A chat with Sakusya2, Tokiwata, and Hamunezuko's illustrator unit No Longer Human [Joint exhibition special] - Collaborating with other illustrators can take you places you could never go alone.
Interview by Ichibo Harada
These three creators' fashionable characters have garnered a lot of support from the younger generation. What kind of input do they seek to refine their sense of style? And what is the reasoning behind exchanging ideas with other artists? We asked them these questions and more in this interview.
"No Longer Human" started as an anthology
── You three have published an illustration collection together in the past, is that right?
Tokiwata: Yes, we released our first anthology, No Longer Human, at the 2021 Winter Comiket.
Sakusya2: The collection's concept was that of a book about a fictional clothing brand catering to students, and more specifically focusing on what the class wallflower would wear rather than the most popular kid. (laughs) So we figured we'd go with Osamu Dazai's No Longer Human. Rather than go with the original Japanese title, we ultimately went with the designer's suggestion of using the English translation. In the end, it became our unit name, and we chose it as the title of this joint exhibition.
── The details of how your unit came together will be discussed in depth on the talk show on February 23rd, so let's leave it at that for now. Since you're working as a unit, why don't you tell us what you like about each other? Let's start with Hamunezuko.
Tokiwata: I'm not only blown away by Hamunezuko's adorable art style but also by their marketing savvy. I'm deeply impressed by their ability to stay on top of trends. I'd never met an illustrator with views like theirs before, so I was inspired.
Sakusya2: I usually try to trace and copy drawings of cute characters, and Hamunezuko's illustrations are wonderfully balanced. If you look at their work as a whole, you'll notice that details are placed exactly where they need to be, and nothing is superfluous.
Hamunezuko: You make me blush!
── This must be pretty embarrassing for all of you, but let's just press on. (laughs) What do you like about Tokiwata?
Hamunezuko: I love her taste in accessories and her use of blue, which sort of looks like emerald green. She excels in a variety of styles, from realistic to deformed. Then there's her sweet personality. It was Tokiwata who brought the three of us together, and I am eternally grateful to her for that.
Sakusya2: Following Tokiwata's example, I've been making an effort to connect with people myself lately. Besides, it goes without saying that her art is great. Since she seems to often practice by copying, I think I should follow her example in that regard as well.
── Last but not least, what do you like about Sakusya2?
Tokiwata: Like Hamunezuko, I think Sakusya2 is a leader in the genre of stylish and cool illustrations that you can carry around as merch. Also, they're very particular about their characters' faces; one time we went to a coffee shop together and they pulled out just the head of an action figure and said, "I always carry a pretty face with me." I couldn't believe it...(laughs)
Hamunezuko: I was also shocked to see them carrying around the severed head of an action figure. (laughs) I was amazed at how much detail there is in Sakusya2's beautiful, perfectly balanced faces!
Sakusya2: I have a very hard time making sense of 3D objects, so I have to rely on my figures when I draw. (laughs) I don't carry that head around anymore, I swear!
What kind of input does it take to keep up with youthful trends?
── I'm sure you all work with apparel brands, and you all share the common theme of being "popular among young people". What kind of input does it take to create trendy illustrations?
Tokiwata: When I hang out with Hamunezuko, she always comments on items lined up in stores and the fashions of people on the street. I was surprised at how much information she gathers from the scenery in front of her! Since then, I try to observe my surroundings as well. Once I was walking with Sakusya2, and they noticed that someone's bag was the same color as their bike. I think we're all very observant.
Sakusya2: I live in the countryside, so stylish people catch my eye. (laughs)
Hamunezuko: I often draw pictures based on my current favorites or things I happen to see on the street because there are too many things on the Internet to narrow down the search.
Tokiwata: Speaking of the Internet, I often use Pinterest.
Sakusya2: I'm also a big fan of Pinterest.
── Many illustrators seem to be using Pinterest nowadays. What sets it apart from other image-sharing services, like Instagram?
Sakusya2: Pinterest has a great recommendation feature, so it keeps suggesting a lot of great stuff. By comparison, the information you can get from Instagram is a bit of a mixed bag, but at the same time, it does a better job of keeping up with the times. If I want to find out what's trending, I tend to go to Instagram.
Tokiwata: Yeah, Pinterest might be a step behind when it comes to current trends. Middle and high school girls change the thickness of their bangs pretty much every season nowadays. When I want to know what the current teen trends are, Instagram and TikTok are my go-to's.
── So you're keeping an eye on teenage trends.
Sakusya2: Yes, when drawing I like to keep up with what's going on in the world as much as possible.
Hamunezuko: I'm doing what I can to keep up with trends and portray modern, realistic girls. And rather than incorporating trends into my work, my goal is to portray girls who try their best to follow the trends.
Practice is a ten-year savings plan
── Tokiwata, it came up earlier that you practice by copying. Is that something you've always done?
── Sakusya2, Hamunezuko, do you also practice by copying other people's work?
Sakusya2: Yes. When I first started drawing I would only copy characters' faces, but now I've begun to replicate entire figures, which has helped me analyze every aspect of a drawing, down to the use of color. It's like I'm slowly evolving, and I'd like to start working on backgrounds next year. (laughs)
Hamunezuko: I take a lot of photographs, both of people and backgrounds. It's easier for me to draw from photos than from three-dimensional references. Even for a single pose, I take a lot of pictures from different angles. Aside from copying, I practice by doing quick sketches and I'm also going over perspective.
── There's no escaping practice, not even when you're a seasoned illustrator!
Tokiwata: It's hard to find a balance between practice and work.
Sakusya2: While I'd like to practice a lot more, I wouldn't be able to post my drawings online if all I do is copy the works of others. I want to post my work consistently since the attention I get on social media leads to more jobs. On the other hand, I'm aware that putting in the time and effort to practice is crucial to keep getting jobs down the line.
Tokiwata: Practice is a ten-year savings plan.
Use everything you can! The tricks of expert creators
── Do you have any useful time-saving tips and tricks that help you in your work?
── It must be pretty common for artists to have a lot of selfies on their phones to use as references.
Sakusya2: I'm so afraid of people looking at my phone that I've had nightmares of my selfies being leaked online. (laughs)
Tokiwata: Once I accidentally sent one of my selfies to a LINE group! Luckily, it was a group of people in my same industry, so they all figured out what had happened. (laughs) While you should always be mindful of copyright and other laws, I think it's better to make use of whatever you can, whether it's tracing materials or selfies. There's nothing wrong with working with a variety of materials; in fact, it's quite admirable. In addition to using selfies, I buy actual items of the things I draw. Sakusya2, you also mentioned that you do the same.
Sakusya2: Yes. I recently bought a kimono for reference. At a thrift store. It's hard to understand the structure of a kimono from a picture, so I wanted to get a good look at the real thing.
── A photobash?
Tokiwata: Once you've mastered the tools, you'll be able to increase your productivity and improve the quality of your work.
Sakusya2: I use a lot of 3D materials. I think everyone should set aside any unnecessary pride and just go for it, trying just about everything.
The reasoning and the fun behind idea exchanges with other artists
── Illustration can very well be a solo activity. What’s the point of collaborating with other artists, for example by publishing an anthology?
Tokiwata: When you draw by yourself, you may get stuck on a particular problem, possibly for years. But talking to other illustrators can help you find the answer in simple conversation: "I see, so this is how I should have drawn it!"
Hamunezuko: We get a lot of inspiration just by talking to each other. Plus, to put it simply, it's fun!
Tokiwata: I'm not a great communicator, and I prefer not to leave the house if at all possible. Even so, there's a certain sense of security and other benefits that come from interacting with others.
Sakusya2: Some people say that creators don't need friends and that making friends is just a distraction, but I don't think that's true. Although, if I hadn't met you two, I probably would've thought that I didn't need friends, either. But now that I'm interacting with illustrators other than myself, including No Longer Human, I realize that having someone by my side can take me to places I could never go alone. Humans have always lived in communities, and like other animals, we have it easier when we're in a herd. (laughs)
A joint exhibition that will put you in a student's frame of mind
── Tell us about your joint exhibition, No Longer Human.
Sakusya2: You should definitely try out the gacha machines! Poor guys, we had them make eight. (laughs) We tried to keep the original merch's prices affordable for young people as well.
Tokiwata: We hope visitors will enjoy mix and matching the items, such as the see-through sacoche and acrylic key holders.
── What are your future plans as an illustrator unit?
Tokiwata: I'd like to do so many things together! Please continue to work with me.
Sakusya2: Whenever I get a job offer, I always suggest that the three of us work on it together. That's also how this exhibition came about.
Hamunezuko: I'm so grateful for that! I'm hoping that in the future, we'll be able to announce something else as No Longer Human.
Sakusya2, Tokiwata, and Hamunezuko's joint exhibition, No Longer Human, is open through Thursday, February 23rd!
pixiv WAEN GALLERY by TWINPLANET × pixiv, a gallery jointly operated by pixiv and Twin Planet, is currently holding Sakusya2, Tokiwata, and Hamunezuko's joint exhibition, No Longer Human, through Thursday, February 23rd!
This show takes a unique approach to the concept of a "joint exhibition," allowing you to appreciate the individuality of the three illustrators. In addition to enjoying the art display, you can also have fun with gacha machines and try to get original merchandise. We look forward to seeing you there!
Dates: Friday, February 3rd to Thursday, February 23rd, 2023
Days closed: None
Address: Tokyo, Shibuya City, Jingumae, 5 Chome-46-1 TWIN PLANET South BLDG. 1F
Hours: 12:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m.
＞＞pixiv WAEN GALLERY Official Website＜＜
Joint exhibition commemorative talk show @ pixiv WAEN GALLERY
We're also holding a talk show with Sakusya2, Tokiwata, and Hamunezuko.
Date: Thursday, February 23rd, 2023 2:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m.
Location: pixiv WAEN GALLERY
Number of participants: 50
*To attend the talk show, you must purchase a Limited Talk Show Ticket (【数量限定_通販のみ】トークショー参加券付きチケット風カード) in advance on BOOTH.
*The number of tickets is limited. Please understand that they may sell out.
For more information on taking part in the event, please visit the official gallery page.
Merchandise is also available online!
Some of the exhibition merchandise will be available on BOOTH. Check out the adorable stationery and many other great value items on sale!