The name Yasushi Suzuki probably doesn’t ring a bell with you yet, but if The Art of Yasushi Suzukiis any kind of harbinger, he’s bound to become a household name before long. Nominally a concept designer for video games (he’s done designs for Treasure's Arcade / Dreamcast / GameCube title Ikaruga and also their N64 titleSin and Punishment), he’s also contributed illustrations for book covers and card games, and is right now putting the finishing touches on his first foray into manga, Purgatory Kabuki.Purgatory Kabuki’s due out later this year (and believe me, I’ve been waiting very eagerly for it), but if you like what you see here then you have every reason to add this volume to your artbook collection. That said, don’t look for more here than just the pictures, or you’re likely to be a bit let down.
Describing any artist’s work is always a hard job, because so much of what you could say is easily eclipsed by just showing a few pictures and calling it a day. But after "re-reading" Art… a couple of times, I think I finally singled out the elements that make his art special. He applies colors like a painter, but understands line and posture like an illustrator, so in every picture you can see the best of both tendencies. This especially shows up in his designs forPhantoms: The Soul in the Cage (another manga production slated for 2008 from publisher DGN Production Inc.), or the designs for Purgatory Kabuki itself. He’s also equally comfortable drawing the curves of human bodies and the angular contours of machinery—look at the Card Masters designs later in the book—although many of his more outré character designs have the same sharpness to him, but there it works.
I’m a fan of illustration art from Japan that isn’t strictly manga- or anime-related—such as movie posters or book jackets. Many of the artists working in that space have little or no name recognition abroad: there’s Noriyoshi Ôrai, for instance, the man who created the fiery-looking artwork for the Godzilla movie posters. Suzuki has done a number of such jobs, including the Japanese printings of the hardcover edition of the third book in George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series — A Storm of Swords. The covers for several of such books are included here, and it’s amazing how unlike their Western counterparts they are, but still do a fine job of capturing what the books are all about. The other cover art productions featured here are in some ways twice as intriguing because we don’t know what they are—I’d be curious to read an English translation of The Geste of Ithberh, whatever it may be, because the pictures alone tell a heck of a story.
(C) 2007 Yasushi Suzuki / (C) 2007 DGN Productions Inc.
With cover art this good, I'm automatically curious what the book's about.
DGN Production Inc. also took the trouble to give the book an elegance of presentation that suits the material—they’ve used heavy laminated covers and high-quality paper, added spot silver inks for emphasis, wrapped the book in a see-through plastic sleeve and padded it all with translucent endpapers. My biggest complaints: the typesetting used for the English text in the introduction and the interviews with Suzuki, which looks oddly crude, and the occasional overlaying of text on a full-page image (a huge no-no). Also, there’s relatively little feedback from Suzuki himself about a lot of his work; it would have been interesting for him to comment on the genesis of many of the artwork inside—for instance, did he base his designs for the Martin book covers on a reading of the books themselves, or just editorial suggestions?
The Bottom Line: If you’ve already been a fan of Suzuki’s work—even if you didn’t know it—this book is a nicely broad sampler of his style and projects, even if it falls short in giving us any real insights into his work or his creative process (in addition, visit his Official Website here). Also, it's only eighty-something pages long—rather short for a book with a $27 list price. Look for his forthcoming manga for the real meal, for which is this only an appetizer.