“At that time Existence had succumbed to Ku Chaos – drowning in anger, sadness and evil.”
“The very arms of the Milky Way above had been inverted – now dark matter, a vast coiling, black spiral. And it moved with a will, for these numberless antistars were no blind objects, but a legion, advancing to battle strength.”
“It was then that the guardian deity of light, Lady Mariu, rise up. Under her were twelve generals, given commands at the points of the zodian. In answer to the Dark Corps, they raised an army of light.”
If the name Yoshitaka Amano isn’t familiar to you, you probably aren’t a fan of his work. You might not have read Vampire Hunter D . . . or played any of the Final Fantasy series . . . or read Neil Gaiman’s brilliant follow-up to his Sandman series, the Hugo Award-nominated work called The Dream Hunters . . . or even watched Speed Racer while growing up. Yes, that Speed Racer.
In his forty-plus-year career, he’s worked in all fields, moving from designing conceptual design pieces for video games to creating sets for live theatre and back again, interspersing these with international art exhibitions of his work, as well as taking time to illustrate album covers for Japanese power metal bands.
This is a man who knows no boundaries . . . and now he’s turned his hand to fiction, turning out the lavishly illustrated story Deva Zan.
Deva Zan tells the story of Zan (Yoshitsugo Kamishiro), a disillusioned samurai with no memory who seeks only rest, but finds himself recruited to remedy an ancient betrayal affecting the forces of the universe. After the twelve generals guarding the temple at the center of everything vanish, Zan becomes the only force that stands between the forces of Darkness and the oblivion of the Universe.
Drawing on a wealth of Japanese mythology, Deva Zan is bursting with monsters and men, gods and demons. Amano has interpreted the ancient tales into a form understandable to Western readers, while not losing the basic Asian flavor of the source materials. Like origami, the story appears simple, but with each new chapter reveals surprises and pleasures, it quickly transforms into something different than we expect. It shifts and changes, moving from Feudal Japan to modern New York, unfolding layer upon layer of story with each passing page.
But, as intriguing and complex as the story is, it is Amano’s art that draws us deeper on his journey. As I said earlier, if you know his work, you will have some idea what to expect. But, if you’re approaching this new, you’re in for a treat. At times simple, sometimes oblique, from placid to nightmarish, the art filling the book highlights the story and adds depth to the deceptively simple prose, tying together eras and mythologies and dimensions into one epic tale. Ranging from moody, muted greys to vibrant reds and blues, this is Japanese brushwork with a punk/gothic sensibility, a thousand-year-old tradition meeting violent celebration with modern sensibilities.
It would be easy to call this simply an illustrated novel, but to do so would be overlooking the deep questions it poses, seemingly hidden in plain sight. In the planning for ten years, nothing in this work is as simple as it appears, and the careful reader will be richly rewarded for coming along.