The Atlus booth at E3 2016 has been jam packed with giveaways and special events since the opening of the show floor. On Tuesday afternoon, longtime Persona character artist Shigenori Soejima shared his character design approach and philosophy during a public interview on the E3 show floor to promote Persona 5.
Where do you begin with your designs?
Soejima starts with the designs of school uniforms, which are a major element in character identity in the Persona series. Uniforms from previous schools, such as Gekkoukan and Yasogami, have their own unique style and color accents. The high school in Persona 5 is called Syujin, and their uniform consists of a dark black jacket with red accents. Soejima said it’s important to know how to tweak those uniforms based on a characters personality. For example, a relaxed or down-to-earth character will often leave their outer shirt unbuttoned to portray their easygoing lifestyle.
Did Persona 5 begin production with a red color theme?
Soejima stated that the color red was not originally planned for the game, but was later adopted over time to coincide with themes from previous games. He said that the characters of Persona 5 hold an extremely passionate viewpoint, and the color red helps portray the hot-blooded nature of the main cast.
Headphones have been a common design element for Persona characters. Why is that?
Soejima explained that headphones have been paired in the designs of many Persona characters: from the protagonist of Persona 3, to Persona 4‘s Yosuke Hanamura, to Persona 5‘s Sakura Futaba. He stated that headphones can be used to portray different personality traits of characters. For example, the main character of Persona 3 wore headphones as a way to shut himself off from the outside world, while Yosuke uses headphones as a means to stay connected to the “big city” life and culture. He was hush on Futaba’s backstory, as he didn’t want to spoil her storyline for players.
Which is more difficult – starting or finishing the character design process?
Soejima said that starting was much more difficult than finishing. The main reason why is because when designing multiple characters, the artist must create an overall group identity that provides unique variation between each of its members. When designing the look of five to ten major characters, the artist must be aware of the niches each character portrays to provide an engaging group dynamic.
Do you receive design inspiration from people you witness in everyday life; riding the subway or passing by on the street?
Not exactly, said Soejima, but he did state that is was important to create original characters that were lifelike enough that they would feel natural to come across in everyday life.
Persona 5 releases in North America on Feb. 14, 2017.