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Amano: The Complete Prints

In the early 90's, I used to buy video game player's guides not because I needed help for the game, but because I liked the artwork in the books. The man I hold completely responsible for this bizarre attraction to walkthroughs is none other than Yoshitaka Amano. His character designs for Final Fantasy IV and VI were vastly different from any video game related art I'd experienced before, and along with Nobuo Uematsu's untouchable soundtracks, they're also the reason I'm such a raving Final Fantasy fan today.

Actually, Amano's work probably helped make me the raving game fan I am today.

The images presented in this fine collection of Amano's artwork are some of the first pictures I ever downloaded from the Internet in its infancy, and I still have the floppy disks I originally saved them to in safekeeping. After so many years of appreciating his work, this book finally has allowed me to show my appreciation for the man and his legacy.

As I mentioned in this month's review of Final Fantasy: Unlimited, Amano's artwork was the basis for the characters of most of the earlier Final Fantasy games. For anime fans, perhaps it's even more significant to note that Yoshitaka Amano is also the character designer of D, from Vampire Hunter D. He's played a pivotal role in American anime and video game fandom, whether the people who have been influenced by his work know it or not.

Amano's style is extremely distinct, with wildly flowing lines that lend his images a dreamlike aura, making them especially appropriate for fantasy illustrations. Sometimes only two colors are used in these prints, other times a print will overshadow the brightest quilt you can imagine. While you can tell that every work is an Amano product, there is a large variety of images to enjoy.

Included in this release are prints from a few Final Fantasy games, images used for the D novels and films, illustrations from The Dream Hunters, the project he produced in Neil Gaiman's Sandman series, and pictures from his editions of The Tale of Genji and Arabian Nights. Adequate space is devoted to each print, and the name for every picture is printed in the vicinity of the image. However, almost every title is in Japanese. By Japanese, I mean in Japanese script, with kanji, katakana, and hiragana instead of Romanized characters. Thus, for the average Amano fan in the States who can't read Japanese, the captions are all but useless.

The back of the book rectifies the problem somewhat, as translations are provided for each work listed in the index. The text of the book - introduction, epilogue, and so on - is also thankfully in English.

This is a well-produced paperback book on nice paper stock, though I still feel that the price tag is a bit hefty, especially for casual fans.

If you're a fan of Amano's work, then you should seek out this book and add it to your collection. It may not have the nostalgic value of those files you downloaded off of Compuserve 10 years ago, but the quality is most likely to be noticeably better.

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