Nov 12, 2012

Belts & Chains: DE-accessorizing Tetsuya Nomura

If J-Pop can be embodied as a game in the way that Suda 51’s No More Heroes embodies punk, Tetsuya Nomura has already designed it.

Nomura’s games and character art inhabit a weird spot between genre fantasy and urban Japanese fashion trends. Gross exaggerations of real (and almost-real) styles and products, they are often off-putting to the critical circus and a majority of the gaming population.

Yet his games are also successes, engendering a cult niches of fans and solid-to-blockbuster sales: Kingdom Hearts, Final Fantasy VII-on, and The World Ends With You are just some of those that present Nomura’s unique thumbprint.

On a basic level, Nomura excels at his craft. The silhouettes of his characters are simple and discernible from one another, but, in the wake of Final Fantasy VII, intricately detailed. Not a bit of space on Sora, Lightning, etc. goes to waste.

Turn to Nomura’s break out, Final Fantasy VII. Every major character is simply designed, but iconic in their simplicity. Reduce them to silhouettes, and most are still immediately recognizable: Cloud Strife has spiked hair that slants diagonally and a man-sized sword, Barrett is inhumanly large and squat with a Mr. T hairstyle, and even Tifa and Aeries appear separate (despite being two long-haired women with vaguely similar builds) due to their poise. Aeries has her hands drawn in, awkward and shy, while Tifa is confident with her hands posed on hips.
top left and center image courtesy of

This is key character information rendered simply in an expressive, unique hybrid of styles.

Why, then, is Nomura so rejected?