ABe Yoshitoshi (no, the ABe is not a typo, as he calls himself AB, he writes his full name this way when using romaji (i.e. latin script)) is one of the booming new stars of japanese Anime. He first received public acclaim in 1998, when he was chosen to provide the artwork and character design for the cult anime Serial Experiments Lain.
According to a recent interview, ABe hardly ever drew anything until he graduated senior high school and wasn't very good at it. Only when one of his friends received a newcomer award, and asked him to become his assistant, he became more and more interested and started a basic drawing course three times a week, followed that up with a course in Japanese style drawing and pencil drawing. After about a year of this intensive training, he was accepted into the Japanese painting department of Tokyo National University of Fine Arts and Music. Around that time he also started drawing his own manga, submitting one of the first to Kodansha's Afternoon Magazine for a competition, where it won the second prize. But he didn't break through yet, paying his tuition by drawing artwork for advertizing or flyers, working on some video games such as the Sega Saturn game Wachenroder and worked on the CD-Rom art collection Furu Machi (Old Town). Only when Lain's producer Yasuyuki Ueda stumbled upon ABe's webpage and hired him for the character design for the Anime, ABe's star began to rise.
He went on to design the characters and art for Niea_7 (aka Niea under Seven), which was based on a one-panel cartoon he did while designing Lain and which caught the eyes of the producer. He also produced a limited number of doujinshi (fan manga) with his own stories and designs. One of these dojins, Haibane Renmei (Grey Wing Federation) was recently made into an animated series as well, becoming one of the first doujins ever to be used as the basis for an Anime. His latest design work is for the series TEXHNOLYZE. He also regularly draws covers for pocket novels.
His artwork is far from mainstream fare. For example, he doesn't use a ruler when drwing frames, giving them a more edgy, less clean feel. He cites Kenji Tsuruta (Spirit of Wonder), Range Murata and Akihiro Yamada as his main influences. He continues to draw doujinshi, which are highly sought after by collectoors and fans alike, making finding them second hand or new a costly and difficult proposition, but well worth the effort as his Doujins are a work of art. He also has several artbooks for his series and a manga on Niea_7 out in stores (at least in Japan).
He used to dream of becoming a programmer and varies his methods of drawing from pencil to computer art. His seven personal computers are set up like the the one's Lains "father" has in the series. He continues to update the Japanese half of his website with new CG artwork, news and diary entries, but stopped working on the the english version in 2000. Check it out: