The Sky: The Art of Final Fantasy, by Amano Yoshitaka

The Art of Final Fantasy  Buy from Amazon.ca or Amazon.com

Artist’s blog (Japanese)
Publication date – August 6, 2013

Summary: (Taken from GoodReads) Previously available only as a part of the now sold-out The Sky: The Art of Final Fantasy Boxed Set, Dark Horse is pleased to offer fans another chance to own the three-book hardcover set The Sky I, II, and III, included in the new The Sky: The Art of Final Fantasy Slipcased Edition! Yoshitaka Amano is one of the world’s foremost fantasy artists, and The Sky I, II, and III showcase Amano’s ethereal illustrations for the first ten Final Fantasy games. Each hardcover book in The Sky Slipcased Edition is 11 5/8″ high by 10 5/8″ wide, and printed on glossy stock. Volume 1 contains Amano’s work for Final Fantasy I-III, Volume 2 his contributions for Final Fantasy IV-VI, and Volume 3 features his art for Final Fantasy VII-X. The elegant slipcase containing The Sky I, II, and III features the same wraparound exterior artwork as The Sky Boxed Set, with a double-hinged flap that folds around the open edge and is held flat to the back side with a hidden magnetic closure, making it easy both to remove the books and to display the set closed.

Thoughts: You can’t have played games in the Final Fantasy series without becoming aware of Amano’s art. His work borders on legendary. And even if you haven’t heard of him, take a moment to browse through some of his artwork and chances are you won’t be able to deny that the man has some serious talent going on.

So when I got the chance to even browse through a digital copy of the rereleased copy of The Sky, I wasn’t about to say no. This thing is packed with hundreds of pages of beautiful artwork from Final Fantasies 1-6, and if all you’ve ever played is the original versions of the games, in all their 8- or 16-bit glory, here’s a great chance to see more detail than you get to see with blocky sprites.

And also the chance to see many of your favourite characters wearing long flowing dresses (females) or skin-tight pants that show off one’s butt (males).  Seriously, Amano seems to have a thing for tight pants.

The description does say that it contains work up to Final Fantasy X. It may well do so, but the digital review copy I got seems to have only contained the first 2 collections and not the 3rd. Which was a bit disappointing considering art from some of my favourite games would have been in there… And sadly, due to the collection’s hefty price tag, it’s unlikely that I’ll be able to afford a hard copy of my own so that I can peruse and admire Amano’s art at my leisure.

This isn’t an artbook I would recommend for everyone. I can’t even say that I would recommend it for every die-hard Final Fantasy fan, though that’s mostly due again to the collection’s cost. This isn’t an everyday purchase. But for the fan who has the money to spare, it’s definitely worth buying this collection. The art is beautiful, the insight amazing, and there will be no regret in acquiring this artbook. I can assure you, you won’t be disappointed.

(Book received for review from the publisher via NetGalley.)

Fail Harder, by the failblog.org community


Buy from Amazon.ca,Amazon.com, or IndieBound

Failblog.org
Publication date – September 5, 2011

Summary: (Taken from GoodReads) FAIL Harder follows the hilarious best-seller Fail Nation to showcase 200 original full-color photos of world-wide FAILS based on the popular website failblog.org, the most visited member of the Cheezburger Network.

So what qualifies as a FAIL? How about a nursery outfitted with a gun rack hanging over the baby’s crib? Perhaps the equation, “E=MC3” written on a classroom’s write/erase board. What about a trifecta of beauty parlor, chain saw repair, and nightclub housed inside an all-in-one-stop shop?

Classic FAILs like these are presented in more than 15 different categories, including At Home, In A Relationship, On the Job, and With Your Pets.

If you must FAIL, FAIL Harder.

Thoughts: While I do think it’s great that the failblog community has grown to such proportions as to release photobooks of the site’s content, I have to see that a good percentage of the images shown in Fail Harder were ones that I distinctly remember seeing on the website. Without having to pay for. Which automatically means that those who buy this book are most likely going to be ones who mostly want to support the community and the project, rather than those seeking something new.

That being said, I’m someone who heartily approves of supporting the community, so this doesn’t seem like a money-making scheme from those who run the site. As much as I’m sure I could find all the images in the book for free online, going through the site’s archives would be a pain (albeit an often-hilarious pain), and it’s nice to see some of the best of the worst contained in one place.

The images were of high quality and most of them were worth a chuckle, such as a bottle of wine that advertised that it was both “made in France” and “made in Spain,” or the sign attached to edutainment software that stated the games were “so much fun they won’t even know their learning.” Much like the site itself, though, there were a few “failed fails” in here, ones that were obviously posed shots or even obvious Photoshopping jobs. But overall, the quality was good, and it has far more hits than misses.

As said previously, this one is definitely for fans of failblog who want to support the community. Others can probably give it a miss, or else visit the site itself for free versions of what this book contains.

(Received for review from the publisher via NetGalley.)

The Art of Steampunk, by Art Donovan


Buy from Amazon.ca, Amazon.com, or IndieBound

Author’s website
Publication date – August 1, 2011

Summary: (Taken from GoodReads) The Art of Steampunk seeks to celebrate the world of Steampunk: a world filled with beauty and innovation. A world in which steam power and technology intertwine to create machines that are not only functional and practical, but unique and striking.

Inside, you will find the fantastical and stunning artwork of Steampunk artists from around the world. The 17 artists featured on these pages, among the frontrunners of the Steampunk genre, have had their work displayed at an exhibition at The Museum of History of Science at the University of Oxford, UK and have attracted the media attention of BoingBoing, one of the world’s largest blogs. Their artwork consists of everything from clocks and watches to light fixtures and jewelry, but every piece demonstrates hours of painstaking work and devotion from its creator. You will find that the artists themselves are just as unique and colorful as their masterpieces. Fully embracing Steampunk ideology, many have adopted a Victorian alter ego—a mad scientist persona to match the complicated intricacies of their artwork.

The Art of Steampunk brings the vision of the Steampunk artist alive on the page, providing a unique insight into the captivating and dynamic world of a vastly underground genre.

Thoughts: I want to rate this book higher, I really do. There are so many things to like about this artbook, even once you move beyond the awesome idea that somebody did an artbook full of steampunk-inspired creations. The pictures are sharp and clear and quite beautiful, very inspirational. There’s good information about what steampunk is, its origins, why it’s gaining in popularity. The spotlights on various designers and their inspirations is really cool to see.

However (and there’s always a however), the copy of the book that I have is unfinished. I can understand why that is, since ARCs are not always the same as the finished product that hits the shelves, but I must say, it’s very hard to properly judge a book of visual art when half the art isn’t there. It’s filled with “picture goes here” notes and wonky formatting, and while I can try to ignore that and judge the book solely by what it does contain, I feel unsettled at giving the book a good review based on the fact that I had to ignore everything that was left out at the present time.

This book may be absolutely fantastic and revolutionize steampunk. It certainly will inform and entertain. But the ARC I received can’t properly convey that to me, and so I’m afraid my current review on this will remain a ackluster 3 out of 5 teacups until such time as I can see a finished and properly formatted copy.

And I have to admit, I’m pretty sad to say that.

(Received for review from the publisher via NetGalley)