OSHI NO KO Character Designer Kanna Hirayama Shares Creative Insight and Discusses Project’s Beginnings

©Aka Akasaka x Mengo Yokoyari/Shueisha, "OSHI NO KO" Partners

For our next interview featuring OSHI NO KO, we talked to Kanna Hirayama, the character designer and chief animation director. She has previously worked on other series at Doga Kobo and talked to us about her creative approach to the character design and more. Make sure you watch episode 1 before reading, as there are some spoilers. 

How did you first get involved withOSHI NO KO anime project?

Kanna Hirayama: Previously at Doga Kobo, I worked on an anime called SELECTION PROJECT as the character designer and later when I spoke with the producer, Kobayashi-san, about what we’re going to work on next, Kobayashi-san asked me if there’s a manga or something that I like in particular. I said, “I like OSHI NO KO, it’s really interesting.”

Afterwards, Kobayashi-san immediately read 【OSHI NO KO and also thought it was really interesting. 


So Hirayama-san, you were pretty much the one to pitch the idea of 【OSHI NO KO】 to Kobayashi-san…?

That’s right, I was the one to recommend it.


That’s the opposite of what’s supposed to happen.

Yes, the offer didn’t come to me. I pitched it.


What in the series appealed to you to make it into an anime?

I thought it was really interesting while reading it and I liked the author. I liked both Akasaka-sensei’s previous work Kaguya-sama: Love is War (author for 【OSHI NO KO), and Mengo-sensei’s (manga artist for 【OSHI NO KO) Scum’s Wish (Kuzu no Honkai). Because of that, I read the first chapter and it was very interesting.


What aspects of the characters did you want to emphasize the most when creating the character designs for the anime?

Definitely the eyes and the stars in them.


The eyes for Ai, Aqua, and Ruby are huge part of who they are. What was the creative process like making the eyes?

The stars needed to be done right, but what else… The eyelashes. I was very particular about the eyelashes and the color of it too. 

©Aka Akasaka x Mengo Yokoyari/Shueisha, “OSHI NO KO” Partners

The top part of the pupil has a bright color, and the line is drawn straight. The reason behind that is when the eyes are looking down or when the eyelashes are pointed down, if the bright-colored top part of the pupil is a dark color, then the eyelashes are hard to see. So, I decided to put a bright color in between to increase the contrast.

When you color in animation, it becomes one color. The amount of information from manga to anime gets reduced. So by increasing the number of colors, you can achieve a similar effect to the manga.

Here’s an art where you can see the eyelashes pointing down. As I just said, the light purple is used to make it stand out.

Who was the most difficult character design to adapt from the source material?

In terms of drawing, Kana was the most difficult. But when we had the character designs reviewed by the original author, the character that had to be redrawn the most was Ai. So probably for me, I’m not good at drawing Ai.


Kana was the hardest to draw?

Yes, but the truth is, Kana’s design didn’t have to be redrawn. I got it done on the first try. But Ai had to be redrawn quite a few times. Mengo-sensei marked it up in red to correct the design. It was pretty difficult.


What was the process like creating the two character designs (baby and the current older version) for Aqua and Ruby?

I think only Mengo-sensei can properly answer this question, but the baby and current designs were… How do I put it? Really, I had to take what Mengo-sensei drew and turn it into anime form.

With Ruby, she looks just like Ai without colors. I consciously wanted to draw Ai and Ruby so that when you look at the line art, you can tell the difference between them.

At the time of drawing this, I didn’t really differentiate them. 

When the face is in front view or left view, Ruby’s hair is straighter while the ends of Ai’s hair is more wavy. When coloring, Ai’s hair is black, but when you add shadows to black hair, the base is already black. It just gets blacker. So, with Ai, instead of expressing the hair through shadows, we expressed it through the highlights. There are not a lot of shadows. With Ruby, since she’s blonde, if it’s expressed through the highlights, it’ll just turn white. Thus it’s expressed mostly through the shadows.


As the chief animation director, there is a wide range of scenes and moods in OSHI NO KO. From the musical components, intense plot points, and humorous jokes, how did you balance the various moods in the animation?

I’d say the number of lines. In serious scenes, I added a lot of lines in the hair, like adding more lines for the individual strands. For comical scenes, I remove the number of lines in the hair so that it’s more chibi-like.

Yes, like adding more of the stray hairs. I’d add more lines than in the picture. 

©Aka Akasaka x Mengo Yokoyari/Shueisha, “OSHI NO KO” Partners

So if this image is, as an example, the default character design, then in serious scenes, you’d add more lines than this.

Yes. The fewer the lines, the easier it is to animate. In general, if you add a lot of lines to the face… Well, yes, the face and above the face tend to have more lines. In 【OSHI NO KO, the faces are the focal point, so we balance it out by having less lines in the rest of the body.


As both the character designer and chief animation director, were there any advantages or disadvantages to filling both roles?

If I’m just the character designer, I only draw the designs and that’s it. I don’t draw any art that appears in the animation. When I’m Chief Animation Director, it’s nice that I get to draw the characters come to life in the animation. I have to breathe life into the characters.

If you’re the Chief Animation Director of the first episode, you have to review all of the cuts.


How did it feel to see the characters you designed actually move and come to life in animation?

I was relieved. I don’t get to see it until it’s fully animated and the colors are added, so I was full of worry.


Any final comments to fans as they continue watching the series?

For now, please watch the first episode! 

Special thanks to Kanna Hirayama and KADOKAWA for the opportunity. 【OSHI NO KOis now streaming on HiDive and other platforms. Yen Press is publishing the manga in English. The latest video contents are on the official 【OSHI NO KO YouTube channel. For additional information on 【OSHI NO KO, check out the official EN Twitter account @oshinoko_global.

Interpreter: Adele San

Translator/Transcription: Momo Cha

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