A little known fact about me – I used to be a huge Final Fantasy fan. I’m not talking about the musician, but the video game franchise. I don’t talk about that phase of my life too often because video games offend the nineteenth century part of me and its notions of what delicate things I should be doing with my time. Anyway, playing hours and hours of an rpg is how I first discovered Yoshitaka Amano.
Amano is indeed most famous for being the official illustrator of Final Fantasy related materials, but he’s so much more! He has collaborated with science fiction/fantasy writer Neil Gaiman on Sandman: Dream Hunters, established his own film production company, and illustrated operas including The Magic Flute and Tristan and Isolde (left)
What strikes me most about Amano’s work is how seamlessly it could fit in with some very noteworthy predecessors. The work at the top of the page, Death of Elaine, is quite reminiscent of John William Waterhouse’s Lady of Shallot, among other renditions of Tennyson’s poem.
Amano’s illustrations for Tristan and Isolde and The Flyling Dutchman especially recall the work of Victorian book illustrator Arthur Rackham, with both artists employing ethereal and sinewy figures played against fantastical backgrounds.
There’s also something very art nouveau about Amano’s illustrations. The elegance and poses of his figures remind me of Aubrey Beardsley, despite Amano deploying color where Beardsley does not. While we’re in the early nineteenth century, some of Amano’s use of gold shades and mottled bright colors strikes me as almost Klimtian (yes, I did just make that word up).
All these comparisons go to show you that true talent, no matter what age it’s in, is transcendent. What’s also transcendent is how greatly the illustrations of Yoshitaka Amano elevate the projects he works on. In fact, I’m going to go so far as to say Amano can be my excuse for playing all those hours of video games. You say mindless entertainment, I say training for the little art historian.