The Legend of Korra: Book 4 – Balance – the Art of the Animated Series

By Michael Dante DiMartino, Bryan Konietzko & Joaquim Dos Santos (Dark Horse)
ISBN: 978-1-61655-687-7

Win’s Christmas Gift Recommendation: Astonishing Art Attack for Kids Of All Ages… 9/10

Autumn is officially here, and huge men from many countries are running about very genteelly trying to cripple each other, so it’s hard to escape the conclusion that the Holiday Season is inescapably close. And after all, Christmas films have been playing on Sky Movies since early March…

Seriously though, if you’re prudent, it is time to start looking at gifts for your loved ones – or even family – and here’s something that will delight aspiring artists and lovers of fantasy television: one of the most evocative animation art-books I’ve seen in many a year…

Always foremost amongst the fascinating publishing add-ons to accompany major motion picture releases or mega-successful TV cartoon shows are the supplemental “Art of…” compendiums, such as this tome dedicated to the spectacular manga-inspired Nickelodeon hit The Legend of Korra.

A magnificent and stupendously oversized (312 x 246 mm) full-colour luxury hardcover, this is actually the last of a quartet of books tracing the progress of the critically acclaimed, commercially triumphant series, which aired for 52 episodes between 2012 and 2014 in the USA, divided into four chapter-seasons or “Books”: Air, Spirits, Change and Balance.

The show has been likened to Game of Thrones but that’s just lazy pigeon-hole reviewing so don’t be put off. You don’t even need to be a fan of the show to enjoy the astounding, gloriously enticing and visually breathtaking example of the collaborative animators’ art gathered within, but in case you’re looking for a bit of context here’s a little background…

Devised by Bryan Konietzko & Michael Dante DiMartino, the series began life as a 12-part continuation of Avatar: the Last Airbender – albeit, set seventy years later – on a fantastic world redolent of the works of Hayao Miyazaki (Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind, The Wind Rises), where certain momentous individuals are born with the power to manipulate the classic of Elements Earth, Air, Fire and Water.

All the eternal problems of greed, privation, venality and political ambition still plague the people though, and inevitably war and conquest are seen as the solution to obstacles by the worst humanity has to offer…

The series targeted older kids and was a huge hit, winning great approval for its frank treatment of real-world problems such as terrorism, dissent and socio-political unrest as well as for its forthright and groundbreaking treatment of race, gender and issues of sexual identity. It also looked stunning whilst doing it…

Dark Horse Editor Dave Marshall worked with DiMartino, Konietzko and Co-Executive Producer Joaquim Dos Santos to compile another eye-popping mix of production and concept art, storyboards, panoramic views, production sketches, designs, development art and models, a wealth of beautiful background paintings and a bountiful mass of model-sheets for each of the legion of characters which populated the show, all augmented with incisive commentary and colour from the creators, resulting in a splendid coffee-table chronicle which is utterly bewitching.

After Introductions from DiMartino, Konietzko & Dos Santos, the book cleverly divides into thirteen chapters, offering all those aforementioned construction-elements on an episode-by-episode basis. Thus ‘Chapter 1: After All These Years’ and ‘Chapter 2: Korra Alone’ display the characters and settings at the starting point whilst succeeding instalments ‘The Coronation ’, ‘The Calling’, ‘Enemy at the Gates’, ‘Battle of Zaofu’, ‘Reunion’, ‘Beyond the Wilds’, ‘Operation Beifong’, ‘Kuvira’s Gambit’, ‘Day of the Colossus’ and the apocalyptic ‘Chapter 12: The Last Stand’ disclose the changes and developments in the cartoon cast and scenarios necessitated by the meticulously unfolding epic in a manner which is both captivating and revelatory.

The fantastic feast for the eyes then concludes with a selection of ‘Ancillary Art’ featuring character illustrations, poster art, unused roughs, book cover sketches, faux “photo-booth snapshots”, promo art, blog illustrations and prints from the series’ tribute art shows.

This is an awesome book that will certainly inspire artistically-inclined youngsters, and bereft fans of the broadcast iteration of The Legend of Korra can console themselves with the fact that Dark Horse are going to continue the adventure in comicbook form just as they have so successfully done with defunct shows like Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel and Firefly.
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