Sumi-e, also known as Japanese ink painting, is one of the most striking traditional Japanese art styles. Artists use a combination of ink and negative space to capture the beauty of the natural world. Although the paintings must be monochrome, all gradations of ink are available. This allows the painter to create a wide range of different textures and depths with only black, white, and shades of grey.
Although the painting techniques are an iconic element of sumi-e, the philosophy and focus of the painting is equally important. True sumi-e paintings do not have any preparations or touch-ups. Superfluous details are left out. On rice paper, artists are restricted to a single brush stroke for each mark, as fixes will be immediately obvious.
The style of sumi-e originated in China, where painting was considered the most important art. A subtly realistic yet metaphorical landscape often dominates great Chinese paintings. In the Kamakura era (1192–1333), Japanese zen monks brought back many Chinese paintings and artifacts from pilgrimages. These treasures influenced the Japanese artists working at temples to change the subjects of their paintings and the way they used color. Thus, the Japanese style of sumi-e was born.
The new painting style was initially monopolized by Zen Buddhists. Eventually, it came to be used by more monks and artists, but it remained imbued with the Zen philosophy and spirit.
Tale of Ronin takes inspiration from sumi-e for its artistic presentation. Although the game features more color in its character designs, the washed-out backgrounds are influenced by the classic sumi-e style.