Star Ocean: First Departure R is set to release for PlayStation 4 and Nintendo Switch in a couple of weeks on December 5. One of the re-release's primary new features is a new character portrait art style done by veteran illustrator Katsumi Enami, who previously handled the character art for Star Ocean: The Last Hope alongside other projects like Ys Seven, Ao/Zero no Kiseki, and the anime/LN series Baccano!
Ahead of the game's launch, we had time for a quick chat with Mr. Enami to ask a handful of questions about his work with the series and his approach to illustrating characters. Read our chat down below, and you can check out both the PSP and Mr. Enami's new artwork along with character introductions here.
RPG Site: How did you get your start as a character illustrator?
Katsumi Enami: When I worked for a games company I used to upload my personal drawings online. An editor at a novel publisher found them and that was how I came to work drawing the internal illustrations for novels.
RPG Site: Are there any artists or illustrators you take particular inspiration from for any reason? Maybe any you looked up to when you were just starting your career?
KE: When I first started out I copied Akira Toriyama’s style a lot. Then, when I started to be interested in drawing for a living I looked up to people like Akiman and Kinu Nishimura. These artists continue to update and change their illustrations all the time and I find myself only looking up to them more.
RPG Site: What was your approach to redesigning the classic characters from Star Ocean (for First Departure R)? I see some of the new designs you made have different outfits than their earlier versions, for example. How much leeway did you have in updating these characters?
KE: In actual fact I only did some minor alterations to the design of some of the fine details on the characters and their overall image has not changed. I wanted the new versions to be something that satisfied players who had enjoyed the original game, so I took the direction of not changing the overall designs and just drawing them in a more modern style.
RPG Site: When you are asked to design brand new characters, how do you tackle that? What sort of information are you given about a character beforehand, and are you ever asked to make changes when designing a character?
KE: The first thing I do is get a solid grasp on the world and the culture that the character lives in, as well as their personality. Personally, I find that the personality is the most important information here. This makes it easier to settle on the character’s physique and facial features and gives you the base for a character with a recognisable silhouette. From there I go on to dress them in clothing that fits with the lore of where they come from.
Naturally there are always quite a few requests for design changes. Even if a writer says they are leaving the appearance up to you, they definitely still have an image in their head, so it is actually reassuring to receive requests for changes. Once this happens, I think it is always best to look for a point of confluence that both the writer and the illustrator can be satisfied with.
RPG Site: A bit of an open-ended question. What is your favorite part about drawing a character?
KE: I would say when I am drawing faces - I especially like drawing very characterful faces. Whenever I am adding characters by drawing different faces I get a sense of the world expanding and it is always good fun.
RPG Site: Do you have a favourite character from the Star Ocean series that you’ve drawn? Were any characters more difficult to design for any reason?
KE: My favourite character from Star Ocean is not one of the main characters, but Eleyna from Star Ocean: The Last Hope. I love cool, mature female characters. Bacchus from Star Ocean: The Last Hope was pretty difficult to draw. It was exhausting drawing him!
RPG Site: How does drawing characters from Star Ocean compare to other projects you’ve worked on (such as Baccano! or Ys Seven)?
KE: A lot of my job involves drawing characters in my own style from a pre-prepared design, so what is left down to me is a minor level of re-arrangement and applying my personal drawing style. This means that there is not a great deal of difference when it comes to difficulty.
The one difference was with Baccano!, where there was almost no information about how the characters looked and the author left it all up to me to draw freely, so that job was particularly uninhibited and I think I could show a lot more of my style and creativity with those characters.
RPG Site: I want to end on a more casual question. Besides illustrating, what else do you like to do in your free time?
KE: Watching anime and films and playing games.
I want to keep abreast of what is going on in these genres in order to be able to work in them for the long run, as I feel I am going to be involved with them a lot. I want to be able to share and understand what people enjoy about them and always be able to enjoy them myself.
RPG Site: Thank you for your time.