Ghastly Surrealism of Yoshitaka Amano in Anime
August 12, 2009
There are plenty of online materials on Yoshitaka Amano, but not as much on anime designed/created by him. As well as recommending few titles that he had his hands on, this post will look at their screenshots and Amano’s stylistic elements that make his work, for me, ghastly surreal.
One can not talk about the characters of Amano without first mentioning their unique facial characteristics. It’s one of those melancholic faces that you can take one look and instantly recognise the Amano’s hands behind it. Their skins are so pale and white like a vampire, with lips firmly closed as if they have no need for words. One wonders if they are emotionless and lifeless, as their faces express no particularly strong emotions such as anger, fear or sadness. And yet their eyes are sharp and unfaltering, as if piercing through one’s soul. In the absence of emotion and life in their face, all the energy is focused around these silently menacing eyes, emanating that sense of ghastly melancholy. I think what Coleridge once said in his poem, The Rime of the Ancient Mariner best portrays Amano’s characters:
Her skin was as white as leprosy
The Night-mare Life-in-death was she
Who thicks man’s blood with cold
Amano openly admitted to have been influenced by Gustav Klimt and you can see his influence on Amano’s use of rich, decorative colours and textures. And yet Amano has found a different use for Klimt’s techniques. Whereas Klimt’s mixture of gold and lavish materials made his paintings vibrant and luxuriously dazzling, many of Amano’s designs in anime are like his watercolour illustrations, which I find it to be of more subdued and enchantingly ethereal tone.
I also like his elegant wavy lines that seems to have been inspired from natural forms, such as tree roots and those long, flowing brushes, like how the architects Sullivan and Gaudi abstracted natural forms to shape their floral decorations and structural forms. One only needs to watch Angel’s Egg to see his absolutely captivating organic lines animated on screen.
Amano is a man of great imagination. Visions one only sees in dreams. He draws characters and objects, set or being transformed in an unexpectedly bizarre, but alluring manner. And that is in my opinion, the essence of surrealism: to be distrubed by confronting the unexpected (like an egg sprouting like a tree) and yet be allured by its seductive beauty. This is the ghastly surrealism in Amano’s works.
So if you have any fascination for Amano’s style, you may want to check out few titles mentioned in this post.