Interview with Kishida Mel

Kishida Mel is a rising star in Japan, making his name as an illustrator. Other than illustrating for light novels, he was also the character designer for hit anime like Hanasaku Iroha and Kamisama no Memochou; and popular video game series Atelier.

anibee took part in this exclusive group interview with Kishida Mel (edited for clarity):

Question: How did you become an illustrator?

Kishida: I never really thought about becoming one. I always drew as a hobby, and actually I attended art design school in university, where I was also involved with the acting club. Then, I became a stage actor. However, I started making a living off my drawings, so I guess that's when I just became an illustrator.

Did you start off with digital work?

Until 2 years ago, I used pencil on paper before scanning the pieces to color and line them digitally. Now I do everything digitally, on a wacom tablet. Not a lot of people do this though. They usually scan their drawings.

Can you describe your art style?

I like to express sentimentality. To convey gentleness and wistfulness, I use fine lines, pastels, and soft colors. My main influence is Kobayashi.

Do you find it harder to draw males or females?

For me, there's no difference in difficulty of drawing either of them. However, because I'm generally commissioned to draw females and thus draw them a lot, I find it very interesting when I get the opportunity to draw males.

How do you work?

Unlike, say, in Singapore, which has set hours, I work all the time so long as I have ideas. It's more creative this way. Then of course there are deadlines, which always keep me busy.

What are you currently working on?

I'm doing anime and manga now, no games yet. Currently I'm busy with Hanasaku Iroha and Kamisama no Memochou.

Are you happy with the performance of Hanasaku Iroha in Japan right now?

Overall, I'm pretty happy, especially with the quality of the animation. I also like that it's faithful to my character designs. I like Hanasaku Iroha a lot and you can say that it's my baby.

What were the challenges of designing for Hanasaku Iroha?

The challenge of drawing for a manga and anime is the level of aesthetic detail. For manga, I'm free to simplify the design because that's just how the medium is, whereas for anime, I have to consider a large range of factors - movement, for example. It was a very big challenge.

What's the significance of the hairstyles behind the main characters of Hanasaku Iroha?

Ohana has wavy hair because it's not what we see too often in an anime. And since she's the protagonist, her hair's a lighter shade than everyone else's to be more distinct. Minko is a typical Japanese, so she has long black hair, which is more realistic. Minko actually got first pass approval, which doesn't happen often. Nakochi is my favorite character because at school, she lets her hair down in a spirit braid, which I personally like (laughs).

Who is your favorite character in Atelier?

I started out liking Rorona, and did so for a while. But now I prefer Chotori.

How do you find drawing for games?

My experience is mostly with Atelier, which was a lot of work because of all the lace the characters wear.

Do you have any advice and encouragement for those who want to break into your industry?

Love illustration. Having good skill is a given. More importantly, be willing to share and accept feedback to grow as an artist. Actively source for constructive feedback from both those who like and don’t like anime/manga, which you can do easily these days because of the Internet. It'll help you grow as an artist. Also, put all your effort into each drawing and strive to make it better than the last.

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