Often these days when western works make their way to Japan they’re mostly just the same. Not so for these Game of Thrones anime-inspired full artwork, character focused covers. They’re badass, and I want them on my shelf ASAP. They showcase some pretty different interpretations to what HBO-viewers are used to!
These versions of A Song of Fire & Ice first started Japanese publication in 2012. The TV show began airing in 2011, so everyone knew going in to these books what the common interpretation would be, but decided to take artistic license anyway. And we couldn’t be happier. This is the only way Game of Thrones could possibly be more anime. Feast your crow-peepers on these awesome pieces of art by Noriko Meguro and Yasushi Suzuki. Most of these have full art wrap-around covers, though tracking all of them down is tough.
What is the deal with up/top (上) and down/bottom (上) volumes in Japan?
Just a quick note because it’s interesting! When books are released in “volumes” in Japan, they’re not always traditionally numbered. For releases with two volumes, you’ll see them labelled as 上 for the first volume, and 上 for the second — top and bottom, up and down. That’s because, taking into account traditional Japanese reading was top to bottom, right to left, that’s the order in which things should go. For sets of three, they add an in-between 中 for middle too. 4 and up? They just go with numbers. The more you know!
A Game of Thrones / 七王国の玉座 (The Throne of Seven Kingdoms) — Noriko Meguro
The two volumes of A Game of Thrones feature this super manga-ass Jon Sow, and this Amano-esque cover featuring Daenerys and the birth of her dragons. It’s actually pretty forward thinking for these to feature together as the dual covers for this book, especially seeing as Jon Snow’s importance only begins to grow later on.
A Clash of Kings / 王狼たちの戦旗 (Banner of the Wolves) — Noriko Meguro
A Clash of Kings feels a bit like a battle primarily between Robb, Tyrion, and Stannis, but the Japanese covers go with the Stark sisters as their theme for this duology. The name of this book also refocuses primarily on the Starks rising to power in the North, with the title translating to pretty much “Banner of the Wolves”.
The first volume is gritty looking, almost Vagrant Story-esque in design — showing Arya looking powerful and upright, gripping her sword, Needle. The second seems to depict Sansa, with short hair and looking fierce. Behind her is what some kind of spooky tree, with almost dragon-like features. Perhaps this is a weirwood tree? She appears at once vulnerable, but also armed, surprisingly carrying a dagger at her side.
A Storm of Swords / 剣嵐の大地 (The Sword Storm That Sweeps the World) — Yasushi Suzuki
Okay, okay, translating this one was a little tricky. 剣嵐 is sword and storm, and 大地 is like the Earth, the land, or the world. I wasn’t sure whether “the sword storm that sweeps the world” or “sword storm of the world” would be closer. It’s a bit curious to me that they have 大地 in there, but I’m far from a Japanese expert. Bryce also found it interesting, though. So, allow me some artistic re-translation license here. 剣の嵐 almost seems like it might have been a better direct translation, as that is just “storm of swords”? But it wouldn’t have been quite as in-keeping with the style of the other Japanese titles.
These three covers are a bit disparate, but A Storm of Swords covers a lot of ground. We’ve got what seems to be Margaery Tyrell in the first volume, which is about when she becomes betrothed to King Joffery. Then we’ve got the ghoulish looking Tyrion, who is a far cry from Peter Dinkalage’s roguish charm in the HBO series — this would be around the time things aren’t going so well for him in King’s Landing. Then we end on Samwell Tarly looking like a badass with his dragonglass dagger, above what is probably Castle Black.
A Feast for Crows / 乱鴉の饗宴 (The Crow’s Feast) — Yasushi Suzuki
For this book we get a Lannister double combo, with the pleasing pairing of Jaime and Cersei — siblings, twins, and lovers. Jaime looks big as fuck in the first volume, clasping his fancy sword in his left-hand, which is appropriate. The second volume with Cersei is just gorgeous, a stunning, mesmerising piece of reds and gold. Elegance, wealth, blood, and decay. If they made a full-size poster of just one of these pieces of art, it’d have to be this one. It’s fitting, as Cersei plays a huge role in this particular book.
A Dance With Dragons / 竜との舞踏 (A Dance with Dragons) — Yasushi Suzuki
Once again, as with the long A Storm of Swords, A Dance With Dragons is also pretty long and a lot happens, which is why we get some more disparate covers. We’ve got a scantily clad Dany with her dragons in Meeran starting us off. Then we’ve got a big piece of art with Bran, Summer, and what you can assume is the Three-Eyed Raven. An finally Jon Snow looking heroic. He almost looks a bit like Ramsay Bolton from the TV show, but with his distinctive sword Longclaw in his hand there’s no doubt — but is that Castle Black or Winterfell behind him?
The Winds of Winter / 冬の狂風 (The Winds of Winter)
Note: 狂風 means more of a strong or fierce wind. There’s no cover for this one yet, as there’s not even a release date for the book. Fingers crossed that Yasushi Suzuki or Noriko Meguro returns with more great artwork for the series for The Winds of Winter and the final book, A Dream of Spring!
春の夢 might be an appropriate direct translation for the current title of the final book in the series, but I suspect they might embellish it slightly with a bit more meaning as they often seem to, perhaps choosing different kanji for dream like 夢想 (more like a vision) or 願事 (like a wish or a desire). Anyway, that’s just something that I find fun to think about.
In addition, published around 2005-2007 are 10 smaller volume collections of A Game of Thrones and A Clash of Kings, with more western looking art by Ken Sugiwara. They’re beautiful nevertheless, even if they’re a bit less anime!