Artbook Review: Tanaka Kunihiko’s “RYU-KOTSU”

3 Sep

I’ve owned a copy of 田中久仁彦画集【龍骨】 (Tanaka Kunihiko’s “RYU-KOTSU”) for quite awhile, but it’s never too late to a review a book that has remained fairly elusive while being highly deserving of recognition. I first became a fan of Tanaka’s after playing (and becoming completely infatuated with) Squaresoft’s hit Playstation RPG Xenogears. He is perhaps best known as the character designer for both Xenogears and Xenosaga, as well as the mangaka of Ruin Explorers and Ichigeku Sacchu Hoihoi-san.

RYU-KOTSU is a 12″x12″ 192 page hardcover that comes cased in a foil-printed custom fit plastic sleeve.

A number of extras come along with the book, including a couple of postcards, an advertisement leaflet and a 32 page “Memoir of RYU-KOTSU” monochrome booklet. It’s all housed in specially made cardboard packaging.

Outside of the plastic sleeve, the book’s cover features a girl in front of a prehistoric skeleton. The inside of the front and back cover are lined with a beautifully textured faux red leather.

Inside RYU-KOTSU, you’ll see a fair bit of illustrations from this little story about a girl drawing dinosaur skeletons at a museum. There are color illustrations and then a manga at the back of the book, respectively. In between them, however, is a chronicle of Tanaka’s work from oldest to newest.

Excuse me, ma’am, but there is a pteradactyl flying overhead.

The book starts with the real old stuff. The art style is quite notably different!

Is this romance? I think so.

Further in past the stuff I don’t really recognize is a true classic. Fam and Ihrie of Ruin Explorers!

You can see his more recent style beginning to develop here.

This particular illustration is quite stunning in person. His style is really crisp and refined here!

Some more nice, dynamic Ruin Explorers illustrations.

There’s also a fair bit of monochromatic manga art in the book, for Ruin Explorers as well as some older stuff.

Tanaka Kunihiko was also the character designer for the “Key the Metal Idol” series, which many of you will recognize.

I wonder why I have never watched this series…

My favorite section, just because I love Xenogears so much. All of these illustrations will be familiar to you if you’re a fan, and they’re all included in the Xenogears Perfect Works artbook as well.

Many of the original character designs that are used over and over.

It comes as no shock that the next section features Xenosaga: Episode 1 artwork.

Xenosaga character designs, with a double dose of MOMO!

More recently, Tanaka has been surfing the oh-so-popular moe wave. Aren’t these two cute?

Hoihoi-san is pretty darn moe. I recommend this manga if you’re looking for something cute and silly. You can get it in English by Infinity Studios from Amazon. There’s also little snap-together plastic kits available of Hoihoi-san and Combat-san that you’ll see around the hobby shops. They’re relatively inexpensive for figures because you put them together yourself!

Following these pages are some more chibi/moe type paintings by Tanaka, but they’re in a style that I’m not particularly a fan of because they’re excessively simplistic. An example of these works is in his year 2000 calendar. They’re cute, but far from demonstrating his artistic abilities!

Near the end of the book is the manga I mentioned about the girl in the museum who is checking out dinosaur skeletons. There’s also lots of progress sketches for this manga in the “Memory of RYU-KOTSU” booklet.

The 32 page bonus booklet contains lots of sketches and linework for illustrations in RYU-KOTSU. There’s some absolutely EXQUISITE drawings in this book, so it is wonderful to see them included.

Various phases of one of the first illustrations in RYU-KOTSU.

I don’t know the origin of this particular image, but it was impressive enough for me to include it in the review!

I really liked seeing the original inked images for this manga. There’s something wonderful about being able to see those ink lines.

This leaflet appears to be advertising “RYU-KOTSU Benikohaku”, a small hardcover publication that my friend Anonymous Scanner has blessed us by scanning! You can see his post and download the scans here at his website.

The other side of the leaflet has Hoihoi-san and some other various characters. This is an ad for some ASCII Media Works / Dengeki Maoh publication.

RYU-KOTSU been out of print for awhile, so you can only get it from third party sellers on Amazon.jp. It’s generally very expensive to buy in new condition from Japan, so in this particular instance I recommend buying it from AnimeBooks.  You’d be hard pressed to find the same deal at any Japanese shop, as the book is apparently quite a bit more popular there.

Related Links:
Official RYU-KOTSU page on Fumishobo.co.jp
Day visions – Kunihiko Tanaka’s Blog
NETONEVISIONS – Kunihiko Tanaka’s Official Website

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3 Responses to “Artbook Review: Tanaka Kunihiko’s “RYU-KOTSU””

  1. Anonymous Scanner September 3, 2010 at 7:42 pm #

    Mmmm, Kunihiko Tanaka. :9 I love this artbook. One of my favorites. :D

    I’ll also be scanning the other hardcover, Hekiruri at some point in the near future, and I was the one who scanned the 2000 Calendar. :) And I have one of his older Net Visions sketch-doujins that I’ll be posting in the coming weeks. :)

    • ladyriven September 3, 2010 at 8:16 pm #

      Awesome! Thank you again for those scans. It makes me sad that it’s so hard to find any scans of his artwork in general, so I was pretty stoked when I found your post. Really looking forward to seeing the net visions doujinshi! If I can find it, I’ll probably get myself a copy of Benikohaku sometime. The doujin he had pictured for Comitia 93 on his blog looks pretty nice too!

  2. Anonymous Scanner December 26, 2010 at 11:33 am #

    I finished up One Visions Vol.3 and posted it:
    http://www.anonymous-scanner.net/2010/12/25/kunihiko-tanakas-one-visions-vol-3/

    It has some great Fam & Ihrie sketches. :)

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