Six artbooks worth owning that won’t empty out your bank account

It’s no secret from my close friends who know my weeb tendencies (but not from my relations) that I love game and to a lesser extent anime-related artbooks. Artbooks on relevant subjects used to be extremely expensive because they were all imports, but times have changed. Even the imports are more affordable than they used to be. Since I’m a value-minded guy who wants to help you the reader, I’ve put together a list of five artbooks that are well worth owning and that won’t cause you pain at the end of the month before payday (and one that might, depending on what kind of deal you can find.)

Takehito Harada Art Works I

The chief artist of the long-running Disgaea series by Nippon Ichi, Takehito Harada has a highly distinctive style that I love.  His work is a big part of why people enjoy the series so much.  A Disgaea game without at least a cameo by the Harada-designed Etna or Flonne, the demon/angel comedy duo from the first Disgaea, is unimaginable.  In fact, the header to my site is a cropped bit of promotional art by Harada from one of the Disgaea games.  I don’t know if that counts as fair use, but in any case he has not contacted me about it yet.

This artbook contains character sheets, promotional art and scenery from the first four Disgaea games as well as a few of the spinoffs like Phantom Brave.  Vol. 1 is translated, but Vol. 2, which I also own, is not.  They’re both worth a buy for the hardcore NIS fan or for the general artbook collector, though Vol. 2 is less essential for the latter.

Gravity Daze Series Official Art Book

The Gravity Rush series (Gravity Daze in Japan) has a unique visual style. The games are based around protagonist Kat’s power to bend gravity to her will. This artbook depicts Kat, other characters, and their surroundings in great detail. Kat is a beautifully designed character and the artbook is worth getting for her alone, but I’ve always loved the game’s city designs as well – they feel like living, breathing places, and it’s fun to simply fly around then without any particular object in mind. This is well worth buying for the fan who wants something new on the bookshelf relevant to his interests.

Atelier: Artworks of Arland

Artist Mel Kishida is a strange cat.   A self-professed hentai dude, he is best known for his work on the Arland trilogy subset of Atelier games that include Atelier Rorona, Atelier Totori, and Atelier Meruru. He also likes to dress up in cosplay, at least one time as a maid, when he personally served fans at a cafe.  Where else can you get that kind of dedication?

All that aside, Kishida’s art is really great.  His style is very much in that cute bishoujo fashion, which I favor a lot.  Probably one of the reasons I like the Arland games, along with their insanely complicated alchemy crafting systems (especially recommended if you have a Vita, since you get extras in those Plus versions.)  This artbook covers character designs and scenery from all three games and is translated.

Senran Kagura: Official Design Works

“TITS ARE LIFE, ASS IS HOMETOWN.” So proclaims one of the front pages of the official artbook for Senran Kagura, a fighting game series known for its busty female ninja characters with conveniently flimsy costumes that somehow get torn off while they pummel each other. The series knows exactly what it is, and so does character artist Nan Yaegashi. This artbook contains illustrations and promotional work for several games in the Senran Kagura series, and much of the content in the book is NSFW or very borderline, which is of course the whole point. I couldn’t even really find a suitable image to post here other than the cover of the book, which is fairly tame. The book itself is translated and contains an interesting interview with the series director and artist.

Re:Futurhythm

Range Murata’s work is quite bizarre. Mr. Murata seems to have a fixation with future technology and girls using or wearing future technology. His work on the anime series Last Exile showcases a bit of that, but the compilation artbook Re:Futurhythm really brings it all out. There are a ton of illustrations in here, mostly of girls… using or wearing future technology. A few of the illustrations are a little racy, but in a weird way, not a pornographic one. Murata’s style is sort of “flat” feeling, if that makes sense, giving his characters an otherworldly feel.

I don’t know quite why Murata’s work connects with me. I really like the 40s/50s sci-fi look, and Murata’s art seems to draw a lot from that style. Or maybe I’m just fuckin weird. Probably. I have to admit that is the reason.

This particular artbook is a little hard to find. In fact, it’s a lie to say it won’t break the bank, because it is a bit expensive as well. For some reason only the front of each page is used, and the paper is as thick as cardstock. Just like its artist, it is an unusual work.

MOMENTARY: The Art of Ilya Kuvshinov

Out of all the artists featured in this list, Ilya Kuvshinov might be my favorite. His book Momentary is printed purposely in a square format and features many stunning pieces of artwork, most of which are portraits of some kind. Mr. Kuvshinov has worked on some games, none of which I’ve played, but I can say that if I were ever working on a game, I would try to recruit him as a character designer. A Russian transplant in Japan, Kuvshinov captures real beauty in his works, most of which are illustrations of cute girls (do you see a pattern here? To be fair to me, you would be hard pressed to find an anime/game-related artbook that doesn’t have this focus.) The book is well-made but cheap and contains a ton of great art.

There are plenty of artists I love like Kazuma Kaneko and Shigenori Soejima who didn’t make this list, but I’m always on the hunt for new artbooks, especially if they’re not obscenely expensive imports. Drop a comment if you find something interesting.

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Music to hear with your ears and brain: Moe Shop

I am going through a horribly stressful period in my life right now in which my inevitable death seems more like a comforting promise made by a friend than a threat made by an enemy. What can relieve this feeling? Maybe drugs, and certainly alcohol. But also good music. Namely Moe Moe, the latest EP release by French group Moe Shop.  These guys put together funk basslines and synths straight out of the 70s/80s and join them with cute female vocals.  Moreover, every song on the EP is hypnotically catchy.  See above for my favorite track, “Virtual”.  However, unlike previous Moe Shop EPs featuring absolute standouts like “You Look So Good”, this one is extremely even throughout. If you like this kind of music, moe moe disco/funk like Parliament-Funkadelic if it was entirely composed of cute anime girls, you should check out Moe Shop. Moreover, they wrote the ultimate yandere girl anthem seen below (highly NSFW, I guess???) What more do you want in your entertainment. You can’t get this shit from LA or Nashville or Atlanta.

Strange search terms pt. 3 (robot girl x male human edition)

Life is empty and meaningless, and the world is an isolated rock flying through cold dark space.  This is the 100th post on this site!  Let’s celebrate by looking at a sample of strange search terms from the past year.

1) if mario ate toad

Toad is famously a sentient mushroom and an attendant to Princess Peach, Mario’s perpetually kidnapped girlfriend (?).  Toad is often one of Mario’s allies in his quest to rescue Peach.  But what if Mario ate Toad? this reader wonders.  I know you expect me to say something like “he would get high!!!  lol”.  But I’m not a hack Buzzfeed writer and I don’t take the easy way out.  The effect of eating Toad upon Mario would depend upon Toad’s species.  If Toad has psychoactive properties, Mario would get high.  But Toad might be poisonious, in which case Mario would get ill or even die.  And the effect of eating Toad upon Toad would be that he would definitely die.  Anyway, why should Mario eat Toad?  That wouldn’t be in character for him.

2) numbers to rivens domes

Riven is a difficult game.  Its puzzles are pretty god damn demanding, requiring the player to learn a base-25 number system.  So it’s understandable that folks would want an easy solution to the game’s notorious golden dome puzzle.  Unfortunately, the number code to open the golden domes (which is necessary to beat the game) is randomly generated each game.  Have fun learning that fucked up number system!

3) smt iv u didnt want the lawful ending

YHVH

U sure didn’t want the Shin Megami Tensei IV Law ending.  It sucked.  The Law ending in an SMT game always sucks.  For the uninitiated the standard SMT Law route involves cooperating with the Abrahamic God to wipe out humanity or at best to turn humanity into mindless worshippers of the LORD.  Said God in SMT is typically in the form of YHVH, aka Yod Hey Vav Hey, aka Tetragrammaton, the God of the Old Testament.  You may feel that OT God was a bit of a jerk and a tyrant, and Atlus agrees with you if you do.  So Law route generally sucks, even more than Chaos, which at least allows for some fun shaking up of things with Lucifer’s angelic blessing.  All my Neutral bros know the best route though.

4) lewd 3ds games

So many people find this site searching for lewd 3ds games.  What they don’t realize is the Vita has a much better lewd game collection.  Out of those games, Monster Monpiece and Akiba’s Trip are at least halfway good, though the latter requires a high tolerance for and understanding of otaku-style perverted weirdness to really enjoy.  Casuals shouldn’t bother, in other words.

5) why didn’t the people put a girl in persona 3 ps2

Maybe because they knew

p3p girls getting fucked videos

would be a thing people would start searching for if they did.  I don’t actually much like what the female protagonist of Portable does to the story of P3 – anyway, I don’t think you can even consider her story or character canon as far as Persona canon goes (and there is such a thing, since all the Persona games inarguably take place in the same universe, one that FeMC doesn’t fit into.)  She does have a cute design, though.

6) va-11 yuri

Tons of people are also out hunting for porn, especially yuri (or lesbian) porn, featuring chatacters from cyberpunk bartending visual novel VA-11 HALL-A.  Not a huge surprise considering how much the sexual theme is tied into the story.  Protagonist Jill is herself bisexual, and various other characters swing one or the other way (and then there’s sexbot Dorothy, who swings every way.)

7) robot girl x male human rule 34

God damn it why are all my readers perverts.

Where are my hot android girls, scientists? What good are you even

I guess I have to blame myself.  I do think Aigis is best girl in Persona 3.  I’m sure there’s plenty of such material out there for those who want to seek it out, despite Aigis’ robotic build and lack of relevant anatomy.  2B from NieR: Automata is a somewhat more humanoid android and is featured in about 100,000 metric tons of porn, but she also weighs 148.8 kg (328 lb) according to the game’s creators despite being exceedingly fit-looking, so a hypothetical human contemplating a situation with such an android might take that into consideration.  (Crushed pelvises are not covered by all insurance plans.)

8) dynasty warriors cross stitch

Not even sure what to do with this one, or how such a search brought this reader here.  Perhaps he was searching for this charming Lu Bu themed Valentine’s Day card.

Best and worst Megami Tensei covers

It is no secret that I like the Megaten series.  I’ve reviewed several titles in the series in these pages, and I have played more still.  One aspect of the series I haven’t said much about, though, is the visual design.  Kazuma Kaneko is responsible for most of the look of the mainline SMT games and many of its spinoffs.  Most of the demon designs he came up with 25 years ago are still used in the series to this day, and they all look great.  A lot of the covers look great too.  But some of them aren’t so great!  Some of them are kind of shitty.  Usually the western covers.  Yeah yeah, I’m a weeb, I know.  Fuck off.

Shin Megami Tensei III is one of my favorite games.  The Japanese cover is nice too: silent player character Demi-fiend’s face superimposed in blue.  Very cool and stylish.

The North American cover moves the title to the top, blows up the Nocturne subtitle, and removes the III (we didn’t get SMT I or II, so this choice makes sense.)  It also changes the primary color from blue to red and stamps a pentgram on the front.  Because this game is hardcore and about demons, and it has to be red and have devil symbols.

The European cover beats all the others though.  Totally different, with a picture of Demi-fiend about to fire a Freikugel out of his forehead.  But forget him – check out Dante in the background!!!  Yes, Dante from the Devil May Cry series is here, with his cool dual wielded pistols and cool dialogue.  Dante is in the game for about 0.06 percent of the story and really has nothing to do with the story even, having been shoehorned into the Maniacs edition of the game that was released as Nocturne/Lucifer’s Call in the West.  In case you were wondering, this European SMT III cover is the source of that “featuring Dante from the Devil May Cry series” meme.

Let’s not mention the fact that the subtitle Lucifer’s Call is a massive honking spoiler in itself.

If you live in the US, chances are good your first SMT was a Persona game.  However, it was probably not Persona, released on the PSX in Japan and later NA (and EU?)  SMT was almost unknown in the West at the time.  So the nice subtle JP cover above, featuring the faces of the silent protagonist and his shadow self, would not work for Western audiences, right?

In a wonderful example of the angry Kirby effect, the NA cover of Persona features a huge scary evil-looking demon.  With a cross on the front for seemingly no reason.  We have to make this weird anime high school demon-summoning game appeal to the kids after all.  And the kids like Marilyn Manson and that kind of shit.  Too bad it didn’t quite work, because Megaten didn’t really start to break out in the West until Persona 3 in 2006.

The NA cover of Persona is a good hint to how the localizers treated the game as a whole: they mangled the fuck out of it.  They did their best to westernize the game down to badly recoloring the characters and changing their names.  They even removed an entire sidequest out of fear that it would be too hard for American babby gamers.  Thankfully, the unmangled original was later ported to the West on the PSP.

My favorite Megaten covers are the PSX ports of the old Super Famicom games that we never got in America.  Shin Megami Tensei I throws several demons (incubuses?  Incubi?) on its cover surrounding the old SMT logo, a magic circle with Loki in the middle (a reference to the original 1980s Megami Tensei novels the series is based on.)  The demons look like the kinds of statues of angels and saints you might see if you visit an old cathedral.  Only it would have to be a satanic cathedral in this case.  Do those exist outside of SMT games?

Of course, I’m a much bigger fan of the Shin Megami Tensei II cover.  Kaneko’s Angel design scandalized some folks when the Persona series broke out in the West with 3 and 4 and even more with 5.  Yes, the angel in SMT is meant to look like that.  That is bondage gear and she is blindfolded and handcuffed through a padlock attached to her tiny leather shorts.  Why?  The games’ compendium descriptions for Angel try to explain that they were punished by Heaven for some reason and that they are bound because of it or something.  I don’t buy this explanation.  I think Kaneko just wanted to draw a sexy bondage angel.  I suppose I can’t blame him.  Anyway, Angel is nothing compared to the controversy ginned up by Mermaid’s design in SMT IV Apocalypse.

This is my favorite SMT cover. And I don’t even know what it means. Shin Megami Tensei if… was a spinoff made for the Super Famicom and remade for the Playstation. It never saw a release outside of Japan, and unlike SMT I and II, it doesn’t even have an English fan translation.  I do know that it’s the first SMT game to take place in a high school setting, and thus it’s the direct inspiration for the Persona series.  Its title is also a reference to the weird 60s British film if…. starring Malcolm McDowell as a rebellious boarding school student (for you Clockwork Orange fans, it’s worth checking out.)  In any case, the cover is cool – a massive demon (looks like Principality, with his spiky crown) looking down on a prostrated student, as though sitting in judgment of him.  The spotlight shining on the student adds to the effect.  Really interesting cover.

New project for a new year

Dear readers:

I’ve started a new project located here.  The purpose of this new project is to split my writing into two distinct areas.  I’ll still be writing posts (infrequently, what’s new) here about games and entertainment and what I think of them, and I’ll also be writing posts at the new site, and reposting old articles that stemmed from old failed bullshit experiments that I still have laying around that someone might be interested in.  Basically this site is still my ultra-popular legitimate flagship site and the other site is for shitposting.  Extreme shitposting, mostly about subjects that nobody will care about.

You can learn to swim there too (maybe) (not really)

Wait, this site is for shitposting too.  I guess that’s all I do here.  Anyway, if you like my shitposting, be sure to check out my other project.  Calling it a project makes it sound more impressive than it is, right?  Yeah, I thought so too.

Top games of 2017

Every podunk Youtube channel and blog is making its own best games of the year list, so I figured I should as well. So as not to fall behind.

1) NieR: Automata

Come for the hot android girl, stay for the existential crisis-inducing feels

I didn’t review this game because there was no point. Everyone has already declared NieR: Automata the best game of the year, and rightly so. I can’t disagree with that judgment. NieR has everything: android booty, robot-killing action, and a thought-provoking story. It’s also great having an irreverent, doesn’t-give-a-shit guy like Yoko Taro around in the increasingly self-important land of game developers. Or maybe that attitude is only prevalent here in America.

NieR: Automata also wins my “best soundtrack of the year” award. Yoko Taro and co. can throw that award on the pile with the others.

2) Persona 5

hnnngh so cute

I did review Persona 5, though once again I have to say that my review was completely unnecessary. People who don’t even like JRPGs loved this tale of high school students with magical powers who fight demons in a shadow world. I loved it too, but only 99% as much as NieR, so it gets second place. It also wins my “second best soundtrack of the year” prize. It’s really too bad Persona 5 didn’t come out in 2016. (Actually, it did come out in 2016 – but the NA release came six months later, so as far as I’m concerned it’s a 2017 game and it still loses to NieR.)

3) VA-11 HALL-A

Make way for best girl

I have sort of a love-hate relationship with “indie games”. Some of them take a brilliant idea and fuck it over with bad gameplay mechanics, while others have a decent sense of how to construct a game but can’t help pretentiousnessing all over the place until you’re fucking sick. VA-11 HALL-A is a game with a good concept executed well, one that’s fun and has great, memorable characters. You might not like it because it’s more or less a visual novel with a bartending minigame attached (if you’re the “games must have ACTUAL ACTION” type) or because it features a very young-looking sexbot character (if you’re the overly sensitive SJW type – never mind that this character is really one of the most interesting in the game and explores some of the possible morality issues surrounding her very existence.  I did know a few people who dropped the game for this reason.) But if you don’t like this game, you’re wrong. Yeah, I know, opinions and all. But you’re still wrong. VA-11 HALL-A is a great game, and you’re wrong if you don’t like it.

Wait, this game – this actually was released in 2016, wasn’t it?

Well, shit. Never mind. It still deserves to be on this list.

4) Gravity Rush 2

The gravity-bending heroine of the first Gravity Rush returns to the PS4 for more adventures.  Gravity Rush 2 is a good game.  Once again, if anyone tells you differently, they’re wrong.  Also, Kat is a really cute character.

There’s an important plot reason why Kat’s wearing that maid outfit, okay? Leave me alone.

5) ???

Okay, it’s time to admit that I haven’t played many of this year’s newest and hottest games.  I’ve been playing a lot of Stella Glow lately, but it came out in 2015.  I’ve heard a lot of good things about Horizon Zero Dawn but for some reason I don’t feel a great desire to play it.  It would probably be on this list if I’d bothered with it.

Anyway, have a happy new year.  Or not.  Whatever.  Does it even matter anymore?