“Kawaii” Born from Parental Love: Illustrator ko-yu
“Kawaii” is Universal!!
“Kawaii” is a Japanese word that has become recognized around the world. It’s typically translated as “cute,” but unlike the English word, which is often associated with childish and or youthful things, “kawaii” encompasses a lot of different meanings and uses, which might be why it has become so popular on an international scale.
Haruyu (Original illustration)
Drawing Cute Clothes because You Like Cute Clothes
Today, we’d like to introduce you to an illustrator whose specialty is drawing “kawaii”: ko_yu. On each of her social media accounts (except for Twitter), you can see constant posts of kawaii girls!
Ko_yu, you might have noticed, is a woman. So why does she draw nothing but kawaii girls?
“Well, I generally like drawing girls with animal ears and naive-looking girls. Lately, I was asked to design Vtubers and stuff, so I’ve also been drawing men, but…I like drawing girls best. Not in any weird way! Just because I admire them.”
ko_yu is in charge of the designs for over 20 Vtubers! Check out the list on Twitter for more information.
Many women dream of wearing the latest fashion, of being a style queen wearing just the barest hint of elegant perfume. Is ko_yu that kind of fashion girl?
“No, I’m actually the complete opposite. Of course, I like stylish things, but I have no interest in making myself look stylish. I’m really cheap when it comes to clothes. Some days I live in a T-shirt and sweat jacket. That’s why I try to draw my characters wearing the clothes I like.”
I see…Maybe it’s like entrusting your dream to your children.
A girl in a see-through shirt with a side ponytail (Original drawing)
Drawing is a Form of Communication
Even so, when did ko_yu start drawing girls?
“I think when I was little, I used to draw a lot of fighting girls and magical girls. It wasn’t just something I liked or even just my hobby–it was just something I always did that became a normal, everyday thing for me. One day I drew a portrait of my mother, and she was so happy. I think maybe it was because I realized that I could make people happy with my art that I have continued drawing to this day.”
Perhaps ko_yu’s drawings are like a tool for communicating with and understanding others.
Magical Girl (Original drawing)
“I work as an illustrator now, but I am always really happy and grateful if the client is happy, whether they’re a company or an individual.”
Developing an Otaku Soul in Art School
Although drawing has been a part of ko_yu’s life for so long, she wasn’t always an otaku.
“I always liked anime and video games, but no one else in my circle of friends did. Most of my friends from elementary school to high school all wanted to talk about their favorite musical artists or handsome idols, but all I wanted to talk about was video games…”
Koharu (original drawing)
ko_yu couldn’t develop fully into an otaku because of the environment she had grown up in, but her otaku spirit was able to fly free once she went to art school.
“I graduated and went on to attend an illustration and design school, and there were a lot of otaku-types there. We all decided to create a doujinshi together and have a booth at a doujin event. Up until then, I hadn’t thought of myself as an otaku, but I very quickly realized I was one. My friends helped open my eyes (laughs).”
HOLO DECORE, a collaborative Holo-live illustration and design doujinshi sponsored by artist Hiiragiryo.
Official site: https://www.iswdesigning.com/special/holodecore/
Melon Books purchase link: https://www.melonbooks.co.jp/detail/detail.php?product_id=781482
Prize-winning illustration of the LIVE DAM STADIUM Toho Project Illustration Contest
Contest page: https://www.pixiv.net/contest/dam_touhou
The Secret Behind Her Heartpumping Illustrations
The unique thing about ko_yu’s illustrations is that the characters’ eyes always seem to be looking right at us. Maybe that’s why they make us fall in love.
“I think I do like to draw characters who look at the viewer. I think the eyes are a place where an artist’s personality can come through. I’m really competitive, so I’m always trying to make sure other illustrators’ characters’ eyes aren’t beating mine. But I won’t have much range if I always have them facing the viewer, so I have to think about the movement of the body and the pose, too.”
“Doubutsurei no Shiwaza!?” (The Work of an Animal Spirit?). Picture card illustration from Toho Project’s fanmade smartphone RPG Toho LostWord.
Official site: https://touhoulostword.com/
What does ko_yu say is the key to drawing cute girls?
“Softness! I put a lot of effort into making sure the colors are not too harsh. Girls are soft and gentle, after all!!”
Girls are soft…Hmm, I suppose that’s true!
Fan Art of Yang Guifei from FateGrand-Order
Fanart of Caren C. Hortensia from FateGrand-Order
“Also, when I draw…I get very emotionally attached to each and every character. I think some illustrators remove old artwork from their profiles that they uploaded a long time ago, but I think of my illustrations as my daughters, so I’ve left everything up on pixiv. Right now, my goal is to get my girls into the Eshi 100 Exhibition [a contemporary Japanese illustrator exhibition] to get my work out there.”
Fanart of Katsushika Hokusai from FateGrand-Order
That’s true; many people are embarrassed by their early drawings, perhaps because they aren’t very good. Ko_yu must really value each and every one of her drawings if she’s willing to keep them all up on pixiv. If you have the chance, definitely check out ko_yu’s “kawaii.” We’re looking forward to seeing her illustrations appear in the Eshi 100 one day!
Original character: A Succus Classic Maid