While attending G-Fest, an annual convention dedicated to Kaiju films and franchises such as: Godzilla, Gamera, Mothra and much more. I had an outstanding opportunity to speak to the talented, inspirational illustrator, Yuji Kaida. Yuji Kaida is responsible for much of the artwork you see on Kaiju film covers and posters, most notably for his Godzilla cover art. But he did not only focus on Kaiju art, but did art for various types of media, his work is well-recognized in numerous geek culture communities. Kaida has many well-known art pieces in the anime community as well, Macross, Gundam, and Patlabor are just a few of the many titles to name. Some of his lesser known but still beyond incredible work would include his cover illustrations for Sega such as the popular title “Ghouls ‘N Ghosts” for the Sega Genesis. With Yuji Kaida’s extensive history of his illustrations, for so many celebrated and beloved titles, being an artist myself, of course I had so many questions to ask.
What is your preferred art medium if that opportunity is available?
Yuji Kaida: “I’ve been doing art for 40 years now. For the first 20 years I used acrylic, currently and the last 20 years I have done digital art.”
Was there any piece that was more difficult than you had anticipated?
Yuji Kaida: “I never viewed anything as simple, I thought of everything as difficult and most of the things that I had done were difficult. Though it was difficult I did enjoy it! For example, King Ghidorah was a large Kaiju with three heads. I said “This will be really difficult” and yes, it was very difficult. *laughs* ”
Do you have a preference on what media illustrations you have done? Do you prefer one over the other?
Yuji Kaida: “If you give me a project, I’ll do it. I don’t care what it is, I’ll do it.”
What had gotten you interested in doing illustrations?
Yuji Kaida: “Of course, watching the first kaiju movie. When the first Godzilla movie was coming out I was a child. I was inspired by the illustrations in magazines and books I would look at. Then when I finally saw that kaiju movie and it excited me. It wasn’t like I decided to become an artist but I started drawing and people started recognizing it. So I began making money from it. But I just liked doing it not necessarily thinking of making money. Then all of a sudden I became a famous artist.”
As a child did you draw often or do some sort of art form?
Yuji Kaida: “As a child, I did draw a lot, anything that was white I wanted to draw on. I had a younger sister who I would always show my art too. She would always critique me and say “Oh this was really cool or that’s not so good.” and I kept drawing to get better. So I started improving from that experience. So I would either find something white or just show my sister. I also graduated from the art school, Kyoto City University of Arts. But even though I graduated from an art school, my experiences from drawing myself really helped me understand more than my research or my studies. Just by doing it myself has made me improve not necessarily the going to an art school.”
What is you creative process when doing an illustration?
Yuji Kaida: “Simply, I just start to sketch. But more than that sometimes, I talk to the client about what they want and I start sketching a little of what they want. Then understanding what the client wants but then after understanding what exactly they are looking for, I try to create something more. Even better, so I give it my all and more. Giving over one hundred twenty percent of what the client wanted and more to surpass their expectations. But since I’ve done it for so long now, I kind of understand and get an idea of what they are actually looking for as they speak the first time.”
Yuji Kaida was such a knowledgeable, humble artist and he has a lot of fantastic advice for artists of all types. Beginners or experts, all alike have something to take from Kaida’s words, especially since nowadays doing art can possibly be blurred by profiting and fame. But the lesson to really take from this interview is to stay true to your art form and accept all of your opportunities. But special thanks to Robert Scott Field for translating and being the interpreter for this interview. He was also a huge inspiration to me and many in the kaiju community but due to time restraints I was only able to interview Yuji Kaida. Regardless, I am beyond grateful I was able to have this opportunity and to be in the presence of these creators who have influenced many.