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Yoshitaka Amano of Final Fantasy Fame – Art Exhibit 2021

(English follows) ファイナルファンタジーで知られる画家、天野喜孝先生のアート展に行ってきました。涙が出るほど美しく、繊細で眩しく輝く数々の作品を目の当たりにし、感動が止まりませんでした。いつか私も作品をコレクションしたいなあ、と夢が浮かび・・・ルポはともかく是非とも写真をご覧ください↓

Those who’ve played the Final Fantasy video game are very much familiar with 天野喜孝 Yoshitaka Amano. I used to play FF in high school, and while I’m no longer gaming these days, I remember being really into it with my friends. 

Amano is such a prolific illustrator and character designer that anyone with anything at all to do with the fantasy genre – whether anime, manga, literature, music or video games – would have encountered his work at one point or another.

I’ve wanted to go to an exhibit of his for years – and he’s the kind who holds a show regularly – just one of the things on my To Do Someday List. You know all about that sinister word ‘someday’. It basically means never, but because I didn’t want that to happen to me, I decided to go to one. The timing’s perfect since long months of being unable to go anywhere due to the pandemic made me want to go everywhere now that Tokyo’s State of Emergency has been lifted. 

Poster advertising the exhibit. Excuse the Starbucks reflection xD

So here I am, at the Yoshitaka Amano (father) and Yumihiko Amano (son) joint art exhibit, called 「ファンタジーアート展2021」(Fantasy Art Exhibit 2021) 

Giveaways for Registrants

One of the perks of going to an admission-is-free Amano exhibit is that you get an illustrated giveaway if you make a reservation. And the wonderful thing about the reservation is that you don’t need to specify exactly which day or time you’re going. All you need to do is say you will be at one of the places the exhibit is being held at. Here’s the 2021 schedule in general:

  • Early April: Hokkaido, Kanagawa, Tottori, Gunma prefectures
  • Mid April: Yamagata, Tokushima, Kumamoto
  • Late April to Early May: Chiba, Tokyo
  • Early May: Saitama, Niigata, Ishikawa
  • Mid-May: Miyagi, Toyama
  • Late May: Fukuoka

The detailed schedule is on the official website for the show.

Once you make a reservation, a confirmation email will be sent along with a reservation number. You tell the entrance staff this number and they give you what you picked during the reservation.

I went with a friend who also used to play Final Fantasy (not with me, though, as we went to different schools in different countries!). She opted for the mousepad while I chose the clear file folder or plastic sleeve.

Clear file folder, mousepad and postcards illustrated by Yoshitaka Amano

Gamers will be familiar with the illustration on the (tiny!) blue mousepad: they’re the chibi version of characters in Final Fantasy VII (Click to see the 10th Anniversary Cover | Remake: Material Ultimania). Aren’t they adorable?

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Exquisite botanical details in Yoshitaka Amano’s artwork

The plastic sleeve, on the other hand, features the work titled ‘Cosi Fan Tutte’. Three lovely ladies in flowing gowns sit and relax with a grinning joker and some small heavenly creatures bursting with color. I could stare at this folder all day!

Small fantasy creature detail in Yoshitaka Amano’s artwork

I’m not sure if it shows in the badly-taken pic above, but the level of detail is mindblowing. Delicate strokes and subtle graduated coloring makes for one plastic sleeve straight out of a fairy tale.

Detail of gorgeous celestial creature by Yoshitaka Amano

Whether or not you make a reservation, every person who visits the gallery will be given an illustrated postcard, featuring an Amano masterpiece called 「飛天V」(hiten, flying celestial creatures in Buddhist mythology). It’s only postcard-sized but the details are superlative and it’s totally worth framing.

Detail of artwork by Yoshitaka Amano

Ahh, aren’t they super pretty and wonderfully complex? Every one of Amano’s artwork is just so dreamy, a veritable feast for the eyes.

The Gallery

On to the art. We weren’t allowed to take pictures, so I’m trying to reconstruct what I saw from memory. I’m terrible at this, that’s why I need to take pictures 🙁 Hope you’ll stay with me!

After you get your giveaway you are given an ID card with a string to put around your neck. The event space is divided into the gift shop area (which anyone can buy from without even looking at the exhibit) and the exhibition area. 

Entrance to the exhibit

We were met with two large, framed prints of Amano’s latest work. We stood and looked at them in appreciation, but then my friend whispered to me, “I’m trying hard to look at the artwork but my eyes keep on drifting to the price tag!” “Shh, not so loud!” I whispered back. “Let’s pretend to be loaded collectors just for the time being!”

A staff member standing by overheard us and he laughed and said, “The new works cost a lot because they’re the first edition prints.”

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I have to admit I was also bowled over by the price tag, but decided to ignore it. One of them cost just under JPY 1,700,000 pre-tax (about 15500 USD). Wow. 

We chatted with the staff as we went around looking at the pieces on display. Some of the things we learned:

  • All of the works being exhibited are limited edition prints. If you order a print, then it will come delivered with the artist’s signature as well as the unique edition number. When all the editions are sold there will be no more prints made of the artwork, ever.
  • Some of the prints have been hand-embellished, that is, after the print is made the artist goes over it to add painted details by hand. This adds texture and solidity to the piece.
  • The average cost of a print is around JPY 800,000 (about 7300 USD).
  • Some of the works on exhibit are borrowed from the galleries of private collectors, so they’re not for sale (and the original work itself is no longer in print making the pieces rare). Their purpose is to show would-be collectors how they might frame and display the artwork. I have to say, the frames were very heavy-looking and ornate 🙂

Obviously we cannot afford any of the prices named above. The least expensive pieces were small black-and-white prints by Yumihiko Amano, selling for under 1000 USD. Some of the larger works by Yoshitaka Amano have a ‘Sample Monthly Payment Breakdown’ label on them to demonstrate that, if you pay, say 250 dollars for X number of months then you can own a limited edition print!

Me and my friend, both of us just a few years out of university and being relatively poor (we are still paying off student loans), have no chance to own any of the pieces, sadly. But then we didn’t go there to splurge, we went there to see our favourite Final Fantasy illustrations in their huge, printed-on-paper glory. And boy oh boy we were not disappointed.

Town

I don’t think I’ll be too off the mark if I say this is probably the most famous of all Amano illustrations for FF. I remember being a teenager and falling in love with this piece, from the package cover of Final Fantasy VI. (Click to see a Nintendo cover version | SuperFamicom version | PlayStation version)

“Town” by Yoshitaka Amano

It shows a girl in red overlooking a town, all dark and grim with a floating castle in the background, and while it seems initially peaceful you still have that nagging feeling something terrible is about to happen.

There were three pieces on exhibit, framed and arranged in an inverted triangle to form a kind of set. The one at the base had the drawing above on a white background, just like the way it looked on the FF package. Over at top left was a multimedia version, looking like a pop-up card, with the illustration in front and for the background a shiny, metallic red paper with geometric patterns. To the right was the same piece but with a blue background. Both of them looked like they were glowing! The colored artworks were amazing, but both my friend and I agreed we liked the traditional one with the white background best.

Because the print is large, for all three pieces you can look closely and see all the details of the illustration. It’s hard to figure out the small details with a game software package, but in the exhibit you can see lots of exquisite details you’d never have thought were there in the first place.

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Red Sword

The piece on exhibit that grabbed me by the throat and has yet to let go is this illustration from Final Fantasy II. (Click to see a black-and-white Playstation version | colored Playstation Remastered edition)

On a package cover it looks just like any fantasy character, but printed generously on high-quality paper, the colors absolutely pop and the brushwork details are stunning. Because he’s no longer so small as in a game box cover, you can really feel him staring at you with those darkly intense eyes, making the hair stand at the back of your neck.

The jewels on the turban look almost 3D, and because the painting has been hand-embellished, there were generous metallic paint details lining the entire length of the sword. Even the white hair was painted on and looked like it was flying off the paper, blowing gently in the wind. Everything about the artwork looked glorious, in large format and framed beautifully in matching gold with non-reflective glass. I never knew a cover illustration could be so thoroughly captivating! 

If I ever win the lottery, I told myself, I’ll buy a limited edition print of this one!

Knight God Cometh Not

For an illustration made in 1987, this one is a true classic, a masterpiece that stands – and will continue to stand – the test of time.

“Kishin Kitarinu” by Yoshitaka Amano

A beautiful half-woman, half-beast goddess wields her weapon, and OMG it looks simply dazzling when printed large on paper. Gold details embellish the entire piece, and her look is one of determination. She’s just about the most gorgeous centauride I’ve ever seen. 

My friend and I were discussing what we loved the most about Amano’s style, and she said for her it was the overall airy, dreamy quality. For me, I absolutely love the way he draws faces, making them look ethereal and timeless. They always encourage you to think: What is she thinking? What was her past? What does she want for the future? I can write an entire fabricated story about his characters just by staring at their elegantly expressive faces 🙂

World Map

Perhaps my one disappointment was this one. It’s another well-known Amano masterpiece, and was used extensively to promote the show.

“World Map” by Yoshitaka Amano

I expected the artwork to cover half the wall, but instead it was divided into three small panels and framed in one long frame but with spaces between the panels. So it wasn’t one long piece but three separate pieces in one frame. The label said you can order different arrangements to your liking. If I had the money I’d have ordered it really big and in one piece! 

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A goddess floats in the middle of this world, with all kinds of fantastic beasts and heavenly creatures everywhere. Small though it was, the level of detail was still incredible. 

Glad I Finally Went

My friend and I went for tea afterwards and discussed the show. I told her I had been apprehensive at first since the event was both an art exhibit and a spot sale, and feared there’d be undue pressure on us to buy. But there wasn’t any hard sell, the staff were polite and friendly, and while there were plenty of people since it was a Sunday, we did get to see what we wanted to see, after milling about and waiting patiently. 

I think that gallery people know when a person is loaded or not, so they’re able to figure when it’s worth spending a lot of time putting on the charm. “They can smell money from miles away,” my friend opined. She and I didn’t smell of it at all, and so we weren’t bugged much 🙂

I’d estimate that about 70-80% of the editions up for sale during the exhibit have been snapped up. There were red ribbons everywhere, to indicate a piece has been reserved for purchase! So altogether I felt the staff didn’t need to be pushy because the show’s already successful. 

And then we started reminiscing about our days as gamers. “When seeing the acronym HP a lot of the people I know immediately think of Harry Potter, but for me it’s Hit Point!” I divulged. Hit Point (HP) is basically your health meter in FF: if you reach zero HP then you are dead. She giggled and said that since she works in the IT field, HP to those around her means Hewlett-Packard, but for her it’s Hit Point 😀

All in all, it had been a splendid event to see, very highly recommended for anyone who enjoys fantasy art, whether you played the FF video game or not. I can’t stress enough how pleasurable it was to view the artworks printed in astonishing detail on large-sized, finely textured paper, framed to perfection. There’s a whole world of difference between seeing them clearly in all their intricate glory before your very eyes and squinting at a tiny drawing on a disc jacket.

So if you’re in Japan and haven’t already, go! Every one of the exhibited pieces were a joy to look at, and even if (like us) you can’t afford a thing, there’s always the gift shop!

Speaking of which, next blog post I’ll be talking about what I bought from the gift shop. It’s an affordable but thoroughly beautiful souvenir, a little gem I shall cherish forever. Stay tuned!

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

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kriss

hp lol some of the peeps i teach think of it as homepage lol generational gap i guess

kriss

She’s just about the most gorgeous centauride I’ve ever seen.

count me in shes super hot also didnt know that word existed lol

kriss

wouldve loved to see the ff prints myself esp the red sword u liked so much

kriss

wow gorgeous giveaways do they always change per exhibit

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