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Continuing our revisit of lesser-known interviews and the like, here is Part 2 of the art gallery comments from the Kingdom Hearts Ultimanias. This part covers the remaining titles from Chain of Memories through to Kingdom Hearts 3.
All comments are made by Tetsuya Nomura.
For Part 1 covering the original Kingdom Hearts, check out our previous article!
Sea: This is my favorite thing I drew for KH2. That's why I've used it in so many places. It also comes with many memories, like how I went through hell coloring this picture due to technical difficulties. I had trouble thinking of a title, which is why it is so simple.
Sora: You might think he's grown up too much, but he's at an age where he grows fast. The lightening of his hair is due to Roxas' influence. Sora's characteristic hair side spikes are more vertical than before - did you notice? I made his clothes black, with form changes in mind. It was a lot of work drawing the gloves and wallet chain on his old outfit every time, so I got rid of them.
Roxas: I traced Sora for this piece. My image of Roxas actually came first, before Sora, and I had already drawn him for the first project document. The concept of "between" was something I kept in mind: since Sora's outfit was to be black this time, I made Roxas' base color white, and I also added a black and white checked pattern. The cross on his chest isn't a necklace, it's part of his zipper, and it is the motif of the Nobodies. Also, his hair is supposed to be the exact same length as Sora's.
Heart: I didn't actually originally draw this as box art, I planned to do something with Kairi in her usual clothes. But this was well received, and it was close to the idea I had for the box art anyway, so we just went with this. I went back and forth over whether to set it at sunset, but since this picture was presented around the time of the re-launch I gave it a bright blue sky.
Invitation: This is the earliest thing I drew for a KH2 announcement, so it doesn't include the new characters yet. Due to the timing there were still many characters whose faces I couldn't show, which made it tough to draw. But, I didn't have time to spare, so I finished it with a few characters.
Awakening: This is something else I drew on a tight schedule. I wanted to try making a new picture that used all the elements we had at that point. I was relieved, the composition using old Sora and new Sora turned out a lot better than expected.
Duality: This is actually what I had intended to use for the box art. Not exactly as it is, of course… That's why it utilizes images of hearts. The concept was: Sora and Roxas, Kairi and Namine, and then contrasting characters on the right and left.
Sunset & Daylight: I hadn’t drawn a PR pic that included Organization XIII, and that made me want to draw something with the full cast… and that was the beginning of my misfortunes… I didn’t imagine it would become such a huge piece. But, when I look at the finished product, it does have impact, which is good. It was first revealed at the 2006 Tokyo Game Show, and lots of people gathered to look. I saw fans not moving away from the picture even when the event was closing, and that made me so happy. I was moved.
Exhilarating: This is based on the KH-esque open sky and open sea. The back of the box art features Sora and Riku from KH Re:COM - conceptually, this is the official art. They’re doing a good job keeping balance on such tiny platforms, you may think, but that’s because, well. Umm… It’s deep, right? I’m sure.
Late Summer: This never happens in the game, but I got a flash of inspiration and drew this picture in one sitting. I like the slightly sad atmosphere.
Crossroads (Morning Star): There’s a folk story about a guitarist who makes a deal with the devil at a crossroads. That was actually the inspiration for the opening of KH CoM.
(Note: Nomura is referring to the legend of Robert Johnson.)
Crossroads (Dawn): I am really sorry. By the time I noticed, it was already too late. The color of Riku’s clothes is wrong. It’s been published like this, exposing my idiocy to everyone. Fans, please accept my apologies.
(Note: The back of Riku's shirt is supposed to be black. View the corrected version here.)
Deck: We were making a 3D video for an in-house presentation, and we storyboarded a part where Sora sits on his Keyblade and spreads out a deck of cards. That sequence was well received, so I made it into an illustration. It rarely happens in that order.
Card: Side Riku needed a title screen, so I made this in a hurry. I made it symmetrical to Sora’s, so we could put them together for PR use.
Spiral: I planned to put a lot more into this drawing, but tragically I ran out of time. As such, I finished up a simple version. This is off topic, but although I am not the type to save my original illustrations carefully, I also never give them to people. However, once there was someone I really wanted to give something to as a show of gratitude, and the original drawing for this picture happened to be at hand. Now, it is off in a distant city over the ocean.
Boundary: I started drawing this as a key visual, but I fell in love with the way Roxas is standing here and finished it up to use for the box art too. It was difficult to balance - even though each character is in a different place, there are no distinct lines to separate them. However, by creating a triangle shape that flows from the right foreground to the left background, I think I stabilized it. Each character is given a background that is meaningful to their story in the game - but the ground at Roxas’ feet is white. He stands somewhere with no background. The concept behind this is to hint at the game’s tagline: "What mattered the most was remembered the least."
Recollection: I came up with this picture while thinking of something for the ending. As such, it’s constructed in a way that takes the double screens into account. I thought of several layouts to use in-game, and in the end we went with a resized version that doesn’t show the full picture. I was very glad that I had the chance to use the original for the cover of the Ultimania. Roxas is taking off the Organization’s trademark black coat, and the days he can never return to are vanishing, represented by the checked pattern associated with Roxas. The silhouette also looks like wings, which represents freedom.
Soar: The concept is that they are each beginning to move with their own purposes in mind. This is the instant that they leave their training, and fly from the nest into freedom. However, each of them have their own goals, destinations, and destinies - so they are all gazing in different directions, and their expressions are different. I usually like to use still images for key visuals, but this time I wanted to add a little movement.
Smile: I drew this because the PR team leader asked me to draw a key visual with a fun, bright tone like that of KH1. Of course, we have been releasing serious games recently, and it wouldn’t fit for the box art or title screens to feature grinning illustrations - so my art had been getting more subdued. KH Re:coded is a more cheerful game, so a picture with everyone smiling is perfect.
PV Storyboards   : I usually don’t draw storyboards for trailers, but as this was created at the very beginning of development and I had some time, I drew this. I drew this fully expecting a scene like this to appear in KH Coded.
Sea of Clouds: Since the composition of the first picture I drew, Distance, was too bold to use easily, I quickly drew this new piece. With ease of use in mind, I drew each of the three on separate layers and organized it so their positions could be adjusted. Even though I drew it in a rush, I like it. I think I managed to convey the tagline in a simple way: "Darkness becomes light, light falls into darkness."
Twilight: While drawing Sea of Clouds, I thought it was meaningful that it could be looked at upside down. So, I made another version just in case. The Japanese word “hakumei” can refer to the light of both sunrise and sunset, and since this is a picture where it could be either, I made that the title. It’s not a simple reversal of Sea of Clouds: is Riku falling to save Sora, or is Sora rising out of reach? It can be seen both ways. Sea of Clouds actually has the same meaning.
Entrance to the Dream: A key visual didn’t exist even after the title was announced, which made life difficult for the PR team, so I made this in a hurry to coincide with an event. This was around the time we decided on Sora and Riku’s new outfits, and the first Spirits that would be your partners. It had been a while since I’d drawn a KH picture, and I think you can tell that my mojo hadn’t quite come back.
Distance: When I draw KH art, I always keep in mind what kind of pictures they draw at Disney. But, I think this piece has the most bold composition so far. I like this picture because, along with the title, you can imagine all sorts of things. It was so bold that it was unusable as box art or for the title screen.
Promise: Sora at the water’s edge, like I have always drawn for the numbered titles. Perhaps you noticed, but over the course of the three games he has gradually turned his back. He looks as though he might go running off, but in his hand he holds a paopu fruit: a promise to meet again. It hints at the story of the game.
Gathering: I wanted to draw this with the same sense of balance as Premonition, the box art from the first game. But, there were too many characters, and I had to give up. I purposefully drew them with no expressions, and instead made it so that you feel their expressions from the background.
Crown: I drew the original picture as a present for friends who had worked alongside me on the KH series for many years, and inside the frames I drew characters from other titles we had worked on together. After that, Sora from the middle was revealed when we cut him out to use for the KH 15th anniversary. This is a version I refined to use for KHIII. I increased the number of frames, thinking they could be used as needed. In the end, they were left blank - the final product is up to the viewer.
3: I drew the original picture for the 3rd anniversary of KHUX. That was when we revealed these three characters’ KHIII outfits, which made me want to use it for the actual KHIII, so I rearranged it. I used a pattern from the KHIII main artwork for the background. I personally love Sora’s face in this picture.