In an age of virtual reality porn, anatomically correct droids, and actual artificial intelligence sex robots, Hajime Sorayama’s work stands as an origin point for everything related to sex and technology. He was the first illustrator to imagine robots as not just humanoids, but sexual objects of desire. Sorayama took the cold, calculating science-fiction idea of a robot and gave it sexual qualities, portraying his hyper-realistic “sexy robots” in suggestive or pinned-up positions. As a result, the “gynoid” or “fembot” became his signature work, taking the inhuman and blending it with his view of women as “goddesses” to create curvy, lustful, traditionally feminine figures cast in the metallic sheen and emotionally detached programming of a robot. His sexual illustrations depict desire and impossible beauty standards, but leaves those feelings and looks in a fantasy world—unattainable in reality and unmistakably robotic. Over nearly a half century of illustrating, publishing, and ideating, Sorayama’s collaborated with everyone from George Lucas to Playboy, leaving an enduring legacy in art, science fiction, and pop culture.
Sets out as a freelance illustrator in Japan.
Draws his first robot loosely based off of C-3PO after a friend runs into trouble using the Star Wars character’s likeness in an advertisement. Sorayama’s version of C-3PO is used instead.
Publishes his seminal art book Sexy Robot. For the book, he drew from pin-up art, putting gynoids in sexually suggestive poses. His second book Pin-up continued that theme, making Sorayama world famous for his eyebrow-raising, but undoubtedly attractive illustrations. He’s commissioned by Penthouse and Playboy for illustrations, and Playboy even airs a television special dedicated to his art.
Releases his first film Illustration Video, which leads to his involvement as a consultant in ‘90s films like Timecop and Space Trucker.
French couturier Thierry Mugler brings Sorayama’s to life in a show featuring a model in a floor-length black dress who reveals a robot suit underneath it all.
Designs the first generation AIBO, a robotic dog companion for Sony. The AIBO wins the Grand Prize of Best Design award, which is Japan’s highest design honor.
Designs the cover art for Aerosmith’s album Just Push Play, which features a gynoid posing in a manner similar to Marilyn Monroe’s iconic flying skirt photograph.
Star Wars creator George Lucas reaches out requesting a contribution from Sorayama for the art book Star Wars Concept. Sorayama’s illustration for the book, a hyper-sexualized image called the Betty Droid, is then used throughout the Star Wars: Clone Wars television series.
Releases XL Masterworks, a retrospective art book that’s regarded as the most comprehensive volume of Sorayama’s work. Also teams up with British Knights for a footwear collection, his first and only foray into sneaker design.
Designs a sexually suggestive gynoid album cover for Tyga’s Kyoto.
Works with Dior’s Kim Jones on a pre-fall 2019 editorial campaign.
February 22, 1947
Imabari, Ehime Prefecture, Japan
1972 – present
Working as a freelance illustrator in 1978, Sorayama drew his first robot for a friend in an artistic pinch. The friend, a designer named Hara Koichi, wanted to use the Star Wars robot C-3PO in a poster presentation for Suntory, the alcohol brand. Koichi, however, was under a tight deadline and ran into problems with copyright fees for the usage of C-3PO. Koichi enlisted Sorayama to draw a replacement for C-3PO, and working loosely off of the Star Wars character, Sorayama illustrated his first robot.
Sorayama’s breakthrough 1999 first-generation “AIBO” design, a robotic companion dog manufactured by Sony, is currently in the permanent collections of the Museum of Modern Art and the Smithsonian Institution. From time to time, Sorayama still displays collections in art galleries around the world, but those showings are often for a limited time.