P-Studio Art Unit Interview About the Persona Series Character Design Process at Atlus


Memorable Art

We have some questions regarding this artbook, as well as the process you went through in designing the game, but since you worked on the art for this collection, are there any illustrations that left impressions on you?

Shimada: Mine is the cover for the Persona 5 Official Setting Artbook. I drew the panels depicting Futaba with Necronomicon, and the Protagonist with curry. They were my first pieces to be printed into the world, I cheered with joy. (laughs)

Kabayashi: If we’re talking about P5, it’s the Official Setting Artbook for me as well. I drew that with Shimada-san, while working on the sountrack’s jacket by myself, and collaborating with AKG-san for the headphones’ package art, all at pretty much the same time. I asked Soejima-san and Oribe-san for assistance, and I think I made it through without them having to correct my work too much. So these three really left an impression.

Cover art for Persona 5 Official Setting Artbook (Released December 2016)

And what did it feel like when you were working independently from [Oribe and Soejima]?

Kabayashi: “Ah, yes, I’ve achieved independence… well, not yet” (laughs). But I encountered a bit of a breakthrough as I was working on these.

A breakthrough, you say?

Kabayashi: I was terrible with “atsunuri” (thick color layering e.g. “impasto“) and airbrush painting, which were what I used for the full-view illustrations. On the other hand, the three pieces that I mentioned had colors that pop out, which was my strong point. But as I was working, I somehow became less convinced that I was terrible at the coloring styles I wasn’t used to. When I moved on to P3D and P5D, my work went smoothly, as if that inner voice of discouragement had simply vanished. It felt like a level up, so I consider it a breakthrough.

Artists would sympathize with that story.

Kabayashi: I absolutely loved designing clothes, too. I wanted to give characters some cool clothes, so I designed some DLC clothing (P4D Costume & BGM Special Set for P5). I was so happy when it was released. (laughs)

Soejima: As they said, the cover of the P5 Official Setting Artbook left an impression on me as well. Shimada-san and Kabayashi-san drew the work from scratch, while I supervised it. When I saw the finalized piece, I honestly thought, “The next artbook can’t have only my name on it.” Atlus’s official artworks were created through the efforts of many people, and that’s why we have so much that we can show to others. If I put such an illustration, but leave out the artist’s name from publication because “it’s Soejima’s artbook alone” or “he had help drawing it”, I’d be confusing the fans by including that illustration at all.

For myself, I also wanted people to see the collaborations I’ve done with the Art Unit, as well as their own work. I’ve been considering the idea ever since I changed work styles, and my mind was made up when I saw the [Shimada and Kabayashi] art.

So you decided to showcase the P-Studio Art Unit, and your plans for the artbook changed with it. Given that, how many of the illustrations in this volume were drawn specifically by the Art Unit?

Soejima: I gave the Art Unit my rough sketches of the frontispiece of Dengeki Bunko’s Naoto novel, the P4G magazine cover for Famitsu, the package art for P4A, P4AU, and P4D, Teddie for P4D, P5’s Morgana for our E3 announcement, the cover for the P5 Official Setting Artbook, and the St. Dupont collab. All of these except the Official Setting Artbook were relayed to Oribe-san.

You were asked to draw a lot of art, Oribe-san. Is there anything that stands out to you?

Oribe: I’d forgotten to mention it when we were talking about our work histories (laughs), but the first package illustration I drew was for P4A, then I went on to the one for P4AU. For that, I was asked to draw all the characters in the game, which was a pretty demanding task. I wondered about how I could present each character uniquely, and asked around for advice.

As we thought about it, the suggestion to look at professional wrestling posters came up, and that’s how the piece came about. This package art was, for me, a chance to really think about how to present something in an interesting way except for cases where I’d otherwise focus primarily on drawing well.

Also, when I was drawing and redrawing P4’s Protagonist at the center, I’d become absorbed in detailing his abs (laughs). When I was satisfied and showed it to Soejima-san, he laughed and said it was gross. Erasing all of that was memorable, too. (laughs)

Soejima: The time I spent on that package art was mostly on altering Oribe-san’s abs. (laughs)

Persona 4 Arena Ultimax boc art (left) and the alternate cover art (right).