INTERVIEW WITH THE MAN BEHIND THE ART OF FINAL FANTASY
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The Man Behind Final Fantasy: An Exclusive Look at Yoshitaka Amano
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All Aboard The Hype-Train Top Upcoming Video Game Picks for 2014 & 2015 2014 1. Destiny Release Date: September 9, 2014 2. Batman: Arkham Knight Release Date: October 14, 2014 3. Dragon Age: Inquisition Release Date: October 7, 2014 4. The Evil Within Release Date: August 26, 2014 5. Far Cry 4 Release Date: November 14, 2014
2015 1. The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt Release Date: Q2 2015 2. Tom Clancyâ€™s The Division Release Date: TBA 2015 3. Mighty No. 9 Release Date: Q2 2015 4. Halo 5: Guardians Release Date: Q4 2015 5. The Order: 1886 Release Date: Q1 2015
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YOUR LEGEND BEGINS NOW
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Watercolor Never Looked So Good Meet The Man of Your Final Fantasy
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WRITTEN BY John Marquez PHOTOGRAPHY BY John Marquez TRANSLATED BY John Marquez
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oshitaka Amano was born in Shizuoka, Japan. As a young adolescent, he was fascinated with drawing. In 1967, he began working in the animation department of Tatsunoko Productions, where he was introduced to the early Japanese anime movement. His first paid project was for the Speed Racer anime franchise. He was a character designer for anime shows such as Time Bokan, Gatchaman, Tekkaman, and Honeybee Hutch. In the ‘60s, Amano was exposed to Western art styles through comic books, which he claims among his artistic roots. He has cited Neal Adams as his favorite comic book artist, noting that he would often purchase used comics based on Adams’s cover artwork, only to be disappointed that the interior artist was different. Amano was also fascinated by the art styles of psychedelic art and pop art of the West, particularly the work of American Pop artist Peter Max. In the 1970s, Amano studied the artworks of the late 19th century and early 20th century European movement of Art Nouveau, as well as the ancient Japanese hand woodblock printing work of Ukiyo-e. He remained at Tatsunoko Productions until 1982. In the early ‘80s, Amano concentrated on illustrations for science fiction and fantasy works.
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Combined with the influence of his prior experience in animation, this focus resulted in a personal style influenced by both modern surrealism and realism. He left Tatsunoko Production and started his activities as a freelancer in 1982. He did illustration and cover page design of Kimaira series, written by Baku Yumemakura, from this year. In 1983, he illustrated the novel Demon City Shinjuku and the first in Hideyuki Kikuchi’s Vampire Hunter D novel series. He also worked as a character designer on the 1985 movie adaptation of Vampire Hunter D, which was one of the first anime movies to be released outside of Japan. In interviews, however, Amano has stated that he was not pleased with the final product of the movie. His illustrations begin to be published in collections such as Maten in 1984. The animation title Amon Saga was written by Baku Yumemakura with character design by him. Amanga version of Amon Saga was also released. In 1987, Amano joined Square (now known as Square Enix) to work on a role-playing video game for the Nintendo Entertainment System: Final Fantasy. Amano produced conceptual design pieces for the game in both traditional and computer designed artwork. At this time, he also worked for another video game company, Kure Software Koubou, producing box cover illustrations as well as some character designs. This work included designs for Kure’s First Queen series. Following Final Fantasy VI in 1994, he stepped down as the main character, image, and graphic designer of top left: Firion on a horse (FFII) middle left: Chaos sitting on his throne (FFI) middle right: Firion and friends (FFII) top right: The Warriors of Light face Garland (FFI)
the series. He continued to provide promotional and character artwork for the following games and to design their title logos. In 2006, Hironobu Sakaguchi, the former designer and creator of the Final Fantasy series, recruited Amano and composer Nobuo Uematsu to work on video games at Mistwalker. Amano’s first exhibition, called “Hiten”, was held in 1989 at Yurakucho Mullion in Tokyo, Japan. In 1990, he began to work as an artist and set designer for stage theater. His first work for theater was Tamasaburo Bando’s Nayotake. He also held further exhibitions and became well known for his printing works. Beginning in 1995 with his work at the Biennale d’Orléans in France, he received increased recognition outside of Japan. Further international exhibitions followed, including the 1999 “Hero” at the Angel Orensanz Foundation and the 1997 workshop and exhibition “Think Like Amano”. In 1998, Amano appeared as Hiroshi in the 1998 movie New Rose Hotel, loosely based on the William Gibson short story of the same name. In 2010, following a small solo art exhibition tour titled “Devaloka” it was announced that Amano had established a film production company, Studio Devaloka, and would be directing a 3D anime titled Zan, with additional projects to be announced in the future. On December 15, 2010, the official website for the film, now titled Deva Zan, was unveiled, along with information concerning an upcoming press conference, to be held on December 21, 2010. The roughly ten minute long conference revealed details about the project, including staff, as well as a short trailer for the film, which stylistically emulates the look of Amano’s paintings. In April
2012, an illustrated novel adaptation of the work was announced by Dark Horse Manga. To be released in January 2013, the novel will be Amano’s debut as an author and will include over 240 original illustrations. Despite a projected 2012 release date, Amano stated in an October 2012 interview that the animation project was still in its development and funding stages and may instead be realized as a TV series. The possibility of a video game adaptation was also mentioned. On a stroke of good fortune, we managed to meet the man of legend himself and asked him if he could spare a bit of time for some questions. And luckily enough, he agreed. ART: Thank you, Amano-san, for taking the time out of your schedule to invite us into your home. Let’s start off with the basic stuff. When and where were you born, and what was it like growing up, until you were around 10 yearsold or so? Amano: Yoshitaka Amano: I was born in 1952 in Shizuoka, which is close to Mount Fuji, it’s close to the ocean, we have several beautiful beaches there. That’s where I grew up, and as a kid, I wasn’t one of the stronger kids, so whenever I was feeling sick I painted, which made me feel better. I liked going out and having fun with my friends, but whenever I felt like I wanted to paint or draw something I wouldn’t show up wherever my
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friends were meeting, and I’d stay home and paint. That’s the way I really enjoyed myself as a kid.
ART: When did you realize that you wanted to be an artist, not in the sense of it as a hobby, but more as a profession and a way to make a living? Amano: When I was fourteen, I went to see my best friend, who had moved to Tokyo -- I was still living in Shizuoka -- so I went to see him. And I knew about Tatsunoko and I felt like I wanted to join Tatsunoko, so I brought a piece of my art, and I went to see their office and left the piece behind. After I came back to Shizuoka, Tatsunoko had sent a note saying they wanted to hire me, and that’s when I joined Tatsunoko and that’s when I realized that I wanted to draw and paint as my career. ART: What was the accepted idea of a career at the time? Did the Japanese economic climate in the 60s encourage young people to get a more traditional or ‘practical’ job? And were your parents supportive of your choice, or did they want you to follow a more conventional career path as a youth? Amano: I’m the youngest kid in my family, so my parents weren’t on my case all the time. They thought if I was happy and healthy, then it was fine. And I just did it without talking with my family about it. I brought my artwork to Tatsunoko, got hired, and went out to work for them. So I just gave them a report after deciding everything. [Laughs] ART: What was their reaction after you told them you got a job in Tokyo? It must have seemed pretty daring, quite cosmopolitan at the time. Amano: My family was very surprised, but I was very, very happy, because I loved to paint when I was a kid, but naturally my parents would always say “Oh, you’re painting again,” or “Do your homework” or “Do what kids are supposed to do,” so I always got scolded. So the first thing that came to my mind was that it was an awesome job because no one was going to scold me for painting, and whenever I painted or drew something, people complimented me, so it was an unbelievable environment for me, so I was so happy. I thought it was destiny to have this chance to join Tatsunoko and start my career there. So when it was around when I was 15 years-old that I decided that I wanted to live my life as an artist, painting and drawing, and I thought that I would never regret it, and up to this point I’ve never regretted it at all. ART: How did you come to join Tatsunoko Productions when you were only 15 years old? Amano: It was an act of fate, I think. I lived in Shizuoka when I was a third-year student in high school. I went to Tokyo to visit my friend, and my friend happened to live next door to Tatsunoko Productions. So we went and walked around and took a tour. I drew a picture for them and submitted it, and the next day they called up and said they’d like to have me there. So without telling my parents, I signed on right there.
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“...it becomes a constant spring of this happiness that you really only get to feel as a child stands out more than any... ”
ART: So you went to school at the same time you were working at Tatsunoko? Amano: I moved to Tokyo and went to high school while I was working at Tatsunoko, but after a while I just went to work at Tatsunoko full-time. ART: What were your early years at Tatsunoko like? Did you begin your career having to do more mundane, apprentice-like chores or were you able to jump right into the character design and create Gatchaman? How did that progress? Amano: The first year I had to learn about animation, so I was part of the production team, and I was involved with all the methods, so I would understand what animation was. The second year I was working as an animator, but back then there wasn’t a person called a ‘character designer’, so every now and then when I was working as an animator, the company would bring me to this private, secret room and force me to create a character... ART: You have been working for a long time. When you look over your whole body of work, what do you think is the most important thing you have done? Amano: It’s not actually so much a piece of work I have done that you could name, like Final Fantasy, but the fact that when I look back, I had so much fun drawing as a child - I would draw pictures and that would bring me such a feeling of elation and jubilation. That’s what I look back on, being able to - for work - enjoy what I do. The fact that it becomes a constant spring of this happiness that you really only get to feel as a child stands out more than any certain project that I have worked on. ART: Your work all has a strong fantasy element to it. When you sit down to work, how do you move yourself from the real world into the fantasy world of your characters? Amano: It’s not so much drawing fantasy as drawing things that aren’t reality. There is no switch that takes me out of reality and fantasy, so there is nothing I can pin myself to, but I constantly have these fantastical images in my head, this non-reality that is swimming around in my head, and I can pour it out whenever it’s necessary. If I draw, for example, the Eiffel Tower, without
top left: Terra Branford (FFVI) top right: Moogle (Various) bottom left: Firion and party with The Emperor (FFII) bottom right: Exdeath (FFV)
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W Yoshitaka Amano signing a Vampire Hunter D poster.
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“...whatever I put on the paper is going to be fantastical because I am not just projecting what I see in front of it.”
ART: What do you think is your best work in the game
industry? Whether it is from Final Fantasy, or Front Mission, or anything. Amano: The character I like the most, is Tina from Final Fantasy VI, she was the first HEROine of the Final Fantasy series. I also like the character Faris, from Final Fantasy V, who is a girl, but a bit of a tomboy. I like the simple monsters too, like the Bomb and also the Slime, which is very simple. I feel as if this represents me more, so I like the simple designs.
ART: So it’s like perspective, how art is to one person can looking at a picture of the Eiffel Tower or being in front of it, whatever I put on the paper is going to be fantastical, because I am not just projecting what I see in front of it. So there is going to be an element of fantasy born whenever I am not drawing from a still life. So it’s pretty much whatever comes to mind whenever it is not in front of me. ART: You have fans all over the world. How does this affect your work, knowing that it will be seen in different cultures? Amano: I never think about it. I draw, but I don’t draw reflective of what fans might [think]. In the last few years, it doesn’t matter if you are in Hong Kong, or Brazil, or wherever you might be, there aren’t many walls, especially for what we are involved in -- comics, games, movies. There are no more cultural walls or borders, for the most part. It’s kind of a good thing, because you can draw without trying to think. ART: What made you want to leave Tatsunoko? At the time it was traditional for most people to stay with the same company for their entire professional career. What you did was rather bold and not without risk, I imagine. Amano: I stayed at Tatsunoko for fifteen years. From 15 to 30 is when I worked at Tatsunoko. But since I turned 20 and in my twenties, I began to feel that as an artist and as a painter, that I couldn’t be doing character design the whole time. I wanted to grow as an artist, so I was painting and drawing on my own outside of my work at Tatsunoko. So I decided to break out on my own when I turned 30, because I wanted my own art to be seen by people, not just as a character designer at Tatsunoko. ART: So in the intervening years between leaving Tatsunoko and getting involved with the game industry, were you able to support yourself and survive purely as an artist during that whole time? Amano: Yes I was able to support myself as an artist. When I was in Tatsunoko, I only had one category, character design and animation, but after leaving I was relieved because I was able to do anything, in several genres, like science fiction or fantasy, or even humor illustrations. Video games were just an additional genre to all the other things I was doing.
be entirely different to another. Amano: So video games say something different to me too. I could just express something, in a game world in a different way. That’s why I like working in games too. I think it would be interesting if I could express something from a painting in a video game.probably get a lot of new ideas, and get inspiration from that. The point is to get inspired, so I don’t want to stay in a hotel. I could even just sleep in the park, and stay there for a while so I can see the atmosphere and get the inspiration. The first thing I was surprised and inspired by when I went to New York was the fire hydrants and the manhole covers in the ground. Things that are not special at all -- people who live there would not even notice it at all -- but the plastic boxes on each street corner that have the free leaflets and newsletters, the yellow color of these boxes has just a bit of blue in it to make it a very unique yellow color. You can’t find that color just anywhere. So really, really small things like that, but there’s lots of really small things like that all over the world. So things like that are very important to me as an artist. ART: Since your art is so fantastical in nature, was there ever any danger that a designer would get mad that it doesn’t look exactly as it does in real life? Would Dior ever look at your painting and say “My coat doesn’t look like that!”? Amano: Well, the kimonos in this book, I designed. Everything else is designed by Dior. Each contribution is written in the credits, so there was no worry about a conflict. ART: Have you ever thought about designing clothes that a fashion house would in turn manufacture and sell? Amano: [Laughs] That’s very interesting. I’m really, really interested in doing that, but if it turns into a business thing, then it involves the whole apparel business, which would make it very difficult. But I am very interested in it, and I wouldn’t mind doing something like that.
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