Lycoris Recoil Staff Interviews: Character Designer Imigi Muru

This is one of the staff interviews from the “Heroine Archive” fanbook released in mid-February by Ichijinsha.

Character Designer: Imigi Muru

Born in Hyougo Prefecture. Known as a mangaka and illustrator.
Made his manga debut in 2008 with “Good Luck to You!!”. Other notable titles include “This Art Club Has a Problem!”, “Saito-kun Seems Like an Esper”, and illustrations for the “There’s Too Many Losing Heroines” novels. Has also contributed illustrations to the “Fate/Grand Order” mobile game.

Lycoris Recoil was Imigi Muru’s first job as character designer for an anime. Here we go through the design process telling how the lively characters in the series were first visualized and created along with showing some early rough drafts.

Even after the broadcast has finished, still unable to calm down

– It’s been a little while since the anime broadcast finished. How are you feeling about the series now?
Imigi: I never imagined that the show would still have this kind of a response even now, so I’m about halfway happy and halfway surprised. I’ve heard the term of “LycoReco Loss” being used in the fandom, so I feel that way as well, but since I’m still being asked to draw promotional illustrations, I do feel a bit lonely in that it feels everyone else has moved on a little. (laughs)

– Please tell us your thoughts as you reflect on your first time working as an anime character designer.
Imigi: It was immensely challenging as I couldn’t tell what way was up or down, but I think that I was finally able to come up with the best drawings I could. If they were able to appear charming on screen, then I’m indebted to the cast who breathed life into the characters and the animators who drew them.

umx note: The following portions refer to the images included in the fanbook, so I’ve put them with the ones Imigi talks about

Chisato was the toughest to deliver

– We’d like to hear about some of the specific changes in the designs. Let’s start with Chisato.
Imigi: After reading the planning documents, I drew number 1 to start discussion over. As the unforms for the DA weren’t designed yet, I placed her into a temporary design for the LycoReco costumes. As I thought of Chisato and Takina as a set together, I wanted Chisato to contrast with the slightly mad dog expression that I had of Takina and drew her as a warm older sister type of character. And then after I read her dialogue and the scripts, my impression of her changed and I changed to a design like number 2 where she’s more lively and active.

I liked 3’s dango hair style, but it was rejected. I did try it on other characters, but it wasn’t used for them. Eventually it came to rest on Himegama’s head. (laughs)

– Her hairstyle got shorter didn’t it?
Imigi: Since Takina was set to have long hair, I thought that would balance them out. I tried several types of hair patterns as I stumbled around in search of the right one until we arrived at the bob cut. Eventually when I showed sheet 4 to director (Shingo) Adachi, he said “combine the feelings of the bottom left and the bottom right” and when I sent off the combined data character, she was finally finished. She was someone that took so much time to complete and I can’t recall any other character as difficult. Her hair being white was proposed from director Adachi.

– How did you design her proportions?
Imigi: With Chisato and Takina, I first wanted to make one of the characters curvier and the other character slender. I wavered a little, but I arbitrarily decided that when it was made clear about Chisato being lively. Actually, I had been stealthily increasing Chisato’s chest size as production moved along, but midway I noticed “wait, isn’t this too big?!” (laughs)

Takina moving from mad dog to doll

– Number 7 is Takina’s first drafts, right?
Imigi: When I first read the planning documents, there were some elements with a sci-fi or cyberpunk essence to them like with the DA and the old radio tower, so I inserted that nuance into Takina’s casual clothing.

– And then you moved to 6 after that where it feels like you’re almost finished with her.
Imigi: That’s right. At the proposal stage, she had a bit of a mad dog feeling to her, but afterwards when I read the scripts, I thought it really wasn’t the case anymore, so I changed my mind. So while I wanted to bring out a strong “doll-like” feeling, I experimented with hairstyles and glasses.

umx note: This is Chisato beating Takina at Rock-paper-scissors before Takina complains to Mika that she’s cheating somehow.

– What was the process behind drawing that 4 coma manga for number 7?
Imigi: That was something I drew at the beginning. I had heard from director Adachi that there’s a scene where Takina and Chisato play rock-paper-scissors,” so I drew that. Well, it’s just a scribble.

The moment I got the characters……

– And 8 has that same feeling too?
Imigi: Yes. Takina had been set to have long black hair from the beginning, so I was quickly able to visualize her design. However, with detailed characters I struggle to get their nature inside my head, so I draw various scribbles around to check out what kind of expressions or gestures they’ll make as characters until I figure it out. Among the ones I drew, director Adachi added in some phrases that would be close to my imagination of them. Especially with number 9. He said “This yes! Takina is the type of girl who would nonchalantly show off her underwear without a care.” (laughs) I also felt “I get it now, she’s this type of character” and my understanding of Takina deepened. From there I think I was able to finish her design without any real concerns.
(umx note: No, I’m not posting that one so this blog doesn’t get flagged for content.)

Takina is someone who doesn’t care about her clothing style, so 10 was drawn to show her wearing tacky clothing. The gap between Takina’s clothing and her indifference was quite nice.

Kurumi’s eyes were determined at the very final moment

– Let’s continue on with other members of café LycoReco. First with Mizuki.
Imigi: At the beginning, I drew Mizuki as an intelligent capable woman with a lovely older sister style. At that time she was detailed as a “bad drunk” and a “woman who couldn’t get married” so I wanted to have the gap between her appearance and insides be as wide as possible. In the end, she surprised me by becoming an older sister whose disappointment was beyond my wildest imagination. (laughs)

Long haired characters having wavy hair is just my natural instinct. When it moves around, I truly feel it looks incredibly beautiful.

– Midway through her lips became plumper.
Imigi: I wanted to have that feature on a character and since none of the others had those types of lips, she was a woman who they could be used on.

– The impression between the first drafts and final versions of Kurumi are quite different.
Imigi: At first the only information I had on her was a “genius hacker who looks like a young girl” so I drew her as you see. Afterwards, director Adachi told me that she “is an adult who could talk on the same mental level as Mika” so she became similar to how she is now. The draft with her wearing glasses was because of an idea that I had where she could wear them instead of Mizuki.

– Kurumi’s eyes are distinctively drowsy. When did you add that to her design?
Imigi: At the absolute end. I wanted to have her eyes be different than Takina’s and as she was, she would just appear to be a more Lolita girl character, so I felt that I had to change it before the final step. In the end, she may appear like she’s drawn with a little less motivation, but I feel that’s her charming side to her. I felt how important it was to adjust these small details with her.

The staff took a poll on Kurumi’s forehead showing. I really wanted to have it showing for some reason, so I was really happy it won. (laughs)
I felt like it was too ordinary to have short hair on an black person, so I settled on long hair for Mika. I drew him using football players and actors as references.

– Mika being an African man was decided from the beginning, wasn’t it?
Imigi: That it was. I more or less drew him from some patterns, but he didn’t change much throughout the entire process, so his design was approved without any difficulties.

– You also drew how you imagined Mika and Yoshimatsu ten years earlier, right?
Imigi: That was me completely playing around. At the time we needed designs for how Chisato and Fuki would look ten years earlier, so I also tried drawing other characters. I also drew Mizuki as a high schooler too. These were completely my own imagination of how they’d look so it’s unknown whether these are real character visuals or not. (laughs)

Removing the “I want her to be cute” thoughts

– Majima’s visual looks like it could be sourced from some villains in certain dramas and the like.
Imigi: It does. His character had the theme of “broken down psychopath terrorist,” but I feel that I understood what he was like from the very beginning. Actually I drew some patterns for him before the rough drafts we’re showing here, but they were for a completely different direction. After these drafts, whenever the image of him I had would get blurred and I had trouble, director Adachi would tell me “in my head, I’m imagining this character from this drama” and before long we arrived at the Majima-like visual design that you see today.

The reason he wears a long coat is that I thought it flattering and waving around during action scenes and seeing that movement would be cool.

– Finally let’s talk about Fuki and Sakura.
Imigi: Fuki’s face was determined early on, but I worried about her hair. If I pointed out that she looks like John Conner from the Terminator series, I think they’d say “she does resemble him” but actually the original reference was something else. For Sakura, each time I would show director Adachi a draft, we’d change directions on her entirely. Director Adachi told me “I don’t want her to be a beautiful girl,” so somehow I was able to remove my “I want her to be cute” thoughts. In the end she became the saucy kouhai character that you see today, but I like that style of her too.

Director Adachi said “Sakura is too cute” so I showed him my “dumbwitted girl” designs, but he replied that “she’s still too cute” and I had to chop the dango off. (laughs)

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