Oshi no Ko character designer Kanna Hirayama recently gave an interview where details about how Oshi no Ko Got an anime project, and the ideas for creating the Oshi no Ko characters designs.
How Oshi no Ko Got an Anime
How did you get involved with the Oshi no Ko project?
Hirayama: Previously at Doga Kobo, I worked on an anime called Selection Project as a character designer, and later when I spoke to the producer, Kobayashi-san, about what we’re going to work on next, he asked me if there’s a manga or something I like in particular. I said: ”I like Oshi no Ko, it’s very interesting”. After that, he also went to read Oshi no Ko and he really liked it.
So you pitched the idea of Oshi no Ko to Kobayashi-san?
Hirayama: Yes, the offer did not come to me. I launched.
What about the series drew you to turning it into an anime?
Hirayama: I found it very interesting while reading and I like the author. I like both Akasaka-sensei’s previous work Kaguya-sama and Mengo-sensei (Oshi no Ko artist) Scum’s Wish (Kuzu no Honkai). Because of that, I read the first chapter and it was very interesting.
The creative process of Oshi no Ko characters
What aspects of the Oshi no Ko characters did you most want to emphasize when creating the character designs for the anime?
Hirayama: Definitely the eyes and the stars in them.
Ai, Aqua, and Ruby’s eyes are a huge part of who they are. How was the creative process of making the eyes?
Hirayama: The stars needed to be well done, even the eyelashes. I was very particular about the lashes and their color as well.
The upper part of the pupil is brightly colored, and the line is drawn straight. The reason behind this is when the eyes are looking down or when the eyelashes are pointed downwards, if the upper part of the brightly colored pupil is dark, then the eyelashes are hard to see. So I decided to put a light color in the middle to increase the contrast.
When you color an animation, it becomes a color. The amount of information from the manga to the anime is reduced. Therefore, by increasing the number of colors, you can achieve a manga-like effect.
What was the hardest character to adapt from the source material?
Hirayama: In terms of drawing, Kana was the hardest. But when we had the character designs for Oshi no Ko reviewed by the original author, the character that needed to be redesigned the most was Ai. So probably for me I’m not good at drawing Ai.
Was Kana the hardest to draw?
Hirayama: Yes, but the truth is that Kana’s design didn’t need to be redesigned. I got it on the first try. But Ai had to be redesigned a few times. Mengo-sensei marked in red to correct the drawing. It was really hard.
How was the process of creating the designs for baby and young Aqua and Ruby?
Hirayama: I think only Mengo-sensei can adequately answer this question, but the baby and the current designs were… How can I put it? Really, I had to take what Mengo-sensei drew and turn it into anime form.
With Ruby, she looks like Ai without the colors. I consciously wanted to draw Ai and Ruby so that when you looked at the line art you could tell the difference between them. When drawing this, I didn’t really differentiate between them.
When the face is facing forward or to the left, Ruby’s hair is straighter, while the ends of Ai’s hair are more wavy. When coloring, Ai’s hair is black, but when you add shadows to the black hair, the base is already black. It just gets blacker. So with Ai, instead of expressing the hair through shadows, we express it through highlights. Not many shadows. With Ruby, as she is blonde, if it is expressed in her locks, it will only be white. Thus, it is mainly expressed through shadows.
As chief animation director, there is a wide variety of scenes and moods in Oshi no Ko. From the musical components, intense plot points, and good-natured gags, how did you balance the various moods of the animation?
Hirayama: I would say the number of lines. In serious scenes, I added a lot of lines to the hair, like adding more lines to the individual strands. For comic scenes, I remove the number of lines in the hair to make it look more chibi. Yes, like adding more loose hairs. I would add more lines than in the picture.
So if this image is for example the default character design, in serious scenes would you add more lines than that?
Hirayama: Yes. The fewer lines, the easier it is to animate. In general, if you add a lot of lines to the face… Well, yes, the face and above the face tend to have more lines. In Oshi no Ko, the faces are the focal point, so we balance that out with less lines on the rest of the body.
As a character designer and chief animation director, were there any advantages or disadvantages to filling both roles?
Hirayama: If I’m just the character designer for Oshi no Ko, I just design the characters and that’s it. I don’t draw any artwork that appears in the animation. When I’m chief animation director, it’s nice to be able to draw the characters that come to life in animation. I have to bring the characters to life. If you are the chief animation director for the first episode, you must review all cuts.
How did it feel to see the Oshi no Ko characters you designed move and come to life in animation?
Hirayama: I was relieved. I can’t see it until it’s fully animated and the colors are added, so I was really worried.
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