Myung-Jin Lee

by Jonathan Mays,
Ragnarok started as a fantasy comic by Korean artist Myung-Jin Lee. His adventure story was immediately successful, laying the seeds for a spin-off card game, animated series, and the centerpiece of the Ragnarok franchise, an online role-playing game. With over 25 million users representing 130 countries, Ragnarok Online has become a true global phenomenon. Mr. Lee spoke with me at Anime Expo, courtesy of Ragnarok's game company, Gravity Interactive.

Describe the story of Ragnarok in case someone's not familiar with it.
A long time there was a war between the Gods. When the war was over there was this heart of a giant that was broken into pieces, and that's the Heart of Ymir. Whoever obtains one of the pieces will achieve much wealth and fame. People, each with their own dreams, go out and look for these pieces with the hope that they'll reach their goals on their journeys.

Where'd you get the idea for the Ragnarok comic?
I used to read a lot of anthologies when I was young. Out of all the anthologies, Norse mythology was the most appealing to me, so I based it on that.

Now you have comics, cards, anime, video games—was this your plan from the start?
When I first created the series I made it so the story would be easy to adapt into a game or animation series. It was just a dream back then, but I'm so happy it's become a reality now, and I'm very thankful for all the support Ragnarok has received so far.

Those character designs are awesome. Any particular inspirations?
I get inspiration from everyday life and everything around me. A lot of times I listen to music to get inspiration as well.

After I determine what the job's going to be, I try to create a personality for the character. From there I'll come up with the clothes and the costume.

What kind of music?
I enjoy all types of music, but recently I've been listening to electronica.

The tenth and, so far, final volume of the comic arrived in the US a few months ago. Do you have plans to restart the series again?
Currently I'm on break from drawing it because of the game and anime development, but once I'm less busy I'll get back to it.

Any idea when?
Not sure yet.

Let's say we have somebody who's trying to decide between Final Fantasy Online and Ragnarok Online. Make your case for RO.
The overall impression of the two games is different. Ragnarok Online is very cute and very user-friendly, so it's easy for first-time users to get a hang of the game. Even if you're not fighting, it's easier to make friends in Ragnarok by going into towns and talking to other players. The gameplay's also easier than Final Fantasy's.

Do you still play it in your free time?
Not right now, I'm afraid; I've just been too busy! When I do have free time there are movies I hope to see, and I have this huge stack of video games I still want to try playing.

What new stuff will we see in the next six months or so?
There's going to be a new job class, and also a map that'll be based on America.

Will you stick with the 2D look, or might a venture into 3D be in the works?
I think Ragnarok will stay in the 2D world, but there's another project coming up that I can't talk about yet. That one might be 3D.

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