Production I.G> WORK LIST> Le Chevalier D'Eon> SPECIAL FEATURE> Les 24 Chevaliers Part IX: toi8 (Prop Design)

Les 24 Chevaliers Part IX: toi8 (Prop Design)

Being set in XVIII century Europe, Le Chevalier D'Eon required a huge amount of historic researches, made even more difficult by the cultural distance. For weapons and other objects, the so-called "props," Production I.G decided to rely on a very talented artist, toi8, who is explaining his role in our nineth exclusive interview.

Part IX
toi8's In principio erat Verbum: "Texture"!

toi8 (toy-hachi)
Prop Designer. He joined Studio 4°C after graduating from an animation school. He has worked extensively as an illustrator and his illustrations are published in numerous novels and magazines. Le Chevalier D'Eon was the first opportunity for him to work on an animation project as a designer. His pen name comes from his birthday, which is the 8th of October (literally 'the tenth month' in Japanese, being 'to' one of the readings for the ideogram meaning '10'). His wife, Tomomi Ozaki, is responsible for character designs for the very same series!

What was your reaction when you first heard about the project?
I was instantly fascinated by it when I heard about this real historical figure who was an undercover agent dressed as a woman. And when I read a book by Hanya Kubota called Life of the Chevalier D'Eon, a Swordsman Dressed as a Woman, I thought this was a fascinating life.

Did you have difficulty with the XVIII century Europe setting?
Actually, it wasn't that difficult. The video games are loaded with pseudo medieval European styles, such as strange armors worn by characters in RPGs. I was also familiar with Kentaro Miura's Berserk, which had a strong European worldview. Usually, I illustrate with my imagination, but the world depicted in this project was faithful to the reality of XVIII century France, so I had a feeling from the start that it was going to be a matter of finding the reference materials.

Specifically what sort of reference materials were you looking for?
I basically relied on images in books and on the web. English sites have lots of information about the old stuff I needed in detail. Others include films such as Fanfan la Tulipe and The Affair of the Necklace. The latter was set in a slightly later era, but the buildings are basically made of stone, so there would not be much difference.

What was your impression of the finished footage?
The artwork is beautiful. For instance, the image boards of the Notre Dame cathedral and 3D scenes were skillfully done - the texture and touches, as well as coloring, you name it. But no wonder, I mean the series art director is Hiroshi Ono, who was also responsible for the artwork in Kiki's Delivery Service. Since Le Chevalier D'Eon is produced in HD, you can appreciate the detailed artwork even better.

Which is your favorite design?
Robin's gun. It's a flintlock gun, which uses flint to ignite the charge. I had no idea how it was actually ignited and fired, so I had to do some research on my own. It was fun to draw that one.

Robin's gun - I researched the mechanism as I drew. I learned that when the sparks are lit, the frizzen opens and the sparks are sent down into the pan containing gunpowder, which ignites and fires the bullet. When the gun is held in the holster, it would be pointing down, so I was worried that gunpowder might fall out if the size of the bore and the bullet didn't fit.

D'Eon's sword - The main character D'Eon uses a sword that would bear a cross welded on to it later in the series, so I tried my best to avoid ornaments and just decorated it with a feather.

Teillagory's sword - Teillagory's sword has a small dent at the cup-guard and looks battle-hardened.

Durand's sword - Durand's sword is very fashionable and dazzling.

Font designs - In the XVIII century, the letters were case-insensitive,
so the design mixes both characters.

Through designing for Le Chevalier D'Eon did you discover anything?
Now I mainly draw single illustrations as a freelancer, so I haven't done a project in ages where I have to pass my work to another section and I can't go back at a later time and make alterations. I was shocked when I realized I could no longer draw "refined lines" which I was able to as an animator. My designs could not have beeen completed without key animators who actually cleaned up my lines in their processes.

My wife pointed out to me that my drawing touch for design drafts, guns, for example, was so soft that she couldn't tell whether the material was wood or metal in certain parts. When we are working as a group, if you draw unintelligible lines then people working after you can only interpret them in their own ways and the end product might be far from what you intended. I regret I wasn't paying a little more attention to these areas.

Lastly, could we have a word for the fans of Le Chevalier D'Eon?
This animation has an inspiring cast and worldview that's difficult to find in TV animations today. But I'd like to point out that we weren't just being reckless by going against the dominant trend in animation. Hope you'll enjoy it.

© Tow Ubukata · Production I.G/Project Chevalier 2006