At this point you might already know the drill: twice a year we take the opportunity to share some samples from books that animators, directors, background artists and production teams sell during Comiket, either individually or through more official means. These are always a good way to keep a finger on the pulse of the industry – what do anime creators like, what work are they proud of, and how do they make some always needed extra cash? We’ll see!
Animation Key Frame Arts of Yoshihiko Umakoshi Vol.1, The Art of Kazuchika Kise, and Dennou Coil Archives – available on Amazon JP
Let’s start with a very strong triple offering. AnimeStyle are, as far as many people are concerned, the best anime book publisher bar none. Their editor in chief Yuichiro Oguro aka animesama is an extraordinary journalist in this field after all. He’s acquainted with more notable creators than anyone else has ever been and is capable of holding long, friendly but incisive interviews with them. The live events he hosts are an invaluable source of information, fascinating for those who attend but also beneficial for fans worldwide as they allow viewers to spread all the secrets that tend to get revealed there. And most relevantly in this case, his company has also become an excellent source for artbooks and production materials, especially those that revolve around individual artists. Whether it’s underappreciated creators or already popular ones, the publications go out of their way to feature both the iconic and obscure pieces of work, sometimes going as far as rescuing lost materials; just last year they dedicated an entire book to Yoh Yoshinari’s Tezuka-inspired doodles, bundling a blu-ray with the fan animation he had done as Otonari in much better quality than the world had ever seen. Now that’s important archival work!
Even if you keep in mind their high standards, it’s quite obvious that they went all out this time around. The book that will receive the most attention is undoubtedly the new compilation of Yoshihiko Umakoshi‘s work, as his already high popularity managed to skyrocket worldwide due to My Hero Academia. He’s never been one to shy away from sharing his work with fans; he used to publish his own animation books, and his design mastery has been appropriately covered by Toei Animation and also through an amusing publication alongside his friend Hisashi Kagawa where they talked about the philosophy and artistry behind a good action-oriented magical girl title. The reason why a book regarding such a well-represented artist is a very exciting prospect then isn’t so much getting a chance to see their work, but rather the emphasis they put on Umakoshi’s animation corrections. Although the book features a bunch of layout sheets, with Umakoshi’s art capturing the joy of Ojamajo Doremi but also the somberness of Shigeyasu Yamauchi’s Casshern Sins, most of it is dedicated to his (chief) animation direction work on My Hero Academia and Mushishi. Two very different registers, and yet an excellent showcase that it’s not just speed that makes Umakoshi one of anime’s greatest supervisors. So much personality comes by his own hand!
The other two books they recently published are also quite impressive, if a bit narrower in their appeal for obvious reasons. AnimeStyle’s campaign to cover living legend Mitsuo Iso‘s work continues with Dennou Coil Archives, an extremely complete book that can dedicate itself to compile all sorts of production materials – designs, setting references, rough sketches before conceptualizing each episode, even samples from test footage – as the show had already received a massive key animation book. This might sound like overkill if you’re not particularly acquainted with Dennou Coil, but let me tell you that it did earn this privilege by being one of the best animated titles of all time! And speaking of accomplishments, very few people can compete with Kazuchika Kise‘s achievements in this industry, as the final book here does a good job of reminding us; Patlabor 2, GHOST IN THE SHELL, End of Evangelion, Made in Abyss, there’s no end to the notable titles he’s contributed to. As usual, all of this is available to purchase worldwide on Amazon… sort of, since the books themselves can be bought but the exclusive booklets and beautiful extras remain Comiket-exclusive. Still quite worth it though!
Kase-san and Morning Glories Key Animation Compilation
Now that’s one pleasantly misleading release by studio ZEXCS, covering a delightful OVA we’re already written about in this site. While the title implies otherwise, the book is way more than a collection of key animation. There’s design work, official illustrations and their roughs, artboards, extensive interviews with all sorts of staff involved in the making of the OVA, and even a section for them to leave commemoratory illustrations and messages like those found in staff books. Not that there’s anything wrong with key animation compilations of course, and the book still features a very large collection of frames and entire sequences, but it’s worth noting that this is much more than it says in the can. This is the kind of book that every fan would be delighted to own… and unfortunately most of them can’t as it was event-exclusive. If you’re willing to pay more than you should on auctions or don’t mind waiting to see if it’s properly distributed at some point though, this is a very easy recommendation.
Takafumi Hori Key Animation Note MILD
Takafumi Hori‘s books have become almost essential for western animation fans. Not only has he been an exceptional artist for quite a while, especially as his collaborations with Yoshinari have given enchanting flow to his work, he also offers extensive commentary on his own work in both Japanese and translated into English. It’s always fascinating to see his own comments regarding the context in which he animated a scene and sometimes even his own criticisms side by side with the keyframes of the sequence itself. While his previous book was focused on his extensive contributions to Little Witch Academia, this time he’s sharing a lighter but very diverse compilation of his work; older contributions like Samurai Champloo and You Are Umasou, clips from the upcoming game Indivisible and fan-animation of his, even key animation from Destroy Rooney, a scrapped magical girl-esque title he might return to in the future. As good as this all sounds though, once again I have to tell you that availability is quite spotty. Hori is considering selling some copies through Gallery Nucleus, so if you’re at all interested, keep an eye on that.
It’s a common custom to gather staff after a project has wrapped up for them to share their final thoughts accompanied by fun illustrations. Sometimes we also this happen before a show’s broadcast, as a way to build up hype for the title; studio TRIGGER is a fan of this approach, meaning that this time around we’ve been allowed a sneak peek into the production of GRIDMAN. This teaser reinforced a few ideas: that Akira Amemiya‘s presence as director will bridge the gap between the studio’s veteran icons and the young animators, both TRIGGER affiliated ones and complete outsiders, and that there’s an amusing dichotomy among the staff – artists who are in it for the cool robot elements and those who are into the casual highschooler aesthetic.
If there’s one book that’s stolen my heart in this regard though, that’s got to be After the Rain‘s Staff Memorial Note. One gorgeous drawing after the other, showing off that elegant beauty and graceful feminity that made it stand out among studio WIT’s offerings in the first place. It’s also neat to see staff members bidding farewell to the title with illustrations that mirror their contributions to the series; one last fashion showcase from outfit designer Erika Nishihara, and an appropriate goodbye from the make-up animation team. The book is unsurprisingly selling out quite fast, but you’re still in time to snag a copy!
Other Notable Animator and Fan Books
Let’s wrap up with a quick look at other noteworthy offerings, mostly by interesting individuals and smaller collectives. There are some cases that honestly need no introduction, such as the new release by mega-popular action star Yutaka Nakamura (available for purchase over here – the book, not the person). I would argue that the same applies to Tatsuro Kawano and his alufinomel books (still not up for purchase, but likely to pop up here); the samples of his own work, illustrations, and guest appearances that prove his status as one of the ringleaders of the new generation are great of course, but unsurprisingly so. If I were to highlight one book that sneaked upon everyone in an amazing way, that’d be Tokuyuki Matsutake‘s A Man’s Mouth – a short but dense book that features nothing but suggestive rough drawings of male mouths, as advertised. Perfect for people who’d like to have references by an exceptional artist, and also fans with a very specific kink.
As I mentioned at the start, one of the more interesting aspects of self-published books by anime creators is the ability to gauge what kind of thing industry members are currently into. Some titles have an exceptional ability to resonate with animators; that’s the case for example of Yama no Susume, the protagonist of releases by artists like YKR and Kanna “kappe” Hirayama – who also put together a book based on her short film with clear YamaSusu shades. New trends like virtual youtubers have also begun getting the attention of all sorts of creators, and living in the internet age is leading to interesting new kinds of releases like Eichiwai‘s animator profiles book and Yuji “mutobe” Tokuno‘s fantastic MTBN book, which is quite literally based on online sakuga culture.
That said, singling out the one thing that countless people involved in anime making are into is effortless. Yes, you guessed it, it’s Fate. People who’ve worked on the franchise extensively like Hidekazu Ebina simply can’t get enough of it, and unrelated notable creators like Hanebado‘s chief animation director and storyboarder Makoto Iino also dedicate all their free time to the franchise. So congratulations to its fans and condolences to those who can’t stand it, because Fate isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. Not only does it print money, it’s become absurdly easy to attract talented people to work in it!