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"The history of cinema is the history of girls on film."

Anime Artbooks

JPEG of Maimu(right) Maimu, illustrated by character designer Haruhiko Mikimoto, aka "HAL"

For fans seeking images of their favorite anime, there are many sources to choose from. Fans can buy anime posters, playing cards, pencil boards, original cels, image CD-ROMS, T-shirts, etc.--whatever form is most pleasing to them. Fans can get images off the internet, as well, but for people who want lots of high quality images, packaged nicely and affordably, artbooks are often the way to go. A large percentage of images found on the internet are scanned from artbooks in the first place, and any given artbook is likely to have many images in it that cannot be found on the Net.

In an artbook, one will usually find (depending on the specific book) original illustrations, paintings, line art, design sketches, poster art, production details, seiyuu info, staff interviews, manga short subjects, and a fold-out poster or two. As such, artbooks are an excellent package of information for the discriminating image consumer. Anime fans who are also book enthusiasts take naturally to collecting artbooks, as they appreciate the finer pleasures of physically holding and flipping through a well-designed book. Artbooks are not as good as posters in terms of decorative value, but have a greater effective image-to-volume ratio [you need a lot of wall space for posters, whereas an artbook with lots of images is just fine sitting on your desk] and are easier to maintain.

Outside of Japan, one can find artbooks for sale on the internet, but it is generally advisable to browse through a book before buying it to see if it's actually what you want. Since I don't read Japanese, I don't buy artbooks for their text. Instead, I look for the ones with the most pretty pictures, preferably in color. Black and white design sketches and line art are nice, but those exact same images often appear in magazines such as Newtype and Animage.

I generally buy my artbooks at anime conventions. Usually, convention dealers will have most of their books on open display, unwrapped, and easy to thumb through. One can also find artbooks at large Japanese bookstores such as Asahiya and Kinokuniya. The selection is often limited, but if you know the ISBN for the book you're looking for, they can special order it for you. The main problem with Asahiya and Kinokuniya is that the books are often wrapped in plastic, so you can't look through them. They aren't usually wrapped at the top, however; with a little practice, you can get quite good at determining the contents of an artbook by thumbing across the unwrapped top portion of the book and peering in to see if there are color images or not. If you're on a New York City trip, stop at Asahiya, Kinokuniya, and the Virgin Megastore if you're looking for artbooks.

Artbooks make an excellent addition to any anime collection. If you're a fan of any particular series, artist, or studio, there are many artbooks out there you are likely to enjoy.

My Artbook Collection

Film comics, manga, magazines, and magazine inserts are not included on this list. If you need the ISBN for any book listed below, e-mail me.

(Atsushi Kamijo Presents: Shonen Sunday Graphic Special, signed by Yuzo Sato)
(yes, I have two of these)
an omnipresence in wired
(serial experiments lain illustrations hardcover by yoshitoshi ABe)
Visual Experiments Lain
Visual Experiments Lain
(I have two of these, as well)
Gallery of Fantastic Art: Yoshitoshi ABe portfolio
(Set A)
yoshitoshi ABe lain illustrations: ab# rebuild an omnipresence in wired
(hardcover in slipcase)
yoshitoshi ABe lain illustrations: ab# rebuild an omnipresence in wired
(American version, softcover)
the Beautiful World
(Kuroboshi Kouhaku artwork, hardcover)
Kino no Tabi: - Their Memories -
Kino no Tabi: - life goes on. -
(Original film program)
Tenchi Muyo Illustrations Vol. 2
Tenchi Muyo Anime V Special Part 1
(covers the first Tenchi OAV series)
Tenchi Muyo Anime V Special Part 2
(covers the second Tenchi OAV series)
Tenchi Muyo: Newtype 100% Collection Book 1
(covers the first half of Tenchi Muyo TV)
Tenchi Muyo Super Manual
(covers the Tenchi TV Universe)
Magical Girl Pretty Samy: The First Contact
Magical Girl Pretty Samy: Second Impact
Tenchi Muyo Character Guide--Sasami
(aka Anyway Sasami)
The Vision of Escaflowne
(part of the Sunrise Art Book Series)
(Original film program)
NG Knight Lamune & 40 Illustrations
(Anime V Special)
NG Knight Lamune & 40
NG Knight Lamune & 40 DX
NG Knight Lamune & 40 EX
Only Yesterday
(Ghibli Roman Album)
Only Yesterday
(Original film program)
Tokyo Babylon Photographs
(the somewhat-censored version of Intron Depot published in Korea)
Intron Depot 3: Ballistics
Bastard!!Guardress Illustrations
(two book box set)
Legend of the Galactic Heroes (Roman Album): Portrait of Heroes
(original art by Katsumi Michihara)
Gal's Island: Gamest Extra Number 205
(fighting game girls)
The King of Fighters '96: Gamest Mook Vol. 56
Udon's Art of Capcom
Udon's Art of Capcom 2
Daicon IV Opening Animation sketchbook
Nadia: Portaits
(Part of the Newtype Illustrated Collection)
Nadia: The Secret of Blue Water
(Roman Album)
Return of Nadia
(Published by Gainax)
Complete Gunbuster
(General Products Presents, signed by Haruhiko Mikimoto and Hiroyuki Yamaga)
Complete Gunbuster
(an extra copy)
Top O Nerae! Gunbuster Film Comic 1
(more than just your typical film comic)
Top O Nerae! Gunbuster Film Comic 2
Gunbuster & Diebuster: Next GENERATION Easter
(Official Graphic Library)
A Wing of Honneamise: Royal Space Force - Completed File
(B-Club Special)
Like a Balance Life 0.5 2nd mix edition
(Range Murata illustrations, box)
AONOROKUGO Graphical World
(Part of the Newtype Illustrated Collection)
Boogiepop and Others
(The Art of Kouji Ogata, hardcover)
Best of Animage 20th Anniversary
(Roman Album Extra)
The Super Dimension Fortress-1 Macross
(This is Animation, #7)
The Super Dimension Fortress-1 Macross
(This is Animation, #11)
The Super Dimension Fortress Macross: Macross Graffiti
(Best Hit Series)
Macross: Do You Remember Love?
(Original film program)
Fire Bomber
(Macross 7 Roman Album)
Miss Macross 7
(Roman Album Extra)
Macross 7 Animation Materials
The Southern Cross
(This is Animation, #10)
Be Forever Yamato
(Roman Album #36)
Miracle Girls
(illustrations and anime guide)
The Mobile Police Patlabor [Air]
(Akemi Takada illustrations)
live: Noa Izumi photographs
Magical World: Illustrated by TAKADA Akemi
(Print set, Takada Akemi Millenium Exhibition, The Exhibition of the Returning Tour)
Legend of Cosmobeauty
(Daiundokai Roman Album)
Fatal Fury: The Movie
Kazuko Tadano Illustrations Favorite!!
Tokimeki Memorial Illustrations
(game characters)
Sentimental Graffiti Image Artworks
(game characters by Tomohisa Kai)
Sakura Wars ~ So Long, My Love ~ : Unforgettable Memories
(game characters)
Princess Maker: Faery Tales Come True
(Princess Maker 3 illustrations, with a sketch and signed by Takami Akai)
Merry Girls
(The Art of Takami Akai)
Yohki na Musume-san
(A Collection of Takami Akai's Illustrations)
(Okama illustrations)
(Okama illustrations)
Mutsumi Sasaki: Artworks 1998~2005
Sister Princess: Sincerely Yours
Sister Princess: The Original Storys
Sister Princess: Official Character Book
World's end: Premium Collection
World's end: Fairy's diary
The Art of Sister Princess: Naoto Tenhiro Illustrations
(hardcover in slipcase)
The Art of Sister Princess (vol. 2): Naoto Tenhiro Illustrations
(hardcover in cardboard box and slipcase)
Headphone Girls ; A Pictorial Book
Galaxy Fraulein Yuna 2D & 3D World
(Hobby Japan Special Edition: Mika Akitaka with Red Company Presents)
Armed Dragon Fantasy Villgust
(B-Club Special)
Seraphic Feather Illustrations
(By Hiroyuki Utatane, box)
My Time: Dragon Magazine Special
(Haruhiko Mikimoto illustrations, signed by Haruhiko Mikimoto)
(Haruhiko Mikimoto illustrations)
Elverz: Dragon Magazine Special
(Haruhiko Mikimoto illustrations)
Animation Carol Visual Book
Kikai Shoujo - Machinery Gals System
(Sho Murase illustrations)
Replicant: Garage Kit and Character Figure Vol. 1
Replicant: Garage Kit and Character Figure Vol. 5
Replicant: Garage Kit and Character Figure Vol. 6
Figure Maniacs Vol. 10
Kotobukiya All Figure Catalog 2001-2003
Pretty Girls Figure Super Collection
(character figures)
All That Figure 2001
(character figures)
All That Figure 2002
(character figures)
All That Figure 2003
(character figures)
SpecFIGURES: 12" Military Action Figure Styling Manual
(Hobby Japan Mook)
SpecFIGURES 2: 12" Action Figure Guide Book
(Hobby Japan Mook)
Robotech Art 1
(covers the 85 episodes of Robotech)
Robotech Art 2
(features fan-created original art)
Robotech Art 3
(covers the Sentinels)
serial experiments lain - Ultimate Fan Guide
(published by Guardians of Order, Inc.)
essence - The Art of Yoshitoshi ABe
(published by fanboy entertainment, Inc.)
Fight!! Iczer-One Perfect Collection
(Created by Toshihiro Hirano, published by US Renditions)
The New Generation of Manga Artists Vol. 1
(The Koh Kawarajima Portfolio)
The New Generation of Manga Artists Vol. 2
(The Gensho Sugiyama Portfolio)
The New Generation of Manga Artists Vol. 3
(The Renga Portfolio)
The New Generation of Manga Artists Vol. 4
(The Omnibus Collection)
Comic Artists-Asia: Manga Manhwa Manhua
Anime Poster Art: Japan's Moviehouse Masterpieces
Manga: Sixty Years of Japanese Comics
The Art of Osamu Tezuka: God of Manga
summon monsters? open the door? heal? or die?
(Takashi Murakami)
the meaning of the nonsense of the meaning
(Takashi Murakami)
my reality--contemporary art and the culture of japanese animation
(Essays by Jeff Fleming, Susan Lubowsky Talbott & Takashi Murakami)
Super Flat
(Takashi Murakami)
Little Boy: The Arts of Japan's Exploding Subculture
(Takashi Murakami)
Little Boy: The Arts of Japan's Exploding Subculture
(I've got two of these, too)
Ga-Netchū! Das Manga Anime Syndrom
(exhibition catalog for Anime! High Art - Pop Culture, German edition)
Ga-Netchū! The Manga Anime Syndrome
(exhibition catalog for Anime! High Art - Pop Culture, English edition)
Game On: The History and Culture of Videogames
(Edited by Lucien King)
[ef]: Chisa Yokoyama Artist Book
(seiyuu photobook (shashinshu))

Non-anime-related books
AmiGo: ami suzuki
(J-pop star photobook)
Hit Factory: South Beach Walk Session
(Tetsuya Komuro; J-pop star photobook)
(Hikaru Nishida, J-pop star photobook)
Maki Gotoh: Photographed by Akihito Kubota
(J-pop star photobook)
maki: Photographs by Kouki Nishida
(Maki Goto; J-pop star photobook)
Pocket Biscuits
(J-pop guide book)
(street fashion photobook)
Tokyo: a certain style
(Japanese homes photobook)
Otacool: Worldwide Otaku Rooms
Otacool 3: Worldwide Workspaces

[various other idol-related photobooks]

My wife's contributions to the collection
Spirited Away
(Roman Album)
(Original film program)
(Roman Album Extra 61)
Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind: Watercolor Impressions
(Illust.&Products.special edition:range murata)
Ghibli Museum, Mitaka
(Souvenir book)
Ghibli Museum, Mitaka
(Photographs, artwork, and essays)

Here is an excellent artbook information site: Artbook Collection Reviews

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Last updated on June 16th, 2012
Lawrence Eng