New York Comic-Con 2012 Dark Horse Presents: Yoshitaka Amano
by Todd Ciolek,
Yoshitaka Amano began his New York Comic Con panel with a crowd-pleaser: “I love New York.”
Many fans of games and anime first encountered the artist through his work on the Final Fantasy series, the Vampire Hunter D novels, Gatchaman, Angel's Egg, and other projects. Yet Amano's unique style has won him a following well beyond the game and animation industries, and many of those in the audience were quick to praise Amano's art and thank him for inspiring their own artistic pursuits.
Amano briefly mentioned his upcoming project Deva Zan, an illustrated novel that Amano wrote and drew. The book is also connected to a feature film that Amano's producing with his new studio, Devaloka. Amano has provided illustrations for many novels, Vampire Hunter D best-known among them, yet the Deva Zan book marks the first time he's served as both author and artist.
“This is the first time I've written a story all by myself,” Amano said, “so I feel responsible for the outcome.”
This wasn't Amano first visit to New York, as he lived between the city and his Japan home for several years, and it was in New York that he devised Hero, Deva Zan, N.Y. Salad, and a yet-to-be-made octopus-superhero story called Takoman.
“New York is a special place to me,” he stated. “It's where a lot of my ideas come from.”
The panel soon gave way to questions from the audience. The first asked if symbolist painter Gustav Klimt was an inspiration to Amano.
“It's difficult to say, but I really liked him in my twenties,” Amano replied.
Another question: how did Amano come to make a cameo in the film New Rose Hotel?
“I didn't really know what I was getting into,” Amano jokingly admitted. “But I was in New York at the time, and I just got a call out of the blue.”
One fan thanked Amano for inspiring him to pursue art studies in school. Amano told him “give it your best. The work will take your life with it, so good luck.”
Asked about the depictions of androgynous characters in his work, Amano responded: “I don't have any intentions, but I just draw what I think is beautiful or attractive. There's no androgynous standard that I hold myself to. Just like the mountains and sky are beautiful without any gender, perhaps people are the same way. You should always draw what you think is beautiful without any limitation.”
He added “I've felt that Vampire Hunter D is the original bishonen.”
The subject of Final Fantasy came up, of course, as one audience member asked about Amano's first experiences working on the RPG line.
“Twenty-five years ago, games weren't what they are now,” Amano recalled. “I didn't see a game at the time, I just saw a young, impassioned staff that would be cool to work with. From the publishing perspective, there was some trepidation about an artist getting involved in a video game. But looking back on it, it's Final Fantasy, so there was a nice confluence of what I wanted to do and what the game was about. Had it been a game about baseball, things would've been different.”
Another audience member brought up Amano's illustrations for literary works like The Tale of Genji.
“Well, there were already many types of pictures for Genji,” Amano said. “But I didn't have any concept of how things looked back then, so I want you to know that the clothes seen in my illustrations aren't real. You might say it's all BS. History is often an interpretation, so I decided to interpret it how I wanted. Even if it isn't real, I think I worked out rather well.”
Amano's favorite artists as a child? He was influenced by animation like Snow White and Bambi. In his teens, he buried himself in American comics like Superman and Batman. And he's still a comics fan.
“It feels strange to be up here talking when I feel like I should be in the crowd,” Amano said.
One fan asked if Amano created the moogle and the chocobo, two of Final Fantasy's signature creatures? Amano stated that he doesn't recall.
Amano then sketched for the audience, first illustrating a moogle wearing an “NY” button and perching on a cloud. An illustration of Vampire Hunter D's title character was next, followed by Ken from Gatchaman, which provided one of Amano's first character-design jobs. Amano also drew Zidane from Final Fantasy IX and, lastly, Terra from Final Fantasy VI. According to the Dark Horse representatives at the panel, the sketches will be donated to the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund.
And what does Amano want to do now that he's back in New York?
“I'd like to head back to the galleries in Chelsea,” he says.