The Incredible World of Yoshitaka Amano

Amano's concept drawing for Sephiroth.


Intricate forms resolve and swirl together and mechanical elements are synthesized with organic forms. These fusions and syntheses are common in the work of Yoshitaka Amano. Amano is possibly one of Japan’s greatest living artists. His combination of Japanese and Western sensibilities and traditions along with his technical ability makes for artwork that dazzles the eye and fires the imagination.

Amano’s work hints at a diversity of influences but none of it is a pastiche. There are flashes of Pop Art, the work of Gustav Klimt and the Vienna Secession and traditional Japanese woodblock prints that inform his work. His work crosses the boundaries of time and style. Hiroshi Unno, a Japanese art scholar and critic writes in an essay on Amano, “Amano works simultaneously with the old and the new. His works are a collection of nostalgic images you are sure you have seen somewhere — but they create a synthesis that has not existed until now.”

Complexity and Fusion

The first thing most people notice about Amano’s work is its complexity of line and form. There is a lush depth to the way in which he layers detail without creating a jumbled effect. The influences of Art Nouveau are clear in the backgrounds he creates. Hiroshi Unno says, “Through his studies of the illustrations of Art Nouveau and Art Deco, Amano realized the importance of background as well as the central design, and so he creates background textures with great minuteness and precision.”

Another unique characteristic of Amano’s is his desire to work in many different art forms. He paints, draws, prints and etches as well as creating stained glass pieces. In this respect he inherits the legacy of the Vienna Secession and its desire to connect across art forms and crafts. As Unno points out, “He is fully versatile in every technique, every style.” Yoshitaka Amano’s toolbox of styles and techniques gives his work tremendous range and push it forward into new areas.

Printmaking in both Japanese and Western traditions is one of his deep interests. In the introduction to The Complete Prints of Yoshitaka Amano the artist says, “When it came time for me to select a medium in which I could create my own world, printmaking was a natural choice.”

He goes on to say, “What drew me to printmaking was the honesty with which the process reproduces shapes and colors drawn directly on the printing block, and the ease of making multiple, full-size copies for more people to enjoy.”

Blurring Borders

Throughout his career Amano has moved between designing characters for anime and video games as well as working on personal projects in more traditional styles. This gives him the unique ability to adapt to a changing art world and adopt a new perspective on traditional art forms. Amano is not easily pigeonholed and traditionally rigid categories of art can’t capture the essence of his work.

In fact Amano’s art may fit into a new category called interstitial art. This is a term coined by the Interstitial Arts Foundation and refers to art that is, “art made in the interstices between genres and categories. It is art that flourishes in the borderlands between different disciplines, mediums, and cultures.”

The work of Yoshitaka Amano does indeed disrupt boundaries and implode the binary categorizations that have long been a part of the art world. He treads the line between “fine art” and decorative arts, between traditional disciplines and the world of technology and does so comfortably. Amano is a renaissance man.

This article was originally posted by me on on December 18th, 2010.

One comment to The Incredible World of Yoshitaka Amano

  • Kaze  says:

    I’ve always been a huge fan of Yoshitaka Amano’s artwork, especially his work with Final Fantasy and Vampire Hunter D. Sadly the only artbook of his I have is Coffin: the Art of Vampire Hunter D, which I bought back when Borders went out of business.

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