Anyone who visits my office or knows much about me will appreciate how much I love a good Japanese artbook, even though I can't read Japanese. I'm all about the aesthetic, it's what pulled me into Japanese pop culture and it's what keeps me rooted in it. Give me a Pixiv book (which showcases a lot of fan/internet artwork) and a coffee, and expect to lose me for a few hours. My collection covers hard to find classics such as Dangaioh artwork through to the excellent and regular UDON series of game artbooks, but what really floats my boat are Japanese artbooks that are bi-lingual, much like the Heroes and Heroines book I reviewed earlier in the year, so imagine my delight when BNN sent me New Masterpieces of 100 Eshi back in July.
This is actually the second book in the series, and features a glorious Range Murata cover. For book nerds, it's the same girl who adorned the cover of the previous volume, but aged 4 years to reflect the time between releases. It's a small detail but indicative of the care and attention that has been given to this release.
The book itself contains artwork from 100 of Japan's top artists, all indexed by name at the front of the book for easy reference. And it's a terrific collection, whether you're into the surreal, sketchy charm of LM7, delicate and sharp lines by Chiri or the stylised and quirky angles of Jiro Tomioka. There are 97 others to work through of course, but the range and quality of the artwork on offer is consistent throughout.
The quality of the pages is very high, with colour reproduction among the best I've seen in a modern artbook. While not all of the images are as large as I would have liked, the book holds an ace in the sleeve in this regard which I'll return to later.
An additional bonus for the first print run is the poster of Murata's cover, which you'll be able to see for yourself by the cover shot, is well worth the price of entry even at full RRP, which at a measly £19.99 is a complete steal.
The book's creators have put an awful lot of thought into crafting this book. It doesn't just contain lovely artwork and the aforementioned artists index, (which has bi-lingual introductions for each contributor) the book also contans links to gallery websites that contain digital versions of the artwork provided in the book which you can download as wallpaper. So if you've found a particular image that you'd just love to use on your phone or tablet, you can download a hi-res version and do just that. Often, these links contain a lot more imagery than is available in the book, so if you find an artist you really like, you can follow the digital rabbit-hole and immerse yourself in the world of your chosen Eshi. I can't overstate how generous this feature is, or just how much value it adds to an already generous package, but more books could do with such an altruistic streak.
If you're interested in each artist's creative setup (software, brushes etc), that information is also provided at the rear of the book, but that's really the domain of the art geeks amongst us, and an area I'm just not qualified to dote on.
Overall, I was blown away by the variety, quality and depth this book offers. It's a perfect Christmas gift, or just something for you to treasure yourself. It's available to buy on Amazon, and I highly recommend you get your copy asap.