If you are a video game enthusiast, here is an interview for you!

This is D3 The Concrete, bringing you fashion from the street!

Today, I have an interview with Yukari Hayakawa, the COO of LEVEL-5 abby, a video game company that is based in both Tokyo, Japan and Los Angeles, California. We had a chance to sit and talk about her rise through the ranks, her love for video games, and we answer the main question: what exactly is a YO-KAI?


Tell us who you are and where you are from.

Yukari Hayakawa, COO of LEVEL-5 abby. I moved to LA from Tokyo 3 years ago.

Please tell us about how you became a part of LEVEL-5 abby.

I had been a fan of LEVEL-5 IP. I resonated with the global vision our CEO had, which is to become one of the top entertainment brands in the world and joined LEVEL-5, a Japanese video game developer/publisher in Spring 2015.

LEVEL-5 abby is a joint venture of LEVEL-5 and Dentsu, a Japanese ad agency. I founded the company in Summer 2015, and became the COO, looking over business and operation for all markets outside of Japan.

What exactly is LEVEL-5?

We plan, create, and market video game software and produces mega-hit IPs targeting kids and families around the world. We specialize in what we call “cross-media strategies” and oversees corresponding counterparts (anime, toys, manga, movies, etc.) for its titles.

The company’s flagship LAYTON™ series has shipped more than 17 million units worldwide. The Ni no Kuni™ series, featuring animations created by the Academy Award-winning Studio Ghibli, has shipped more than 2.3 million units and downloads worldwide and has received numerous prominent game awards. Cross-media titles include INAZUMA ELEVEN™, Little Battlers eXperience, and YO-KAI WATCH™ – which has shipped over 15 million units worldwide. All forms of YO-KAI WATCH™ merchandise, including toys and games, are universally popular among people of all ages. While maintaining its foundation as a game company, LEVEL-5 Inc. continues to actively explore collaborations with other media as it strives to flourish as the world’s top entertainment brand.

When doing my research on the LEVEL-5 brand, one of the things that grabbled my attention was YO-KAI WATCH. Are the Yo-kai inspired by kama in the Japanese Shinto tradition, or are they meant to be something independent of that?

Often translated into words like “monster,” “spirit,” and “demon,” the word Yo-kai is a fairly broad term encapsulating a variety of mythical Japanese creatures and unexplainable occurrences.

In traditional folklore, Yo-kai are invisible, mysterious beings often tied to nature, ranging from animalistic shape-shifters to ogre-like brutes. The relationship between humans and Yo-kai is akin to animism—the belief that everything has a spirit and that disturbing aspects of nature can anger the spirits that inhabit them.

So, yes, it is rooted to Shinto tradition, but not really inspired by kama.

Where can we purchase your products in the United States or are these only available as imports?

We have our video games and merchandising items available at specialty stores like Gamestop for YO-KAI WATCH and Ni No Kuni II. We are going to launch 3 new cross-media titles in 2019, and will aim to distribute widely across the States.

Also, please note that our YO-KAI WATCH TV series can be watched on Disney XD and Netflix.

What is some practical advice that you can offer to a young person who is looking to go into the game and animation industry on how to get started?

It should depend on what your area of specialty is, but here are my general tips:

First of all, love games/anime. Once you’re in the industry, your end users are people who love them. You have to understand how that feels, why they love them and make a best guess on what they would love next. You cannot do any of those unless you are a fan of those types of contents yourself.

Second, share your passion and interest for the working in the industry to your friends and acquaintances face to face, through social media, or by any other means you could think of, i.e., put tags on yourself that you want to do #gamingforwork and #animeforwork so your they can refer you when something interesting pops up. Nowadays, with the help of LinkedIn, I think it is getting easier than ever to approach someone with relevant work experience and seek for job search advice if you don’t know where to start off with.