The latest issue iof Persona Official Magazine, titled #2019 ROYAL, was released alongside the Japanese launch of Persona 5 Royal on October 31, 2019. It includes three separate, in-depth developer interviews with the following creators:
- Producer Kazuhisa Wada & Director Daiki Ito
- Composers Shoji Meguro and Toshiki Konishi
- Character designers Shigenori Soejima & P-Studio Art Unit’s Azusa Shimada
Below is a translation of the interview with the character designers via @shininyan.
Persona Artworks – P5R Special
An interview with Persona 5 Royal (hereinafter P5R) character designers Shigenori Soejima and Azusa Shimada from the P-STUDIO Art Unit about the artwork in the game.
Q: First, please tell us what you were responsible for in P5R.
Soejima: I designed the new characters, Kasumi, Maruki, and Jose.
Shimada: I was responsible for the in-game portraits based on Soejima’s designs, as well as promotional illustrations.
Q: Did the team have a common image in mind when creating art for P5R?
Soejima: The “royal” and “gorgeous” themes were there from the start, and we let those lead the way. The words have a very phantom thief-like aura to them.
Shimada: They were always there in the back of my head.
Q: Is there anything you purposely changed from P5?
Shimada: In order to differentiate the in-game portraits from the previous game, I added things like shiny effects and two-toned rim lights to embody the “royal” feeling. I made the colours more vivid without being too bright, mixed in some of the stylish black shading from the battle cut-ins, and adjusted the balance. I also made the poses more dynamic to bring out the characters’ personalities.
Soejima: In the previous game, the players weren’t yet familiar with the characters, so we needed to draw things in a way that would make them speculate about what their stories were. This time, everyone already knows the characters, so we didn’t think that it would mean much if we simply drew them in different poses but with the same atmosphere.
Shimada: Before P5 was released, I think Yusuke and Makoto seemed like serious characters. But when you play the game, you go, “So that’s what they’re like!” Meanwhile, P5R’s portraits will give that impression from the very beginning.
Q: In between P5 and P5R, there were other developments such as the anime. Did those influence your art?
Soejima: Of course. We put particular care into the protagonist, since he’s a representation of the player. There are as many protagonists as there are players. When that goes through other forms of media, the players’ so-called “collective unconscious” form a commonly accepted interpretation of the character. In P5R, we follow that and draw him in a more adventurous way. However, the P5 protagonist is probably still only 50% of the way there compared to the P4 protagonist. We went a bit too far with the P4 protagonist. *laughs*
Q: I see that the package illustration is of the characters’ Phantom Thief forms this time.
Soejima: For P5, we had everyone in their school uniforms because we wanted to show that the ones becoming phantom thieves were juveniles who were still in school. This time, everyone’s true forms are already known, so we can draw them in their Phantom Thief outfits. The overall concept was an “Everyone’s here!” feeling.
Q: Each character really stands on their own in this illustration.
Soejima: The PR department wanted to be able to use the character illustrations individually too. *laughs* We drew the hidden parts too, and since it needed to be at a high resolution, the entire art unit worked on it together.
Q: How many people are in the art unit?
Soejima: Shimada is representing them here, but there are four members in total. Everyone shares the workload.
[An interview with the complete Art Unit can be read here.]
Q: What was the intent behind the protagonist’s surprised expression?
Soejima: It doesn’t have any direct meaning, but his expression and pose are meant to make you wonder what he’s reacting to, and what’s going to happen. The protagonist, Kasumi, and Akechi—the three characters at the center—deliberately have different expressions from the rest of the characters.
Q: There is another wonderful illustration on the cover of Dengeki PlayStation Vol. 681. Could you tell us about that one too?
Soejima: I wanted to draw the protagonist with Kasumi, P5R’s poster girl. Instead of depicting a specific scene, I chose to include the new grappling hook feature and show how close the two of them are. Illustrations with touching bodies may be rare for the Persona series, but as I said before, the protagonist is a representation of the player, so I was careful about the positioning of his hand.
Q: Were you responsible for anything in the third semester or other new features?
Shimada: The art unit members were responsible for designing new outfits, such as the kimonos used for the New Year’s shrine visit and the winter outfits.
P5R Character File – New Characters and Personas
Q: Please tell us about the new character Kasumi.
Soejima: Visually she contrasts with the protagonist, and I drew her in a straightforward way as a character that would represent P5R.
Q: When she was revealed, some people speculated that she might be a female protagonist.
Soejima: She was drawn in a different context from Persona 3 Portable’s female protagonist, but her Phantom Thief form was deliberately drawn to resemble the protagonist. Also, when you think female Phantom Thief, it has to be a leotard. Although it’s a bit old-fashioned. *laughs* I personally wanted to challenge converting that into something modern.
Q: What about the new Confidant, Maruki?
Shimada: Many of the teachers in the Persona series have a malicious side to them, right? In contrast, Maruki feels like an adult with common sense. His sandals are his charming point.
Soejima: The development team asked us to make him look like a good guy, but somewhat absentminded.
Q: Jose, who you meet in Mementos, looks cute like a mascot.
Soejima: That’s one part of it. I think you can tell from looking at him that he’s not human, but at any rate, his name comes from a character from Pinocchio, and he wants to know more about humans. Specifications-wise, Jose is the character with the most mysteries surrounding him. His outfit and the car he rides are based on my interests, like military amphibious vehicles used in the past.
Q: As for the other existing characters, it seems like a lot of new portraits have been added.
Soejima: This is what the art unit would like you to look at the most. The main characters were almost entirely redrawn.
Shimada: In P5 it was only their facial expressions that changed, but this time, we did a major revamp so that their poses and face angles would change to match their emotions. I’m sure the P5R players are most excited for the third semester, but hopefully, the new portraits will make the game feel different from the very start. The portraits are seen often on a daily basis, so I hope the game will feel fresh.
Q: Regarding the third tier personas, it was a bit surprising that they went back to fictional characters.
Soejima: The initial personas have a strong impression, so we thought that players might want to see evolutions of them. Instead of extending from the mythological second tier personas, we decided to go with a different system for P5R. It actually has a story-relevant meaning behind it as well.
Q: Was there an overall concept for them?
Soejima: The concept for the third tier personas is “modern.” Their names in early development were simply the initial personas’ names with “Modern” added to the end. For example, Captain Kidd – Modern. *laughs*
Shimada: We considered using the initial personas as a base and replacing their items with modern ones. I was responsible for William, Diego, and Agnes. For William, I changed his pirate ship to a hydrofoil watercraft and his cannon to a railgun. It has a boy’s ambition.
Soejima: In addition, we figured that as a track-and-field club member, Ryuji would be interested in high-tech shoes. We added touches like that to reflect each character’s personality. Morgana’s has that slightly wild old man look. *laughs*
Shimada: Morgana wants to be acknowledged by Ann, so I added things that represent the manliness he longs for, like a watch and a car engine-style belt. Also, when I looked up what the blue rose meant in flower language, it was surprisingly fitting. The original was meant to depict something “impossible” that couldn’t exist naturally, but in modern times, you can create something like that with biotechnology, so the concept has changed to “his dream granted.” The design also matches Morgana’s blue eyes.
Q: Can we get a message for the fans?
Shimada: New expressions and outfits for the characters have been added, so we hope you’ll empathize more with your comrades and feel closer to them. The new personas also have various details to them that we hope you’ll enjoy analyzing.
Soejima: There’s so much new art that I wonder why we drew so much. As we were drawing, we kept thinking, “They’d probably make this face as well,” digging deeper and deeper into the characters. We also considered feedback from those who watched the anime and challenged new ideas. I hope you enjoy it.
P5R Logo – The “R” was given a gold bar texture to look “royal.” The Persona series as a whole has a focus on graphical design, so I kept the logo to two colours, keeping it simple enough to prevent clashing with the opening animation and whatnot. It was a challenge to make it feel like gold with only two colours. (Soejima)
Cendrillon – Cendrillon is the French version of Cinderella. Glass slippers by themselves would be boring, so I made her completely glass. If you look carefully, you can also see the clock motif, representing the temporary form given to her by magic. Her hair ribbon goes with Kasumi’s. (Soejima)
Robin Hood – Robin Hood’s posture has him looking back defiantly, but he’s drawn as an ally of justice. I thought he was fitting for Akechi, being the opposite of Arsene. Since the character eliminates villains, I used colours reminiscent of robot anime and superheroes. (Soejima)