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

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A Character Designer’s Happiness

We’d like to hear your goals next, but before that, may we know what your goals were when you first joined Atlus?

Soejima: I aimed to be where I am now. I’ve always thought that I was lacking something, so my energies are focused on the present and the future; I don’t look back on the past too often.

Now that I think about it though, I had the same dream as any artist would: to have their work seen by many, and even turned into an anime. It would not have come true without the others’ contributions, and I’m fortunate that the dreams I entered the company with came true.

And what were your goals when your career had grown since you joined Atlus. Say, during P4?

Soejima: They didn’t really change.

So what are you aspiring to now?

Soejima: No changes now, either. (laughs) I don’t think I’ve aimed for higher or lower with regards to my work. I usually just aim slightly beyond what I can easily reach. When I’m lucky enough to reach that goal, my circumstances change, and I’m faced with something a bit larger in scale. So I adjust my aim to something that’s a little out of reach again and repeat the process. It’s slow going, perhaps because my field of expertise is narrow. I’m like a slime that changes shape with its container. (laughs)

You’re the slow and steady kind, then. (laughs)

Soejima: Oh, but I’ve been thinking recently about what a character designer’s greatest happiness would be. It’s probably for the characters I designed to have lives of their own. You know about the characters that you always see, like in anime or video games? They change a bit depending on the artist and the era, but their iconic designs don’t. I want to create characters that would be adored for a long time.

You’d want to have characters that others will continue to draw?

Soejima: Continuing to draw your own characters feels like self-gratification, and how well they’re received is based on other illustrator traits like art style and effects in addition to the design. Characters that are well-loved can be recognized by their designs, not so much for their creators. You’re at a good point if people can say, “Apparently, this character was originally designed by someone named ‘XXX’.”

But so long as the characters continue to be well-known, it doesn’t matter who’s drawing them. This is probably what every character designer wishes. I want to become a designer that can create characters like that.

That’s quite a long road. And speaking of which, there was a loud response to your interview in the first artbook.

Soejima: There was.

Seven years ago, you said you wanted to draw a 36-page manga “soon”. How is your progress on that?

Soejima: Er…I bought some software for making manga and used it to create panels. I tried drawing in them a bit and wrote the plot…and that’s it. (laughs)

But I did buy 5 different books on drawing manga, so I have 5 books’ worth of knowledge on the subject. Even though they all wrote about the same things.

Thank you for that update. We look forward to hearing about your progress in the next artbook.

Soejima: …You’re welcome. (laughs)

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