In addition to developer interviews for Persona 3 Reload and Persona 5 Tactica, this week’s issue of Weekly Famitsu #1802 also contains a roundtable with members of the Persona Team “Art Unit” (which previously had a lengthy interview about several modern Persona games).
The interview was conducted with P Studio character designer Shigenori Soejima, Persona 5 Tactica art director Hanako Oribe, and general Persona Team producer Kazuhisa Wada. They discuss the process behind designing characters for new games in the Persona series, including the two upcoming titles.
The fully translated interview can be found below:
When it comes to the Persona series artwork, Soejima, who has been primarily responsible for designing the main characters since Persona 3, as well as the designs and illustrations by the team’s staff, seem to have become more prominent. First of all, please tell us about the current structure in place for this work.
Soejima: Around the time of Persona 4 (the original version released on PlayStation 2 in 2008), there was only Oribe and myself mainly handling the series’ artwork. Since then, thanks to the expanded media within the series, new staff members have joined to accommodate those projects, and each of them has gained experience. Oribe, in particular, was in charge of designing minor characters like the school teachers in Persona 4.
Oribe: Yes, that was my first design-related task. When my artwork is displayed alongside Soejima’s, it shouldn’t create any inconsistencies, so I’m conscious of drawing in a way that fits the setting and project’s art style.
Wada: For the Persona series, it often starts with handling sub-characters such as teachers, and then progresses to designing the Social Link characters, and eventually the main characters. We assign staff members who can maintain consistency and a cohesive tone in dividing the artwork.
The teachers in Persona 4 were quite peculiar (laughs), but they certainly evoked that game’s feeling. Regarding the artwork of Persona 5 Tactica, which has its own unique touch, how did you approach it?
Oribe: Many people might associate the direction of character deformity and paint with the Persona Q series. However, this is not a sequel within the Persona Q series, and the game genre is also different, so we aimed for artwork that would be most fitting for this game. Over the course of about seven years since the release of Persona 5, a lot of expanded media and spin-offs have been created. If we were to work on a new game, we wanted it to be a challenging one in terms of both content and visuals. I believe that was a shared mindset within the entire development team, not just for me.
Director Maeda also mentioned in an interview that the characters in this game move intensely during battles, so is the artwork meant to showcase that?
Oribe: Yes. In Persona Q, the silhouettes were round with small hands and feet, a chibi style familiar to Japanese people. However, the 3D models in Persona 5 Tactica intentionally have increased proportions, emphasizing the size of the hands and feet. It might lean more towards a comic book-like deformity. It might not be to everyone’s taste, and there were concerns raised within the development team, questioning if it comes of too strong.
Soejima: When you present something strong, the reactions you receive will also be strong, so as creators, we are always prepared for that.
Oribe: For me, I had a clear intention, so I created reference materials and explained them. If we view the battles from an overhead perspective, characters with the usual tall proportions would appear thin and stick-like. Additionally, it’s challenging to depict dynamic gestures and movements with the proportions from Persona Q. So I insisted that this kind of deformity would be good for this game and passionately explained it. Maeda also supported the idea. Furthermore, we had experienced modelers who have been involved since Persona 4 and were proficient in creating both 2D and 3D models. It was reassuring to have them in bringing the characters to life with their vivid portrayals.
Erina, the new character, was also designed by Oribe, right?
Oribe: Yes. This game has the theme of “revolution,” and Erina is envisioned as a powerful character leading that revolution. In previous entries of this series, the focus often fell on the “growth” of individual characters, but Erina is different. She stands at the forefront, leading her allies and boosting their morale, even if she herself gets injured. I kept that in mind while designing her.
Her appearance while holding the flag is also impressive.
Oribe: Indeed, the flag is an essential prop for a revolution. In battles, Erina uses it as a spear. We decided on it because it has high visibility when viewed from a distant overhead perspective.
Did Soejima provide any feedback on Oribe’s artwork?
Soejima: As long as we share the same basic idea, I leave the individual designs to Oribe. In Oribe’s case, if there’s anything, she comes to consult me. If that doesn’t happen, I assume everything is progressing smoothly.
I see, it’s all about trust! What about Persona 3 Reloaded?
Soejima: Another staff member is in charge of that. I drew the original version about 17 years ago, and since then, there have been various spin-offs and animated movie adaptations. I believe how the protagonists look has been updated in the minds of fans. In order to keep up with that image, the staff working on “Reloaded” have emphasized the proportions in the illustrations and added lighting effects.
Being entrusted with the project by Soejima must be the highest praise for the staff.
Soejima: I’d be grateful if that’s how it’s perceived (laughs). At the same time, there is also the feeling that I can’t afford to lose, so I want to continue working actively.
Oribe: Soejima doesn’t often praise me directly (laughs), but since I’ve been entrusted with the task, I can’t let up. Just as I’ve learned a lot from Soejima, I also feel the need to pass it on to the younger generation. It’s a challenge for the team to convey the Atlus-ism and “Persona”-ism that have been passed down from the source.
Wada: Watching Soejima, I can sense that Oribe is steadily inheriting the DNA of the Persona series’ artwork while also capturing the trend of the times. I believe that truly good artwork will never fade away, and that they will continue to create such artwork in the future. I hope you look forward to both the game and its artwork.