Massively popular ero-illustrator Tony has taken the unusual step of revealing his face in an interview, along with much about his past, the origins of his name and his art itself.
The photographs come by way of a recent interview, where he describes how his youthful love of drawing led him to an art-related degree and a job in the advertising industry, which in 1988 led him to Data East and a career in the video game industry.
His first game illustrations were in his words “macho black guys” for Neo Geo basketballer Dunk Dream, and then “Flying Power Disc,” “Magical Drop” and “Puzzle Bobble”:
He explains how he came by the pen name of Tony in this period:
It’s nothing really. At Data East I was at the hanami and a drunken coworker nicknamed me ‘Tony.’ My surname is Tanaka, and on TV at that time there was an artist going by the name Tony Tanaka.
Well, I was called it all the time so I got used to it.
He explains that his site, T2 ART WORKS, was an early thing for him, and also mentions that it is where he thinks most of his work derived:
It was about the time Evangelion was showing, 1995-96, that I started it I think. I left Kanako Works for domestic reasons, and as a job I could do at home I started out as a freelance illustrator.
So you finally became an illustrator. But as a freelancer, there is no guarantee of finding work, is there?
I didn’t do much business myself, but entered every single illustration contest I could find online. Thankfully, I won most of them.
Contest spamming… so what was your first commercial work?
In 1998 a Korean game company released ‘Tempest’ – a lot of people think it was adult games where I was first published, but that is not correct.
Tempest, showing off the earliest recognisable “Tony” style:
The details of his eroge career are for some inexplicable reason not delved into too much, but he does describe his favoured tools:
So what sort of environment do you prefer when illustrating?
Well, it’s almost totally digitised now. About all I do which is analogue is sign things for people. Even then I wish there was an undo function…
I feel the same way… what about your hardware and software?
A Windows PC with an LCD tablet. For line drawing I use ComicStudio, for colouring Photoshop. Lately I’m using Clip Studio too.
ComicStudio is a bit of an unusual choice, isn’t that more for manga?
Manga tools are much alike, being superbly suited to line drawing. Clip Studio is the successor, incorporating Painter, which is handy. But for game work dealing with others, Photoshop is the standard so I use that.
Photoshop is good for group work?
A lot of people use it for that. It’s necessary when doing game work, but SAI and Painter are great for making single illustrations, it’s just that when it comes to collaboratively mass producing art, they don’t hold a candle to Photoshop.
Online there has been some unkind attention directed at the artist – who is exceedingly unpopular on 2ch for some reason, and who in any case enjoys such popularity that his fringe detractors outnumber the fans of less popular artists – on a thread rather cruelly entitled “famed artist Tony so hot it’s a joke!”:
“This guy is hot?”
“What a handsome guy!”
“Standards have really slipped around here of late.”
“At least he has hair.”
“His eroge are always rubbish.”
“So ugly even the delivery health girls are going to be running…”
“His characters all have scary eyes, like those on a moth’s wing or something.”
“What is not sexy about his art!”
“All the games he is known for looked good but were awful.”
“The eroge were just bad. The Shining series is just bad.”
“All the guy’s girls look like dolls.”
“He is another of those ‘stamp’ artists who manage to produce nearly identical faces with every character.”
“His art is classic hanko stuff alright.”
“Happoubi Jin is so much better.”
“Why does all the content he is involved with turn into such failures?”
“Fault! was great!”
“Everyone rubbishes him as a ‘landmine artist’ [i.e. his games look good on the surface but turn out to be deadly], but he manages some subtle variations in expression. It’s not his fault his art is so popular it gets used to market rubbish.”
“I’m surprised he’d show his face given the sort of art he is known for.”
“I love his art. But now seeing it I’m reminded of his face…”
“As expected, Tony is a real creepy otaku Jap.”
“He does actually look like a caricatured ‘creepy Jap’ foreigners would draw.”
“He looks like a Kappa!”
“He’s just average, leave it be.”
“Did you all really imagine him as a stud like Kishida Mel?”