Controversy is abounding on the internet again! This time, it has to do with a Nintendo game. Which is a little weird, because you do not expect that from that company, but here we are. The issue at hand is Xenoblade Chronicles 2 character designs. Some of the Blades, humanoid characters who double as both partners and weapons for Driver characters, were designed by Japanese artists who once drew hentai. (Which, if you don’t know what the term means, is adult artwork or animation.)
So, before we get started, lets talk about how other artists got involved with Xenoblade Chronicles 2. Monolith Soft does not have a character designer. Its Executive Director, Tetsuya Takahashi, said they brought in outside help to design all of the different blade characters. Artists working on the rare blues were given a weapon and attribute guideline document, to kind of give them an idea of what to draw. Saito Masatsugu, for example, was called in to do the main character designs. Others were pulled in for the other Blades people may summon during the game.
Now, people may notice there are a lot of female Blades in Xenoblade Chronicles 2. Which again, Takahashi addressed in a Famitsu interview, saying they ended up with “too many girls” after giving the artists the aforementioned guideline document. They may also notice that a good percentage of these women are rather well-endowed and fall in line with various fanservice preferences. Whenever this happens, a cry goes out. “Well, what do you expect? Nintendo hired hentai artists.” But while some characters, like Dahlia, do get a little ridiculous, we should not be condemning all of the artists and character designs.
In Japan, a lot of artists going into animation or comics end up having adult art in their background. As they are starting out and finding their footing, they may get involved with hentai in some way to support themselves and get their names out there. There is nothing shameful about this. People can draw what they want to draw. Also, doing such figure studies could even help them become better at drawing non-hentai art, as they are learning how to draw the human body and figure out proper proportions.
People keep calling out these artists as though all they do is draw porn. Which is untrue. Yes, if you google “Saito Masatsugu” and “boobs,” you will see a lot of adult art. But, Masatsugu is also well known for his character design on well known series like Cyborg 009: Call of Justice and Eureka Seven: Hi-Evolution. Risa Ebata, the designer who created the busty Dahlia, is a woman who not only did character designs for the hentai game series Viper, but also Macross Frontier. And, while we are talking about Ebata’s Xenoblade Chronicles 2 work, we should point out that she didn’t just design the mature Dahlia. She also provided the art for Ursula, a childlike Blade with a pretty dress and polar bear buddy.
Folks also need to remember that all of these character designs are Monolith Soft and Nintendo approved. These are outside artists who provided ideas based on the guidelines the companies provided. They likely had to provide multiple samples for possible Blades during the development process. Then, the studio went ahead and picked the ones they liked best. These artists did not have complete and total freedom to do whatever they wanted. They had to follow orders given by the company and work within that scope.
In short, don’t judge Xenoblade Chronicles 2, its artists, or its character designs because of the artists’ past work. Artists being involved with adult projects is not uncommon in Japan. Just because they were involved in some sort of project in the past should not taint their present and future. And even if some of the characters do have completely unrealistic looks in the game, it is art that was approved by the developer and publisher. Fanservice is fanservice, and it would be wrong to disparage one of these artists for doing their job.