A meeting of designers
A discussion meeting on Live T-shirts
It is not enough to just talk about how amazing are Babymetal’s songs and performance! The other thing to consider is their Live performance T-shirts. We can not by any means think that there are just a few fans who find great fascination with the unique and excellent designs and incredible variation in their T-shirts. Considering this, lets have a discussion amongst 4 of the designers of these Live T-shirts and look at the history of the official Babymetal T-shirts.
Lets start with the #1 Tee, the memorial official Tee.
This was when the split single with Kiba of Akiba came out and was used as a special present. It was made as a special present. At that time there were so many unknown factors involved that I went with the ‘Doki Doki Morning’ MV as a source of reference and based the image on Kitsune-sama. I am pretty sure that only about 100 shirts were printed. And so I have personally never come across anyone wearing it (laughs).
Wow, so it is a rare item indeed. And then with the Tee designed by KagaMI-san (No. 5) we see a bit of an homage taking place.
Yes, that is true. This logo is an homage to Behemoth (A Polish Black Metal band). I thought we should pursue a ‘Goddess’ motif. In the #6 Tee we went with a Joan of Arc motif, and it reflects an image of armor. By the way, this is something we used in the Seitansai for Su-metal.
That was used in the Akasaka Blitz show, right? That was I am quite sure, the first time I saw Babymetal perform live. And that is when my thinking about them changed. What I mean is, is that I realized they are for real (laughs).
In other words, up to that point you had a bit of a bias against them, right?
Yes, I did (laughs) In the #4 Tee we used an artist photo and from Kobametal we were told that he wanted to ‘use red lettering on the back’. And so I used Pantera lettering. It was like, ‘Hey, do what you want as I am sure this will just be a one time thing’ (laughs)
So, at that time you had no idea that it would lead to such a deep relationship?
I had absolutely no idea it would. But, when I saw them live for the first time I immediately loved them. (laughs)
It was the same for me. The first time I received an offer I was a bit perplexed at what to do. What I mean by that is that I specialize in Death Metal and so I assumed this was some kind of mistaken understanding. I had no way to reconcile the idea of blood oozing out of the intestines of a dead body with the world of Idols (laughs) But after thinking about it for a couple of days I thought, ‘there must be some purpose behind this’ and so I drew out a design. And then I was met with a command, I guess because the face was to scary or something, saying, ‘we want you change the face in the design’. So, changing it carefully and in detail which resulted in the Tee shown in #7.
Hahaha. After designing my first Tee for them that we mentioned earlier, I became a huge fan of the girls. I was of course buying the T-shirts that you all designed and was went to their afternoon and night first solo shows. And since I was watching Babymetal as one of their very first fans in this manner I was so very happy when I got an e-mail asking me to design one of their Tees. By the way, in addition to the collage-ish shirt (#9), I also submitted a one that depicted the 3 girls. In the end the collage-ish Tee was selected but the one that depicted the members later tied into a design that was used after that.
That is true. I get the strong image that Yutty-san’s designs incorporate the 3 girls.
The first one that was accepted that used an illustration of the 3 girls was the #14 T-shirt. And for your information, this was at a time when ‘Onedari Daisakusen’ was not yet in recorded song form.
But because I was lucky enough to go to many live shows and knew the lyrics well enough I was able to cross out ‘Papa’ and introduce ‘Money’ into the design.
And then with KagaMI-san’s works we see that you have taken the armor to a further level.
That is right. At that time the three girls were all wearing armor and were even wearing masks. Further said, when I was watching their live performances I started to feel that they wanted to go on to show a more mysterious or you could say a more solemn image.
That is amazing. In my case, I think I was lacking in an ability to understand what it was all about and so I would just make designs faithfully to what Kobametal-san asked of me. So, from #17 I was all out parody. And from around this time Babymetal was performing at Festivals all over the place. At Summer Sonic at that time they played when Metallica was also appearing and so I asked Kobametal-san, ‘Is this kind of design alright?’. To which he responded with, ‘Sure, lets go with it’ (laughs). I heard a story that at that show one of the staff members of Metallica saw one of the Tees worn by a staff of the Catering service and asked if she could get one to take home as a souvenir for her daughter. Hearing that I thought the design would prove to be a hit (laughs).
The design #22 has no relation to Metal but it is a design that really grabs you.
Me, too. I really wanted this Tee.
Oh, thank you. You know, we do these designs working with the three girls, right? Speaking frankly, I must say that I realized I could not get far with straight, out and out Metal designs and so went with the Parody approach. But, along the way I kind of ran out of ideas (laughs). And ironically that was when the demand for designs started to increase in pace. It was like, ‘Eh, you want another one!?’. Since we are doing out best to make the Tees I certainly hope they will sell a bit more (laughs). Even without considering all that, the standards for the work connected with Babymetal are so high that it is really quite a difficult task to be continually asked to come up with new designs one after the other.
That is so true. It was right around that time that the number of live shows suddenly began to increase and the size of the venues also grew in size. And once a Tee sells out you are on to the next one. For me around the time of the Loud Park #18 Tee I was really at a loss as how to proceed. I came up with the idea of a Maria Motif depicted as a Zombie Kitsune (#21) which turned out to overlap with designs by KagaMI-san and so I started thinking, ‘It might be best for me to turn over what I can do and entrust my work to KagaMI-san’.
Ah, no, no, that’s silly!
We were all having a tough time of it around then.
But because of all the trial and error processes of that time I began to be able somewhat to understand how to adjust to the speed and pace of the process a bit. What I came up with at that time was the color Tee #31. All of this worry and thinking led me to understand that, ‘Not all of the designs have to be directly related to Babymetal at all.
In my case when I am designing Death Metal Tees as is my usual work, I do not take into consideration the feel of the band just as it is. So, for me I didn’t forcibly try to design things as Babymetal designs per se. When I realized that I could do things that way I felt a weight taken from my shoulders. And here is the Alien design, I believe. With this Tee, #40, I gradually began to comprehend what Kobametal-san was asking for and so I worked for designs that are not too grotesque and at the same time not too ‘Idol-ish’; in other words, designs that can only be called ‘Babymetal’. In that meaning of things, I feel I was able to put together a grand collection of similar designs.
So instead of trying to get close in to an image that lines up with Babymetal, you are actually able to find the answer to your designs by rather kind of ignoring the Babymetal concept. On the other hand in Yutty-san’s case it seems you have established your own individual style where you work more on depicting the cuteness of the three girls.
That is right. Of the designs I created probably the most popular is the Gimme Choco #33 Tee, I would guess. I have even heard that some people have liked it so much that they have gotten tattoos
There are even some Idols who wear it, right?
Yes, that’s so. I understand that one of the members of AKB was wearing it. Also, around this time they were putting on shows that were limited to only female fans. And so I felt that it was my role to create a design that even young women who previously had no interest in Idols would be interested in wearing.
When you look carefully at Yutty’s designs there are all kinds of Kawaii things to discover. Upon realizing that I have recently started trying to incorporate that approach into my designs as well. For example, if you look at the back-side of #59 you can see really little footprints in the design.
That is really cute. That is something I could never do (laughs). It does seem that it was around the 2014 time period that our respective roles kind of got allocated amongst us. Even though we had not ever met in person (laughs).
I am quite sure that it was around that time that I felt I was starting to get a grasp on what I should be doing. In particular, I personally really like this BudouKan #25 Tee. From way back I have done a lot of skeleton designs. And so I was really happy to be able to draw these skulls for Babymetal.
Further, this 2015 World Tour Tee #46 was also a piece that brought about a major change in my thinking.
It was around this time that the designs that featured human or human-like illustrations that had been used up until then almost totally disappear from the Tees.
That is right. But, that said, these are also of course depicted based on the image of the girls. However, these designs stopped being fictional, made-up characters like those of angels or goddesses.
From 2014 and after, Fukushima-san, you, started to incorporate a Kitsune Motif into your parody style that we were talking about earlier.
Hmmm, in my case I really don’t have an established style of my own (laughs). Kobametal-san told me that at the upcoming Festival so and so would be appearing. When I heard that I thought, ‘Alright, that is what I will go with!’. It was in a manner similar with when I came up with the Big Fox #34 Tee based on the Big 4 of the Metal world (The so-called ‘Slash Metal Big 4’). It was a kind of devilish, trickster-like thing to do, putting it briefly.
Also, it was around this time that a good number of T-shirts sold first at overseas’ venues started to come into existence.
This Alien #31 Tee was a prime example of one of the Tees that was sold first overseas. Additionally, this T-shirt was actually supposed to be of the same color as this one, #35, but for some reason the color came out totally different. Now, this is only my own personal hunch about it, but I think that it may be possible that the plant that printed it was different from the previous one.
I can relate with that! I am pretty sure that the Alien Tee #35 was was sold as an overseas first release Tee just at about the same time as the Gimme Choco Tee. And there were occasions with the Gimme Choco Tee as well where it was like, ‘Eh, what is up with this color?!’.
In other words, the Tees with the more mellow color where printed overseas?
Most likely that is the case. So, when you see someone wearing a Gimme Choco Tee with a slightly mellow coloring to it you can say to yourself, ‘Ah, that person probably bought that overseas’. (laughs)
Speaking of overseas issues, now that Babymetal has become more well known around the world we have seen the appearance of some designs coming out that are not so good. An example of this would be up-side down crosses and things like that.
When I attempted to put a Rising Sun in the #38 Tee, I was told not to. By the way, there are a whole bunch of different people depicted in the design. And….one of them is actually me.
Whoa! There you are! Fukushima-san, you are engraved in the halls of the Legends of Metal. (laughs)
This design is based on a scroll of the Sengoku (Warring states) era that I found in a library. Let me tell you, it was a really tough task (laughs). But, when you work on these designs there is somewhere within the feeling that one just can not slacken up on the quality of the work. Now that Babymetal has become so big there are a variety of things that one must of course be careful of. But even considering that, I don’t want to become afraid of doing something that is considered taboo and so I will continue to experiment with various ideas in the future as well.
You mean you want to continue to push the envelope?
Hmmm..yes, you could say that. Kobametal-san is extremely steadfast in his resolution to face those kinds of issues.
I am also now completely free of so many biases and I now am able to carry out my work with Babymetal and Death Metal bands with the same state of mind. So, I want to plow ahead into more and more new realms along with the other designers.
Yes, I guess that means that we have all come to truly love Babymetal. (laughs)
[Spanning the pages of the interview, compiled here in a list]
A list of the shirts
The Kiba of Akiba Tee
The Moshusshu Tee
Mekuro Rokumeikan ‘Legend ~ Corset Festival Tee
Babymetal Death Tee
[I,D,Z ~ Legend ‘I’] Memorial Tee
[Legend ‘D’ Su-metal Seitansai <Birthday>] memorial Tee
Colorful Kitsune Tee
[I,D,Z ~ Legend ‘Z’] memorial Tee
March revolution Tee
[Legend ‘1999’ Yuimetal & Moametal Seitansai] memorial Tee
Black Babymetal Tee
[Legend Kitsune Festival] Memorial Tee (white)
[Legend Kitsune Festival] Memorial Tee (red)
2013 Summer Fes Tee
[Loud Park 13] Memorial Tee
Red Moon Tee
Red Moon Apocalypse Web Limited edition Tee
Fox Sign Tee
[Legend 71997′ Su-metal Seitansai] Memorial Tee
[Legend ‘1997’ Su-metal Seitansai] Memorial Apocalypse Limited edition Tee
[Legend ‘Red Night-Black Night-Black BudouKan] Memorial Tee
Babymetal ‘Summoning’ Tee
[Legend ‘Giant Corset Festival’ BudouKan Memorial] Tee
[Brutal Kitsune-sama BudouKan] Memorial Tee
Coming of the Doomsday Tee
Apocalypse The One Tee
[World Tour 2014] London show Live Viewing Tee
[Apocrypha-Y&M Memorial] Tee
Gimme Chocolate!! Tee
The Big Fox Tee
Metal Alien Tee
[Su-metal Seitansai] Memorial Tee
The One Tee
Sengoku WOD Tee
New Spring/Year Kitsune-sama Festival Tee
Kitsune-sama 2015 Tee
Hand wrung Kitsune Tee
The Black Mass Tee
The Red Mass Tee
New World Tour 2015 Tee
The Dark Knights Tee
Metal God Tee
The Dark Knights LV version Tee
Only The Fox God Knows Tee
The Red Mass-2 Tee
The Black Mass 2 Tee
Reading and Leeds Festivals 2015 Tee
The Land of Rising Sun tour Tee
Mad Fox Tee
Merry Baby Christmas 2015 Tee
The Land of the Rising Sun tour Completed Tee
Wembley Arena Tee
Wembley Arena Tee
The One Limited Edition Event Tee