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Interview with Toshiyuki Kubooka (August 2005)

With the release of Lunar: Dragon Song, the Lunar series will see its first original game in over a decade. We got to put together an interview with Toshiyuki Kubooka, who is best known for his work as character designer and artwork for the entire Lunar series (more interviews of him can be found in the Lunar I+II artbook translations). Kubooka-san has also worked on many other games and anime, including the famous anime series, Giant Robo. It has been a pleasure to have him grace us with an interview. Enjoy!


LunarNET: How did you first get involved with the Lunar series?

Toshiyuki Kubooka: Mr. Shigema, who was an editor for a magazine at the time, asked me to work on character design for the first Lunar game. Since I had never done character design before, it was a big challenge for me.

LN: How long does work on character design usually take for each of the Lunar games? How much work was involved with character design in Lunar: Dragon Song?

TK: It depends on the number of characters, but it usually takes two or three weeks to finish rough design for all character. After I get the OK from a client, I will start creating a full-length figure and various face patterns for each character. It takes about three months on average to complete all characters.

As for Lunar: Dragon Song, I'm involved in this project as character design supervisor. Character design for Lunar: Dragon Song was already done, and I arranged the design drafts and completed them. It was a different process from the previous Lunar series. This time, it took about a month and half to complete character illustrations.

LN: Which character(s) in Lunar: Dragon Song do you find particularly interesting? Do you have a favorite?

TK: I like Flora.

LN: Lunar: Dragon Song is partially about the different lifestlyes of beastmen and humans. How did you incorporate this into the character design?

TK: Since the original design followed the existing Lunar world feel, I made sure to keep the feel when I arranged the design drafts.

LN: How much freedom do you have in designing the characters? Do you know a lot about a character before you design him or her?

TK: It all depends on clients. Some clients draw rough design and tell me exact images they want. Some clients provide me with only the characters' situation or personalities and ask me to freely create character design based on these characteristics. The former case is boring due to many restrictions, but the tradeoff is that it is very easy. The latter case gives me lots of freedom in character design and thus so much fun, but it's very difficult. I like the latter case better.

When I work on character design, I need information about each character's age, personality, circumstances and role in the story, and the world situations that support the entire story.
I then think about all of that and then determine the influences for each character design. However, most of the time, I end up determining final character design based on my inspiration.

LN: What kind of feelings and emotions go into the characters you design? Do you know about a character's behavior before you design it, or do you draw first and then see what kind of feelings the character evokes?

TK: Whether a character is male or female, I put myself in the character's place when I draw a draft. Therefore, I cannot draw it without knowing the character's personality or role in the story. However, sometimes the character's personality becomes very clear after I start drawing a draft. So it would be more accurate to say that I use both approaches.

LN: What inspires the costumes the characters in Lunar wear? Geometric designs (triangles and straight lines) seem very prominent.

TK: I find inspiration in magazines, movies, apparel catalogs, and such. It's always difficult to determine details, but I prefer straight-line pattern to curved-line pattern. Therefore, I like "art deco" better than "art nouveau", and I often get inspiration from "art deco" design.

LN: How has your artistic style evolved over the years? What elements have changed since the original Lunar on the Mega CD?

TK: Basically it hasn't changed much. Of course, I sometimes get influences from other products or change the way I draw a specific part. However, those small changes are sort of my personal touches and not fundamental changes.

LN: What artwork do you do besides Lunar? How do you distinguish your work in Lunar from that in other games?

TK: Other than Lunar, I do character design, picture draft, and directing for cartoons. I also did character design for a "gal game" where most of the characters in the game were girls.

There is not a big difference between Lunar and other games in terms of process. However, since the character design style for Lunar was already established through the previous series, I tried to keep the style.

LN: What other artists have influenced you?

TK: Tomonori Kogawa. He's a animator & designer for TV cartoon shows such as "Space Runaway Ideon", "Xabungle", and "Aura Battle Dunbine".

Hayao Miyazaki. As you know, he's a maestro of Japanese cartoon. He influenced my directing.

Akira Kurosawa and David Lean. They are directors who I admire.

LN: Do you have any final comments for your fans?

TK: Thank you so much for supporting Lunar for so many years. I truly appreciate. Please continue to support Lunar.


For more on Kubooka-san's involvement with the Lunar series, take a look at the Lunar I+II interviews. And to take a look at his wonderful artwork on the Lunar series, check out the artwork page. Look for Lunar: Dragon Song to drop in Japan on August 25th, and for the North American release to follow shortly thereafter in September.

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