About Nippon 2007
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2008 Denvention 3
Amano-san (Mr. Yoshitaka Amano) in the 1980s
"Why not ask Amano-san to be the illustrator for Kimaira?" Baku-san (Mr. Baku Yumemakura) said to me, when he finished the script for "Genjuu Shonen Kimaira (Phantom Beast Boy Kimaira)," the first book in the Kimaira series. It was an early summer day in 1982 and I was about to have a close encounter with Amano-san.
At that time, Amano-san had resigned from Tatsunoko Production (Animation Studio), to become a freelance illustrator. In 1981, he started "Twilight Worlds" in SF Magazine, published by Hayakawa. His illustrations also appeared on the covers of some paperbacks, such as the Daimakai Series (Great Devildom) by Fumio Tanaka and the books of Michael Moorcock.
Following up on Baku-san's request, I looked at "Daimakai." "Those are fascinating illustrations," I thought; and I preferred them to his earlier illustrations for Kimaira. But I had one small anxiety: they were all fantasy illustrations. The Kimaira series is a martial arts SF youth novel whose hero was a high-school student.
When I saw the finished illustrations, I realized that my anxiety was unnecessary. The cover art was original. I had never seen that kind of illustration before. It suggested a phantom beast inside the hero's body. Monotone illustrations composed from lines and areas of only dark ink. No use of halftones. Those were heroes under cherry trees, talking. I felt happy at the chance to meet and work with this unique illustrator. "Genjuu Shonen Kimaira" was published that July, and sales were very good.
In September of that same year, Kikuchi-san (Mr. Hideyuki Kikuchi) published his first novel, "Makai-Toshi Shinjuku (Shinjuku, Daemon City)," and his second novel, "Kyuuketsuki Hantaa 'D' (Vampire Hunter D)"1. I asked Amano-san to draw the illustrations for 'D'.
In 12090 A.D., Vampires, known as The Nobility, have dominated humans for three hundred years. Their power is waning, but they are still a large threat to humans. Only a Hunter "D" could control them. When constructing this fantastic world, Kikuchi-san used the images and tropes of a spaghetti western2. "D" has a supreme beauty, but he is essentially a hunter and vagabond wandering the world. I think Kikuchi-san predicted that Amano-san would draw that kind of illustration. But the finished artwork was supremely beautiful! Kikuchi-san was knocked out because the illustration was beyond his imagination. I said to the boggled Kikuchi-san, "This book will sell well." And exactly so...
When thinking about early works by Amano-san, you must not stop at "Kimaira" and "D". I asked him to draw for other series, including "Alien series" by Kikuchi-san, but for me, Amano-san's world has a base line that began with "Kimaira" and "D". In 1984, Asahi Sonorama published Amano-san's first portfolio "Maten (Devils' Heaven)". When I conceptualized this book, I thought the main emphasis should be "Kimaira" and "D". So I asked Yumemakura-san and Kikuchi-san to write new short stories of "Kimaira" and "D", and I asked Amano-san to draw four illustrations for each story. It was a grand slam! Reiichi Kuki floating on a pool of blood, D running through a tunnel made of some big animal's bones. All of his illustrations shone. The cover art was based on a concept by designer Takamitsu Yajima. In Mandara-like art, drawn in gold and black, there was a serpent wrapped around a naked bodhisattva3, or Virgin Maria, this "Maten" and the next book, "Hiten", established the world of Amano-san. I'm proud to have been the editor of these two books.
After "Maten", Amano-san's works broadened to include cover artwork for many best-sellers, art for games and animations, stage design, lithographs, "Egg of Angel", "Final Fantasy", etc. In the storm of commissions, Amano-san always talks about his works, and expands his dreams. He said, "If I didn't use a paintbrush every day, I'd go crazy..." I think his love of drawing is fundamental to his being. When I asked him, "Isn't it difficult to learn new media and techniques?" his easy reply was, "Different areas seems disparate, but in essence those works built on the same foundation." His proclivity to try something new every time is obvious in his illustrations.
In "Shishi-ou (King of Lion)" magazine, started in 1985, I asked Amano-san to draw the cover art. He accepted my request and he suggested, "Let me draw anything I like, it's best for me." Amano-san's paintings were always powerful, but each time I awaited his finished art with some fear. "Oh, this illustration was good. I hope the next cover will take the same tack," I thought once. But the next cover art was beyond anything I expected. Very different illustrations would come one after the other... Amano-san said about that, "It's not interesting to always draw the same type of art." So the cover art of "Shishi-ou" always changed drastically. And all of this art was from inside Amano-san's world.
"Hiten", his second art book, was published, in the summer of 1989. That same year a gallery at Ginza exhibited his first art show. The gallery was full of fans, and many people frozen in front of "D". That October, Amano-san was a GoH with Ursula LeGuin and Robert McCammon at the World Fantasy Convention in Seattle. His display in the art show caught everyone's hearts. One gallery owner asked Amano-san if she could sell his cover for the 7th or 8th issue of "Shishi-ou." Amano-san finally agreed to her enthusiastic request. So in some town in USA, Amano-san's art has been on display ever since, and Amano-san's world has continued to spread through our Earth from that time on.
1See http://www.altvampyres.net/vhd/engnov01.html for information about Vampire Hunter D