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Parka (Singapore)
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The History of Sonic the Hedgehog
The History of Sonic the Hedgehog
by Marc Petronille
Edition: Hardcover
10 used & new from CDN$ 133.40

5.0 out of 5 stars Interesting story of SEGA and Sonic, Sept. 28 2014
Length:: 1:25 Mins

More than 20 years have passed since Sonic made its first appearance in 1991. I still remember fondly how much I enjoyed playing the first three series of the game.

The History of Sonic Hedgehog is a befitting book that celebrates Sonic's 20th anniversary. It was originally published by Pix'N Love Editions in French and this English edition is published by Udon. It's a handsome 300-page hardcover with a nice cover. I really like the cute 2D art of Sonic on the cover as compared to the 3D version on the back cover.

The book covers roughly three main parts. The first looks at the history, the second on the games and the last part on characters and extras.

The history of Sonic is intermingled with the story of SEGA, before it was even known as SEGA (it was called "Service Games"). It's an interesting flashback to the creation of the Sonic through the accounts of the developers, and to the rise and fall of SEGA as a console maker, and the transformation into a multi-platform publisher.

The pages are beautifully laid out with wonderful photos and screenshots. There are photos of consoles I never knew existed. Three lengthy interviews included are with the creators Yuji Naka the programmer, graphic designer Naoto Oshima and producer Takashi Iizuka of Sonic Generations (2011).

The second part focuses on the games. There are eight 2D games, ten 3D games, sixteen handheld ones and 23 spin-offs over the span of two decades. I only played the first three games so I'm reading about the rest for the first time. Each game has a short but informative writeup. The screenshots are a bit small though. I wished there were more and bigger. Stage designs for the games are gorgeous.

The last section has all the main characters and their profiles. The interesting bits are the Sonic cameos in other games.

This book is a nostalgic trip into the history of Sonic and SEGA.

Highly recommended for fans of the game.

(There are more pictures of the book on my blog. Just visit my Amazon profile for the link.)

The Art of Darksiders II
The Art of Darksiders II
by Thq
Edition: Paperback
9 used & new from CDN$ 190.64

5.0 out of 5 stars Eye boggling collection, Sept. 28 2014
Length:: 1:21 Mins

Joe Madureira the Creative Studio Director and team has done it again by presenting us with an amazing collection of video game art.

Amazon listed the second volume wrongly at 200 pages. It's 224 pages thick, which is thinner than the first artbook The Art of Darksiders. Anyway, The Art of Darksiders 2 art book is still very thick!

An astonishing amount of concept art fills the pages. There are character designs, environment concepts, weapons, enemies and 3D renders. And all come with painted version and the sketches. That's a lot to see.

There's an incredible amount of variety and detail for all the artwork featured. Towards the end, there's commentary on the style guide and a brief explanation on how they paint over 3D models.

The 3D renders are gorgeous but printed a bit small at less than a quarter size for each character. They are considered small only because there's so much detail that you want a larger picture to look at them.

The binding has improved. But with a book this thick, I would still be careful. At least, I no longer have the fear of its pages falling out. It's definitely a huge improvement over the the atrocious binding of the first artbook. By they way, the May 2011 second printing of the first artbook has improved the binding also.

This is an awesome artbook with a remarkable amount of great art.

Highly recommended.

(There are more pictures of the book on my blog. Just visit my Amazon profile for the link.)

The Toy Story Films (Foreword by Hayao Miyazaki / Afterword by John Lasseter): An Animated Journey
The Toy Story Films (Foreword by Hayao Miyazaki / Afterword by John Lasseter): An Animated Journey
by Charles Solomon
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 66.00
11 used & new from CDN$ 66.00

4.0 out of 5 stars A consolidation of earlier Pixar books, Sept. 28 2014
Length:: 1:18 Mins

Whether The Toy Story Films is a rehash or a new book will depend on what Pixar books you have or have read.

I was skeptical when this book was coming out. I wasn't sure how much new content they could pack when there are already books such as Toy Story The Art and Making of the Film, To Infinity and Beyond! The Story of Pixar Animation Studios and The Art of Toy Story 3. Much of this book is a rehash of those three books, and from snippets from other books (mentioned in the bibliography).

There was a sense of deja vu after I read the book. The story is one of Pixar in the early years. John Lasseter was busy animating his short films before Toy Story. Pixar animators were working on commercials to keep the company afloat. Then came the deal with Disney, the story of how they had to rewrite the whole script last minute following the Black Friday disaster of a story pitch. After Toy Story, John Lasseter had to continue working non-stop on Toy Story 2 after helping out A Bug's Life. Pixar's seven film deal with Disney was over and Disney wanted to produce their own version of Toy Story 3. Thanks to Michael Eisner being ousted out of Disney and the merger, Pixar regained control over Toy Story 3.

For many Pixar fans, I suspect the story above will sound familiar. Sure, there are additional insights, but probably not enough to come up with a whole new book. So if you already have the other books mentioned, then you might want to skip this book, unless you are a collector of all things Pixar.

If you don't have the earlier books, then this is a great buy. 5 stars. It's packed with lots of beautiful art, photos and screenshots. The stories are inspiring with many ups and downs, collected in a nice large hardcover.

(There are more pictures of the book on my blog. Just visit my Amazon profile for the link.)

Art of Princess Mononoke
Art of Princess Mononoke
by Hayao Miyazaki
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 25.07
27 used & new from CDN$ 25.07

5.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful companion art book, Sept. 27 2014
Length:: 2:05 Mins

This is a belated but welcome translation by publisher Viz Media of the original Japanese artbook The Art of The Princess Mononoke—もののけ姫. Princess Mononoke and and the accompanying artbook came out in 1997. By the way, that Japanese artbook is still being reprinted even after so many years.

I've reviewed the original Japanese artbook before, and also the other English edition by Miramax Books. There's no point getting those books now because one's in Japanese and the other is out of print. Viz Media's books are widely available.

The interior pages of this English edition is laid out exactly the same as the Japanese book, only the text have been replaced. One other difference is this book is a hardcover vs the textured dust jacket paperback Japanese edition. This 224-page hardcover has well reproduced pictures on low to no gloss paper. Very good.

The book starts off with a few poems and an introduction by Hayao Miyazaki before it goes into the concept art.

The concept art is a mixture of character designs, movie stills, environment art, storyboards and several computer animation screenshots. There are line drawings as well as the pencil and watercolour sketches of Hayao Miyazaki. There aren't many studios that still use watercolour sketches to create concept art nowadays so it's always refreshing to see the ones from Studio Ghibli. The sketches may look loose but they convey the action and settings clearly, and they look charming.

The environment art are by Kazuo Oga and some of his artworks have also appeared in 男鹿和雄画集II (Oga Kazuo Animation Artworks 2). There are a lot of background paintings and not one of them are credited so it's impossible to tell if they are all from Kazuo Oga.

Towards the back are three tutorials that look at how the film is made, such as the use of computers for compositing, colouring and backgrounds. That's followed by selected storyboards. Finally there's a 3-year production diary that records down the milestones and activities. Even things like Hayao Miyazaki going for his acupuncture sessions are also recorded. Amusing.

Just like other Studio Ghibli artbooks, this is a wonderful companion to the film. Highly recommended to fans of Princess Mononoke and Studio Ghibli.

You Can Paint Vibrant Watercolors In Twelve Easy Steps
You Can Paint Vibrant Watercolors In Twelve Easy Steps
by Yuko Nagayama
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 15.67
30 used & new from CDN$ 8.92

5.0 out of 5 stars Good beginner's guide to watercolour, Sept. 27 2014
This is a helpful beginners book for learning watercolour.

The author and artist is Yuko Nagayama (永山裕子) from Japan. The original edition of this book is もういちど 透明水彩を始めよう。 基本の12のレッスン which was published in 2012. This edition is translated by publisher Harper Design. There are 104 pages.

This book takes a very hands-on approach to teaching watercolours. There are several step by step tutorials to follow along. It even teaches you basic proportional drawing so that you can sketch the outline of the subject before you add watercolours. I find that very useful for beginners with absolutely no knowledge at drawing. There are even tips on sketching.

The tutorials feature good looking examples. Even though the subjects are simple such as fruits or flowers, after Nagayama's watercolour treatment, they look really nice. The instructions are simple to follow, and the colours to use are clearly listed.

Compared to other watercolour books, this is not comprehensive, so it does not teach you effects like splatter or more advanced techniques like wet on wet. What it does well is to get you comfortable at painting simple subjects with watercolour. And you can then build on what you learn for more challenging subjects in the future.

It's a great instructional book for watercolour beginners. The Japanese edition is also very favourably rated on Amazon Japan.

Legend of Korra: The Art of the Animated Series Book Two: Spirits
Legend of Korra: The Art of the Animated Series Book Two: Spirits
by Michael Dante DiMartino
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 24.44
33 used & new from CDN$ 24.44

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful artbook, Sept. 27 2014
Length:: 1:52 Mins

Holding this book in hand makes me think back to how excited I was when I first watched the The Legend of Korra. I'm not sure why but this does not often happen with other animation art books. Perhaps it's because I really like the stories and ideas from the world of Avatar.

This is a large 184-page hardcover artbook, similar in size to the earlier two artbooks, namely The Legend of Korra: Book 1 – Air, The Art of the Animated Series and Avatar: The Last Airbender: The Art of the Animated Series. The reproduction of the art is excellent. Images are huge and sharp and printed on thick paper.

Content in the book is split into chapters each dedicated to an episode in Book 2: Spirits. So there are 14 chapters for those plus one extra chapter for ancillary art.

The concept art featured are wonderful and beautiful. They are a mixture of character designs, environment art and storyboards, all completed with insightful commentary from creators Michael Dante DiMartino, Bryan Konietzko and director Joaquin Dos Santos.

The characters appear in the book in chronological order as they appear in the animation. You get to see how they are updated in terms of costumes and also the many new characters that are introduced. Most are full coloured while there are also some sketches. Main characters have lots of expression sheets included.

There are several pages of storyboards included and they have good dynamism in terms of composition and direction. There's also this nice sense of liveliness when you see the characters move in the storyboard sequences.

Environment art are mainly concept paintings, not the final ones used in the animation. They are nice because there are several for each location and you get to see the places from different angles. I like the environment art used for the backgrounds that come from the origin story as they are created in the style inspired by Chinese ink wash painting and Japanese woodblock printing.

As usual, there are also many creature designs for the animals and spirits. Those are fun to look at, such as rabbits with dragonfly ears, walking radishes, etc and the lion turtle is shown again with more drawings. Some of these creatures you'll read from the commentary are inspired by those from Hayao Miyazaki's Spirited Away.

Once in a while, you'll see art that will remind you of Avatar Aang, such as the family portrait photo of Aang with Katara and their kids. Those are quite nostalgic. The images of other Avatars sometimes also send me thinking about their possible back stories.

All in all, this is a truly wonderful artbook.

Most highly recommended.

(See more pictures of the book on my blog. Just visit my Amazon profile for the link.)

The Art of John Alvin
The Art of John Alvin
by Andrea Alvin
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 25.04
32 used & new from CDN$ 25.04

5.0 out of 5 stars Insightful and inspiring John Alvin retrospective, Sept. 25 2014
This review is from: The Art of John Alvin (Hardcover)
Length:: 1:48 Mins

When it comes to movie poster illustrations, John Alvin and Drew Struzan are among the best.

The Art of John Alvin is a wonderful retrospective and tribute to the late artist who passed away in 2008.

This 160-page hardcover collects the movie posters he has created from 1974 to 1999 plus a special commissioned piece completed in 2007. The artworks includes the finished posters, preliminary sketches, colour drafts and many unused never seen before art.

The reproduction of the artworks is very well done. Many are printed huge and given the full page treatment they deserve. The completed movie poster illustrations are beautiful, and even the sketches are quite a joy to look at as some of them are really detailed.

John Alvin's foray into illustrating movie posters started in 1974 with Blazing Saddles. Soon after that, he got called up to create many more, such as for Blade Runner, Return of the Jedi. E.T., Willow, Batman, Batman Returns, Jurassic Park, several Disney classics such as Pinocchio, Aladdin, The Little Mermaid, The Lion King and many more other movies.

Each movie he worked on comes with several sketches, finished coloured illustrations and the final actual poster. For Jurassic Park there were more than a dozen rough drawings and colour layouts.

The artworks are all accompanied commentary that includes the story behind the posters, on how he got the job, conceptualising and even the techniques he used to create the illustrations. The behind the scenes stories are all provided by his wife Andrea Alvin who works alongside him in his studio. No wonder the writeup is so informative and detailed.

It's nice to read about the technical stuff, to find out how he worked, for example, to create the glow behind the words for E.T., he cut out a cardboard for the words and sprayed around them. There are bits of technical talk here and there for the posters.

Overall, this is a well produced, insightful and inspiring artbook.

Highly recommended.

(See more pictures of the book on my blog. Just visit my Amazon profile for the link.)

Drawn to Drawing
Drawn to Drawing
by John Vernon Lord
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 53.95
34 used & new from CDN$ 23.80

5.0 out of 5 stars Sketchbook retropective, Sept. 24 2014
This review is from: Drawn to Drawing (Hardcover)
Length:: 1:36 Mins

John Vernon Lord is an artist from England born in 1939. He has been drawing for over 50 years. He has drawn for books like Aesop's Fables, many children classic's such as Lewis Carroll's The Hunting of the Shark, and he has also written and illustrated books himself, with The Giant Jam Sandwich being the most popular and has been in print for over thirty years.

Drawn to Drawing is in essence a sketchbook. It collects pen and ink drawings, doodles and diary entries. Lord likes to use cross hatching for his ink drawings, and occasionally some gouache and watercolour. There are few commissioned works but the bulk are his personal sketches.

His sketchbook pages are filled to the brim, sometimes with seemingly disconnected ideas, sometimes with his diary entries written meticulously that fills up the pages. A magnifying glass is needed if you want to read the handwritten notes on his sketchbook. There are quick doodles drawn during meetings as well as those that take him over 200 hours to complete. I particularly enjoy his detail pen and ink works. There's both a comic art and at times editorial feel to them. Starting out as a freelance illustrator, he draws everything.

Every decade starting from the 1950s is headed by a memoir talking about his work during those 10 years. You'll get a perspective of what life is like for an illustrator living in the 1950s and follow his career from a student until he became a university professor who teaches illustration.

It's a book that illustrators might find interesting, a good retrospective of Lord's sketches and thoughts.

(See more pictures of the book on my blog. Just visit my Amazon profile for the link.)

Nuthin' But Mech Volume 2
Nuthin' But Mech Volume 2
by Various Artists
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 24.95
22 used & new from CDN$ 21.88

5.0 out of 5 stars More good mechs, Sept. 24 2014
Length:: 1:14 Mins

It seems the first book Nuthin' But Mech was quite popular hence we have this sequel. From what I can see on the Nuthin' But Mech website, there's even a volume 3 coming up scheduled for 2015.

Nuthin' But Mech Volume 2 features 41 top artists who have contributed some pretty awesome artworks as curated by Lorin Wood. There's a nice variety of styles to check out. For example, James Gurney is included, so imagine his dinosaur inspired mechs. Or check out Eric Joyner's retro old school robots that stands in contrast to all other high tech sci-fi mechs.

There's a good mixture of 2D paintings and 3D models, and a couple of sketches. The 3D models are really detailed, and 2D paintings masterful. Makes me wish there's some sort of tutorial books that teaches us how to create all these stuff.

It's a great book for those who like mechs and robots.

A portion of the proceeds from this book will be donated to Francis Tsai Family. Francis Tsai is an artist and one of the contributors in the book. Unfortunately, he was diagnosed with ALS or Lou Gehrig's disease. This gesture is sign of support for him.

The full list of artists included are:

Aaron Beck
Alex Jaeger
Ara Kermanikian
Ash Thorp
Bastiaan Koch
Calum Alexander Watt
Brian Hagan
Colie Wertz
Danny Gardner
Chris Stoski
Darren Bartley
Sam Brown
David Hobbins
Dylan Cole
Fausto De Martini
Jake Parker
Eddie Del Rio
Eliott Lilly
Emmanuel Shiu
Josh Nizzi
Francis Tsai and Farzad
Varahramayna
Francis Tsai
Eric Joyner
Jeremy Cook
Gavriil Klimov
Robh Ruppel
Ian McQue
James Gurney
Landis Fields
Kevin Conran
Kurt Kaufman
Miguel Lopez
James Paick
Jan Urschel
Lorin Wood
Matt Tkocz
Phil Saunders
Robert Simons
Sunil Pant
Vaughan Ling
TyRuben Ellingson

(See more pictures of the book on my blog. Just visit my Amazon profile for the link.)

Evangelion Chronicle: Illustrations
Evangelion Chronicle: Illustrations
by We've Inc
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 31.31
19 used & new from CDN$ 31.31

5.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful art from the original Evangelion series, Feb. 7 2013
Length:: 1:22 Mins

Evangelion Chronicle: Illustrations features the art from the Evangelion Chronicle series, Side A and Side B books, both in Japanese.

The first edition of Evangelion Chronicle: Illustrations was published in 2008 in Japanese featuring Rei Ayanami on the cover. The revised edition was published in 2011 featuring Asuka in her red suit. This edition translated by Udon is of the revised edition, even though it has the Rei cover art.

This is a huge paperback artbook measuring 10 by 13 inches. It has 136 pages.

The illustrations are based on the original Evangelion series. So you won't get to see Asuka with her pirate eye patch here.

There are two parts to the book. The anime style comes first and covers the characters including the EVAs and ANGELs. It's mostly finalized art with sketches. Besides the three main protagonists, the other characters each have only one page to themselves. I would love to see more of the character designs from different angles and poses though, so the character art feels quite limited in a sense. The characters are drawn by Youichi Fukano while the EVAs and ANGELs are by Hirofumi Ichikawa.

The second part features the painted scenes. Several artists have artworks here so while the designs are fixed, the styles can vary quite a bit. I like the ones from Takuya Io that looks like the TV series screenshots but with a certain glow and film grain added. There are pieces with rather un-Evangelion look because of the way they are painted.

There's not much text except for the one page where all the artists talk about their art and inspiration.

Overall, the art is great and it's a cool book for all Evangelion fans.

(There are more pictures of the book on my blog. Just visit my Amazon profile for the link.)

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