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!
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
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
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
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
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?
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
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
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
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