cover34445-mediumTitle: The Legend of Korra: The Art of the animated Series – Book One: Air
Author: Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko
Release Date: July 23, 2013
Publisher: Dark Horse Books
Source: Netgalley DRC
Genre(s): Art book, Science Fiction, Fantasy, Steampunk, Cartoon, Nickelodeon

Rating: ★★★★☆
Review Spoilers: N/A
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From the moment you open the Legend of Korra: The Art of the Animed Series – Book One: Air (I know, it’s a long title!) you know that it’s going to be a very special art book. The first few pages are just filled with the heartfelt words and thanks of Michael DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko. These are two guys who know how lucky they are to work with the great people behind Legend of Korra and they want us to know it, too.

After reading through this art book, no one will be able to maintain any sort of doubt about that at all.

The art book reads almost like a DVD commentary with DiMartino and Konietzko chiming in at random as the reader progresses. They honestly did their absolute best to try and fit as much into this book as they could and it gives it a fun, scrapbook sort of feel full of tons of never-before-seen concept art from the series.

Korras development
Korra’s character design significantly improved over time. Once they had the attitude down it was a lot easier to start picturing her.

Throughout they do their best to give credit where credit is due and they walk the reader through a lot of the stylistic choices that were made in developing the show. In the beginning of the book each characters is looked at individually with their design discussed as well as their character development. They talk about how they developed Asami, for example, later on in the show’s development when they decided on the non-bender movement and realized their need for a non-bender character. They also talked about she went from a spy for the movement to what she became in the show.

It wasn’t just the human characters they focused on either. They talk about Naga and Pabu, too, going so far as to admit that they had the idea for Naga – at least somewhat – before they had an idea about anyone or anything else. She’s a hold over from Avatar: The Last Airbender where they had hoped to feature a polar bear dog but simply never had the chance.

Though we do get this insight about the characters, it is somewhat limited. Especially when it comes to some of the lesser characters. They don’t really go too much into describing too many of their motivations or anything beyond what already appeared in Season One so don’t expect a whole lot more on that (except stuff like Asami’s original back story that were ultimately cut or altered). The bulk of the book actually focuses more on the show and the story itself.

Each subsequent chapter of the art book covers a single episode or two-parter.

DiMartino and DiMartino and Konietzko discuss not just the choices they made for the plot but the way the entire episode is put together – including explaining costume choices, expanding on ancillary characters like the older Katara, and much more. They go beyond what you may have seen on the surface when you watched the series yourself on television and immerse you in things that you may never have considered before.

Konietzko, for example, particularly enjoyed coming up with all the Equalist propaganda and put a lot of work into designing the posters you saw plastered around Republic City.

Republic City's design was greatly inspired by Hong Kong, Beijing, New York City, and the Canadian Rockies.
Republic City’s design was greatly inspired by Hong Kong, Beijing, New York City, and the Canadian Rockies.

While I really liked the artbook, it did lack a lot of the more broad and expansive scenes that I usually like to see. I just really appreciate sweeping landscapes, cityscapes, street views, and the like and that’s what I like to see. And this book really was a lot more about getting into the minute details of character development, drawing expressions, etc. The one place they really did this well was the chapter headings. Each chapter began with a gorgeous two-page, full color backdrop and a very well designed, classy chapter title. I would have liked to have seen more of those larger, broader sort of graphics.

Ancillary Art Page 1

While I really enjoyed the book as a whole, I think one of my favorite parts of the book easily became the final chapter – “Ancillary Art.” This section was filled with all kinds of fun little tidbits. There were old school anime art book style promotional images, little chibi drawings and alternative art style works done by various artists and show runners, and more. It was just a lot of ‘unofficial’ fun drawings that the people behind the Legend of Korra had put together and wanted to share. It was cute. No sweeping landscapes and intricate concept sets but I can deal. The chibi Korra is adorable.

I’ll be honest, I’m not a fan of the cover. I’m not sure why they went with those cover graphics. But the rest of the book is more than worth checking out. Legend of Korra fans will appreciate the additional insight and anyone will have fun looking through the artwork and seeing how they came up with Bolin’s particular facial expressions.

The art book is available now online and in stores.

You can also get a Kindle version if you want but I don’t recommend it. Unlike Titan’s digital gaming art books for Halo 4 and Dead Space, there doesn’t seem to be any additional content. You’re better off spending ten dollars more and getting a physical copy you can keep with you and share than a digital copy you’ll blaze through quickly and probably forget about.

The Legend of Korra returns with Book Two: Spirits in less than three weeks on September 13th, 2013.

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