One thing that's very distinctive about your style is how you draw women. How do you approach this?
HTK: I'll preface this by saying that when you're drawing something that's related to culture or region, it's incredibly difficult, because trends change so often. This is the hardest thing to depict with character, for me.
For example, there are people who like strong characters, weak characters, innocent characters, feeble characters, on a region-by-region basis. But that sort of thing changes very often. It becomes very complicated. So I try to simplify everything by erasing all the cultural elements, and try to make it more internal or instinctive.
In other words, it's the natural identification of what we really like since birth, before cultural context. I try to exaggerate all those aspects and then tie it to some of the more complex or deeper emotions, and then just draw something that people will really like innately.
Is that "back to basics" approach why the women that you draw tend to have an emphasis on chest and hips? Kind of an Earth Mother element?
HTK: To put it simply, you have to first look at how the body is actually connected. Of course, the chest and hips sort of stand out a lot because they're, you know, the biggest parts I guess. But the most important part of the character is actually fat. Any character we create is composed of bones, muscles, and of course fat.
Despite the beauty of bones and muscles, those aspects tend to not be particularly feminine, and lend themselves to something more male. But if you focus more on the fat of a character, and then you sort of create a flow into the chest and the hips and form the body around it, how force and physics can change a body, including fat, it becomes more beautiful for people who can appreciate that innate nature. In books that explain the body, there aren't that many explanations of fat, so it's really hard to find this kind of information actually.
I was wondering how much you pay attention to anatomy. Sometimes, it feels like you may stretch people a little bit, altering their actual skeletal structure.
HTK: I do try to exaggerate my characters, but only to the point of still being able to perceive them as human. But then I try to exaggerate those parts that people will find most attractive, like when a man looks at a woman, or a woman looks at a man. Especially, for example, as you mention, the pelvis or the hips in women. I do accentuate the bones and the fat around the body, which makes it a lot more attractive.
One problem that I have through this process is that when I exaggerate this to the maximum, the character starts to become inhuman. And then there's a clash between the two thoughts of what I'm trying to draw. I'm constantly having this tug-of-war between these two ideas when I'm making new characters.
I noticed that in Magna Carta, you also drew the main male character with feminine hips. Does your approach change for male characters as well?
HTK: That was just in the case of Magna Carta, because the main character was supposed to kind of make the audience feel a little awkward. That is why the clothing and also the anatomy of that character was more feminine than usual. I think that's not the most attractive element of male characters. I wouldn't draw a normal male the way I drew him.
What is the kind of essence that you try to bring out for male characters usually?
HTK: Of course, everybody knows that the attractive aspects of male characters are different when seen from the perspective of a man or a woman. One thing that people tend to miss is the importance of the waist. People say that the shorter the waist, the better it looks. But the actual thing is the more detail you add to the muscles, how the waist or stomach moves and how it changes when the muscles move, that's one thing that's really attractive when looking at a male character.
How did you wind up developing your style?
HTK: Well, I really took a lot of things from Japan, not only comic books and games. In my early days I really liked a lot of things from Japan. When I started studying art though, I actually preferred Western styles of painting. I tried to combine both that Western painting style with Japanese style content, and that's pretty much how I got here.