Adapted from BOX=ART
Ayami Kojima is a self-taught Japanese artist recognized internationally for her box art for the Castlevania series.
Although she is now best known for her video game work, Ayami established herself as an accomplished freelance artist and illustrator through early work illustrating novel covers, including all three covers for the science fiction trilogy Cluster Saga by Sayako Asaba, beginning in 1991. She also provided black and white illustrations for page content, in particular for the Majin series and a variety of other novels by Kikuchi Hideyuki, the creator of Vampire Hunter D. In total, Ayami would illustrate the covers for more than a dozen novels before breaking into the game industry.
Ayami’s break into game packaging illustration would come in 1997 with Konami’s Castlevania: Symphony of the Night (SOTN) for the European and Japanese PlayStation releases; the front of the US box would not use her artwork. Ayami not only created the fan-favorite box art but also designed some of the in-game character art. Her renditions of Alucard and others were a new look for the series, giving the characters more delicate features and complex rendering and costuming that resulted in a more feminine look than previously seen in Castlevania releases. While this new take would contrast strongly with Castlevania’s previous aesthetic, the approach worked, not only with fans but also with SOTN’s more considered pace and story-driven gameplay, which helped make Castlevania critically relevant once again.
The following year Ayami would be responsible for the SOTN’s Sega Saturn box art—arguably its best attribute. She would go on to create many other classic Castlevania box arts, with her final standard box art being the PSP’s Dracula X Chronicles (2007). All would follow the same art style first seen in SOTN apart from Castlevania: Circle of the Moon (2001), which would leverage a deliberate, more animated look as it set out to appeal to the Game Boy Advance’s younger audience. Although “download only” (and thus without a traditional “published” box art), Ayami also created the artwork for Castlevania: Harmony of Despair (2010) for the Playstation 3 and Xbox 360, which OVGA has included in Ayami’s box art catalog.
Ayami’s non-Castlevania box art catalog includes two releases for KOEI: Soldnerschild for the Sega Saturn (1997) and Ishin no Arashi Bakumatsu Shishiden for Windows (1998) and Sony PlayStation (1999). Ayami also illustrated Chou-Denki Card Battle: Youfu Makai - Kikuchi Shuugyou for the WonderSwan (1999). Beyond box art, Ayami has provided character illustrations for Samurai Warriors (2009), Dynasty Warriors 7 (2011), and Dynasty Warriors 8 (2013).
Although her game work appears to have slowed during the 2010s, in 2019, she illustrated the packaging artwork for limited physical copies for a spiritual successor to SOTN titled Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night; the game was developed by several key, former Castlevania staff members. Ayami’s art was only given to certain Kickstarter backers.
To create her signature look, Ayami starts by sketching with conté crayon sticks before creating shadows with more conté and India ink. She then adds depth and texture, usually to the background followed by spreading and shaping molding paste with a palette knife. She next paints base colors into the work using diluted acrylics and finger smudging to create glows. To finish, Ayami uses metallic paint highlights enhanced with a gloss polymer. Ayami has leveraged these distinctive methods for all of her box art, an approach likely having developed out of her self-taught background. What may have begun as personal drawing techniques, Ayami's methods have since been featured in a number of art technique books. Ayami’s apparent reluctance to adopt digital techniques has been refreshing and revered by fans worldwide.
OVGA has included below Ayami Kojima 小島 文美's full known box art catalog:
- Castlevania: Symphony of the Night (Konami | PlayStation-EUR/JPN | 1997) also the interior inlay art for the US release
- Soldnerschild (KOEI | Saturn | 1997)
- Castlevania: Symphony of the Night (Konami | Saturn | 1998)
- Ishin no Arashi Bakumatsu Shishiden (KOEI | Windows, PlayStation | 1998)
- Chou-Denki Card Battle: Youfu Makai - Kikuchi Shuugyou (Kobunsha | WonderSwan | 1999)
- Castlevania: Circle of the Moon (Konami | Game Boy Advance | 2001)
- Castlevania: Chronicles (Konami | PlayStation-EUR/JPN | 2001)
- Castlevania: Chronicles (Konami | PlayStation-USA | 2001) second image
- Castlevania: Harmony of Dissonance (Konami | Game Boy Advance | 2002)
- Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow (Konami | Game Boy Advance | 2003)
- Castlevania: Lament of Innocence (Konami | PlayStation 2-USA | 2003)
- Castlevania: Lament of Innocence (Konami | PlayStation 2-EUR/JPN | 2003) second image
- Castlevania: Curse of Darkness (Konami | PlayStation 2, Xbox | 2005)
- Castlevania: The Dracula X Chronicles (Konami | PlayStation Portable | 2007)
- Castlevania: Harmony of Despair (Konami | PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 | 2010) download only; no "box"
- Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night (505 Games | Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Windows, Xbox One, | 2019) Exclusive to $100+ tiers on Kickstarter