For what artist Ayami Kojima created the “aesthetics of vampires,” and what came of it
Ominous corridors, eerie locks, skeletons and cracked skulls, and among them – with a bouquet of roses, porcelain skin and golden curls. But do not flatter yourself – these tender lips hide sharp fangs … These are the characters of the artist Ayami Kojima, who changed the Japanese perception of vampires. World-wide fame brought her character design and art to the Castlevania game series.
Ayami Kojima is a brilliant self-taught artist. She began to work as a secretary, but to entertain herself and get away from the routine, she began to draw … and developed her own style and technique. The love of manga and horror films became the starting points for its creative development.
The artist’s style balances surrealism and the modern interpretation of baroque. Angelic youths squeeze bloodied swords, crippled golden-eyed angels cry tears of blood, scales, feathers, skeletons and roses flash in front of the audience, drawing him into an exquisite world of nightmares.
Ayami works exclusively by hand, making a sketch with a simple pencil, then creating shadows with mascara, after which he modifies the image with acrylic paints, which are heavily diluted with water – this allows you to apply thinner layers and achieve delicate color gradations. In her arsenal there is a modeling paste, a palette knife, shading sticks, a rough brush and her own fingers. After completing the work, Ayami adds paint with a metallic sheen and covers the image with a polymer varnish. The technology seems unnecessarily complex, but it gives amazing results.
For some time she worked as an independent illustrator, making out Japanese novels, and was known only to a narrow category of connoisseurs within the country. However, one of the producers of the popular series of computer games Castlevania, Koji Igarashi, one day decided to change the design of the characters of the game. He did not like that in this mysterious world inhabited by vampires and other incredible creatures, the main character appears as a stern macho, rude and man-like.
The main characters of the various parts of the game series were almost impossible to distinguish from each other, they were confused even by the creators, calling them all, with a variety of biographies and storylines, in the same way – just “Simon”. Despite the complex plot and interesting solutions, the games were too primitive from a visual point of view. In addition, the company decided to expand the target audience and attract more female players. The company’s management rightly believed that women would want to see a more aesthetic picture and heroes corresponding to the Asian ideal of beauty – thin, delicate, elegant and at the same time dangerous. Igarasi wanted to fill the game with special vampire aesthetics, blood and darkness, and not sweat and muscles.
Thinking about this, Igarasi went to the nearest bookstore. There, he looked through the book after book in search of an illustration that would reflect his idea, until he came across the cover made by Kojima. He chose a few more books with illustrations by other authors, but the whole team clearly recognized Ayami’s work as perfect, ideally responding to the new course of the game.
When Igarasi managed to contact Ayami, she could not even understand who he was and what he wanted, and he could not even imagine that the young artist could be so far from the gaming industry! But the games never interested her. In the recent past, she designed the cover for another game, but in her interviews she could not even remember its name (it was Soldner’s Child game – a strategy for Sega Saturn from KOEI). But soon the work on the world of Katslvania seized her headlong.
Igarasi did not limit Ayami in anything, relying only on her talent and her own intuition. He briefly explained to her the plot and role of the character, and then asked to perform several sketches that convey her feelings. Kojima argues that the producers never went into details or explained what influences their choice of a particular design.
Often, Ayami’s characters appear as blond or albinos, sometimes fiery-red — simply because it “looks better in the game,” makes the heroes surreal.