Tag Archives: reviews

[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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Merchandise Review: Ascii Media Works 20th Anniversary Dengeki Heroines Figure Collection

18 Apr

Exclusive to Dengekiya’s online shop, The Ascii Media Works 20th Anniversary Dengeki Heroines Figure Collection is a set of 20 miniature figurines, manufactured by Toy’s Works to celebrate 20 years of Ascii Media Works with 20 of anime’s most beloved heroines.

Promotional Image of all 20 Heroines

Promotional Image of all 20 Heroines!

The set’s contents are an impressive line-up of chibi beauties who have spawned massive fan followings  over the past two decades.  Holo, Osaka,  Hoi-Hoi, Taiga and Kirino were enough to convince me I just couldn’t  live without it!

Box in a box...

Box in a box…

The set arrived very well packaged… this was what was inside of the initial shipping box.

...in a box...

…in a box…

Inside of the heavy cardboard box was a thin white and red cardboard box.

...in a box!

…in a box!

…and inside of that box was the final box, which houses the figures.

AmiBlog Preview

This is another promotional image that was posted to AmiBlog. See the orange and gold Chiyochichi on top of the box? Both were event exclusives, so if you ordered from Dengekiya’s online shop like I did, you didn’t receive them with your set.

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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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Doujinshi Review: 猫の本 “Neko no Hon” by Various Artists

20 Jan

猫の本 (Neko no Hon) simply translates to “Book of Cats”. Being a cat lover, I couldn’t resist this purchase. A collaborative illustration book that was released for Comitia 95, it is beautifully designed by Maniji, a group consisting of SHINN and 今井 虹太郎 (Imai Kotaro).

neko00

Book design by SHINN

The cover design is simple and gorgeous. Matte black paper is complemented by a gold embossed title and best of all, a red ribbon with a delicate gold bell.

neko01

by Itou Hiroyuki (left) and Eihi (right)

This book showcases both cat-eared persons… and persons with cats.

neko02

by Kubota (left) and Juunigou (right)

If you’re like me, then you’ll be happy to know that for once, the characters aren’t exclusively female.

neko03

by Sakamoto Himemi (left) and Shiwasu Takashi (right)

Shiwasu Takashi’s piece of art on the right is one of my personal favorites.

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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.

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

Doujinshi Review: “Colorful Sweets” by Ame Nochi Yuki

8 Oct

“Colorful Sweets” is a full-color K-on! fanbook by Ame Nochi Yuki, released at C78.

Asuza is the cover girl with her watermelon-on-a-stick. Or perhaps it is only ice cream that looks like a watermelon.

The back cover has  previews of the Mio and Mugi illustrations featured inside on little doily-shaped cut-outs.

The inside cover has colorful stripes, doilies, sweets and all the things you’d expect to see at a shop that sells cakes and candies.

Following the mandatory introduction is the first illustration; a “No, Thank You!” version of Mio.

The Azusa illustration used on the cover is next with a two page spread and inset doily. Notice, however, that on the cover she’s wearing a sundress and in the two-page spread she’s wearing her trademark pink swimsuit.

The Mugi waitress illustration might be my favorite in this particular book. To her left is Yui as a maid. For some reason, Yui in a maid outfit seems terribly uncharacteristic. I imagine she lazes around while her imouto does all the housework!

I love Yui x Azusa images, and this one is no exception. Again, Azu-nyan scores a two-page spread. So cute.

The rest few pages aren’t K-On! but rather various other girls (and traps). This page features Hideyoshi (from Baka to Test to Shoukanjuu) and Misaka Mikoto (from To Aru Kagaku no Railgun).

These are some work illustrations of a couple of girls in shimapan-inspired swimsuits.

At the end is this nice little “Making of” section for the Mio illustration on the very first page. As an artist I always enjoy these sections because it helps me to learn new digital coloring techniques!

For the sake of completion, the inside of the back cover. :)

This was a nice little book, albeit short, and a real treat for Azusa fans. The Azu-nyan and Mugi illustrations alone are definitely what made it for me. You can find some nice high quality CG versions of the cover illustration and the Yui x Azu illustration on Ame Nochi Yuki’s website. Rather than posting them here I’d prefer that you just go to the doujin site and get them yourself; they’re not terribly difficult to find. ;)

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

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

Doujinshi Review: BENIGYOKUZUI Remix by Carnelian

2 Mar

Carnelian has released a couple of “remix” doujinshi so far, and this particular one is the first, released in the summer of 2008. BENIGYOKUZUI 再録集 (Sairokushuu, which means “remix”) contains various illustrations and comics from previous Benigyokuzui releases, but unlike the more recent BENIGYOKUZUI Remix 20-21-22, it isn’t a very thick book. It is about average doujin size at 36 pages. As far as I can tell, it contains images from Benigyokuzui volumes 17 through 19.

Cover

The Cover image is a sexy bunny girl.

You dropped your pen.

Page 1: Sexy office lady!

Pages 2 & 3

The image on the right I recognized as the cover of Benigyokuzui 17.

Pages 4 & 5

The Devil May Cry art on the right has previously appeared in Ura-Benigyokuzui vol. 2 Full Color, which I reviewed earlier…

Some lovely maidens...

The Aquarian Age image on the left (as well as just about any elf drawing by her) is one of my personal favorite Carnelian illustrations!

Pages 8 & 9

Touka and Seika of Fairy Factory make their cameo on the right; a lovely girl with cherries and blonde ringlets on the left.

Miku!

I was most excited for the Hatsune Miku illustration, which I believe was used for a pillow cover. Previously, I’d only been able to see a small resolution of said image on Carnelian’s blog.

Pages 12 & 13

The pointy-eared gal is from Carnelian’s full-color “Gin-iro no Shiina” comic published in “Comic RUSH!”. The miko on the left was used on her homepage for awhile.

2-Page Spread

The only 2-page spread in the book is this gothic lolita-styled illustration of a girl falling amidst black feathers.

The last color page.

The last colored page features a boy/girl(?!) with a sword and then the monochrome section begins, which is primarily a hentai comic which I didn’t photograph (sorry!).

It’s pretty excited to be able to own books that are a collection of Carnelian’s doujinshi. While this first remix book isn’t quite the must-have that Benigyokuzui Remix 20-21-22 is (make sure you check out Nattoli’s review of that one), it’s still pretty darn nice to have in my collection. (Especially since nobody seems to scan Carnelian’s Benigyokuzui doujins anymore!)

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