Tanaka was born and educated in Tokyo, Japan. He studied graphic design at Nippon University for two years. Drawing "for as long as he can remember", Tanaka started his career with the intention of becoming a manga illustrator. During the late 1980s, he became an illustrator for books and magazines.
He provided cover art for science fiction novels such as Isaac Asimov's Pebble In The Sky and James Tiptree, Jr.'s 10,000 Light Years From Home. In 1997, 1998 and 2001, he was awarded with a SF Magazine Reader's Prize.
Material's Tanaka uses in his art range from acrylics, gouache, transparent watercolor painting, oils, and ink. There are six galleries on his official website, which was last updated December 24, 2004 with new illustrations titled "The Ice Dragon".
Involvement with Outlaw Star
According to Tanaka, in May of 1997, he was contacted by screenplay writer and adviser, Mitsuyasu Sakai, who asked him to illustrate an idea he'd come up with for "a new anime series" which later became Outlaw Star. He presented his portfolio to series director, Mitsuru Hongo, and the producer.
He was then hired to "paint the end frames for Outlaw Star", as they were looking for "something quite different from ordinary anime illustrations". He completed the first five paintings for the "Daytime Moon" ending within two weeks, listening to the song performed by Akino Arai "over and over again".