Editor: Hitomi Sakuma
A solo exhibition entitled "SHE" by the illustrator Mai Yoneyama is currently being held at the pixiv WAEN GALLERY. The event is attracting a lot of attention from people in the industry, with many fans and other well-known creators visiting the exhibition every day. Yoneyama began her career as an illustrator in 2018, having worked as a main animator for a number of big titles such as “Kill la Kill”, “Kiznaiver”, and “Promare”.
We sat down with Yoneyama to ask her all about her solo exhibition, from the 9 newly-unveiled illustrations to the title of the exhibition itself - SHE, to her plans for the future as an artist.
- Mai Yoneyama
Produces emotive expressions with consistent skill and outstanding sense. Worked on projects such as the "Racing Miku 2016" and the Evangelion apparel brand "RADIOEVA". She has also been involved in many animation projects, including character design for the anime "Kiznaiver", and the ending animation for "Darling in the Francis" and "Promare".
Click here for her past interviews.
── Once again, congratulations on your solo exhibition! It’s the final exhibition of the year for the pixiv WAEN GALLERY, which opened back at the start of 2019. Does the timing of this exhibition mean anything in particular to you?
── You unveiled a lot of new illustrations for this exhibition. Was this all part of your plan?
── Illustrators don’t usually get the chance to talk about their own works, but this time we’d like to go over the themes of each of the 9 illustrations in detail.
These girls are ready to counter attack
In May of this year, I drew a picture called "THE ONE" and with that picture as the starting point, I began to make a series of images that were all connected together.
── Your style really comes out in these pictures. You’ve always been an incredibly talented artist, and been recognized for that, but these pictures really bring out the strength of your originality as an artist.
I want pictures to be like a song inside of me. By song I mean that no matter which part of the song you sing, it will still be part of that song, and you can still get an idea of the song even from those small snippets. In some ways it’s quite ambiguous. Since illustrations themselves are more concrete, I want to blur the outline of such an image and try various ways to show it.
── The first time I saw this picture I thought, only Yoneyama could have drawn something like this. There’s a sense of slight fear, but also the subject being ‘saved’.
── The composition is really incredible. You wouldn't believe it's a commercial illustration.
── But her expression doesn't feel tragic. And the composition is incredible.
── You already received a lot of attention for you talent before showcasing "THE ONE", but I feel like your unique creativity has become even more prominent.
I never want to quit either animation or illustration
── It's a huge deal to hear what an artist has to say about their own work. The theme of this collection is based around overcoming tough situations and standing back up, and I think they also strongly convey your own determination.
── You’ve also had a long and successful history as an animation director, which must have definitely come with its own set of challenges. In the past year alone you’ve been enthusiastically unveiled doujinshi. It feels like you’re really gearing up for attack.
── If you think about it in another way, anime will always be a really big part of you.
The main piece trilogy born from the essence of Shibuya
These two are crows. I wanted to portray them with quite a sad expression. But if their sadness and loneliness came across too strongly, it would overshadow the theme of this trilogy of illustrations, which is all about the essence and life of the city. So I thought that two people would make the picture more lively. Their outfits are also made of garbage bags, but they ended up becoming more stylish than I originally intended.
── Your design skills really are incredible. I was shocked to learn that you designed the doujinshi you published a while back completely by yourself.
── It's a really positive to see you running at all of your dreams so full-force. That kind of strength is both really admirable and inspirational.
── Thank you so much!