It’s between Koichi Ishii and the legendary Yoshitaka Amano
If someone says the name “Yoshitaka Amano” in any gaming context, people are going to know who that is. The man is an absolute legend in the art industry, providing inspiration for people all over the world with numerous drawings of fantastical settings and characters. They’ve worked primarily within the Final Fantasy series, but have since branched off into many different projects, including a Vogue cover and Magic: The Gathering. This new Final Fantasy XI Amano interview with director Koichi Ishii (who handled the game from 1999 to 2003), while XI-centric, dabbles throughout the entire history of the series in a fascinating way.
Ishii, in an adorable fashion, recalls Amano coming in and telling other members of the team to “not act like a groupie,” given that Amano had already reached a high level of fame at that point through a decade of work within the company. Ishii started as a fan, even asking Amano to autograph his works, then became a colleague. He also sums up why, collectively, Amano’s work is so impactful:
“His illustrations exude a sense of ‘space’ in some shape or form. The other thing is that, even though the illustrations look beautiful at first glance, they are subtly filled with evil-looking beings and other dark imagery. The coexistence of beauty and the eerie was in line with the image of fantasy I had in my mind.”
Amano then recalls his trepidation on getting into the gaming industry in general, noting:
“Rather than it being a matter of whether I recognized Square, I was still unsure what it’d be like to work for a video game. Back then, most people’s perception of games were those tennis-type games where you hit a ball and forth, or invader games, and very few of them had actual stories or music. Although I personally enjoyed playing games, I’d never imagined they’d become a part of my career and was very surprised when I first heard their proposal.”
He says that he basically wanted “any fantasy job” because that’s what he was gravitating toward as an artistic calling, and naturally that led to Final Fantasy. Even better, he says there were “no restrictions that time, and [he] was happy to have plenty of freedom in drawing fantasy illustrations.” He muses that one of the first pictures he painted was of the Final Fantasy heroes “turned away” from the focus, with the villain front and center; which was traditionally not done, but since he was able to do “whatever [he] wanted,” it was a hit.
If you’re an Amano or Final Fantasy fan in general, the Final Fantasy XI Amano interview is worth reading even if you never played XI or have no intention of doing so. Yes the latter qualifier still applies, as it’s alive and well in 2022!