• Mar. 24, 2020

FFTCG Illustration Showcase Interview #10: Rubi Asami

The FINAL FANTASY TRADING CARD GAME is a tabletop trading card game enjoyed by players all around the world, featuring characters and monsters from the FINAL FANTASY series. Some cards are decorated with familiar art, and others with FFTCG-original illustrations!

We’ll be showcasing these original illustrations along with artist interviews. Some of the art will even be available as wallpaper from the FF Portal App!

Interview with Rubi Asami, Plus Original Illustrations

We spoke with Rubi Asami, who is handling MOBIUS FINAL FANTASY and FF series job class illustrations for FFTCG, about the illustrations she provided.

Rubi Asami
Handled character outfit and equipment design for MOBIUS FINAL FANTASY and Chocobo’s Mystery Dungeon EVERYBUDDY!. Outside of FF series games, also contributed art for Labyrinth of the Grand Marche (Japan exclusive).

―First, we’d like to ask about you personally. Can you tell us about your work up until now?
I joined Square Enix as a new graduate, and before that I was going to a vocational college. I wanted to go into a career in character design, and FINAL FANTASY VI and other games I like were developed by Square Enix, so I applied there. After entering Square Enix I was involved with games including Labyrinth of the Grand Marche, MOBIUS FINAL FANTASY (hereafter MOBIUS FF), and Chocobo’s Mystery Dungeon EVERY BUDDY! as Mr. Toshiyuki Itahana’s assistant. I mainly designed character outfits and equipment, making adjustments so that they would look nice when displayed in-game.

―Which of those jobs is the most memorable?
If we’re talking FF, I’d have to say MOBIUS FF. I’ve probably designed more than 20 different outfits for Echo, continuously drawing for her in the four years since I joined Square Enix, so I’ve got a pretty strong attachment to that game.

▲Outfit design sheet for Marionette Echo from MOBIUS FF

―You said a moment ago that you like FFVI. Do you normally play video games?
Yes, my favorite genre is RPGs, and I really like ones with lots of characters to choose from. As for FF games, FFVI has to be my favorite, especially how you can change around which characters are in your party. Now I’m playing FINAL FANTASY XIV, and it’s just too much fun grinding away to level up my character! [laughs]

―Moving on to the MOBIUS FF and FF job class illustrations you did for FFTCG, how did you end up receiving this request?
First Mr. Itahana did illustrations for FFTCG, and through that Mr. Matsuyama―the person who oversees FFTCG―came and asked me “would you like to try doing illustrations as well?”. I had done some illustrations for Labyrinth of the Grand Marche, but normally I mostly put together character sheets and it had been a while since I’d done illustration work. Mr. Matsuyama’s order asked that I draw freely, in whatever style suits me.

―You illustrated the FF series jobs in a general sense as opposed to from any specific title―how did you approach that?
I illustrated the warrior and black mage jobs this time, and while I wanted to draw in my own original design, they needed to be easily recognizable as illustrations of jobs from FINAL FANTASY, so I really fretted over the balance between my style and one that’s FF-like. Because of that, the final illustration is pretty different from the rough sketches I did at first.

In my mind I have an image of the warrior as a story’s main character, so I wanted to go with a design that felt like the leading man. There was a comment from Mr. Itahana when he looked at my first rough sketch that, “It does have that ‘main character feeling,’ but I’m not sure if it’s very FF-like.” From there I used the starting point of FF, the original FINAL FANTASY’s pixel art, for reference. I ended up going with a design using the original FF warrior’s red color scheme as a base.

With the black mage as well, when I showed my first rough sketch to Mr. Itahana he said, “There’s no doubt this is a mage, but with this you can’t really tell that it’s a black mage,” so I looked up some of the defining features of black mages from FF. I started including some of the elements that feel black mage-y, like the distinctive triangular yellow hat that’s been around since FFI and the striped pants that came in the titles after that. Through these illustrations I learned that maybe the key point of each FF job class is a silhouette or coloring or things like that.

―Now that you say that, it is true that you can feel elements of FF in these drawings! Conversely, where in these illustrations are the elements that show your own unique art style?
I think my taste might come out in the facial structure and expressions. And perhaps the use of color? I like the color aesthetic you get from watercolor markers, so while I draw with digital tools, I use analog stylings as much as possible.

―Each of these feels like a unique fully-developed character. Did you think up backgrounds or settings while creating them?
Yes, I went through all kinds of wild ideas. [laughs] As for the black mage, I’m not sure if I’ll ever end up drawing it, but I imagined her in opposition to a white mage. In contrast to the white mage who is a pure, clean-cut heroine, this black mage is kind of a dark heroine, hence the skimpy outfit and so on. [laughs] She’s a mysterious character, one you’d have a hard time knowing if she’s friend or foe. For the warrior, I approached drawing him as a young man who left his hometown out in the country and, having finished his training, has now become a splendid warrior! But actually, he dreams of being a knight and has lots of training left to do...

―So they really are their own characters! What about the illustrations for MOBIUS FF; how were those?
I drew Mog and Echo, but Mr. Itahana originally did the character designs for them, so when I first received these requests I planned to refuse. It just didn’t feel right to be doing illustrations of these when they’re his characters. However, Mr. Itahana was nice enough to say that, “Especially when it comes to Echo, you’ve drawn them more times than I have, so I see no problem with you doing these illustrations.” That made me so happy, and since I got his blessing, I did my best to honor the characters. I was very excited to draw them.
Both drawings share the theme “Reuniting with You [Wol].”

People who’ve played MOBIUS FF will know this, but Mog ends up separating from the player character for certain reasons. I drew this illustration imagining that Mog has returned to Wol’s side saying “I’m back!”. I was really happy when I learned that this illustration of Mog was made into a card sleeve!

There’s a scene where Echo also is separated from Wol, and this illustration portrays her next to his item (a shield) to make you think, “Maybe they were able to meet again...?” This is true of Mog as well, but I drew her with the intention that Wol is there standing where she’s looking.
I’m sure there are some FFTCG players who haven’t played MOBIUS FF. I’m hoping that people look at these illustrations, wonder who these cute characters are and that becomes a gateway for them to find out about MOBIUS FF. So, I drew these without any background scenery and really tried to focus on bringing out the cuteness of the characters. Of course, I also hope that MOBIUS FF players can enjoy these illustrations from Wol’s viewpoint.

―You can really feel your love for MOBIUS FF! We’ve also been told that you took special interest in the cards themselves.
Yes, I wanted something to make it really stand out that these are special illustrations when they come out of a booster pack, so I got permission to request specific hologram designs. This came about because I noticed some cards that had already been released where the hologram seems to outline a character, and if those kind of detailed holographic designs exist, then I thought that perhaps I could put in a small request myself. This turned out to be the first time an artist had asked to designate a hologram layout, so I had a direct meeting with FFTCG producer Mr. Kageyama. However, I had used pastels in the backgrounds of these cards, and if you lay a full hologram over that it ends up ruining the color balance of the original picture. So, in order to preserve those lighter colors, we put about a 20%-30% hologram over the entire background and then a full 100% hologram over certain areas on top of that. At first I wanted to only do the 100% hologram areas, but Mr. Kageyama said that doing that would detract from the luxuriousness of the hologram design and suggested putting light hologram over the whole background. After bouncing some ideas back and forth with the printing company, we ended up with a lovely faint pearl shine!

▲Hologram area designations (warrior)

―Was there anything you struggled with doing these illustrations?
I was very aware of the fact that I’d be carrying the banner of FF with these illustrations, so it was difficult making sure I don’t ruin fans’ memories of the games while still maintaining my own style.

―Were there any differences between these illustrations and the work you normally do?
When putting together character design sheets, my primary goal is “conveying information” to the staff who create 3D models. But this time my primary goal was “to create a full picture,” so in the sense of why I was doing my work they were completely different. I also always create outfits for a character that’s already been designed or who’s from on an already-existing universe and story, but I didn’t have those things at all for the FF job illustrations so I struggled with those. I felt a huge leap in difficulty turning “zero” into “one” compared to turning “one” into “two.”

―How do you feel about your illustrations becoming cards and being used by FFTCG players?
More than anything I’m just happy knowing that I have the honor of my illustrations getting into people’s hands. Especially if people use these cards in their decks, I’d be super happy. Once my illustrations became part of an “Opus” set I tried to build a deck centered around them, and I realized that’s how people put together decks. It made me feel like a real FFTCG player. [laughs]

―What about FFTCG do you find appealing?
I had never played a TCG before, but when I tried FFTCG there were lots of characters I knew, so I think it’s approachable even for newcomers. And the abilities match the characters, so I suppose you could say you feel a sense of attachment to the cards? Like, it feels like you’re really using these characters you know. There’s lots of tricks combining cards (abilities) as well that are really strong and so on. It’s truly a very deep game. Also, it feels weird for me to say this, but I think it’s really special how FFTCG has lots of cards illustrated by artists with ties to FF! [laughs]

―If there are any series or characters you’d like to trying doing illustrations of, please tell us.
I’ve actually already drawn four illustrations of the FF job series, so I hope everyone will be excited about the ones that haven’t been released yet! As for specific titles, I’m very attached to MOBIUS FF so I’d be happy if I could do illustrations for that again. Also, it’s really just because I’m a fan, but I’d love to draw for FFVI, and I’m always hoping someone will do art for it. [laughs] I especially like the Figaro brothers, Celes, and Locke—they were my main party! If I were to choose a character not based on the game it’s from, it would be Zell from FINAL FANTASY VIII! He’s got that kind of comical side that’s just too much. I’m always wondering why there’s so very little official art of him despite being such a great character!

―We're also looking forward to the job series illustrations that have yet to be released! Thank you for your time today.

FFTCG Illustration Showcase Interview
#1: Toshitaka Matsuda
#2: Ryoma Ito
#3: Toshiyuki Itahana
#4: Roberto Ferrari
#5: Kumiko Koike
#6: Akira Oguro
#7: Yasuhisa Izumisawa
#8: Akane Saito
#9: Isamu Kamikokuryo

Original Artwork Wallpaper: Mog

Rubi Asami’s original illustration of Mog is now a wallpaper!

Wallpaper: Original Illustration "Mog"
Valid Until: 5.31.2020 (GMT)

Download the wallpaper on the FF Portal App!

Download the FINAL FANTASY Portal App here!

What is FFTCG?

FFTCG is a one-on-one tactical card game featuring FINAL FANTASY characters and summons. Not only is there fun in collecting cards featuring familiar faces, the main draw of the game is the simplicity of the rules combined with the complexity of the gameplay. The art drawn for the game by famed illustrators is also a popular aspect of FFTCG!

Find out more about FFTCG, including upcoming products and events at:

Play the FFTCG tutorial: