Tomopop: Tell us about yourself: where you're based, what you do and how long you've been doing it.
Norio: I am currently based in San Francisco. I’m a product designer by trade and have been doing it professionally for a while (longer than I’d care to admit). When I’m not working at my 9 to 5, I try to find the time to create, sketch, paint, or model the characters you have seen.
Tomopop: Tell us the inspiration behind designs like Rocket Boy and Rocket Girl.
Norio: I am a second generation Japanese American. I grew up reading classic manga and watching a lot of anime, sci-fi, and fantasy films. So, as you can imagine, the amazing visions and designs of those artists have greatly influenced my work. I am also a father of, surprise, a girl and a boy. I know every parent says it, but they have impacted my life and inspire me in so many ways.
Tomopop: We hear you are starting up your own toy company, Yotoy! Tell us about your plans with this new venture. Can we expect to be able to purchase your creations soon? Any chance we'll see any of your preexisting designs?
Norio: We just want to make great toys and cool stuff. Yotoy is a small group of talented creative friends, Noah, Woo, Karen, and me. We have decided to get together and collaborate on artistic adventures. Yotoy is the creative outlet for our backgrounds in design, animation, music, and art.
Yotoy will have figures and more available by the end of the year. We’ll be introducing the first of the PRTC(R) (Protecter Robot) series at ComiCon later this month. They are based on the robots I have already designed and posted online. We’re also working on a few other projects that we will be debuting later this year as well. Check our website Yotoy.com for updates.
Tomopop: What artists are you inspired by and why?
Norio: As I mentioned earlier, I grew up reading and watching a lot of manga and anime. I remember reading books over and over such as 8-Man, Cyborg 009, Ginga Tetsudo 999, Captain Harlock, Black Jack, Doraemon, Dr. Slump, Dragon Ball, Shonen Jump. I remember sitting down for the first time to watch Yamato or Gundam or reruns of Mazinger, Kamen Rider, or Ultraman (7 was always my favorite). I watched a lot television, so old sci-fi shows like Thunderbirds or Space 1999 have left an impression. Of course film has a done a lot to inspire me. I have to run out and see any and all films with effects in it, live action or animation.
Tomopop: Are you a toy/figure collector yourself? If so, who are your favorite toy designers?
Norio: I do collect toys but have more fun creating. I like the clean simple design of the Kubrick toys. I am not the big collector in the Yotoy crew, but the Yotoy office is full up with 3A, Kaws, Eric So, Kubrick, Coarse, and others.
Tomopop: Will we see you at this year's San Diego Comic Con?
Norio: We don't have our own booth but will have a section carved out for us at the MINDstyle booth. Hope we see you there!
Tomopop: You will! Thanks for your time!