Art books! Art books! I figured out that the easiest way for me to talk about my art books is to cover a bunch at once, so here we are! For today’s line-up:
- Kanahei no Yurutto Doubutsu ga Ippai
- THE KANAHEI WORKS
- Kawaiiuso no Kawauso
- Take Gashuu – Katanagatari Emaki
- Character Design Book 2015
- Kanahei no Yurutto Doubutsu ga Ippai (カナヘイのゆるっと小動物がいっぱい)
For some reason, official listings keep saying that this book has 1 page when it clearly has more than that, but I don’t want to be the one who does the counting, so just take my word for it. (The book unfortunately has no content page or page numbers to make doing that easy.) Its thickness is comparable to a regular art book, so let’s just say it’s about 140 pages. Matte softcover.
This is pretty much a picture book. It opens with a few introductions to Kanahei’s (the artist) characters, and then delves into a bunch of short comics about daily life things. It is very healing. Kanahei’s art style is adorable. I have seen Kanahei’s work around, but I do not actively keep up with them, so a lot of what’s in this book is new to me. I would recommend this if you want something cute…even if you don’t know Japanese, the visuals themselves are very pleasing and easy to follow.
Kanahei puts up a lot of their work on their own Twitter, for anyone who wants to check them out!
- THE KANAHEI WORKS (the カナヘイ WORKS)
144 pages. Matte softcover. A comprehensive collection of Kanahei’s works that span as far back from 2003 to the present 2019.
This book is size A5, so it’s smaller than typical art books (usually size A4). It jumps straight into displaying Kanahei’s illustrations in chronological order. It’s interesting to see the evolution of their style and how Piske and Usagi (the white bird and pink rabbit respectively) slowly took on more concrete forms over the years. Due to the book’s size, there’s quite a number of illustrations that end up being squished to fit inside some of the pages…you can get an idea of what that looks like in the third picture. It’s a bit of a shame and makes me wish that the book was either bigger or there were more pages to compensate rather than sacrificing the picture sizes, but there is quite a lot of content to leaf through, gripes aside.
Once again, Kanahei puts up a lot of their work on their own Twitter, for anyone who wants to check them out!
- Kawaiiuso no Kawauso (可愛い嘘のカワウソ)
112 pages. Matte softcover. “The unbelievably cute otter.” It’s basically a compilation of 4-panel comics about an otter doing things and being cute about it. (Your own mileage may vary.) Mostly a physical version of the arts posted on the official Twitter. I only knew of this thanks to a friend retweeting a couple of the arts from there, so a lot of what’s in the book is new to me.
Just otters being otters. It’s a picture book akin to the first Kanahei one in this post with cute visuals that are easy to follow. I do not know how much of this is just printed material from the official Twitter, but hey, you get an opportunity to own everything in one place with this book. If you like following animal antics, this is pretty fun!
- Take Gashuu – Katanagatari Emaki (竹画集 刀語絵巻)
152 pages. Matte softcover. One of my favourite art books. Katanagatari is a series I have some problems with, but the art is definitely not one of them. Take’s art style and colours are absolutely lovely.
There’s a compilation of art that was featured in the novels for the series. I cannot get enough of the compositions…they are such a treat for the eyes.
Also included in the art book: character profiles, rough designs of the characters, and the designs of the swords that are featured in the series. I don’t have much attachment to Katanagatari as a story, but going through all the visuals for it is a very pleasant experience. If you like pretty art and vibrant colours, I can wholeheartedly recommend this book, whether or not you’ve watched or read Katanagatari.
- Character Design Book 2015 (ゲーム&アニメ キャラクターデザインブック2015)
208 pages. Glossy softcover. An art book that I’m not particularly fond of. The initial impression that this book gave me was that there would be some digging into the minds of creators as to why and how their design their characters, but it’s more of an anthology of character designs out in the wild.
One particularly unique thing about this art book is that it has both Japanese and English texts available next to each other. I thought it was somewhat amusing that they listed the featured series for each individual artist only in the Japanese page of contents and not in the English one.
The book’s summary, which is…on the inside flap of the dust cover that you probably will not be able to see unless you actually buy the book. It’s a shame that it says things like “What kinds of tastes in illustrations are preferred in Japan? What kinds of heroes, heroines and supporting cast are deemed necessary? With this bird’s eye view of the subject you might find the answers to these questions.”, because this book goes about it in the most shallow way possible. What it does is show you images from selected series with a brief description of what it’s about, and…that’s it. No rough sketches, no artist interviews, nothing like that. There is almost literally nothing in this book you couldn’t look up yourself in a search engine.
The main thing of interest would probably be the few pages at the front where there’s an interview with Miwa Shirow in regards to character design. All the pages following that are a showcase of various artists and their works. There were a few artists for otome games featured, surprisingly enough:
Psychedelica of the Black Butterfly got a black background unlike the other series. I do find it somewhat strange the book chose to feature the anime character designer (Onda Naoyuki) for Hiiro no Kakera rather than the one for the game (Kazuki Yone), though she’s also mentioned in the text. And yes, this is how each artist and series is featured in the book – a brief description, and a bunch of character designs tossed up in the two pages they’ve been allocated (which are more or less the promotional art you’d see everywhere if you recognise the series in question). This book frustrates me because it sounds like such a neat idea, but this take on it is just…not what I expected from it.
I guess it’s cool and all, but I mean…if I go to an art museum and there is nothing for me to go on about the art that’s being featured, I’m probably not going to think or delve much into it. This book just seems really weird by design? I might as well be looking up character designs from series that interest me and study from there rather than this uninspired take on it. It would make more sense if it had included brief interviews with the artists pertaining to questions such as what kind of audience they were keeping in mind while designing the characters.
If you want to see a sampling of what kinds of games and character designs are out there, this book serves that purpose pretty well, probably? There’s quite a lot of variety in what was picked. If you’re looking for something in-depth in regards to character design, this book is a pretty much just a disappointment. It might as well be a catalogue, and you’re better off just getting dedicated art books for what series you want to check out.
I am finally writing up about art books 200 years later. I thought that I wanted to write up about Yunohana Spring’s art book a long while ago, but I didn’t play the game, so I wasn’t sure how I wanted to go about that. I think that writing short summaries for several books at once and collating them into one post is much more efficient for stuff I don’t really need to or know how to go in-depth for, so I probably will do more of these!
I’ve linked the books to where you can buy them on Amazon, but if they don’t ship to your country, you can always copy and paste the original Japanese title into a search engine and find a place that does. CDJapan would probably have these in stock as well.