Takehito Harada is a character designer for Nippon Ichi Software (NIS). He is probably most famous for his work on the hit Disgaea franchise on the Playstation 2. We had the brief opportunity to sit down with Harada-san in Los Angeles at Anime Expo 2008 and discuss his work.
T-ONO: Could you please discuss your signature character, Pleinair, especially regarding Usagi-san (rabbit) and Same-san (shark)?
Harada: Pleinair was first drawn as a combination with a rabbit and a shark. Later on I wanted to make them sidekicks, so I kept them with her.
T-ONO: So originally Pleinair was the entire art piece as one, the rabbit, shark, and the girl?
Harada: Yes, yes that’s correct.
T-ONO: We know that the Japanese Limited Edition version of Disgaea came with a mini art book, and that recently the Disgaea 3 Digital art book went on sale in Japan, but are there any plans for releasing a full printed Disgaea 3 art book soon?
Harada: We are still planning an art book and still working on character designs but the artbook is going to be release a little later.
T-ONO: Who is your favorite character from the Disgaea franchise, besides Pleinair?
Harada: I like red devil Flonne because I really like bunny girls [laughing].
T-ONO: Which character was the most difficult to draw or design? Why?
Harada: I really like to draw Rozalin [the main female lead from Disgaea 2], but she takes a really long time to draw.
T-ONO: How do you choose the colors? For example, why is Flonne white, blue, blonde, etc.?
Harada: I choose the color that fit the characters personality. Not always, just most of the time.
T-ONO: What is your involvement in the games you design characters for? (Using the recent Disgaea 3 as an example) Do you actually create the characters from scratch, or does someone else in the company ahead of time decide on names, personalities, etc.
Harada: I do in fact decide all the characters' personalities, and names. I also design the costume. I then give my concepts to NIS and sometimes they may make some changes or reject some ideas.
T-ONO: In a previous interview, you mentioned that Laharl was first design with a coat, but then you decided to change it to a cape. But for the Disgaea 3 character, Mao, you used a coat that the character wears like a cape. Are there any correlations?
Harada: For Disgaea 3 the game’s setting is in a school, and in Japan all bad boys or delinquents have a coat in school. I wanted the main charterer to look like a badass so I designed Mao with the coat on his shoulders.
T-ONO: Asagi has been seen in Disgaea, Makai Kingdom, and various other NIS games only as a secret character. Can you please tell us a little more about Asagi, and her role in Disgaea 3?
Harada: I actually first wanted to make Asagi as the main character for a game a long time ago, but NIS didn’t approve of the character. I really liked her so I tried to put her in all the games I work on and as for Disgaea 3, she must be feeling really sad in the game [laughing].
T-ONO: Which game was she rejected for as the main character?
Harada: Um… [pause] That’s a secret!
T-ONO: What do you use to make your art work? For example, do you use paper with copic markers, watercolors, pastels, etc.?
Harada: I do all my work on on the computer mainly using Photoshop.
T-ONO: I see, so I assume you use a tablet?
Harada: Ah, yes, a tablet.
T-ONO: Do you work in a studio at NIS or at home and what does your typical schedule look like?
Harada: I do all my work at my home. When I start working on a project, I first work on character design for about four months. I then work on the cut scenes and dialogue. I send my work to NIS and they work on the background for the cut scenes which takes about half a year. Finally, I work on ads and publishing art, so in total it takes about a year to complete.
T-ONO: On behalf of t-ono.net, I'd like to thank you, and the NIS team for this interview.
Harada: Thank you!
We would also like to thank Jack Niida (NIS America Marketing Manager) who arranged for the interview, Nao Zook ( NIS America Marketing Coordinator) for interpreting, and the rest of the NIS America staff.