LIST OF SOME ART BOOKS: DESCRIPTION AND COMMENTS

Until now, the objective of this blog has been doing an analysis of the visual components that forms a video game. This is a way to combine my two passions: the video games and the design. It’s good to empathize that these analyses are not totally accurate since, despite the fact that there is an arduous investigation behind them, there is difficult to decipher what was the line of thought of the designers at the moment they worked on a specific element of the game. However, most of the time the analysis has at least one book of the original designer as a reference. Most of these are the Official Art Books.

In a post I mentioned why I began to write this blog, but if I go back in time a little, I liked to do an analysis of the design of video games since I was at the university (please don’t ask how long ago, I’m a vain woman XD). So, my love for the art of video games and my interest to know what the designer of them thought when they did them take me to buy Art Books.

The first one I bought was Okami’s. In view I didn’t have much money at that time, I had to choose very well what book to buy. I finally choose this one since Okami’s art has a style I love (Ukiyo-e) and also has a detailed description of the concept art of the video game. In recent years, my obsession to acquire Art Books increased, so now I have a small collection of them. This made me observe how each book has a different utility. For example, there are ones that are just to enjoy the art; there are others that can serve as a reference to learn how to conceptualize characters; or also there are books that can be useful for those who wanted to create storyboards. And like these examples, there are much more.

The above made me want to talk about a little about some books I have, with the idea of helping Art Books lovers as me to decide what to buy according to their needs. So, let’s begin!!

“ART OF MANA”: THE BOOK THAT IS FIRST IN MY HEART

The first book I’m going to talk about is the most valuable in my collection, the reason: it’s a gift I received from my brother (<3). Any person who had played some game of the Mana series will be agreed with me when I say its art is fantastic.

The first official art book of Square Enix’s hit Mana video game series.

“Art of Mana” is ideal not just to enjoy beautiful illustrations, but also serves as inspiration in the creation of characters and items, mainly those that have are related with the nature. This book presents a more descriptive concept art of monsters, spirits and non-human characters than humans.

This edition is divided in three chapters. The first one is dedicated to: “Final Fantasy Adventure”, “Seiken densetsu: Final Fantasy gaiden”, “Adventures of Mana”, “Secret of Mana”, “Trial of Mana”, “Collection of Mana” and “Dawn of Mana”. For all these games, the pages show illustrations and the character design, sketches and semblance. The only exception is in “Dawn of Mana”, where the character sheets begin to get deeper, presenting bigger semblances and explanations of some items and costumes. This happens with the protagonists, antagonists, some enemies and the principal spirits of the game.

Afterwards, chapter two is about the games: “Legend of Mana”, “Sword of Mana”, “Children of Mana”, “Seken densetsu: Friends of Mana”, “Heroes of Mana” and “Rise of Mana”. Here, the quantity of described characters and items is bigger. As well, the explanations are richer because small notes, images and sketches are added.

Finally, chapter three has a little gallery and an interview with the creators of Mana Series: Koichi Ishii and Hiromichi Tanaka.

Good PointsBad Points
In comparison with other Official Art Books, the price is reasonable since it has a lot of pages and it comes in hardcover.The character sheets are not complete for all the games of the series.
Half of the book has a very detail character sheets.
There is an English Edition.
General Points

“OKAMI: OFICIAL COMPLETE WORKS”: MY FIRST ART BOOK

The Official Complete Works of Okami is one of the best book I have in my collection considering it isn’t just have a big gallery and a complete description of all the visual components of the game, but also the editorial design was very well thought. The pages have a printed texture which gives the feeling of parchment, in fact, the sketches and the contours made like with a brush seems like be drawn directly on antique paper.

The font for titles and notes is like made with a brush but without losing its readability. The general font is sans-serif that integrates perfectly with the other elements. For editorial design, this book serves as a reference and inspiration for topics related to old history. I also recommend observing the good grid application and the composition of each page. Finally, the detail I love is that the English version preserves what Westerners consider to be “turning the pages in reverse”. Therefore, despite the content is read from right to left, the first page is the one at the end (if we speak of western custom).

Now, entering to the content, it can be considered that Okami’s book is divided into four blocks. The first one shows images of “those from the road”. These parts have the design and a small description of the characters that live in the places that Amaterasu visit. This part is categorized by place, so, first of all, there is a double-page of the Nippon of this game. The second section consists in the design and description of the Legendary Demons.

The third is the most interesting in view of it’s in here where the concept art is shown. The explanation of the design of the iconic characters is very rich since there are textual description, support images, sketches and historical information. Also, the origin and inspiration of each accessory and custom is clarified. The scenarios are in this chapter too.

Finally, a fourth block is a gallery of different things related to the game as: music, illustrations, advertising designs, etc. with some narrative paragraphs.

The Okami Official Complete Works art book, a truly inspiring book.
Good PointsBad Points
The concept art is very complete.It’s currently a little expensive (But is it worth it!!).
The source of inspiration of each element is explained.
There are a lot of historical references.
It works as inspiration for characters, scenarios, items, and editorial design.
There is an English Edition.
General Points

THE ART OF FIRE EMBLEM AWAKENING: THE BOOK THAT MAKE ME WANT TO BUY A 3DS

It’s a shame I could not play this game, but hearing the name “Fire Emblem” is always followed by “great”, so at least I wanted to obtain one Art Book to have a taste of this series.

This Art Book is very complete and thick. This begins presenting the characters, one for page, with the name, role and a distinguishing phrase. For a cartoonist, it’s a good reference of poses since each model has a posture that display its personality. In this section there are random pages with complete illustrations to enjoy.

After a little taste of the design of the game, a second section exposes the character concept art, taking into account sketches, expressions, visual description of clothing and accessories and color palette of them. Additionally, there are some notes about the weapons, although later there is a block dedicated to them.

A particularity of this book is that the quantity of text to explain is minimal. There are just some petite notes, nevertheless each design is divided with sketches that are very detailed.

As I said before, there is a block especially for weapons, and they are many. I wasn’t surprised at how many weapons were made for this game, but in how all of them have a reason to be and a specific explanation behind.

Section 3 is to enjoy, considering it has the story event illustrations. However, you can skip them (if you don’t want to be “spoiled” like me XD) and go to the second part of this section to know more about the storyboard. Seeing the storyboards, it’s possible to distinguish the expertise of the authors, making them a good reference for who want to create video games, animations or comics. In fact, the book mentioned that those responsible for them have established a reputation of high-quality animations. They are the studios Anima and Kamikaze Douga.

Section 4 is a curious one because it has the results of the questionnaire, hosted by Dengeki Online, which focuses on Fire Emblem Awakening. I admire how the results are presented with text, graphics, percentages and images. It’s so complete.

Section 5 lists the characters profile. They are not so big, but a thing to learn is how all characters, no matter the time of its appearance or relevance within the story, have a background. To end, the pages in section 6 have the support conversation (To spend time reading: 100 pages!!!  :P)

The Art of Fire Emblem Awakening contains a deep, behind-the-scenes look at this hit game.
Good PointsBad Points
There is a digital version that is much cheaper that the physical one (but I always prefer the physical edition when they are about art).Maybe I would have preferred a little more text in the characters and weapons description, but it’s a personal taste.
The character sheets concept art is very complete.I don’t know if this is because I haven’t played the game, but 100 pages of support conversation are too many.
The weapons concept art is the most complete I’ve seen until now.
The storyboard design contributes a lot for whoever wants to learn about them.
If you only wanted to enjoy, this book has beautiful designs.
There is an English version.
General Points

THE PSYCHEDELICA’S ART BOOKS: SATORU YUIGA ART

Psychedelica of the Black Butterfly and Psychedelica of the Ashen Hawk are games where the character design was handled by Satoru Yuiga. The games have a dark atmosphere and mysterious story contrasting with colorful characters. These have a high level of detail, make them pleasing to the eye.

Each game has its own Official Art Book, using a very similar structure. They simply differ in the design of the pages in that they are made based on the conceptual art of each game.

Regarding the art books of the video games of the genre Otome, I’ve observed they always handle a similar content organization. This means, most of the time they show: a part with random illustrations, the characters design and profile, the events CGs, scenarios (or backgrounds) and sketches.

These books are not the exception, so if you just search to find to enjoy good art and romantic scenes, you need them.

The books all Satoru Yuiga’s fans have to have. Psychedelica of the Black Butterfly and Psychedelica of the Ashen Hawk Official Art Books.
Good PointsBad Points
The art is beautiful.There is only the Japanese version.
For whoever wants to design an Otome, they serve to understand and know the element to take into account.The concept art is not so extensive.
It’s a little expensive.
General Points

BAD APPLES WARS: CHARACTERS DESIGNED FOR AN ILLUSTRATOR YOU NEED TO FOLLOW

Bad Apple Wars is an Otome game and the Official Art Book have, as I said before, a similar structure to books in this genre. As the other two books I mentioned above, it has random illustrations, the characters design and profile, the events CGs, scenarios (or backgrounds) and sketches. The art is lovely and the artist behind it is スオ. However, a feature to highlight of this book is not just the pretty illustrations, but how the editorial design follows the same patron of the interfaces on the game. Then, if you love the designer work and want editorial inspiration, this is your book.

Bad Apples Wars Official Art Book, lovely illustrations and a well-think editorial design.
Good PointsBad Points
The art is beautiful.There is only the Japanese version.
For whoever wants to design an Otome, they serve to understand and know the element to take into account.The concept art is not so extensive.
The way the editorial design of the book and interface design are cohesive are impressive.It’s a little expensive.
General Points

Picking up on the last paragraphs, when acquiring an Official Art Book of an Otome, remember, although art is magnificent, the conceptual art is not so rich like in the books what I talked about at the beginning. However, if you are like me that feel soooo happy when receiving, opening, smelling and watching this kind of books, it’s worth buying them.

Yet, if you want to buy an Otome Art Book just to use as reference, I recommend buying the one with more pages or the one you like the most since the content doesn’t vary much from one to another.


Well, this is a first post of some books I own and enjoy. I hope this helps you to choose some of them. In future posts, I’m going to talk about other Art Official Books so, if you want me to talk about one in particular, please let me know in the comments. I’m going to do whatever it takes to obtain it and analyze it. Anyhow, for now, see you in the next post!!

I'm a Graphic Designer in love with Otomes and JRPG. I like the interface design area and that's why I really like to talk about this theme. You can conquer me with a good videogame Illustration book and a good capuccino.

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