Kawaii-Kon 2012 Yoshitaka Amano Focus Panel
by Sarah Nelkin,
Legendary artist Yoshitaka Amano's Q&A panel began with very straightforward instructions: attendees were told to line up in front of a microphone and ask their questions. I made it a point to be first in line.
"Quite a while ago, you worked on anime character design as well. Is there any anime work you'd like to work on in the present?" My question was shot down by a nonchalant answer, stating he didn't want to work on anime anymore because it was "a pain in the ass". He did, however, follow up the statement, saying that he is working on a movie right now called "Lady Dunn". The artbook will be released in America by Dark Horse.
"What inspires your art?" An attendee asked him. Amano replied that the inspirations for his art came from American pop art, Andy Warhol and American comics. When asked how he creates characters, he told the audience he puts all of his feelings into it, and then it becomes a good character – however, he noted, he tends to forget that feeling immediately afterward.
When asked about his work on the Vampire D novel as an illustrator, he stated that to really get into the novel and its characters, he had to put himself in the shoes of the readers, reading the novel for the first time. He told the audience that he certainly thought that the people who saw Vampire Hunter D and read the novel would have a different view on the work and its characters.
"In the past, all anime had to be done by hand, frame by frame. Now, we have computers that are so convenient. Do you use a computer?" An older man asked Amano. He said that while not using paper is eco-friendly and a good thing overall, he does not use a computer except for some final touches, as he gets a feeling of accomplishment when he finishes a work using paint, canvas and paper.
"Were your parents against you becoming an artist?" another person asked. He said that although he doesn't remember very well, he has a feeling that his parents never expressed any resistance to his choice of career, since he has always loved drawing.
What are you favorite characters to draw?" Although many in the crowd might have thought the answer would have been the characters for the Final Fantasy series, he surprised them, saying that if he had to choose one favorite set of characters he worked on, it would have to be the cast of Vampire Hunter D. He also said that he likes drawing characters he feels are cool, even if they are evil.
Another fan asked about his work at Tatsunoko, and how he drew the characters - were they designed based on a set of instructions given by his superiors at the company, or were they all his own? Apparently, when Amano is given certain restrictions, he feels pressure. He prefers having creative freedom, and feels that the pressure of “guidelines” suppresses that freedom.
When asked what drawings he drew as a child, and if he made character designs back then as well, he replied saying that he didn't have any characters of his own, but did a lot of fan art, including fan art of Astro Boy and Disney characters. Amano then spoke about his relationship with Neil Gaiman. Amano met the man in New York in 1999, and was hired to draw a poster for Gaiman's comic, Sandman. Neil said that he didn't want to continue Sandman anymore unless it took place in Japan, so the two teamed up. Neil asked Amano for a lot of advice about Japanese folklore, since the new story he was writing was about a fox and a monk who fell in love. Amano did the illustrations for this version of Sandman.
Amano then went on to say that for now, he's not intending to go back to videogame character design any time soon. At the moment, he works in the fine arts, with 80% of his current art fitting in that category. He displays his art in exhibits, and likes this because it isn't appealing only to game and anime fans, and can actually be appreciated as legitimate fine art. He is unknown in the fine art world at the moment, but he always likes to challenge new media and wants to test his skill as an artist.
Amano closed out the panel with a message for the audience - even if Americans draw in a Japanese style, a bit of the American style will stay. When he tries to draw in European style, a bit of the Japanese art will always be there. The goal is to keep your uniqueness in your art.