Overlapping with the serialization of the Hokkaido arc was completely by chance
TOM (herein T): The Hokkaido arc of Rurouni Kenshin is currently in serialization, but can you tell us the details behind why you decided to produce this figure?
Sakai (herein S): Max Factory celebrated its 30th anniversary in 2017, and we had the pleasure of producing a Rurouni Kenshin figure to commemorate that. Even though Rurouni Kenshin ended serialization nearly 20 years ago, it still has a deep-rooted popularity even today. Max Watanabe (the CEO of Max Factory) appealed to author Nobuhiro Watsuki, and he drew an illustration for us just for the occasion. From the beginning, it wasn’t our intention to produce a figure at the same time as the Hokkaido arc. It just so happened that through very fortuitous timing the decision to make the figure aligned with the decision to serialize the Hokkaido arc.
At some point everyone tries to imitate the Kuzuryusen, right? (laughs)
T: Are you from the Rurouni Kenshin generation?
S: Yes. I was still young when it was in serialization, but when I entered elementary school I frantically researched how to be able pull off the Amakakeru Ryu no Hirameki and Kuzuryusen (laughs). I had thought that everyone older than me was doing it…(laughs)
T: Right (laughs). I also did that (laughs).
S: In the manga’s artwork, the Kuzuryusen brings forth lots of kanji that fly out like a beam, which led to many very exciting conversations asking “Just what the heck is happening with that??” There’s also others like Gatotsu*…everyone’s tried to mimic those at some point, right? (laughs)
*A special technique used by Hajime Saito in Rurouni Kenshin
T: I understand (laughs). I used to mimic ones like Futae no Kiwami* really well (laughs).
*A special technique used by Sanosuke Sagara and Yukyuzan Anji in Rurouni Kenshin
S: It smashes rocks with a “Crash!!” right? Everyone absolutely did that one too (laughs). Of course, I have all the comics lined up at home and read them. Rurouni Kenshin is a series I really love so I’m happy to have been able to make this figure.
Extrapolating from a single illustration and expanding it into 3D form
T: Please tell me about the highlights of the figure. Particularly areas you obsessed over or areas you want to draw attention to the most.
S: Since artwork was drawn specially for us, I aimed to recreate the illustration just as it appears. That’s the part that I put the most effort into. Having the parts not seen in the illustration and that sense of depth show up well in figure form while creating in 3D the relative position of each part including the sword, hair, hands, and feet as shown in the illustration was extremely difficult, but I think despite that this figure turned out well.
T: I’ve been shown the illustration used for the figure, but was it drawn in three views (showing the front, side, and back)?
S: No, not at all. It was only a single drawing.
T: The modeler was able to create it using just a single drawing?
S: That’s right. First, we looked closely at the illustration and we started with extrapolating, or in other words considering, questions like where can we place highlights when making it 3D so we can faithfully reproduce the flat illustration? What kind of intention did Mr. Watsuki draw this with? And just what scene is it of? With the entire composition of the illustration specifically, I thought about how he might be making a cross shape with the sword and left leg, as well as the right knee and Kenshin’s hair to match the cross-shaped scar on his cheek. There’s also how he’s drawing the sword with his right hand; his left knee is out in front. If this was a real sword slice then his right knee should be out in front, so he’s going another step forward which makes me think this is the Amakakeru Ryu no Hirameki.
S: In the series, the (Amakakeru Ryu no Hirameki) brings forth extreme power through taking an extra step while striking, so production progressed after I talked with the modeler and explained that the illustration seemed to be of that scene.
T: So you didn’t ask Mr. Watsuki but instead were able to interpret it after seeing the illustration yourself?
S: That’s right. Including other figures as well, as you’d expect there isn’t much of a chance to go and ask the artist directly, so reading into the artwork deeply and correctly is something that should be done first by us on the production side, including the modeler.
The hilt of Mr. Watsuki’s imitation sword had an influence on the figure
T: Were there any difficulties in producing the figure?
S: The illustration has distinct light and shadow, so we had trouble working to make the modeling of the figure sharp and lively. By painting the shadows a deep color, and by emphasizing them more than usual figures, we were able to express the lighting and shadows of the illustration and separate them at the edges of the modeling. This is a point that was difficult but also turned out to be a highlight (laughs). After that it was the way he is holding the sword. When Mr. Watsuki was supervising the figure he held an imitation sword he owns and told us, “This is a good way of holding it,” so we had pictures taken of how he was holding it and that had an influence on the figure.
T: How long did production take?
S: I think production time took three to four months for the modeling. That’s about how long it takes for the average scale figure I think. On second thought, maybe it takes a bit longer (laughs). Painting took around a month to a month and a half.
Bringing to mind a scene of Kenshin training alone among fluttering cherry blossoms
T: Thank you. Is there anything about the display stand you were particular about?
S: Ah, I forgot about the display stand.
S: There’s no display stand in the illustration, so we came up with this ourselves. Kenshin’s sword is the Sakabato, and the edge is on the opposite side which is why the name uses the kanji for “reverse” (“saka”). You can’t slice with Sakabato (if you swing it like an ordinary sword), so that sets up that Kenshin ordinarily doesn’t kill*. Looking at the sword, he’s showing the edged side and holding the Sakabato in reverse, so it made me think that this illustration isn’t of a fighting scene. When we thought about that, a scene in which he is training alone among fluttering cherry blossoms came to mind. Because of that, we had thought about creating models of actual cherry blossoms to recreate the look of falling cherry blossom petals, but we thought that wasn’t particularly smart. After thinking it through thoroughly we finally hit on using Japanese lacquerware. There is a technique called “maki-e” to create picturesque designs on the surface of lacquerware using gold and silver dust, and by expressing the cherry blossoms as a kind of golden lacquerware a scene emerged and we were able to make the display stand have an overall high quality feel through also expressing Japanese aesthetics.
*Kenshin Himura, the main character of the series, took a vow to not kill.
T: The display stand is quite large.
S: For many normal scale figures the display stand is a bit smaller, but since he’s readying his sword I wanted to express the full span and I chose to make the base bigger. The display stand resembles that of a Japanese doll, and I think it would look cool decorating an alcove.
T: Will this figure be displayed at all overseas?
S: It will be on display at the CCG Expo in Shanghai starting July 5. The series has a considerably strong popularity in Asia as well, so it will be on display for attendees.
T: The series is popular even in China and Taiwan, isn’t it?
S: That’s right. It’s popular worldwide, but it’s especially popular in Asia so it will be on display at this year’s CCG.
T: Thank you. Lastly, do you have anything you’d like to say to overseas fans?
S: Yes. This figure was fully supervised by original author Mr. Watsuki, from the prototype to the painting, and it was given his stamp of approval during the prototype phase. I myself think it turned out well and will lend quite a cool, decorative feel even at home. I hope everyone pre-orders it.
T: Thank you for your time today!!!
©Nobuhiro Watsuki/Shueisha Inc.