For those who have taken a look at our recent article Four Ways For Fantastic Figure Photos With Just a Smartphone!, featuring Goblin Slayer‘s Cow Girl and High Elf Archer, did it come in handy? We sat down with Mr. Takamatsu, the man behind these two figures, from Phat!‘s planning department. In this article, he shares the development of the Goblin Slayer figures as well as his own feelings towards figures.
Entering the Unfamiliar World of Figures
TOM: Could you tell us about your career up to now, and the figures and items you’re in the process of creating?
Takamatsu: The reason I got into the figure business was that when I left my previous job, Takenouchi, an old friend who works at Phat!, took me in… That’s pretty much how it happened.
TOM: Was your previous job also in the figure business?
Takamatsu: It was completely unrelated.
TOM: Please tell us how you got to know Mr. Takenouchi.
Takamatsu: The job before my previous one was at a studio that did voice recording for games and so on, and back then I did some recording work with Takenouchi, who’d been working at a different company for drama CDs and such. I’d been going to events like Wonder Festival taking photos and making figure reports as a hobby so I’ve always been interested in figures.
Takenouchi told me, “If you’re into figures then how about we work together?” It was 2011 then. I quit my previous job in 2010, and after the earthquake (the Great East Japan Earthquake of March 11, 2011), I joined Phat!.
TOM: Since joining in 2011, what kind of work have you been involved in?
Takamatsu: When I first joined, it was mainly minor duties like managing the overall schedule. I didn’t have any experience with the figure business, so first I had to start by understanding the industry and work.
TOM: What kind of projects did you take on after that?
Takamatsu: To be honest, I didn’t really have any particular ambitions to get involved in projects. I thought that those who could should just do it. Then they told me to do it for the experience as a part of my job. They said that managing products as an assistant, whether you’re doing the work yourself or not, makes your understanding different, so I gave it a try.
That began my work in product planning, and before I knew it, it became my main job. It’s not as if I was swept away, but I started to think I was capable of it and went on to explore my strengths. Of course, back then I had no idea what I was meant to do, so a lot of people taught me step by step.
My work includes proposing projects and preparing schedules to make the projects realities.
So rather than aspiring to be a project planner, you just naturally ended up with the position?
Takamatsu: Yes. To be honest, there were a lot of things that I wanted, so rather than thinking “I can/can’t do this”, I just tried to make things I wanted. It might have also partly been because working in projects would be the fastest way to make my “wants” realities.
TOM: About how many projects have you completed so far?
Takamatsu: Hmm… From scale figures to chibis, I’ve probably put out about 100 altogether.
Takamatsu: Depending on the item, though. Trading figures have 8 or so in a lineup, so the numbers may be a little vague but I think I’ve planned about 100 separate projects. Considering I got into projects slowly and gradually, I still can’t believe it myself (laughs). I guess it’s about 10 to 15 projects a year. Some items are produced right away and some take more time, so we’re always going at a pace of about 10 projects.
TOM: With Phat! we get the impression that you take the original works very seriously.
Takamatsu: We don’t want to think “we’ve finished this, it’s over” with an individual work.
TOM: So ideally you spend a long time on one franchise?
Takamatsu: That’s right. We’d like that as much as possible. It’s a bit sad with just a one-off.
TOM: How many years have you been with the company?
Takamatsu: As of September last year it’s been 11 years, so now it’s the 12th year.
Takamatsu: Actually, the reason was us being commissioned to produce figmas. Then President Aki said, “How about establishing a manufacturing firm too?!”, so the result of going with that suggestion was Phat! (laughs)
On Figure Creation and One’s Own Love For Figures
TOM: Please tell us more about yourself. What aspects are you particular about in planning and creating figures?
Takamatsu: Hmm… It may not be a good business practice, but a large part of it is bringing what I like into reality. For better or for worse, I care a lot about the finer details. How should I put it? I want to think everything through exhaustively. I guess you could call it a bad habit but anyhow, I end up wanting to include a lot.
TOM: Facing what you truly love so exhaustively…
Takamatsu: The cost of that? I’ll deal with it later! That’s what it’s like (laughs).
TOM: (laughs) But ultimately, your goal is to make figures that will make customers happy. Even if you have to deal with the costs.
Takamatsu: That’s just it. I feel that if there isn’t that aspect of making what you love, it’s difficult to make something that meet people’s needs or can say they like. In any case, I make the things I like and hope that fans will also like them. That’s it – what I’m most particular about. Also, for titles that will have figures made, I try to ask sculptors who like the characters to work on them.
TOM: I hear you also consider whether the sculptor is suited to that particular work when choosing them.
Takamatsu: That’s right. I’ll often ask sculptors, “What titles are you into recently?” too.
TOM: So your planning begins with this hearing process.
Takamatsu: If the sculptor just loves the work so much and takes an interest, I’ll begin discussions (about production work). And if it passes the in-company round robin, we’ll go on with negotiations so we can bring the sculptor onboard.
TOM: You create figures by bring characters to life. Is there any particular aspect you want us to pay attention to out of all the figures you’ve worked on so far?
Takamatsu: I think this applies to all makers, but I would say the craftsmanship of the details. For instance, we particularly take special care with the parts that you can’t see in just an illustration. Parts of a character can sometimes be up to your own interpretation, so we have to consider how to not ruin the image (of the character) while satisfying customers. The sculptor’s own abilities have quite a bit of weight too, though. As long as we can agree with each other like “Should this part be like this? Yeah, like this” everything’s fine. If we don’t, we discuss it and bring our interpretations together.
On the Goblin Slayer series
TOM: Please tell us the story behind how the recently announced Goblin Slayer figures came to life.
Takamatsu: I really liked Goblin Slayer when the original work came out, and I wanted to make something from it if I got the chance. Then it was turned into an anime, and that very chance came, so I was like “Alright, I’m doing this!”
The sculptor on the project also knew about Goblin Slayer so it went smoothly. We all really just went with the flow (laughs). Oh, I know I was just talking about being particular with production, but flow and momentum are also important.
TOM: Flow and momentum.
Takamatsu: They’re pretty important. Like, don’t overthink. In regards to what you think is good, don’t overthink it and go with it. Don’t think as far as if it’ll sell or not and marketing and things like that. For that, leave it to someone who knows that stuff.
TOM: Ahh, but not necessarily to a specialist…
Takamatsu: Like “I’m an idiot, but…” (laughs). It should go to someone who’s good at that stuff. I reckon it’s more constructive for me to be bringing the things I like into reality. I generally think of projects going with the flow and momentum, and if anyone asks me about targets or profits I just say, “I don’t know the details” (laughs).
TOM: Uh oh (laughs).
Takamatsu: I just like the series (laughs). Really though, it’s probably not a good practice as a businessman.
TOM: Seems you’d get scolded for that.
Takamatsu: I’m scolded the most in this company.
TOM: (laughs) You must be getting scolded about budgets and profits.
Takamatsu: Rather than thinking of practicality, I just want to get the project moving. That instinct of “How about we do this? Wouldn’t it be cool?” Going forward like “I wish this could be released, it’d be quicker if we made it, hey, we should just make it.”
TOM: I see (laughs).
Takamatsu: Lately I sometimes do get into a mood like “The build of this part is too complicated, we should think this through…”, but at the first stage of the process I turn defiant like “Well, I don’t care (about the details).”
(When we begin a project) we start at a point where we don’t know anything, so we make use of what we don’t know. If we know it too well, there are cases where we get stopped by the thought, “This might not be possible” at the design stage. I also feel that we should use the thought, “We should bring this into reality” as a driving force to move forward. I still think so now (even having gained experience). It’s like the starting point (for furthering projects).
TOM: It may be that it’s not possible for new ideas to appear after knowing your limit.
Takamatsu: I think that momentum is a necessary thing. Consider the cost of this High Elf Archer, it has a lot of parts. If I think carefully about it I might hold myself back… In that case, I’d rather stay an idiot.
TOM: Yes, it may be better to just bring it out without thinking about money and adjust it later. I feel that if you’re going on about the money, you won’t be able to make anything good any more.
Takamatsu: That’s right. Of course, if the structure is simple the costs will go down. But after cutting costs, it’s like, who are you making this figure for? Who would want this figure? So that’s not good either.
We have to make something that someone would want, and if it’s not something about which I could think “Wow”, just who else would think so too? Like “Hey isn’t this awesome! It really is!” It’s a bit arrogant… But I think it’s better to think that way.
Well, I ask them (sculptors, etc.) to do things, like “I want something like this”, “Please make this!”, so I’m the one doing the least work (laughs). I get the people around me to do it, so it’s pretty much like I’m the most useless one (laughs).
Takamatsu: I’m straying from the subject, but I also do projects for merch. There are a lot of merch around now, so I’m aiming for something different in a way that other makers aren’t. Like, is there a demand for this? But personally I find it interesting so I want to try making merch for that.
For events like live concerts in particular, customers’ expectations for merchandise are high. At such times, items with high unit costs actually sell well. The customers’ demands and ideas are aligned.
If you think of costs from the beginning, it’s hard to release a product. You don’t know what will succeed, so if you look at surpluses and costs from the beginning, you won’t be able to think of anything for sure.
TOM: You won’t be able to do anything at all.
Takamatsu: You don’t know what will definitely sell, and you just have to do the best you can do right now. In regards to products whose use you don’t know, I ask anyone who buys to think of how to use them! (laughs)
Do what you can do yourself, and leave what you can’t to others. It’s simply an issue of your own domain. It’d be nice to be an all-rounder who can do everything, but I’m still far off from that…
Cow Girl and High Elf Archer
TOM: What was your intention behind choosing Cow Girl as the first character to pick up?
Takamatsu: Hmm… Because she was my favorite…
Takamatsu: Sorry for it being a reason like that, all you fans out there (laughs)
TOM: Thinking about it from the protagonist’s point of view, she’s in a heroine-like position.
Takamatsu: That’s true as well. Since before the anime, I thought she’d be a huge highlight of the final stage for sure. And she’s also a character who can’t be separated from the protagonist, Goblin Slayer.
TOM: Could you tell us what you were particular about with Cow Girl and High Elf Archer?
Takamatsu: I’ll start with Cow Girl. Nothing’s more important to a figure than its face, so that. I also paid attention to the feel and texture of her outfit’s material.
TOM: Were there any creases you were particular about?
Takamatsu: In order to emphasise the style, we made sure to give it a sense of liveliness. People who can properly create moulds like this are really amazing.
This outfit with dirt still on it still expresses sexiness. The person in charge of coloring also likes Goblin Slayer, so the colors all look gorgeous too. It goes for the sculptors as well, but I hope to be able to ask someone who likes the series for coloring work.
TOM: Next up, High Elf Archer please.
Takamatsu: This character has so much going on, its highlights is dynamic shaping like the hood and bow. And like Cow Girl, her expression turned out really well. The person who put in the green in her eyelashes is also amazing. I feel that we really need to give it our everything producing it so that the high quality of this color sample is properly reflected in the final product.
Takamatsu: Considering the original image, we made her hair with clear parts.
Takamatsu: By the way, the knives on her sides are obsidian in the story. So, I got them to bring out the texture of obsidian. It’s very smooth. You almost can’t see it though. I hope somebody notices (laughs).
But it’s the things like this that are important. Even if nobody notices, that’s fine. Oh, and her shorts were also made into an exquisite shape.
TOM: Lastly, could you give Phat!‘s overseas fans a message?
Takamatsu: Many talented people, such as our own members including sculptors and finishers, are involved in the products that Phat! releases so I’d like for you to really experience how great they are.
Also, I hope that you’ll be able to relate to what I like. I’ll continue to do what I can to convey this. We hope you support us in the future too.
TOM: Thank you for today’s interview.