[Artist Interview] TOM Meets “Last Exile” Range Murata in Hawaii!

[Artist Interview] TOM Meets “Last Exile” Range Murata in Hawaii!

It's Kawaii Kon 2015, and the convention floor continues to bustle outside. I've been fortunate enough to have been granted a chance to interview one of the guests of honor, Mr. Range Murata. Murata-sensei started his design career making illustrations for video games and later magazines and print. His most famous works include conceptual and character designs for anime titles like Last Exile and Blue Submarine No. 6, though his art can also be seen in doujinshi and art books available at events like Comiket. His most recent work, debuting this year, is Yuuyake Dandan, a series of shorts being showcased at the 109 Cinemas across Japan. What some may not know is that his passion for design often carries beyond anime into the real world, including bicycles and apparel.

With help from his interpreter, Mr. Christopher Ling (thank you!), I was able to gain insight into some of his inspirations, his background, and some wise advice for anyone aspiring to follow in his footsteps.

──How is your stay in Hawaii so far? Is this your first time here?

This is my first time coming to Hawaii, yes. Yesterday was great, we relaxed on the beach drinking beer, so it was fun.

──That sounds like the best way to spend your vacation in Hawaii (laughs)

Yes, it was awesome (laughs).

──Do you have any other plans here in Hawaii besides Kawaii Kon, perhaps to go sightseeing?

I haven't fully decided yet, but I was thinking of seeing the Dole Pineapple Farm and Pearl Harbor. But more so, I would like to see where the locals live, work, and play. Much of my work features farm life and the working class so that’s something I would be interested in seeing.

──What are your current projects right now, if you can share any?

Yuuyake Dandan is a 3D short which I designed characters for. It’s sort of in the spirit of Eiga Dorobou, 30-or-so-second shorts to discourage the pirating of movies. Unfortunately though, these shorts can only be seen in the 109 line of movie theatres in Japan. The shorts are about a minute long and feature a Japanese schoolgirl having conversations with her cat; it’s a very slice of life kind of plot. There's going to be 50 segments which will eventually be put together for a DVD/Blu-ray home release. These shorts will start in April in theatres.

I'm also working on character designs for an upcoming television anime series that is scheduled for release next year. I can't share what title it is, but what I can say about it is that it’s going to be animated in 3D.

──What are your thoughts of the anime art style and culture reaching worldwide popularity?

When creators in Japan are working on anime, they work with no intention of the title being released worldwide. Basically, it’s something that is created solely with Japanese fans in mind. With this, I am moved to see anime works being enjoyed all around the world and among so many cultures and audiences. It kind of just hits you when you visit anime conventions all around the world. It's kind of mysterious actually.

──What tools do you usually use when you are working on your designs?

Photoshop. I also use a Cintiq 24HD, it’s a line of tablets from Wacom (not cheap), and a two-year-old iMac 2013 with an I7 Quad Core.

──What inspired you to become an artist and designer?

I always enjoyed drawing, but about 20 years ago there just weren't any jobs that had illustrations as a main focus. During that time, the only character designers were animators; you wouldn't have an artist that solely did character designs. This is no longer the case. A lot of anime that's coming out of Japan today are actually based on light novels, short novels with periodic illustrations every few chapters. I remember back in school, it seemed that the only career available for someone like me would be a manga artist, which was difficult for me to do. I decided to go to college for design since I also liked designing things like cameras and cars. After I got out of college, I started working for a game company, which really relied on pure illustrations and not so much manga. It was during this time that I started receiving requests from magazines, publishers and the like for more of my work, and it was at that point where my path really started.

──Oh, that's interesting to bring up - everyone does seem to say that about people who draw anime. It seems to be a misconception that if you're good at drawing anime, becoming a manga artist is your only career path.

A manga artist does have to draw as well, but they also have the challenge of coming up with memorable lines, as well as the layout and placement of characters. Manga artists have to convey story more so than the art. On the other hand, the illustrator's challenge is that they must convey everything they want solely through the image itself, so it really is a divergent path.

──Would you have any advice for beginners or those who are hesitant to pursue their art as a career?

When I was at university, I had a teacher ( who was also an artist) who gave this advice to the students, "Even if you draw very well, how much do you actually CARE about art?" 90% of my time is devoted to my art, whereas the other 10% would be eating, sleeping, and all the everyday essentials. The point is if you are serious about pursuing art as a career, you have to be thinking about it every day. In essence, it has to be something you truly care about. Just having the ability is not enough. For example, say you had a girlfriend: would you choose the girl or the art? You would literally have to choose art; that's how focused you would have to be… I’m not sure if that's something you should say to someone in that situation, but you really have to be all in. People who are just kind of beating around the bush and not going all in, they're not going to make it.

──Any last comments for our readers at Tokyo Otaku Mode?

I will continue my work in design and illustrations for anime projects. So thank you and I hope everyone will continue to support my work.

This article is proudly presented to you by the TOM Ninja Corps
*Reported by Justine Elona*

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