Adapted from BOX=ART
Toshiaki Mori, best known under the pen name of Shinkiro, is a Japanese illustrator and conceptual artist who used to work for SNK during its golden age. He has since been with Capcom for two decades, where he stands tall alongside SENSEI, Kinu, and Dai-Chan as one of Capcom’s elite in-house artists. Shinkiro’s art has adorned some of the highest profile video games since the early 90s and his style has developed into one of the most recognizable in the industry.
After graduating from a design school, Shinkiro worked at an illustration office, drawing illustrations of architecture and home appliances before later working as a freelance illustrator and manga artist. He would join SNK’s design department in 1990 amidst the dawn of the Neo Geo, where he would work alongside the company’s founder and producer Eikichi Kawasaki.
Shinkiro’s first box art design would be for SNK’s ASO II: Last Guardian (also known as Alpha Mission II) and he would finish that busy year with additional box art for Sengoku, Robo Army, and Eightman, among others. In a brief interview in 2001, Shinkiro identifies his personal favorite box art as Ghost Pilots (1991), a wonderfully charming illustration with an interesting color palette and cool title art—complete with a depiction of the Grim Reaper—although it lacks the characters that make Shinkiro’s box art so great.
Reviewing Shinkiro’s 1991 box arts, one could be forgiven for thinking they were done by another artist, or even each by separate artists. Comparing Sengoku, Ghost Pilots, Robo Army, and ASO II, the difference in style, technique and the mediums used is diverse, ranging from anime (Robo Army) to traditional 80s sci-fi (ASO II).
The only box art indicative of Shinkiro’s style to come would be in Sengoku, with its unmistakable heavy shading, chiseled jaw lines, and confident look to its characters. This box art would also start a trend for the artist whereby he juxtaposes the main characters in the foreground against background characters colored in distinctly darker, contrasting hues. Art of Fighting, Fatal Fury Special, King of Fighters ’97 (Neo Geo CD) are further examples. Shinkiro’s use of shading and lighting are well known among his fans and give his images a more realistic feel, rather than an animated look seen in manga or anime.
Studying Shinkiro’s character posture and shadowing, the influence of American painter and illustrator N.C. Wyeth—identified by Shinkiro as one of his favorite artists—is apparent.
By 1992, Shinkiro’s had moved artistically toward his now familiar aesthetic, with two of SNK’s first big series, Art of Fighting, and Fatal Fury, and continued in 1993 with Samurai Shodown and the delightfully camp 3 Count Bout. All would have the characteristics detailed above and would exemplify a common complaint made about Shinkiro’s art: that his faces, whether masculine or feminine—with very smooth, soft transitions and edges, often with striking eyes with dark shadows, almost as if even the men were wearing eyeliner—all exhibited a certain “sameness.”
Shinkiro appears to have begun incorporating digital techniques into his art around 1995, with the art for the Neo Geo AES and Europe/North America PlayStation releases of King of Fighters '95 being a possible first digital foray. Other illustrations from this period appear to mix traditional and digital elements, and despite toying with digital techniques for some releases, Shinkiro continued to produce fully traditional box art paintings into 1998, particularly for Neo Geo AES releases. Despite the jump to digital, Shinkiro would largely succeed in maintaining his style, especially as his digital execution improved.
Shinkiro was with the original SNK until it closed its doors in 2000 (and later became SNK Playmore), upon which despite this massive shakeup, Shinkiro was quickly snapped up by rival Capcom.
Shinkiro has also produced works for Marvel with the Unlimited Spiderman comics as well as for UDON’s Street Fighter comics.
Still going strong with Capcom, Shinkiro is arguably one of the great Japanese illustrators of his generation.
OVGA has divided Toshiaki Mori 森気楼 Shinkiro's box art catalog between SNK and Capcom eras, including below his known box art catalogs for each era.
SNK era (1991–2000*)
- ASO II: Last Guardian a.k.a. Alpha Mission II (SNK | Neo Geo AES-JPN, Neo Geo CD | 1991)
- Burning Fight (SNK | Neo Geo AES, Neo Geo CD | 1991)
- Eightman (SNK | Neo Geo AES | 1991)
- Fatal Fury (SNK | Neo Geo AES-JPN, SNES-JPN | 1991)
- Ghost Pilots (SNK | Neo Geo AES, Neo Geo CD | 1991)
- Robo Army(SNK | Neo Geo AES-JPN, Neo Geo CD | 1991)
- Sengoku (SNK | Neo Geo AES | 1991)
- Art of Fighting (SNK | Genesis-USA/EUR, Neo Geo AES, Neo Geo CD, SNES | 1992)
- Fatal Fury 2 (SNK | Neo Geo AES-USA, Neo Geo CD-USA | 1992)
- Mutation Nation (SNK | Neo Geo AES, Neo Geo CD | 1992)
- 3 Count Bout (SNK | Neo Geo AES | 1993)
- Fatal Fury Special (SNK | Neo Geo AES, Neo Geo CD, Sega CD, SNES-JPN, X68000 | 1993)
- Samurai Shodown (SNK | Game Boy-USA, Game Gear, Genesis, Neo Geo AES, Neo Geo CD, Sega CD-USA, SNES-USA | 1993)
- Sengoku a.k.a. Sengoku: Denshou (SNK | Neo Geo CD, Sega CD | 1993) second image
- Art of Fighting 2 (SNK | Neo Geo AES, Neo Geo CD | 1994)
- Art of Fighting 2 (SNK | SNES | 1994) second image
- King of Fighters ‘94 (SNK | Neo Geo AES, Neo Geo CD, Windows | 1994)
- Samurai Shodown II (SNK | Neo Geo AES, Neo Geo CD, Windows | 1994)
- Fatal Fury 3: Road to the Final Victory (SNK | Neo Geo AES, Neo Geo CD, Windows | 1995)
- King of Fighters ‘95 (SNK | Neo Geo CD, Saturn | 1995)
- King of Fighters ‘95 (SNK | Neo Geo AES, PlayStation-USA/EUR | 1995) second image; possible first use of digital techniques
- Fatal Fury 3: Road to the Final Victory (SNK | Saturn | 1996) second image
- King of Fighters ‘95 (SNK | PlayStation-JPN | 1996) third image
- Real Bout Fatal Fury (SNK | Neo Geo AES, Neo Geo CD, PlayStation, Saturn | 1996)
- King of Fighters ‘96 (SNK | Neo Geo AES, Neo Geo CD, Saturn | 1996)
- King of Fighters ‘96 (SNK | PlayStation | 1997) second image
- King of Fighters ‘97 (SNK | Neo Geo AES | 1997)
- King of Fighters ‘97 (SNK | Neo Geo CD | 1997) second image
- Real Bout Fatal Fury Special (SNK | Neo Geo AES, Neo Geo CD, Saturn | 1997)
- King of Fighters ‘97 (SNK | PlayStation | 1998) third image
- King of Fighters ‘97 (SNK | Saturn | 1998) forth image
- King of Fighters ‘98: The Slugfest (SNK | Neo Geo AES | 1998)
- King of Fighters ‘98: The Slugfest (SNK | Neo Geo CD | 1998) second image
- Real Bout Fatal Fury 2: The Newcomers (SNK | Neo Geo AES, Neo Geo CD | 1998)
- The Last Blade (SNK | JP/ NA Neo Geo AES, Neo Geo CD | 1998)
- King of Fighters ‘98: The Slugfest(SNK | JP PlayStation | 1998) third image
- Metal Slug X (SNK | Neo Geo AES, PlayStation | 1998)
- King of Fighters: Dream Match 1999(SNK | Dreamcast | 1998)
- King of Fighters ‘99: Millennium Battle (SNK | Neo Geo AES | 1998)
- King of Fighters ‘99: Millennium Battle (SNK | Neo Geo CD | 1998) second image
- King of Fighters ‘99 (SNK | PlayStation-JPN | 2000) third image
- Metal Slug 3 (SNK | Neo Geo AES, PlayStation 2, Xbox | 2000)
- The King of Fighters: Evolution ((Agetec, Inc. | Dreamcast-USA | 2000) forth image
- King of Fighters ‘99: Millennium Battle (Agetec, Inc. | PlayStation-USA | 2001) repeat image; published in 2001 by Agetec following SNK's 2000 closure
Capcom era (1991–2000) All of Shinkiro's works from this era are believed to be digital
The Capcom list is incomplete and has omitted non-box art and titles for which Shinkiro's artwork role is not clear
- Capcom vs. SNK 2 EO a.k.a. Capcom vs. SNK 2: Mark of the Millennium (Capcom | GameCube-USA, PlayStation 2-USA, Xbox-USA | 2001)
- Capcom vs. SNK 2: Mark of the Millennium 2001 a.k.a. Capcom vs SNK 2: Millionaire Fighting 2001 (Capcom | Dreamcast, PlayStation 2-EUR/JPN | 2001) second image
- Final Fight One (Capcom | Game Boy Advance | 2001)
- Capcom vs. SNK 2 EO: Millionaire Fighting 2001 (Capcom | Gamecube-EUR, Xbox-EUR | 2002) third image
- Dinostalker a.k.a. Gun Survivor 3: Dino Crisis (Capcom | PlayStation 2-EUR/JPN | 2002)
- Dinostalker (Capcom | PlayStation 2-USA | 2002) second image
- Super Ghouls ‘n Ghosts (Capcom | Game Boy Advance | 2002)
- Resident Evil: Dead Aim a.k.a. Gun Survivor 4: BioHazard - Heroes Never Die (Capcom | PlayStation 2-USA/JPN | 2003)
- Capcom Fighting Jam a.k.a. Capcom Fighting Evolution (Capcom | PlayStation 2-JPN | 2004)
- Glass Rose (Capcom | PlayStation 2 | 2004)
- Psi-Ops: The Mindgate Conspiracy (Capcom | PlayStation 2-JPN | 2004)
- Resident Evil: Deadly Silence (Capcom | NDS-JPN | 2006)
- Ultimate Ghosts ‘n Goblins (Capcom | PSP | 2006)
- Tatsunoko vs. Capcom: Cross Generation of Heroes (Capcom | Wii-JPN | 2008)
- Tatsunoko vs. Capcom: Ultimate All-Stars (Capcom | Wii | 2010)
- Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 (Capcom | PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, Vita | 2011)
- Street Fighter: 30th Anniversary Collection (Capcom | Switch, PlayStation 4, Windows, Xbox One | 2018)