Interview with Yoji Shinkawa - 2008

ma 04 oktober 2010 21:35:15

In 2008, the fourth Metal Gear Solid title for the home console was released. It brought with it the end of the Solid Snake story and introduced to us an all new Raiden. Back then, I had the privilige to sit down with the main artist of the series, mr. Yoji Shinkawa himself. He was responsible for the beautiful concept art depicting all the characters. His style has influenced many people and of course I felt it as a huge honor to be able to have thirty minutes of his time. Even though we had a to use a translator since my Japanese is a bit rusty.

Or rather, non-existent. :p

I managed to get that interview with Mr. Shinkawa because of a huge special the crew of the now-changed created and updated. The so-called Metal Gear Codex was, with a little help of Castlevaniae Encyclopediae, reason for our Konami contacts to grant us this interview. We could've had one with Hideo Kojima himself, but that wasn't a one-on-one interview. You had to share time with two other media outlets.

I also managed to get some questions in for Miss Yumi Kikuchi, the voice actress (and face) for the Japanese version of Raging Raven. Of course, at the end, I just had to take a picture with both of them because I'm a big fan of their work.

So much for the introduction. Here's the entire interview:

Peter: Before you became an illustrator for the Metal Gear Solid series, the character Solid Snake was modeled to look like Hollywood actors such as Kyle Reese (Terminator) and later Mel Gibson. You gave Snake his unique look and identity. How did you decide what Snake should look like?

S: Each character was based on my experience, what I saw in the movies, what I grew up with such as manga and anime. All of them blend into the created characters, and I suppose Snake ended up with my most heroic and ideal look. It was easy to show.

P: For Metal Gear Solid 4 you had to re-design a lot of characters you already designed for previous games. How did you decide what (amongst others) the older Snake and Eva should look like?

S: Both Snake and Eva I naturally managed to redesign into what they should look like. So there was not much effort or concern there when creating them. It's very natural getting older.

P: Is there a lot of difference between the style of part 3 and 4, besides the time period? Are there parts you wanted to make more apparent then and now?

S: MGS3 was of course based on the 1960's, so I used a lot of classical colors for that. MGS4 is based on a more futuristic world, and the atmosphere is also more serious. So I used a lot of base colors, black and white and grey to give it that different feeling.

P: You are, of course, also the co-creator of the famous Metal Gear models throughout the series. What inspired you to create the Gekko’s?

S: Since Metal Gear Solid, 1, 2 and 3 the Metal Gears have been evolving bigger through time, with Arsenal Gear being as big as a town. To make something bigger than that would be impossible, so instead of that we made them smaller to actually let the robots fight with soldiers. Another reason for making them smaller is that they can arm themselves, with either guns or rocket launchers. Nuclear units can also be added, so instead of firing an ICBM on a base which could be underground, instead of launching it, you can get in there with the unit and deploy it there.

P: Out of the dozens of characters you have drawn for the Metal Gear series, which character is your favorite?

S: The easiest one to draw is Snake, but in MGS4 Raiden has been given a more important role and he's one of the heroic characters depicted. So with this game, Raiden became one of my favorites.

P: In earlier interviews you have stated that there is space for personal input (such as making Sniper Wolf a woman). Are there any MGS4 characters where you had this artistic freedom?

S: I didn't mean Sniper Wolf, but Mei Ling, sorry for the confusion. But I had a favorite actress at the time, so I designed Mei Ling after that actress. So that was my personal input at the time. This time I have another favorite actress, Yumi Kikuchi. She is the (Japanese) voice of Raging Raven.

- At this point Yumi Kikuchi joined us. -

P: Nice to meet you, miss Kikuchi. What did you do before this game? What else did you star in?

K: I did Sky High before this, and have done a lot voice-acting for anime-series. I also did Godzilla: Final Wars.

P: I would like to know if it was fun to play the part of Raven?

K: It wasn't fun at all [laughs]. Playing as Raging Raven meant to always have anger, so I had to cry, laugh and shout with anger. So it was a pretty hard 'order' from Mr. Kojima. But I did have fun with creating different types of face expressions, which were motion captured for in the game.

P: How is it to see yourself in the game?

K: It's a weird feeling, and I'm also not sure if my parents would like it. [laughs]

P: Mr. Shinkawa, you also worked on Godzilla: Final Wars, as a concept artist, can you see yourself working on any other feature films in the future? Would you be interested in working on the Hollywood Metal Gear movie if you were asked?

S: If there is a need for that, I will. But they will have to ask me.

P: What can we expect from you in the future? Any chance you will be working on anything related to Project S?

S: I had to make a game concept, for the next game. I would also like to work on some of my personal projects. I'm also open for anything that comes my way, like the movie as I said.

P: If I'm not mistaken you are a fan of the work of colleague Yoshitaka Amano. On older consoles Amano's work was hard to faithfully display in a game. With current-gen consoles, it is more and more becoming an possibility to make games that look like Amano's artwork. Would you, personally, be interested in working on a videogame that faithfully depicts your visual style?

S: First of all, I don't think it's that hard to implement the art of Amano in a game. Especially with the next-gen systems that are out right now, they could make it possible. Personally, I would love to play a game that is done with Amano's art.

And in the case of my artwork, it depends on the game-concept. Regarding Metal Gear Solid, the reality of the series was a real-life atmosphere. I also have team members who have been working for a long time with me, so I have a good line of communication with them and they fully understand what I like to depict. So there's no problem of expressing my artwork into a game.

P: Metal Gear Solid 3 never got an art book as extensive as the previous games. Can we still expect one? And will MGS4 receive an art book in the future?

S: You're right, for MGS1 and 2 we had a lot of illustrations which we compiled into an art book. For MGS3 we had too many words on the game design. There are a lot of character designs I have, so hopefully I can compile them not in an art book for MGS3, but for one with a lot of material I created over all these years.

P: I would like to thank you both for this opportunity, and hopefully we can have a more in-depth interview in the future.

K: You're welcome.

S: You are welcome, and I hope to see you again sometime.

Games, Playstation