Q&A with ‘Fire Emblem’, ‘No More Heroes’ character designer Yusuke Kozaki

Photo credit: Miguel Concepcion

Yusuke Kozaki might not have been the guest of honor at the recent U.S. debut of the French-run Japan Expo (it was ’Evangelion’ character designer Yoshiyuki Sadamoto), but the video game artist certainly got his fair share of attention. With last spring’s “Fire Emblem: Awakening” still fresh in the gamers’ 3DS’, Kozaki’s character designing style has become all the more recognizable. We caught up with him at Japan Expo to talk about his background, his experiences as a character designer for games, and his music tastes.

MTV Multiplayer: We’ve seen your work on deviantART though we assume you were also formally trained, correct?

I studied design at an art school during high school and went on to technical school. So I have a background as an illustrator, not just as a character designer.

Who’s your favorite character in “Fire Emblem: Awakening”?

Lucina. “Fire Emblem”¬†was already a famous series to begin with. I was designing characters based on what came before, but I’ve also had the opportunity to put my interpretation into it. Lucina is memorable to me because she felt like she was truly a Yusuke Kozaki-“Fire Emblem” collaboration.

There’s that rather provocative figure of “Fire Emblem: Awakening’s” Tharja. How were you involved in the creation of that figure?

I was involved in the rough sketch of the pose. Then the sculptor came back to me with a mock-up, after which I provided constructive critiques. While I wasn’t involved in the production, I was directly involved in the design and artistic direction.

What are some of your main takeaways from collaborating with Suda 51 for ’No More Heroes’?

I think the biggest thing I learned from Suda-san was not to get pigeonholed or typecast. That involved not sticking to one style and not to take things for granted. This encouraged me to do off-beat things and not fit into a mold or become a sheep.

Much of your art for “No More Heroes” takes some unusual choices with perspective.

It was definitely a conscious design choice. I did that because I wanted to add my own stamp into the game. It would be distinctly mine.

How did your cat-donut character, Donyatsu come to be?

A friend of mine just asked me to draw a cute character and I drew it literally in a minute. When I uploaded the doodle on Twitter, it got really popular, so I decided to make a manga out of it.

So what’s up with this trend with Japanese developers wearing pop culture t-shirts under sportscoats? The last time I talked to Suda 51, he was wearing a Lou Reed t-shirt under his jacket. And now here’s you, wearing a David Bowie t-shirt.

I actually got this shirt from Suda-san.


(Everyone laughs)

Ok, without thinking, who are your top 3 favorite music artists right now?

Squarepusher. Noriyuki Iwadare. Riz Ortolani.