Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Iwamoto Column Entry 4: Character Design And I (2004)

Title: Character Design And I / 「ボクとキャラクターデザイン」
Source: Gyakuten Saiban 3 official site (down)

Summary: Character designer Iwamoto Tatsurō writes about how he designs characters in his fourth column for the official Gyakuten Saiban 3 (Ace Attorney 3 - Trials & Tribulations) website for the Game Boy Advance. He talks about how he works together with director/writer Takumi to come up with the characters together, but Iwamoto talks also about the importance of buying reference material to become better as an artist, even if it means you need to buy books you normally wouldn't.

Character design and I

The time before last I talked about Gyakuten Saiban 1 (Ace Attorney GBA), last time it was Gyakuten Saiban 2 (Ace Attorney 2 - Justice For All) so this time I wanted to talk about Gyakuten Saiban 3 (Ace Attorney 3 - Trials & Tribulations), but as there is little I’m allowed to tell you before the actual release, so I think I’ll talk about my work, character design, instead.

Character design is something I work together on with director Takumi. Mr. Takumi tells me about their personalities and backgrounds, and I add the visual aspect to that to create a design, but it basically never happens that we settle on the final design in one go (Even if I think the first take is great, the design also needs to fit with how Mr. Takumi imagines the character). So I have to draw a lot of ideas on paper.


I keep all kinds of ideas in my head and use them as my hands do their work. You can never have enough reference materials. So I buy a lot of art books and magazines. Those expenses are not something to underestimate. My wallet is becoming emptier and emptier…. But it is at these times, I remember what a certain stylish director told me when I had first joined the company.

Left: 3 years ago: Never cheap out on reference materials! They’ll make you stronger!
Right: Now.

And once I remember what he said, I feel like I can take the hit. He himself might not remember he told me this, but to me, it was a very important lesson.

I have to buy books of all kinds of genres, so sometimes I feel embarrassed to carry the books to the cashier. Henshin hero books or children’s magazines, bishōjo  anime art books…. I’m horrible at drawing girls. Perhaps not horrible, but I had never drawn them. I needed to see how professionals drew them, but it felt embarrassing getting those books.

Left: Secret Tale Of Her Birth
Middle: Art book of a magical girl anime.
Iwamoto: “Everyone is looking at me…

But once I had crossed this enormous mountain, I felt I had reached a small form of enlightenment. I will buy anything if I see something I can absorb within me. I can gain something worth much more than the money I pay for it. Even if the clerk at the book store looks at me with a weird face, I’ll tell them (in my mind): “It’s for work! I’m making a living of this! Anything wrong with that!?”
Once I arrived at that thought, people started to look different at me. Or is it just my imagination?


  1. I like this article.
    It's short, and there's not much going on, but it's clear how Iwamoto cares about the AA character design.

    T&T has some great visual designs. Ron DeLite and Luke Atmey are the first that come to my mind. I don't particularly like Furio Tigre but I have to admit his design is cool.

    It's great to see you working with this translations. Thanks for sharing!

    1. I like how you can see how he went all out with his own style once he became head designer. He designed about 1/3 of the characters in the first game (like von Karma), but in comparison to AA2 and AA3, you can clearly see he's holding back to fit with Suekane's main style.