Illustrator and character artist Sano Toshihide has been a force in the eroge world for almost a decade, towering over the industry from his frosty palace in the Hokkaido tundra like some lofty northern king of yore. He has seldom deigned mere mortals elsewhere in Japan with his presence, and while I’ve been partial to his work for years I’ve never taken the close look at his portfolio that it so richly deserves. That changes today in this, our next installment of
stalk an artist the Creator Spotlight!
also known as: Sanu さぬ
Translated loosely from his Wikipedia article: Sano Toshihide was born on April 20th (year unknown) on Japan’s northern island of Hokkaido. After studying fine arts in primary school he attended design college, and was subsequently drafted into eroge company Tech Arts, Inc. He was elevated to the position of primary character designer with the company following the abrupt resignation of Hazawa Takeshi in 1998, helming the production of MBS TRUSE’s (later to become MBS TRUTH) Keshouzakura.
the first game designed by Sano Toshihide, MBS TRUSE’s Keshouzakura
He formed a well-recieved partnership with scenario writer Nekoyanagi Manbo for the duration of his stay at MBS TRUTH, but was transferred from the brand in late 1999 to form Ripe, a new label that would bring his illustrative talents to the fore.
Ripe’s Private Emotion, the work that branded him as an illustrator of “older sister” characters
The release of Ripe’s Private Emotion in the fall of 2001 was his first true smash hit, cementing his reputation as a master of the onee-san (older sister) archetype. Following the release of a few more games on the Ripe label, in 2003 Tech created the G.J? brand for the purpose of propelling him to further prominence and consolidating his image as an illustrator of the onee-san type. He retains his position as lead designer there to this day.
The current G.J? game lineup, from left to right:
- 2004 – Futago no Haha Seihonnou
- 2004 – Ane to Boin
- 2006 – Tsuma to Mama to Boin
- 2007 – Anata no Shiranai Kangofu – in development
Many products derivative of Sano Toshihide-designed games have been created that he’s had varying degrees of involvement with. Primary among these are the two artbooks of his work, Ripe Koushiki Sano Toshihide Art Works released in April of 2002, and “All About G.J?” G.J? Official Fan Book released in June of 2006.
Aside from the two books above he has penned the covers for numerous game novelizations, eroanime adaptations, and manga anthologies, as well as several magazine inserts; a list of many of these can be found at Wikipedia. No PVC figures have been crafted based on his designs, though at least two resin kits have; pictures below taken from HD’s coverage of WHF Ariake 16 and Wonder Festival 2006 Winter:
The most recent incarnation of Sano’s illustrative might was announced just today in the form of the first Purichichi dakimakura, an “enhanced” hug pillow timed for release roughly in conjunction with Anata no Shiranai Kangofu later this summer; we’ll be following this item closely as details emerge.
Sano’s website has been online at its present location since at least April 9th, 2003; after an initial stream of regular diary updates and occasional image postings his activity tapered off and by 2004 updates were coming once every few months. He closed the site entirely on December 26th, 2005, only to reopen it in April of ’06 in its present incarnation (sadly without any images whatsoever). Below are thumbnails of the few site top images still floating around the ‘net:
In my opinion, Sano’s gift lies in his ability to express something subtle yet profoundly feminine in his drawings. The delicate, refined, almost wistful yet sophisticated construction of his faces, varying in tone from childlike innocence to predatory guile to mild-mannered simplicity, presents a style that transcends cuteness and manifests in a mature beauty. When combined with a keen sense of raw physicality and enough knowledge of basic anatomy to know how to depart from that knowledge effectively Sano is able to sublimate the female form into something both majestic and almost unbearably erotic. He is without a doubt one of the greatest artists in the eroge field today, and one whose future career I’ll be watching with great anticipation.