Staff Highlight: Akira Yasuda (“akiman”), the Character Designer

This is the second in my series of staff highlight posts. My sources include various written and video interviews, audio commentaries, and individual research.

Akira Yasuda (pen name “akiman”) is a game designer, character designer, and mecha designer who currently works as a freelancer but was formerly employed by Capcom in the 1980s and 1990s. He gained international fame as the character designer for the transformative fighting game series, Street Fighter II. He provided character designs for Turn A Gundam.

staff_akiman
Yasuda Akira (“akiman”), Turn A Gundam‘s character designer, along with promotional artwork he drew for the Japanese DVD boxes.

Below is a highlight of info and fun facts pertaining to his time on Turn A Gundam.

  • Director Yoshiyuki Tomino first approached him in 1996 to establish contact and negotiate. akiman formally joined the team in October of 1998.
  • As an employee of Capcom, he had to be recruited on a contractual basis. According to akiman, Tomino wanted to bridge the gap between anime and gaming and thus sought after a top talent in the video game industry.
  • Did not have a lot of leeway into the planning process for Turn A Gundam as he was brought on as a guest designer.
  • Initially was asked to draft character designs in modern day clothing (this is corroborated by the “Yasuda Akira Gundam Designs” book) but was later instructed to draw characters in an early-1900s setting. akiman views this change as a blessing in disguise, as it was much easier for him to design characters in an older setting.
  • akiman primarily used the Japanese production of the German-language musical Elisabeth as a reference for clothing design.
  • Did a lot of individual research on Victorian-era clothing, and was given many sources of inspiration by Sunrise producer Hideyuki Tomioka.
  • Immediately upon joining the project, he was criticized by Tomino for the games he’d been involved in. Tomino claimed that fighting games are bad because you keep attacking your opponent even when they’re down, and akiman was convinced by this logic. [side note: curiously enough, akiman would leave Capcom a few years following Turn A Gundam‘s conclusion].
  • Has an insane amount of respect for Tomino and views him as a “godly” being with unmatchable work ethic.
  • Views Tomino as someone who worked harder in the studio than anyone else, and thus could not bring himself to criticize any of his decisions.
  • Sees Tomino as an impeccable idea man because of his ability to think of everything that’s happening on the screen, including the background.
  • Did not and does not believe Tomino favors him due to his artistic ability, but rather because akiman is a follower who does everything he tells him to.
  • Was once yelled at by Tomino four times in a row.
  • Even though he was commonly known by his pen name, Tomino instead chose to credit him using his full name. When he asked to be credited appropriately, Tomino just laughed and akiman dropped the issue.
  • Fostered a healthy relationship with Tomino and continues to work with him on anime, such as King Gainer (2002) and Gundam Reconguista in G (2014). Sees himself as a relative who often gets yelled at.
  • Considers Turn A Gundam’s ending to be the final ending of Gundam, regardless of what may happen in the franchise’s future.
  • In 2004 he wrote and illustrated a manga titled Turn A Gundam: Wind of the Moon, which serves as a prequel story to the TV anime. It features a younger Loran training for the Earth-landing operation. The manga expands on the Moonrace and their origins and history and contains many revelations. The canonicity of the manga is up for debate. [side note: my team and I have scanlated this! Check it out if you’re interested.]
  • akiman continues to be involved with the franchise; aside from manga and contributing mechanical designs to Gundam Reconguista in G, he has drawn many posters, novel and magazine covers, fan pieces, and has had two books published featuring his Gundam art.
  • [side note: I’ve met akiman twice! Once at Anime Expo in 2016 and again at Anime Expo in 2018. Both times were a treat. I’ve also interacted with him several times on social media. I have a post detailing it all here.]

5 thoughts on “Staff Highlight: Akira Yasuda (“akiman”), the Character Designer

  1. Thank you for this, and all your other hard work on this site. 🙂

    About akiman’s time after Capcom, apparently he moved to the US to work on Red Dead Revolver despite not wanting to, out of a sense of obligation from being allowed to work on Turn A Gundam. From a fairly recent interview:

    And then after that ended up becoming a Rockstar project, he came back and left Capcom. He talks about starting to hate video games during this period, but cites the Red Dead experience in particular as the probable reason, at least here.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for reading!

      Haha, yeah, I’ve seen that interview. It’s a fantastic video. Didn’t want to get into much unrelated detail, it’s just an amusing case of events re: Tomino’s comments and his notorious bias against video games.

      Like

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