The latest video from YouTube channel Archipel spotlights character designer and illustrator Shigenori Soejima, who discusses his career and work on the Persona series, and his first game with Atlus’ Studio Zero, Catherine: Full Body.
What impressed me in games was characters from fighting games, I liked games such as Street Fighter or Samurai Showdown, where I would draw the characters that I liked. Atlus is a RPG company, but it used to make versus fighting games in the past, such as the Power Instinct series that I enjoyed. The game was developed in Osaka, but I started working at the Tokyo office, so I didn’t get to work on fighting games. The reason why I aspired to work at Atlus… I had the feeling it was a company that could accomplish something.
The Megami Tensei series had this particular atmosphere, the scale of the company was a factor as well, my young self had that audacious feeling that I could work on various things. This is how I ended up entering the gates of Atlus. At first, I would look at existing characters, manga or anime characters I grew up with, there I would try to remember the features I liked in these characters, where I would pick from to create characters.
Recently, I am looking more and more at celebrities, or people in the street, I feel I am digging more in that area. Without looking at specific names, I am often inspired by models in fashion magazines. A same model may have different clothing and hairstyles varying in each photo. It creates something like… There is obviously the person’s overall appeal, but I am also inspired by the image the person wants to communicate and the attempts to get closer to it. “Arranging a certain type of person in a certain way provides this result”, I learn a lot that way. Fashion magazines is probably what I look at the most.
In Persona 4, the characters were deformed to show 3D models, for more rich expressions, the characters were shown via illustrations, however I wanted to show them more uniformly like in an anime or a movie. I didn’t know which was the best, but I wanted to take on the challenge, applying this first into Persona 5, but before that I wanted to know what were the costs and how my drawings would actually turn out.
This is where Catherine came along, as a more compact title, it is obviously a rich puzzle game, but compared to a RPG it had less event scenes, which is why I used this title as a challenge to try it out.
“Good evening, welcome to the Golden Playhouse. Your guide for the night is me, the Midnight Venus, Trisha. Have you heard about this scary rumor? They say if you fall in a dream and don’t wake up before you land, you die, in real life.”
For Catherine, the puzzle mechanics were here from the beginning. It was then a matter of how to make it a fun game, this is where I joined the project. At first, there was a Catherine game without that erotic touch. There were ideas such as making it a battlefield where the character would climb on a hill, while discussing this, various people got interested, I had never drawn in an erotic taste thus far, Hashino thought that it would come as unexpected, and that it would eventually result into something interesting. However I was a bit anxious at first.
There isn’t anyone who doesn’t like erotism, I never did it before, so at first when drawing, it would strangely become too subtle, although Catherine is more raw in a sense. I started over many times, looking for something more real, with a more carnal appeal to it. For the two characters, at the time of Catherine‘s development I was around Vincent’s age. I would wonder what type of person he would be if he were real, there was a big part where I would identify myself with him.
For the Catherine character, rather than an imaginary character, she was more of an ideal character, surprisingly it was better if she were more in a manga tone, away from reality. For Katherine, it took more time in order to decide on her design. Which type of woman would be scary to a man? Well not scary, as she is gentle as well. Providing her with a charm that would also be a reminder of reality, being tender, but also having strict features as well. She had to be more real, which is why I started over many times.
I didn’t hesitate too much after the characters’ tones were decided. I used a few stereotypes, such as the thin glasses to give her a more intimidating look, in her makeup as well, which would tilt towards being more cool than hot. Catherine’s design was decided already, so it was a matter of showing her as a complete opposite, using black and white, one more mature and one more girly. After the character’s personality was fixed, deciding on their appearance and design went smoothly.
Many new people are starting to work at Studio Zero, I am hopeful that this will help bring something new and different at Atlus. There are members such as Hashino who I have worked with at Atlus for a long time, together with people who just started, I am curious of the chemical reaction that it will create,and to see how it will affect the games that are made.
When it was decided to launch a third character, I kept wondering what type of character would work best. Originally I designed the two characters thinking to create two opposites, so I wondered on how to bring a third one. The Catherine character had that hot feel to it, while Katherine was more of a cool type. There I thought that if I drew a cute character, which I was used to work on, it could be the right approach for the third one. It was that adjective that was the trigger.
When I want to think, not doing anything makes my thoughts enter a loop, it gives me trouble to gather them. However, driving a motorcycle or a car, this gives me a clear task. This is a task that I have to complete, also the scenery around me keeps changing, I feel this is a great way to just think, different from collecting resources. When I want to really think, I often drive around in my car, or think of an excuse to go outside. My objective…
I may be still a rookie from the perspective of industry veterans, having worked for those years, when working with various people, you get to learn a lot. Back in the day I would sometimes work on impulses while learning every day from people’s expectations, you actually get to learn more and more on the process of creation. It is the case for my works and for the works of people around me. As a result, you get to see what you are lacking of, seeing this makes you grasp the knowledge you want to acquire, such as the things you can’t draw.
The human, or at least people drawing tend to unconsciously only draw what he can draw, I feel this isn’t the right way to go, this is the case for Re: Fantasy as well, taking on a new challenge, like for Catherine too, being able to incorporate those is what will help me pursue my work.