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Thursday, Feb. 10, 2011

WORDS TO LIVE BY

Artist Yoshitaka Amano


Artist Yoshitaka Amano, 58, is a world-famous creator of manga, anime and game characters. At age 15, he launched his professional career with the popular "Speed Racer" anime and has since worked on many hit shows, such as "Time Bokan," "Gatchaman" ("G-Force"), "Tekkaman" and "Honey Bee." He also illustrated Hideyuki Kikuchi's "Vampire Hunter D" novels and designed the characters for its anime movie adaptation. Always testing his own talent by moving from one genre to another, Amano created the title logo and the characters for the worldwide hit role-playing video game Final Fantasy, and right now he's focusing on painting as well as an upcoming new anime.

Artist Yoshitaka Amano
Artist Yoshitaka Amano JUDIT KAWAGUCHI PHOTO

Without a deadline, projects just die. I wanted to create my own anime, "Deva Loka," more than 10 years ago. But I had no deadline, so it's still not done. Now we have a schedule and we're sticking to it, so we're making progress. If you want a project to live, have a deadline.

The best way to relax is to work more. I never want to be off work. When I feel tired from drawing very detailed characters, I move to another table and I start doodling with colors — like when I was a child. That's how I relax. I heard that when Madame (Marie) Curie got tired with chemistry, she would "recharge" by doing physics or math problems. I totally get that!

Artists are not phone operators: We can't answer every call for creativity. I was 15 when I got hired by Tatsunoko Productions. I was a kid, but I was the same then as I am now: I'd draw more in a day than others did in a week. But back then, I'd take off and escape whenever I felt like it. My punch card was always almost empty and the accountant asked Tatsuo Yoshida, Tatsunoko's president, why he was paying me a salary when I rarely showed up at work. But Yoshida covered for me because he realized that people with talent can't work nine-to-five.

When you love doing something, nobody can stop you from doing it. I've been drawing ever since I was a baby. My brother, who worked at a paper factory, brought me rolls of paper. I'd kneel on the tatami mat and draw on them. Every day! If I had a fever, I'd still crawl out of the futon to draw. When I was well, I drew. Some days, my friends would came over to play, but I would tell them that I wanted to draw. My parents, who got fed up with the rolls of paper everywhere, complained. But I didn't care. I couldn't help but draw, and I'm still like that.

When you take a trip, you don't know where you'll end up. I'm from a small village in Shizuoka Prefecture — rolling hills, tea plantations and the ocean. When I was 15, I visited a friend's house in Tokyo. He said an anime studio was nearby and that we could watch the artists draw. Off we ran! Standing in the studio, I was shocked that drawing could be paid work, because at home I was always scolded for making a mess on paper. In the studio I felt that I had finally found my place, so I grabbed some paper and drew some characters and left the drawings there. A few days later they called me and offered me a job.

Life has been one long day at the amusement park — and I didn't even pay for the entrance ticket. I haven't changed since I was that boy. I'm so happy living in a fantasy of art. I was homesick for one day after I moved to Tokyo, but by the second day I was in love with my new life among adult animeka (animators). I was a small kid among tall kids. Now I'm tall, but still a kid.

Japanese anime fans create the hits; not the companies. A core group of fans support great anime that originally didn't get huge ratings on TV. Although these hard-core fans may be just five out of 100 people, they keep spreading information about their favorite anime until the majority of the others take notice. "Gundam," "Gatchaman" and "Evangelion" were all loved by such fans, and these works have made it big thanks to their supporters.

Decide by yourself! Your parents will die before you do, so you'd better make your own life decisions. Your own choices are always good if you know yourself — especially in art, because whenever you do something new, everyone will be against you.

Being called a master, a sensei, is a goal I never want to achieve. If I do, that'll be the end for me. Most people feel happy when they reach a respectable status or gain a promotion. But I feel trapped. If I stay in one world, I get respect, but I lose my energy. I only want to do things I have never done. I want to explore my own possibilities. How can I do this? I quit Tatsunoko Productions when I was 30. I usually change jobs every 15 years. Moving from one world to another keeps me fit for the ride.

What I love, everyone loves! I simply paint what I admire, what I feel is beautiful. Amazingly, everyone who sees my paintings feels the same. "Oh, that's lovely!" they say. I don't know why — but that's how it is.

I'm not inspired by anime: I created it. Using my own characters in my paintings is natural because they are my own characters, my own creations. It's as if Warhol cooked the Campbell Soup, designed its packaging, named it and then painted it. That's me.

Today life is fun; tomorrow it'll be even better! Most Japanese worry about the next day. Their attitude is: "Today is good, but what about tomorrow? Is it gonna be OK?" I'm not like that. I always assume that the good gets better — and it does. I don't even think about the day after tomorrow.

Judit Kawaguchi loves to listen. She is a volunteer counselor and a TV reporter on NHK's "journeys in japan" Learn more at: morinoske.com Twitter: judittokyo



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