Originally posted on 4 March 2016
Source: page 94-101

Ryu Encyclopaedia

All of Horitomo's Ryu ga Gotoku work

The tattoos are an important part of giving realism to the characters of Ryu ga Gotoku. All of these designs were created at the hands of a tattoo artist known as Horitomo. Here, we will cover all of the tattoos that appear up until Ryu ga Gotoku 0. Each tattoo is accompanied by Mr. Horitomo's comments.

Kazuma Kiryu: Oryu

It had already been decided that the motif would be a dragon. Since it's the tattoo that's borne by the protagonist I selected black, a basic colour for a dragon, and made it look like it is rising up to heaven as a good omen. By the way, the Sanskrit character inside the dragon ball represents Dainichi Nyorai, guardian deity of 1968, the year Kiryu was born. When designing it, I was careful to make it look cool even if you could only see it above the waist. Unlike in the real world, the lower half of the body generally isn't shown in games. This means that the lower half is hidden under his trousers. The same is true of the other characters, but I took this into consideration while designing it so that its impact would still come through.

Yumi Sawamura: Gekka Bijin (Queen of the Night)

The gekka bijin was a tattoo I was assigned, and it was the first tattoo that I had designed. To be honest, until I received the order I had never heard of the flower. Many of the orders I receive for real tattoos include requests for things that I don't know about, so the fact that I hadn't known about it previously didn't hinder my work.

Goro Majima: Hannya, Snakes and Sakura

I had heard in advance that he was quite a crazy character. I thought that, in order to match up with his personality, I should show a large, impactful mask from the front, and so I chose the hannya mask, which represents a woman's madness. This tattoo was actually created during the development of Ryu ga Gotoku 2. When Ryu ga Gotoku was being made, I never would have thought that Majima's popularity would reach these heights, so frankly I was surprised.

Akira Nishikiyama: Red Carp

Carps are a famous motif, and just as Chinese tradition says that carp that manage to swim upstream through the Dragon Gate will become dragons, they are a creature that is considered to be a good omen. With regards to Nishikiyama, his character background seemed showy, so I selected a brightly coloured red carp. I remember that Nishikiyama's name had been chosen ahead of time, and I used a carp motif to match up with it.
[TN: This is in reference to the fact that coloured carp are generally known as nishikigoi.]

Ryuji Goda: Yellow Dragon

It had been decided that this, too, would use a dragon motif. I recall being asked to take into account the personality of the Ryuji Goda character and make it look even more terrible than Kiryu's dragon. As a result, the design has it facing straight forwards and exercising its authority. Yellow is the emperor's colour in China. Even the colour represents Ryuji's strength.

Daigo Dojima: Fudo Myo-o (Acala)

There are two designs for Fudo Myo-o, one where his eyes are both wide open and one where he has one eye closed, but in Buddhist terms the former has stronger connotations of the nation's spiritual protection. The latter Fudo Myo-o, which is the one Daigo has, is more mainstream these days, and it has implications of personal protection. In terms of the pattern, it represents things such as his strength of will.

Futoshi Shimano: Tiger

As in the saying "ryuko aiutsu"*, this is an animal that has the strength to rival even a dragon. Since he is a character who possesses the strength to rival the protagonist, I chose a tiger for Shimano. He is also the head of the family, so I added framing (the background) in order to give it more of a dignified sense.
[TN: This is a proverb meaning that dragons and tigers are equally matched; both are such strong creatures that neither could really be said to be better than the other. Equivalent to "diamonds cut diamonds".]

Rikiya Shimabukuro: Viper and Windmill Palm Leaves

Snakes are commonly used as motifs for tattoos, but it had already been decided that Shimabukuro's tattoo would be of a viper. The design was arranged so as to give it a sense of liveliness; though peonies are often used in Japanese tattoo arrangements, I combined this with windmill palm leaves in order to give it an Okinawa-ness.

Shigeru Nakahara: Shisa and hibiscus

Sega's order was to make Shisa, the guardian deity of Okinawa, into a tattoo. In terms of the design, Shisa closely resembles an artistic portrait of a lion, but there are subtle differences, such as whether its ears are standing up. The framing here is Okinawa-styled as well, paired with hibiscuses.

Taiga Saejima: Tiger

The character's name is Taiga, so naturally his tattoo is of a tiger. Initially, I had thought that a tiger would go well with bamboo. This would be fine if there was a background, but I had thought that Saejima wouldn't have one, so I decided to use bamboo grass instead. I tried drawing out a few different compositions, but of course the one where it's looking up and roaring was the coolest. It does look a bit like Shimano's tattoo, but I prioritised the coolness and it ended up looking like this.

Yoshitaka Mine: Kirin (Qilin)

This is a design which, like the word "kirin-ji" (child prodigy), calls to mind the image of a genius. The common image of a kirin is actually one where it has the face of a dragon, and with the way that it's leaping upwards, this composition would make it look like Kiryu's tattoo. I looked through old materials and, though it isn't particularly popular, I drew a kirin with a face more like that of a deer.

Tsuyoshi Kanda: Okame and Tennyo

This is a memorable tattoo for me, which I really struggled with. I initially proposed a full-body image of a tennyo, but it didn't work out as it would have looked too much like a naked woman. After thinking it over, I decided to go with a method not often used in Japanese tattooing and boldly draw only the tennyo's upper body, representing Kanda's strength and fitting with his "woman-loving and crazy" character. Also, normally, if I was going to draw okame then I would also draw hyottoko, but I thought that not doing this would be more befitting of Kanda, with his woman-loving and crazy sides.

Daisaku Minami
Japanese style: Black panther and peonies
Western style: Snake, woman and skull

Minami is a youthful and, in a sense, wild character. I decided that a fusion of Japanese and western styles would be a good fit, and this is how it ended up. The idea is that he chose to get the tattoo he liked, regardless of whether it was an eastern or western design, and then added a Japanese style background for uniformity. A fair amount of this method of combining designs actually occurs in real life, too.

Naoki Katsuya: Crane

Katsuya is one of the characters for whom I was given a motif to work with. The order also said that rather than being the kind that is often used in Japanese tattoos, it should be closer to a real crane. White is a difficult colour to use, so I remember struggling quite a bit with this one.

Masato Aizawa: Black Carp

This tattoo, like Nishikiyama's, uses a carp motif. Aizawa is a character with a large build who gives off the impression of being incredibly strong, so I used a black carp that uses black as its base colour. I like that even though the design is wide, it works perfectly on a build like Aizawa's.

Masaru Watase: Asura King

The first assignment I was given for Watase's tattoo was for a guardian statue. However, if I he were to have a large statue tattooed on him then the lower half would be hidden and it would look sloppy. Because of this, I changed the main motif to an Asura King to create a sense of movement and impact, and drew an image of him fighting with Taishakuten. The tokko mallet and cakraratna drawn on his arms are the weapons that Taishakuten uses to attack the Asura King.

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