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


People and Fashion and Lighting

Are there things you’re very particular with when you draw?

Oribe: We just shared the abs story, but Soejima-san talks about it in other interviews.

Soejima: I was once asked if there was someone among us who liked muscles.

Oribe: I don’t like muscles! (laughs) I thought that I could never draw dynamic figures well, but because I liked them, I spend a lot of time on them. I think those dynamic figures were the reason why some paintings and illustrations get my attention, compared to others.

Soejima: You like intense pictures, with dynamic movement and expressive faces, don’t you, Oribe-san?

Oribe: I suppose I do. When I was coloring the Shadow versions of the characters for P4, I showed the finished work to the staff, and they told me it was “crude”. I defended myself and blamed Soejima-san’s drawing, and he said my coloring was terrible, and we just kept arguing. (laughs)

Soejima: Didn’t someone tell you that Makoto’s cut-ins for P5 were fierce and scary? (laughs)

You mean the Snap and All-Out Attack cut-ins?

Oribe: True, someone did say that (laughs). Actually, the Protagonist’s cut-in used to be scarier than Makoto’s. He was ready to kill somebody, and the look he had would make me scream (laughs). It had been suggested to me that since Atlus’s protagonists don’t have fixed personalities, I shouldn’t be adding too much character when drawing them. He looks a little milder now as a result. Other than that, I’ve been told that I enjoy drawing funny faces. (laughs)

Earlier All-Out Attack cut-in for the Persona 5 protagonist, as seen in trailer PV01.

Soejima: When I’m asked if the characters in the cut-ins resemble the ones I draw, I’d say that they don’t at all (laughs). But if I make corrections to them, I feel they’ll lose what makes them good and interesting; their substance, so to speak. They help the characters and the game express themselves more flexibly, and I figured it was alright to leave them as they are.

Oribe: I’d say that my art is rather crisp, too. Soejima-san would draw soft and gentle hands, while, I like drawing everything finely, even the joints on a person’s hands. Though when those hands are a girl’s, they end up becoming unrefined…

So your fixations, Oribe-san, are intensity, dynamic motion, and muscles.

Oribe: I don’t like muscles! For Kabayashi-san, I’m guessing it’s clothes?

Kabayashi: Yes. I’d spoken about it earlier, but I really love clothes and fashion, and I have a strong urge to dress characters in clothes that I find stylish. I even had an argument with Oribe-san about it once. (laughs)

Oribe: We did!. (laughs)

Kabayashi: We were designing the costumes for P3D and P5D, and we needed a lot of them since it was a rhythm game… And we were fighting about each other’s methods. (laughs)

Oribe: Wait, we did what!? (laughs)

Soejima: I saw them from afar, so I just watched in secret. (laughs)

Kabayashi: I said that there was merit in using 3D, since they’ll be stylish and cute. That’s what fashion emphasizes, after all. But when I designed the clothes in 2D, I was told, “Hold it!” and the argument sprang from there. (laughs)

We sense some tension, but could you tell us one thing the occurred during this argument?

Kabayashi: So I’d be asked for some “stylish” clothes. And as soon as I hear the word, I go, “Stylish, got it!” I don’t even think, I just dive into it.

You’re eager to work on them as soon as you’re asked.

Kabayashi: But everyone else told me to hold it.

Oribe: Kabayashi-san’s interpretation of “stylish” clothing comes from luxury brands like Prada, but we didn’t want our characters to turn into dress-up dolls. For example, the civilian clothes that the characters wear in P5 are deliberately normal. We have to come from the perspective that the clothes they wear are ones they themselves would pick in a store. In Ryuji’s case, he looks like a student who’d buy his clothes in a discount store that operates late into the night. We couldn’t imagine how Ryuji would end up with luxury brands.

Why isn’t this character behaving realistically? This might be another thing that I’m particular with, but I think it’s important to be aware of the fans’ response upon seeing that. I might be repeating myself, but if we were talking about women’s clothes, I don’t want them to just be cute. I want clothes that make players think, “This character has a different sense of style, even if she’s a girl like me,” or “They’re wearing their clothes with zest”. But Kabayashi-san thinks differently. She simply wants to draw stylish, luxury brand clothing, while I want some background behind the characters’ wardrobe…and we had an argument over our frames of thinking. (laughs)

Kabayashi: Oribe-san was persuading me, and I said, “Well, don’t we have collaborative art where characters don’t wear clothes according to their personality? It could be an alternate-universe sort of thing.” But she said, “But it’s annoying to see in the game itself, right?” So I imagined it, and thought, “She’s right, it’d be annoying!” (laughs) I got into a bit of a sulk, and said I’d think about it. I got home and into the bath, and mulled over it before deciding that while I still disagreed, it might be true. (laughs) So I became conscious of when I was drawing stylish clothes only for “dressing up” the characters.

It’s difficult to incorporate my preferences in art that people will enjoy, without feeling self-important. However, I believe that as I’m defining each of the characters, I’ll be able to dress them in stylish clothes one day. I’m not giving up. Someday, they will wear my clothes! (laughs)

Kabayashi-san’s fixation (or rather, determination) regarding clothes is quite strong.

Kabayashi: Not just fashion! There’s one more, if that’s alright.

Of course.

Kabayashi: I also think about how to include things that would make players laugh at my designs. When working on the P5 DLC dance outfits, I gave Morgana a funny afro to indicate the “dance” theme, while Yusuke was in his usual showy garb. If it was just a “simple, yet cool” design, it wouldn’t be as easy to promote, and the parts that I worked hard on would be labeled as merely “interesting”. Instead, I give the the whole thing some punch.

I design clothes with the hope that players can guess what kind of conversations the characters could have. For example, Yusuke’s costume is a jacket covered in spikes; if he hits someone, they’d go, “Ouch! The hell you wearin’?” or get angry like, “Those spikes make a racket when you move!” I hope players can imagine other exchanges.

Indeed. What about you, Shimada-san?

Shimada: Ahh, it’s a little tough to follow after all that passion (laughs).

Oribe: You can do it!

Kabayashi: (laughs)

Shimada: It’s not something that I’ve applied enough in my work, but right now, I’m concerned with the lighting. I like thinking about how to create spaces in my art, how light and its reflections are depicted, and how the empty space comes to the fore as the objects in the background look more transparent. That one large space in each of my pieces is like an entrance.

An entrance?

Shimada: I enter through that space, and immerse myself in making art while thinking of light and spaces… that’s the best way I can explain it. Previously, I drew scenes in Shin Megami Tensei: Strange Journey Redux, and the characters were glowing with light coming from the heavens, and the background was like shimmering ice. How would I portray this divinity? By dimming the side with people, or do I dim the other side? I admit that I really enjoy it thinking about the effects and interplay of lighting,

Do you consider lighting in your daily life as well?

Shimada: Yes. The ceilings on the train platforms use a transparent material, and at dusk, there would be this indescribable rainbow-like glow. I remember things like that, where I tell myself, “Wow, I want to draw that.” Lighting is just something I pay attention to, without being conscious of it. That’s what I meant when I said that I haven’t applied it much at work. (laughs)

It’s quite clear now that Shimada-san and Oribe-san have preoccupations that can be just as intense as Kabayashi-san’s.

At a corner of P-Studio are the three members of the Art Unit with desks aligned. Shigenori Soejima’s is at the rear.