Versatile, prolific and endlessly creative, artist Yoshitaka Amano has almost done it all: from designing adorable children's anime like Hutch the Honey Bee and Yasai no Yousei: NY Salad, superhero anime like Gatchaman, elegant illustrations and character designs for the Final Fantasy games and his collaboration with author Hideyuki Kikuchi for the Vampire Hunter D series of novels and anime.
After several decades as an acclaimed artist and creator, the now 50-something Japanese artist is not one to rest on his past successes. He's currently working on Shinjuku, a different kind of illustrated novel with author Christopher "mink" Morrison that will be released by Dark Horse in Summer 2009, as well as an art exhibit in Japan and several other "secret projects" in the works.
Amano, Kikuchi-sensei and Kevin Leahy, the translator for the Vampire Hunter D novels, were the featured special guests at New York Anime Festival 2008. Urbane, cool and always gracious, Amano made several appearances at NYAF, including a solo Q&A session on Saturday, where attracted a full-house of fans eager to meet him and hear what he had to say about his creations and his creative process.
SUPERHERO WORSHIP: BATMAN, GATCHAMAN, SPIDERMAN, TAKOMAN?Q: You've mentioned that you're interested in creating a superhero. Can you tell us more about that?
Yoshitaka Amano: I love American comics. I consider them the roots of my art. Gatchaman is one example. Kind of like how Batman is based on a bat, so I've been thinking for some time what I could do for a new hero. Spiderman uses a spider, so how about an octopus? I could call him Takoman! (laughs)
I did come up with something like that, but it hasn't been presented to anyone yet. It's set in New York. The hero is a regular boy who's fused with an octopus from outer space. So like a real octopus, the hero can change his color to blend in with his environment. He uses suction cups to climb up the side of a building.
I had to come up with a weakness, so I figured it'd be that if he doesn't have water, he'll shrivel up.
So this would be about how civilization is its destroying the environment. Takoman's nemesis would be like Shark Man! (makes biting motion with his hands)
While I was thinking of all this, I got busy with my regular work, so I don't have much time to devote to this now. But in the future, I'll introduce the character in some form or another so I'm looking forward to your feedback.
"Hero" was the title and theme for my 1999 exhibition in New York City.
Hero involves a rock musician who lives in SoHo. He goes to a bar and gets sent 10,000 years to the future. So from Washington Square Park, he can enter different places in time. And that's how (the story) stands at the moment...
So at his Mr. Kikuichi's panel yesterday, he said when you write something like that, you should write it all the way to the end, so I apologize for not finishing this story yet.
Q: Which U.S. comic artists do you admire?
Yoshitaka Amano: My all time favorite is Neal Adams. Several years ago at San Diego Comic-Con, I met Neal Adams and I was thoroughly impressed to meet him and get his autograph.
When I was teenager, I was really interested in American comics, but there wasn't much available in Japan at the time. In this section of Tokyo where there are lots of used bookstores, there was one shop that had a box of comics for sale, and I would just wade through them -- They were like 10 cents each. When I'd find one that I liked, I'd think, "Score!"
For those of you familiar with Neal Adams and his work in comics in the late 1960's / early 1970's, he was doing the covers for almost every book, but didn't always do the art for the stories inside, so it was a short-lived victory to find (a comic) that only had his art on cover, but not his art in the inside.
Years later, as it happens, someone at DC Comics came to see my "Hero" show in New York City, and that's how i was asked to do the Sandman poster. From that, Neil Gaiman asked me to do the Sandman project, Sandman: The Dream Hunters in 2000. It all happened one after the other.
So I've basically fulfilled all of the dreams that I've had, and all of that happened here in New York City! (big smile from Amano and applause all around)
PEN, INK AND PAPER: FROM FINAL FANTASY TO SHINJUKUQ: You've worked in several mediums -- designing and creating artwork for video games, animation, clothing, fine art, novels and comics, but what is your favorite, and what is most challenging for you?
Yoshitaka Amano: I like working with drawing on paper. Paper bends and rolls, so I can put a big piece on my desk and roll it and work on a large image at once.
While the illustrations in the book end up being small, I draw them much larger, because there are some things that just can't be drawn on a small scale.
While drawing is my job, when my artwork is in the hands of different professionals - - with a publisher, it becomes a book. With a game developer, it becomes a game. With a set designer, it becomes a stage set. So I don't worry too much about the medium that it will be used in. I just focus o the drawing itself, and making the drawing look right.
For example, in a game, no matter how good my drawing may be, if the game's not good, then it won't sell. The same probably goes for novels. So ultimately the only thing I can take responsibility for is my artwork. So i really don't trust the various mediums all that much. (laughs)
But the medium certainly has its place, so it's thanks to these (various mediums) that I can get my work into different people's hands. I may have gotten too serious on this one... (laughs)