abec Special Interview
Translation of an interview with abec from Dengeki Bunko Magazine volume 41.
abec Special Interview!
The Origins Behind That Pseudonym!?
—Where did that pseudonym, abec, come from?
I was thinking… along the lines of the alphabetical order: a, b, c, d… ab… a-bu… a-be… a-be-c! Or something like that. That’s right. It’s that death cry from that guy when he was killed by the Savior of the Century’s End*. It’s a-be-c, but because the c is so forced, no one ever reads it. Everyone ends up reading it as “a-bec”. Despite how I only mentioned my name in my profile space in the volumes!
—I can’t remember when, but that “abec!” did change to “abec?”, didn’t it (haha). By the way, you always draw a frog as your alter ego… what about that?
There’s no particular significance (haha). If I have to state one, it may be due to there not being anyone with a frog as theirs around me.
abec-san and “SAO”
—Please tell us about how you came to work on “SAO”.
I received a call from an editor I had the opportunity of working with in the past and at that time, someone named Miki-san (the editor in charge of “SAO”) asked if he could have a word with me… and from there, he went, “I would like you on a book called ‘SAO’. Anyway, please try reading it”. Honestly, I wasn’t too keen on it back then. Thus, I asked Miki-san if it’s interesting and he immediately insisted it was, so I went and asked him to send it over so I could just give it a read.
—And after reading it, you went, “This is great!”, huh?
Yes. After receiving and reading the manuscript, I found it really interesting; I’m not sure if it’s due to it being printed all at once (by Miki-san), but the 1st page of the 2nd volume was there at the end and my curiosity made me go, “I’ll do it! I’ll do it, so please send me the next part!”. And so, after finishing the 2nd volume, 1 page from the next volume was at the end yet again and I asked him, “Just send me all of the rest already!”, which resulted in a cardboard box sent to me, packed tight with a bundle of paper when I opened it that I read through in one go over the next couple of days or so (haha).
—1 page on purpose… that must have been Miki’s scheme (sweatdrop).
(haha). By the way, the chapter I especially liked are «Aincrad», «GGO», and «Mother’s Rosario».
abec-san and the Characters in “SAO”
—You would naturally need a design for the characters before drawing the illustrations, but is there anything in particular you take care with?
I had taken a look at the original ideas Kawahara-san personally drew for the main members like Kirito and such. Hence, I tried not to veer too far from those images for their base designs and added my own tastes after that. For Asuna, I put her hair in braids and mussed it; the braided part symbolizes her good upbringing as the daughter of a high-class family while the mussed part is her demon vice-captain side (haha). Ah, Agil and Klein became more handsome. He was totally some wandering samurai in the materials I received, so following it too faithfully will make him too eye-catching… (haha). Also, we had a conversation over how Leafa’s “weapons” were lacking, so she got big breasts by Miki-san’s suggestion. As for Shino, I like glasses and went, “The glasses factor is too weak! Let’s make Shino a glasses girl!” while on the topic of SAO’s heroines and that ended up being adopted (haha).
—So there were such secrets behind Sugu’s breasts and Shino’s glasses! By the way, which of the characters do you like?
Among the heroines, I have always proclaimed myself to be in the Sinon faction since I first read the manuscripts, but my love for Asuna and Suguha grew a fair bit after watching the anime. As for the men, I like Klein. I wonder why, I just feel like rooting for him.
—I see. What about the opposite, what are you no good with, among the characters and such…?
The swords, guns, and armor are a real bother, so I hate them!
—Eeh. Isn’t that practically most of it (sweatdrop)?
abec-san’s Role in the Anime
—You joined in to draft the anime’s original character designs, but what work did that involve?
There was drawing orthographic full body designs for the characters and their clothing, the designs for those characters without illustrations—taking «ALO» for example, there’s the setting for the races, the shapes of their wings, and other things in that vein too. I did it with the thought of keeping them simple, so that everyone on the anime side could move them easily. I’m guessing everyone at A-1’s probably booing with a “with those?!” now, though…
—And Adachi Shingo-san (anime, “SAO”, character design) handled the character designs with those original designs; how did you react after seeing how Adachi-san drew Kirito, Asuna, and the rest?
Nah, I thought they were cute (haha). Honestly, I don’t think the Asuna I draw is all that cute. I thought, “Ah, now this is the one true wife.” when I saw the anime. The original illustrations always lose something when they’re adapted! Some would say that, but you know, there’s a limit on how faithful you can be with the number of lines and coloring since they have to be animated. I loved Adachi-san’s art since the start, so I had absolutely no issue with them using it as-is, and I believe it truly transited well into the anime. Also, his girls are real cute, after all!
—How was it watching “SAO” animated for real? Have you found any tendencies in yourself after the experience?
My coloring may have gotten more mild… but I wouldn’t really know what influenced myself… I wonder?
The Crux of the Illustrations
—Now then, let’s return to the topic of the original illustrations… aside from actually drawing them, are there any discussions with Kawahara-san and the rest over the illustrations?
We do exchange emails after I receive the specifications and draw up sketches, but there are quite a number of remarks, questions, confirmations, and discussion over the illustrations then. That said, I’m not the type to draw rigorous sketches, so there are times when I have to fix it in tears after having my mistakes in the colored version pointed out. It’s common having readers point those mistakes no one caught after they’re published too. I’m very sorry (sweatdrop).
—How long does it take for each illustration?
Colored would be around 10 ~ 30 hours, I suppose. It depends on the number of characters and the composition, hence that range… a set of 10 monochrome illustrations (one volume’s worth) would be anything from 4 days to around 1 day at least. I did think I would die that time I did the latter, though (sweatdrop).
—10 monochrome pieces in a day!? That sounds super fast! To think you could create something of that quality in that time…! And among all that, are there any guidelines you make yourself stick to?
It’s somewhat related to the earlier topic too, but even if it’s hardly correct (even if it’s not matching up to the text in composition and such), I focus on the grandeur! I think. Though they get mad at me at times (sweatdrop). Also, as you know, the characters are our business, so I make them cute and cool!
—I see. So just following the text faithfully will make it lose some of its charm, huh…! I suppose the fierce battle scenes and such, in particular, would prove to be especially difficult, but how do you go about drawing those?
It’s not just battle scenes, but in my mind, I would move the characters in the text, stop at a point that seemed most impressive, decide on the camera’s position, or rather, the viewpoint and composition, add effects and such to make their motions easily understandable… that’s what I think through as I work. I believe this requires the intricate knowledge and skill steadily picked up over time. Also, in regards to battle scenes, expressions are certainly important. You can’t make them too beautiful. That said, the readers won’t like it if you hurt them too much either, so a balance is needed… though I do end up beautifying the heroines’ faces anyway (haha).
—By the way, the games Kirito and the rest play keep changing in “SAO”, but do you reflect that in the art as well?
«SAO» takes place in a game, but everyone has their real face on, so I keep in mind to not give it a fantasy design that would belong to some game. I thought it would kill the tension. The boundaries between them are really fuzzy in my designs, so some others may wonder about what I’m going on about or not see it too well, though… In comparison, I emphasized more on the fantasy feel of a game in the designs for «ALO». It is the world of fairies after all. The worldview of «GGO» is the same, but it’s a story about murdering in the game, so I wanted the art to convey a different sense of intensity from «SAO» and incorporated multiple layers into my coloring style. Since then… I haven’t really thought much about it (sweatdrop).
The Ever Evolving Artist, abec!
—What would you like to do from now on as the one in charge of art on “SAO” and the illustrator, abec?
The world written by Kawahara-san has always given me a leg up as the artist for “SAO”, so I would like to offer more of my illustrations if given the opportunity. And as an illustrator… actually, as “SAO” had links to even anime and games, I’m fairly satisfied. Not to mention the numerous opportunities in relation to comic adaptions too. However, I’ve only been putting out work recently without trying to improve that work, or rather, I’ve been working the whole time without the chance to learn and widen my capabilities, so I would like to properly recharge myself in that sense and develop my drawing skills further.
—We will be looking forward to your future activities, abec-sensei! And there you have it! Now then, a message or the like for our dear readers, please!
The 2nd season of the anime will reach its climax soon, but the main series and SAOP will continue. I will continue putting my all into it, so I hope we can all enjoy it!
—Thank you very much!
“death cry”, “Savior of the Century’s End” – This guy.
- Translation – Tap