Yusuke Kozaki Interview @ Japan Expo USA 2013
One of the first exciting guest announced for Japan Expo was character designer and mangaka Yusuke Kozaki who also goes under the pen name of KYMG. Like most American fans, I had first noticed his uniquely stylish art from the 2005 anime Speed Grapher. Mr Kozaki's presence in America was solidified with his video game character design work for the over the top stylish No More Heroes series and more recently, the best seller Fire Emblem Awakening. Apart from his character design works, Mr. Kozaki has created several short mangaka series in during his career including his more recent title, Donyatsu.
In the short time we were able to speak with him, hear a little about his art preferences, where the story for Donyatsu came from along with an inside look at the character creation process for Fire Emblem Awakening!
T-ONO: How has your Japan Expo USA experience been so far?
Kozaki: I have to say the American attendees and fans are outgoing and friendly. They are very approachable and approach me very easily. So I feel like I haven’t traveled very far, I feel like I’m just meeting a bunch of friends. It’s been a lot of fun so far.
T-ONO: You designed several of the mascot characters for Japan Expo USA and we couldn't help but notice that there was a white robot. Could you comment on that?
Kozaki: Oh, the white robot? It’s actually a robot character [Robosaki] that appears in one of my current works called Donyatsu.
T-ONO: We know that you‘ve worked with mechanical designer, Shigeto Koyama and I can’t help but notice that robot seems somewhat reminiscent of his work.
Kozaki: Oh yes, I’ve worked with Mr. Koyama several times in the past and we have a pretty good relationship. I asked Mr. Koyama for his advice and critique on my robot's design.
T-ONO: In regards to Donyatsu, you’ve stated in previous interviews that the design originally came from drawing a cute character for a friend. Where did the concept for the overall story come from?
Kozaki: Actually long before I even came up with the idea for Donyatsu, I’ve always wanted to draw something in the Sci-Fi genre but also set in the present day world. It was always brewing in the back of my mind and then I came up with the character Donyatsu. I wanted to have a world not populated by humans, but by these mascot characters with a Sci-Fi theme. I merged the two into what is now the comic strip.
T-ONO: Are you surprised with the relatively popular that Donyatsu has gained?
Kozaki: When I first discussed with the publisher about the concept, I have explained I’d like to see it expand into a two-minute anime short just prior to a main feature film and actually I kind of got some silent laughter back, like “heh...”
Sure enough, soon after that it did actually become an anime and we had all these character goods, it had actually come along the way I had envisioned it.
Kozaki: The project came about when a designer from Good Smile Company, Mr. Usa who actually has his own mascot character named Usa. We were talking about doing a collaboration project between Usa and Donyatsu and this kind of came about as a side project.
T-ONO: Having worked in anime, video games, and manga, which of the mediums do you enjoy more?
Kozaki: I would say it’s really hard for me to choose which medium I enjoy more over the other because they are all equally fun for me, and yet equally challenging.
T-ONO: Outside of some of the characters you've designed for other projects, it appears your artwork tend to feature more petite female characters with leaner frames. Could you please comment on that?
Kozaki: Actually I would say the drawings I do personally really depends on my mood at the time or what I enjoy seeing. Perhaps the petite frames was how I felt at the time was the more ideal woman or more appealing. In fact recently, I would say I like women with a little more meat on them who are athletic in terms of the thighs; whatever I fancy at the time gets reflected into my art more than anything else.
T-ONO: Moving on to talk a little about the Fire Emblem Awakening for the 3DS, the game featured a large cast of characters. During the development, were there any characters that you had designed that you liked who were dropped you could describe?
Kozaki: When the game was in the rough beginning stages, I would receive the rough outlines of what each character was like and I drew a ton of faces. What happened next is they picked and chose which faces they thought would go with which personality of the characters. So there were plenty of characters that were dropped, or at least facially, but I have to say there were none that I really regretted. In fact, some of them I actually used on other projects as well.
T-ONO: What is your preferred choice or medium? (tablet, pen and paper, etc.)
Kozaki: When I draw manga, I do at least all the rough outlines and line work by hand, but when I design character for games, because the final product is much smaller than my actual drawings, i start on my computer.
T-ONO: Lastly, some words for your fans.
Kozaki: I would love to continue working on projects that will hopefully reach America and not just my Japanese audience. I hope you will all enjoy seeing my work; not just what you’ve seen so far, but also my future works.
Mr. Kozaki's thank you to all The-O Network reader!
Special thanks to Mari Morimoto for interpreting