I went to an anime con recently and came back weighed down with a few new artbooks. These are my only real vice as far as buying things I don’t technically need to live. However, I would argue that having these increases the quality of my life in a real way — reading through them and seeing the art inside, alongside a cup of coffee or strong tea, makes me feel better and helps calm me down after a stressful day at work. I used to use whiskey for that instead. I’d say making that change was worth dropping some money on.
So I thought why not briefly review these books for the benefit of the interested reader? You might see something you like here. If you’ve been following my site for a while, the books I chose to buy will come as absolutely no surprise to you. I do want to apologize for the shitty, awful-looking glare in a few of these photos though; I don’t have anything like a professional setup here, but I hope these give you an idea of what’s in the books anyway.
Finally, I’ve got a massively important (well, to me anyway) announcement to make that you can skip down to right away if you don’t care about the artbook stuff.
Shigenori Soejima Art Works 2004-2010
I’ve been looking for an affordable copy of this artbook for years now, and I finally have it. The Japanese version was originally published several years ago, but it must have gone out of print for a while because I never could track down a copy under 80 dollars or so, shipping included. Even after I managed to get Shigenori Soejima’s second artbook, 2010-2017, on Amazon for a deal, this one eluded me. Thankfully, both this and 2010-2017 have gotten full translations and are now being sold at cons and on Amazon and eBay for prices that won’t give you a stomachache thinking about how you’ll pay the electric bill this month. This book is full of great artwork by Soejima, character designer and chief artist of the modern Persona games. Most of the pieces here are of Persona 3 and Persona 4 characters — if you want Persona 5 or Catherine art, you’ll naturally have to spring for 2010-2017. There’s also an interesting interview with Soejima in the back of the book dealing with his history, his general approach to art, and the unusually detailed cover art of Aigis. I wish more artbooks had interviews like this one.
The only real complaint I have about this book is that it lacks both the dust jacket and the additional protective clear cover that the Japanese version has. Above you can see the difference between the English version of the first volume and the Japanese version of the second, which is modeled after the first. Not sure why we get short-changed like this, but maybe such cost-cutting measures are necessary to sell these books in the West at a profit. At least I can read the interview in the English version, which is nice, but if you can read Japanese I’d consider buying that version unless there’s a big price difference between the two.
DISGAEArt!!! Disgaea Official Illustration Collection
I’ve seen this book around for a long time, but until finding it at the con and reading through it, I avoided it out of a fear that it would be duplicative of the two Takehito Harada Art Works volumes I already own. While there is some overlap — probably unavoidable considering how much material is in those books — there’s also work in this volume you won’t find in those. As the name suggests, DISGAEArt is full of promotional and character art from the series, covering Disgaea 1 through Disgaea 4. There is a separate artbook dedicated to Disgaea 5 that I want to get, but it will have to wait for a while.
This book is a bit smaller than most other artbooks, more the size of a typical doujin work, but it’s also priced a bit lower than those oversized artbooks — I got mine for less than 30 dollars. Not a bad deal for an import. And no, there’s no English version of DISGAEArt as far as I can tell, but there’s so little text in it that it doesn’t make much of a difference unless you really need to be able to read the index in the back listing the source of every illustration.
If you’re a fan of Harada or Disgaea in general, this is a good book to look out for. I do still like the two separate, larger Harada Art Works books better, especially Vol. 1, which got an English translation a while back. However, they’re long out of print, and even the newer English version of Vol. 1 is selling in very good/like new condition for around 75-85 dollars as of this writing, whereas you can get DISGAEArt for less than half that price. An easy choice to make if you’re concerned with money, which most of us are.
That’s it for the artbooks. But I did promise an announcement, didn’t I? It’s one of those good news/bad news deals. I don’t know whether anyone will actually care enough about any of this to be that emotionally affected by it, but I’ll start with the bad news anyway: I’m dropping the Seasonal Anime Draft stuff I was working on. I just don’t have the time to keep up with running series that may or may not turn out to be any good. Sorry about that. But if you want to follow bloggers who write great beat-by-beat reviews of currently airing shows and/or weekly review posts, check out Irina at I drink and watch anime, Cactus Matt at Anime QandA, Scott at Mechanical Anime Reviews, and Jiraiyan at Otaku Orbit.
Now for the good news. I’ve said for years that I need to learn Japanese, this language that’s in so much of the media I consume in some form or another. Well, I’m doing it. I recently learned that I can make a lot more in my current field if I qualify as fluent in Japanese, in part because so few American attorneys (or Americans in general, I guess) know the language. And of course, if I learn to read Japanese fluently, I can play Japanese games without having to wait forever for ports or worry that we won’t even get a port. I’ll also be able to read the text in all these god damn artbooks I own that aren’t translated. I can be a king among weebs, most of whom don’t seem to know Japanese probably because it’s so damn different from English or their own native languages.
Yeah, learning Japanese is a big project. Thankfully, I already have some basic knowledge: I know my hiragana and katakana, about a hundred kanji, and some very basic vocabulary and grammar. It will still take a hell of a long time, but I think of it this way: if I’d started studying Japanese the day I started this blog, I probably would have been fluent three years ago. Even the difference from English seems like more of an advantage than a disadvantage to me. Over the years I’ve taken Spanish and German, and while I’ve kept bits of those languages, for all the classes I took in school I’m nowhere near fluent or even conversational. I think part of the reason I had issues with those was that my brain didn’t easily separate them from English — after all, English is a Germanic language with Romance elements in it, and so it has some basic similarities with Spanish and a whole lot with German. Japanese, however, is such an entirely different language system that my brain says “hey, this is different!” making it easier to set aside in its own compartment if that makes any sense.
So fuck it — I’m going for it. I suppose this is what I’m doing now instead of watching currently airing anime, but I’m willing to make that change to learn the language. However, I’ll still be posting here on a regular basis, so don’t worry about that. The deep reads posts and the occasional reviews will still be coming along with whatever angry rants and caffeine-fueled late night legal analysis I happen to think up. In fact, I might try to find a way to incorporate my Japanese-learning odyssey into the blog, especially if anyone’s interested in taking the plunge and learning along with me.