cover-Artwork-of-Kingdom-HeartsShiro Amano illustrates the manga series based on the video game Kingdom Hearts. He also draws the covers and illustrations for the game novels. In Shiro Amano: The Artwork of Kingdom Hearts, readers will find a varied collection of Amano’s work, including over one hundred full-color illustrations.

Readers who have never played Kingdom Hearts or read any of the affiliated books will likely see some familiar faces. Kingdom Hearts incorporates characters and settings from various Disney movies and from the Final Fantasy games. Most of the illustrations in this book feature game protagonist Sora adventuring alongside Goofy and Donald. Other Disney characters appear—Aladdin, Belle and the Beast, Maleficent, and more—as do Aerith and other Final Fantasy characters.

The illustrations include covers and frontispieces, which are richly colored, grayscale illustrations from manga and game novels, and a few illustrations which were originally grayscale but which Amano colored for their appearance in this book. The artwork is grouped into chapters by very loose themes, like “Memories” and “Working Together.” The illustrations feature a lot of dramatic poses, plus some humorous scenes.

Kingdom Hearts artwork is particularly interesting because it combines Disney characters drawn Disney-style with manga-inspired characters drawn manga-style. Sora and friends lean in the manga direction, with big eyes, tiny noses, and elaborate hair. They also have cute, childlike, rather ungainly appearances with their slight builds and oddly large feet. The backgrounds, from castles to alleyways, have a detailed cartoon style that would fit nicely in a Disney movie or the panels of a manga.

The majority of this book’s art is in lush full color with a soft, painted look. Some of the grayscale art uses screentones and sharp, clear lines, while other illustrations, again, appear to have been (probably digitally) painted.

At the end of the book, Amano provides the source of each illustration along with brief commentary. The comments are conversational and personal, as if Amano is showing the reader his sketchbook, hovering to point out details and explain what he was thinking when he drew this or that piece.

The book is a sturdy paperback with a plastic slipcase. Occasionally, parts of the illustrations, especially page spreads, get lost in the gutter, but this didn’t significantly interrupt my enjoyment of the art. The pages are glossy, and next to each page number is a tiny black-and-white drawing of a different Kingdom Hearts character or accessory—a nice touch. Without the context of the games or the manga, the pictures won’t make a lot of sense, but readers will still get a sense of whimsical, upbeat adventure.

Shiro Amano: The Artwork of Kingdom Hearts
by Shiro Amano
ISBN: 9780316401166
Yen Press, 2013
Publisher Age Rating: All Ages

  • Nic

    | She/Her Youth Services Librarian, Wake County Public Libraries


    The child of two artists, Nic grew up loving art, reading, and those oh-so-special books that combine the two. Nic got her MLS from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Her thesis was on the best shelving scheme for graphic novels in public libraries; the proposal won an Elfreda Chatman Research Award. She spends her free time reading, drawing, blogging, and writing fiction. She is a Youth Services Librarian at the Wake County Public Libraries in Raleigh, NC.

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