At Anime Expo, we had the honor of interviewing one of the most well-known and esteemed character designers in anime, Range Murata, whose most famed works include the character designs in Last Exile and Blue Submarine No. 6.
When we learned Murata-san created the original character designs in the new Summer simulcast/SimulDub series BEM, we were beyond thrilled to get the opportunity to ask about his work and thoughts on the new anime. Check out our interview below to learn more about Range Murata’s involvement in BEM!
1. Tell us about yourself and your role in BEM.
Range Murata: My name is Range Murata. I’m an illustrator in Japan but I often design characters for animation as well. I came for the promotion of BEM this time.
2. Were you already familiar with BEM before this project, or is it new to you?
RM: Majority of Japanese know BEM because this anime has been broadcasted repeatedly since I was little. It is known in Japan as a scary animation. Its design as well as its story was so terrifying that it was almost traumatizing for kids. So, it was a bit of a surprise when I found out the anime was going to be remade and that I would be a part of the process.
3. You have a long history of creating unique character designs and illustrations over the years. What has changed for you and your process over your career?
RM: In terms of my approach to anime production, for example when I worked on Last Exile, I was in the studio during the whole production, working side by side with animators and the director. Although it gives you a sense of working as a team, all of my time was spent on animation and I had no time to work on illustrations, my main job. So, for my recent projects including BEM, I have been working from home. I go out to meetings, but I have adapted to working at home.
4. Considering the original character designs for the older BEM anime, how did you approach modernizing these characters and making them relevant to the current market?
RM: I’m still not sure if I was able to remake this anime successfully. It’s because the original design is still great after 50 years. It would be impudent on my part to say I want to create a design better than that, but I did try to implement various elements to the characters to modernize them. I cannot say my design is beyond the original but it definitely is something new and different.
5. Was there a character in BEM that stood out to you, or that you enjoyed designing most?
RM: I don’t get to draw innocent boy characters often, so I enjoyed working on Roddy. Also, there is this character named Dr. Recycle and he’s a mad scientist. It was genuinely fun to draw him. I designed a similar character for a fighting game long time ago, and that experience helped.
6. Is there a particular type of character you find yourself drawn to, whether personally or in art?
RM: I get a lot of request to draw beautiful girls, but to be honest, I like drawing good looking guys. But, if you make some guy look too hot, he won’t fit in with other characters. So I try not to overdo it. But I made Bem quite handsome. I think about ways to make a male character look cool a lot because I don’t get to draw one that often.
7. Were there any aspects of the older character designs that you wanted to keep?
RM: It’s colors. Each character has their unique personal color.
8. Was there anything you wanted to convey through the BEM characters with your signature styling?
RM: The scenario takes a pretty dark tone, and I hope that is conveyed through characters’ expressions or standing postures. After all, I’m in charge of original character design alone. It’s the people in the studio that put a life into my design as animation. I hope they see what I’m trying to achieve through my design.
9. Is there anything you’d like to say to North American fans?
RM: I haven’t seen all the episodes yet because some aren’t completed. But I think it turned out great. It definitely has a dark tone, and the music is very unique and different. I think each element is working successfully to create a cool dark hero vibe. So, please check it out.
Don’t forget to watch BEM Sundays on FunimationNow.