Saturday 4 August 2012

Shiro Amano Art Works - Kingdom Hearts

I'm back with more Kingdom Hearts merchandise!  Why?  Because I think the Kingdom Hearts series is awesome!  And because I have a huge collection of KH merch that needs to be reviewed.

This time, we'll be looking at a piece of merch that's fairly old compared to the other Kingdom Hearts merch I've reviewed thus far. Since the fifth volume of the Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days manga is coming out next month, I figured I'd do a review on the Shiro Amano Art Works book!

The first thing you'll see when you pick up an official copy of this book is a black plastic sleeve with round windows showcasing the main characters of the Kingdom Hearts series up until Kingdom Hearts II.

The sleeve on the outside is a nice touch, but the plastic can get wavy after a while.  At least that's what happened to my copy.  The sad thing is that I didn't touch my book often, but the heat in my bedroom probably warped it every summer.  It really is quite a shame.  On a brighter note, the Mickey-shaped window hasn't been destroyed or even damaged for that matter.

I like that the window is shaped the way it is, even though it's just Mickey's head.  Somehow it just adds onto the cuteness of Amano's art style.  It definitely works well with Sora, Riku, and Kairi's younger selves.

This book is a compilation of Shiro Amano's artwork and illustrations for the Kingdom Hearts manga and novel adaptations, so chances are you won't see new pieces, with the exception of the front and back cover. All right, that last sentence wasn't completely accurate.  For those of you who haven't seen or bought the Japanese Kingdom Hearts novels, three-quarters of the illustrations in this art book will probably be "new" to you!  In that case, you're in for a treat!

I have to classify Amano's artwork for the KH series as cute.  Honestly, I can't find an image that's particularly drop dead gorgeous, but the artwork gets an A+ in the cute category, that's for sure.  Everyone looks a few years younger than they really are in the first Kingdom Hearts game.  Funny that.

Also, you'll notice that a lot of the colours used are very vibrant.  Even the cover (without the sleeve) is eye catching because it's covered in bright colours from top to bottom.  There's almost no white space in there, which to me is a nice breath of fresh air!

Once you jump past the first two pages you'll find a small table of contents showing you that the illustrations in this book are organized by chapter.  I expected all the drawings to be placed in chronological order, because it makes sense, but it seems Square Enix wanted to spice it up a little with "chapters".  In this case, you'll find that some of the Kingdom Hearts I images will be lumped together with the Kingdom Hearts II images.

So let's take a look at some of the illustrations in this book then, shall we?

I'm thrilled to say that all coloured illustrations from the Kingdom Hearts novels and manga (released up to Kingdom Hearts II vol. 3) received the full-page treatment! It's fortunate for us Square Enix didn't put two coloured illustrations on one page.  I would honestly think less of them if they did since they already hold off on quality when it comes to figures.

I'm sad to inform you that there were some black and white illustrations that didn't receive the best treatment.  I found that some of the images were really small when they shared a page with three or five other illustrations.  It's a shame because there were some pictures I liked much more than others, but they came out tiny in this book.  You really can't appreciate the details put into each illustration when they've been shrunken down to the size of a standard business card (some slightly smaller, actually).  Maybe to Square Enix those images aren't as significant as the others, but still, five on one page?  That's a bit of a stretch.  But I suppose there's no point in questioning it any further.  Sometimes Square Enix and logic just don't work well together.  I mean, this book is only 107 pages (for some reason).

On a brighter note, 75% - 80% of the illustrations have their own pages.

I'd like to point out the fact that Square Enix chose to use full pages for their chapter titles, which also include some significant quotes from the Kingdom Hearts series.  I say if you can take up two full pages for a few quotes, you can spare a few for illustrations.  I mean look at all that wasted space!

I don't know if you really need two pages for this...
I like some of the quotes used inside the art book, but I don't think it was necessary for them to take up two full pages.  It wasn't as though Square Enix didn't have other illustrations to fill the gaps or anything.  Sure these quotes and chapter titles provide two pages of bright colour (note the bright green above), but they're extremely bland otherwise.  If I could choose between the quotes and the illustrations I sure as heck would choose the illustrations!

All right, moving onto Shiro Amano's style.

I feel as though Amano changes up his style every now and then.  Most of the notable differences are found in the hair styles.  Sometimes in the eyes as well (as presented below).  It really depends on the ambience of each situation, I suppose.  If you take a look at the images below you'll notice that Namine looks different in each one.  She's got brighter, livelier eyes and golden hair in the left shot and a darker, duller expression in the right shot.  Her hair is really faded out in the right shot as well, but you can see that the entire page gives off a grim aura.  It's the complete opposite of the left image, which is more or less oozing with joy.

Despite the differences, both of these illustrations definitely scream Kingdom Hearts.  Personally, I think they both carry that painted cartoon-y trait, which is why I can't exactly take any of the illustrations seriously.  That goes for the majority of the illustrations in this art book, though.  Even if a serious situation was drawn out, I'd more likely than not think of it as cute or pretty because of Amano's style.

When viewing some of the illustrations closely, I notice that there are areas that aren't completely sharpened or smoothed down.  I'm able see very obvious remnants of brush work (and by that, I mean cartoony brush strokes from Adobe Photoshop or SAI), which is rather interesting if you ask me. It's a bit different from the other art books I own, because most of the colours in those illustrations have been blended nicely together or smoothed down, but the obvious brush stroke-style seems to work well with Kingdom Hearts.

I like most of the illustrations because Amano knows how to make scenes look cute and entertaining.  It's all very light hearted!  I'm glad the novel illustrations don't reflect the exact same scenes from the games themselves.  That would be a tad boring, don't you think?  That's why I think Amano's illustrations are great.  Kingdom Hearts fans would probably like this book because they'll be looking at Kingdom Hearts from another perspective.  There are "scenes" in the Shiro Amano Art Works book that you would never be able to find in the actual games themselves. Not even in the Final Mix games!  And from what I've read, the contents of these novels are canon.

After you flip through your book, you'll find the index at the end, which is about two pages.  Indexes in Japanese art books usually show off thumbnails of most, if not all, images within their respective books.

So that's about it for the Shiro Amano Art Works.

This book is actually pretty great for anyone who hasn't read or collected the Kingdom Hearts novels. Each novel comes with maybe 4 to 6 illustrations, but the rest is all text. To get a compilation of the illustrations all in one book is actually pretty neat in my opinion.

I think any Kingdom Hearts fan would be happy to own this art book.  After all, there's only one other Kingdom Hearts art book out there and that's the Visual Collection book.  It's a wonder why Square Enix hasn't released another one yet.  A while back they announced one but it was never released.  It's like the art book is forever delayed.  We'll never get it!

So we'll just settle for the Kingdom Hearts Visual Art Collection and Shiro Amano's Kingdom Hearts art works, right?

Published by: Square Enix
Artist: Shiro Amano
Number of Pages: 107
Purchased from: YesAsia

Thanks for checking this out!


  1. I really want to buy the book but It would also be really easy if I could read the book online, Do you know what site I can read this off as Im a huge Kingdom Hearts fan

    1. Hi there,

      I can't direct you to any specific sites, but Google search is definitely your friend! The Kingdom Hearts Shiro Amano artbook doesn't have much text in it. It's mostly glorious artwork, both in colour and black and white!

      I hope you'll be able to pick up a copy some day! It's definitely worth having in a Kingdom Hearts collection!

      Thanks for reading and best of luck!