"Range Murata is an experienced doujinshi and professionally published artist whose work has also been featured in a variety of magazines, video games, and anime series. His style is immediately recognizable by his characters’ frequently elaborate clothing and their soft and colorfully emotional appearance. Murata also designs a number of "fa" ["fashion and anime"] clothing designs and accessories which are sold through GoFa." – Long Range Bullet
, a site dedicated to the man himself.
Or simply, Range Murata was the major force behind the concept, designs and mechanics of Last Exile. That alone is enough to make him a WINNER, but he has also other great works to his name. Remember Blue Submarine 6? Character designs are by him too.
Blue Submarine 6
Wikipedia says, "[Range Murata] is known for his unique style combining Art Deco and Japanese anime elements."
I don’t know what is Art Deco but I sure know my Japanese anime.
Wikipedia, "Art Deco is characterized by use of materials such as aluminum, stainless steel, lacquer, inlaid wood, sharkskin (shagreen), and zebraskin. The bold use of zigzag and stepped forms, and sweeping curves (unlike the sinuous curves of the Art nouveau), chevron patterns, and the sunburst motif. Some of these motifs were ubiquitous — for example the sunburst motif was used in such varied contexts as a lady’s shoe, a radiator grille, the auditorium of the Radio City Music Hall and the spire of the Chrysler Building."
Some examples of Range Murata’s art and designs.
The vanship design is pure genius. With elements of WW1 fighters and taking into account the technological style and limitations of the LE world, this simple yet classy design is THE most unique and beautiful "mecha" I’ve seen. No cheesy bionic armour like Zegapain, no impractical humanoid limbs, no bright and gaudy blue, red and white colours. It’s the epitome of functional form. The amazingly detailed scratches, scars and dents add realism, unlike the silly Gundams.
Murata has an extremely distinguishable style that’ll make anyone go "HEY this is by Range Murata!" in 2.37 nanoseconds. For me, there are three elements which are totally unique in his style. The first is of course the detailed metallic accessories.headgear and outrageously elaborate fashion. The second is the emo-moe (not a typo) facial expression a lot of his female characters have. The third is the hair. Most of the Murata characters have brown hair, with either twin-tails or short fringes.
Less obvious stuff to look out for are the presence of lot of small buttons, zippers and other fastening devices, skin-tight latex/leather outfits, dull colours and lines/stripes. Plenty of stripes all over the place.
Metal accessories? Emo-moe? Twin tails? Short fringe? Yeah.
Stripes, zippers and fancy headgear.
Murata is also helming the production of the ROBOT colour manga series, which is a collection of various artists’ works in full colour. I’ve seen a bit of these and there are five books out. Pity I cannot afford it right now. His firm, PSE, also designs toys and figurines, all designed in his style of course. See my review on Pinup.
In an interview with Cosplay Lab
back in 2004, Range revealed his origins and influences. He said, "I used to be a simple illustrator doing magazine cover art and one day I was contacted to do character designs for an anime. Back when I was studying product/industrial design in college, I created things like watches and office products. So when I started to do character designs, I used a similar approach. I start by setting up a role for each character, then draw the character to fit that role. In the real world, everyone laughs in their own way, so I try to design my characters so that, just by looking at them, you can tell that they laugh and act differently."
On working with GONZO, "When I was originally contacted by Gonzo to do artwork, they requested that I draw however I want and not try to limit myself. I didn’t really consider the computer graphic aspect while working on the designs. Some of my designs were very difficult to animate, but the CG artists still managed to work with my designs and I think the results are very well done.
Prior to 2002, I used paper and markers, but when I started work on Last Exile, I had to employ the computer, so I used Photoshop for the bulk of my illustration work."
Explaining why and how he made his designs for Last Exile and Blue Submarine 6, Murata said, "The departure point for the designs is the critical difference in creating the animation. When regular animators begin their career, they draw the same art over and over for cels to make animation before they can advance to character designs. They decrease the number of lines to make the characters easier to animate. They may draw silhouettes that don’t look very good as a still image, but look really good when animated. That is their particular style. I started out as an illustrator and when Gonzo recruited me, they said they didn’t care how hard it was to animate, just to do what I wanted and they’d animate it for me. So I really did design what I wanted to.
I always wondered, "Why do anime characters have such big buttons? Why are the creases in their clothes so deep?" Things like that. And when I designed the characters for Last Exile, I tried to have them wear clothes that could exist in real life. With some knowledge of how clothing design works, I tried to draw in the kind of material that would have been used in creating their clothes and try to represent the stitches connecting the fabric. I always try to represent that in my artwork. After I designed the characters, the animators color it and animate it, so some of the three-dimensional aspect of the characters is lost, and that is the departure point.
The Guild in the Last Exile are from the future, so when I was designing their outfits, I added a more structured and artificial element. It goes back to what their role in the world is, so I keep that in mind throughout the entire process."
Range Murata based a lot of the Last Exile world on his knowledge of antiques. "I have these 1:43 scale model cars that are precise to every detail and there was only a limited number of them ever made and I really like those. I also have antique cameras and antique electronic equipment like phones and radios from long ago that I really like. With Last Exile we originally set the world far in the future, but then somehow we kept pushing it back further into the past until around the 1910-1920 era. From my antiques, I had a good knowledge of what the world was like at this point in time and what science could do, and the types and strength of materials they used that affects how everything is designed in the world. This led to my designs of the vanships.
Production was going in parallel with the script writing. My background knowledge created the economic standard of that world. That in turn affected the kind of products I designed. I considered whether the people of that world had discovered streamlining in their aerodynamic designs. I also wanted the smallest objects within that world, such as goggles, to reflect their available technology."
And the man himself speaks of the shitty pay in the industry
. "I’m an illustrator that does contract work with animation houses. Compared to the amount of work that I put into Last Exile, the pay wasn’t that terribly high. One thing that I can say about working in the animation industry, it’s a very fun line of work. A lot of people are proud of the work they do, and it’s the pride that keeps them going."
- Name: 村田蓮爾
- Alias: Range Murata (pronounced Renji)
- Date of Birth: October 2 1968
- Place of Birth: Osaka
- Major: Product/Industrial Design
- Company: Pastel’s Estab (PSE), his own design firm.
He is currently working on GONZO’s 15th Anniversary project, which I’m looking greatly forward to, Mardock Scramble. For a list of his works so far, see Murata Renji no Kirichishiki (Basic Knowledge of Murata Renji, a Japanese site.)