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[Guest Post] Artbook Review: BRAVELY DEFAULT Design Works ~ The Art of Bravely 2010 – 2013

15 Mar

Hello everyone! This is Anne from Chic Pixel, and Lady Riven has graciously invited me to come share one of my recent pickups here on Plastic Pleasures. I don’t have nearly as many swoon-worthy doujinshi and artbooks as Plastic Pleasures’ lovely hostess, so that makes my recent acquisition of the BRAVELY DEFAULT Design Works THE ART OF BRAVELY 2010-2013 book all the more exciting!

The Art of Bravely Default

At a whopping 255 pages, this book is practically a phonebook of gorgeous illustrations, sketches, and other Bravely Default-related content. Part of me wishes it had a hard cover, but the soft cover does keep the weight down, making it more portable and, ultimately, less expensive to import.

Before I go inside the book, be warned that everything hereafter can and probably will contain spoilers. Enemies, environments, job costumes… if you want to discover all of that for yourself, please bookmark this article and come back after you’ve finished the game! I’ve tried to leave out stuff that goes into major spoiler territory, but what I consider no big deal may be something you’d prefer not to see, so don’t say I didn’t warn you! Also, it should probably go without saying since this is a massive book, I will not be sharing pictures of everything. Instead, I’ve decided to show of some of the previously unreleased and lesser-known illustrations in the book since you can see the official promo art anywhere!

The Art of Bravely Default

Rather than being dedicated to a specific game, the book features content from the whole Bravely Default series, including the browser game Praying Brage and the very thematically and visually similar Final Fantasy: The 4 Heroes of Light. Continue reading

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Doujinshi Review: Chromatic Gate – Xenoseries Full-color Illustration Anthology

27 Jan
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Front Cover

“Chromatic Gate” is an A4-sized, 94 page full-color collection of illustrations released in May of 2012 to celebrate the 10 year anniversary of Xenosaga episode 1. The book features art of characters from all of the “Xeno” titles, including Xenogears, Xenosaga and Xenoblade, by 44 different artists.

1

Xenosaga cast by Otonagi

The book’s first illustration of course features Xenosaga, and is by Otonagi, whose pixiv you can see here.

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Artbook Review: The Legend of Zelda – Hyrule Historia

21 Aug

When it was announced that a 25th anniversary art book for The Legend of Zelda was being released, I was dead set on getting it. From the start, this book was highly sought after and it was sold out on Amazon.co.jp very quickly. I had a certain price limit in mind and I managed to acquire a copy from an eBay seller for a great price and free shipping.

I was on the fence about whether or not to review this because the book is incredibly text heavy. However, it was just recently announced that Dark Horse Comics would be translating this rare gem into English. I consequently decided that reviewing the Japanese version right now would be a great idea. Now you can all see what you have to look forward to!

Hyrule Historia dust jacket and obi strip.

ハイラル・ヒストリア ゼルダの伝説 大全: 任天堂公式ガイドブック or um, Hyrule Historia for short, is a hardcover 240 page Legend of Zelda guidebook released in December of 2011.

The book sans dust jacket.

The dust jacket itself is quite lovely, but the book itself is even more gorgeous underneath!

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Artbook Review: トウカセカイ Touka Sekai – Fuyuno Haruaki Illustrations

12 Aug

トウカセカイ (Touka Sekai) is the first artbook to be commercially released by ふゆの春秋 (Fuyuno Haruaki) of Techno Fuyuno. Released on June 30th, 2012, it is A4 size and 159 pages in length.

Cover

Ooh.. shiny…

The cover of this book caught my eye right away for obvious reasons… it is highly prismatic. It’s really gorgeous in person. Usually, when I see a cover like this on anything, the contents end up being not that great. In the case of Touka Sekai, you can definitely judge a book by its cover.

Inside of the front cover flap.

The first thing in the book is a fold-out poster of the artwork used on the cover. The photo of  the cover flap here gives you a great idea of how the prismatic effect on the cover looks in person.

I hope that’s lemonade.

Fuyuno-sensei’s style is very distinguishable. His trademark is loose, sketchy linework. This is particularly evident in the hair of the characters he draws. (It always appears to be somewhat wind-blown.)

Girls

Japan’s clear umbrellas are incredibly convenient for panty shots on a windy day, huh? Umbrella girl was drawn for E2 magazine and girl at the beach (right) can be found in freenote’s SUMMER GIRL, a digitally distributed illustration book!

More Girls

Fuyuno-sensei’s comment on the girl on the left is “This is Akihabara Mansei Bridge. Girl has iPhone3Gs. Her hobby is readng books. So she is waiting for iPad & iBooks !” (Source) She’s also in Techno Fuyuno’s 制服少女、私服 (Seifuku Shoujo, Shifuku) doujinshi, with commentary and a  matching rough sketch. The varied illustrations of girls on the right were published in Dengeki Bunko magazine.

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Artbook Review: Jewel – CARNELIAN ARTWORKS

9 Aug

Carnelian was the very first eroge/doujin artist I fell in love with, so I’m beyond thrilled to have the opportunity to review this new book. If you follow Carnelian’s work, you’ll know that until now, she never really had a real commercial artbook release. There’s been a fair share of visual books, along with Carnelian Collection and Carnelian Museum – Orbit Works, but the vast majority of the content has been event CGs from the various games she’s worked on. I’m very glad to say that Jewel is the book Carnelian fans have been waiting for.

Jewel follows the trend of having both a limited edition and regular edition. As far as Amazon.co.jp is concerned, I seem to remember the limited edition having actually sold out during the preorder period. I have not seen the regular edition in person, so I cannot say how similar they are. The limited edition, however, comes with a monochrome bonus book  of sketches and rough work called “Ore”. (Get it? Jewel and Ore? Yeah. Ok.) This is the edition I will be presenting.

Cover

Limited Edition Cover

The book jacket is printed on thick paper with a rough sort of texture, and the title, “Jewel” has a holographic foil embossing treatment.

Black & White Alice

There are tons of newer illustrations within, as well as older ones. Remember Carnelian’s hand-drawn color doujinshi “The Sanctuary Knocker”? The entire thing is actually inside of “Jewel”, along with some her full color BENIGYOKUZUI books from the past few years.

Kao no nai Tsuki

There is actually a refreshingly small amount of the same old game artwork we see from Carnelian in this book. Some of her best Kao no nai Tsuki illustrations are highlighted, and they’re well deserving of being presented alongside the other promotional pieces of art.

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Artbook Review: Tinkle Illustrations – 密夜茶会 (Mitsuya Chakai)

2 Apr

It’s not too often that I get as excited about an artbook release as I was about Tinkle’s 密夜茶会 “Mitsuya Chakai”.  This illustration collection is a pretty massive tome at A4 size and 232 pages. A commercially released artbook is a very welcome change after their 1st book went out of print and their 2nd was a very sought after doujinshi publication. (Which also happens to be one of my personal favorites.) Mitsuya Chakai is an absolutely must-have if you love Tinkle.

Mitsuya Chakai

Mitsuya Chakai

The cover illustration is brand new, and features a girl with a teddy bear, tea and a lot of honey.

Honey

Cover Ink Close-Up

Tinkle’s gone all-out with the ink treatment on the front cover. The titled is printed with gold foil leafing and the tea and honey are printed so that they look like actual tea and honey, with a bit of glitter added for sparkle.

Binding

It’s huuuuuuge!

Hopefully, this will give you an idea of just how thick this book is! It’s totally worth it for ¥3,990!

Continue reading

Pixiv Becoming Alarmingly English-Friendly

2 Jun

For quite awhile I’ve wondered how the folks at pixiv feel about English users on their site. I’m sure I’m not the only one who feels a bit a bit nervous when attempting to blend in to a largely Japanese community. The good news is that we can now safely say English speakers are being welcomed to pixiv.

It started a few months back when pixiv gradually began to introduce an English-language interface for the website. As time goes on, there are more and more translations implemented which will make it much easier for an English speaker to use pixiv. There’s still quite a bit left untranslated, but the important things like the bookmark button and interface for submitting artwork are now available in English. Understandably, I think the top priority has been to make it easier for foreign artists to submit their works with ease. Pixiv has submissions from artists all around the world, but in the past the submissions have been limited by those who can utilize it’s Japanese-only interface.

The artwork submission section has the most complete translation thus far.

In addition to the implementation of a translated UI, many were happy to discover that Pixiv started up another Twitter account in English, which is located at pixiv_en. In addition to the usual ranking updates, it’s also the perfect place to get in touch with a pixiv staff member.

pixiv encyclopedia

Quite possibly the most interesting and fun of the new English pixiv community is the encyclopedia, which is essentially a wiki that aims to explain every possible term, meme and pop culture reference that influences the artwork which the denizens of pixiv upload. This can include anything from anime titles to bizarre phrases to infamous otaku terms like 絶対領域 (zettai ryouki). It’s a really outstanding way to figure out the meaning of seemingly nonsensical or obscure image tags and the fact that it aids you in your ability to understand the community lingo will make you feel a little more like you’re part of the “in” crowd.

I’ve gotta say I’m pleased as punch at these additions, especially the new Twitter account and the dictionary (I try to stick with a Japanese pixiv interface to aid me in immersion-based language learning) and I hope that they continue to add more. I don’t particularly want to see pixiv turn into another deviantART, but I’m not sure that is even possible because of the sheer amount of convoluted bloat that dA has accumulated. Pixiv is far more simplistic and streamlined and I have a feeling that, by design, it is going to stay that way regardless of any influence the English-speaking art world may have on it.

Thank you, pixiv, for welcoming us English speakers to your website. We promise to behave.

Doujinshi Review: “Paint or Die” by SOLOIST (Riv)

13 Sep

Riv’s bold graphic style has become a favorite of mine and so I’ve made it a point to get any new doujinshi publications I can. I am happy, for once, to get a SOLOIST doujinshi that isn’t Touhou themed but is Riv’s original work. During Comic Market 78, a 44 page color & monochrome illustration book entitled “Paint or Die” was released. I’m glad to say that it’s a pretty nice little tome.

The cover features a shimapan-clad catgirl with an appetite for chocolate bars. I won’t lie, but female crotch bulge creeps me out a bit. Riv has the original CG version of this image here on Pixiv in a 1024×768 resolution.

The inside of the front cover, of course, treats you to shimapan zoom layer. Always a pleaser. I guess. *female apathy settling in*

The first illustration is a catgirl, with what appears to be meatbuns. Includes thigh-highs and gratuitous panty shot. The page to the right of this image includes an introductory paragraph by Riv in both Chinese and Japanese. According to the Pixiv description for this image, Riv drew it for a CG lecture in a magazine. The picture’s title そんな目で見ないでください (sonna me de minai de kudasai) could be translated as “Don’t look at me with those eyes.” or ” Please don’t look at me like that”. Cute, eh.

Some sort of maid girl character design. I wonder why they often have little heart badges near their waistline. Must be a maid cafe thing.

I am noticing a theme and that theme is shimapan. Also, you can see this book has a crease in the corner. It arrived at my doorstep that way and I’m not too happy about it. I have no idea if it was the doing of Toranoana or Shopping Mall Japan, but it really sucks when you pay 5x the original item cost in deputy fees to acquire it.  /endrant

A lovely little dog-eared girl.

A purple-haired elf or demon lady perhaps. I find the anatomy in this illustration particularly well done.

All of these characters are for an original doujin game cover. Riv claimed to be a little worn out after drawing this one. ;) (View on Pixiv)

Another doujin game cover. (View on Pixiv) There’s another version of this image that only features and girl in the foreground, and it’s pretty darn awesome.

This is probably another doujin game. Ren ai, I bet. I was pretty excited to see a drawing of male characters for once.

Here are some typical moe style images that we know and love. The left illustration is also on Pixiv and its title ひまわり笑顔 (himawari egao) means “sunflower smile”.

These are characters illustrated for a Taiwanese novel. (View on Pixiv: The seeker 01 & Girl and Sword)  I find that Riv’s bold drawing style really suits strong fantasy female type characters. More so than gentler moe characters, anyway.

Well, it doesn’t get much more moe than two mikos in each other’s laps.

The rest of the book is in monochrome. All of the monochrome artwork is a pleasure to look at, however, I chose to only photograph a few pages as an example. This one features a variety of nekomimi characters.

I think Riv’s sketches are fantastic. I feel in some way like the style of sketching in these is similar to my own. It’s also interesting to see how much different the images feel without their signature coloring. Particularly the eyes. A graphic style is so different when you strip it of the CG.

These two images are just gorgeous. The girl with the leaf is undoubtedly one of my favorite Riv illustrations overall.

Overall, I’m fairly pleased with this book. Of course, I always want the books to be larger and to include more color illustrations, but the monochrome work in this book really is very nice. While not as impressive as Yumeiro Mangekyou in terms of presentation, “Paint or Die” is still a really lovely little compilation of Riv’s work.

Related Links:
Buy P.O.D. – Paint or Die at  Toranoana.jp
Riv on Pixiv
Riv on Twitter
SOLOIST

Pixiv Guide: Profile & Browsing Customization with Pixiv’s New Site Options

10 Sep

This year Pixiv rolled out a brand new look for their website along with a variety of new features to make your browsing experience more fun and personalized. Unfortunately, this change made some of the information in my older Site Preference and Bookmarking tutorial obsolete. Because so many new options and pages have been added, this tutorial will only cover the material located under the Site Options section of the main navigation menu. I’ll go over bookmarking, art submission and other stuff in a future tutorial, so keep an eye out.

Let’s get started!

User Info

Click on the far right text link on the main navigation menu. This will take you to the Site Options section. The first tab is for the User Info page.

Your nickname, username and email address are displayed, followed by a text field where you insert your email if you’re making changes. The next two fields are for typing in a new password and then re-typing it to confirm the change.

A dropdown menu exists for changing the display language of the Pixiv website. Currently, you are only able to choose between Japanese and Chinese.

The following section is where you can enable the display of adult content. You must first confirm that you are 18 years of age. The first radio button is “yes” and the second is “no”. After confirming this, you can choose whether or not you wish to view 2 levels of adult content while browsing. The first is R-18 (Adult Content), the second is R-18+G (Adult and Gore Content). The first radio button selection will enable that content and the second will disable it. In my sample image, R-18 is set to enabled and R-18+G is set to disabled.

The final page section has 15 blank text fields where you can insert the user IDs of any Pixiv members who you don’t want to be able to follow you or see any of your Pixiv contents. Chances are pretty good you won’t ever need to use this.

Profile Details

The second tab under site options is for setting up your profile. Under this tab are several subsections, the first of which is for your primary profile details. The first and most important text field is where you put in your desired nickname. This can be anything you want it to be and it’s the name by which people will know you on the website. It doesn’t have to be unique; only your username does. Your nickname can be up to 15 characters long. Under that, you can input the URL of your personal website, and then a list of personal tags (tags that you plan to use frequently) separated by spaces.

There’s a variety of information that you supply via checkboxes and drop-down menus. This includes your sex, blood type, country, birth year, birthday and occupation. Follow the image as a guide and take note that all of those pieces of information come with a customizable privacy setting to their right. On the image, I’ve set 3 pieces of information on 3 different settings so that you can see which setting is which.

If you’d like to supply contact information for Skype or an Instant Messenger of some sort, you can do that in the next section, but I opted to enter my Twitter info. Insert whatever you’re comfortable with, or nothing at all. The blue text link right underneath it will add another text field, so if you want, you may supply all of your different contact methods.

A large box at the bottom is meant for writing a short biography of yourself or an introduction. If you can, write a little bit about yourself in Japanese.

The last field is for inserting your circle.ms info. If you aren’t a member of a doujinshi circle, then you don’t need to worry about this.

Profile Image

The next subsection of profile editing is for your profile image. This is the avatar that represents you across the site. You can upload more than one and switch between them, but I only have one uploaded here in my sample screenshot. It’s fairly straight-forward; just be aware that you can’t use an animated gif as your avatar unless you have a Pixiv Premium account.

Work Environment

The Work Environment subsection is a fun way to let everyone know where and how you work on your art. Of course, if you aren’t an artist, some of this information won’t apply to you. If you are, great! You can put in information such as your type of computer, monitor, tablet, scanner, printer and more. There’s even a space to put in the music you like to listen to while working and what sort of knick-knacks you keep on top of your work desk.

Profile Design Options

Profile Design is one of Pixiv’s newly added features. It allows you to customize the look of your profile background with colors or a background image. It’s very basic, and if you choose not to use it, you can just leave this page alone, as it’s set not to display a background image by default. Once you’re done with this page, that’s it for the subsections of the profile tab, so click on the next site setting tab at the top.

Notification Email Settings

This small page is simply for specifying when you want Pixiv to send you notification emails. Currently, there are only two options. One is for notifying you when you get a private message and the other is for notifying you when a piece of your artwork makes it into one of the rankings. Unless you’re a very active Pixiv member, you’re probably not going to be getting any of these emails. Personally, I just leave them on.

stacc! Feed Options

The next tab is for another nice new feature on Pixiv called the stacc! feed. It’s basically an activity feed of what you and others do on Pixiv. It makes Pixiv more like a social network, so you can see when your friends bookmark an image, submit new work, add a new favorite artist, or anything else. This page is where you set up what activities you want your personal feed displaying and what you want to see while browsing other people’s activities. If you want to see when your friends add adult artwork to their favorites, you’ll have to set that up here, otherwise it’s turned off by default. [This is a separate setting from the overall ability to view adult artworks on the website; that setting can be modified in the first tab we discussed (User Info).] While logged in to Pixiv, the location of your stacc! feed is http://www.pixiv.net/stacc/.

Pixiv Widget

Finally, we come to the “blog parts” tab, which Japanglish for the Pixiv flash widget that you can embed on your blog or website. There’s different viewing options, like displaying your personal artworks or your bookmarked images, which you choose from and then copy/paste the code that shows up in the text box below. Be aware that if your blog host doesn’t approve of flash widgets or only lets you use pre-approved flash widgets, the code won’t work for you. If you host your own website though, it won’t be a problem.

Following the blog parts tab, there is a Pixiv Premium tab, but I’m not going to go over that. I don’t have a Premium account and I don’t plan on getting one in the near future, in part due to the difficulty of signing up for one while being overseas.

That’s it for modifying your Pixiv site options. I hope that everyone can enjoy the new and improved features that are available to you. In the future, I’ll write more about browsing the newly designed Pixiv and hopefully clear up any information that has been made obsolete in my older tutorials.

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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