Direct Interview with Digimon Story Cyber Sleuth’s Eater Designer Ito Ohgure

A translation of this Famitsu interview from March 6, 2015, with Digimon Story Cyber Sleuth‘s producer Kazumasa “Habumon” Habu and Eater character designer Ito Ohgure (also known as Oh! great).

(Producer and director interview | Character designer interviewEater designer interview | Sub-quest writer interview | BGM composer and sound effect producer interview)

A new design never seen before in the Digimon series

The PlayStation Vita game Digimon Story Cyber Sleuth will be released on March 12, 2015. The one in charge of the design for the atrocious enemy that appears in the players’ way, Eater, is the well-known manga artist Ito Ohgure (hereinafter, Ohgure) of Tenjho Tenge and Biorg Trinity. What unexpected result will came from the combination of Ohgure and the Digimon series? Let’s find out in this interview with him. Producer Kazumasa Habu (written below as Habu) also participated in the interview.

Ito Ohgure (self-portrait)

–How did you feel when you took this job for Digimon?
I was really shocked, because it’s a big-name franchise!! The creature designs honestly have a perplexing aspect to them. The kind of creature designs I usually make are somewhat different from the kind used in the Digimon franchise, so I thought, “is Gure style really okay for this?”
Habu: For this game, my major reason for asking Ohgure-sensei to do this for us was that I really felt “I want a design that hasn’t been in the existing Digimon lines yet!” I could have asked for a sexy-cute girl or a cool guy, but when you look at Ohgure’s manga, the designs of the monsters depicted in the production background are bizarrely cool. I thought that I wanted to ask for a new kind of creature, so I consulted him.

–Was there something in particular you were looking out for in creating the design for the new creature (Eater)?
Since it’s a franchise with a lot of fans, I wanted to subvert their expectations in a good way. I wanted to make a creature that had absolutely never existed in Digimon before.
Habu: The fundamental basis for this project is that it’s being made as a work for adults. Because human characters and Digimon are things that the franchise has always had, I wanted to bring forward a disgusting and grotesque factor, so I asked him to create a design that would be a symbol of hatred.
Ohgure: But there were a lot of designs that probably went too far, so it was quite a long time before Habu-san gave the okay (laughs).

–Were there any points in the design you were stuck on, parts you want us to pay attention to, or parts you struggled with on the design?
Ohgure: “Eater (Standard Form)” took us the longest time for us to decide on. To put it one way, I wasn’t familiar with what its basic concept would be. After some harsh rejections, Habu-san said, “this is a ‘slime position’.” “Oh! I see!” So some trial and error proceeded from there, but now that I had a more open mind we had a much smoother process of deciding on it.
Habu: There were a lot of strong designs that came up from the start. But because it was an early-stage form, I asked him to make it with the image of something that didn’t seem like it had a sense of self, like an amoeba. For Eater (Humanoid Form), the Eater that has devoured humans, because we had a concrete image that it had evolved into a human form, that ended up reflected in the design. “It looks like a human if you see it at night in the dark, but when you approach it, it’s something that’s definitely not human!” I wanted him to invoke that kind of fear.
Ohgure: Here’s the first design we decided on. The overall design was based on elements in this rough draft.

Eater (Standard Form)
Rough draft of Eater (Standard Form).
The finalized design for Eater (Humanoid Form)
and its rough draft.

Habu: If you look at it closely, it looks like a bunch of centipedes intertwining together to create a human form.
Ohgure: In regards to “Eater Eve”, although there were quite a few rough drafts that I made to be “more risqué”, Habu-san would say, “there is no way I am letting that through”, so they actually got rejected (laughs).
Habu: In Ohgure-sensei’s design drawings, the body parts and parts of the hand were in close contact to the white portion, in a design that became like that of a sphere.
Ohgure: It was designed to be something that would open from an egg shape.
Habu: We weren’t entirely able to reflect that in the game…it’s a design that I really like, personally.

Eater Eve
Eater Eve’s rough draft.
Eater Adam

–So what about “Eater Adam”?
Habu: I asked for “a design that looks like one of a tokusatsu1 villain”.
Ohgure: This one had the smoothest design process. It’s a basic Gure-style design. The winding parts of the head are the key factor here.
Habu: There’s also one more design that we have yet to publish, but if we go any further, we’ll be spoiling the game…

–What parts of Eater’s design are particularly of the kind Ohgure-sensei would make?
Ohgure: I don’t think there’s that much. I think it’s important to have a certain degree of universality in order to create an intuitive design, so I’ve only given it a little of my unique style. Something like this was once asked before, and I’m going to say it like (Keisuke) Honda did, I’ll “ask the little Gure2 inside me” (laughs). When it comes to Gure doing game-related work, I always struggle as a game designer, so I had to work pretty hard this time, too.
Habu: When I asked Ohgure-sensei to do the design for a game character, in order to show off his own distinct taste, there would be that challenging aspect of “can you express this?” (laughs) Right now, within Eater’s design, there’s an orange tiling pattern, and it’s always flat-on reflected on the screen, independently of the body. As something that exists across dimensions, I think it became a sort of iconic representation of Eater’s existence. The game graphics were really constrained during production, so it comes down to whether we were able to meet Ohgure-sensei’s challenge…but with the designer working hard, I think with the 3DCG models and the motion, we were able to create something good. I think this new Digimon game’s iconic accomplishment is that it’s gotten different designs to conflict with each other, yet also blend together, under the same worldview of confronting Digimon.

Eater Adam’s rough draft.

–Is there an Eater you particularly like, Ohgure-sensei?
Ohgure: The original form. It’s like a cute state of mind in which you take a child’s hand.

–Please tell us your impressions of Eater in the game’s 3D modeling.
Its movements are really amazing. That slimy, bad feeling you get from the original form is the best. The concept of the movement of the black-and-white texture on the body without regard to planar motion was something I was thinking of from the beginning, so it’s a really good feeling.
Habu: Combined with the shape of its tentacles, the good feeling coming from the bad feeling has a sort of paradoxical attractiveness, but I think we were able to get a good feeling from it (laughs).

–Ohgure-sensei, please tell us if there’s anything you had in mind while making the design.
The concept. I like a design in which the thoughts of the author can really shine through. In terms of what motif and what role it should play, and what form it’ll take in what circumstances, it’s good to have a design in which a person who’s never seen it before can figure this out intuitively. So I don’t think it would make sense to have a design that’s only gross or only cool. I hope it gives you the feeling of “oof, gross!…huh, but when you really look at it, it’s kind of…” at first glance, and makes you look at it again.

–Please leave a message for the players who are looking forward to this work.
It destroys Digimon from within. It eats and ravages them. I believe I was chosen to reflect that basic concept of this Digimon game. This hasn’t appeared in the Digimon series before, and even those getting a sense of discomfort from this unfamiliar design will say “whoa, that weird thing showed up,” so please come and join the company of Gure and Eater.

Translator's notes
  1. Tokusatsu = Refers to live-action productions that make use of a combination of practical and special effects. Notable works in the genre include hero shows such as Super Sentai (adapted in the West as Power Rangers) and giant monster shows such as Godzilla. Monsters in such shows are often humanoid to accommodate the human suit actors wearing rubber suits. []
  2. Japanese soccer player Keisuke Honda, when asked why he joined AC Milan, famously responded that “I just asked my little Honda in my heart.” []

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