook, I think it’d be more ideal if everyone is flourishing on their own by then, which would lead to my artbook going back to being under my name alone. Although there won’t be another book if I don’t work hard as well. (laughs)

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