Kazuma Kaneko Works III – Interview

Nobuaki Takerubu (2008). “Kazuma Kaneko Works III Plus”. Kazuma Kaneko Works III. Shinkigensha: Tokyo, pp. 2-4.


– First of all, I would like to hear about the series of events that led up to the release of Shin Megami Tensei III – NOCTURNE. Eight years have passed since SMTII was released.

Kaneko: As a matter of fact, soon after we made Shin Megami Tensei II and Shin Megami Tensei If…, a concept for a third Shin Megami Tensei was made. I know this isn’t Star Wars, but I said “Let’s make nine instalments of this series as well!”.

– The movies did end after the sixth episode. (laughs)

Kaneko: I’ve also watched the future instalments. (laughs) No, it was right around that time that new hardware was being launched and as a third party, it was better to not release software…

– So [you started working on] Megami Ibunroku Persona and Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Summoner, right?

Kaneko: That’s true, SMTIII got neglected a bit…  Though we could’ve simply made a direct sequel, we also feared that that wouldn’t be very Megaten-like.

– Hmm… What does that mean?

Kaneko: The one virtue of Megaten has to be the setting of battling in the streets of contemporary Tokyo, I think. Although we even gave futuristic SF a shot in SMTII, I wondered whether it would be fine to continue chronologically like that.

– When I hear Megaten, I think of a realness that isn’t odd yet in every street there are demons lurking, only to jump out right at you.

Kaneko: Ah. That’s why I wanted the story of SMTIII to once again return to a contemporary setting; In that sense we might think of it as a continuation of SMTI‘s Chaos Route. However, it has “NOCTURNE” attached to it, right? To tell you the truth, this seems to prologue-like implications, but the real meaning is that it’s not just SMTIII.

– What!? Are you serious?

Kaneko: However, it has already been given the name of SMTIII so I won’t be able to use it again. I got spare time again.

– I’m sure SMTIV will be next. (laughs)

Kaneko: The series has always featured a ‘Demon Summoning Programme’, which is an item that symbolises the series, much like the light saber for Star Wars or the transformation belt for Kamen Rider, yet it is something Nocturne lacked.

– In Nocturne the protagonist became a demon himself, with tattoos and all.

Kaneko: At first, it didn’t feature a summoning programme at all, but we really wanted to invoke a feeling of digitality and so the protagonist was being designed as a human computer. It was also inspired by the special make-up in Cronenberg’s “Videodrome”.

– Like keyboards coming out of the skin, directly from the bone?


Kaneko: Right, that was the cyber feeling of the 80s. But in the end we decided on tattoos because I felt bad about having to operate [or manipulate] the protagonist as such.

– So you settled on a solid demon body.

Kaneko: At that time, we had neither polygons nor a game, just an atmosphere. With Maken X we leveraged our know-how.

– Were you in charge of the polygon models?

Kaneko: No. My job for SMTIII was to draw designs and to draft the world setting and the kind of adventure. In comparison to drawing pixel art, this was much more important!

– If you look back at those designs, have you considered remaking those?

Kaneko: To match the theme of Nocturne, I had to make changes to some degree… For example, [the design of] Kali follows mythology in the Shin Megami Tensei series, but in Persona I had to redraw features of her costume to prioritise her image. I had to draw Shiva (HariHara) in D.D.S. [Digital Devil Saga] Avatar Tuner as another living being while keeping the mythological nuances intact.

– Based on what you’ve said, isn’t it very difficult to pass those down?

Kaneko: If people are wondering “Why are you revisiting them?”, that makes me feel very lonely. (laughs) It’s like upgrading your personal possessions to the point you wished to discover.

– Sarasvathi’s sitar has become extremely detailed.

Kaneko: Thanks to [my fans], I’ve been able to buy those source materials. (laughs)

– If [your designs] become polygons, it’s necessary to think about the presentation of the sides and the back. Do you also draw designs for these perspectives?

Kaneko: Most of the time the staff is able to imagine those sides from the original drawing. Whenever they’re not certain about the back of the clothing, I’ll explain or draw how it should be. As 3D has become a prerequisite these days, I try to draw the places that you normally wouldn’t be able to see as much as possible; the back of the wings of winged species or particular features on the back, for example, have been specified at the time of the designs were drawn.

– Speaking of particular features, although mythological characters are often very plain, the style and colour usage of Megaten demons leave an astounding modern expression.

Kaneko: Now that you mention it, perhaps they’ve been richly coloured in the era the myth took place. In extant Buddharupa or wall paintings the colours are lacking as they’ve faded away over time while in reality they might have been decorated with glittering colours.


Even so, we originally had the idea to bring [the demon designs] into modern times… For example, I worked out colour schemes for strength and speed, which would reflect the characters in the game according to the idea of modernisation. However, if there were too many particular features in one design or character, it wouldn’t leave that much of an impression on the player. That’s why we decided to have one characteristic per design as much as possible.

– There’s a lot of unity among the colour usages of characters throughout the series. Is this something you’ve been doing intentionally?

Kaneko: Well, although there still remain images that originated in the Famicom versions, back in those days the capacity we could use for characters was limited and to leave an impression on the player, we changed the colours of the skin and hair in colours that usually don’t go together so well.

– I can imagine such limited capacity could also have been a relief.

Kaneko: This has completely changed now everything has to be in 3D and animated. Apart from the colour scheme, which has become less significant, we are planning to polish designs by slicing off bells and whistles while keeping the images players have come to love and my drawing style intact.

– By the way, what’s your favourite colour?

Kaneko: My favourite colours are – I often use them out of habit – gold and silver. (laughs)

– Doesn’t one usually say red or blue?

Kaneko: No. You wouldn’t ask your guests to draw robots or something, now would you?  But in that case, I think I’m going with black. Most likely because images of myself happen to be black, (laughs) but if we’re talking about animated stuff, I’m not quite sure how black would work then. Look, in the very beginning of Kamen Rider there are a lot of night scenes, and there only the eyes shine. (laughs) And then “Boom!”, or something. (laughs)

– And when the lines of the arm entered in episode 2, it became much easier to follow.

Kaneko: Ah yes, it was like you said if I think about it now.

– That’s how the characters in SMTIII came to life as well, right?

Kaneko: The game uses similar methods, such as a coloured line to mark the silhouette of garments or whenever characters were moving, indeed.

– Kazuma Kaneko continues to grow, I would say. (laughs)

Kaneko: Yes. Kaneko: I’m already looking forward to the next [Kazuma Kaneko] Works~ (laughs)











金子:ええ。そのためにも『真・III』ではもう一度話の舞台を現代に戻して、ある意味『真・I』のカオスルートの続きとして考えようと。でも、”NOCTURNE” ってついてるでしょ。実はこれ序章的な意味合いがあって、本当の意味での『真・III』じゃないんですよね。




















ーポリゴンになると、“横”や“裏“ の表現が必要になると思うんですが、デザイン画にもあるんですか?

金子:ほとんどは原画からスタッフに想像してもらってますね。たまに服装のあわせがわからないって尋ねられたりすると、その都度「こんな感じ」って描いて説明I-たりとか。今は3D が前提なんで、なるべく見えないところも描くようにしてますけど、例えば鳥系の羽のつき方とか、背後に特徴のあるものは、デザイン画の時点でわかるように描いてますね。