Something Special: Igusa Matsuyama Interviewed by Ranch Story Community!

As a fan of Bokujou Monogatari (known also as Story of Seasons) since the earliest days in Flowerbud Village, I have always adored the artwork of Igusa Matsuyama, who has helped make the worlds of Bokumono feel so alive, colorful, vibrant, and filled with characters who I adore so much. That’s why, today, I’m especially delighted to bring a rare treat: thanks to the collaboration of several of our community’s members doing translations, submitting questions, and providing guidance, I present a brief interview with the artist themselves!

Some aspects of the text have been altered to match localization people are familiar with. (Japanese names to English names, for example: Bokujou Monogatari (牧場物語) was formerly localized as Harvest Moon and is now localized as Story of Seasons, 牧場物語2to Harvest Moon 64, 牧場物語 再会のミネラルタウン to Story of Seasons: Friends of Mineral Town, etc.) Images were not part of the original text and have been added as a visual aid.

If you would like to read our original correspondence (in Japanese), that will be provided in a separate post.

Translations: Marina (Correspondence), RS-Charmy (Outline), RS-Catte (Refinement), RS-Celery (Proofreading)
Editing and Clean-up: RS-Jerome

MissKid asks: How much influence do you have on the character’s personality during the design process?

Igusa Matsuyama:

To me, when it comes to creating characters, personality is everything.
If the personality isn’t strong enough, you’ll end up creating characters that are too alike to one another. Even so, I am not very particular about creating characters that are outstandingly beautiful.

Additionally, in regards to the designs from games within the past few years – there are usually requests for me to design their appearance and clothing when creating [illustrations of] the characters.

During the process, I get to make suggestions like, “Wouldn’t it be good to make the characters like this?” However, I try to incorporate all the requests made into each design as much as I can. Because it’s not only me who creates them, the designs are conceptualized by the entire staff.

MissKid asks: Has there ever been a case of a design being rejected and then re-used for a future project?

Igusa Matsuyama:

Alisa, from Island of Happiness, has hair and facial features which were carried over from the original design of the game’s heroine, Chelsea.

The original features were deemed “too demure” for someone like Chelsea, so the design had been scrapped; however, I thought that such a design was perfect for a character like Alisa, and so she was created from those [scrapped] features.

Likewise, the character called Wada [from the same game] uses a design originally meant for the character called Shea. As Shea is a marriage candidate, I knew that such a design for him would never be accepted [by the staff], but even knowing this, I wanted to create that design anyway. Of course, the design was scrapped.

However, because I was so persistent in drawing the design, the game’s director told me, “If you want to make that design so badly, let’s have him appear as another character.” And so, the character known as Wada was born.
It was an unexpected turn of events, but it was very fun and it made me happy.

The origin of Wada’s design lies with the creator of the Bokujou Monogatari series, Mr. [Yasuhiro] Wada…
That said, if you’re a dedicated fan of the series, you might already know this.


Mim asks: Was Pastor Brown in Harvest Moon 64 meant to be in Back to Nature, but scrapped in favor of Carter? What led to Carter’s debut? How did you decide Carter’s appearance?

Igusa Matsuyama:

I don’t know how much I can tell you about the relationship between Harvest Moon 64 and Harvest Moon: Back to Nature. I wish the Nintendo 64 had been more popular when Harvest Moon 64 was released… Because, at the time, those days were all about PlayStation.

By the time I had learned about Harvest Moon: Back to Nature, it was already far into the development of the game.
I received a request along the lines of “We tried to port the character portraits, but the size isn’t big enough. Please help us.” So, I ended up recreating Harvest Moon 64’s illustrations [for Back to Nature].

“Doctor,” “Won,” and “Carter” did not previously exist in Harvest Moon 64.
In regards to those three, I actually was not the one who designed them. The staff had already designed them before I joined (there were chibi models already in place on-screen), and I was asked to make illustrations to match [the game models].

So, this answer is a little contradictory when it comes to your first question, since the designs for these three had already been decided on and I only drew the illustrations to match.
I also don’t know the reason why Carter replaced Brown.

It should be noted that, in regards to Story of Seasons: Friends of Mineral Town’s Carter, there is a reason behind the changes made to his design.
A request was made to alter his clothes to be closer to that of the Goddess and to make his expressions come off as more comical. This was a major design overhaul. As for Carter’s new design, I think you will be able to understand the changes when you actually play the game.

I have no intention of denying the existence of Carter from previous works.

Jerome asks: It feels like as time has gone on, outfits have steadily become more complicated with more patterns and other details. Were the simpler designs of older games because of graphical limitations?

Igusa Matsuyama:

Yes, that’s correct.

In the first Bokujou Monogatari title (Harvest Moon for SNES), the color palette was limited to a few colors for each character. We were only able to make detailed parts after the release of Harvest Moon: Save the Homeland.

Until then, they had to be simple designs that still conveyed the characters’ personalities. So, when working on designs, I always kept in mind, “How would this design look when deformed into a ‘chibi’ character?”

Nowadays, it’s an era where you can reproduce just about anything unless it’s absolutely impossible. Even so, I try to keep making designs that emphasize characters’ personalities and heritage, rather than distracting people with fancy decorations.

Jerome asks: In the past, the characters of Flowerbud and Mineral Town shared the same designs in spite of having different personalities and surroundings. I appreciated the changes to the new designs in Story of Seasons: Friends of Mineral Town and was curious as to how the change of these characters to their new setting came about?

Igusa Matsuyama:

I really love Harvest Moon 64.
I am very much attached to all of the characters that first appeared in that game.
As the new game includes a cast whose personalities and relationships have been changed, the designs do not necessarily represent them completely. There is quite a bit of regret on my part because of that.

Regarding Story of Seasons: Friends of Mineral Town, I was prepared for negative feedback, of course. However, rather than branching off of the cast of Harvest Moon 64 again, the characters were designed according to the new setting.
Of course, this isn’t a decision I made alone.

We all wanted to honor the feelings of the fans of the original Mineral Town games. As such, the colors of the original designs were used as much as possible when creating the redesigns.


Mim asks: I really love all your animal designs! What animal are you most excited to draw in every game?

Igusa Matsuyama:

Thank you so much!
Ever since I was a child, I have always been someone who loves creating pictures of animals. Even now, if you told me to draw a picture of my favorite thing, I would still draw a picture of an animal.
(In such a case, I would draw a picture of my beloved pet dog without hesitation, haha.)

Within the Bokujou Monogatari series, my favorite to draw would definitely be the cows. I also love drawing a lot of easy-to-draw chicks. By the way, whenever I draw more than three chicks together, one will almost always be falling over, haha.

And while I love drawing animals, I love looking at the real thing even more♪
However, I’m not so good with big spiders and centipedes…
(Sorry to those who like them!)


Mizuki asks: What type of character would you love to design, but haven’t been able to yet?

Igusa Matsuyama:

I’d really like to design more unique animals! It’s something I’ve really wanted to do. Animals that are more timid, more macho, and overall more distinct. I’ve asked several times to design animals with these characteristics… but I have yet to see my requests accepted [by the staff].

Mizuki asks: Do you prefer designing characters in the chibi style or the full-scale styles more?

Igusa Matsuyama:

Originally, since I enjoyed drawing animals more than humans, my preference is towards stylized artwork. I don’t dislike exaggerated proportions, as I definitely do enjoy Disney’s Mickey and Friends cartoons and Warner’s Looney Tunes animations. I love the style of manga images.

Novibear asks: What is your favorite character out of those in the series so far?

Igusa Matsuyama:

That’s a difficult question.
I’m quite attached to every character.

If I dared to pick any, it would be the characters from Grand Bazaar. It was fun to create “storybook”-like designs, and also, I loved the content of the game. I would like to be able to create another game with those characters.

However, the character I have the deepest attachment to is Pete, who has appeared in manga many times already. Pete and Sara are the original protagonist characters with no distinct personalities attached to them, and I enjoyed freely drawing manga with them.

Claire was a character I originally created for the manga series, but after [her debut], they asked for her appearance in the games. It made me happy.
Those three are very special.

Novibear asks: Was there a character you really liked, but wasn’t well received?

Igusa Matsuyama:

During [the development of] Harvest Moon 64, I had some issues getting Gourmet’s design passed.

“Even if you say so, this isn’t human!”, [were the words from] the scenario planner, who was very opposed [to the design]. Fortunately, because the producer was also a little weird, the design was finally approved, although it took some time.

Even though I created a lot of designs that were scrapped, I adore all of the designs that were finally approved. I have no regrets at all.


Eden asks: Do you have any particularly favorite experiences from working on the Bokumono series?

Igusa Matsuyama:

Up to this point there’s been many happy events, but I would have to say that [I enjoy] being able to interact with fans of many different nationalities in this kind of way♪

Thank you so very much!
And I look forward to working with you all again in the future.

Catte asks: At what point of the design process do you end up creating the supplemental materials (like the guidebook comics and original illustrations)? Are you allowed to draw whatever you want to in these cases?

Igusa Matsuyama:

I never make illustrations or books without the express permission of the studio manufacturer.

After I receive a request from the publisher regarding a guidebook, I ask the writers, “What needs to be drawn?” That’s how [the artwork] is decided. A representative from the manufacturer will review the images, and if there are no problems, they will be published. All other illustrations are also drawn upon the request of the manufacturer.

On the other hand, I think when doodles are posted to my blog, it’s tolerated due to the fact that it’s “non-profit” and also leads to advertisement [of the games].
Rights issues are really complicated.

Anonymous asks: Was the design for the Saikai No Mineral Town (再ミネ) female protagonist (Naomi, ナオミ) inspired by Sara, the GB series protagonist? She still has lots of fans!

Igusa Matsuyama:

As you pointed out, she does look a little bit like Sara.
The instructions I received from the producer were to give her a short haircut, lively personality, hoodie, and shorts. When it comes to a heroine wearing shorts and a short hairstyle, you would surely end up thinking of Sara.

Anyway, you also refer to the GB series female protagonist as “Sara”. By any chance, have you read the official guidebook released by Shogakukan?

Additionally, the male protagonist [of the new game] has been designed a little similarly to that of the A Wonderful Life protagonist.


Anonymous asks: Do you have artistic influence on all the towns and their surrounding nature areas?

Igusa Matsuyama:

I’m sorry to say that I don’t.

Regarding the background artwork, I look forward to it every time from a player’s perspective, thinking, “How will the townscape appear this time?”♪

Anonymous asks: Where do you search for inspiration for designing the series? Have you taken inspiration from real life or periods in the past?

Igusa Matsuyama:

I love to watch dramas and movies, and I routinely receive inspiration from them. Nowadays, I can easily watch international dramas and movies using Amazon and Netflix. I enjoy watching them as long as I have time, using the excuse “for study purposes!”

When it comes to drama, I enjoyed Witcher up until a while ago, but now I’m into watching Titans Season 2 ♪ I’m also looking forward to Star Trek: Picard that just started airing on Amazon~♪ There is a new season of Stranger Things, which is something I’m looking forward to as well.
And the series I love most of all is The Dark Crystal!!!

Translator Note: Matsuyama-sama was so excited to share their love of dramas, the second half of the above question was never answered in our correspondence.

Anonymous asks: What advice would you recommend for other artists aspiring to create designs for video games?

Igusa Matsuyama:

In the current video game industry, there is more technology and work involving 3D. There are less artists like me being hired, I think.

If you are aiming to join the gaming industry, I believe you should study 3D graphic design without hesitation. I’m sure this is a kind of shortcut… rather, I mean to say, I think it may be essential nowadays.
(Although I don’t have that kind of skill…)

If you want to get an art-related job that isn’t drawing for video games, I have one piece of advice that I received very early on in my career.
That is: being able to draw portraits. Drawing portraits, you [get to] observe others. And above all else, artists that can draw portraits will find it easy to get a job! This is very important.


That’s everything.
Was I able to answer everyone’s questions?

To those of you who read this, I’m sorry if my answers offended you in any way.
I wanted to answer each question as honestly as possible.

To me, the Bokujou Monogatari series is very special.
It’s no exaggeration to say that I’ve devoted half of my life to this series, it’s such an important work. I will say, “I’m not done yet!”

I hope you will continue to support the Bokujou Monogatari series going forward, I look forward to hearing from you again!

From all of us at Ranch Story:
Thank you, Igusa Matsuyama, for answering all of our questions! This interview was only possible due to their kind understanding. It was exciting to learn about the way the worlds and characters all of us love so much have come to be, more about Igusa Matsuyama themselves, and all of us will certainly be delighted to see what comes next for the series. Perhaps we’ll be able to speak again some time?


5 thoughts on “Something Special: Igusa Matsuyama Interviewed by Ranch Story Community!

  1. This was such a good read! I’m glad the designer seems to be enjoying making these characters~ Looking forward to the next installment in the Bokujou Monogatari series!!


  2. This was a great read! Thank you so much for this interview. As an artist who is aspiring to work in the animation/videogames industry this was as well very helpful.
    I also appreciate it as a Bokujou Monogatari fan. Thank you so much to you and Matsuyama-san.


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