The entire composition of this graphic monograph is a collection of book covers with their invented whimsical, pertinent, deadpan, and frequently hilarious titles. The titles, penned in a variety of uppercase handwritten typefaces, are displayed on diverse bold coloured images of books, sometimes with simple illustrations but most frequently unadorned. This is truly a library of words, the intriguing combination of which are repeatedly confusing, illuminating, and entertaining.

The Canadian creators, founding members of the art collective the Royal Art Lodge in Winnipeg, have been collaborating on art projects for more than fifteen years. The Royal Art Lodge has since been disbanded, but the two continue to work together with their work in many permanent collections of galleries in Canada and Europe. The two artists began gathering their book covers for this project in 2009. The structure of this unique library seems quite random, the books are not organized alphabetically, by theme, or even by colour. The reader is free to browse the collection of over two hundred titles without any directives. The library of titles can be read from cover to cover or dipped in leisurely to offer consolation, consultation, or curiosity (or all three at the same time). Numerous pages contain four or nine books while other pages focus on only one title. Some of the books are depicted as open, offering a hint to the pages within and a glimpse at both the front and back covers, while others are upright and closed. Still others rest on an unseen surface, surrounded by saturated coloured backgrounds. The simple illustration of the red book featured on the back cover, “It’s Not Going To Be What You Think. It Can’t Be Described Properly, Or Understood Easily. It’s Everything To Me. It May Be Nothing To You,” may offer a clue to the interior and intent of the book itself.

Ranging from laconic to suggestive, the idiosyncratic titles are continually thought provoking. One of my favourites is, ironically, a full page spread with an illustration of a silhouette of an androgynous profile on the cover: “You Should Consider Your Words, Because I Will Take Them Seriously”. Other favourites offer homilies and earnest advice, “You Can Only Learn The Same Thing From The Same Mistake So Many Times,” and “The Art Of Never Finishing Your.” Others suggest sarcastic opinions that resonate with this reader. “Can You Hand The Phone To Someone Interesting?,” “You Can Talk All You Like, My Ears Are On Strike,and I Have a Medical Condition That Makes it So I Don’t Have to Talk to You.” However, I must caution that my list of favourite titles did change and morph with each rereading, the time of day I was reading it, and the setting in which I found myself while reading. This is a treasure that gives again and again and again.

Complicated to explain, this library collection of words and images, offers countless possibilities to adult and young adult readers from writing assignments to book group discussions. It pays homage to both concrete art and to the power of words. Highly recommended for school and public libraries.

By Michael Dumontier, Neil Farber
Drawn & Quarterly, 2021
ISBN: 9781770464124

NFNT Age Recommendation: Adult (18+), Older Teen (16-18)
Creator Representation: Canadian

Photographic: The Life of Graciela Iturbide

Mexican photographer Graciela Iturbide is famous for her haunting black and white photos. Isabel Quintero and Zeke Pena have created an enthralling graphic novel in which Iturbide’s story and photographs are brought to life for a generation who may be entirely unfamiliar with their groundbreaking work. Photographic: The Life of Graciela Iturbide is an important graphic novel for the current culture. Mexican stories need to be told. Graphic novels like this are a reminder that the history and culture of Mexican art and artists is vast and rich. This graphic novel may be a few years old but its review is crucial.

The story opens at an art gallery with photographs on display. A group of young people ask the photographer about their style and methods. That photographer is Graciela Iturbide. She explains her methods and motives to the young attendees while the story fades into the past. The story moves through time—back and forth—from the Sonoran Desert and Mexico City to India and Frida Kahlo’s bedroom. It covers her most famous photographs as well as her childhood and relationship with her father. Graciela appears to explain in her own words what was going on at the time, the inspirations for the photographs, and her own thought process.

Photographic: The Life of Graciela Iturbide is uniquely illustrated. The artist painstakingly recreates Graciela’s history and photographs through similar yet powerful black and white illustrations. The actual photographs accompany the illustrated versions. It’s refreshing to see artwork and photography depicted in this way, particularly in a graphic memoir. It is one thing to see an illustrated version of a piece of art, but to see it held up against the real thing is entirely different and adds great depth to the story. The attention to detail is astounding and the artist made the right decision to keep color out of the book. Graciela’s medium was black-and-white and her biography should be the same.

The writing itself feels a bit stilted and that may be entirely based on the translation. It’s hard to feel a rhythm while reading. The author includes an interesting use of a second person point of view. The author addresses the reader in short snippets of text before each chapter break. These breaks in the fourth wall are a way to introduce the reader to where the story will take place next. It’s helpful in a way, but also a bit distracting. Graciela’s descriptions are poetic and imaginative while these breaks feel unnecessary. Graciela is more than capable of telling her own story in her own way. Photographic: The Life of Graciela Iturbide is a fascinating look into the life of a prolific and iconic Mexican photographer. Their work resides in many museums around the world. This graphic novel cannot tell Graciela’s story in its entirety, but it does a great job of introducing readers of all ages to her life and her work.

Photographic: The Life of Graciela Iturbide is appropriate for readers 13+. It is enjoyable to readers of Tillie Walden’s On a Sunbeam, Pénélope Bagieu’s Brazen: Rebel Ladies Who Rocked the World, and Liana Finck’s Passing for Human.

Photographic: The Life of Graciela Iturbide
By Isabel Quintero
Art by Zeke Pena
ISBN: 9781947440005
Getty Publications, 2018
Publisher Age Rating: T

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Character Traits: Latinx

Dragon Quest Illustrations: 30th Anniversary Edition

Ever wanted to be able to review the art of the main characters and monsters from the Dragon Quest franchise in detail and at leisure? Or maybe love the Dragon Quest games and want to get to know more about them? Then this book is the perfect choice! Dragon Quest Illustrations is a fairly comprehensive collection of finished art, sketches, and even unused art for playable characters, non-player characters, and monsters over the lifetime of this franchise.

Dragon Quest Illustrations is part of the 30th anniversary celebration of the Dragon Quest games; as such, it contains art and illustrations from all of the games, from the very first to the most recent. The book is thorough in its coverage, as it also includes illustrations from the spin-off games, not just the main series. Content is organized chronologically, and within that the spin-offs (so the spin-off games that came out around Dragon Quest VII come after Dragon Quest VII in the book). There is thankfully a table of contents page to make it easier to jump to different games’ art as needed, because it can be hard to tell where one game begins and another ends in the early generations, other than the text at the bottom of each page stating the game.

For those interested, the start of each game’s section has package art and any promotional art, as well as what systems (computer, video game console, or handheld console) it came out for and what the title was for that release. Otherwise, there’s not a lot of text in the book, aside from the introduction by Akira Toriyama, a brief section discussing the art of each game, and a closing message from game designer Yuji Horii. This is truly an art book, focusing on the images and not discussion. The analysis section rarely devotes more than a paragraph or two to each game generation, though it has some notes of interest for fans of the games and discussion of how the art changes over time.

The book itself is quite sturdy, being a hardbound edition with lovely endpapers in a chess pattern design that has silhouettes of monsters in each square. However, because the cover is primarily white, it will show wear and tear very quickly. Dragon Quest Illustrations is not an unusually sized book, if compared to graphic novels or other art books, which tend to be larger, so it will fit fairly easily on the shelf. There is also an attached poster in the front, so that would need to be removed before circulation and possibly given to the youth services or teen librarian to then distribute or hang in their area of the library. It does have a condensed history of the package art on the back of the poster, but it is very likely to get torn or torn out, so might just be best to remove it.

However, is it worth adding to the collection? I’m not sure. It’s truly an art book, so for students of video game/character design it could be useful, and as a retrospective of Toriyama’s art over the years it has merit (particularly for fans of his work), but other than that it’s a pretty narrow group this book will appeal to, unless the population contains a lot of Dragon Quest fans. It might be worth looking into whether video game art books circulate well or if there’s a demand for such items that has been overlooked.

Dragon Quest Illustrations: 30th Anniversary Edition
By Akira Toriyama
Art by Akira Toriyama
ISBN: 9781974703906
VIZ Media, 2018
NFNT Age Recommendation: Middle Grade (7-11), Tween (10-13), Teen (13-16)

I Find Your Lack of Faith Disturbing: Star Wars and the Triumph of Geek Culture

I Find Your Lack of Faith Disturbing—a phrase uttered by Darth Vader in A New Hope and the title of A.D. Jameson’s new book. Here, Jameson details the rise and popularization of geek culture through main-stream cinema by examining science fiction, fantasy, and superhero movies and TV shows.

I was expecting far more about Star Wars in this book subtitled, Star Wars and the Triumph of Geek Culture. Unfortunately, Jameson’s book seems to be a rant in opposition to Peter Biskind’s Easy Riders, Raging Bulls: How the Sex-Drugs-And Rock ‘N Roll Generation Saved Hollywood. While I found Jameson’s analysis of film history and criticism interesting, the asides that continually called out Biskind quickly grew tiresome. Oddly, large swathes of the book address the various versions of Star Trek (TV and film), that Jameson watched as a kid, and he spends a good bit of time explaining his personal experiences and love affair with this show.

Despite the oddities mentioned above, this book did have a few redeeming moments. Among his more interesting points, Jameson discusses realism and its importance in relation to the fantasy and science fiction genres. In addition, he has quite a compelling chapter dealing with the subject of escapism, a term that plagues many a self-proclaimed geek (and other lovers of fantasy and science fiction).

I wanted to love this book a great deal more than I did in actuality. It does have moments worth reading, particularly the sections discussing film history, realism, and escapism. For me, however, this book misses the mark. It is neither the triumph of geek culture I was expecting, nor was it about Star Wars, which, frankly, was incredibly disappointing considering that is what drew me to the book in the first place. This is definitely a case where a determination to have a clever title has led to confusion and irritation on the part of the reader.

While I did not personally love this book, I do think it makes a decent contribution to literature about geek culture in general and TV and film history in particular. It would make a good addition to any library’s non-fiction shelves. Though the publisher does not indicate an age category, I think this is most suitable for older teens and adults given the non-fiction nature of the work as well as its references to TV and film more suitable for these age groups.

I Find Your Lack of Faith Disturbing: Star Wars and the Triumph of Geek Culture
By A.D. Jameson
ISBN: 9780374537364
Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2018

101 Movies to Watch Before You Die

In his introduction to this work, Ricardo Cavolo describes 101 Movies to Watch Before You Die as “a love story told in 101 installments,” a personal journey through the cinematic experiences that have helped in small and large ways to shape the author’s life and work. Part personal reflection, part memoir, and part film critique and history, 101 Movies is an exploration of world cinema through the eyes of a creative artist and film lover eager to share with the world his enthusiasms for the many worlds of film magic.

The book is presented almost as a visual diary or sketchbook; it presents in an intimate style, one that values honesty over polish, as if the author has merely shared with us his own private thoughts and notes without pausing to refine them for publication. Beginning with the 1902 Le Voyage Dans la Lune and ending with the 2015 The Revenant, Cavolo takes us on a chronological journey through key moments in movie-making and his own emerging understanding as a fan and as artist. Some of the films discussed are acknowledged cinematic masterpieces like Spartacus, Citizen Kane, and The Godfather, others cult fan favorites like Star Wars, Ghostbusters, and The Nightmare Before Christmas, and still others are examples of world cinema which may be unknown to American readers, like Amarcord (Italy), Time of the Gypsies (Yugoslavia), and La Haine (France). As I read, I found myself agreeing with some choices, perplexed by others, and often making notes of movies that I apparently really need to watch. Cavolo’s love for his subjects is clear, and his analyses are both personal and insightful (and frequently hilarious); even when I disagreed with his choices, I respected his opinion on a film.

Each film receives a two-page entry within the book; the first page is a short text description with surrounding illustrations, while the second page is a full-page, movie poster-like illustration. The font seems intended to mimic the author’s handwriting, adding to the personal notebook presentation of the world. Some pages even include scribbled out words, as if Cavolo changed his mind as he wrote.

The art here is unique and intriguing, quite different from anything I’ve previously encountered. Certainly readers accustomed to the art of mainstream American comics or graphic novels might find Cavolo’s style unusual. Each illustration captures key characters, scenes, or images from the film, completely recognizable, yet wholly original. The colors are more matte-like, lacking the vibrance and glossiness that are more common in American comics. The most striking element, though, is the eyes; each character has at least four eyes. Some have more. Eyes also peek out from inanimate objects and landscapes This could be unsettling for some readers, particularly the juxtaposition of the very familiar (such as the characters from Toy Story) with the unexpected addition of the very unfamiliar physical representations.

While there is nothing in 101 Movies that would make it inappropriate for a teen collection, it seems more suited to adult collections. While there are, I’m sure, teen cinephiles who will enjoy this book, readers of a certain age who, like Cavolo, remember coming of age in 80s and early 90s, will particularly, I think, share his appreciation for the films of his youth and perhaps his memories of sharing classic films with his parents.

101 Movies to Watch Before You Die
by Ricardo Cavolo
ISBN: 9781910620250
Nobrow, 2017

Japanese Notebooks: A Journey to the Empire of Signs

Japanese Notebooks by Igort“If you write and draw, you just need a pen and a notebook. And a good pair of shoes.” Attributed to Anton Chekhov, this idea flows throughout Japanese Notebooks, a graphic novel from the artist known simply as Igort. With equal parts journal, multi-media scrapbook and existential musings, the book succeeds as both a captivating memoir and meditation on Japanese culture.

Thanks to a chance meeting with a representative from the Tokyo-based manga publisher Kodansha, Igort had the opportunity to experience the grueling life of a manga creator first hand through a scholarship that allowed him to work and live in Tokyo for six months during the early ’90s. His time spent there forms the foundation for Japanese Notebooks. Whether visiting a Shinto shrine, connecting with renowned manga creators like Yoshiro Tatsumi and Jiro Taniguchi, or contemplating apparent contradictions in Japanese culture such as its long traditions of both violent war and peaceful meditation; Igort reveals a multi-layered Japan that often lies just beyond his grasp as he tries to capture it through text and image. In the words of the artist himself, “This book is the story of chasing a dream, and surrendering upon finding that dreams cannot be grasped.”

This quest for meaning is a solitary one, and Igort conveys his isolation visually through multipaneled frames that often feature a lone figure engulfed by his surroundings. I was struck by the emptiness of such spaces, especially the almost vacant Tokyo streets and public buildings that should be brimming with the hustle and bustle of large city life. Igort’s choice of color palette also parallels the action and emotion within the storyline, with bold primary colors adding intensity to illustrations and photographs of troubling societal issues while soft tans, greens and yellows convey the calm of the natural world. In other instances, the switch to a monochromatic color scheme effectively demarcates sub-narratives and samplings of other work. Different stylistic renderings, ranging from noir to cinematic to more traditional Japanese artistry, further differentiate story threads and flashbacks. Igort also showcases his versatility through realistic sketches that capture intimate portraits of the people he meets and the historical figures he studies while in Japan.

For readers interested in gaining a behind-the-scenes perspective of manga and graphic novel production, Igort provides insight into the amount of work and commitment required, examples of ground-breaking artists and the methods they use to create their craft. The inclusion of editorial critiques also serve as great instructional tidbits for aspiring writers and illustrators to absorb. Of course, Igort does not always follow the rules, instead pushing the format’s boundaries. I appreciated the subtle humor behind his decision to place a frame in which his editor advises him to use text sparingly near subsequent text-heavy pages. And it works.

Because the graphic novel contains nudity and addresses violent topics such as rape and murder, it is more appropriate for older audiences. Igort treats all subject matter sensitively, and recommendations to younger readers should be made on a case-by-case basis for those interested in graphic novel creation, the manga industry, and Japanese culture or history. The opportunity to explore a multi-layered Japan, as well as Igort’s personal experiences and insights, make for a worthwhile and enlightening read.

Japanese Notebooks: A Journey to the Empire of Signs
by Igort
ISBN: 9781452158709
Chronicle Books LLC, 2017

Monet: Itinerant of Light

This graphic, somewhat fictionalized biography of Claude Monet seamlessly combines his art and life to offer a new perspective of the ground-breaking Impressionist. The story begins with Monet undergoing an operation for cataracts. As he lies in bed, eyes bandaged, terrified of losing his sight, his mind goes back to his childhood and the first day he saw the light…

As a child, Monet was restless and troublesome, refusing to learn a trade or fall in with his family’s wishes; he only wanted to paint. When he encountered the artist M. Boudin; he first saw the beauty of the natural world and the effects of light, beginning a lifelong quest to paint the light. Monet struggles in the art world in Paris, frustrated by the rules and traditions that stifle his art, but he also meets some like-minded artists. Together, they determine to go up against the Salon; the most powerful institution in the art world, putting on their own art show, the Salon des Refuses in 1863, or Salon of Rejects. Shattered by repeated failures, dogged by creditors, and with the worries of his lover, Camille, and her child, Monet retires to the country, finding patrons and new inspiration. His troubles are not yet over however, and through the tumultuous years that follow he suffers through poverty, love affairs, the death of friends and family, and war, all while still maintaining his fanatic devotion to paint the light.

As the story returns full circle, Monet slowly comes to realize that his vision has become accepted; he is no longer a rebel, but a respected artist. He has security, a home, and all the light that he can paint. However, his losses are not yet over. As he continues to paint in his home in Giverny, success coming too late for his first wife Camille, he sees the death of friends and artists, family and supporters. Finally, he is an old man, nearly blind, but still following his vision—to paint the light and the natural world. The story ends with a panoramic view of the lily ponds, Monet’s final and most well-known inspiration.

The art is created to mimic both Monet’s style and his actual paintings. Segments of the story are set to recreate his most famous portraits, as well as some of his friends’ work. Back matter includes reproductions of the works as well as the panels that are in homage to the art. Efa’s art captures the light, moment, and emotional struggle of Monet’s life while making his art more emotional and relatable, smoothing rough lines, defining colors, and focusing on the faces that Monet never cared to depict. Efa’s art exposes the human side of Monet’s world, focuses on the faces and personalities he was indifferent to in his own pursuit of light. The creators blend Monet’s own words and art to create a cohesive story, painting a picture of the man behind the pictures. Poverty, art, friends and enemies come to life in this recreation of Monet’s life and work.

Rubio ends the story with a discussion of some of the more fictionalized aspect of the book, as well as the elements taken directly from primary sources, letters, and history. On the one hand, this is a gorgeous depiction of Monet’s life, from his tumultuous first years as an artist to his more peaceful, if lonely, life in his middle age and late years. The emphasis on Monet’s dedication to seeing the light shines through the whole book; the moment when he realizes that he no longer needs to struggle against an opposition that no longer exists is profound and the art transports the reader to the squalid streets of Paris, contemptuous art critics, and the peace and quiet of the country. Readers interested in Monet’s life and work will be fascinated and young adults just starting to learn about the great artists will find this a unique introduction.

On the other hand, in some ways this book almost recreates what Monet fought against in the first place—a canon of art and artists that accepted no new ideas, no diversity, and no change. From a human point of view, Monet abandoned his lover to poverty and illness, allowed his family to starve for his dedication to art, and was unfaithful to his wife, bringing his lover and her family back to his home to suffer the same privations as his own family. There is only a brief mention of Berthe Morisot, and the even greater challenges she faced as a woman and artist. In other words, do we really need another book about Monet?

Ultimately, it’s up to your own collection’s needs. This book is definitely aimed at older teens to adults; it includes nudity, references to Monet’s love affairs, and stark depictions of poverty and the suffering of his family. If you have interest in the great artists of the Western tradition, readers who will want to explore the human stories behind their paintings, and an interest in the history and development of modern art and culture, this will make an excellent addition to your collection. NBM has additional titles on artists planned for the future and it will be interesting to see who they choose to depict and how their stories are told.

Monet: Itinerant of Light
by Salvia Rubio
Art by EFA
ISBN: 9781681121390
NBM, 2017

Billie Holiday

My knowledge of music is spotty at best, and my knowledge of who was active when is even thinner. I was thrilled when I came across this reissue of Carlos Sampayo and Jose Munoz’s 1993 graphic novel Billie Holiday so I could learn more about one of the first black female celebrities of the 20th century and her lasting impact on the times and culture around her. Billie was powerful and influential, yet she was also a victim of police violence, sexual assault, and drug addiction. She sang so unflinchingly and brazenly about race and lynching in ‘Strange Fruit’ that Columbia refused to release the song, yet she was unable to escape racism in her daily life. She seems like a fascinating person for contemplation, study, and discussion. Unfortunately, this book flattens Billie’s story in several ways.

While the publisher lists this book among its biography collection, I have a difficult time describing it as a biography. The narrative zooms back and forth between the 30-year anniversary of Billie’s death and the heyday of Billie’s life and career. Not only are these cuts back and forth confusing, but their framing causes readers to pay less attention to Billie and more attention to how three men (possibly fictional?) relate and connect to her. Most of the moments we see of Billie’s life were some of her most traumatizing ones, and these moments don’t feel like part of a greater storytelling whole.

Munoz’s art style is a grotesque and disfigured white-on-black style inspired by German expressionist painting. This style is unusual in graphic novels and the art emphasizes the unseemly in Billie’s life. However, the blunt line work and the even pacing of the panels lack the rhythm or atmosphere of either Billie’s jazz music or of 1930s Harlem. Because it’s difficult to distinguish time, place, and character nuances, the story feels like it takes place in a void of black ink. This stuck out to me as a mismatch between the potential of the artistic medium and the potential of the story, especially as it has the effect of literally whitewashing Billie (and everyone else).

I also wonder a bit about how this book is received right now, especially in the midst of a public conversation about authorship and representation on Twitter (#ownvoices) and elsewhere at conferences and in publishing. This story felt like it focused on Billie’s painthe pain of ethnic slurs, the pain of selling sex under duress, the pain of addictionwithout providing character and nuance to these pains. I wonder whether a black author might have been able to invent more nuanced dialogue between Billie and the police that went beyond painful name-calling or could have added more emotional resonance between the friendship between Billie and saxophonist Lester “Pres” Young.

This book would not serve as a first selection for graphic novel biography or for Billie Holiday biography. However, if you are purchasing for a large music collection or a large graphic novel collection, this book may add depth to your collection.

Billie Holiday
by Carlos Sampayo
Art by Jose Munoz
ISBN: 9781681120935
NBM, 2017
Publisher Age Rating:

The Art of Pokémon Adventures: 20th Anniversary Illustration Book

Satoshi Yamamoto has been illustrating the Pokémon Adventures manga series since 2001, beginning with volume 10. He now has the art of more than fifty Pokémon volumes to his name, including arcs like Pokémon X•Y and Pokémon Omega Ruby Alpha Sapphire. Yamamoto’s work—particularly his manga cover art—is celebrated in this book.

This art book includes hundreds of full-color images as well as some sketches and grayscale artwork. Most of the art first appeared as the front covers, back covers or frontispieces of manga volumes. Also included are alternate versions of covers, unused sketches, promotional images created for magazines and postcards, and drawings that appeared only in the Japanese version of the manga. A guide to the illustrations appears toward the back of the book, followed by the full first chapter of the Pokémon Ranger comic, which has appeared online but never before in print. Four full-color pull-out posters make for a nice bonus feature.

While the cover images of various Pokémon volumes may be familiar, seeing them blown up large is a different experience. The colors, though still bright and bold, look softer and more painted than the crisp images you see on the actual manga covers. In addition, the elements of a cover often appear separately on opposite page; for instance, characters who overlap on the cover are drawn individually, allowing us to see parts of their poses, outfits, etc. that might be obscured in the final cover image. Anyone interested in how the manga is created will enjoy seeing these, and will also appreciate that the book contains a few planning sketches and character designs. There are even examples of art with color specification notes attached.

Human characters and Pokémon alike are colorful, expressive, and creatively arranged. Most of the images feature groups of characters striking dramatic poses together, movie-poster-style. Fans of the manga will recognize the stars of various Pokémon plot arcs, while those who know Pokémon from another medium (like the video games or card game) might not know the human characters, but may enjoy identifying the fantastical creatures.

The book is a large, sturdy paperback with a slipcover and thick, semi-glossy pages. It reads from right to left, like manga, and concludes with a brief letter from Satoshi Yamamoto. As his note mentions, this is actually the second book compiling Yamamoto’s Pokémon art. The first, however, was much shorter and only available as a limited release in Japan. This is a more formal and complete book celebrating the artist, completed on the twentieth birthday of the Pokémon franchise—and Yamamoto’s fiftieth birthday.

The Art of Pokémon Adventures: 20th Anniversary Illustration Book
by Satoshi Yamamoto
ISBN: 9781421594514
VIZ Media, 2017
Publisher Age Rating: All Ages

Tokyo Ghoul Illustrations: zakki

The Tokyo Ghoul franchise, which has steadily raised its own media empire over the past three years, from manga and anime to light novels and film, has amassed a trove of character designs and production art. Tokyo Ghoul Illustrations: zakki, while relatively slim, is a beautiful collection of creator Sui Ishida’s art from across the franchise’s existence. Fans of Tokyo Ghoul and colorful, painterly character art in general will have much to enjoy within this jacketed hardcover’s smooth pages.

The book reads right to left, as per Japanese books, and the cover type for Tokyo Ghoul is broken and dripping (is that a drop of blood in the O?) over a couple of the protagonists’ smiling faces. A paper clip to the side completes the message: this book is a friendly visit to some beloved characters who went through some disturbing events in their series, with documents and messages from Ishida. The ‘zakki’ in the title is Japanese for “miscellaneous notes.”

Artwork is collected according to three categories: color art from each manga volume, illustrations for Young Jump magazine and elsewhere, and additional artwork. Throughout, Ishida provides commentary on the production, reception, or personal reaction to each piece. “Even if I’m engrossed in what I’m drawing, once it’s done, I lose interest. So I don’t usually look back on my art.” While this closing comment from Ishida (there’s no introduction or foreword) may be true, his commentary on all of the preceding pieces of art tell a story of an artist and storyteller who has weathered failure and success on the way to building his series.

The artwork of Tokyo Ghoul in this collection suggests a story full of charismatic, well-dressed, somewhat monstrous young adults whose lives blur horror and affection. The commentary tells a separate story of an overworked artist maneuvering Comic Studio, SAI, Painter, and Flash software in pursuit of deadlines and praise from his editor and his sister. Readers will enjoy learning more about the man behind the stylus. Some pieces he ‘self-rejected’ before developing too far while others went through multiple drafts before completion. Digital carelessness ate more than one illustration—as Ishida puts it, “Digital tools are useful, but sudden crashes are scary.” Save early, save often!

The full-color cover art and chapter pages are gorgeous, reproduced here with clarity and vibrant colors. Smaller pieces whipped up for bookstore promotions and character birthdays carry Ishida’s unmistakable penchant for blurred, painter-like digital brushwork. The only exceptions are a handful of black and white line pieces, including some sketches and a breakdown of a character’s tattoos. The only black and white manga pages are thumbnail samples of a side story he drew without assistants and a couple of four-panel gag comics. Ishida credits inspiration for a couple of pieces from Nakayama Atsushi’s Nejimaki Kagyu and Kazue Kato’s Blue Exorcist.

While none of the 112 pages in this art book contain explicit material or language, there is one spread involving a nude woman drawn in profile inside a glass container. The Tokyo Ghoul manga series is rated T+, so keep that demographic in mind when shelving this title with other art books.

Tokyo Ghoul Illustrations: zakki
by Sui Ishida
ISBN: 9781421596921
Viz, 2017
Publisher Age Rating: N/A