Check Out Japan's Take on A Game of Thrones

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Check Out Japan's Take on A Game of Thrones

You don't need to be able to read Japanese to appreciate these stunning covers from the Japanese translations of George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire.

Fans of A Song of Ice and Fire have a lot to be excited about these days. The HBO adaptation of the first book, A Game of Thrones, is apparently not half bad, and the fifth book in the series is finally coming out after a very long wait. Japanese fans of the series may not have been waiting quite so long for A Dance With Dragons, but as it turns out they do get some absolutely beautiful cover art.

Japanese publishing house Hayakawa Publishing has released the covers for its translations of Martin's fantasy epic, and while they're probably not what most fans of the series are used to - they're heavily manga-inspired, for one - the artwork is gorgeous. The art in question is the work of three Japanese illustrators and manga/videogame artists: Ken Sugawara, Noriko Meguro and Yasushi Suzuki.

I'm going to be honest here; I haven't read any of the Ice and Fire books, nor have I seen the HBO miniseries. I may not be able to recognize any of the characters on the covers, but that doesn't mean I can't appreciate the beauty of the artwork as it stands.

For those who are curious, there are so many different covers because long novels in Japan tend to be released as parts, similar to manga volumes. For those who are also curious, the Japanese title is Kōri to Honō no Uta, which is a completely literal translation of the original title - no fancy subtitles here.

It's definitely a different sort of art from the relatively understated Western covers, but I don't know - I think I like it better. Would you buy the books if the covers looked like this?

(Via CrunchyRoll and io9)

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That's some badass cover art for a badass series. The HBO series is one of the few things worth watching on television.

I already have bought them but would buy these just for the art. This is cool and read the books they are great! not sure who the guy with the skinny guy with the sword is though.

Edit: I see the white wolf I now know who it is never mind.

Well... For anime/manga art style, they are quite good. In general, I would consider them quite poor. Although, in fairness, book covers are not usually where the finest go to practice their craft.

Pretty covers actually put me off books, they strike me as trying too hard. Understated cover art is what draws my eye, I sneer at 'busy' pictures.

The blurb is what sells it obviously, but I'm more likely to pick up and read the blurb of a demurely covered book than one covered in imagery.

the art work is very nice, but i prefer the relatively plain book covers we have over here. my problem with those kinds of covers is that the images on them end in my imagination instead of ones i create myself. The characters and locations i create in my mind are how i feel they should look, and what i want in my head when i'm reading. not someone else's impression.

Not bad. Still it pays to keep in mind that in you won't be seeing the covers anyway, since almost everyone in this country has the bookstore put a brown paper bookcover over the book upon purchase.

kurupt87:
Pretty covers actually put me off books, they strike me as trying too hard. Understated cover art is what draws my eye, I sneer at 'busy' pictures.

The blurb is what sells it obviously, but I'm more likely to pick up and read the blurb of a demurely covered book than one covered in imagery.

Quoted for truth.

Good thing that most new fantasy books here are handled by one publisher and they have a very consistent and unobtrusive cover style.

As artwork, it's quite good obviously even if I'm not fond of the style, but I really wouldn't try to sell a book with it.

This can't be right, I don't see a single tentacle monster in ANY of those pictures!

I think cover #6 is my favorite.

gphjr14:
That's some badass cover art for a badass series. The HBO series is one of the few things worth watching on television.

True, but the one cover with the "dwarf" is fucking creepy.

The art itself is well but however I am not a huge fan of any of those art works. Oh well I already got books 1-4 and I am more interesting in whats inside then whats on the outside.

I'll like anything to do with A Song of Fire & Ice, so seeing these art covers I wonder if they'll ever do a manga adaption. While manga is usually the primary source for creative content from Japan sometimes manga or even anime are based off of novels first, one good example being The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya.

The HBO series is absolutely awesome for bringing the characters to life, but if I had one complaint budgetary limits will prevent them from truly bringing the world to life. Winterfall and The Wall looks great, and it sounds like they did a good job with the Eyrie coming up, but you've barely seen anything of Kings Landing & the Red Keep, the Hand's Tournament is supposed to be a massive affair but the crowd only has a few rows of people, and Vaes Dothrak looked like more like a village of mud huts and nothing like book described. And we still have stuff like Dragon Stone, Harrenhall, Storms End, etc to come in later seasons.

Not that a manga would give the best visualization, but within the contexts of the medium there's no real limit to what they can do. Plus the writing style of GRRM would translate will to the medium, which can match the books chapter for chapter from the characters perspectives.

zHellas:

gphjr14:
That's some badass cover art for a badass series. The HBO series is one of the few things worth watching on television.

True, but the one cover with the "dwarf" is fucking creepy.

God damn that is creepy!

I'm unfamiliar with the books but it would appear he's not only a dwarf but his face is deformed as well which would only make him an even further outcast in a royal family.

Tyrion looks like a baby Dr. Zaius

gphjr14:

zHellas:

gphjr14:
That's some badass cover art for a badass series. The HBO series is one of the few things worth watching on television.

True, but the one cover with the "dwarf" is fucking creepy.

God damn that is creepy!

I'm unfamiliar with the books but it would appear he's not only a dwarf but his face is deformed as well which would only make him an even further outcast in a royal family.

Pass.

I honestly think these remind me of a Japanese version of the Mack Bolan novel covers, which would be great if you were reading a pulpy, made for tween boys serial, not GRRMs epic masterpiece.

Wow, I have... mixed feelings on these. They are quite nice, I do enjoy this style of artwork. But I don't think it works well at all for A Song of Ice and Fire. Those images look like they're from a Final Fantasy game or something, not GRRM's earthy, medieval fantasy novels. They're just so at odds with the writing and setting. They are pretty, though.

John Funk:

I'm going to be honest here; I haven't read any of the Ice and Fire books, nor have I seen the HBO miniseries. I may not be able to recognize any of the characters on the covers, but that doesn't mean I can't appreciate the beauty of the artwork as it stands.

What.

How...you...but it's...

*head explodes*

Jebusetti:
Pass.

I honestly think these remind me of a Japanese version of the Mack Bolan novel covers, which would be great if you were reading a pulpy, made for tween boys serial, not GRRMs epic masterpiece.

Honestly, if I didn't already have the nagging suspicion that George R. R. Martin was suffering from a case of burnout and disillusionment with his own work those covers might've tempted me to give the series a shot. Completely inappropriate to tone but gorgeous enough to buy the books anyway and maybe put my earlier reservations aside to give it a shot. On the topic of earlier reservations, I should elaborate.

Besides, the artwork and secondary material for the series I've seen mixes full plate harness (a decidedly advanced Late Medieval/Renaissance technology, despite what D&D and the post-D&D fantasy genre might tell you) with what I was led to believe was a gritty low-fantasy Dirty Medieval setting. And that insults my sensibilities far more than seeing fanciful manga-influenced art topping a rather grimly serious story ever could.

Though, granted, that's also because I've never been one to associate good art with a demographic age ghetto. And when a work purports to be more realistic and mature than its peers, I tend to pay closer attention to how much effort the author's put into research and tone to see if this marketing decision is warranted. What I see when I see A Song of Ice and Fire is a well-spoken-of work of genre fiction that does its level best to be "darker and edgier" without being such to the point where it's an obvious marketing gimmick. It's certainly not a fair assessment but perhaps I'm just cynical.

No, the irony that I'm too cynical to trust the marketing and word-of-mouth for a cynical-toned series isn't lost on me. But at times, when people describe it, it does sound like GRRM is trying too hard to be what Dragon Age tried to be. "Fantasy for grown ups." Few things in marketing get me more suspicious than trying to sell something as "(blank) for grown ups."

Look at it this way: Warhammer Fantasy is fantasy done Darker and Edgier and nobody's going to say the Black Library's line-up is a shining example of high literature, for cryin' out loud. And Japan can do do soul-crushingly, horrifically brutal and depressing dark fantasy. It's called Berserk. It's a bit less presumptuous in that it's very much a young men's action comic, though in Japan the young men's demographic (or "seinen" as it were, and "gekiga" before it) has for a long time been notorious for senseless violence and exploitative material. Which, I suppose, is exactly what that comic is, though its fanbase considers it a long-languishing and unfinished "mature fantasy" epic masterpiece.

Though I'll agree the "young man with cape and point asterisk things" cover looks positively comical.

Dorian Cornelius Jasper:
And Japan can do do soul-crushingly, horrifically brutal and depressing dark fantasy. It's called Berserk. It's a bit less presumptuous in that it's very much a young men's action comic, though in Japan the young men's demographic (or "seinen" as it were, and "gekiga" before it) has for a long time been notorious for senseless violence and exploitative material. Which, I suppose, is exactly what that comic is, though its fanbase considers it a long-languishing and unfinished "mature fantasy" epic masterpiece.

Which sounds familiar.

I would say, A Song of Ice and Fire, is a little bit like Berserk except it's grounded in reality, (the high-fantasy part is creeping in little by little, as magic is slowly returning to the world etc ...), and it's a world gone to shit once the war breaks out, bandit roaming the land taking what they want, when they want, and the knights who are sworn to protect you, are raping, killing and doing the bidding of their lords.

So you don't have demons taking over villages .... yet ;p ...., and turning the men into rat demons before they decide to have an orgy with the women before eating them, demons are so ... demonic.

But at the end of the road, Berserk turned into power ranger once Gats/Guts/Gatsu gathered his little D&D team (does Farnaise count? - she does handle kitchen and cleaning duties wonderfully, I think). I stopped reading once the team went on their little sea trip.

Still, Dragon Age was probably the one who tried emulating ASOIF along with a mix of LotR and the gods know where BioWare may have borrowed more ideas. I don't think you can even compare DA with ASOIF, one was trying to be an epic, the other seems to be a bit more than that, sure I expect the last 3 books to be exactly what LotR is, with all the warring factions allying themselves to face a much bigger treat, but still, the journey is much more important than the ending.

But I agree, the Japanese are no stranger to mature, dark and gritty stories, once you know where to look.

The first 10 or so don't seem manga-ish at all really. There are couple that are obviously heavily stylised, but generally they are fairly normal looking.

Game Of Thrones is fast becoming the best thing on TV.

cainx10a:
Still, Dragon Age was probably the one who tried emulating ASOIF along with a mix of LotR and the gods know where BioWare may have borrowed more ideas. I don't think you can even compare DA with ASOIF, one was trying to be an epic, the other seems to be a bit more than that, sure I expect the last 3 books to be exactly what LotR is, with all the warring factions allying themselves to face a much bigger treat, but still, the journey is much more important than the ending.

That's a good point. Come to think of it this would also explain where DA got the "Ser" from.

Dorian Cornelius Jasper:

Jebusetti:
Pass.

I honestly think these remind me of a Japanese version of the Mack Bolan novel covers, which would be great if you were reading a pulpy, made for tween boys serial, not GRRMs epic masterpiece.

Honestly, if I didn't already have the nagging suspicion that George R. R. Martin was suffering from a case of burnout and disillusionment with his own work those covers might've tempted me to give the series a shot. Completely inappropriate to tone but gorgeous enough to buy the books anyway and maybe put my earlier reservations aside to give it a shot. On the topic of earlier reservations, I should elaborate.

Besides, the artwork and secondary material for the series I've seen mixes full plate harness (a decidedly advanced Late Medieval/Renaissance technology, despite what D&D and the post-D&D fantasy genre might tell you) with what I was led to believe was a gritty low-fantasy Dirty Medieval setting. And that insults my sensibilities far more than seeing fanciful manga-influenced art topping a rather grimly serious story ever could.

Considering its based on the war of the roses there was indeed plate armour during that time.

Those covers are cool, very nicely done. I gave up on this series about a quarter of the way through the first book. Not one character had any admirable qualities, every one was despicable. And while I have no problem with tales of murders, betrayal, assassins and skulduggery, etc the brutality, child rape and murder, incest and deplorable characters made the thought of reading any more too hard to bear. By all means protagonists should face incredible adversity but this one went too far for too long without anything redeemable happening.

I'll probably check out the miniseries out of curiosity to see what they did with it. It's bound to have been seriously stripped down, probably incorporating little more than names, characters, places and token plot line. While I wish companies made better TV instead of having to dumb-down for mass market appeal (the way Disney did with Tron: Legacy for example, and ending with a disastrous movie), perhaps in this case it would actually benefit the series. Taking an interesting idea and/or people/places and make something from the good bits, stripping out much of the aforementioned depressing drudgery.

Huh, only a few androgynous looking male leads and not even a hint of giant robots, tentacles, ninjas, pedophilia subtext, borderline xenophobia, or school children fighting Satan.

Great job Japan! Keep up the good work!

I don't like them. They are pretty but would far better suit a grimm high fantasy tale than a SOIAF.

I didn't much care for most of them. The ones featuring Tyrion were particularly bad, I thought.

Spacewolf:
Considering its based on the war of the roses there was indeed plate armour during that time.

Fair enough, but most art and costumes depicting the characters certainly don't look the part. I distinctly recall paintings of 15th century England involving a lot of silly cloth-wrap hat things, and I think Blackadder had a few silly hats in that timeframe, too. And I saw one piece of art for SOIAF, I think a cover, that actually put a fully decorated, antlered great helm (as in, the wearable can that normally goes with chain maille) on a knight wearing plate. While passable in a "it's okay because the whole fantasy genre is just D&D rebranded and reimagined" sense, this kind of anachronism shows a lack of care or research beyond second-hand cultural sources.

Or a fear of looking silly by going too "period" which is another reason why I find the fantasy genre, in general, hard to take seriously even when it's being deathly serious.

Is HBO or the books' author sponsoring this site,now? I mean, no problem covering the show's premiere and some reviews, but the sheer amount of Game of Thrones hype around gaming sites (not just this one, mind you) is staggering.

Yes, I don't like Game of Thrones (show, didn't read the books). But that's not the issue.

Who is the person in picture "19"??? Darerys unborn fetus?

This looks bad, to say the least.

#6 is my favorite. The guy just looks positively badass.

There not half bad.
But so far the best covers for a series ive seen are the new Space Marine battle novels. The design is just amazing and they look great stacked on the shelfs of my library.

Dorian Cornelius Jasper:
Fair enough, but most art and costumes depicting the characters certainly don't look the part. I distinctly recall paintings of 15th century England involving a lot of silly cloth-wrap hat things, and I think Blackadder had a few silly hats in that timeframe, too. And I saw one piece of art for SOIAF, I think a cover, that actually put a fully decorated, antlered great helm (as in, the wearable can that normally goes with chain maille) on a knight wearing plate. While passable in a "it's okay because the whole fantasy genre is just D&D rebranded and reimagined" sense, this kind of anachronism shows a lack of care or research beyond second-hand cultural sources.

Or a fear of looking silly by going too "period" which is another reason why I find the fantasy genre, in general, hard to take seriously even when it's being deathly serious.

u mad bro?

In all seriousness, though, I do think you're setting your standards a little bit absurdly high. I do have to ask, are you a history major of some sort, or just have a passion for it? (I'm not trying to be insulting in any manner, I just want to know where the desire for absolute fidelity comes from.)

To me, your standard of "Oh, they have plate mail and rapiers, but they're not wearing the appropriate funny hats and tights: fail." strikes me like the hard scifi fans who will bash on a book that spends describing the difficulties and societal effects of Newtonian drives and distributed civilization, but has an airlock work different than modern standard.

Appreciate the world, it may work different then ours. If a series violates its own continuity or rules, then fire away, I say, but just because their weapons technology doesn't match their dress code (and not even that far off, it's not togas and assault rifles or anything truly absurd) isn't a reason to discount G.R.R. Martin's series.

His books are a unique deconstruction of high fantasy, with correlations to our history, and a world that is very much like ours, but decidedly different (winter is coming). It's worth a view, just for the unique voice. You don't have to like it, but it's worth a try.

PS: The other series Dragon Age borrowed from was Wheel of Time. Look at the collared mages in DAII and think of the Seanchan. Eh? Eh? Still, it's refreshing to see a game lift from Martin and Jordan, as opposed to more Tolkien.

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