8/04/2007

Artbook Check! Haruhi and Shuffle!

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Another step towards complete anime geekery (one might say, to abuse more Japanese words, hikikomori-dom) is made with the purchase now of even more completely incomprehensible things from Japanese bookstores. The Haruhi Suzumiya artbook 'fanbook' and Shuffle! On the Stage artbook 'visual guide' were purchased for a combined total of less than 20 dollars, thanks to the awesome factor of a Los Angeles chain of stores called "Book Off", which I found had lots of cheap things (these), lots of really cheap things (a $1 section including English manga, random Japanese artbooks and magazines, and a Gran Turismo 2 guide. Old-school'd.), and lots of really strange things (a strange manga title I didn't bother to look into: "Rape+2πr"). That are cheap.

While I am unable to provide pictures for these two I can still review them and provide some information, of which was sorely lacking when I tried to research these two the day before. (when drooling over them at twice-the-price Kinokuniya.)

Jump!

The Haruhi Suzumiya Official Fanbook (Suzumiya Haruhi no Koushiki) undoubtedly, even for lesser Nagatoists Haruhi fans like me, was a good buy at $6 (Kinokuniya price $16). It comes with a pull-out poster, and being reversable it's your choice of the full cast in swimsuits or Yuki reading a book in the clubroom. Unsurprisingly I chose to bring my Nagato poster count to a whopping two. Insert fanboying.

The Haruhi book (the inside cover says "Haruhi's Formula", cryptically enough) features more information than you really need, which is strange considering that I don't even understand half of it. But when you flip to a page which has a picture of the entire seating layout of Kyon/Haruhi's class, including names and sentence blurbs about every member, you can tell there's a bit of detail put into it.

There's a good section on each character (unreadable, of course), in addition to interviews with the voice actors for the anime and the producers of the novel (artist + author, I believe). There's also another section which I think is terminology or something, but it's uber wall-of-text.

About 10, 20-odd pages consist of random illustrations as well; there are 3/4 page pictures of textless images that ran in magazines previous (if you have Haruhi wallpapers from the interwebs, you'll probably recognize quite a few), as well as some fanart by other artists (one was the core trio of girls in the Shuffle! art style) and a set of four 4-komas which, again, I don't get.

Someday I plan to get it though, which is my excuse for buying this kind of stuff.

There are also pages devoted to going through each episode (in addition to the OP/ED sequences) in full blog-post fashion, with more screencaps, more moonspeak, and apparently Haruhi's "tsundere" meter, which measures just how much she's either a) beating up or 2) melting over Kyon at that episode's time.

All in all a very worthy purchase, in my belief, doubly so if you actually understand any of this. Eheheh.

The Shuffle! On the Stage artbook was decent as well but at a comparatively whopping $13 (Kinokuniya: $30) and feeling a bit sparse on the art, I didn't think was as interesting. To be fair the Shuffle! book was a bit bigger (both clock in above 125 pages) but it didn't come with any nifty posters.

It too had a selection of art, from what I understand of the English-heavy Shuffle! was sourced from either game releases (the LE/SE versions of Shuffle!, Shuffle! On the Stage, and the DVDs, among others), but there weren't a massive amount of random artwork as well.

The bulk of the book came from the sections on the characters; there were about 6 pages devoted to each main heroine (7 in On the Stage, the core 5 plus Mayumi and Kareha), and a few less for each minor character (Itsuki, Kikyou, Tsubomi, the parents, etc). Each section displays most to all of the game CGs for that character, as well as a sketch or two and a Wall of Faces. No kidding - they took all the facial expressions and pasted them next to each other on a half-page; most clock in at about 30 or so. Walls of Text are, of course, very applicable throughout.

There is also a sketch section, where some unfinished art plus commentary from the artists are displayed; interesting perhaps, if you're interested in knowing how the process works or how to draw the characters; but most of the art is just uncolored/unfinished CG, so it's nothing new.

The interviews with the voice actors and the terminology section also exist in the Shuffle! book, and are still equally incomprenhensible.

If you're curious about the worksafe-ness of the artbook, since On the Stage was the PS2 version of the visual novel all ero content has been removed and as such the novel is relatively safe. There is no sex, no nudity (there are Barbie-style models in the sketch section, however, but everyone knows those don't count) and strangely enough no panty shots as well; although all the fanservice situations (Mayumi shoving her butt in Rin's face, etc) are relatively intact, although things have been censored to the standards stated.

What really weirds me out is that Mayumi and Kareha's scenarios still feature situations that look like they could have been lifted from the PC version, in that there is obvious censoring going on; one wonders why they even bother sort of leading the viewer on like that, pretending that they're seeing something.

An interesting bonus to the On the Stage artbook is that it features sheet music and lyrics for the OP and ED themes of both Shuffle! and Shuffle! On the Stage; however, being musically inept beyond DDR, I am not able to take advantage of these.

All in all both fanbooks feel like very good buys, although I personally prefer the Haruhi one, perhaps because it contains more content to the untrained eye. I would recommend both of them to any fan of the series, especially if they can be found this cheap.

-CCY

(Stock images from Animephile and Animebooks.com. This has not been an advertisement. XD)

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