Nikolas A. Draper-Ivey is an artist who likes to draw anime styled characters. His most recent project was a re-imagining of the main cast of Final Fantasy VII as different ethnicities. Draper-Ivey came under some flak for this, and took to social media to defend his art.
Okay, allow me to explain:
Recently, it was brought to my attention that some people on my page had a problem with me drawing black people because I, a black man, was drawing far too many of them (and not as stereotypes or tropes) when I'm known for having diverse character designs in the first place.
People began to take issue with Draper-Ivey drawing black characters so often. Needless to saw, he grew incredibly frustrated. While the Draper-Ivey draws characters of many different ethnicities, as a person of color, many of his works obviously feature diverse skin colors.
This struck me as odd because there is literally no problem with me drawing characters of other backgrounds any other time, but the moment I start to draw us in a way that doesn't make us look like the same stereotypes you're used to seeing, it's a problem? Check yourself. I literally got asked, "Do you ever draw white people?" And "You only draw black guys. Why?" In the same morning and I'm like, "Oh so this is a PROBLEM now?"
Draper-Ivey goes out of his way to draw his dark skinned characters in a generally heroic light, placing them in leading roles and presenting them at an equal standing to characters of lighter skin color. However, he does not only draw dark-skinned characters, so he takes issue with the fact that people have a tendency to single out his diverse character design.
So to cap it all off, he decided to take his drawing a step further, and re-drew characters from everyone's favorite JRPG as people from different ethnic backgrounds than are canon. Just for fun!
We were pretty impressed with the results.
A New Interpretation
The finished products look fantastic, keeping the anime aesthetic of FFVII's world while still managing to inject Draper-Ivey's slightly more realistic style into their visual design.
You can still see Cloud's cocky devil-may-care attitude in his eyes. Despite the different interpretation, this art manages to capture the spirit of the original character quite well.
"I wanted to give him sort of a Mifune vibe," Draper-Ivey writes on his Facebook page about this particular piece. "I don't know why, but that just clicked to me at the last minute. It was suggested that I make Barret Asian. Couldn't resist. Although, he makes me think of Auron here. That's ain't too bad imo. [sic]"
It's interesting to see a Japanese Barret, considering the game was made in Japan in the first place. Looking at Draper-Ivey's version of the character is like a full circle sort of moment.
The contrast between Tifa's vulnerable and caring side and her self-sufficient and capable personality shows in her posture.
Sephiroth's trademark arrogance, eeriness, and aloofness shows in his calm and mysterious expression.
Draper-Ivey's renditions may have changed the color of each character's skin, but he succeeded in keeping not only the essence of the original designs, but also the personality each character portrayed in the game itself. It just goes to show that beauty comes in all forms - and there's no better way to express this than through a franchise known for its impossibly beautiful characters. And even when the outside looks a little different, the inside remains the same.
Hats off to Nikolas A. Draper-Ivey for giving us some fantastic fan art. Personally, his style reminds me of a blend between Yoshitaka Amano, who was responsible for the character art of the classic Final Fantasy games, and Tetsuya Nomura, who designed the characters for Final Fantasy VII.
You can find more of Draper-Ivey's art on his facebook page.