JAPAN EXPO INTERVIEW SERIES #2
“WHY IS PHOENIX WRIGHT’S HAIR SHAPED LIKE A BIRD?” AND OTHER SILLY QUESTIONS
With the North American digital release of Ace Attorney: Duel Destinies on the horizon, I thought it would be interesting to talk with one of the staff members who worked on this production. In this interview, I sat down with the series lead art designer Tatsuro Iwamoto, as we talked about all sorts of random topics, ranging from Iwamoto’s early days at Clover to Iwamoto’s voice audition for Miles Edgeworth to even the new Grand Theft Auto title (I shit you not).
JONATHAN TUNG: So how did you ended up working at Capcom?
TATSURO IWAMOTO: At first, I always knew I wanted to be an artist and illustrator. So while I was attending an art university, I took a test they were holding for people who were interested in applying for a job at the company. I ended up passing, and they hired me on the spot.
JT: Prior to working on the Ace Attorney games, you worked with Clover Studio on Okami. Can you give me an idea on what your experience was like working on that title?
IWAMOTO: To say the least, it was extremely different working for both Capcom and Clover Studio.. Since I was assigned the job of lead animator,
JT: So how hard was it to animate the Sumoi-e artstyle in Okami compared to drawing?
(NOTE: At this point, Iwamoto did not address this question and instead tried to continue where we left off in the previous question. - JT)
IWAMOTO: So for me, the biggest problem for me, was that when I was doing the animation, I really wanted to do the character designer for the game, which was extremely annoying to suppress. Upon finishing the game though, I felt as if a heavy burden was lifted, and I was able to continue doing what I loved the most: drawing characters.
JT: Since Clover closed down in March 2007, most of your fellow coworkers, including Hideki Kamiya and Shinji Mikami have moved on and opened their own game companies, specifically Platinum Games and Tango Gameworks. Have you kept in contact with them, and what do you think about their current projects?
IWAMOTO: Remind me what they were?
JT: The Wonderful 101, Bayonetta 2, and The Evil Within?
IWAMOTO: I know of the first two, but what exactly is The Evil Within? I’ve never heard of it.
JT: I think they call it Psychobreak in Japan.
IWAMOTO: Well, to answer your first question: yes, I do keep in touch with my teammates since we’ve all worked together and we pretty much fought side by side during the development of Okami. As for the games themselves, seeing all those wonderful games that my former co-workers made and playing them makes me want to work even harder and strive to become a better illustrator. Had they still worked at Capcom following the closure of Clover, they probably would’ve never made it to the point they’re currently at today.
JT: Moving on to the Ace Attorney games, why is Phoenix’s hair shaped like a bird? Was this intentional?
IWAMOTO: Actually, I didn’t really decide on Phoenix’s hairstyle; one of my higher-up co workers did. To be honest, I don’t seem to think of it as a bird per se, but rather as a Phoenix from legend: since Wright isn’t really that smart, what we wanted to show here is that despite his shortcomings, he is still able to rise back up from the ashes, much like the Phoenix itself. The ahoge (crazy hair) also represents that: it’s as if he’s running forward into the wind, or the challenges ahead.
JT: In addition to being the lead art director of Ace Attorney, you’ve also voiced Miles Edgeworth in the Japanese release of the game. How did you land the role?
IWAMOTO: Well, when we first started out on the very first Ace Attorney title, our team was really small and we didn’t have enough money to hire actual voice actors. As a result, we were forced to improvise, and so we held some auditions to see who could play whom. Somehow, I ended up getting the role of Edgeworth, and it’s pretty much been like this since then. It’s not much of a spectacular story to be honest.
JT: Since then, the Ace Attorney games have flourished, spawning additional sequels, a crossover with Level-5’s Professor Layton games, and even a live-action film! What did you think of seeing your characters in live action form for the first time when the movie came out?
IWAMOTO: To say the least, I seem to treat all of my characters as my children, and seeing them in motion on the big screen was the equivalent of seeing your child grow up and mature, only to step out into the world as an adult. In a way, I feel happy for them, but at the same time, I feel a little sad to see them leave. But yeah, seeing them all become popular and appear in all these games makes me feel better inside.
JT: Does the same thing apple to Okamiden as well?
IWAMOTO: Yes, it is a similar feeling.
JT: Any last words for our readers?
IWAMOTO: (muttering some stuff in Japanese) Rockstar dou.
JT: Oh, my shirt? (looks at shirt) Yeah, I was planning on wearing this when Grand Theft Auto V comes out next month.
IWAMOTO: Huh, I was actually going to buy that game as well.
JT: Sweet. Maybe we might meet each other online!
IWAMOTO: Well, I do love all the GTA games and other American titles, so if anyone is reading this, please give me a job in America! (NOTE: Since 2005, most titles by Rockstar Games were localized and distributed in Japan by Capcom. Interestingly enough, Capcom at one point was planning on developing an arcade-inspired western shooter based on Gun.Smoke before it was cancelled in 2002. It was then picked up by Rockstar and was eventually released as Red Dead Revolver. - JT)
JT: Well, you could always talk with Mikami. I mean, he does work with an American company, I think. (NOTE: Tango Gameworks is owned by ZeniMax Media, an American company that is responsible for The Elder Scrolls franchise, Quake Live, Fallout, and Dishonored. - JT).