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Itaru Hinoue (樋上 いたる Hinoue Itaru ) (pseudonym) is a female Japanese artist from Osaka, Japan, and is one of the founding members of the software company Key. Hinoue's choice of her pseudonym stems from the manga C by Shō Kitagawa; the protagonist in the manga was named Itaru Amano (天野 格 Amano Itaru ). Before forming Key, Hinoue worked for the company Tactics where she had a hand in the creation of the three games for that company: Dōsei, Moon., and One: Kagayaku Kisetsu e. After forming Key, Hinoue has become known for her work on famous titles as Kanon, Air and Clannad. Her dōjinshi circle is known as "Soldier Frog".
Hinoue entered a vocational school to become a professional artist due to being influenced by the popular adult visual novel Dōkyūsei by ELF. Her first work for a visual novel was as one of many artists for Tamago Ryōri by Bon Bin Pompon in 1996, but shortly after transferred to the software company Tactics under the publisher Nexton. There, she was the art director of three games: Dōsei, Moon., and One: Kagayaku Kisetsu e. After the completion of One, Hinoue and much of the staff who made both Moon. and One, including Jun Maeda, Shinji Orito, Naoki Hisaya, and OdiakeS, left Tactics to work under the video game publishing company Visual Art's where they formed the company Key. At Key, Hinoue was the sole art director for their first three titles, Kanon, Air, and Clannad, and did not contribute for the two games that followed, Planetarian: Chiisana Hoshi no Yume, and Tomoyo After: It's a Wonderful Life. For Key's sixth title Little Busters!, Hinoue shared the position of art director with fellow artist Na-Ga, though Na-Ga provided most of art for the characters. Outside of Key in 2006, Hinoue was the art director for the yaoi visual novel Bokura wa Minna, Koi o suru by the company Pekoe, also under Visual Art's. Starting in December 2007, Hinoue was one of three personalities (the others being Shinji Orito and another named woman from Pekoe named Chiro) on an Internet radio show sponsored by Key in regards to Key. Listeners can submit thoughts about the show and any requests they may have for the show, along with submitting questions to the host trio.
Art style and reception
Itaru Hinoue has a distinct style of character art that evolved over the years, but there are still consistencies in her art style. Her characters have very small noses and mouths placed within close proximity of each other which leaves an abnormally large separation between the mouth and bottom of the chin. In contrast, she draws eyes relatively large and are widely spaced apart from each other. The limbs of her characters are depicted as long and narrow, along with possessing a long torso. Generally, despite this unique style, her female characters are often thought to be very moe. These recurring characteristics of her art are referred to by her Japanese fans as "Itaru-e" (いたる絵, meaning "Itaru drawings"). She is skilled in preserving the psychological description of her characters via their facial expressions. Her style of drawing erotic content is also seen as being distinct. As seen with her art from 2006 onwards, such as in Little Busters!, much of her distinct style that she has become known for has generally either been omitted or improved upon.
Shortly before the release of Clannad, two autographed illustrations by Hinoue were put onto the Japanese Yahoo! Auction website in April 2004; bidding for the drawings started at 1 yen (~US$0.01). One of the drawings was bid on by forty-eight people was sold for 479,000 yen (~US$4,300), while the second drawing was bid on by 113 people and fetched 531,000 yen (~US$4,800). The latter item is the fifth most expensive item sold on Yahoo! Auction since April 2001, while the former is the eleventh most expensive.