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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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Artbook News: “Xenogears Perfect Works ~the Real thing~” to be re-released in March 2014

15 Jan

While I don’t ordinarily consider Plastic Pleasures a “news” blog, occasionally I get a little piece of info that is just too exciting to not spread all over the known internet. Bearing that in mind, when my twitter buddy Elliot Gay discovered that one of the greatest game artbooks of all time would be getting a re-print  this year, I nearly flipped my lid.

Xenogears - Perfect Works

It’s so rare I feel like I even have to handle this jpg with extreme care.

“Xenogears Perfect Works” by and large towers over the rest of my not-too-shabby collection of my most valued artbooks. It is not necessarily because this book is full of incredible art that it is so magnificent, but because it is basically the illustrated bible of my favorite video game of all time. It’s kind of like Hyrule Historia, except that it covers a single game rather than every game in an entire franchise. The attention to every single minute detail of this sometimes convoluted but always impressive JRPG story that resides in this book is a real wonder to behold for even the most hardcore Xenogears fanatic.

“But it’s all in Japanese!” you might say. I know, and I wish a company like UDON could localize this book more than anything, but the age of the game and the amount of non-existent scientific jargon it contains would likely make the localization of Perfect Works an enormous undertaking and a huge monetary risk. It’s not a total loss, however, because there’s a guy out there on the internet who woke up one day and said “Man, Xenogears Perfect Works is so awesome, I’m going to become fluent in Japanese just so I can read it and THEN I’m going to edit all 300+ pages of the book and release them for free.” His Flickr gallery of the entire book, in English, is right here. Up until this moment, I would not have linked you that and expected you to go buy the book itself, because it has been going for around $200 on eBay and through other secondhand means for years… but now that it’s getting a re-print, you’ll have no excuse not to pick one up!

Crescens

Deus bless the man behind UltimateGraphics, who translated this entire book into English.

Ready to order a copy? Hop on over to the listing on Fukkan. If you’re outside of Japan, you’re going to need to use a deputy or proxy service to order this one, such as White Rabbit Express. The price is 5,250 yen — which is about 50 USD at the time of my writing.

UPDATE: You can now pre-order Perfect Works from Amazon JP, which eliminates the need for a proxy service!

If you’re like me and you can never get enough of Xenogears, here’s a few links to some great tributes that have cropped up within the past few years or so:

Project  NOAH – The talented Diego Cabrera’s stunning effort to re-create Xenogears in 3D. You’ve gotta see it to believe it.
Xenogears 15th Anniversary Anthology – A free, digitally released collection of artwork from people all over the world. Started by rin-uzuki on dA.
Chromatic Gate – Xenoseries Full Color illustration anthology – A doujinshi released for the 10th anniversary of Xenosaga. Links to my review on this blog.
MYTH the Xenogears Orchestral Album – A CD released in 2011 to celebrate the 13th anniversary of Xenogears.
Humans + Gears – An impressive fan-made OC Remix album for Xenogears. Free download.

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!

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

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

An Abundance of Goodies for Early 2012!

23 Feb

明けましておめでとうございます!Happy New Year! I realize I’m a little bit late on that. To put a long story short, I’ve been really busy since October 2011 and some of my hobbies have been set aside for more important matters. Nothing bad, though, because I now have a job helping to localize manga for Digital Manga Publishing. It’s fun, it’s exciting, and it’s a lot of work! That, coinciding with the holidays, caused me to sorely neglect my blog entries. In fact, I have a couple of books I photographed ages ago that I simply haven’t written reviews for yet. I hope you’re willing to forgive me, because in the meantime, I want to tell you about a lot of really cool stuff coming out this year!

Udon Releases Pixiv Almanac Vol. 1

Getting on to the fun stuff, in what is pretty much the best news ever of all time, Udon Entertainment has announced that they’re releasing the very first domestic book from Pixiv! It’s titled Pixiv Alamanac Volume 1, and the projected release date is April 11, 2012. The book will retail at $39.99, but of course you can pre-order off of Amazon for the significantly lower price of $25.24. (That price is subject to change, but with the pre-order price guarantee, you’ll get it for whatever the cheapest price is before release.)

Pixiv Alamanac Cover

Pixiv Almanac Vol. 1

How many artist profile images to you recognize on the cover? Sayori, Nardack, Cuteg and quite a few other popular names make their appearance!

Udon’s track record with imported Japanese artbooks is pretty rad at this point, as they’ve released high quality English-language editions of a lot of other great books lately, including but not limited to Ar Tonelico Visual Book, Shigenori Soejima Artworks, Tony’s Artworks from Shining World, the incredible Okami Official Complete Works and even the Atelier Series: Official Chronicle. Udon’s done a fabulous job localizing every one of these books and I fully expect them to do just as well with our first Pixiv artbook. Kudos!

Otome Time! Aksys Releases Hakuoki in the United States

In other unbearably awesome news for the U.S., Aksys Games has released 薄桜鬼 “Hakuoki – Demon of the Fleeting Blossom” in English, just in time for Valentine’s Day. An otome game coming to the United States is BIG news. I’m hoping this bodes well for the future of visual novels in the U.S., because I really enjoy them. I believe it’s a misconception that Americans just can’t appreciate visual novels the way Japanese do, and I’m grateful for every company that gives them a chance here on a “major” platform such as the PSP.

Hakuoki

Hakuoki Limited Edition

To sweeten the deal, there’s a limited edition of Hakuoki that comes with a little artbook and a soundtrack CD. (I picked up this one, because I’m sucker for that kind of packaged deal.) If you have any passing interest in visual novels and you own a PSP, definitely give “Hakuoki” a try. So far, there’s nothing about it that leads me to think that only females can enjoy it (although otome games are certainly marketed towards a female audience.) The game has a rich story, along with great dialogue and fantastic artwork by Kazuki Yone. You can get the Limited Edition with artbook & CD here, and the regular edition is available here.

Fantastic New Figures at Winter Wonder Festival 2012

An event that PVC figure collectors very much look forward to is Wonder Festival, the Winter version of which was just held on February 12th, 2012.  For a huge review of what was showcased at the most recent WonFes, I recommend hopping over to Neko Magic’s Wonder Showcase, where you can oogle at the abundance of upcoming figures, organized by the companies that manufacture them.

Snow Miku Nendoroid 2012

Snow Miku 2012 - Photo from Mika-tan's Blog

One thing I always look forward to is the release of a new Snow Miku Nendoroid. Each year, a slightly different Snow Miku is designed with different parts or accessories, along with another fun novelty item. 2011’s Snow Miku came with an ice cube tray for making Miku-shaped ice cubes. She also went from being a regular Nendoroid in 2010, to a Super-Movable type Nendoroid in 2011. The Snow Miku Nendoroid for 2012 comes wearing a fluffy coat and a light up stage. For full details and lots of great pics, check out Mika-tan’s blog entry on this special new Nendoroid!

Momohime

Momohime by Alter

While I could write a novel on all of the WonFes figures I’m currently drooling over, I just want to point out that the incredibly popular Momohime figure by Alter is going to be re-released this year, along with a brand new 1/8 scale release of the busty fox-lady Kongiku from Oboro Muramasa! This figure is very highly sought after, and while she’ll have a higher retail price this time around, I’m sure this re-release will be anticipated by a lot of collectors. While I don’t plan to buy her for myself personally, she’s one of a very small number of figures my boyfriend reaaaally wants, so I will be helping to make sure he gets her this time around!

At last, a new Tinkle artbook that everyone can get their hands on!

The last item I want to mention is the brand new artbook by Tinkle, which will be released in March 2012. In following the trend of their first two artbook titles (Tsukiyono Chakai and Byakuya Chakai), the third book is titled 密夜茶会 or “Mitsuya Chakai”. The first Tinkle artbook has long been out of print and the second was purely a doujinshi release, so a wide release of a new book of Tinkle’s illustrations is sure to be a hit.

Tinkle

Tinkle Illustrations 3 - Mitsuya Chakai

The book can be reserved now at Amazon Japan or Toranoana, for the retail price of 3,990円. (About 49.89 USD) Expect to pay a lot along with the shipping or deputy fees in order to get this book, but be aware that if it’s anything like it’s predecessors, every penny will be worth it. Tinkle’s 2nd artbook (Byakuya Chakai) remains one of the most worthy (and expensive) additions to my collection to this day.

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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