Customer Reviews: The Sky: The Art of Final Fantasy Slipcased Edition
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TOP 50 REVIEWERon July 30, 2013
In 2012, Dark Horse released the first edition of The Sky limited to 1000 copies. Many who pre-ordered were left sorely disappointed when their books did not ship when the shipping date went by. 1000 limited copies for fans of Final Fantasy, a game series that has over millions of fans. Now that's truly limited.

Well, it's all good now. Dark Horse has released, this time, a non-limited edition of The Sky that is more easily available. Although there are no additional goodies with this release.

This is a slipcase set with three hardcover books. The cardboard slipcase is covered with some silky fabric with a beautiful print across and to the back. It's very sturdy cardboard and even has a cover for the opening. The presentation is very nice.

Inside the book there are the three large format artbooks. Volume 1 collects works for FF I-III, Volume 2 for FF IV-VI and 3 for FF VII-X. This is a collection of artworks from 1987 to 2001. Altogether, there are 576 pages.

This box set might not be what you're expecting depending on the type of FF fan you are.

I suspect there might be a group of fans or designers looking for art that is closer to the games. You know, like those art-of books typically released alongside games? The Sky is not like those artbooks. There's no full list of characters or enemies, environment art (I'm still looking for these), weapons, vehicles or promotional art.

The focus in on character designer Yoshitaka Amano and his character designs. There are over hundreds of drawings of characters and enemies in the unique Amano style of art.

It really interesting to see, for the first few games, how those dot matrix game sprites are translated into or from the concept art. If you've not played the games, these designs will appear foreign. Even if you've played the games, they might still appear foreign because they can be wildly different from their video game form. Therein lies the brilliance of Amano, who can create such a huge cast of characters for the FF world.

The amount of content for each game varies. Book 2 is the thickest so you get a bulk of work from FF IV to VI. Book 3 is quite thin with only ten pages for FFVII. Much is of Cloud and Aeris, with occasional appearance of Sephiroth and RedXIII.

Not all characters or enemies drawn are labeled. It's a challenge to identify them sometimes.

Depending on where you buy it from, there might be additional weight surcharge. This box set is heavy. It ships with its own custom sized cardboard shipping box designed to prevent damage. That's the way to do it for an exquisite set.

You might know that there was an earlier book called Dawn: The Worlds of Final Fantasy. Much of that book's content is duplicated here so there's no reason to get that book anymore.

Ultimately, this boxset represents great value for money. Grab it fast if you like the art.

(See more pictures of the book on my blog. Just visit my Amazon profile for the link.)
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on July 25, 2013
I am still in shock, but lets see if I can manage a quick review.

This is probably the best investment in printed media I have ever made. When the package arrived, it felt like it was loaded with bricks. When I opened the package, I got my second surprise: The gorgeous box containing the books themselves. I was under the impression it was a real 'slipcase' from the item description - a circular piece of paper or printed plastic that slid off from around the books. No, it's this big, sturdy case covered entirely with the fabric cover illustration. The case has a tab that opens the side panel which snaps shut well with all three books inside.

The books themselves are delightful. Not only containing Amano's most iconic works from 1987 to 2001, the books also have countless character, monster, and location illustrations. The reproduction is gorgeous, to the point where I'm still not completely sure I paid as little as I did for this collection.

If I had to lay out a drawback, I would mention that this collection does not encompass Amano's work on Final Fantasy XI, which I consider to be one of his peaks of illustrative perfection. The only other con would be lacking the goodies of the very limited run first edition 'box set', but most of those box sets were snapped up by scalpers and now run for literally 10 times the current price of this item on Amazon.

Summary: If you're a fan of Amano's work and would consider one of the many collections available, this set should be the top of the list without question. It is more comprehensive, at a lower price, than pretty much any other on the market.
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on July 26, 2013
I'm going to make this short...

I did not expect THIS MUCH for such a price. I've bought nearly 50+ artbooks (a majority of which I bought from Japan) and this is THE MOST I HAVE EVER GOTTEN FOR MY MONEY. Bang for your buck? Here it is. Amazing, intricate and mystical! The artwork of Amano-sensei.

The paper is of very good quality. Nice and thick with a glossy texture. The binding is near-perfect. The perfs where the book is bound (white lines between the pages) is slightly visible, but stretch enough and not too much to the point where you can view 2-page artworks almost perfectly without it being a hindrance!

The slipcase... I did not expect it to be very hardbound WITH SILKY FABRIC WOVEN ON TOP WITH ART FEATURED ON IT!! The 3 books themselves are STURDY hardcovers unlike hardcovers that feel like they're made out of cheap cardboard that are sure to last along with the beautiful slipcase.

This slipcase set comes shipped with literally 2 boxes. The shipping package (in this case, Amazon's) and a well fitted cardboard box that keeps the set very, very well protected! No issues with damages at all if bought new!

This was an amazing buy. If you are the slightest bit interested. GET IT. So much content, astonishing presentation, extreme satisfaction. That's all I can say. Happy shopping!
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The last time a similar set was released was a couple of years ago. Granted, the previous set was a limited edition box set, but the content is very similar. For those unfamiliar with Yoshitaka Amamo, shame on you! All joking aside, the man is incredibly talented, and his art has inspired many video games, manga, and anime series. He was the main concept art creator for most every Final Fantasy up to 10. Tetsuya Nomura usually had the final design job for most of the newer Final Fantasy games.

This collection contains three very large, and very well constructed texts with hundreds of pages of beautiful art from the first ten Final Fantasy games. Each volume covers a few of the games. When I first opened this collection I was amazed at the weight. This set is seriously 5 pounds at least! I know the shipping weight says 2 pounds, but there is no way that it is less than 5. Here are a few notes I think folks will find interesting:
* Fabric enclosed slip case (high quality) bearing Amano-san's art.
* Three high quality, very large format books with durable binding.
* Nearly 600 pages of amazing art from Yoshitaka Amano
* A variety of art mediums including charcoal, pencil, pen, watercolor, and more!
* Format according to game, not style, so there is variety from page to page.
* Highly collectible and sought after - this WILL go up in price once the initial printings are out of stock
* Cheaper here than the $89.99 MSRP (Currently $53.99)
* Amazing shipping from Amazon, the slipcase was inside a plastic wrap inside a form fitting box inside an Amazon box with bubble padding. No damage at all to the slipcase or the books!
* A must have for any Yoshitaka Amano fan!

I highly recommend this collection. From one art lover and game design book collector to another - buy it! You won't be disappointed!
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on July 26, 2013
The Final Fantasy series has been a fairly big part of my life for the past decade, so I made my obligatory visits to fan-sites every now and again. Now, a handful of these websites had photo galleries dedicated to concept artwork, most of which was done by a Yoshitaka Amano. At first, I didn't get the fuss over this Yoshitaka Amano guy. He liked to make brunettes blond, and he thought that chocobos were pterodactyls. Everybody either wore nothing but a cape, or they had on garish motley costumes. I certainly saw the Final Fantasy quintessence embodied in my favorites, but some of them just seemed odd.

Over the years, I started to pick up on the subtleties of Amano's works. Many of them were still, brooding, and somber; yet just as many were whimsical, vibrant, and active. But somehow, I could feel a small narrative in essentially every piece, that unmistakable Final Fantasy quality.

When I saw this box set on Amazon for pre-order, and for a reasonable price, I figured it would be nice to own some of those drawings and paintings in real life, not in compressed .jpg format. I justified the preorder by telling myself that I could probably sell this for a lot of money in due time. Well, I don't want to sell this thing now that I have it.

Opening up the first volume yesterday afternoon, I recognized a couple of familiar drawings. I flipped through the pages fairly quickly, until I noticed that there was a clear narrative moving along with each turn of the page. Not only had Amano documented the creative process of Final Fantasy, he was telling the game's story through his own eyes as well! I began looking at each page much more slowly, taking in the big picture as well as each individual sketch. The same as Nobuo Uematsu has defined Final Fantasy through his music, Amano truly is synonymous with the visual world of Final Fantasy. Looking through these drawings, I could see how painstakingly Square's in-game artists worked to bring Amano's visionary ideas to life with integrity and consistency.

Throughout the first two volumes, it was amazing to watch as Amano's works became more detailed, more ornate, and more prolific for each successive installment in the series. Final Fantasy VI's section alone spanned over 100 pages! The final volume then showed a different, more experimental side of Amano, as he had been removed from his role at the creative helm, ceding to the likes of Tetsuya Nomura and Yusuke Naora (VII, VIII, and X), and Hideo Minaba (IX). Instead of creating many bright environments and characters, Amano shifted his focus to much more detailed, tender scenes, oftentimes through less traditional media like printmaking. Amano's emphasis on specific moments in Volume 3 casts a different tone than was captured in the first two books, but all paint an equally vivid narrative of the Final Fantasy series and its evolution. It's a spectacular journey!

As for the technical details, I was surprised at how heavy the set was! I guess that's the best testament I can give to the set's durability. As others have mentioned, the outer "slipcase" is in fact an incredibly sturdy box, with an amazing cloth graphic covering the whole thing. The books themselves have nice, thick glossy paper. They are bound loosely enough that the book can be laid flat to any page but sturdily enough that pages don't feel like they'll fall out anytime soon. Perhaps the only technical complaint I have about the book is that a small number of drawings and paintings either appear to cropped to fit on a page or are magnified to take up more space. In both cases the images look slightly out of place. Overall, though, this is an incredibly detailed, faithful, and durable set. My highest recommendation both for product quality and for content.

Also of note: Amazon packs this thing as if it were as fragile as an egg! I'm very impressed and thankful for the care that went into a safe delivery.
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on July 25, 2013
For the series' 25th anniversary, Square-Enix released a flurry of Final Fantasy merchandise ranging from arrangement albums to perfumes. One of the centerpieces of the celebration was a reprint of Yoshitaka Amano's artbook set, "The Sky". This lavish boxset was quickly sold out in Japan back in 2001, and fans worldwide would have to resort to paying steep import prices to get their hands on it. Ironically, the first worldwide release of this set was limited to 1000 copies, leaving many without a copy. Amano signed each set, so even this second printing is quite expensive. Third time's a charm, however, and the 2013 edition has finally reached patiently waiting fans.

The wait was well worth it. "Slipcased edition" is a misnomer; the box is actually covered with a nice cloth fabric and has embossed lettering. There's no easily damaged cardboard junk here. A small ribbon is attached to a magnetic opening, revealing the goodies inside. They have that "chemical smell" common to new Chinese printed books, but it's easy enough to let them air out a bit.

As for the books themselves, I couldn't be happier to say they are nothing short of wonderful. The first book (FFI-FFIII) feels like a humble beginning, displaying Amano's skill at creating monsters and iconic heroes. He takes it up a notch with book two (FFIV-FFVI), with page after page featuring delightful watercolor paintings and character art. I assume Square was paying him well in the early 90s, because this is the thickest book of the lot. Book three (FFVII-X) features much less artwork, mostly because he was relegated to the status of promotional illustrator and no longer main designer, in addition to being busy with his solo exhibition in New York at the time. However, the third book is definitely intriguing. Amano experiments with printmaking on FFVII, and refines his work in the medium on FFVIII. Much like the game, Amano backtracks to traditional roots on FFIX. Surprisingly, he takes a 180-degree turn again on FFX, where most of the artwork is in a dark and sketchy style. In short, it seems every piece used for promoting the games is here, except for a few that I noticed were absent (i.e: Amano's pieces for EGM Magazine, and the FFX prototype logo).

On the technical side, the paper is good quality, however some of the pieces (maybe 10 or so) exhibit grittiness or blur. It could be the source files, or the art itself, but it doesn't happen enough to be a real concern. I do regret missing out on the small flipbook and "All About Amano" interview book that were not included in this reprint, although I would not pay the appalling prices people are charging for the limited printing. Despite this, The Sky is the easiest and most affordable way to add to your collection of Amano or Final Fantasy.

For a more pleasant viewing experience, I recommend pouring your beverage of choice, the soundtrack of your favorite game on the speakers, and letting "The Sky" do the rest of the work. Welcome to the fantasy.
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on February 4, 2014
Very hefty set. I can see why they broke this up into 3 volumes. I have this on my coffee table and it's a great conversation starter. Getting to see the actual sketches he made for the games really opened my eyes. Some of the monsters.. how did he will them onto paper from his imagination, just amazing. It's too bad there weren't any FFXI art, those were my favourite. If you're a fan of Amano, this is a must have. If you're a fan of Final Fantasy but prefer anime-style line art, Amano's art style is probably not for you. But you might still want these artbooks. You can see where the developers and designers really tried to stick close to Amano's vision of the world of Final Fantasy.

side story: my sketches were nicknamed "etchy sketchy" by friends. They had always assumed I was copying Amano's art style until I asked them one day, who's this Yoshitaka Amano? And what's Final Fantasy? And they introduced me to Final Fantasy and the amazing art of Amano.
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on April 15, 2014
Excuse the pun for just a moment and know that this will likely be the best purchase I've made all year; pound for pound some of the best value and satisfaction a physical item can bring. There is some hyberbole to this, but I'm pretty ecstatic at the moment, so being the most impartial/objective is tough.

Speaking of pounds, we're talking about a ~12 lb. behemoth of a collection, complete with a fabric bound hard-shell (the slipcase) housing the three hardcover volumes inside. Amazon took care of everything with utmost care. Shipping was fast and cheap, and the condition this came in is as perfect as can be expected.

As for the art itself? It's a fairly comprehensive catalogue of the work of master painter/illustrator Yoshitaka Amano, whose work in my estimation deserves (and does indeed enjoy) far more recognition than simply "the Final Fantasy guy." He is one of the best living artists in his medium, which happens to tread a shared path with a wildly popular video game franchise. What I'm getting at is his work is so much more than video game art; it's something that transcends mere concept sketches and storyboards. There are whole worlds and unborn ideas on these pages, and it feels as if the games themselves are mere participants and borrowers of this creative energy, because Amano's works stand alone and complete.

Ethereal, androgynous, alien, menacing, serene and coquettish are some words that can describe the range of affect his works convey. I'm no art expert, but I can gather some influences and distill them as such: ukiyo-e, manga, art nouveau and pop-punk sensibilities all reside in Amano's work. Still, words fail, and pictures belie more than the sum of their colours and lines, so just have a look at the art and feel for yourself.

In other words, these are all just very precious and somewhat pretentious ways of saying that you'll enjoy this collection even if you're not a fan of Final Fantasy, nor even a gamer at heart.
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on July 25, 2015
This collection of art is INCREDIBLE. It's a must buy for any die hard fan of the art of Final Fantasy 1 though 10.

No text, just hundreds of pages of hand drawn art by one of the best video game artists ever. Book 1 showcases Final Fantasy 1-3. Book 2 is the thickest one, showcasing (in my opinion) all of Amano's best work from Final Fantasy IV through VI. Book 3 is the lightest one because Nomura was doing a lot of the art by then but there are still some amazing sketches of Cloud and Sephiroth that were hand drawn by Amano. All 3 books come in a beautiful box that is definitely worth putting up on display.

If you're even the slightest Final Fantasy fan you owe it to yourself to pick this up. At this price you'd be crazy not to.
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on October 9, 2014
You can’t have played games in the Final Fantasy series without becoming aware of Amano’s art. His work borders on legendary. And even if you haven’t heard of him, take a moment to browse through some of his artwork and chances are you won’t be able to deny that the man has some serious talent going on.

This gorgeous collection is packed with hundreds of pages of beautiful artwork from most of the Final Fantasy games, and if all you’ve ever played is the original versions of the games, in all their 8- or 16-bit glory, here’s a great chance to see more detail than you get to see with blocky sprites.

And also the chance to see many of your favourite characters wearing long flowing dresses (females) or skin-tight pants that show off one’s butt (males). Seriously, Amano seems to have a thing for tight pants.

This isn’t an artbook I would recommend for everyone. I can’t even say that I would recommend it for every die-hard Final Fantasy fan, though that’s mostly due again to the collection’s cost. This isn’t an everyday purchase. But for the fan who has the money to spare, it’s definitely worth buying this collection. The art is beautiful, the insight amazing, and there will be no regret in acquiring this artbook. I can assure you, you won’t be disappointed.
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