Tetsuo Hara is one of the most prolific artists of the Manga industry, having made the iconic Fist of the North Star manga. Naturally, it makes sense that he would be among the various Japanese artists guest illustrating cards for the upcoming MtG Kamigawa; Neon Dynasty set, drawing the new planeswalker, Kaito Shizuki.
We caught up with Tetsuo Hara to talk about all things MtG, as well as his own thoughts on having a decades-long career in art.
On Working with Magic: The Gathering
With the new card, Tetsuo talked about the process of designing his spin on MtG’s cybernetic Ninja, giving the character a lot of hallmark of Tetsuo’s art.
“For Kaito Shizuki, I already had a character design in mind, so I didn’t have to choose an image from a real person”, he said.
“I have to follow the original design and setting, and I have already decided on the “fearless smile” expression. Then, I thought about what I could do to arrange the picture so that it would be recognizable as my own”, he says. “I decided to add elements of Lao from Fist of the North Star and Maeda Keiji from Hana no Keiji to the fearless smile. Also, even when I draw in a Japanese style, I always add Western elements. If I don’t do that, I can’t finish the drawing”.
Tetsuo Hara even expressed his admiration for MtG. saying he was a big fan of the direction of the world design in Kamigawa.
“Magic: The Gathering and Kamigawa, even other characters, the design is so free, with different worldviews and directions, yet they were able to segregate themselves”, he says. “I wanted to create a sci-fi ninja warrior story set in this kind of world.”
He’s also obviously happy with the result of his work, having contributed to the decades of art in the MtG Portfolio. He even left a sweet message for fans excited to try pulling for the special Kaito Shizuki art, even saying he wishes he could do more:
“I will be happy if my drawing of Kaito Shizuki makes even 1 or 2 people happy.”, he says. “If you play Magic with this card, I will be even more happy. The world of Magic: The Gathering and Kamigawa are interesting, and I’d like to draw at least five more pieces. Please everyone tell Wizards of the Coast that (laughing)”.
On Being An Artist
Tetsuo also gave us a lot of insight on his journey as an artist. For one, he says going from a manga panel to a card is a vastly different experience: He was kind enough to break it down for us in detail, explaining how he usually thinks about designing manga compositions.
“In the case of manga, I tend to use a bust-up or waist-up composition, because it is difficult to see the facial expressions when the composition is pulled back as in this illustration”, Tetsuo explains.
That being said, he also hinted at the idea that in the case of manga, you have a whole page to work with versus the singular panel of a card, meaning you’d have way more tools to tell a story with the former.
“As for the various elements of movement from the art direction, such as smiling fearlessly,” “drawing a sword,” “throwing a shuriken,” and “running on a tiled roof,” in manga, the flow of movement is expressed in multiple panels in a moving image. (In the Magic piece) I completed the character figure first and then added the other elements and this is something I don’t usually do”.
Only those who have talent and are willing to die can survive
One thing that’s become increasingly clear is the role of having good people around you to keep you going. WIth literal decades of experience, Tetsuo even shared how he keeps himself improving over the years.
“I try to value the stimulation I receive from the people around me. I also try to keep my “chuni spirit” in mind (laughs)”. he says.
“Actually, I’m quite a pessimistic person, so the encouragement I receive from the people around me is important to me. The reason I created the company Coamix in 2000 is because I can’t continue without my friends, and I need them to help me fill in the gaps”, he continues. “Authors who have had a big hit are also authors who have worn themselves out”.
“I think the important thing is the idea and the feeling for the picture. If you put your heart and soul into it, you will be able to convey the merit of the picture”, Tetsuo explains. “If there was a rule that you had to be good at drawing, I wouldn’t be able to draw. There are many people who are better than me. But I can do this because there are people who are happy with my pictures”.
Tetsuo Hara ‘s special art card will be available in the new MtG expansion Kamigawa Neon Dynasty, which will be available from 18th February at your friendly local game stores. You’ll be able to get his card specifically in Draft Boosters, Theme Boosters, Collector Boosters, Set Boosters, as well as the Neon Dynasty Bundle and two Commander decks
Before the end of the interview, he left us with one more quote that was just too metal to leave out of publication:
“Only those who have talent and are willing to die can survive”, he says.
Discussion about this post