Artbook reviews #3 (Shunya Yamashita, Kantoku, Kazuma Kaneko, Rie Tanaka)

I recently bought a large haul of books, CDs, and doujins straight from Japan. Since I didn’t get the chance to deepen my debt at an anime con last year thanks to the virus, I decided to do that shopping over on Suruga-ya and managed to get these, all used but very affordable considering the outrageous prices some dealers charge at conventions here (this is not a paid promotion by the way; I’m still the same poor bastard you’ve always known without any sponsors, and that probably won’t ever change.)

I was able to pick up some interesting artbooks in this lot, a few of which I’ve coveted for a long time and others that I just discovered. So I’ve decided to have a look here at a few of these books, in the spirit of two past posts I wrote in 2018 and 2019. Which I believe makes this the laziest and least regular post series on the site, even more than that “games for broke people” one I started years before. I should really pick that one up again. Anyway, first up is:

Wild Flower (Shunya Yamashita, 2008)

Here’s an artist I’ve never talked about here before, but he’s a great one. Artist and character designer Shunya Yamashita has worked on magazine covers and games as varied as Final Fantasy X and Makai Kingdom, but he seems to be best known for exactly what you see above: fantasy-themed sexy girl stuff. That’s not everything in this book — there are also some male character designs and monster designs, as well as a few pieces of art with really nice backgrounds, but the book’s cover gives a pretty good idea of what you can expect. If you’re not a fan of the “extremely impractical bikini armor” look then you probably won’t like this stuff; some of these women’s outfits are very skimpy and involve some gravity-defiance (one of the benefits of drawing, I guess.)

It also looks like Yamashita takes a lot of inspiration from western pinup photos, those vintage ones from the 50s and 60s. In that tradition, everything racy in here is kept strictly erotic without crossing into truly 18+ material, though it’s still not a book you’d necessarily want to have out on your coffee table, unless you just really don’t give a shit. There are also a few pages of short notes on each piece by the artist in the back, though they’re all in Japanese (this is going to become a pattern — none of these books seem to have English editions.)

15th Anniversary Book (Kantoku, 2018)

If Shunya Yamashita’s style isn’t your thing, you might prefer Kantoku, an artist who also draws a whole lot of girls but this time in a very cute style as supposed to the former’s sexy one. I wasn’t too familiar with Kantoku before buying this artbook, but he’s done work for quite a few visual novels and light novel covers none of which I’ve read, as well as an anime series called One Room that I haven’t seen. But I do like his style. While the girls seem to always be the focal point in his art (I don’t think there’s a single male character in this book, not that I could find anyway) Kantoku doesn’t skimp on the backgrounds at all — in fact, I’d say those backgrounds add a lot to his work. I love the attention to detail in his art, and I’ll be on the lookout for more of his stuff in the future.

For Japanese readers, there’s also a nice treat in this book: a very long interview between Kantoku and several other artists whose work is also featured in here near the back. Of course, I mostly can’t read it, but if you can, it might be something to check out if you have any interest. From the bits I can read, they’re talking about character design and art, but you could probably guess that anyway without knowing a word of the language.

Digital Devil Apocalypse (Kazuma Kaneko, 1999)

It would be a real disappointment if I didn’t post anything Megami Tensei-related, right? So here’s one of those books I mentioned that I’ve wanted for years: Digital Devil Apocalypse, featuring the work of the great Kazuma Kaneko. I’ve written a bit about his work in my running MegaTen deep reads series — he’s responsible for the great majority of its iconic demon designs and for a lot of early character designs up through the Shin Megami Tensei games and the first few Persona games. I really like his surreal designs, even when they get truly bizarre (Mara, but he’s not the only one, just the most infamous.)

There’s also a very long interview in this artbook with Kaneko that I mostly can’t read, so that’s nice. I really need to pick up my Japanese studies again, because I’d like very much to fully or even just mostly understand it. In addition to the interview, we also get some photos of the man himself looking cool and smoking a cigarette (but really, don’t smoke, kids. It’s extremely bad for you.)

The only real drawback to this book aside from the language barrier, which is entirely my problem, is that it’s currently 22 years old and doesn’t contain any of the many new character and demon designs from Nocturne on. However, I’d say Digital Devil Apocalypse is still very worth buying for MegaTen fans, especially for those who know Japanese. Even if the pentagram cover makes it look like some kind of Satan book. (Well, Satan is technically in it, and Lucifer too, but you know what I mean. Speaking of them, my next deep reads post on Megami Tensei will hopefully be coming soon! Dealing with some potentially touchy subjects this time, but in a mature way I hope.)

Irodorie (Rie Tanaka, 2009)

Hey, yeah, that’s me on the left in the reflection of the cover. It’s the most you’ll ever see, too, at least on this site.

The subject of this book isn’t so reserved, though. This obviously isn’t the same kind of artbook as the above three: it’s instead a photobook featuring the prolific voice actress Rie Tanaka. If you’ve watched many subbed anime series or played many Japanese games, you’ve almost certainly heard her voice at some point. The list of anime and games she’s acted in is very long; among many other characters, she’s the voice of Neptune from Hyperdimension Neptunia, Chii from Chobits, and Lacus Clyne from Mobile Suit Gundam.

And as seen above, she’s also the voice of Mitsuru Kirijo from Persona 3, center, and Suigintou from Rozen Maiden, right. This book isn’t nearly as racy as the cover makes it look; most of it just involves Tanaka cosplaying as characters she’s acted. In fact, I’m pretty sure both this book’s covers were chosen specifically because they’re so eye-catching, making it look like a gravure work of the kind that contains near-softcore photography.

But that’s not what this is. Really, this book is just kind of a weird curiosity to me, even if there are a ton of similar photobooks featuring popular VAs, actresses, and idols out there. I’m not into the idol scene at all (unless we’re talking virtual idols of course) so this is all pretty foreign to me, and I don’t have any particular interest in buying more of these kinds of photobooks. This is a nice one, though. I’m also a fan of Rie’s work — and if I’m being totally honest, she’s pretty damn attractive, so it’s not like I disliked what I saw in here from that angle (especially the bunny suit photos, which are about as spicy as the book’s contents get not counting the front and back covers.) But that aside, the cosplay stuff itself looks great. Not that I’m much of a judge in that area.

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That’s all for now, but I might write another one of these posts in the near future. Things at work are heating up, but I’ll do my best to post as close to weekly as possible. Until next time!