(English follows) 天野喜孝のキャラクターは昔から線が細く、上目使いでした。今まで公開されたことがなかった絵を「COLLECTED PAINTINGS OF AMANO’S WORLD」という2019年出版の画集では特に顕著に現れています。FFシリーズ等のゲームやアニメ作品では、この原画の特徴を崩さず、キャラクター化できているのは素晴らしい。買う価値があった！よかったら写真をご覧ください↓
As promised, here’s the souvenir I picked from the Yoshitaka Amano art exhibit I wrote about the other day. You already know what it is as the title and cover image give it away xD
It’s a book, a collection of never-before-seen works. Yeah, I got a book, of course, bookworm that I am. Unsurprising, eh? To be very honest, I hesitated in buying this one because I still don’t have a grand folio book of Amano’s most famous, best known works. There are a bunch I have my eye on but I still haven’t bought any of them. Should I get me a collection of unknown works even before owning a definitive Yoshitaka Amano book?
Adman is Convincing
What convinced me was the ad in the souvenir shop. The blurb says the book, published in March 2019, is unavailable in bookstores, and is sold exclusively during art exhibitions. So to get a hold of one you really have to go to an exhibit. I’m a sucker for 限定版 genteiban or limited edition books or just books you can’t get anywhere!
And that is how I ended up with a book. The other choices were all very beautiful: themed postcard sets, themed clear file folder sets, mugs, stationery, mobile phone chargers, frameable art on long-lasting plastic, just lots of products printed with Amano’s most beloved works. I wanted them, too, but given my limited budget I settled on the book. It cost JPY 4950 (about 50 USD), with around 300 pages at A5 (15 x 21cm) size.
Was it worth it? Let’s find out!
Beautiful Book Cover
It’s a softcover book with a custom slipcase, which has a dark green marble-patterned background:
Blue is my favourite color, so I didn’t really stand a chance with this one xD A book with a cover of a winged female centaur, and gold lettering? There’s even a skull on her belt. Here, take my money!
The gold leaf shimmers in the light. Here’s the back of the box cover, a half-naked warrior woman in red armour, holding a spear, with a dragon behind her.
I partially removed the dust jacket expecting to find nothing, but there’s an illustration of an eye, and Amano’s signature:
Giveaways that Come with the Book
Each book comes with a plastic sleeve of a redhead smoking a pipe (?), with a red leaf pattern at the back.
There’s also a 15 x 21cm postcard on thick paper, featuring a painting of a little blonde girl in a red jacket, matching boots and white dress, talking to a blue baby dragon underneath a large tree.
It’s adorable, I should frame it!
A Sampling of What’s Inside
The book is like a collection of postcards, without any explanations or dates or titles, divided into five chapters by painting materials: Paper, Paulownia (a type of wood), Acrylic, Stainless steel, and Canvas.
Here are some photos of what’s inside. There are over 300 works, and I randomly picked ones I liked in particular. They are all high fantasy types of illustrations, but please don’t think they’re all like that. There are also manga-style sketches, a couple of landscape paintings, some nudes, anime-like chibi characters, and creatures reminiscent of FF, Vampire Hunter, etcetera.
Since there are no notes under the artworks, let’s have a look at what the Preface says instead. I’m going to translate on the fly, so don’t take my word for gospel. He says there hasn’t ever been a collection of works like this one, pieces he did one by one, inspired by fans saying ‘I want to see a picture like this’ or ‘If only there was a piece like so’. Lots of ideas from different people all led to this one special compilation.
There’s something he realised as he collected works for this book: at first, looking at the pictures there doesn’t seem to be a connection or context while he painted them, but in reality every piece was done with earnest intensity. He says he felt a sense of fulfillment while drawing, all the while feeling joy, surprise, anxiety, and sometimes worry. The reason for this is because he was drawing to make someone happy, and for him that’s where his creativity originates, and what his art is all about.
For him, to create is not merely to trace the image in his mind, but to capture the image into his world view, while moving freely and incorporating whatever changes that appear by themselves, regardless of his intention.
Amano gives the book cover as an example. The first idea that came into his head was a goddess and he started to draw that, but as his hand moved, the goddess became a winged warrior, a woman who acts with a will of her own, who isn’t bound by anything and is truly free, that is, she became an active woman.
The other paintings in the book, he says, all follow this kind of development. As he began to chase the image in his mind, it expanded steadily as he drew, taking shape and deepening into an expression of his world view.
He says the book contains original drawings that he intended to remain as private works. These works are something he, as an artist expressing his world view, can share with fans who have their own stories and feelings, as part of the bond between the artist and his fans.
One thing he’s interested in, he says, is what kind of chemical change will occur after he collects the works into one book, and whether these individual independent works will begin to develop a social as well as public nature.
Source of Inspiration
My one (very minor) quibble with the book in terms of content is the way the works are arranged. For me, it didn’t make any sense to arrange by material because the plates are so small the differences in materials could barely be seen. I would rather he arranged the book according to subject (gods, goddesses, warriors, children, animals, nudes, landscapes, and so on) or by style (high fantasy, manga, chibi, abstract, rough sketches, and so on). As it were, the subjects and styles are helter-skelter. On one page there’s a simple chibi character, on the page next to it is an elaborate painting in a totally different style. I’m not into an assorted ‘mixed bag’ when it comes to art, I very much prefer a different kind of organisation.
Having said that, I do know the ‘surprise’ element is stronger when everything’s mixed up. Perhaps someone coming home from a long day at work and simply wanting to sit back and flip through the pages will find the randomness of the arrangement refreshing.
The real downside is the price. For a small book, it’s somewhat expensive compared to the bigger ones containing more popular works, such as this one:
With its hard cover with a slipcase and 640 pages, it’s his most popular book on Amazon, costing around 80 USD. There are others, too, with different content:
This one costs about 30 USD, hardbound with over 300 pages, with plenty of text about his life and art process.
Then there’s the paperback Yoshitaka Amano : Illustrations (1), softcover with 128 pages costing only 16 USD, a stark contrast with the hardcover, 116-page character design book Dawn: The Worlds of Final Fantasy selling upwards from 130 USD.
Comparatively speaking, this book I’m reviewing is not particularly cheap given its small size. Whether it’s worth it or not depends on how much you are into Amano’s art. I think the book is meant for hardcore fans who already own a bunch of his most popular books, and want something more.
So if it’s rarity that matters, then absolutely, yes I’d say it’s worth it! If you love Yoshitaka Amano’s style and want a window into his private studio, then you’ll enjoy this book. While I have yet to lay my hands on his bigger monographs, I like this little one, it’s totally engrossing, filled with plenty of brilliant creatures that inspire the viewer to dream of fantasy galaxies filled with magic and lore.
What I truly love about Amano’s artworks – including the ones in this new book – is that every single one of them seem to have a long, fascinating, complicated story to tell. I look at his characters and I’m like, “Oh, I could write a book about this woman!” and think up crazy scenarios in my head. That’s how inspiring they are 🙂 This ability to fantasize is rather important to people like me these days, who aren’t able to travel (As of this writing, Tokyo still has a long way to go with COVID19 vaccinations; we’re not encouraged to go on local trips or globe-trotting expeditions). So all the traveling has to be inside our heads. This book helps with that, it’s perfect for it, actually!
I’ve been leafing through the book and while it’s only A5 in size, the ethereal Amano look is unmistakable, the dreamy brushstrokes all his own, the eye-popping and yet utterly delicate fantasy creatures coming straight from the heart and mind of the man that helped to shape our beloved Final Fantasy world.
Thank you so much for reading! Please take a moment to share a thought or two in the comment section below. Your comments give me life and are a real source of encouragement. xoxo – hana